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Response to Sex, Drugs, Disasters, And the Extinction of Dinosaurs

Response to Sex, Drugs, Disasters, And the Extinction of Dinosaurs

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Published by Nate Lindstrom

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Published by: Nate Lindstrom on Feb 24, 2012
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Nathan W. LindstromProfessor BrychEnglish 1A2/24/12
Response to Sex, Drugs, Disasters, and the Extinction of Dinosaurs
(Responses to “Using Research as a Reading Tool”)
Born in 1941, Stephen Jay Gould was a famous and widely respectedAmerican scientist, author, and scientific historian. As one of the mostwidely read popular science writers of his generation, Gould became one of evolution’s chief apologists, offering ideas and insights that had him reveredand reviled from both sides of the Darwinian ideological divide. TheSkeptical Inquirer calls him “a shining example of the Renaissance personour age so desperately needs” (1). He was the father of the evolutionarytheory of punctuated equilibrium, which suggests that sudden accelerationsin the evolutionary process could produce rapid changes in species over acomparatively short period of time. The Dallas Morning News calls hispassing at age sixty due to cancer in 2002 “a great loss for science and itsrelationship with the public” (1).* * *Gould’s essay titled “Sex, Drugs, Disasters, and the Extinction of Dinosaurs” first appeared in the April 1984 edition of Discover Magazine. It
 
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was reprinted the following year as part of a collection of Gould’s worksentitled The Flamingo’s Smile: Reflections in Natural His tory .* * *Sir Peter B. Medawar lived from 1915 to 1987, and was a Britishscientist best known for his medical work on the acceptance of transplantedtissues by the human autoimmune system, beginning with skin grafts forinjured soldiers during World War II. He wrote a large number of essays onthat and many other subjects, some of which were collected in a 1967 booktitled “The Art of the Soluble”, which Gould references in several essays,including his paper “Sex, Drugs, Disasters, and the Extinction of Dinosaurs.”* * *Rather than engaging in the wholly pedestrian practice of simply givingthe dictionary definitions of the key words Gould uses in his essay “Sex,Drugs, Disasters, and the Extinction of Dinosaurs”, a better course might beto relate their various meanings by allowing several famous authors toillustrate them with a few quotes:“There is a good deal of fascination, and some truth, in the theory thatdifferent nations enjoy opera in different ways,” says R. A. Straetfeild, in hisbook The Opera. According to this, the Italians consider it solely in relationto their sensuous emotions; the French, as producing a
titillating
sensationmore or less akin to the pleasures of the table; the Spaniards, mainly as avehicle for dancing; the Germans, as an intellectual pleasure; and the
 
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English, as an expensive but not unprofitable way of demonstrating financialprosperity” (italics mine) (23).In Out of the Fog, C. K. Ober tells us of when he went to sea at thetender age of nineteen. He found his romantic notions of sailing the oceanquickly shattered, although the closeness to nature stirred something primalor primitive in his soul. He tells us that “the life that had long appealed tomy imagination now came in with a shock and a realism that was in part adisillusionment and in part an intense satisfaction of some of my
 primal
instincts and cravings” (italics mine) (1). Jack London tells us of a man who at once convinced his wife ischeating on him, and equally tries to dismiss his fears as “silly speculation.”In The Little Lady of the Big House, he worries about the fidelity of hisspouse, but “continued to discount as absurd and preposterous thepossibility of his vague apprehension ever being realized. It was a chanceguess, a
silly speculation
, based upon the most trivial data” (italics mine)(134).* * *In relating several differing theories for the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs, Gould clarifies that “there is no separate problem of theextinction of dinosaurs” (450). By this Gould means that what happened tothe dinosaurs cannot be considered in a vacuum, apart from the twined fatesof hundreds of other living species that vanished at the same time as thelarge reptiles. Whatever fate befell the towering
Tyrannosaurus Rex 
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