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The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex Hardcover – November 7, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0195135138 ISBN-10: 019513513X

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019513513X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195135138
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 0.8 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,137,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

"We are clearly at the beginning of viewing science from the new perspective of emergence," Morowitz writes. "I believe that it will provide insights into the evolutionary unfolding of our universe, our solar system, our biota, and our humanity." Emergence is the opposite of reductionism. "In the domain of emergence, the assumption is made that both actual systems as well as models operate by selection from the immense space and variability of the world of the possible, and in carrying out this selection, new and unanticipated properties emerge." Morowitz, professor of biology and natural philosophy at George Mason University, provides 28 examples of emergence, from the primordium through the appearance of hominids to their progression to philosophy and the spiritual. His argument is closely reasoned and rich in scientific and philosophical background.

Editors of Scientific American


"Closely reasoned and rich in scientific and philosophical background."--Scientifc American

"For more than two decades Harold Morowitz has been honored as a creative and persuasive leader in origin-of-life research. Now, with The Emergence of Everything, he expands his horizon in a stunningly original and provocative book. With encyclopedic knowledge, gentle humor, lucid style and sweeping vision, Morowitz tackles the grandest questions at the interface of science and religion, and he makes a compelling case for the inexorable rise in universal complexity, from the Big Bang to galaxies to life, and perhaps beyond."--Dr. Robert Hazen, Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington

"Harold Morowitz has the rare ability to provide a general audience with both the excitement and the insights of science, without stinting either facts or theory. In The Emergence of Everything, Morowitz manages a tour de force, building a ladder of 28 rungs climbing from the beginnings of the universe to the advent of consciousness. At each level, he shows how the phenomena of that level emerge from building blocks provided by the previous level. This emergence, the mysterious phenomenon wherein the whole is more than the sum of its parts, is a central concept in studies of complex systems, which Stephen Hawking calls 'the science of the 21st century.' Morowitz's ladder is a worthy climb--there is no better book for developing a detailed understanding of emergence."--John Holland, author of Emergence: From Chaos to Order

"This is a brilliant book. Morowitz has provided the first state-of-the-art overview of the theory of emergence across the scientific disciplines. Neither too detailed nor too abstract, his 28 stages of emergence trace the history of the universe from the Big Bang through the appearance of culture, philosophy and spirituality. No other work has laid out the core case for emergence--and hence against the ultimacy of reductionism--across the whole spectrum of science. This introduction to emergence theory should guide philosophers of science and anthropologists, theologians and metaphysicians, as they reflect on the nature of Homo sapiens and our place in the cosmos." --Philip Clayton, Visiting Professor, Harvard University

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Customer Reviews

Dr. Morowitz opts for the latter.
Emil L. Posey
I feel somewhat presumptuous and impertinent writing critical words about a book written by an author like Harold Morowitz.
Thomas Dukich
The book provides stimulating thoughts and is an engaging read.
Pieter Uys

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

173 of 180 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Dukich on April 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I feel somewhat presumptuous and impertinent writing critical words about a book written by an author like Harold Morowitz. He's a man with impressive credentials including once having been editor of the journal Complexity and now on the Science Board of the Santa Fe Institute. And there are glowing comments on the book jacket--stunning, provocative, and brilliant-from the likes of highly respected John Holland. Nonetheless, here is my reaction as a layperson who's read many of the popular books on emergence, complexity, etc.
First, some positive comments. Morowitz has written numerous books. He appears to have a vast knowledge of physics, biology and early western religious beginnings and in this book he provides a sweeping view of, well, everything! His most interesting insight: the far-reaching explanatory power of the Pauli exclusion principle. Morowitz also comes across as likeable and humble, the latter being a characteristic that is often lacking in the authors of other "complexity" books as previously noted by several Amazon reviewers. In fact, Morowitz seems likeable enough that I offer my apology for any personal offense he might take.
On the less than positive side, I found the book "stunning" all right, but probably not in the way the publishers intended. The book is as much about "religion" as it is emergence. And I don't mean the emergence of a new kind of spirituality that arises out of discoveries in complexity theory. I mean old fashion Judeo-Christian religion. There are numerous pages of discussion of early Christian thinking and an extensive apologia for the Jesuit paleontologist, and Morowitz's role model, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (p. 15).
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51 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Emil L. Posey on April 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a relatively small book with a huge message. It deals with complex, sophisticated theories - some explained clearly; others such as the emergence of metabolism, not so clearly despite Dr. Morowitz's efforts. It is written at a scholarly level - at least at the undergraduate level - as evidenced, for example, by his syntax and the technical lexicon he employs, often without definition.
Dr. Morowitz's premise is that at the dawn of the 21st century "we now see the world through the fresh perspective and understanding of the computer revolution and the study of complex systems...[and] this new mode of thinking has begun to develop an exciting explanatory concept designated emergence, which develops previously unrealized ways of deepening our understanding of the past eons and illuminates how the universe, after a long and complex 12-billion-year trajectory from the Big Bang, has given rise to the human mind and modern man" (pg. 16). Classical science is based on reductionism and theory formation that work their way back up to the world of observation. I disagree from the review from Scientific American that emergence is the opposite of reductionism; rather, emergence supplements and complements reductionism, taking it to a new level. It essentially is the realization - the study - that the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts (pg. 23); that is, the system or process that emerges is something more than would have been expected by the study of the constituent parts.
Dr. Morowitz selected 28 examples of "observed instances that have emergence in common but vary over an enormous range...
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By M. Manson on December 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In the last few decades, there have been more and more scientists stepping out into the realm of philosophical thought and tossing in their two cents regarding important metaphysical questions. On the whole, this is a good, encouraging trend.

Yet, it is becoming too predictable that a philosophy book, written in the vain of science, will undoubtedly be strong in the latter, and fall so short in the former: Morowitz's "Emergence of Everything" is yet another testament to this trend.

I do not want to be too harsh, as there are some things this book does well, so I will focus on those first.

"Emergence of Everything" discusses the new trend in scientific thinking to group things into wholes rather than seperate them into parts. This trend was realized in philosophy by the Idealists showing roots in Plato, but taking life with Kant and primarily Hegel.

He then launches into a so-called "brief history of everything;" how evolution has transpired since the beginning of the cosmos until present day. The scientific explanations are quick, sometimes dense, but well-described. He leaves nothing out--including social sciences into latter day evolutions. And in the end even tampers with some spiritual implications. My point: the overview itself is satisfactory... even well-done I suppose.

Unfortunately, that IS basically all of the book's merits. It ends there: just a string of cosmological and historical observations. Despite explicitly calling his own book a "philosophical treatise" he lends no thought, analysis, or anything beyond questioning of the form, patterns or causes of specific evolutions or emergences.
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