- Not Exactly Rocket Science
History restricts and guides the evolution of innovations
The role of history in evolution is a hotly debated topic. The late Stephen Jay Gould was a firm believer in its importance and held the view that innocuous historical events can have massive repercussions, often making the difference between survival and extinction. To him, every genetic change is an “accident of history” that makes some subsequent changes more likely and others less so. Evolution, as a result, is “fundamentally quirky and unpredictable”. In his book Wonderful Life, Gould imagined that if we replayed life’s tape from some point in the past, evolution would go down very different paths than the ones it has currently taken.
Another eminent palaeontologist, Simon Conway Morris, disagreed. He argued that life can weave