One of the world’s most prominent Christian Darwinians spoke at two Texas universities this week, making a case for both evolution and theology.
Dr. Simon Conway Morris, a British paleontologist and professor of evolutionary paleobiology at Cambridge University, addressed faculty and students at Texas A&M and Baylor University on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, while visiting the state to receive the world-renowned Trotter Prize.
While in front of his audiences, the British scholar tried to emphasize the value of both science and religion, and how they are indeed compatible.
"There is no reason an evolutionary biologist could not subscribe to something transcendent," explained Morris to the Baylor Lariat, Baylor University’s student newspaper. "It would be a mistake to assume that all scientists are materialists, and they are not."
Before stopping by Baylor, Morris visited Texas A&M, located about 100 miles north of Houston in College Station, Texas, where he was honored with the Trotter Prize for his outstanding academic work and research. The award is given to those that have excelled in "origins" studies – such as the origin of life, the origin of the universe, or even the origin of human consciousness.
Morris is best known for his work on the Cambrian explosion, a period of time where life began to multiply rapidly and "explode." He has done extensive research on the fossil record during this time to build up knowledge on the era, especially by looking at the Burgess Shale fossil fauna and similar deposits in China and Greenland.
Although the results of his research rely on evolutionary knowledge, he has stressed the importance of religion in the past.
In one of his most famous quotes, he explained, "It seldom seems to strike the ultra-Darwinists that theology might have its own richness and subtleties, and might – strange thought – actually tell us things about the world that are not only to our real advantage, but will never be revealed by science."
After receiving the award and making a presentation at Texas A&M, the evolutionist was invited to speak at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, the next day by Dr. Walter Bradley, professor of engineering at Baylor and member of the selection committee for the Trotter Prize.
While at the school, Morris presented a lecture entitled "Darwin's Compass: How Evolution Discovers the Song of Creation." In it, the "origins" expert made sure to cite the evidence in favor of evolution over intelligent design – a theory that argues life is a result of an ultimate "designer" – which he disagrees with.
"It has nothing to do with intelligent design at all," said Morris to the Baylor Lariatt. "It's arguing that the selectionality of evolution as set out by Darwin is not as restrictive as considered by our colleagues ... which is almost completely determinate."
The British professor does think that evolution is not completely random, however. If one could imagine evolution beginning all over again, he believes that human intelligence would arise again, rather than by chance.
Morris has authored two influential books in his career: The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals (1998) and Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (2003).
In another of his famous past quotes, he concluded, "It is the knowledge and experience of the Incarnation, the wisdom and warnings given by Jesus in the Gospels, and not least the Resurrection that in the final analysis are all that matters."