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The Median Isn't the Message by Stephen J Gould

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Published on Aug 20, 2010

I don't have cancer, but SJG did. I'm just reading his essay. Thanks for the nice thoughts, though : )

This is one of the most profound essays I've ever read about a rational person being confronted with cancer. I'm a great fan of SJG. His books inspired me to science, and to look at the world in a new way.

I've stolen this wholesale from Steve Dunn, and was led to it by Orac of Respectful Insolence:

http://cancerguide.org/median_not_msg...

"Stephen Jay Gould was an influential evolutionary biologist who taught at Harvard University. He was the author of at least ten popular books on evolution, and science, including, among others, The Flamingo's Smile, The Mismeasure of Man, Wonderful Life, and Full House.

As far as I'm concerned, Gould's The Median Isn't the Message is the wisest, most humane thing ever written about cancer and statistics. It is the antidote both to those who say that, "the statistics don't matter," and to those who have the unfortunate habit of pronouncing death sentences on patients who face a difficult prognosis. Anyone who researches the medical literature will confront the statistics for their disease. Anyone who reads this will be armed with reason and with hope."

"Many people have written me to ask what became of Stephen Jay Gould. Sadly, Dr. Gould died in May of 2002 at the age of 60. Dr. Gould lived for 20 very productive years after his diagnosis, thus exceeding his 8 month median survival by a factor of thirty! Although he did die of cancer, it apparently wasn't mesothelioma, but a second and unrelated cancer."

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