- Paperback: 734 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 10, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195079515
- ISBN-13: 978-0195079517
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.4 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #255,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution 1st Edition
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"Biology is the science of the organizational principles that make living things living. Kauffman's book is a massive attempt to provide the foundations for a theory of such organization. . .The book is as much an explication of a specific style of scientific thinking as it is a book on adaptation, the origin of life, and ontogeny. The style of thinking can be characterized by the assumption that there are deep and simple conceptual structures that will allow us to understand life and not merely describe it. . .I hope that Kauffman's book will be a strong stimulus for many scientists to search actively for the principles that govern the organization of living states of matter." --Science
"This book does a real service in building a bridge between reductionist and holistic ways of thinking about systems. . .Kauffman writes with great intelligence and clarity and is able to bring together a large range of theory and experimental information without getting bogged down in detail." --Whole Earth Review
"For all the recent advances in molecular biology, we still lack a convincing explanation of how self-organising and self-replicating entities originated. Stuart Kauffman enters this arena with a book that seeks to show that self-organising structures of great complexity can assemble themselves much more easily, and much more understandably, than previous intuition suggested. . .Building on recent work in nonlinear mathematics, the idea at the heart of the book is truly important: even in vastly complicated interactive networks, a few simple rules can easily--if amazingly--lead to order and self-organised patterns and processes. This represents a major advance in understanding how the living world works." --Robert M. May, The Observer
"Stuart Kauffman's book. . .is a global representation of a new field, that will greatly enhance our physical understanding of Nature. It treats from a physical standpoint the processes of molecular selfordering, as biologists witness them in the living world, and it does so in a most original and authoritative way. A superb reading, not limited to physicists and biologists, having most important implications in natural philosophy." --Manfred Eigen, Max-Planck Institut für Biophysikalische Chemie
"There are very few people in this world who ever ask the right questions of science, and they are the ones who affect its future most profoundly. Stuart Kauffman is one of these. Read this book." --Philip Anderson, Nobel Laureate, Dept. of Physics, Princeton University
"The conventional concept of Darwinian evolution views populations of organisms as randomly varying systems shaped to adaptation by the external force of natural selection. But Darwinian theory must be expanded to recognize other sources of order based on the internal genetic and developmental constraints of organisms and on the structural limits and possibilities of general physical laws. Stu Kauffman has been exploring these unorthodox sources of order for many years and has now produced an integrative book that will become a landmark and a classic as we grope towards a more comprehensive and satisfying theory of evolution." --Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard University
"Has there been time, since the origin of life on earth, for natural selection to produce the astonishing complexity of living organisms? Kauffman offers a new and unorthodox answer to this question. Given what we know about the way genes signal to one another, he argues that complexity can arise more readily than one would expect. I am not sure he is right, but I am sure that we should take his ideas seriously. --John Maynard Smith, University of Sussex
"Professor Kauffman's book is highly imaginative and provocative." --Lewis Wolpert, University College and Middlesex School of Medicine
"The facile claim that natural selection can accomplish every adaptive change fails to grapple with the problems posed by a highly structured system with its own laws of assembly and interaction. Stuart Kauffman's book, The Origins of Order, returns the problem of evolution to the central issue that evolutionists have been avoiding for too long, the problem of the evolution of a complex, organized system that we call, appropriately, an organism. Evolutionists had better take Kauffman's arguments seriously." --Richard C. Lewontin, Harvard University
"I rarely agree with Stuart Kauffman, but I always enjoy arguing with him. If you are interested in novel theories, buy this book--you will find lots of ideas worth wrestling with." --Leslie E. Orgel, The Salk Institute
About the Author
Stuart Kauffman, M.D., is a MacArthur Fellow, and a philosopher, biologist, evolutionary theorist, and one of the founders of the discipline known as complexity.
Top customer reviews
He states in the Preface, "This book is an attempt to focus attention on new themes in developmental and evolutionary biology. It is, in fact, an attempt to include Darwinism in a broader context.... Simple and complex systems can exhibit powerful self-organization. Such spontaneous order is available to natural selection and random drift for the further selective crafting of well-wrought designs or the stumbling fortuity of historical accident. Yet no body of thought incorporates self-organization into the weave of evolutionary theory. No research program has sought to determine the implications of adaptive processes that mold systems with their own inherent order. Yet such must be our task."
He refers to such spontaneous order as "order for free." He writes, "selection can be unable to avoid spontaneous order ... Order for free should shine through." (pg. 120)
He suggests the possibility, "The origin of life, rather than having been vastly improbable, is instead an expected collective property of complex systems of catalytic polymers and the molecules on which they act. Life, in a deep sense, crystallized as a collective self-reproducing metabolism in a space of possible organic reactions. If this is true, then the routes to life are many and its origin profound yet simple." (pg. 285) "(L)ife is not improbable. On the contrary, I believe it to be an expected, emergent, collective property of complex systems of polymer catalysts." (pg. 287)
He concludes in the Epilogue, "Our legacy from Darwin, powerful as it is, has fractures as its foundations. We do not understand the sources of order on which natural selection was privileged to work. As long as our deepest theory of living entities is the geneology of contraptions and as long as biology is the laying bare of the ad hoc, the intellectually honorable motivation to understand partially lying behind the creationist impulse will persist.... the capacity to evolve is itself subject to evolution and may have its own lawful properties. The construction principles permitting adaptation, too, may emerge as universals. Adaptation to the edge of chaos is just such a candidate construction principle."
This is a technical book. It isn't filled with equations, but it assumes at least some knowledge of basic math, chemistry, and biology. It was written by an impressive generalist whose talents seem to extend to almost everything except lucid writing, and for that reason alone, it will never receive the attention it deserves.
As with all good science, this book is equal parts experiment, observation, and intuition. Computer simulations of randomly generated boolean networks are used to explore: the dyamics of evolution on rugged fitness landscapes; the tendency to react to perturbations by returning to the stable cycle or "attractor" that was active when the perturbation occurred; and the relationship among the different attractor loops within such networks. This experimental work is tied in with knowledge of biology and chemistry to explain the emergence of life, autocatalytic systems of chemicals, cell development, and natural selection.
The experience was something like reading Godel, Escher, Bach but in many ways more satisfying. Whereas Hofstadter eloquently contrives a synthesis of three human inventions, mathematics, music and art, Kauffman scrawls out his intuitive synthesis based on the rather empirical fields of chemistry, biology and computer simulation. Hofstadter is looking for an understanding of how the mind networks symbols to create thought, and Kauffman, how the natural universe networks molecules to create life. But Kauffman's work is relevant to all complex systems and offers lasting insight into the mechanisms underlying cells, societies, and even thought. Whereas GEB is largely about appreciating the wonder of intelligent life, The Origins of Order is about understanding how it actually happens.
I mention Godel, Escher, Bach for good reason. These book aren't for everybody. If you worked through the examples of predicate logic in GEB and learned sufficient musical notation and theory to understand his points, and if you gained some appreciation for Godel's theorem, then you should plow through Kauffman's turgid prose, risk learning a little more about biochemistry, and delight in a reawakened wonder at the universe and newfound optimism for the future of natural science.
Using a boolean (NK) network model and a extensive amount of biological facts, Stuart Kauffman demonstrates in a powerful
way the central role of self-organisation in the creative process of life. His vision that biology seems to operate
as self-organised non-linear dynamical systems at the edge of chaos will have as much influence in biology that a similar vision offered by Nobel prize winner Prigogyne in the field of thermodynamcis. The book connects a web of fundamental ideas from the fields of biology, physics, mathematics and computer sciences and requires a strong background in biology that I unfortunately did not possess. The laborious style, the lack of clarity in the writing and the (unnecessary) length of the book should not stop anyone from reading this amazing book.
Stuart Kauffman combines an intellect and a vision that only very few scientists possess. This book is a must.
Most recent customer reviews
Errors, time and competition (natural selection) is so easy in order to explain all...Read more