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Mass extinctions and other evolutionary myths

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You have to admire the physicists: in the last twenty years they have managed to mislay about eighty percent of the visible universe and are reduced to muttering about “dark matter” and other such arcana. Lucky them; they have work to do. In contrast evolutionary biology seems to have hit the buffers: lots of activity but where are the big ideas? So time to dismantle a few areas of received wisdom. Things like mass extinctions; do they really radically reset the evolutionary agenda? On the contrary, they accelearate the inevitable. Extraterrestrials? Of course they exist, but Enrico Fermi (he of the Paradox) saw a major problem. In fact we are “alone”, but not quite in the way you might think. Consciousness? All in the brain? If you believe that you’ll believe anything; the test case is mathematics (or language, or music, or poetry…...).

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