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Evolution's Arrow: the direction of evolution and the future of humanity Paperback – January 5, 2000
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Over the last decade or so I have read dozens of excellent books related to science and religion, sustainability, the epic of evolution, and the future of humanity. (See ... for an annotated list of Connie's and my favorites.) Evolution's Arrow, by John Stewart, is one of the wisest, most insightful, and most inspiring I've ever encountered. I devoured it twice in the last week.
To tell the truth, I simply cannot speak too highly of this book. My hunch is that at the end of my life I'll still rate Evolution's Arrow as one of the most significant books I've ever read.
Stewart's thesis is simple: The universe is going somewhere, there's a direction to evolution, and this has major consequences for humanity. Without resorting to teleology, Stewart argues that wherever life emerges in the cosmos, evolution will progress in the direction of greater cooperation and complexity at ever increasing scale and evolvability. Why cooperate? Because in a cosmos where natural selection is a primary driver of evolution, those who cooperate, whether they be molecules, cells, organisms, or societies, will outcompete those who do not. Cooperative organizations are more competitive and adaptable than non-cooperative organizations, if, that is, the system is "managed" in such a way as to ensure that cooperators benefit from their cooperating and non-cooperators pay for their non-cooperating.Read more ›
A central focus of the book is the role of cooperation in furthering the evolutionary process. Stewart effectively sells the idea that although competition may at times help an individual organism to survive, the root mechanism for evolutionary advancement in the larger sense always has been, and still is, cooperation. If self-interested individuals work together in the right ways, all can benefit. Early in biological evolution it was necessary to wait long periods until the slow-moving evolutionary process invented an effective new technique for "managing" cooperation. These management mechanisms are necessary because they allow cooperation to overcome competitive threats from those not willing to cooperate -- and Stewart tells us about some of these techniques. Today, however, with human decision-making driving evolution, we have the opportunity to bring human ingenuity to bear on the problem and to change things much more rapidly. We can devise ways of better-managing the cooperative mechanisms that already exist (such as markets) and we can invent new ones.Read more ›
Each major advance in evolution of life is the result of cooperation of simpler organisms into a vertical organization of these simpler organisms into a more complex organism.
The premise is that cooperation is a "win-win" proposition and that evolution occurs when the benefits of this cooperation can be distributed to all the organisms participating in the cooperation. The barrier to evolution is that there are "freeloaders", "cheats", and "thieves" who receive the benefits of communal cooperation without paying the costs that produced those benefits.
Until effective governance is in place to stop these uncooperative organisms, evolution into the next level of vertical integration does not occur.
We are now at a point in the evolution of human society where we have global economic markets that are not adequately controlled by governance mechanisms that can fairly distribute the benefits and the costs of these economic markets. For those who are aware of this evolutionary direction, establishment of a global vertical market as a governance mechanism provides meaning to life beyond gratification of personal biological (food, sex) and social status (money, power) objectives.
I strongly encourage everyone to read this book, especially if you are sensing a lack of meaning in your life!
No doubt you will benefit too by encountering the brilliantly clear and compelling ideas in his book.
John is a rare thinker and a man who works hard to live in accord with heartfelt conscious values, values that run through his writing.
I suggest you buy his book "Evolution's Arrow: The Direction of Evolution and the Future of Humanity" today and then read it twice. Once as you usually read important and very interesting books. And a second time after you do something that will open your mind some to awe and mystery.
Perhaps see a sunrise or sunset at the ocean or in the mountains. Delink yourself from the world constructed by names and concepts and allow yourself to experience what you're seeing without your conceptual mind coming in and flattening out your awareness. Then reread the parts of John's book that speak to you.
Although the book is filled with many important conceptual ideas, the great take away for me is John Stewart's clarity and the quality of his thought. I think evolution is a critical issue facing humanity but I confess that when I read most of the books about evolution, I am not moved. And some of the so-called "spiritual teachers" that claim to speak for evolution are suspect due to their bloated sense of self-importance and downright "bad faith".
John's ideas are what Gurdjieff called A level ideas. They are different than most ideas in most books. They are of exceptional quality because they come forth not from just rigorous scientific/conceptual thought alone, but also from Awareness.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Massively repetitive but does have an interesting message - that major progress has been made in the evolution of life by the cooperation of organisms in the formation of larger... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Antony Raymont
I love the thinking here, and bought the book to support the author's work and sentiment. However, he really needs a good editor. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
Wonderful piece. A must read fro anyone concerned about global level social change.Published 20 months ago by Charles Grantham
It is just refreshing to read a book with new thoughts about evolution. The theory of evolution presented in this book is excellent and something we can observe in everyday life. Read morePublished on May 10, 2013 by Joanne A. Goluch
I read this book slowly and carefully and underlined about a third of it and wrote many notes in the margins. It provides a rich collection of ideas relevant to evolution. Read morePublished on February 20, 2009 by The Thinker