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As emeritus professor of evolutionary paleobiology at the University of Cambridge, Dr. Morris is well versed in both the factual claims of evolution and its philosophical underpinnings. In From Extraterrestrials to Animal Minds, he gamely challenges six ideas—what he calls “myths”—that pass as unquestioned truths in evolutionary orthodoxy.

The first is the myth that evolution is boundless in the kinds of biological systems it can produce when really it is highly circumscribed. The second is the myth of randomness, the well-trodden idea that evolution proceeds blindly when really it is “seeded with inevitabilities.” The third is the myth of mass extinctions, which says that cataclysms steer the timeline of life in radically new directions when really they accelerate developments that were going to happen anyway.

The fourth is the myth of “missing links,” which promises that we will find in the fossil record clear steps from one species to another when really anatomical adaptations are elusively nonlinear. The fifth is the myth of animal minds, which holds that animal intelligence is no different from human intelligence when really there is an unbridgeable gulf between them. The sixth is the myth of extraterrestrials, which says that, given the size and scale of the universe, alien life must be out there, somewhere. But based on what he knows about biological evolution, Dr. Morris has his doubts.

Written with contrarian verve and expert detail, From Extraterrestrials to Animal Minds is the kind of intellectually stimulating read that helps us see the world with fresh eyes and appreciate its endless mysteries.

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