The Evolution of Everything

The Evolution of Everything

How New Ideas Emerge

Book - 2015
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"A book that makes the case for evolution over design and skewers a widespread but dangerous myth: that we have ultimate control over our world"--
"The New York Times bestselling author of The Rational Optimist and Genome returns with a fascinating, brilliant argument for evolution that definitively dispels a dangerous, widespread myth: that we can command and control our world.The Evolution of Everything is about bottom-up order and its enemy, the top-down twitch--the endless fascination human beings have for design rather than evolution, for direction rather than emergence. Drawing on anecdotes from science, economics, history, politics and philosophy, Matt Ridley's wide-ranging, highly opinionated opus demolishes conventional assumptions that major scientific and social imperatives are dictated by those on high, whether in government, business, academia, or morality. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the bottom up. Patterns emerge, trends evolve. Just as skeins of geese form Vs in the sky without meaning to, and termites build mud cathedrals without architects, so brains take shape without brain-makers, learning can happen without teaching and morality changes without a plan.Although we neglect, defy and ignore them, bottom-up trends shape the world. The growth of technology, the sanitation-driven health revolution, the quadrupling of farm yields so that more land can be released for nature--these were largely emergent phenomena, as were the Internet, the mobile phone revolution, and the rise of Asia. Ridley demolishes the arguments for design and effectively makes the case for evolution in the universe, morality, genes, the economy, culture, technology, the mind, personality, population, education, history, government, God, money, and the future.As compelling as it is controversial, authoritative as it is ambitious, Ridley's stunning perspective will revolutionize the way we think about our world and how it works"--
Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2015]
Edition: First U.S. edition.
ISBN: 9780062296016
Branch Call Number: 303.483 RIDLEY
Characteristics: 360 pages ; 24 cm


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Feb 27, 2018

This book was a colossal disappointment. I really wanted to finish it, but it simply isn't worthy. As a biologist by education and profession, I can say that Ridley's coverage of biological evolution is essentially correct, and is for the most part correctly applied to the issue of religion. Unfortunately, when he opens the discussion more broadly to cultural evolution, he uses it as a springboard to launch into neoliberal, free-market economic fundamentalism, and his reasoning becomes a rote, lame and pathetic regurgitation of Chicago school doctrine. Hence, you read mind-boggling assertions such as (paraphrased): war-torn parts of the world like Afghanistan are violent because their markets are "less free" than the markets in more peaceful countries, not because the free-market capitalists have waged perpetual wars of empire over Afghanistan's resources. Ah, Mr. Ridley? Who is bombing Afghanistan, Syria, etc.? Agents of the free market!

He goes on and on, and in every case lambastes governments (dubiously so) for ruining the free market "evolution" of education, health care, science, technology... you name the problem, and the invisible hand of the free market is the solution to government failure. (In my opinion, just as the "problem of evil" puts a philosophical stake through the heart of theocracy, the "problem of greed" dooms free-market fundamentalism. Not to mention the fact that there are no free markets and never have been.) My disappointment in the book is not that the author's point of view is unworthy of consideration, but because his arguments are so poor that it's not worth the time. I wanted a good argument. This book isn't it.

Jan 14, 2016

The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge --- by --- Matt Ridley
Big admission: I didn’t read the whole book. And I don’t think you have to. “Evolution” is best to be considered a series of essays with common threads: evolution and a political persuasion. By training, Ridley is a zoologist ergo (perhaps) the evolution metaphor. And the metaphor works: change, improvement, building on what went before. There’s a lot about this book that’s quite thought provoking. By inclination, however, he is something quite different. As of 1913 he has become a hereditary Peer in Britain’s House of Lords. That’s not something you get for advocating against the 1%. He does have some nasty things to say about the banks, but oddly not about the Northern Rock bank with which he was associated at its collapse in 2007. Ridley believes in low taxes, freedom and minimal government intervention in the lives of the individual. He's so gung ho about that that he's probably got a plan on the shelf to privatize thje fire department. If your place is on fire, well, what's in your wallet?
But I digress. The essays are thought provoking indeed. But soon enough the snake rears its head in the garden and you realize you can accept what Ridley says just so far. And then, like it said in the margins of those ancient maps, there be monsters.

Dec 17, 2015

also by this author:
“The Origins of Virtue : Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation”
and . . .
“Genome : The Autobiography of A Species in 23 Chapters”
and . . .
“Nature via Nurture : Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human”
and . . .
“The Red Queen : Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature”


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