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Steve Leslie
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Simon Conway Morris

The Crucible of Creation

If you're going to read The Crucible of Creation by Simon Conway Morris then you'll need to know about Wonderful Life in which Stephen J Gould argues for contingency in evolution, based upon the reinterpretation of the Burgess Shale fauna - in which Conway Morris played a significant part. But Conway Morris clearly doesn't like his work being used in support of an idea which he disagrees with, and so argues against it in this book. Unfortunately this leads to the book having a very strange first chapter, which seems more like a rant than reasoned argument - the author seems prone to repeat simple arguments which have already been addressed in Gould's book.

After the first chapter the book settles down into a more normal flow, describing the discovery of the Edicarian fossils and the Burgess Shale, and going on to talk about the work done at Cambridge on these fossils. Later in the book - which is where such discussion belongs - Conway Morris looks at some of the implications, discussing at contingency and convergent evolution. Overall I feel that he gives a substantial account of the study of early fossils, and what it implies, without becoming too technical. If you don't take the first chapter too seriously then I think that you'll find much of value in this book. info
Hardcover 242 pages  
ISBN: 0198502567
Salesrank: 177020
Weight:1.4 lbs
Published: 1998 Oxford University Press
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Paperback 272 pages  
ISBN: 0192862022
Salesrank: 454841
Weight:0.44 lbs
Published: 1999 OUP Oxford
Amazon price £27.49
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Paperback 272 pages  
ISBN: 0192862022
Salesrank: 360665
Weight:0.44 lbs
Published: 1999 Oxford Paperbacks
Amazon price CDN$ 75.37
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Product Description
In The Crucible of Creation, paleontologist Simon Conway Morris describes the marvelous finds of the Burgess Shale--a fantastically rich deposit of bizarre and bewildering Cambrian fossils, located in Western Canada.
Conway Morris is one of the few paleontologists ever to explore the Burgess Shale, having been involved in the dig since 1972, and thus he is an ideal guide to this amazing discovery. Indeed, he provides a complete overview of this remarkable find, ranging from an informative, basic discussion of the origins of life and animals on earth, to a colorful description of Charles Walcott's discovery of the Burgess Shale and of the painstaking scientific work that went on there (as well as in Burgess collections held at Harvard and the Smithsonian), to an account of similar fossil finds in Greenland and in China. The heart of the book is an imaginative trip in a time machine, back to the Cambrian seas, where the reader sees first-hand the remarkable diversity of life as it existed then. And perhaps most important, Conway Morris examines the lessons to be learned from the Burgess Shale, especially as they apply to modern evolutionary thinking. In particular, he critiques the ideas of Stephen Jay Gould, whose best-selling book Wonderful Life drew on Conway Morris's Burgess Shale work. The author takes a fresh look at the evidence and draws quite different conclusions from Gould on the nature of evolution.
This finely illustrated volume takes the reader to the forefront of paleontology as it provides fresh insights into the nature of evolution and of life on earth.