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No. 61: Jan-Feb 1989

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Celestial Crucible

"Catastrophic extinctions caused by impacts would change the rules governing who is most fit, who becomes extinct, and who survives. 'If much of the patterning of life's history is not set by Darwin's slow biotic mechanisms, then I think Darwin is in trouble. Is catastrophic mass extinction a major agent of patterning?' If so, 'impacts are a quirky aspect' of the process."

Who is speaking within the single quotes above? S.J. Gould, a proponent of the punctuated equilibrium view of the evolutionary scenario. He added:

"'The history of life is enormously more quirky than we imagined.'"

In fact, the geological record shows so many quirk-inducing impacts that there is little room left for slow, plodding, uniformitarian evolution of the earth itself, life-in-general, and humanity. Mammals, for example, may not have survived the postulated (but now assumed factual) Cretaceous-Tertiary impact event simply because they were small in size - not smarter.

(Kerr, Richard A.; "Huge Impact is Favored K-T Boundary Killer," Science, 242:865, 1988.)

Comment. It now seems that Cassius was wrong about the stars when he was lining up Brutus to help assassinate Julius Caesar. And the "celestial" situ ation gets even worse below.

From Science Frontiers #61, JAN-FEB 1989. � 1989-2000 William R. Corliss