Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On the Imperfaction of the Geological Record

In this chapter, Mr. Darwin hangs out with some noted geologists of his day, and explains to us why it's unreasonable to expect that every animal that ever walked the Earth should have left behind perfectly preserved fossilized remains for scientists to be able to put together an exacting family tree of the whole of Earth's lifeforms.

This is another chapter that is made more interesting because of the fact that it was written a century and a half ago. There have been a number of advances in geology and paleontology since then, and I suspect that if he suddenly found himself in the modern day, Darwin would have a hard time deciding if he wanted to be a geneticist or a geologist. Darwin's understanding of geologic processes is limited by the limited access to the world that he has, which gives one an expanded appreciation of the world as we know and understand it today. The ability to see the past of the entire world, which we take for granted now, was completely beyond the science of the time. I'd like to see what Darwin would have done with it.

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