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Evolutionary Catastrophes: The Science of Mass Extinction

by Vincent Courtillot
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 188 pages.

Originally published in French in 1995, Evolutionary Catastrophes seeks to explain the competing theories on the causes of mass extinctions to a general audience, including, en passant, a discussion of the personalities involved and of the nature of science. Presenting the evidence for and against the rival accounts — asteroid impacts and volcanic eruptions — Courtillot argues that the driving force of the mass extinctions of the last 300 million years was volcanic activity. Reviewing the book for Nature, Douglas Palmer wrote, "Courtillot gives a well-argued taste of the debate for the general reader and has been very well served by his translator, Joe McClinton."