Does the Burgess shale have moral implications?

Inquiry 36 (4):357 – 380 (1993)
Abstract
Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life is a study of the fossils of the Burgess Shale of British Columbia. My concern is with the morals that Gould draws, with the ?new picture of life? that, he says, the reinterpreted Burgess animals compel. I conclude that his case is not established. (1) There may have been reasons to do with ?fitness? why most of the Burgess animals left no descendants, even if we cannot guess exactly what they were. (2) We do not know that our past is dotted with the kind of mass extinctions that are needed for the random evolution that he proposes. (3) Even if what happened does rest on random variation and largely random selection, it does not follow that there are no standing forms that will be constantly re?instantiated. If Rational Life, in particular, is not special, then we have no right to think the world we experience bears any remote resemblance to a putative real world. (4) Even if there are no such forms, the fact that nothing in the state of things required us to exist is no good reason to say that No one requires us to. What Gould says does count against a simple progressivism, but not against an older and more orthodox theology. It also has implications for the Search for Extra?Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
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