BOOK: Rereading the Fossil Record: The Growth of Paleobiology as an Evolutionary Discipline

Rereading the Fossil Record: The Growth of Paleobiology as an Evolutionary Discipline, by David Sepkoski (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 432 pp.

Although fossils have provided some of the most important evidence for evolution, the discipline of paleontology has not always had a central place in evolutionary biology. Beginning in Darwin’s day, and for much of the twentieth century, paleontologists were often regarded as mere fossil collectors by many evolutionary biologists, their attempts to contribute to evolutionary theory ignored or regarded with scorn. In the 1950s, however, paleontologists began mounting a counter-movement that insisted on the valid, important, and original contribution of paleontology to evolutionary theory. This movement, called “paleobiology” by its proponents, advocated for an approach to the fossil record that was theoretical, quantitative, and oriented towards explaining the broad patterns of evolution and extinction in the history of life.

Rereading the Fossil Record provides, as never before, a historical account of the origin, rise, and importance of paleobiology, from the mid-nineteenth century to the late 1980s. Drawing on a wealth of archival material, David Sepkoski shows how the movement was conceived and promoted by a small but influential group of paleontologists—including Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, among others—and examines the intellectual, disciplinary, and political dynamics involved in the ascendency of paleobiology. By emphasizing the close relationship between paleobiology and other evolutionary disciplines, this book writes a new chapter in the history of evolutionary biology, while also offering insights into the dynamics of disciplinary change in modern science.

ISHPSSB 2007 Meeting

International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology 2007 Meeting
University of Exeter
Wednesday 25th – Sunday 29th July 2007
Preliminary Full Programme

papers/presentations of interest:

Popper’s dance with Darwin
Michael Bradie

Intimations of natural selection: Patrick Matthew and Charles Darwin’s notebooks
Daniel Becquemont

‘Darwin’s delay’: another historiographical myth?
John van Wyhe

Darwinian populations and transitions in individuality
Peter Godfrey Smith

Leon Croizat: A radical biogeographer
David Hull

Private letters, public discourse: The botanical correspondence of Mary Treat and Charles Darwin
Dawn Sanders

What did Darwin do to teleology?
Arno Wouters

Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation in America: a quick response in the years 1844-1847
Albert Peacock

C. Darwin and J. D. Hooker: a controversy between friends
Anna Carolina Regner

Alfred R. Wallace and his vision of anthropology and evolution
Juan Manuel RodrÌguez Caso, Rosaura Ruiz GutiÈrrez

Alfred Russel Wallace’s claims regarding spiritualism
Juliana Ferreira, Roberto Martins

Darwinism and the ever changing definitions of the ‘inheritance of acquired characteristics’
Fern Elsdon Baker

Natural selection and the problem of reduction in life sciences
Bartlomiej Swiatczak

What is “natural” in natural selection?
Abhijeet Bardapurkar

Extinction in German Natural History, 1790-1830
Thomas Burnett

The Cambridge school of animal morphology, 1882-1910
Helen Blackman

‘Skandalon’: Haeckel’s pictures of embryos in the struggle of world views
Nick Hopwood

Dewey’s Darwinism and the Baldwin effect
David Depew

From the principles of psychology to dynamic systems: the influence of Darwin on James, Dewey, and cognitive neurobiology
Tibor Solymosi

What does a pragmatist genetics look like? Herbert Spencer Jennings and the politics of evolution and heredity
Judy Johns Schloegel

Gospel of Greed: Peirce’s misreading of Darwin
Mark Tschaepe

Is the tree of life metaphor really necessary?
Erica Torrens, Ana Barahona

Rhetoric in Stephen Jay Gould’s work
Vladimir Cachon

Spontaneous generations, beginning of life and history of life in Lamarck’s theory
Stéphane Tirard

More on Haeckel’s Embryos by the Discovery Institute

Lessons Learned from Haeckel and His Drawings: We Shouldn’t Always Believe What the “Leading Experts” Tell Us about Evolution

Review part 1 and part 2 of “The Textbooks Don’t Lie: Haeckel’s Faked Drawings Have Been Used to Promote Evolution,” and Pharyngula’s comments.

And a new textbook is being offered, Explore Evolution, which “is one of the first textbooks ever to use the inquiry-based approach to teach modern evolutionary theory. It does so by examining the current evidence and arguments for and against the key ideas of modern Darwinian theory. We hope examining the evidence and arguments in this book will give you a deeper understanding of the theory and help you to evaluate its current status.”

Topics for Tuesday

The Legacy of Aldo Leopold at Britannica Blog.

Some philosophy of science at Evolving Thoughts. Parts 2 and 3.

iPhylo on Google Earth phylogenies.

LiveScience reviews the “Mythic Creatures” exhibit at AMNH.

Fundamentalists Try to Link Darwin to Hitler at the GREAT realization.

Recent posts from Darwiniana cover Gould’s dishonest legacy, Darwin and the Age of Positivism, and Evolution not same as natural selection.

Sir John Richardson died (November 5, 1787-June 5, 1865), from Today in Science History:

“Scottish naval surgeon and naturalist who made accurate surveys of more of the Canadian Arctic coast than any other explorer, in service with the Royal navy (1807-55). During this time he was surgeon and naturalist to Sir John Franklin‘s polar expeditions (1819-22, 1825-27). On the second expeditions, he separated from Franklin to explore the coast to the Coppermine River and Great Slave Lake (1826). He conducted a search expedition (1848-49) for Franklin’s lost third Arctic expedition that had started in 1845, but was unable to find any trace of Franklin’s ships. He wrote Fauna Boreali-Americana (1829-37) which became a standard work on Arctic biology. He also wrote on ichthyology and polar exploration.”

A Cornucopia of Natural History

A review of The Richness of Life: The Essential Stephen Jay Gould.

A neat “freely accessible, Web-based encyclopedia of historic botanical literature from the Missouri Botanical Garden Library,” called Here is Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae, and more from Linnaeus. Other pages of interest: Charles Darwin, Joseph Dalton Hooker, Asa Gray, Candolle & Candolle, and Alexander von Humboldt.

Julius von Sachs: Died 29 May 1897 (born 2 Oct 1832). “(Ferdinand Gustav) Julius von Sachs was an outstanding German botanist studying plant physiology during the second half of the 19th century. He discovered transpiration: that the absorbed water moves in tubes in the plant walls without the cooperation of living cells. In 1865, Sachs proved that the green substance of plants, chlorophyll, is located in special bodies within plant cells (later called chloroplasts), that glucose is made by the action of chlorophyll, and that the glucose is usually stored as starch. Sachs studied the formation of growth rings in trees, the role of tissue tension in promoting organ growth. He invented the clinostat to measure the effects of such external factors as light and gravity on the movement of growing plants.”
[See Soraya de Chadarevian, “Laboratory science versus country house experiments. The
controversy between Julius Sachs and Charles Darwin.” British Journal for the History of Science 29 (1996): 17-41 for more on von Sach’s relation to Charles Darwin.]

Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton: Born 29 May 1716; died 1 Jan 1800. “French naturalist who was a prolific pioneer in the fields of comparative anatomy and paleontology. Daubenton completed many zoological descriptions (including 182 species of quadrupeds for the first section of Georges Buffon‘s work Histoire naturelle, 1794-1804). His dissections contributed to productive studies in the comparative anatomy of recent and fossil animals, plant physiology, and mineralogy. He conducted agricultural experiments and introduced Merino sheep to France. In 1793, he became the first director of the Museum of Natural History in Paris.”