Wonderful Life: Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

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9780099273455: Wonderful Life: Burgess Shale and the Nature of History
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High in the Canadian Rockies is a small limestone quarry formed 530 million years ago. Called the Burgess Shale, it holds the remains of an ancient sea where dozens of strange creatures lived - a forgotten corner of evolution preserved in incredible detail. In this book Stephen Jay Gould explores what the Burgess Shale might tell us about evolution and the nature of history.

The Darwinian theory of evolution is a well-known, well-explored area. But there is one aspect of human life which this theory of evolution fails to account for: chance. Using the brilliantly preserved fossil fauna of the Burgess Shale as his case study, Gould argues that chance was in fact one of the decisive factors in the evolution of life on this planet, and that, with a flip of coin, everything could have been very different indeed.

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The Burgess Shale of British Columbia "is the most precious and important of all fossil localities", writes Stephen Jay Gould. These 600-million-year-old rocks preserve the soft parts of a collection of animals unlike any other. Just how unlike is the subject of Gould's book.

Gould describes how the Burgess Shale fauna was discovered, reassembled and analysed in detail so clear that the reader actually gets some feeling for what paleobiologists do, in the field and in the lab. The many line drawings are unusually beautiful, and now can be compared to a wonderful collection of photographs in Fossils of the Burgess Shale by Derek Briggs, one of Gould's students.

Burgess Shale animals have been called "a palaeontological Rorschach test", and not every geologist by any means agrees with Gould's thesis that they represent a "road not taken" in the history of life. Simon Conway Morris, one of the subjects of Wonderful Life, has expressed his disagreement in Crucible of Creation. Wonderful Life was published in 1989, and there has been an explosion of scientific interest in the pre-Cambrian and Cambrian periods, with radical new ideas fighting for dominance. But even though many scientists disagree with Gould about the radical oddity of the Burgess Shale animals, his argument that the history of life is profoundly contingent--as in the movie It's a Wonderful Life, from which this book takes its title--has become more accepted, in theories such as Ward and Brownlee's Rare Earth hypothesis. And Gould's loving, detailed exposition of the labour it took to understand the Burgess Shale remains one of the best explanations of scientific work around. --Mary Ellen Curtin

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"A masterpiece of analysis and imagination...It centres on a sensational discovery in the field of palaeontology - the existence, in the Burgess Shale... of 530-million-year-old fossils unique in age, preservation and diversity...With skill and passion, Gould takes this mute collection of fossils and makes them speak to us. The result challenges some of our most cherished self-perceptions and urges a fundamental re-assessment of our place in the history of life on earth" (Sunday Times)

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. High in the Canadian Rockies is a small limestone quarry formed 530 million years ago. Called the Burgess Shale, it holds the remains of an ancient sea where dozens of strange creatures lived - a forgotten corner of evolution preserved in incredible detail. In this book Stephen Jay Gould explores what the Burgess Shale might tell us about evolution and the nature of history. The Darwinian theory of evolution is a well-known, well-explored area. But there is one aspect of human life which this theory of evolution fails to account for: chance. Using the brilliantly preserved fossil fauna of the Burgess Shale as his case study, Gould argues that chance was in fact one of the decisive factors in the evolution of life on this planet, and that, with a flip of coin, everything could have been very different indeed. Seller Inventory # AAZ9780099273455

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. High in the Canadian Rockies is a small limestone quarry formed 530 million years ago. Called the Burgess Shale, it holds the remains of an ancient sea where dozens of strange creatures lived - a forgotten corner of evolution preserved in incredible detail. In this book Stephen Jay Gould explores what the Burgess Shale might tell us about evolution and the nature of history. The Darwinian theory of evolution is a well-known, well-explored area. But there is one aspect of human life which this theory of evolution fails to account for: chance. Using the brilliantly preserved fossil fauna of the Burgess Shale as his case study, Gould argues that chance was in fact one of the decisive factors in the evolution of life on this planet, and that, with a flip of coin, everything could have been very different indeed. Seller Inventory # AAZ9780099273455

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Book Description Vintage, 2000. Condition: New. 2000. New Ed. Paperback. An account of a revolution in our understanding of life's history, this book tells how three obscure British scientists completely changed our view of evolution by discovering a unique group of 530 million year-old creatures in the Burgess Shale fossil deposit in the Rockies. Num Pages: 352 pages, facsimiles. BIC Classification: PSAJ. Category: (G) General (US: Trade); (P) Professional & Vocational; (U) Tertiary Education (US: College). Dimension: 197 x 128 x 28. Weight in Grams: 254. . . . . . . Seller Inventory # V9780099273455

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Book Description Vintage. Condition: New. 2000. New Ed. Paperback. An account of a revolution in our understanding of life's history, this book tells how three obscure British scientists completely changed our view of evolution by discovering a unique group of 530 million year-old creatures in the Burgess Shale fossil deposit in the Rockies. Num Pages: 352 pages, facsimiles. BIC Classification: PSAJ. Category: (G) General (US: Trade); (P) Professional & Vocational; (U) Tertiary Education (US: College). Dimension: 197 x 128 x 28. Weight in Grams: 254. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Seller Inventory # V9780099273455

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