Elite[s] and elitists, Cooper and Others

Rowland, Jennifer A B jennifer.rowland at imperial.ac.uk
Wed Nov 5 06:37:22 EST 2003

Sallyo wrote:
> I hadn't heard of Stephen J Gould. Who he?

Paleontologist and (very readable) pop-science writer about natural history and evolution, worked at the Harvard museum of natural history, died of cancer a year or so ago. A lot of his books were collections of essays, but his most famous one, "Wonderful Life", is about the discovery of the animals of the Burgess Shale. (A deposit in Canada that has preserved fossils of the complete bodies of a group of organisms caught in mudslides in Cambrian seas, and which includes creatures called things like Hallucinagenia which are unlike any modern forms.)

He had a long-running disagreement with Richard Dawkins (who wrote The Selfish Gene)- Dawkins looks at evolution from the gene's POV and feels that evolution formed practically everything about organisms, Gould was more interested in individuals and species and felt that a lot of things about organisms were due to contingency. Gould and a co-worker formulated the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which says that evolution mostly happens in quick bursts and between times a species stays pretty much the same for long periods.

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