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the cinnamon peeler's wife

10.03.2004 at 10:27:00 PM

spread of excellence

"In a society driven, often unconsciously, to impose a uniform mediocrity upon a former richness of excellences- where McDonald's drives out the local diner, and the mega- Stop & Shop eliminates the corner Mom and Pop- an understanding and defense of full ranges as natural reality might help to stem the tide and preserve the rich raw material of any evolving system: variation itself."

one of my favorite passages from Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin by the late stephen jay gould. gould was a paleontology/zoology/geology professor at harvard. i truly enjoyed full house, it is a book that explores complex systems and progress within those systems as variation within full systems rather than "things moving somewhere". gould attempts to debunk the common anthropocentric view of the world and progress. plus it is hilariously written. i first read this book during undergrad in a world systems class (go u northwestern, by the way we beat osu for the first time since 1958! sorry bucks, my loyalty lies in evanston). though he writes as a scientist, this model for understanding the world is applicable in various contexts. upon recent re-reading its proposed paradigm was even more appealing. anyway, if you have time give it a read. other books by gould that i liked include mismeasure of man and the panda's thumb.


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