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Simon Conway Morris, noted Cambridge University paleontologist, argues that in evolutionary natural history humans (or beings rather like humans) are an inevitable outcome of the developing speciating processes over millennia; humans are “inherent” in the system. This claim, in marked contrast to claims about contingency made by other prominent paleontologists, is based on numerous remarkable convergences—similar trends found repeatedly in evolutionary history. Conway Morris concludes approaching a natural theology. His argument is powerful and informed. But does it face adequately the surprising events in such history, particularly notable in unexpected co-options that redirect the course of life? The challenge to understand how humans are both on a continuum with other species and also utterly different remains a central puzzle in paleontology.

Keywords: Simon Conway Morris; co-option; convergence; evolution; human uniqueness; natural theology; nature and culture; origin of humans; possibility space; self-organizing complexity

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2005.00654.x

Affiliations: Holmes Rolston, III is Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523;, Email: rolston@lamar.colostate.edu.

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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