The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex

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When the whole is greater than the sum of the parts--indeed, so great that the sum far transcends the parts and represents something utterly new and different--we call that phenomenon emergence. When the chemicals diffusing in the primordial waters came together to form the first living cell, that was emergence. When the activities of the neurons in the brain result in mind, that too is emergence.
In The Emergence of Everything, one of the leading scientists involved in the ...
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The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex: How the World Became Complex

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Overview


When the whole is greater than the sum of the parts--indeed, so great that the sum far transcends the parts and represents something utterly new and different--we call that phenomenon emergence. When the chemicals diffusing in the primordial waters came together to form the first living cell, that was emergence. When the activities of the neurons in the brain result in mind, that too is emergence.
In The Emergence of Everything, one of the leading scientists involved in the study of complexity, Harold J. Morowitz, takes us on a sweeping tour of the universe, a tour with 28 stops, each one highlighting a particularly important moment of emergence. For instance, Morowitz illuminates the emergence of the stars, the birth of the elements and of the periodic table, and the appearance of solar systems and planets. We look at the emergence of living cells, animals, vertebrates, reptiles, and mammals, leading to the great apes and the appearance of humanity. He also examines tool making, the evolution of language, the invention of agriculture and technology, and the birth of cities. And as he offers these insights into the evolutionary unfolding of our universe, our solar system, and life itself, Morowitz also seeks out the nature of God in the emergent universe, the God posited by Spinoza, Bruno, and Einstein, a God Morowitz argues we can know through a study of the laws of nature.
Written by one of our wisest scientists, The Emergence of Everything offers a fascinating new way to look at the universe and the natural world, and it makes an important contribution to the dialogue between science and religion.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Closely reasoned and rich in scientific and philosophical background."--Scientifc American

"For more than two decades Harold Morowitz has been honored as a creative and persuasive leader in origin-of-life research. Now, with The Emergence of Everything, he expands his horizon in a stunningly original and provocative book. With encyclopedic knowledge, gentle humor, lucid style and sweeping vision, Morowitz tackles the grandest questions at the interface of science and religion, and he makes a compelling case for the inexorable rise in universal complexity, from the Big Bang to galaxies to life, and perhaps beyond."--Dr. Robert Hazen, Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington

"Harold Morowitz has the rare ability to provide a general audience with both the excitement and the insights of science, without stinting either facts or theory. In The Emergence of Everything, Morowitz manages a tour de force, building a ladder of 28 rungs climbing from the beginnings of the universe to the advent of consciousness. At each level, he shows how the phenomena of that level emerge from building blocks provided by the previous level. This emergence, the mysterious phenomenon wherein the whole is more than the sum of its parts, is a central concept in studies of complex systems, which Stephen Hawking calls 'the science of the 21st century.' Morowitz's ladder is a worthy climb--there is no better book for developing a detailed understanding of emergence."--John Holland, author of Emergence: From Chaos to Order

"This is a brilliant book. Morowitz has provided the first state-of-the-art overview of the theory of emergence across the scientific disciplines. Neither too detailed nor too abstract, his 28 stages of emergence trace the history of the universe from the Big Bang through the appearance of culture, philosophy and spirituality. No other work has laid out the core case for emergence--and hence against the ultimacy of reductionism--across the whole spectrum of science. This introduction to emergence theory should guide philosophers of science and anthropologists, theologians and metaphysicians, as they reflect on the nature of Homo sapiens and our place in the cosmos." --Philip Clayton, Visiting Professor, Harvard University

Kirkus Reviews
Departing from his usual multi-subject essay form, biophysicist Morowitz (The Kindly Dr. Guillotin, 1997, etc.) makes a great leap at a theory of complexity based on "emergences." But doesn't land on his feet, instead hovering somewhere in mid-air as he envisions the next emergence as one in which humankind will take on the mantle of "the mind, the volition, and the transcendence of the immanent God." Human beings will then be obliged to create an ethics that optimizes human life and moves to the spiritual plane. If this sounds like Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), it should. Morowitz champions Teilhard as a much-ridiculed figure who tried his best to reconcile science and religion. So does Morowitz. His concept of emergences is a trendy one as the pendulum swings from the enormous successes of reductionist science (genetics; molecular biology) to attempts to explain complex "epiphenomena" like mind and consciousness. Morowitz traces the development of complexity in a series of 28 emergences from the Big Bang and star and planet formation to successive stages of evolution on Earth. Here, he goes to his habitual short-essay form, taking three or four pages to describe each emergence-for the most part very skillfully, though not without occasional lapses into technical jargon. He also indicates that selection or pruning principles must accompany emergences. This leads him to suggest that conflicts in Ireland or the Middle East may have as their basis the principle of competitive exclusion of hominids, in which two non-interbreeding populations competing for the same niche create enormous stress that ends with the elimination of one group or the creation ofisolating barriers. It's all quite glib, and Morowitz, in his final chapters, blithely summarizes Western philosophy and monotheistic religions (while admitting he has overlooked half the world) to come up with his transcendent/immanent ideas. Convincing? No. There's nothing here to contradict scientists who claim we owe our existence to chance and chance alone.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195135138
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/7/2002
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold J. Morowitz is Clarence Robinson Professor of Biology and Natural Philosophy at George Mason University and the former Director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, in Fairfax, Virginia. A leading figure in the study of complexity, he was Editor-in-Chief of the journal Complexity and is co-chair of the science board of the Santa Fe Institute. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Discover, The Washington Post, The Sciences, and Psychology Today.

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Table of Contents

1 The Emergence of Emergence 1
2 Ideas of Emergence 15
3 The Twenty-Eight Steps 25
4 The First Emergence: The Primordium - Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? 39
5 The Second Step: Making a Nonuniform Universe 44
6 The Emergence of Stars 48
7 The Periodic Table 54
8 Planetary Accretion: The Solar System 58
9 Planetary Structure 63
10 The Geospheres 67
11 The Emergence of Metabolism 70
12 Cells 78
13 Cells with Organelles 86
14 Multicellularity 92
15 The Neuron 98
16 Animalness 106
17 Chordateness 111
18 Vertebrates 115
19 Crossing the Geospheres: From Fish to Amphibians 120
20 Reptiles 124
21 Mammals 127
22 The Niche 131
23 Arboreal Mammals 136
24 Primates 140
25 The Great Apes 143
26 Hominization and Competitive Exclusion in Hominids 147
27 Toolmaking 155
28 Language 159
29 Agriculture 163
30 Technology and Urbanization 167
31 Philosophy 170
32 The Spirit 175
33 Analyzing Emergence 179
34 Athens and Jerusalem 185
35 Science and Religion 192
36 The Task Ahead 197
Index 201
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