Cromagon's Reviews > Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould
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's review
Jul 17, 2007

it was ok
bookshelves: nature
Recommended for: people interested in evolution
Read in July, 2007

I started this read from an audio book, which was a big mistake. It's too hard to follow the verbal description without illustrations.

This is a crazy new concept. It provides a whole new twist to the theory of evolution. It basically turns evolution upside down and says, at least for marine arthropods, The Cambrian Explosion had more unique life forms than at present. The Theory of Evolution argues for an increase in complexity from simple life forms to more complex over geologic time. The Burgess Shale had many more phyla of arthropods than at present--all with crazy and sometimes complex designs.

The title gets it origin from the Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart movie. Remember when Jimmy has this dream and comes back to his town and finds it changed as a result of a single event. All the people are different. They are all living totally different lives. Stephen Jay Gould argues for the role that chance has played in the evolutionary process. In other words, if we could start over from the time of The Burgess Shale, evolution most likely would progress in a totally different direction. If an intelligent creature like man were to evolve, he most certainly wouldn't look like us now.

This is a tough read for a non biologist, but one that will challenge your thinking about man and evolution if you can get by the taxonomy.

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