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During the past twenty-five years, scientists have challenged conventional views of evolution and the organization of living systems and have developed new theories with revolutionary philosophical and social implications. Fritjof Capra has been at the forefront of this revolution. In The Web of Life, Capra offers a brilliant synthesis of such recent scientific breakthroughs as the theory of complexity, Gaia theory, chaos theory, and other explanations of the properties of organisms, social systems, and ecosystems. Capra's surprising findings stand in stark contrast to accepted paradigms of mechanism and Darwinism and provide an extraordinary new foundation for ecological policies that will allow us to build and sustain communities without diminishing the opportunities for future generations.
Now available in paperback for the first time, The Web of Life is cutting-edge science writing in the tradition of James Gleick's Chaos, Gregory Bateson's Mind and Matter, and Ilya Prigogine's Order Out of Chaos.
Capra's whole approach is based on the premise that earlier schools of science falsely attempted to force their subjects into mechanistic, easily quantifiable models, in opposition to the holistic awareness of today's scientific revolutionaries. Systems thinking and fractal geometry replace traditional analytical tools and methods. In biological terms, this means abandoning the traditional emphasis on the cell as a fundamental building block of life. Instead, the modern cell emerges as a symbiotic partnership between a number of formerly independent entities, now playing the roles of nucleus, mitochondria, ribosomes, chloroplasts, and so forth. Indeed, the emphasis on cooperation is a keynote of Capra's vision. The Gaia hypothesis, in which Earth itself is seen as a single self-regulating biological entity, plays a large role in his vision. Likewise, he believes that the Darwinian vision of struggle for survival aided by chance mutations is refuted by the discovery that microorganisms can in effect cooperate by passing genetic material from one to another across species lines—a discovery that he feels calls into question the entire notion of separate species. But Capra pushes his thesis too eagerly and with too little attention to mundane details. A reader up on the subject will catch him in innumerable small errors (for example, he seems unaware that most biologists see modern apes not as human ancestors but as collateral descendants of a common ancestor). He likes to replace well-established terminology with new jargon, much of it rather condescending; readers of a book like this are unlikely to need him to substitute "southern ape" for the scientific term Australopithecus. He too often states sweeping and unprovable assumptions—such as that Cro-Magnons possessed "fully developed language"—as fact.
Surveys a great deal of fascinating ground, but from the standpoint of a true believer rather than of an objective explorer.
|Ch. 1||Deep Ecology - A New Paradigm||3|
|Ch. 2||From the Parts to the Whole||17|
|Ch. 3||Systems Theories||36|
|Ch. 4||The Logic of the Mind||51|
|Ch. 5||Models of Self-Organization||75|
|Ch. 6||The Mathematics of Complexity||112|
|Ch. 7||A New Synthesis||157|
|Ch. 8||Dissipative Structures||177|
|Ch. 10||The Unfolding of Life||222|
|Ch. 11||Bringing Forth a World||264|
|Ch. 12||Knowing That We Know||286|
|Epilogue: Ecological Literacy||297|