The Mismeasure of Man

  • by Stephen Jay Gould
  • Narrated by Arthur Morey
  • 16 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits. Yet the idea of of biology as destiny dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined. In this edition, Stephen Jay Gould has written a substantial new introduction telling how and why he wrote the book and tracing the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness right through The Bell Curve. Further, he has added five essays on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the book's claim to be, as Leo J. Kamin of Princeton University has said, "a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological 'explanations' of our present social woes."


What the Critics Say

"A rare book---at once of great importance and wonderful to read." (Saturday Review)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Excellent and eye opening

Any additional comments?

A story of history that makes you shake your head in disbelief but also an excellent story of cognitive bias and its influence on science. A story that can still occur today.

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- Wolfe

A mixed bag

My opinion of them book shifted during the time I listened. I thought the book started strong, then bogged down into a litany of crazy racist things people used to say and then support with wonky science. I actually felt I had to shut the book off a few times because I was listening in my studio where people could conceviably hear the audio and assume I was listening to skinhead propaganda.
I don't think the concepts of the book were particularly surprising and the author didn't say anything new. It was interesting to hear how blinded or biased real scientists could become when researching a topic of personal significance. The first half of the book, for this reason, was, overall, decent.

The second half of the book started with discussion of factor analysis. There are visual aids one can access online to help make this section accessible, but I was not in a position to access them during my listening. For this reason, or my inattention, or my apathy, I didn't not follow the factor analysis discussion and it seemed to drag on.

At the end of the original book, the author has added an epilogue and a couple essays. The essays, though sometimes repetitive of topics in the main text, we're more interesting to me and helped illuminate some of the fuzzier passages from earlier. I especially appreciated the discussions that advocated nuance in looking for answers that weren't wholly biological or wholly environmental, neither racist nor utopian. (I obviously have explained this less well than the author.)

The biggest surprise for me was the author's comparison of the ideas from "The Bell Curve" to crazy racist things said by earlier scientists and thinkers. I haven't read the bell curve and am too young to remember the hype at the time. I would like to believe that people today don't actually believe in real difference between "races", but as an adult it is hard to be blind to the crazy racist things people STILL believe.
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- Rachel "I am a clay sculptor and an art instructor at a community college. I mostly listen to audiobooks while I work in my home studio."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-20-2011
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio