The Panda's Thumb

non-fiction by Stephen Jay Gould


The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History is a collection of 31 essays by the Harvard University paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. It is the second volume culled from his 27-year monthly column "This View of Life" in Natural History magazine. Recurring themes of the essays are evolution and its teaching, science biography, probabilities and common sense.
The title essay presents the paradox that poor design is a better argument for evolution than good design, as illustrated by the anatomy of the panda's "thumb"—which is not a thumb at all—but an extension of the radial sesamoid. Topics addressed in other essays include the female brain, the Piltdown Man hoax, Down Syndrome, and the relationship between dinosaurs and birds.
The Panda's Thumb won the 1981 U.S. National Book Award in Science.

First Published


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