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Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe
Life's Solution builds a persuasive case for the predictability of evolutionary outcomes. The case rests on a remarkable compilation of examples of convergent evolution, in which two or more lineages have independently evolved similar structures and functions. The examples range from the aerodynamics of hovering moths and hummingbirds to the use of silk by spiders and some ...more
Hardcover, 486 pages
Published by Cambridge University Press
(first published January 1st 2003)
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Apr 27, 2013 Steve Van Slyke rated it liked it · review of another edition
Recommends it for: Advanced readers of evolution
From my lay reader, non-scientist perspective, the basic theme of the book is that there is a huge universe of biological space for evolution to act within. However, there are many constraints on what paths or spaces are viable, and since life began it has adapted to following those constrained paths which still are incredibly diverse. And because these various constraints exists various forms of life have adapted in similar ways, converging on similar solutions to life's challenges, whether tha ...more
This book argues for the provocative thesis that the course of biological evolution, and indeed the course of cosmological evolution, is in a direction of unmistakable progress culminating with human society. We indeed may be the only intelligent civilization in the Milky Way, or even in the entire universe, but that does not detract from the fact that the eventual emergence of intelligent beings like ourselves (quite possibly even including our overall biochemistry and physical form) was inevit ...more
I got this book as counterpoint to Rare Earth, thinking that this author thinks complex life is common in the universe. Wrong! He doesn't address it much, but he pretty much agrees that it is rare. What he does say is that there aren't many ways to accomplish biological adaptations - to make an eye, it's got to be either a camera or compound, and to be really good it's got to be a camera. to carry oxygen in blood you need hemoglobin, and to use light you need chlorophyll. Many life forms have re ...more
Quite a fascinating book about evolution. Mostly about convergence, the consistent tendency of life to find the same solution through various pathways, as for example the camera eye, which has evolved independently multiple times in various creatures. Conway Morris' point is that life does not have infinite and random possibilities; evolution is highly constrained by the viable possibilities of its environment. Thus there is a direction to evolution, and sentient creatures very like us are an in ...more
This thing is incredibly dense with evidence and examples, but I can't help getting past this guy's abiding interest in demonstrating that faith is somehow self-evident in the array of evolutionary convergence. Morris makes some pretty strident suggestions about how life would or will or could evolve elsewhere in the universe, though, with absolutely no evidence at hand. It's a hefty wager for a thinker to make, and I don't think I can defend it as speculative science when it's so clearly intend ...more
This is a poorly written book on a fascinating topic. However, the author convinced me that the traditional Darwinian camp, represented by Dawkins, is reductive and inadequate, and that the gene isn't the fundamental agent of evolution. The theological ideas towards the end of the book are unconvincing though. I hope that scientists continue to pursue these ideas of convergent evolution because it has important implications for understanding "the meaning of life," but it's obvious that this area ...more
Fascinating tour of biodiversity and evolution, from one of the most prominent palaeontologists in the world. A core idea is the ubiquity of convergence, where similar structures and behaviours evolve numerous times in separate lineages, in response to similar pressures from the environment. A simple example is the body shape of sharks and dolphins, but Conway Morris goes into a huge variety of diverse convergences in things like brain function, vision and social organization.
Feb 06, 2012 Wes rated it really liked it · review of another edition
Intriguing look at evolutionary convergence. Touches on topics ranging from abiogenesis and biochemistry to cosmology and theology. Highly critical of Gould's view of evolution as a contingent process; instead looking to convergence for evidence of inevitability (or at least high probability) for certain adaptations.