A bússola de Darwin: por que a evolução de humanos é inevitável?

sábado, setembro 26, 2009

Darwin’s Compass: Why the evolution of humans is inevitable

23 September 2009

Professor Simon Conway Morris

Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Orthodox neo-Darwinism very much emphasises the random and contingent. Re-run the tape of life, as Steven Jay Gould famously observed, and the outcomes would be utterly different. Terrestrial life maybe, but certainly no humans. They, like tulips and tape-worms, are just another evolutionary fluke. The basis of this is hardly surprising: think of random mutations, massive shifts in the environment, not to mention the odd giant rock dropping out of the sky. Life is on a roller-coaster and is flung from one strange place to another.

Conway Morris argued for the exact reverse, that evolution is like any other science, that is it is predictable. The mainstay of this argument revolved around evolutionary convergence, the observation that from different starting points evolution arrives at the same solution. A classic example is the camera-eyes (and please do not mention ‘deep homology'), but less appreciated is that convergence is not common, it is ubiquitous. Evidence continues to grow that evolutionary bifurcations are far from random, but probably lead to inevitable outcomes. This suggests the Tree of Life is very different from the sprawling mass of foliage that is commonly envisaged. Also of great importance is the inherency of molecular systems and the capacity for self organisation. Darwinian evolution explains the mechanism, but not the outcomes.


Simon Conway Morris is Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. He is renowned for his insights into early evolution, and his studies of paleobiology. His area of research concerns the study of the constraints on evolution, and the historical processes that lead to the emergence of complexity, especially with respect to the construction of the major animal bodyplans in the Cambrian explosion. His work is central to palaeobiology, but is also of great interest to biologists and bioastronomers, as well as the wider community. Conway Morris was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society at age 39, was awarded the Walcott Medal of the National Academy of Sciences in 1987, and the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London in 1998.

Presented by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and The John Curtin School of Medical Research.


Lecture here/Palestra aqui. [01:06:46]