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Is it safer to be an unDarwinian now?

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Simon Conway Morris Recently, we noted the new “bold new take” book on whether Darwinism explains higher taxa (which raises the quite undaring question whle offering an equally unconvincing alternative. And a “public goods” approach to Darwinism that leads to design. Plus an attempt to separate Darwin from his mentor Malthus that sheds worse light on Darwin than Malthus.

So a reader writes to ask if we have addressed Simon Conway Morris’s The Runes of Evolution: How the Universe Became Self-Aware?


Yes we did: See Evolutionary biologist Simon Conway Morris on how the universe became self-aware What? Self-aware?

and

ET, call pretty much anywhere at THIS point. Especially call Simon Conway Morris, Cambridge, Collect.

This from a review from an arts and letters journal:

But the deeper point, to which he recurs again and again, is that “although cognitive worlds are bubbling all around us, only we actually know.” This appears to be the somewhat self-aggrandizing gist of his book’s subtitle “How the Universe Became Self-Aware”: that so far as is known, the universe – with all its abundant forces of evolution – has only evolved the particular theorizing, self-regarding capacities of the human brain once. Other species, he grants (thankfully – in the 21st century, far too many such books don’t even make such a minimal concession), have developed formidable intelligence, but they haven’t gone that one extra step:

For Darwin the mystery of mysteries was the origin of species, but for us it is the nature of mind. Convergence helps us to stake out the territory. Giant brains and cognitive sophistication have evolved multiple times. Obvious manifestations are learned vocalizations, toolmaking, and social play. Less tangibly, sleep, mirror self-recognition, and even an awareness of death are as much tantalizing as informative. All are patently a product of evolution, and the differences that separate us from apes, crows, dolphins, and maybe even octopus are paper thin. This is what Darwin taught, but now we stand alone.

The fallacy underlying all this will be well-known to logicians (who’ll use it anyway because at the end of the day they’re still human – most of them, anyway), but at least this tendency to equate the hyper-speciality of humanity with the longed-for end goal of all species is always under blankets of control in Morris’ book; this is much more a free-wheeling inquiry into the nature of evolution’s tool kit than it is a triumphalist narrative of the homo sapiens brain as it Byronically contemplates the universe.

Darwin's Doubt The long and short of it is that we are still alone at the bus stop and don’t know how we got here. But critically, it seems more and more okay in high culture, if not popular culture, to admit that Darwin did not answer the question. Perhaps that’s why Steve Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt did so well.

The friend notes the oft-heard point that today, “evolution” can predict pretty much anything. Or as the guy said, “Nothing like the power of prediction in a good scientific theory and Darwinism is nothing like a good scientific theory.”

See also:

Evolution appears to converge on goals—but in Darwinian terms, is that possible?

Does Darwinism explain higher taxa? A bold new take on the history of life. But what new take?

and

Separating Darwin from his mentor Malthus? Why called “Darwinian Explanation of Malthusian Trap”? Because correct title, ” Malthusian Explanation of Darwinian Trap” would be banned.

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