Book Review: Simon Conway Morris, The Runes of Evolution – How the Universe Became Self-Aware

(system) #1
The "runes of evolution" spell out a surprising message: Some evolutionary outcomes are virtually inevitable.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(James Stump) #2

Some people think the phenomenon of convergent evolution is the biological version of fine tuning. What do you think about it?

(Patrick ) #3

Zachary, Jim,
This is exactly what Biologos should be discussing - 2015 Science and its harmonization with Christian Faith. Thank you so much. I just ordered the book on Amazon so I want to read it over Christmas (oh I mean Winter Solstice/Festivus) vacation before asking questions about it. Thanks so much, this is a fascinating subject to be discussed here.


Convergence really is amazing! I’m just wondering why there are no marsupial apes. I can certainly understand why there are no marsupial dolphins, but why no marsupial apes?


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #6


The ideas of Morris demonstrate that evolution cannot be understood outside of ecological change.

Why is there convergence? Because there are only a limited number of basic ecologies on earth. Animals and plants converge to adapt to these ecological niches. They diverge in that every niche has its own peculiarity.

Was the emergence of humanity inevitable? Can’t say, but a better question is, Does the ecology of the earth give an evolutionary advantage to intelligence? The answer appears to be yes. If so then intelligent life similar to humanity was likely to appear, not inevitable, but close enough.

Coyne and other claim that evolution is guided by or can be unguided by quantum randomness. That is false. We can see clear examples of how climate change, esp. the extinction of the dinosaurs, which has nothing to do with quantum physics, which only governs subatomic quantum particles.

(Patrick ) #7

I agree with most of your post except this last sentence.

The extinction of the dinosaurs has a lot to do with QM as well as GR. Sub-atomic particles aggregated to form atoms and molecules, aggregated to rocks, then asteriods. One particular asteriod’s orbit changes because of a slight disturbance in spacetime and millions of years later - wham! No more dinosaurs. The solar system is a large chaotic system governed by GR and QM.

(Dr. Ted Davis) #8

I entirely agree with you, Eddie. Unfortunately, the kind of rhetoric aimed at TE/EC folks by the leading branch of the ID movement, Discovery, does not appear to be intelligently designed to promote that convergence. For example, Casey Luskin just said this a few days ago:

“In the “conversation” that theistic evolutionists say they want to have about science and faith, theistic evolutionists capitulate to nearly all of the ideas and beliefs of atheists, thinking this will somehow attract atheists into the religious camp. It won’t work, because theistic evolutionists almost never challenge anything at the core of atheist beliefs.”

Casey says this (and other very inaccurate things) here:

I know Casey sometimes reads things here at BL, but he must be reading us pretty darn selectively–so selectively that he forgets to tell his readers about Polkinghorne’s strong endorsement of natural theology (see parts of the series, directly challenging “the core of atheist beliefs” on multiple points; he forgets to tell his readers about Ted Peters’ strong endorsement of creatio ex nihilo, partly on the basis of modern cosmology (see the series; he forgets to tell his readers about Simon Conway Morris’ books, which are venomously reviewed by Jerry Coyne (»), precisely b/c (as Coyne puts it in his latest screed), “But the reason Conway Morris does make that argument [about convergence] is palpably clear, and only the obtuse don’t see it. It’s because he’s a devout Christian. Therefore he’s trying to support the Christian view that God created humans, albeit through the tortuous process of evolution, and so the appearance of humans or “humanoids” was inevitable.”

Casey is pretty forgetful, it seems. If his goals and attitudes aren’t consistent with advancing truth, that’s one thing; but, if he’s committed to “following the evidence wherever it leads,” a goal I share with my friends in the ID movement, then perhaps he needs to be less forgetful.

(George Brooks) #9

Which is why, @TedDavis, that I have begun lobbying for writers to discontinue the use of the terms “ID” and “TE” - - which have only become gripping bars for keeping people IN disagreement. If we use the terms “God-Guided” or “God-Directed” … then the only thing left to argue about is HOW OLD IS THE EARTH.

I see no reason for BioLogos to think it is responsible for getting Intelligent Design people to agree with the Atheist camp of Evolutionists. It will never happen - - in the same way that BioLogos supporters will never agree with the Atheist camp of Evolutionists.

George Brooks

(Patrick ) #10

You are spot on in your statements above.

(Dr. Ted Davis) #11


I beg to differ here. At least in theory, evolution can in fact be influenced by quantum events–specifically, by atomic-level or molecular-level emissions of radiation that alters genes in the “germ line.” We’ve known since the 1930s that x-rays (one type of such radiation) cause mutations. Other types of radiation can also do this, I assume. That radiation is produce in quantum events. So, in principle, God could guide evolution by controlling quantum events producing specific particles that move in specific directions and collide with specific strands of DNA …

That’s entirely speculative, of course. But, some theological matters are also pretty speculative.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #12


Thank you for your response. I did not mean to day that genetic Variation was not effected by radiation or similar quantum events. As I understand him Coyne is arguing against so called front loading of DNA to produce a given evolutionary result citing the unpredictability of quantum physics.

Whereas frontloading and guiding by radiation are theoretically conceivable, we really do not need such speculation when we already have an answer before us in the form of the science of ecology which makes clear the Telos of evolution.

It is a scientific answer to a scientific question, which should satisfy scientists. philosophers, and theologians. I really do not know why anyone would reject ecological evolution out of hand, do you? Maybe they just don’t understand it, but they don’t seem to be interested in understanding it either.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #13


Just because an asteroid is a large aggregation of particles, does not mean that it is governed by QM. Indeed it is not an aggregation of particles, since that means that group of individual particles, which it is not. It is made up of a large group of molecules, which are not governed by QM.

But that is not my main point. Climate change caused the dinosaurs to die out. QM did not cause the climate change. While the asteroid may have played a role, there is no evidence that QM caused the asteroid and not GR. Climate change is caused by General Relativity.

What you said was that QM caused a slight alteration in the order of the universe and this is evidence of a large chaotic system. First of all since there is no evidence that QM did this, there is no evidence that QM causes chaos in the universe.

Second, you must have your own private definition of chaos. While I am aware that science does speak about Chaos Theory which is a type of order more complex from what we generally understand, nonetheless you for some reason insist that a small amount of disorder as you characterize QM plus a large amount of dynamic order which is GR equals chaos. This is manifestly wrong.

Thirdly, your example is wrong and your conclusion is wrong.

(Patrick ) #14

Do you have any example, test, confirmed instant that this has ever happened in the universe during the past 13.8 billion years?

(Patrick ) #15

You seem to have the view that QM somehow goes away with large objects. That is not the case. The whole universe at all times has been and is governed by QM. Look at your monitor that your looking at. It is a QM device. QM governs sub atom particles to stars, to black holes and even “empty space” - a quantum vacuum.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #16


QM governs the electrons which are subatomic, not the frame, the location and velocity of which can be easily measured.

QM governs the quantum particles and fields of space, not space itself… Black holes are made up of quantum particles, because the atoms and molecules have broken down. Stars where nuclear fission is taking place are the same thing.

Now to say that the Uncertainty Principle governs stars and black holes is false. QM governs the contents of stars and blacks hole because they are subatomic, but not the stars and black holes themselves.

QM governs subatomic particles. The other laws of physics like chemistry and thermodynamics govern molecules.

(Patrick ) #17

Catch up on the latest on QM.

(Zachary Ardern) #18

Ted, less heat from all sides in the ID/TE conversation would be helpful in my view . For those inclined to TE/EC, if good theological & philosophical work is done, and there’s a little openness to the theological concerns of those inclined to ID, I think there’s room for the tone of the conversation to improve. :slight_smile:
Discussing convergence and inherency, with careful reference to the science, is one area where progress could perhaps be made.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #19


Thank you for the info.

This does not change the fact that QM governs quantum particles, like photons and electrons. It does not govern molecules. Stars are not subject to Uncertainty Principle do we really are uncertain as to where our sun is and where it is going.

Corporate law governs what corporations can and cannot do, not what individuals can and cannot do.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #20



You are right in that there is much agreement between ID and TE. The difference seems to be that ID puts theology ahead of science, and TE puts science ahead of theology.

The problem with both of these is that A. The ID theology is faulty and B. The TE science is faulty, so they both w2rong in different ways so they talk past each other. The right solution is good theology for ID and good science for TE, but sadly no one seems to be interested in this solution.

Changing terms does not change minds.