Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge Paperback – October 25, 2016
|New from||Used from|
Books with Buzz
Discover the latest buzz-worthy books, from mysteries and romance to humor and nonfiction. Explore more
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
“A compelling argument...a fascinating work...The way the book frames the argument is delightfully novel...Ridley has amassed such a weight of fascinating evidence and anecdote that the pages fly by.” (The Times (Saturday Review))
“Ridley shows how hard it has been for even the most definite evolutionists to fully abandon the notion of a guiding intelligence…Yet that is what the hard evidence…that Ridley adduces in every chapter compels us all to do.” (Booklist (starred review))
“This penetrating book is Mr. Ridley’s best and most important work to date…there is something profoundly democratic and egalitarian-even anti-elitist-in this bottom-up approach: Everyone can have a role in bringing about change.” (Wall Street Journal)
“An exceptional book: exceptionally easy to read, easy to understand, easy to appreciate…Of the many good general texts on the subject, THE EVOLUTION OF EVERYTHING emerges as the fittest to champion the case for the ubiquity of evolution.” (Washington Times)
“Ridley is a provocative, occasionally pugnacious writer and his book is intriguing and artfully argued.” (London Sunday Times)
“Highly readable, invariably interesting…Ridley’s laudable aim is to disenthrall us of our intuitive creationism and make us see evolution at work everywhere…Ridley succeeds in spades…He possesses the rare power to see the world in a different light - one made not by great men or women but by undirected, incremental change.” (New Scientist)
“An ingenious study…fascinating…thought-provoking…difficult to put down.” (Kirkus, starred review)
“Impressive…Readers of evolutionary theory, sociology, history, anthropology and philosophy shall be highly entertained by this thought-provoking read.” (Library Journal)
“Building on the timeless insights of Lucretius, Ridley examines how civilization inexorably organizes itself. Wrong-headed social theories, he and Lucretius agree, just get in the way.” (Stewart Brand, Author, Whole Earth Discipline)
About the Author
MATT RIDLEY is the award-winning, bestselling author of The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, and The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. His books have sold more than one million copies in thirty languages worldwide. He has written for the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London as well as the Economist. He is a member of the House of Lords and lives in Newcastle and London.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Matt Ridley is most definitely a polemicist, not an academic. While I tend to agree with much of what he says, I am well aware that his erudite examples require very little evidence if they support his theories while subjecting competing theories to a very high standard of proof. (For example, he asserts that Montessori schools are better than traditional education based on the evidence that three successful tech companies were started by Montessori students).
If you keep an eye out for that technique, though, you can get a lot out of the book while still remaining a healthy skeptic.
The evolution of everything gives a synthesis of a host of topics that often define humanity. The author begins with the Universe and starts by introducing the idea of a skyhook. In particular that when at a loss for explanation defer to the divine as a hook to hang the answer on. Matt Ridley endeavors to remove skyhooks across a host of topics throughout the book. He begins with Morality and discusses how Smith in Theory of Moral Sentiments was on to a very important idea when he discusses how morality evolves to create social stability. The book is a great composition of history, science and philosophy. The author discusses evolution as an idea and how intelligent design has been shown to hang itself on skyhooks that time has removed. The author discusses genes and the idea of the selfish gene and in particular that genes don't evolve to fit a function but rather surviving genes somehow improve chances of success in unbeknownst to them. The author gives great overviews of how culture can change over time and is contextual he tackles how the economy evolved. The author gets into topics like education and will likely cause alarm with his criticisms of modern education. In particular the author discusses how the modern education system was developed to modernize the Prussian state and doesn't encourage creativity. The author gets into the benefits of the Montessori system. The author also discusses historically sensitive subjects like population and how Malthusian and Social Darwinist ideas dominated the last 200 years inclusive of even recent history. In particular the author is highly critical of population containment policy advocated even in the last two decades towards poor countries as paternalist and Malthusian. The author is critical of government and discusses how the state arose not out of benevolence but as a kind of social parasite preying on the productivity of its citizens. The author also documents how societies function much better than imagined in the absence of government and the Hobbesian outcome of life being brutish and short in the absence of government is an overstatement. There is an extremely strong libertarian narrative throughout the book. The author spends a lot of time discussing how the idea of government sponsored research as being the bedrock of modern development is nonsense and how ideas like the internet being developed by the government reinforce his point. In particular the author feels strongly that individuals don't make as large of a difference as is usually advocated and that important developments are usually being considered by contemporaneous citizens (calculus, the lightbulb, the steam engine all had multiple simultaneous people realizing their significance). The author takes aim at lots of people including those fearful of global warming. These arguments aren't taken as anti scientific but rather that becoming obsessed with an idea that isnt well understood can be similar to becoming religious about the cause. The author discusses things like bitcoin as well and the likely creator and ends with the internet which is of course a force that we are still coming to grips with.
It is hard not to learn something from the evolution of everything. Personally there is much that i agree with and much that i don't but everything in the book has supporting evidence and is argued with reason. It is not all fact as reasoned opinion remains opinion but one should not dismiss any of this commentary because it disagrees with ones beliefs. Definitely an enjoyable read, most sections retain the readers interest, others draw sympathy and some cause irritation but they do not bore.
Top international reviews
Ridley divides the book, into different examples of the bottom up process. Culture, the economy, religion, education, and government, are just a few of the subjects considered. According to Ridley; the bottom up natural selection system, yeilds positive results. Ridley also notes; how Human Beings are forever trying to interfere, with this wonderful bottom up process. Elitists, planners, and other do-gooders, are constantly introducing top down solutions. These top down arrangements inevitably fail.
This was a phenomenal book and an entertaining read.
The title of the book is a misnomer, because we learn very little about evolution. The author just equates evolution with 'bottom-up', which is only part of the truth. It's true that evolution works bottom-up, but he fails to see that the results of this bottom-up process are living systems that include some top-down processes too. The genome is more than a haphazard aggregation of genetic material, it is a living system that has (evolved!) mechanisms to fight ('top-down') against rogue genes, and to edit the genetic material so that it can be of use for the organism.
Each organism has mechanisms to make sure that its parts toe the line. If its cells started to behave in a liberal, wayward way, the whole - the organism - would disintegrate, it would die. Therefore every cell of my body has suicidal mechanisms that can be activated by the whole if it's in the interest of the organism.
So, every living system has evolved bottom-up, but AS a system it is a mixture of bottom-up and top-down elements. Mr Ridley, blinkered by his ideology, sees only half of the picture.
The book is nothing more than the application of this half picture to all aspects of human life and culture. Have a look at the table of contents and you will see what I mean.
The leitmotiv of the book is presented somewhat belatedly in the epilogue:
'Bad news is man-made, top-down, purposed stuff, imposed on history. Good news is accidental, unplanned, emergent stuff that gradually evolves. The things that go well are largely unintended;; the things that go badly are largely intended.'
Then he gives us two lists to prove the point. Do I have to mention that these lists are highly biased, consisting of cherry-picked examples? Well, that's the way ideologists reason. It all boils down to 'confirmation bias' and selective perception.
I'd like to add some counter-examples to complete the picture:
(A) Bottom-up stuff that's bad news:
Traffic jams. Smog in big cities. The loss of a third (!) of arable land in the past 40 years. Overfishing. Overgrazing. The Great Pacific garbage patch. Oil and gas leaks. Massive deforestation in Brasil, Africa and Indonesia. Civil wars. Corruption weakening societies. Hundreds of species going extinct every month ('The Sixth mass-extinction'). Stockmarket bubbles. Global warming....
(B) Top-down stuff that's good news:
The urban structure of modern Paris (Baron Haussmann!). Anti-Trust laws. Laws that cleaned rivers and air in the last 30 years. International treaties to ban chlorofluorocarbons (which probably saved the ozon layer). EU rules and laws to combat overfishing. The international ban on whale-hunting. The international vaccination campaign to eradicate smallpox (completed) and polio (still going). Creation of the European single market. The Marshall Plan for post-war Germany....
The central tenet of libertarian creed is: Just let things go their way, don't interfere, and everything will be alright. The basic reason why libertarianism has not yet been proven wrong, (like the other big ideology, communism), is: A human world where things just happen naturally is impossible.
For two reasons:
(1) Human beings cannot help making plans. They always live and act purposefully. If a little man make a plan and it fails, only the little man and its surrounding is affected. But if a Big Man or Woman or organisation makes a big plan, and it fails or goes awry or turns nasty, the result may be catastrophic for the whole world. That's just a matter of scale, not an argument against acting purposefully or against design per se.
(2) After having crossed a certain threshold of complexity, human societies develop organisations and institutions. They come about in a bottom-up way, they evolve. No doubt about that. But once they are in place they exert a top-down pressure on every member and individual that is being part of it. This pressure is not evil or detrimental, it's simply the natural (!) way institutions function. If you abolish an institution like, say, a government, the whole system (Country, society, polity) simply will disintegrate and you get a sort of tribal patchwork like in Afghanistan or Somalia or Nigeria. Those crazy militia-men in Oregon or Montana are obviously dreaming of their own American version of Afghanistan, but does our author nurture this dream too?
To sum it up: The Libertarian idea of a pure bottom-up world is but a mirage, and not a very tantalizing one. The wisdom is in the middle of the road, as already Aristotle pointed out 2500 years ago.