Cover: Punctuated Equilibrium, from Harvard University PressCover: Punctuated Equilibrium in PAPERBACK

Punctuated Equilibrium

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Product Details


$29.50 • £23.95 • €26.50

ISBN 9780674024441

Publication Date: 05/31/2007

Academic Trade

408 pages

6 x 9 inches

5 halftones, 36 line illustrations

Belknap Press


The untimely death of Stephen Jay Gould deprived the world of a superb writer and popularizer of important events and processes in biology. But Gould was also a genuinely original thinker, capable of challenging even basic tenets of Darwinian notions of evolution. This latest posthumous volume, which was the central chapter of his magnum opus, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, argues that Darwin’s theory of a steady continuum of evolutionary progress was incorrect. Rather, Gould posits, most species have originated during punctuated geologic moments, and persisted through the periods of stasis that followed. Just as, more than a century ago, quantum theory proved that in physics, things sometimes moved forward in spurts, Gould intuited that this was also true for aspects of evolutionary biology.The Atlantic

In a brilliant move, Belknap Press has posthumously extracted a single chapter—number nine—from The Structure of Evolutionary Theory and published it as a stand-alone book, Punctuated Equilibrium. It’s a testimony to the density of the work that a single chapter is sufficient to make a complete and thorough book on its own. The publisher has simply cut away the first 745 pages and the last 318 of the original. What’s left is a text that is sharply focused on the theory for which Gould and his colleague Niles Eldredge are best known. It works beautifully… Gould documents the evidence for his controversial theory and its implications in impressive detail. The book is rich in data and dense in theory, representing a powerful summary of the arguments… Gould, in his typically immodest way, suggested that the theory of punctuated equilibrium could tell us about much more than the rate of evolution, and that it pointed to a whole new hierarchy of evolutionary phenomena. He proposed that the discipline of evolutionary biology should be expanded to accommodate new ideas that he, in part, had established. Inevitably that raised hackles. Yet critics and proponents must read his ideas. This sharp, detailed extract from his last great work offers an essential summary.—P.Z. Myers, New Scientist

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