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61 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The science book to read. Six stars at least., June 15, 2002
This review is from: The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (Paperback)
Stuart Kauffman has an MD and is a generalist. The book deals primarily with theory and understanding of computer simulations of state driven systems of large numbers of connected nodes. It examines how such systems evolve through mutation and gives a clear understanding of the limited role of natural selection in comparison to the self-organizing forces at work within such systems. It examines the meta-interaction of sub-systems of interacting states (attractor basins) that occur within a system. In English: it gives the first theoretical framework for understanding just how it is that cells which all contain identical DNA express themselves as some number of stable cell types. Normally a cell will react to a perturbation in whatever way will return it to its base stable cycle (attractor loop). One type of cell turns into another type when just the right perturbation kicks the system from one attractor basin into a different attractor basin.
This is heavier reading than his popular science book, At Home in the Universe, but preferable for anyone with the necessary tiny amount of knowledge of genetics and logic operations. There are few equations of any kind. The results apply to more than just biological systems.
The book is long because instead of just presenting a few principles that you can try to remember abstractly, he leads you through all the important steps of his research and gives you a real feel for how complex systems actually evolve and operate. The book raises more questions than it answers, as it should be for a book of such originality and importance.
When you fully grok the contents of this book you'll be so excited you'll want to rush and explain it to someone else, which will be utterly impossible, so you'll probably have to lend them your book, buy them the popular version, or face the fact that you are now relatively alone on a higher plane.
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