Book #22: Wonderful Life

By Stephen Gould

Wonderful Life

Fascinating stuff here. Stephen Gould is more often known for his natural history books aimed at casual readers (Bully for Brontosaurus and the like) — but this is not a book aimed at the general public. Wonderful Life is an exploration of the extraordinarily old, very different forms of life discovered in British Columbia’s Burgess Shale. It’s not light reading; he ventures quite deeply into evolutionary biology in both theory and practice.

Since it was written others have come forward with alternate theories for the Burgess Shale, but that hardly matters. It’s the sense of chance and fragility inherent in evolutionary processes and theory (real evolutionary theory, not the half-assed, half-understood stuff that so often appears in print) that’s this book’s lasting message.