Elite[s] and elitists, Cooper and Others

Otter Perry ottertee at silverwinggraphics.com
Wed Nov 5 13:16:40 EST 2003

Charles Butler wrote:

> Robyn:
>>The reason I was so outraged about Gould is that these people all live
>>practically within spitting distance of the Burgess Shale. Most of them
>>have seen it, been on it, or been past it. Since Gould is the man
>>responsible for its popularisation, I found it outrageous that they hadn't
>>heard of him.
> I love the idea of pre-Cambrian life forms suddenly being popular - just
> shows it's never too late for a comeback! But *Wonderful Life* is a great
> book, to be sure. And not without literary influence: at least, I have a
> theory that it's one of the key texts lying aback of Penelope Lively's book
> *Cleopatra's Sister*. (ObDWJ - Lively and DWJ overlapped at St Anne's
> College.)

The scientists involved in the exploration of the Burgess Shale
changed their minds, you know.  They decided that they didn't
have bunches of new life forms.  There was quite a stink in the
evolutionary science community about it, and about Stephen J.
Gould's own status as an evolutionary scientist.

My personal take on it is this:  I confess to never having made
it all the way through _Wonderful Life_, but in the early part,
where he was talking about the influence of scientific illustration,
I think he was making important points that are valid whether
the Burgess Shale was full of new life forms or not.

Also, he remains a great popular writer and historian of science,
whatever his failings.

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