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Rereading the Fossil RecordThe Growth of Paleobiology as an Evolutionary Discipline$
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David Sepkoski

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226748559

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226748580.001.0001

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Introduction Rereading the Fossil Record

Introduction Rereading the Fossil Record

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction Rereading the Fossil Record
Source:
Rereading the Fossil Record
Author(s):

David Sepkoski

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226748580.003.0001

The fossil record was widely considered as an imperfect text for supporting evolutionary theory by evolutionary biologists, so paleobiologists came up with the strategy to “reread” that text in a manner that could produce reliable evolutionary insight to gain greater acceptance. This chapter identifies and discuses the three main approaches for “rereading” the fossil record that were developed by paleobiologists. The first approach, attempted by paleobiologists is a “literal reading” in which the fossil record, with all its renowned gaps and inconsistencies, was taken at face value as a reliable document. The second approach is known as “idealized rereading”, and here the physical particulars of the fossil record were ignored, and the history of life—the species, genera, families, etc., that make up the actual record—was modeled as a series of homogeneous data points. The final or third approach is known as a “generalized rereading”, this approach encompasses a combination of the other two approaches, and it ultimately became the dominant methodology in analytical paleobiology.

Keywords:   fossil record, evolutionary theory, paleobiologists, analytical paleobiology, evolutionary biologists, history of life

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