Bob Haxton provides the summary of our recent meeting where Alan Byers spoke on Humbling Humanity: Our Place in the History of Life.

After our usual social gathering we listened to Alan Byer, geologist and paleontologist on the Burgess Shale deposit near Field, B.C., on the B.C., Alberta border. The title of the talk was “Humblling humanity; our place in the history of life”. The title refers to the fact that this deposit provided incontrovertible evidence of sophisticated life forms existing in the Cambrian era, 600 million years ago, an evolutionary perspective that necessitates  a more humble and dispassionate view of humanity than that provided by religion. Walcott, the Christian founder, preserved his faith by interpreting evolution as a tool of God. This belief in progressivism along with teleology – the belief in final causes in nature and the tautological “survival of the fittest” stimulated much interesting discussion on evolution including mention of Dawkins' “hairpin bend”, Gould's “punctuated equilibrium”, and the awkward business of convergent evolution.

I think I speak for the majority, when I say that Alan presented one of the most informed and enjoyable presentations that we have had.


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