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Based at The University of Edinburgh, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is part of the ESRC Genomics Network and pioneers new ways to promote and communicate social research on the contemporary life sciences.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Welsh Wonders

Another recommendation for reading…Stephen Jay Gould’s “Wonderful Life”…not an essay on the cinema of Frank Capra…but a radical, readable exposition on the fossils of early Cambrian creatures found by Thomas Walcott in the Burgess Pass in the Rockies more than a hundred years ago now…and reclassified in the 70s and 80s by Simon Conway Morris inter alia…

Gould uses the bizarre (to us) features of these creatures to propose a radical new model for evolution…that instead of the story of life on earth being one of simplicity evolving into complexity…we all of sudden STARTED complex…and have been getting simpler ever since…

(Conway \Morris’s own book on the Burgess Fauna – and more recent discoveries in China - The Crucible of Creation, I also recommend. Morris thinks that Gould’s use of the fossils to turn all of conventional evolutionary thought on its head is “premature” – which is science speak for “bollocks”)

I love a good fight, me.

A wee note…Cambrian means “Welsh”…because it was in Wales that rocks of that age were first ordered by geologists…though they didn’t know then WHAT age…and take a peek at Hallucigenia or Anomalocaris …(two of the oddities found by Walcott) and you think:

“ Wales…hum…isn’t that where they’re making Doctor Who?”

Thats Opabina with five eye stalks up there by the way...and Hallucigenia is the wee fellow with the spines bottom right...

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