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The Lying Stones of Marrakech:
Celebrated paleontologist and science writer Stephen Jay Gould has honed and matured his voice over almost 30 years of writing for Natural History. His tenure at that magazine closes with the end of the century, so The Lying Stones of Marrakech is his next-to-last collection of essays from this era. As ever, his works are clever, thoughtful, and inspiring; however, the longtime reader will detect a deeper reflection and a longer view taken by Gould in latter days, perhaps inevitable outcomes of experience and growth. The title essay refers to false fossils carved by Moroccans intent on making a few bucks off of hapless tourists, discusses the case of Beringer's 18th-century fossil hoax, and ends with a plea for a stricter separation between commercial and scientific interests--showing the breadth and scope of his paleontological interests and thinking.
Of course, he also has much to say beyond the confines of his profession: Joe DiMaggio and Dolly the sheep each get respectful treatment from the Gould pen, and he discusses the competing Christian groups sharing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Though his attitudes may have mellowed over time--he's far from the crotchety oldster some feared he'd become--his passion for knowledge and scientific freedom is still radiant. Whether you're an old-school fan of Gould's writings or a newcomer to his delightfully brainy essays, you'll find The Lying Stones of Marrakech a joy to behold. --Rob Lightner [via]