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Simon Conway Morris - Biography

Professor Simon Conway Morris - FRS

Simon Conway Morris holds an Ad Hominem Chair in Evolutionary Palaeobiology, at the University of Cambridge. He is a Fellow of St John’s College, and also of the Royal Society. He took his first degree at the University of Bristol, and apart from four years at the Open University (1979-1983) he has been based in Cambridge. His research interests include the study of Burgess Shale-type faunas, the first appearance of skeletons, and the Cambrian “explosion”. Aspects of this were reported in The Crucible of Creation, while more recently his Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe addressed the importance of evolutionary convergence. His interests extend to the science/religion debate and the public understanding of science, the latter including television appearances in the 1996 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, as well as involvement in Extraterrestrial (Channel 4/ National Geographic).  If undisturbed, he can usually be found reading G.K. Chesterton, with a glass of wine nearby. 

Research Areas
Paleobiology, Palaeoecology, Evolutionary Convergence, Cambrian Explosion
 
Visiting Professorships, Lectures etc.
1981 - Gallagher Visiting Scientist, University of Calgary, Canada
1988 - Merrill W. Haas Visiting Distinguished Professor in Geology at University of Kansas, Lawrence
1992 - Selby Visiting Fellow, Australian Academy of Sciences
1996 - The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (BBC)
2000 - Tarner Lectures, Trinity College
2000 - Fall 2000 Marker Lecturer, PennState University 
 
Medals, etc.
1987 - Walcott Medal (jointly with Professor A.H. Knoll): National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A
1989 - Charles Schuchert Award: Paleontological Society of the United States
1992 - George Gaylord Simpson Prize, Yale University.
1993 - Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, University of Uppsala.
1997 - Elected Honorary Fellow of European Union of Geosciences (EUG)
1998 - Lyell Medal, Geological Society of London 

Quotes 

“That satisfactory definitions of life elude us may be one hint that when materialists step forward and declare with a brisk slap of the hands that this is it, we should be deeply skeptical. Whether the “it” be that of Richard Dawkins’ reductionist gene-centred worldpicture, the “universal acid” of Daniel Dennett’s meaningless Darwinism, or David Sloan Wilson’s faith in group selection (not least to explain the role of human religions), we certainly need to acknowledge each provides insights but as total explanations of what we see around us they are, to put it politely, somewhat incomplete.” 

“Convergence is, in my opinion, not only deeply fascinating but, curiously, it is as often overlooked. More importantly, it hints at the existence of a deeper structure to biology. It helps us to delineate a metaphorical map across which evolution must navigate. In this sense the Darwinian mechanisms and the organic substrate we call life are really a search engine to discover particular solutions, including intelligence and—risky thought—perhaps deeper realities?” 

“A world-picture that encompasses science but also the deep wisdom of theology may help us to explain how it is we can think, how we discover the extraordinary, but so too it may warn us of present dangers and future catastrophes . . .”

 

Publications   

 Books 

  • The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals

Oxford University Press, 1998. 

  • Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe

Cambridge University Press, 2003 

 Key Lectures 

Darwin’s Compass:  How Evolution Discovers the Song of Creation 

 Other 

 

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