A review of Stephen Jay Gould’s Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin.
For the past 15 summers I have either competed in or directed the 3,000-mile, nonstop, transcontinental bicycle Race Across America; for the first decade the transcontinental record plummeted from 12 days 3 hours to 7 days 23 hours, but for the past five years it hasn’t budged even though half the field now routinely breaks earlier records. Why? Some of the pioneers, not surprisingly, believe that they were simply better; current riders claim weather conditions and other variables. I now know that both sides are wrong, thanks to the work of paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and trend setter (and observer) Stephen Jay Gould, whose new book, Full House, explains how systems change over time — from the history of life to the history of sports. (continue reading…)