Stephen Jay Gould Writing Styles in Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

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Perspective

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was a well-known evolutionary biologist, paleontologist and science writer. Throughout his work, he made a concerted effort to push a view of the universe often common to evolutionary biologists—that human life has evolved due to the contingent hand of a universe with no transcendent purpose. In other words, what moves Gould and creates the entire perspective of the book is his disposition as an agnostic Darwinist. Gould believes that seeing the order of nature as progressive, or as giving humanity pride of place within the hierarchy of the animals, is foolishness and the entire point of Wonderful Life is to make this point. The Burgess Shale, in Gould's view, taught the evolutionary biologist community that evolution does not have a gradualist and progressive structure. Walcott's original classification of the Burgess Shale reflected this false view, but Whittington was forced by the evidence...

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