Gould's The Creation Myths of Cooperstown
May 10, 2003 12:06 AM   Subscribe

Stephen Jay Gould's classic essay, 'The Creation Myths of Cooperstown'. Doubleday, schmubleday. Baseball and evolution and why the sloppy beginnings of things tend to get tidied up when the official histories are written. This essay was picked as one of the Best American Essays of the [Twentieth] Century.
posted by Slithy_Tove (10 comments total)
And here I thought he was going to talk a bunch of trash about Honus Wagner.
posted by xmutex at 12:10 AM on May 10, 2003

Man, if you're gonna dig on anything from Natural History's "Pick from the Past"s, I would recommend Margaret Mead's What Makes the Soviet Character? (1951).
posted by dgaicun at 2:26 AM on May 10, 2003

S J Gould's is one of the most fascinating analogies - sporting myth as metaphor for religious myth - i've read. The whole thing has a logic and evidence quite convincing. This from an Englishman who last played "base ball" rounders when he was 14...
posted by dash_slot- at 4:21 AM on May 10, 2003

That was a totally awesome essay and you rock pretty hardcore for posting a link to it.
posted by kavasa at 9:38 AM on May 10, 2003

Thank you Slithy_Tove!

Scientists often lament that so few people understand Darwin and the principles of biological evolution. But the problem goes deeper. Too few people are comfortable with evolutionary modes of explanation in any form. I do not know why we tend to think so fuzzily in this area, but one reason must reside in our social and psychic attraction to creation myths in preference to evolutionary stories—for creation myths, as noted before, identify heroes and sacred places, while evolutionary stories provide no palpable, particular thing as a symbol for reverence, worship, or patriotism.

This is all well and good and understood. But we are still left with the problem of having to legislate along the continuum. How fast is "too fast" on a highway? At what age does a child become a consensual adult? At what point does reasonable doubt become no doubt?

And even scientists must create taxonomies where only continuums exist. What separates a plant from an animal? One phylum from another?

We can only move forward, only make distinctions by planting a stake somewhere in that grey area. I'd argue that points of origin, points of transformation are constructs our mind needs and creates in order to make some sense of the world.
posted by vacapinta at 10:27 AM on May 10, 2003

Stephen Jay Gould was, himself, a giant.

If you'd like to see a picture of the Cardiff variety, look here.

Nice Gould reference at the Stanford Presidential Lecutres and Symposia site here, and also the Unofficial Stephan Jay Gould site there.
posted by Dunvegan at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2003

Link Correction
...Nice Gould reference at the Stanford Presidential Lecutres and Symposia site HERE....
posted by Dunvegan at 10:49 AM on May 10, 2003

Stephen Jay Gould was, himself, a giant.

A giant materialistic reductionist, that is.

ho hum.
posted by goethean at 11:23 AM on May 10, 2003

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by majcher at 12:09 PM on May 10, 2003

A giant materialistic reductionist, that is.

Reductionist? Unlike yourself you mean?
posted by Summer at 9:19 AM on May 12, 2003

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