Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe
Conway Morris (Simon)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Outer Cover Blurb

  1. Does evolution have a structure, an overall design, perhaps even a purpose? Orthodox opinion recoils from this prospect. Evolution, it is widely believed, is an effectively random process where almost any outcome is possible. Freeze the tape of life, and now we see dolphins and tulips, ants and mushrooms, even humans. Re-run the tape and, it is claimed, evolution would follow completely different pathways; no tulips or ants, and certainly no humans. We, like all other life, are an evolutionary accident. But is this correct? In fact the evidence points in exactly the opposite direction. Not only does life have an uncanny knack of navigating to precise solutions, but it also repeatedly returns to the same solution. By no means all is possible in evolution. We know this because of the ubiquity of evolutionary convergence, which unexpectedly reveals a deeper structure to life.
  2. In this extraordinarily wide-ranging book Simon Conway Morris takes us on a tour of life that encompasses both classic examples of convergence, such as the camera-eyes of octopus and human, and remarkable new work that shows, for example, how ants have developed agriculture independently of us. Embedded in the evolutionary process are both latent inevitabilities and pathways that will be repeatedly explored. Underpinned by DNA, the weirdest molecule in the Universe, guided by a genetic code of staggering effectiveness, the tape of life will in time navigate to such biological properties as advanced sensory systems, intelligence, complex societies, tool-making and culture. So if these are all evolutionary inevitabilities, where are our counterparts across the Galaxy? The tape of life can run only on a suitable planet, and here it turns out that such Earth-like planets may be much rarer than is hoped. Inevitable humans, yes, but in a lonely Universe.
Inner Cover Blurb
  1. The assassin's bullet misses, the Archduke's carriage moves forward, and a catastrophic war is avoided. So too with the history of life. Rerun the tape of life, as Stephen J. Gould claimed, and the outcome must be entirely different: an alien world, without humans and maybe not even intelligence. The history of life is littered with accidents: any twist or turn may lead to a completely different world. Now this view is being challenged. Simon Conway Morris explores the evidence demonstrating life's almost eerie ability to navigate to the correct solution, repeatedly. Eyes, brains, tools, even culture: all are very much on the cards. So if these are all evolutionary inevitabilities, where are our counterparts across the Galaxy? The tape of life can run only on a suitable planet, and it seems that such Earth-like planets may be much rarer than is hoped. Inevitable humans, yes, but in a lonely Universe.
  2. Simon Conway Morris is Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1990, and presented the Royal Institution Christmas lectures in 1996. His work on Cambrian soft-bodied faunas has taken him to China, Mongolia, Greenland, and Australia, and inspired his previous book The Crucible of Creation (1998).
Pre-publication praise for Life's Solution
  1. 'Having spent four centuries taking the world to bits and trying to find out what makes it tick, in the twenty-first century scientists are now trying to fit the pieces together and understand why the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Simon Conway Morris provides the best overview, from a biological viewpoint, of how complexity on the large scale arises from simple laws on the small scale, and why creatures like us may not be the accidents that many suppose. This is the most important book about evolution since The Selfish Gene; essential reading for everyone who has wondered about why we are here in a universe that seems tailor-made for life.'
    John Gribbin, author of Science: A History
  2. 'Are human beings the insignificant products of countless quirky biological accidents, or the expected result of evolutionary patterns deeply embedded in the structure of natural selection? Drawing upon diverse biological evidence, Conway Morris convincingly argues that the general features of our bodies and minds are indeed written into the laws of the Universe. This is a truly inspiring book, and a welcome antidote to the bleak nihilism of the ultra-Darwinists.'
    Paul Davies, author of How to Build a Time Machine1
  3. 'Is intelligent life in the Universe common or incredibly rare? Are even planets like the Earth rare? We won't really know until our searches are further advanced, but until then these debates pivot on the tension between contingency and convergence. Advocates of the first point to the unlikelihood of particular historical paths, while those favoring the second emphasize multiple paths to similar functional outcomes. In Life's Solution Conway Morris argues that the evidence from life on Earth supports a variety of paths leading toward intelligence. Our searches for life elsewhere are informed by such insights into life here.'
    Christopher Chyba, Stanford University and the SETI Institute
Amazon Customer Reviews

The various reviewers consider the book to be divided into two halves – a solid scientific part and a woolly philosophical part. I’ll have to see when I read it!

Review 1 (Full Text)
  1. There are actually two items between the covers here, and it's hard to believe they're written by the same person. The first, a substantial book, is, to my non-specialist eye at least, highly impressive, with cogent analysis of a wide range of convergence phenomena, from basic biochemistry to complete body plans and lifestyles, all supported by a wealth of telling detail.
  2. For me, the only curious skew in this section is the insistence on the high likelihood of our encountering other intelligent life in the universe, on the grounds that its emergence is inevitable, apparently disregarding the fact that it has taken 4.5bn years for us to get where we are, and if it takes us more than a millionth of that time to render ourselves extinct we'll be dead lucky. If this is itself a convergent phenomenon, the window of opportunity is inherently very small.
  3. Nevertheless, 5 stars for the book.
  4. The other part, entitled 'Towards a Theology of Evolution', is a curious little pamphlet, polemical rather than analytical, which starts by offering a grotesque travesty of what he calls 'ultra-Darwinists' - Richard Dawkins is the only one who gets named, but he must presumably include Daniel Dennett and A C Grayling. The movement, allegedly, 'deifies science, denigrates philosophy and religion...' No it doesn't. It deifies nothing, has every respect for philosophy, but dismisses theology as pseudo-philosophy because of its reliance on arbitrary and unexaminable premises. As Christopher Hitchens observes, what is asserted without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.
  5. The wealth of reference in the main part of the book is replaced by reliance on only a few sources, particularly John Greene, C S Lewis and G K Chesterton. The writing (or proof-reading) gets sloppy (in the Scopes trial, the defence and prosecution were not, 'respectively, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow'), and the quality of argument simply collapses. Among his 'six salient facts of evolution [that] are congruent with a Creation', we find 'the inherency of life whereby complexity emerges as much by the rearrangement and co-option of pre-existing building blocks as against relying on novelties per se'. Surely the truth is the absolute converse: only a creator has the luxury of arbitrary creation, whereas for an undirected natural process adaptation and co-option are the only strategies available. And the other five are no better.
  6. Simon, do us all a favour. Stick to the day job.

Review 2 (Full Text)
  1. I first became aware of Simon Conway Morris' work 16 years ago, through reading the late Stephen Jay Gould's book 'Wonderful Life', which gives a florid account of the discovery of the soft-bodied faunas of the Burgess Shales, and the lessons they held about diversity and evolutionary divergence in the early Cambrian. Being specialised in a part of geology which rarely makes use of palaeontological data, I was long overdue an update on evolutionary theory and found Conway Morris's new book very helpful.
  2. The presentation is masterly. I found the multiple, heavily-researched examples of convergence very striking, and also enjoyed the 'relaxed-yet-erudite' style of presentation. I'd like to see what some of my friends who are involved in modelling of evolutionary processes might make of these ideas in analytical terms, and that's something I intend to pursue.
  3. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I didn't find the last two chapters discordant: the frequent mention in the earlier chapters of the unease which evolutionary biologists feel when they sense the unwelcome 'ghost of teleology looking over their shoulders' made these chapters a necessity. The points made in them are presented without prejudice, but also without moral cowardice. If anything they were a bit abbreviated and I'd have appreciated a lengthier exposition of some of the key arguments. I sense some of the negative comments on these chapters in the other reviews derive from the very unease at the recrudescence of teleology which Conway Morris comments upon ... This isn't something I personally feel uneasy about. Geology is surely mature enough as a subject now to confront the as-yet-unexplained with confidence.
  4. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the evolution of life, the emergence of consciousness and intelligence, and any interest whatsoever in the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe.

Review 3 (Full Text)
  1. Generally, this book deals with the subject of "convergence" in evolution. In this sense it is the fact that species from widely separated families develop surprisingly similar characteristics - be it the streamlining of sharks (cartilaginous fishes) and dolphins (mammal) or olfaction (the sense of smell) in insects and humans. Other cases are DNA itself, and the eyes. He argues the case that these similarities are not at all coincidental, nor due to some "creator", but rather a corollary of the limited ways things can work in our universe.
  2. In these parts of the book the author is generally convincing, and makes a reasonably strong case. It is then forgivable that he repeats a couple of favourite expressions perhaps once or twice too often. Perhaps only he has too bleak a view of the probability of life, and sentient life, in other parts of the universe.
  3. The last part of the book, however, is rather different. Here he leaves the scientific ideals and goes to task with those he consider ultra-Darwinists and, as far as I can judge from having read some of them, puts words in their mouths that they have never intended. He also spends a chapter on some kind of metaphysical musings, the kind of which would rather belong in philosophical pamphlets than in the kind of well researched and well written scientific treatise the book starts out as.
  4. While the first two thirds of the book are interesting, I cannot unconditionally recommend it due to the mismatching ramblings in the latter part.

Review 4 (Full Text)
  1. I saw Simon Conway Morris lecture a couple of years ago and was interested enough to buy his book. I've only just got around to reading it. The book is well written and interesting enough and kept me reading until the end.
  2. A word of warning: this is not an introductory text for evolutionary ideas and would be understood better with some prior knowledge.
  3. The clue to the topic of the book is in the subtitle. In the first part of the book the author attempts to convince us that we may well indeed be living in a lonely universe. This is done with intelligence and clarity. However I left this section more convinced that there might be intelligent life out there than when I started it.
  4. The second part of the book argues for the importance of evolutionary convergence in understanding evolution and again is clear and well written with many examples. The sections dealing with the inevitability of intelligence are especially interesting.
  5. However, the down point of the book is the last couple of chapters which appear to tacked onto the end and deal with metaphysical arguments rather than scientific ones. The main argument appears to be atheist evolutionary thinkers = unhappiness. His main ideas about evolutionary convergence didn't really convince me that this inevitably leads to some intelligence guiding the universe.
  6. Recommend for the ideas of evolutionary convergence, but the metaphysical musings should be clarified or left out.

Review 5 (Full Text)
  1. Overstating your case has become almost the norm in evolutionary studies. By gathering reams of supporting material, using every possible example, all the while reproaching your critics, lets you produce a book such as this one. Conway Morris has a deserved reputation as a fine palaeontologist. Working with early fossils has given him a firm foundation to address how life has evolved on this planet. In this book he builds on that basis to take an additional step. Is human intelligence unique, or will we someday encounter it on distant worlds? What do we know about early [and present] life on this planet that would enable us to forecast what might be found elsewhere? Conway Morris addresses these and other questions directly, using an abundance of supportive evidence.
  2. He starts with deepest chronological base, the formation of stars and planets. Even at this level, he stresses, there are constraints. Stars have sequential mechanisms, now fairly well defined. Following them, planets' structures and even orbits may follow almost predictable pathways. After the earliest emergence of life, rules of form, options of habitat and, ultimately, the way intellect occurs, may be broadly set and followed. Darwin understood this from the beginning - evolution builds on what's gone before. Even the most bizarre-looking sea or land life has resulted from a series of steps reaching into the past.
  3. The body of the book portrays those steps, where identifiable in the past and as seen today. The steps, as Conway Morris rightly reminds us, are the results of adaptations through time - which he defines as "inherency". He bristles with indignation at the critics of the adaptationist programme who contend if you can't identify the "usefulness" of a trait, it's not an adaptation. Just because we are ignorant of a function doesn't mean there is none. Since evolution works on all parts of an organism, even if unequally in time or location, all evolutionary steps are adaptations. To Conway Morris, the frequent appearance of similar adaptations - "convergences" - in varying environments indicates that life operates under some general orders - it's not "rule by roulette". Among his many examples is the bizarre similarity in brain structure between human beings and mormyid fish. The latter is a creature living within an intense electrical environment. With high demand on its cognitive functions, the mormyid's brain uses about half the body's oxygen supply - three times that of the average human.
  4. After fashioning his thematic structure with lavish amounts of material, Conway Morris nearly demolishes the edifice in explaining why he's constructed it. In a final, rambling chapter, he lays out the plans for the building. Most of it lashes out at things he deplores, including amazingly, "ultra-Darwinism", that catch-all phrase his target Gould used so ineptly. According to Conway Morris, something - not a deity, not "just six numbers", not anything even definable - but something is "out there" guiding everything from the construction of stars to evolving apes who can write sonnets. Much of this foundation is based on the thoughts of a few other writers, mostly philosophers. Here, Conway Morris exhibits a form of colour aberration - instead of using John Greene, he would better have chosen John Grey.
Contents
    Preface: The Cambridge Sandwich – xi
    Acknowledgements – xvii
    List of abbreviations – xix
  1. Looking for Easter Island – 1
    … Inherency: where is the ground plan in evolution? 5
    … The navigation of protein hyperspace – 8
    … The game of life – 10
    … Eerie perfection – 13
    … Finding Easter Island – 19
  2. Can we break the great code? 22
    … The ground floor – 23
    … DNA: the strangest of all molecules? 27
  3. Universal goo: life as a cosmic principle? 32
    … A Martini the size of the Pacific – 33
    … Goo from the sky – 34
    … Back to deep space – 38
    … A Life-saving rain? 42
  4. The origin of life: straining the soup or our credulity? 44
    … Finding its path – 47
    … Problems with experiments – 49
    … On the flat – 53
    … Back to the test tube – 58
    … A sceptic's charter – 63
  5. Uniquely lucky? The strangeness of Earth – 69
    … The shattered orb – 69
    … Battering the Earth – 71
    … The Mars express – 75
    … Making the Solar System – 77
    … Rare Moon – 87
    … Just the right size – 92
    … Jupiter and the comets – 93
    … Just the right place – 99
    … A cosmic fluke? 105
  6. Converging on the extreme – 106
    … Universal chlorophyll? 106
    … The wheels of life? 111
    … Fortean bladders – 112
    … A silken convergence – 115
    … Matrices and skeletons – 117
    … Play it again! – 120
    … Attacking convergence – 126
    … Convergence: on the ground, above the ground, under the ground – 134
  7. Seeing convergence – 147
    … A balancing act – 148
    … Returning the gaze – 151
    … Eyes of an alien? 158
    … Clarity and colour vision – 166
    … Universal rhodopsin? 170
    … Smelling convergence – 173
    … The echo of convergence – 181
    … Shocking convergence – 182
    … Hearing convergence – 190
    … Thinking convergence? 194
  8. Alien convergences? 197
    … Down in the farm – 198
    … Military convergence – 200
    … Convergent complexities – 205
    … Hearts and minds – 214
    … Honorary mammals – 218
    … Giving birth to convergence – 220
    … Warming to convergence, singing of convergence, chewing convergence – 223
  9. The non-prevalence of humanoids? 229
    … Interstellar nervous systems? 230
    … The conceptualizing pancake – 231
    … The bricks and mortar of life – 234
    … Genes and networks – 237
    … Jack, the railway baboon – 242
    … Giant brains – 243
    … Grasping convergence – 261
    … Converging on the humanoid – 264
    … Converging on the ultimate – 271
  10. Evolution bound: the ubiquity of convergence – 283
    … Ubiquitous convergence – 284
    … Respiratory convergence – 287
    … Freezing convergence, photosynthetic convergence – 290
    … The molecules converge – 295
    … Convergence and evolution – 298
    … Converging trends – 304
    … A possible research programme – 308
  11. Towards a theology of evolution – 311
    … An evolutionary embedment – 312
    … Darwin's priesthood – 314
    … Heresy! Heresy!! 318
    … Genetic fundamentalism – 323
    … A path to recovery? 326
    … Converging on convergence – 328
  12. Last word – 331
    Notes – 333
    Index – 446

BOOK COMMENT:

Cambridge University Press (4 Sep 2003). See "Conway Morris (Simon) - Darwin’s Compass: How Evolution Discovers the Song of Creation" for a lecture related to the book.



"Conway Morris (Simon) - Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (Main Book)"

Source: Morris (Simon Conway) - Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, Chapters 1 - 10



"Conway Morris (Simon) - Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (Preface)"

Source: Morris (Simon Conway) - Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, Preface


Full Text (Footnotes omitted)
  1. Writing in the New York Review of Books, John Maynard Smith, one of Britain's greatest biologists, remarked 'If one was able to re-play the whole evolution of animals, starting at the bottom of the Cambrian (and, to satisfy Laplace, moving one of the individual animals two feet to its left), there is no guarantee — indeed no likelihood — that the result would be the same. There might be no conquest of the land, no emergence of mammals, and certainly no human beings'. This review, written with characteristic flair and economy, was addressing three books on evolution, two by S. J. Gould and the third by E. Mayr. Maynard Smith was raising this issue because both the authors under review have been forthright in claiming that the emergence of human intelligence during the course of evolution has a vanishingly small probability. The logic of the argument, that because we are unique on this planet then nothing like us can occur elsewhere, is gently checked by Maynard Smith: 'This argument seems to me so manifestly false that I fear I must have misunderstood it'. However, he, Mayr and Gould, and I imagine almost anyone else, would agree that the likelihood of ‘exactly the same cognitive creatures — with five fingers on each hand, a vermiform appendix, thirty-two teeth, and so on’ evolving again if, somehow, the Cambrian explosion could be rerun is remote in the extreme.
  2. What, however, of the emergence of more general biological properties? In considering some earlier views of R. C. Lewontin, who was uncertain as to whether 'general principles of biological organization' existed, Maynard Smith was more upbeat: 'In seeking a theory of biological form, I would probably place greater emphasis than Lewontin on the principles of engineering design. I suspect that there are only a limited number of ways in which eyes can possibly work, and, maybe only a limited number of ways in which brains can work. But I agree that it would be good to know whether such principles exist, and, if so, what they are'. Even though neither Lewontin nor Maynard Smith thought 'A description of all the organisms that have ever been' could settle this issue, Life's Solution sets out to demonstrate that what we already know gives some strong indicators of what must be: even in this book pigs don't fly.
  3. The central theme of this book depends on the realities of evolutionary convergence: the recurrent tendency of biological organization to arrive at the same 'solution' to a particular 'need'. Perhaps the best-known example is the similarity between the camera-like eye of the octopus and the human eye (or that of any other vertebrate). As we shall see in this particular instance, where the camera-like eye has evolved independently at least six times, Maynard Smith's premise that 'only a limited number of ways in which eyes can possibly work' is amply confirmed. If this book happens to serve no other purpose than act as a compilation of evolutionary convergences, be it head-banging in mole rats and termites or matriarchal social structure in sperm whales and elephants, then that will be sufficient. But, of course, the net is in pursuit of a much bigger prey. Its main, but not ultimate, aim is to argue that, contrary to received wisdom, the emergence of human intelligence is a near-inevitability. My purpose is not to demonstrate the inevitability of a five-fingered organism, although in this context it is amusing to note that the famous panda's 'thumb' is, in one sense, convergent. Nor is it my aim to find repeated examples of species with 32 teeth, even though we might note that there are a number of fascinating examples of dental convergence. And it is this that matters, not five of this or 32 of that, but the recurrent emergence of various biological properties.
  4. This book has its anecdotes, from baboons operating railway signals to a harbour seal that spoke like an inebriated Bostonian, but there is a serious argument that takes us from the apparently arcane, such as the natural (and convergent) gyroscopes of insects, through to the convergences of the sensory modalities1 (vision, of course, but also olfaction, hearing and echolocation, electroreception, and so on) to agriculture, brain size, and culture. And there are four conclusions.
    • First, what we regard as complex is usually inherent in simpler systems: the real and in part unanswered question in evolution is not novelty per se, but how it is that things are put together.
    • Second, the number of evolutionary end-points is limited: by no means everything is possible.
    • Third, what is possible has usually been arrived at multiple times, meaning that the emergence of the various biological properties is effectively inevitable.
    • Finally, all this takes time. What was impossible billions of years ago becomes increasingly inevitable: evolution has trajectories (trends, if you prefer) and progress is not some noxious by-product of the terminally optimistic, but simply part of our reality.
  5. There is, however, a paradox. If we, in a sense, are evolutionarily inevitable, as too are animals with compound eyes or tiny organelles that make hydrogen, then where are our equivalents, out there, across the galaxy? After all, the Milky Way has been available for colonization for at least a billion years, so in Enrico Fermi’s famous words concerning putative extra-terrestrials: 'Where are they?' To paraphrase much of this book, life may be a universal principle, but we can still be alone. In other words, once you are on the path it is pretty straightforward, but finding a suitable planet and maybe getting the right recipe for life's origination could be exceedingly difficult: inevitable humans in a lonely Universe. Now, if this happens to be the case, that in turn might be telling us something very interesting indeed. Either we are a cosmic accident, without either meaning or purpose, or alternatively ...
  6. Enough of backgrounds; what specifically is this book about? Here is a brief outline. Overall it is a sandwich. The central meat on convergences is in Chapters 6 to 10, flanked by thinner expositions in the form of the first five chapters and two end chapters, the last very short indeed. So, the first two chapters are introductory. They look at two extraordinarily effective biological systems. The first concerns the genetic code, how the building blocks of protein, the amino acids, are read off the DNA. This code is eerily effective, indeed it has been argued to be 'one in a million'. This raises the question of how life navigates to such precise end-points, an analogy being how the Polynesians in the great diaspora across the Pacific ever managed to find that remote speck of land that we call Easter Island. This is followed in the second chapter by a consideration of DNA, a molecule of iconic if not totemic significance. But for all its familiarity, DNA also turns out to be one of the strangest molecules in the Universe. A rather useful invention.
  7. The next two chapters (3 and 4) consider how easy it is to make the molecules necessary for life, but paradoxically how difficult it is to make life itself. To some the universality of organic material, from immense interstellar gas clouds rich in carbon compounds to questing bipeds plodding around out-of-the-way planets, almost suggests the cosmos 'breathes' life; a Universe seeded with vital possibilities. Maybe so, but the trillion upon trillion tonnes of interstellar organics may still be a universal 'goo'. To be sure, they could be the essential ingredient for getting life started in terms of basic supplies, but the question of just how inanimate became animate has proved stubbornly recalcitrant. It should all be rather simple, especially if you worship at the crowded shrine of self-organization. Yet, somewhere, somehow the right question has not yet been asked, and not for want of trying.
  8. So confident, however, is the majority that the emergence of life is a pre-ordained inevitability that the question of whether beyond the Earth there are any planetary homes available has only recently emerged. Thus Chapter 5 looks at what we know of the many peculiarities of our Solar System. Planets there will be aplenty, but suitable abodes for organic evolution might require very special sets of circumstances. This is an area that has been reviewed by such workers as Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, and Stuart Ross Taylor, but here I take the argument further as the ferment of discussion continues.
  9. Chapters 6 to 10 are, as already mentioned, the heart of the book. They effectively track the story of evolutionary convergence, starting with the classic cases familiar to biologists as well as some very intriguing experiments, using bacteria, which allow evolutionary history to be rerun. That provides a framework of a sort, but the goal is to argue for the inevitable emergence of sentience. This is achieved by first (Chapter 7) looking, in some detail, at the sensory modalities2. Eyes provide a superb story, but so too in their different ways do such features as balance, hearing, olfaction, echolocation, and electro-generation: all are rampantly convergent. These complex systems can arise from very different starting positions, but again and again converge on the same evolutionary solution. Chapters 8 and 9 develop the story by seeing how certain features that we believe are peculiarly human, such as agriculture, human brains, and even advanced culture are each convergent.
  10. This is not, emphatically, to say that humans are the only evolutionary outcome worth considering: clearly they are not. And this leads to the last two chapters (10 and 11), and a brief coda (Chapter 12). Too often evolutionary convergence is regarded as simply anecdotal, good for a bedtime story. Its importance is surely underestimated, and for two reasons. The first is scientific. Ideas on evolution about such features as adaptation and trends have been under fierce attack, especially by those who believe that if contingent happenstance dogs every step of evolution then assuredly the emergence of humans is a cosmic accident, leaving us free to make the world as we will, with such happy results as are plain to see. Yet convergence tells us two things: that evolutionary trends are real, and that adaptation is not some occasional cog in the organic machine, but is central to the explanation of how we came to be here. In principle, such ideas are in themselves so unremarkable as to require no comment, were it not for the ferocious attacks by such writers as S. J. Gould. What, one wonders, did he get so excited about, and how, one may ask, has our understanding of evolution really changed despite more than forty years of polemic?
  11. Yet, convergence also opens another door. If the emergence of our sentience was effectively inevitable, then perhaps we should take rather more seriously the sentiences of other species? So too perhaps we should stand back and consider what a very odd set-up it is we inhabit, from the eerily efficient genetic code, to the deeply peculiar molecule DNA, to a set of biological organizations that repeatedly throw up complex structures, not least the brain. The late Fred Hoyle, no friend of most biologists, carried some strange ideas about the origins of biological complexity to his grave, yet his remark that the Universe was a set-up job rings strangely true. Having said that, if you happen to be a 'creation scientist' (or something of that kind) and have read this far, may I politely suggest that you put this book back on the shelf. It will do you no good. Evolution is true, it happens, it is the way the world is, and we too are one of its products. This does not mean that evolution does not have metaphysical implications; I remain convinced that this is the case. To deny, however, the reality of evolution and more seriously to distort deliberately the scientific evidence in support of fundamentalist tenets is inadmissible. Contrary to popular belief, the science of evolution does not belittle us. As I argue, something like ourselves is an evolutionary inevitability, and our existence also reaffirms our one-ness with the rest of Creation. Nevertheless, the free will we are given allows us to make a choice. Of course, it might all be a glorious accident; but alternatively perhaps now is the time to take some of the implications of evolution and the world in which we find ourselves a little more seriously. If you haven't put Life's Solution back on the shelf, please read on.



"Conway Morris (Simon) - Life's Solution: Towards a Theology of Evolution"

Source: Morris (Simon Conway) - Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, Chapter 11



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