In his characteristically iconoclastic and original way, Stephen Jay Gould argues that progress and increasing complexity are not inevitable features of the evolution of life on Earth. Further, if we wish to see grandeur in life, we must discard our selfish and anthropocentric view of evolution and learn to see it as Darwin did, as the random but unfathomably rich source of 'endless forms most beautiful and wonderful'. Any rational view of nature tells us that we are a simple branch on an immense bush; and that life on Earth is remarkable not for where it is leading, but for the fullness and constancy of its variety, ingenuity and diversity.
Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University and the curator for invertebrate palaeontology in the University's Museum of Comparative Zoology. He is the author of over twenty books, and received the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the MacArthur Fellowship. He died in May 2002.