Sunday, 30 August 2009
Hail the Shale
A hundred years ago today, Charles Walcott discovered the astonishing depository of bizarre and exceptionally well preserved fossils known as the Burgess shale. Stephen Jay Gould's book about the Burgess lifeforms, Wonderful Life, is one of the most enjoyable science-related books I've read. His demolition of the simplistic 'Tree of Life' model of evolution strikes me (layman and fop that I am) as very persuasive, as does his argument that the species that survived this explosion of lifeforms were no better adapted - and often worse adapted - than those that became extinct. It all boils down to one simple truth - Nothing's that simple. Even that.