Wonderful Life (book)

From Academic Kids

Wonderful Life (1989) is a book on evolution by Stephen Jay Gould. It was the 1991 winner of The Aventis Prizes for Science Books.

In this book, Gould presents a thesis that chance was one of the decisive factors in the evolution of life on earth. His thesis is based on the fauna of the Burgess Shale, animals from just after the Cambrian explosion, half a billion years ago. Gould argues that although the Burgess animals were all exquisitely adapted to their environment, most of them left no modern descendants and, more importantly, that the surviving creatures did not seem better adapted than their now extinct contemporaneous neighbors. This seems to indicate that fitness does not ensure survival and that chance may help some species survive events that drive better-adapted species into extinction (see extinction event).

Most of the book's conclusions were deemed controversial at publication and some of Gould's examples have already been shown to be incorrect. However, the ultimate theme of the book is still being debated among evolutionary thinkers today.

Full House (1996) was deemed a companion book to Wonderful Life by the author.

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