Book Review: Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature by Brian Switek | Science News

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Book Review: Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature by Brian Switek

Review by Sid Perkins

By
12:51pm, December 17, 2010

Notions of evolution have, for lack of a better word, evolved, and with wonderfully broad strokes science writer and long-time paleontology blogger Switek takes readers on a fascinating historical, scientific and cultural tour of the theory's various incarnations.

Well before anyone came up with the idea of evolution, theologians and philosophers generally ranked species from "lower" to "higher" forms along a Great Chain of Being, with humans representing the highest point of Creation. Then the fossil record revealed that plants and animals had changed through time, and the notion of a march of progress along paths of ever-increasing complexity took hold.

As more and more fossils were unearthed, however, researchers recognized that evolution doesn't proceed toward a single goal. Instead, as Switek illustrates through captivating timelines of discoveries, scientists found a much more haphazard process, resulting in a mélange of "primitive" forms living alongsi

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