Here is a popular press piece on Geert Vermaij’s paper in PNAS where he argues that evolution is not highly contingent process on particular historical events, in other words, if you rewound the clock and let it flow the rivers would occupy the same channels. These ideas seem rather similar to those of Simon Conway Morris. In the end, I think this might be a “hillist vs. mountainist” issue, draw a conceptual line somewhere, give it a label and defend your position like hell. All the while characterize your position as reasonable and moderate and caricature your “opponents” so that they seem like loons arguing either for perfect determinism or total lack of adaptional constraint.
But hey, perhaps in the end I’m just not interested in the “controversies” of paleontologists…but these macroevolutionary issues do end up percolating down to the microevolutionary level at some point in the discourse, so I better pay attention.