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Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0521603250, Paperback)In a crisp, passionate argument sure to draw the wrath of many biologists, Simon Conway Morris defends his belief that evolutionary science is misguided without a somewhat religious notion of the significance of human intelligence and existence. At the same time, he is careful to distance himself from creation "scientists" by reminding readers that:
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.
He uses convergence as his foundation, defining it as "the recurrent tendency of biological organization to arrive at the same 'solution' to a particular 'need'" and offering a multitude of examples, including eusociality, olfaction, and the generation of electrical fields. In outlining the direction and inevitability he believes is inherent in evolution, Conway Morris stacks up compelling evidence in the form of a revealed "protein hyperspace" that limits the possibilities of amino acid combination to a few, often repeated (pre-ordained?) forms. While he skirts a focus on the relentless environmental pressures that result in adaptation, Conway Morris also derides the notion that the gene rules evolution. He accuses his opponents (primarily Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins) "genetic fundamentalism" who use "sleights of hand, special pleading, and sanctimoniousness... trying to smuggle back the moral principle through the agency of the gene." Dense with examples and complex biological proofs, Life's Solution is not an easy explanation of convergence for general readers. Still, it is a clear and exciting elucidation of the theory that evolution might have predictable outcomes, even for those who find Conway Morris' metaphysical arguments unconvincing. --Therese Littleton
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:41 -0400)
"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."--BOOK JACKET.
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