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The Story of Life: Critical Insights from Evolutionary Biology

Available via


The Story of Life: Critical Insights from Evolutionary Biology

Thursday, December 7, 2017, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

The New York Academy of Sciences, 7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich St Fl 40, New York, USA

Video of the full event is available on the Nour Foundation's YouTube channel.

Proponents of various teleological arguments point to the sheer immensity and precision of the universe, reinforced by the diversity and complexity of its abundant life forms, to support the idea of purpose behind its majestic architecture. But is there any empirical evidence of an inherent drive within the evolutionary process itself that invariably leads to greater complexity, and ultimately human consciousness? Back in the 1990s, that question sparked a lively debate between two evolutionary biologists, Stephen Jay Gould and Simon Conway Morris. Whereas Gould maintained that human evolution was a fortuitous accident — things would turn out completely different if we re-ran the tape of evolution — Conway Morris argued that convergence drives evolution in specific directions, and inevitably leads to conscious beings. While the debate continues, the notion that humans, in all their complexity, are merely an evolutionary accident, an insignificant speck in a boundless cosmos, is deeply unsatisfying for most non-scientists and fails to resonate with their life experience. What, then, can evolutionary biology ultimately tell us about the meaning of our lives? Paleoanthropologists Melanie Chang and Ian Tattersalland paleontologist Simon Conway Morris share their insights on these competing concepts, and explain how meaning and purpose can be gleaned from the remarkable story of life itself.

*Reception to follow.


This lecture will be available via Livestream. For full details, and to view the Livestream, please follow the link below:

This event is part of the The Will to Meaning: Seeking the “Why” of Our Existence series.

Moderated by journalist Steve Paulson, Executive Producer of Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge, this three-part series at the New York Academy of Sciences brings together leading scientists and scholars to explore meaning through the lens of scientific inquiry.

To learn more about each lecture and to purchase tickets, click on the links below.


Steve Paulson, Wisconsin Public Radio
Steve Paulson, Wisconsin Public Radio


Ian Tattersall, PhD, American Museum of Natural History
Ian Tattersall, PhD, American Museum of Natural History
Simon Conway Morris, PhD, Cambridge University
Simon Conway Morris, PhD, Cambridge University
Melanie Chang, PhD, Portland State University
Melanie Chang, PhD, Portland State University

Presented by

The New York Academy of SciencesNour FoundationTo the Best of Our Knowledge

Exclusive Media Sponsor

Promotional Partner

Museum of the City of New York