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dan kuebler and catherine hadro on the purposeful lab podcast
Purposeful UniverseJuly 29, 20231 min read

The Purposeful Lab: Evolution on Planet Earth: A Discussion with Cambridge University’s Simon Conway Morris

In this episode of Purposeful Lab, Dan Kuebler interviews Dr. Simon Conway Morris, an English paleontologist, astrobiologist, and evolutionary biologist. He is the emeritus professor of evolutionary paleobiology at the University of Cambridge as well as a fellow of Saint John’s College, and he recently published the book From Extraterrestrials to Animal Minds, in which he dismantles six myths of evolution.

In the interview, Dan and Dr. Conway Morris discuss a few of these myths and how the truth about evolution could reveal purpose in the universe.

Is Evolution Random?

One myth that Dr. Simon Conway Morris confronts in his latest book is the idea that evolution happens randomly. In fact, there is an amazing amount of order at work behind the processes of evolution. Dan and Dr. Conway Morris look at convergent evolution and mass extinctions as two examples of phenomena that may seem random but, when examined more closely, shed light on the intricately ordered science of evolution.

The Evolution of Humans

One of the most interesting subtopics of evolution is the evolution of humans. Humans are unique in many ways, including our capacity for sophisticated language and rational thought. Dr. Conway Morris describes the profound differences between humans, other animals, and AI, most notably our capacity for imagination and prospection about the future. Dan and Dr. Conway Morris also discuss whether the evolution of humans was inevitable and ponder whether humans will become even more complex as we continue to evolve.

Listen to Find Out:

  • What is convergent evolution? (00:01:35)
  • What’s the story of the bird on the Purposeful Lab podcast art? (00:05:22)
  • Is evolution random? (00:09:41)
  • Are certain events of evolution inevitable? (00:16:12)
  • What do mass extinctions mean for evolution? (00:24:40)
  • Are we evolving towards increased complexity? (00:31:00)
  • How are humans different from other animals? (00:38:45)






Purposeful Universe

The Purposeful Universe seeks to explore and present, through award winning videos, the abundant order in nature that funnels biological systems toward increasing levels of complexity and sophistication—suggesting that human life is the purposeful outcome of a complex, ordered system.