Beginning with the End in Mind
Today's video is courtesy of filmmaker Ryan Pettey, director/editor of Satellite Pictures and features physicist Ard Louis.
In today's video, Oxford physicist Ard Louis discusses the famous debate between renowned evolutionary biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Simon Conway Morris. Gould believed (and wrote in his book Wonderful Life) that if the "tape" of evolution were rerun, the chance that anything like human intelligence would emerge is essentially zero. In other words, humanity is here through random accident. Gould pointed to the work of Morris and fellow scientists in their research of the Burgess Shale as evidence for this view.
However, Morris himself disagrees, pointing to what is called evolutionary convergence. As Morris notes, there are numerous examples of identical features evolving multiple times throughout the history of life independently. Morris believes that if the tape of life were replayed, we would see something like humans emerge. A Christian might say, it looks like we were planned.
Some Christians might find Simon Conway Morris' viewpoint, with its implicit teleology, more attractive. Others, perhaps motivated by a high view of providence, may find Gould's emphasis on contingency equally congenial to their faith. What do you think?
Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.
Ard Louis is a Reader in Theoretical Physics and a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he leads a research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology. He is also the International Secretary for Christians in Science, an associate of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and served on the board of advisors for the John Templeton Foundation.