The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution


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Kauffman here presents a brilliant new paradigm for evolutionary biology, one that extends the basic concepts of Darwinian evolution to accommodate recent findings and perspectives from the fields of biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The book drives to the heart of the exciting debate on the origins of life and maintenance of order in complex biological systems. It explores the concept of self-organization into evolutionary theory--the extent to which selection itself can yield systems able to adapt more ...

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Sep 16, 2010

The Origins of Order

Kauffman's book is not for the layman; it is actually rather difficult to read. Its topics belongs to the science of mathematical biology in its noblest sense. Central to its presentation is largely the NK model of random connected elements of an ensemble and, generally, graph - theoretical, Boolean, and other interconnected nets. It is proposed, by and large, that most of its subject matter: molecular biology, the origins of life, ontogenesis, etc. in an evolutional context (test tube and natural) the compromise between stability and change is best understood by looking at the interface between 'supracritical and subcritical' domains, the system lying close to, yet not reaching, the chaotic range. This approach is really novel at the origin of life section. My sole critics is that "less would have been more": I think the book contains matter well worth writing two books instead of one.


Mar 12, 2010

A Rigorous New Science

Kauffman's hefty tome is not for the scientifically feint-hearted. It contains some wonderfully informative surveys of molecular biology, evolution, biochemistry and evolutionary biology. While each section and chapter opens with seductively general 'big pictures', it doesn' t take Kauffmann long to knuckle down into the science proper and he's takin no prisoners. This is immersion type knowlege transfer and if you don't have the background (like me) then you will spend plenty of time exploiting the rich resources of the footnotes and bibliographies.

There are over 700 pages of thinking to immerse yourself in and the less than dedicated reader will be washed ashore in next to no time. Something along the lines of Waldrops "Complexity" and one of Kauffman's essay collections might make for some worthwhile and useful background reading if you're not sure that you're ready for this book.

Having said that - this is not just a science book, not by a long stretch. I guess the project of this book is to argue for (and take you through the science of) an entirely new approach to nature itself. That's a pretty serious undertaking and I guess that's why Kauffman backs up his views with so much contemporary science.

It feels very very important. If this book isn't on just about every high school and college reading list in every major science department around the globe, it won't be too much longer until it is....

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