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Darwinian theory says that animals living so long ago were necessarily simple in design and limited in scope. But more recent interpretations unexpectedly reveal the great diversity locked in the shale.
Explosive stuff, for it blasts the belief that the history of life has been a broadening of options and challenges the idea that humans crown the evolutionary process.
Stephen Jay Gould advocates the role played in this process by chance. Things could easily have gone differently. It makes the reader wonder what might have been, and lets each of us provide our own answer.
"Luminous. . .Filled with profound and upsetting ideas like the Burgess Shale itself and just as solid. It is surely one of nature's best stories, told with a light touce by a master of the field."--Lewis Thomas, M.D.