On the Origin of Phyla


Science, like evolution, ‘is a complex and heterogeneous historical process’, Paul Feyerabend (1988, 111) reminded us, and it contains ‘vague and incoherent anticipa-tions of future ideologies side by side with highly sophisticated theoretical systems and ancient and petrified forms of thought’. This mosaic character of scientific progress is worth keeping in mind as we examine James Valentine’s ambitious review of animal phylogeny, On the Origin of Phyla, a work that might be best described as a product of mosaic evolution itself. On the Origin of Phyla is divided into 14 chapters that are grouped into three main sections: ‘Evidence of the Origins of Metazoan Phyla ’ (chapters 1–5, pp. 1–196), ‘Th

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