The Evolution of Everything
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.

The Evolution of Everything Details

TitleThe Evolution of Everything
Author
ReleaseOct 27th, 2015
PublisherHarper
ISBN-139780062296009
Rating
GenreScience, Nonfiction, History, Economics, Philosophy, Biology, Evolution, Psychology

The Evolution of Everything Review

  • Riku Sayuj
    January 1, 1970
    Dawkins fanboy tries to dress up an ideological book as a scientific one. Tries to show that Darwin's theory of evolution is just a byproduct or a specific version of the general theory of evolution proposed by Adam Smith about the emergent order that will prevail bottom-up in any free society of selfish actors. In the process ends up unwittingly using just another"skyhook" - that of benevolent evolution - throughout, by arguing endlessly that all the good things happened bottom-up and all the b Dawkins fanboy tries to dress up an ideological book as a scientific one. Tries to show that Darwin's theory of evolution is just a byproduct or a specific version of the general theory of evolution proposed by Adam Smith about the emergent order that will prevail bottom-up in any free society of selfish actors. In the process ends up unwittingly using just another"skyhook" - that of benevolent evolution - throughout, by arguing endlessly that all the good things happened bottom-up and all the bad things happened top-down. Except that, as per the core argument, all top-down things also must have been products of evolution. If Everything Evolves, all things good or bad, bottom-up or top-down evolved too. Hence the concept of evolution cannot in itself justify just let everything play out - including economics, institutions and even climate change, for that matter. There is really no guarantee things will always play out well if 'bottom-up' - just look at the latest elections!Just "Let Everything Be" can't be the ultimate policy outlook unless Ridley truly believes The Invisible Hand to be the Hand of God directing everything as if by providence towards the good of mankind. And if that is not so and Evolution indeed is blind, then perhaps the occasional nudges in the right direction may work too? As with most left vs right debates, the book only enforces for me the fact that pure free market is not the solution, nor is a command economy - evolution can take us to either side and we need to intervene to keep the balance, and that continuous self-correction is part of our social evolution too, as is the occasional over-correction. No Skyhooks needed, we just need to be less in thrall of 'Men of System'. There, I have used enough pointed references for one review. Now enjoy the historic day.11/9/2016
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  • Parker F
    January 1, 1970
    I thought The Evolution of Everything was written by Matt Ridley--the one with a doctorate in zoology, the former science journalist from The Economist, the author of the well-researched Red Queen and Genome. Instead, the Matt Ridley who wrote the Evolution of Everything is a British aristocrat, bank chairman, and Conservative member of the House of Lords. Actually, these two Matt Ridleys are the same person, but the journalist Matt Ridley is a much more compelling writer. The contemporary Matt I thought The Evolution of Everything was written by Matt Ridley--the one with a doctorate in zoology, the former science journalist from The Economist, the author of the well-researched Red Queen and Genome. Instead, the Matt Ridley who wrote the Evolution of Everything is a British aristocrat, bank chairman, and Conservative member of the House of Lords. Actually, these two Matt Ridleys are the same person, but the journalist Matt Ridley is a much more compelling writer. The contemporary Matt Ridley seems to prefer quoting Ron Paul to quoting Charles Darwin, even within a book that is ostensibly about evolution. The Matt Ridley who wrote The Red Queen and Genome seemed to have familiarity with scientific literature and access to leading researchers in evolutionary biology and genomics. The bibliographies of these books are full of peer-reviewed journal articles, and Dr. Ridley had a talent for distilling their contents for the enthusiastic non-scientist to comprehend. The sources of The Evolution of Everything are mostly popular books, newspaper articles, and the occasional talk from a libertarian think tank. Apparently, Ridley no longer has access to academic sources, but this is not a problem for his purposes. He is no longer a science writer and instead is a right wing op-ed writer who finds it convenient to make an occasional biology-based metaphor. Matt Ridley is not writing as a science writer but as a conservative politician, but these are not sound reasons to dismiss his ideas. Briefly stated, Ridley believes that the best ideas and solutions to problems arise spontaneously when "top-down" forces (i.e., governments in most cases) aren't involved. I would hope that Ridley, a trained scientist, would use an evidence-based method to persuade me that everything will flourish in a libertarian Utopia. He does not. He simply makes things up when convenient, and dismisses or ignores evidence that is inconvenient to his cause. Ridley asserts that publicly funded academic research results in little innovation compared to what would arise from a system in which all research was privately funded. He concedes that it is hard to find evidence for this assertion, because so much research is currently publicly funded that few private foundations would want to waste their money on research. His evidence for his assertion is an article by Terence Kealey from the Cato Institute (a libertarian think tank formally named The Charles Koch Foundation) that says public research and development spending does not result in economic growth. This article peddles exclusively in anecdote. If I may provide my own anecdotes, I will argue the majority of discoveries for which researchers were awarded Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine in the past 50 years would not have been made with profit-driven, private R & D spending. The history of biological discovery is a treasury of cases in which huge, ultimately rewarding, innovations arise from the investigation of topics far removed from profit-seeking. The betting on short-term winners and losers by private investors would be even more of a top-down allocation of resources than the broad federal funding system of the Nation Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation in the US. In the dream world of Ridley, the study of zoology or evolution, devoid of immediate economic returns, would be a luxury reserved for members of the aristocracy. Ridley claims that opposition to fracking in Europe largely arises from the unpleasant sound of the word. Regardless of the merits of the technique, I think he is entirely neglecting the concerns of those who would disagree with him. Ridley describes the National Health Service of the UK as a New-Coke-like failure in which consumers were stripped of choice and offered an inferior product to that which would be available in a market. His analysis is interesting, but he makes no attempt to compare or contrast the failures of the NHS with the non-nationalized, but more expensive US system. Interestingly, his only reference to US health care is to quote the eminent medical historian, Dr. Ron Paul, who states, that before Medicaid and Medicare, "every physician understood that he or she had a responsibility towards the less fortunate, and free medical care for the poor was the norm." As with many libertarian arguments, this is so emotionally compelling that it can exert its effect without factual support.Most egregiously, Ridley devotes a good portion of the book to dismissing global warming, using mockery as his primary method of persuasion. First, he links concern for the environment to Nazism, by quoting a famous global warming denier: "As Martin Durkin has observed, green thinking was no mere sideline for the Nazis... It was their green anti-capitalism and loathing of bankers which led them to hate Jewish people." Ridley then goes to say that to believe that man-made climate change is dangerous is to take a non-scientific leap of faith. Ridley asserts that because so many scientists argue that man-made climate change is real, the idea is unscientific, because "the whole point of science... is the rejection of arguments from authority." Since both religion and belief in man-made climate change provide explanations for cataclysmic weather, Ridley argues, both are equally ridiculous. Besides, fewer people die from floods now than in the past. This is the crux of Ridley's argument, and it is hard to fathom. Is he denying climate change? He claims not be. He just believes that maybe it might not end up being as bad as many scientists believe; therefore, we should do nothing about it, and if it is bad, we can figure out what to do about it later. If only more science were exclusively privately supported by Big Oil-funded think tanks, I suppose, Ridley would have stronger evidence to support his belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a cabal of Nazi scientists. This is a strange, strange book, and I suppose it is because Matt Ridley has a strange biography: a scientist, turned journalist, turned banker, turned member of Parliament. He has transformed from an effective communicator of science, to a guy who writes about the books he got at the bookstore and how they remind him of how he was interested in evolution when he was younger.
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  • Holly
    January 1, 1970
    This satisfied my dilettantish wish to know something about everything. That's all. But it's not as if Ridley has done original scholarship, right? He is an acolyte of Richard Dawkins, and author of two books I never got around to but still feel as if I read (The Red Queen and Genome). He's a fan of Greenblatt's The Swerve and uses an epigraph from Lucretius's "De rerum natura" at the start of each chapter. Fine. He throws around Dennett's "skyhooks" very liberally and literally. Okay. I liked t This satisfied my dilettantish wish to know something about everything. That's all. But it's not as if Ridley has done original scholarship, right? He is an acolyte of Richard Dawkins, and author of two books I never got around to but still feel as if I read (The Red Queen and Genome). He's a fan of Greenblatt's The Swerve and uses an epigraph from Lucretius's "De rerum natura" at the start of each chapter. Fine. He throws around Dennett's "skyhooks" very liberally and literally. Okay. I liked that Dennett book - Darwin's Dangerous Idea - a notoriously difficult read, and I've read several works of Gould, and Dawkins of course, and Sean Carroll, so I'm conversant in the concepts - but Ridley's strangely conversational and superficially confident tone began to disturb me and I began to feel as if I were being tricked. His short chapters and surveys of everything in human culture began to fell reductionistic, or slyly political in way I couldn't guard against, and I started picking up a weird libertarian vibe: he thinks the Wild West had a better system of governance than modern socialist democracies; he thinks climate change will fix itself; he admires Herbert Spencer . . . . This is about social evolution: everything is human society is evolving by the same mechanisms by which the natural world evolves - religion, governance, education, relationships. But, but?
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  • Христо Блажев
    January 1, 1970
    Еволюция на всичко – или как се самосъгражда нашият свят: http://knigolandia.info/book-review/e...Една от книгите, за които наистина съжалявам, че не можах да издам, е Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves на Мат Ридли. Когато излезе, още не бях в “Сиела”, те си имаха първа опция като издатели на “Геномът” и “Червената царица”, но така и не я издадоха, не знам защо. Сега, години по-късно, обаче мога в общи линии да поправя това с “Еволюция на всичко” – книга, която в някаква степен обединява Еволюция на всичко – или как се самосъгражда нашият свят: http://knigolandia.info/book-review/e...Една от книгите, за които наистина съжалявам, че не можах да издам, е Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves на Мат Ридли. Когато излезе, още не бях в “Сиела”, те си имаха първа опция като издатели на “Геномът” и “Червената царица”, но така и не я издадоха, не знам защо. Сега, години по-късно, обаче мога в общи линии да поправя това с “Еволюция на всичко” – книга, която в някаква степен обединява в едно всичките му предишни, описвайки еволюционните процеси в разнообразни области – създаването и развитието на Вселената, морала, живота, гените, цивилизацията, икономиката, технологията, ума, личността, образованието, популацията, водачеството, правителството, религията, парите, интернет и бъдещето. И не е случайно, че на предната корица сложих надпис “Знания от хиляди книги – събрани в една!”, защото обхватът и ерудицията на Ридли са повече от впечатляващи.CIELA Bookshttp://knigolandia.info/book-review/e...
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  • Atila Iamarino
    January 1, 1970
    Ótimas ideias sobre como muitos sistemas, incluindo política, economia, cidades e outros, podem surgir espontaneamente e tem todos os traços de um fenômeno evolutivo. Dá uma boa noção realista sobre como muito do que a humanidade é hoje é mais fruto de acaso e seleção do que indivíduos abençoados (de criadores a líderes políticos). Reflete bem um amarrado das ideias dos últimos livros do Matt Ridley: emergência de evolução do The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, surgimento de id Ótimas ideias sobre como muitos sistemas, incluindo política, economia, cidades e outros, podem surgir espontaneamente e tem todos os traços de um fenômeno evolutivo. Dá uma boa noção realista sobre como muito do que a humanidade é hoje é mais fruto de acaso e seleção do que indivíduos abençoados (de criadores a líderes políticos). Reflete bem um amarrado das ideias dos últimos livros do Matt Ridley: emergência de evolução do The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, surgimento de ideias e invenções do The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves e genes vs. criação do Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human.Mas, e é um grande mas, mantenha longe de anarco-captalistas ou eles poderão se intoxicar. O livro me marcou muito pela defesa de menos regulação e mais competição capitalista em toda e qualquer frente, saúde, educação, meio ambiente, pesquisa ou o que quiser. A mão do mercado, digo, a seleção natural e a evolução podem cuidar de tudo. Só não discute se o que é bom para o mercado é bom para pessoas. Aqui vale o disclaimer do Otimista Racional: o Matt Ridley é o Quinto Visconte Ridley e Barão de Wensleydale, chairman de banco, político do Partido Conservativo inglês, dono de ações em empresas de carvão e por aí vai. Ou seja, não é a pessoa mais livre de conflitos de interesse. Tenha isso em mente quando ler.[update] Quanto mais penso neste livro, mais discordo do que Ridley escreve aqui. Ele entende de evolução e conhece perfeitamente bem o prejuízo mútuo quando aparecem trapaceiros em uma dinâmica, ou quando a competição evolutiva (dinâmica da Rainha Vermelha ou The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, nome de um livro que ele escreveu sobre o fenômeno) faz com que todos participantes saiam prejudicados. Mas ele ignora completamente estes pontos no livro e solta o clássico "mercado cuida de tudo". Além de culpar uma série de problemas como a bolha econômica americana no excesso de regulação, não na falta de, ignorando o vizinho Canadá, com um mercado mais regulado e nem de longe afetado como os EUA. Enfim, quanto mais penso sobre o livro, mais me convenço de que ele convenientemente ignorou uma série de fatos bem conhecidos para fazer um argumento forçado. Curiosamente, o disclaimer de conflito de interesses que ele coloca no livro anterior não aparece nesse (na cópia que ouvi).
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  • Matt Gough
    January 1, 1970
    Matt Ridley has an interesting theory here, and there are a few parts of the book that really shine. For instance, his chapters on the emergence of life, genes, culture, and technology are well-supported by his research, and with those subjects he makes a compelling argument for bottom-up evolution. However, I thought the theory felt forced with the other subjects he chose to focus on, especially education, population, and the economy. When writing about these topics in particular, Ridley seemed Matt Ridley has an interesting theory here, and there are a few parts of the book that really shine. For instance, his chapters on the emergence of life, genes, culture, and technology are well-supported by his research, and with those subjects he makes a compelling argument for bottom-up evolution. However, I thought the theory felt forced with the other subjects he chose to focus on, especially education, population, and the economy. When writing about these topics in particular, Ridley seemed to be guilty of confirmation bias, really only looking at the evidence that supported his theory and paying no heed to contradictory evidence. Particularly in those chapters, Ridley's conservative political beliefs were too apparent, which ultimately hurt his argument. Overall, an interesting premise that I thought was stretched a little too thin.
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  • Chris Jaffe
    January 1, 1970
    I was on page 10 when I first got the feeling that author Matt Ridley might be completely full of shit. And he never gave me any reason to go back on that impression. I plowed through the book anyway, because I'm into completing things, but can't say I liked it.The part on page 10 that first set off my BS detector: Ridley writes about his discovery of Roman poet/philosopher Lucretius, Ridley fumes at his schoolmasters, "How could they have made me waste all those years at school plodding through I was on page 10 when I first got the feeling that author Matt Ridley might be completely full of shit. And he never gave me any reason to go back on that impression. I plowed through the book anyway, because I'm into completing things, but can't say I liked it.The part on page 10 that first set off my BS detector: Ridley writes about his discovery of Roman poet/philosopher Lucretius, Ridley fumes at his schoolmasters, "How could they have made me waste all those years at school plodding through the tedious platitudes and pedestrian prose of Jesus Christ or Julius Caesar, when they could have been telling me about Lucretius . . . . Had the Christians not suppressed Lucretius, we would surely have discovered Darwinism centuries before we did." Well now, I could day several things about that. Some are ticky-tack things (both the Bible and Caesar actually are well-regarded as literature). But more importantly, does this strike anyone as overstating things by a lot? Not only is Lucretius important to him, but he could/should've made a huge difference to world society -- he even feels the need to throw in a SURELY to describe the obviousness of ... what's just his opinion. Also, this came right after Ridley went over the history of Lucretius - he'd been redisocovered in 1417. Does Ridley really thing the theory of evolution would've broken out in 1143 or something? Theories and ideas are nice, but the real problem was that Rome fell, taken over by semi-barbarian tribes that couldn't keep much in the way of civilization going. Things broke down and fell apart into internal warfare, trade suffered - and literacy fell was nearly completely lost. I mean, if we still have this guy's poems, that's all happening anyway. Finally, that leads to a final problem with the above quote: Christian suppression? His real problem was that civilization collapsed. Sure, churches didn't do much copying of his works, but -1) they focused more on copying church documents, which yeah - they were a church, and 2) they copied his poems down, too - which is how they survived. (Oh, and in a final bit of irony, later on in the book Ridley attacks the Great Man Theory of history -- but Lucretius by himself could've jumpstarted modern science by centuries. Surely). Look, I just spent far too much time on that little piece. It's what first set off my BS detector, but more importantly is why the BS detector kept going off. One major issue is the too broad definition he gives to evolution. It starts off fine, as he discusses actual evolution in the early chapters - Darwin's theory, and DNA, and the like. He then starts to make a series of analogies later on when discussing modern issues, like economics. There is some similarity there (but I'll get to my problems with that in a second). But later he keeps going on to anything that's change. For example, a chapter on education contains a detailed critique of current education systems. OK, fair enough. But how is that evolution? He wants several changes made, and concludes the chapter by stating, "Let education evolve." OK, so he's calling for specific, deliberate changes to be made with a clear end result in mind...... And that's evolution? As this book notes, evolution isn't steps made toward a clear, deliberate goal. They are just gradual changes over time acting spontaneously. But he's pushing an agenda here, and hiding behind the theory of evolution to push for specific steps to make.And, frankly, even when analogies work better (such as when he talks about Adam Smith), there are still problems. For one, there is a clear sense pervading this book that evolution is good. That the change it brings in progress. Folks, evolution isn't about progression or regression. It's just change. To whit: the overwhelming majority of species that have evolved have gone extinct - including a huge number of ones that thrived for long times. But there is an even bigger, deeper issue here. It doesn't make much sense at all for evolution to be used as an analogy for modern day social, political, and economic issues - not nearly to extent that Ridley does. Evolution: it works incredibly gradually. There is no intent and thought in mind. It's just gradual changes and mutations that take place over centuries and millenniums that cause animals to change, stay the same, or cease to exist. It takes hundreds of generations for even the mildest of changes to become readily apparent. And as a result of the fact it takes hundreds or thousands of generations to result in gradual changes within a species ... we should start using Bitcoin. Wait - what? The theory of evolution means that environmentalism is an authoritian example of liberal fascism. Or we should enroll students in MOOCs. I mean - huh? There is a spector haunting this book - that of Social Darwinism. That was a 19th century movement that, like Ridley, wanted to use the principles of evolution to reorder society. In their minds, evolution could be used to justify laissez faire economics, imperialism and racism. It's all about survival of the fittest, don't you know. Ridley is NOT advocating racism or imperialism. But you could just as easily use evolution to justify those policies as the one Ridley likes. In both cases, you have to overlook how a theory of biological/genetic changes that take centuries to play out really don't relate too well to modern social issues. Ridley barely mentions Social Darwinism at all. He mostly seems to oppose it because the agenda it pushes is more state-centric, where Ridley is fully in the libertarian camp. There is also some irony at work at the edges of this book. He denigrates religious beliefs, stating that all movements based on faith have a centrality of a single "skyhook" - by which he means a central single, perfect answer that explains all. He even includes Marxism as one example of a faith that suffers from this flaw. He has a point there - but seems completely blind to that this same argument can be used against him. Christians can look to the Bible for their One True Faith. Marxists can look to Das Capital. And Ridley has his libertarian brand of social Darwinism. It's the One Truth Faith that is never wrong and can explain all things. Some parts make good points - like when he discusses the vacancy of the Great Man theory of history. Also, the book by Tom Holland on early Islam he mentions is really good. But far too often Ridley makes a serious of bad analogies, overstates his case, hand-waives away any info that goes against his One True Faith, and, well - is basically full of shit.
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  • Alan Cook
    January 1, 1970
    I have given a lot of books 5-star ratings, but this book stands out among them. I won't say it solves all the world's problems, but it certainly points to a lot of things that could be done better, which would improve the freedom and well being of the human race. The premise is that just about everything changes (and improves) by evolution in a bottom-up manner, rather than top-down by the action of somebody on high (such as God, the president, or anybody with power), including the universe, li I have given a lot of books 5-star ratings, but this book stands out among them. I won't say it solves all the world's problems, but it certainly points to a lot of things that could be done better, which would improve the freedom and well being of the human race. The premise is that just about everything changes (and improves) by evolution in a bottom-up manner, rather than top-down by the action of somebody on high (such as God, the president, or anybody with power), including the universe, living things, morality and technology. Of course, most politicians, priests and CEOs will disagree with this, but the evidence and examples are too good to ignore. I was particularly impressed with the discussion of changes in technology, including the Internet (which Al Gore didn't invent, by the way), because it reminded me of complex computer systems worked on by my wife, Bonny, at Xerox (see Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling, Traveling the World, and Other Adventures, by Bonny Robinson Cook) that involved teams of people from different departments creating new technology using a trial-and-error approach. The book will have you questioning the "standard" approach to doing everything. For example, the standard method of teaching is to have an authority figure in front of a roomful of captive students pounding into their heads what she wants them to know. When you learn that this system was developed by the Prussians in the 19th century in order to mentally prepare boys to become soldiers and die for their country you might have second thoughts about it. New approaches to education are evolving all the time. It used to be that you had to take a typing class taught by a teacher in order to learn how to type, but now every teenager can type information into a computer at blinding speed without ever having had a typing lesson. Top-down approaches of governments to problems like welfare, drugs, climate change and infrastructure are expensive, cumbersome, and often complete failures. It is said that skeptics about commonly accepted problems and their solutions are subversive and should be shut up (never mind the First Amendment to the Constitution). Count me as a skeptic.
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  • Steven Walle
    January 1, 1970
    This was a very informative book. It is interesting to find out how new ideas are formed when they are most needed.I recommend this book to all.Enjoy andBe Blessed.
  • Book
    January 1, 1970
    The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley “The Evolution of Everything" is a book on social Darwinism and it’s wide reaching effect from a libertarian perspective. It’s highly readable and provocative but misses the mark on two very important topics: climate change and the 2008 financial crisis. Well known journalist, scientist and educator; Matt Ridley, makes the persuasive case that evolution explains virtually all of human culture changes: from morality to technology, f The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley “The Evolution of Everything" is a book on social Darwinism and it’s wide reaching effect from a libertarian perspective. It’s highly readable and provocative but misses the mark on two very important topics: climate change and the 2008 financial crisis. Well known journalist, scientist and educator; Matt Ridley, makes the persuasive case that evolution explains virtually all of human culture changes: from morality to technology, from money to religion. This stimulating 368-page book includes the following sixteen chapters covering the evolution of: 1. Universe, 2. Morality, 3. Life, 4. Genes, 5. Culture, 6. Economy, 7. Technology, 8. Mind, 9. Personality, 10. Education, 11. Population, 12. Leadership, 13. Government, 14. Religion, 15. Money, and 16. Internet.Positives:1. A highly readable, optimistic and provocative book.2. An excellent topic, evolution is happening all around us. 3. Ridley is a gifted author; he pulls ideas from multiple disciplines and is able to persuade the reader that successful ideas emerge more so than planned for. 4. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from Lucretius’s poem De Rerum Natura (Of the Nature of Things) and covers a specific topic and subtopics. The books lends itself quite well to be used as a future reference. 5. Does a good job of introducing Lucretius and his influence on major thinkers. “Voltaire’s contempt for theodicy derived directly and explicitly from Lucretius, whose arguments he borrowed throughout life, styling himself at one point the ‘latter-day Lucretius’.”6. An interesting chapter on morality. “Smith went one step further, and suggested that morality emerged unbidden and unplanned from a peculiar feature of human nature: sympathy.” “Morality therefore emerged as a consequence of certain aspects of human nature in response to social conditions.”7. The foundation of Darwin’s grand idea of evolution. “That is the essence of Darwin’s idea: that beautiful and intricate organisms can be made without anybody knowing how to make them.” “The more we understand genomics, the more it confirms evolution.”8. A very persuasive look at how language emerged. “Languages mutate, diversify, evolve by descent with modification and merge in a ballet of unplanned beauty. Yet the end result is structure, and rules of grammar and syntax as rigid and formal as you could want. ‘The formation of different languages, and of distinct species, and the proofs that both have been developed through a gradual process, are curiously parallel,’ wrote Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man.”9. Ridley is a great defender of the free-market enterprise. “The central feature of commerce, and the thing that distinguishes it from socialist planning, is that it is decentralized.” “The Smithian economy is a process of exchange and specialization among ordinary people. It is an emergent phenomenon.”10. Interesting look at technology and science. “Again and again, once you examine the history of innovation, you find scientific breakthroughs as the effect, not the cause, of technological change.” “Technology comes from technology far more often than from science.”11. Solid chapter on the mind. “The self is a consequence, not a cause, of thought. To think otherwise is to posit a miraculous incarnation of an immaterial spirit.” “The study of the brain has found no pearl, no organ or structure that houses the self or consciousness or the will. It never will, for these phenomena are distributed among the neurons in the same way that the plan for how to make a pencil is distributed among the many contributors to a market economy.” “We are nothing but the neural signals of our brain, multiply caused by the multiple influences upon us.”12. An interesting look at personality. “Instead, the truth is that personality unfolds from within, responding to the environment – so in a very literal sense of the word, it evolves.”13. A very key founding disclosed on sexual innateness. “Never was the consternation of the establishment more acute than in the 1990s, when it became clear that homosexuality was much more innate and irreversible than people had been assuming, and much less a matter of early life experience or adolescent indoctrination.”14. A fascinating look at violence. “They argued that the cultural-determinist explanations did not fit the facts, and that it was far more likely that men were more violent for similar reasons that other male mammals were more violent – because they had in the past been forced by biology to compete for mating opportunities.”15. Explains how we learn. “We learn by reading, by watching, by emulating, by doing.” “The lesson that schooling can be encouraged to emerge from below was ignored in favor of the theory that it must be imposed from above.”16. Debunks myths on how to slow down populations. “The way to get population growth to slow, it turns out, is to keep babies alive, to bring health, prosperity and education to all.” “Malthus’s poor laws were wrong; British attitudes to famine in India and Ireland were wrong; eugenics was wrong; the Holocaust was wrong; India’s sterilization programme was wrong; China’s one-child policy was wrong. These were sins of commission, not omission. Malthusian misanthropy – the notion that you should harden your heart, approve of famine and disease, feel ashamed of pity and compassion, for the good of the race – was wrong pragmatically as well as morally. The right thing to do about poor, hungry and fecund people always was, and still is, to give them hope, opportunity, freedom, education, food and medicine, including of course contraception, for not only will that make them happier, it will enable them to have smaller families.”17. A counterintuitive look at poverty. “The real cause of poverty today – now that it is avoidable – is the unchecked power of the state against poor people without rights, says William Easterly.”18. How religions evolve. “To anybody who has read the history of the ancient world, it is crystal clear by contrast that, in the words of the title of Selina O’Grady’s book on the subject, Man Created God. God is plainly an invention of the human imagination, whether in the form of Jahweh, Christ, Allah, Vishnu, Zeus or Anygod else.” “My argument will be that this phenomenon can only be explained as an instance of cultural evolution: that all gods and all superstitions emerge from within human minds, and go through characteristic but unplanned transformations as history unfolds. Thus even the most top–down feature of human culture is actually a bottom–up, emergent phenomenon.” “In short, you can tell the story of the rise of Christianity without any reference to divine assistance. It was a movement like any other, a man-made cult, a cultural contagion passed from mind to mind, a natural example of cultural evolution.”19. The emergence of money. “Money is an evolutionary phenomenon. It emerged gradually among traders, rather than being created by rulers – despite the heads of kings on the coins: those just illustrated the tendency of the powerful to insist on monopolies.”20. The evolution of the internet. “Few can doubt that the internet is a force for liberty of the individual.” Negatives:1. No direct links to sources.2. Libertarian perspective that can rub some folks the wrong way. In his defense, I generally found Ridley to be fair. My personal progressive views at times conflicted with Ridley’s but I’m open to an intelligently written book which this is. 3. My biggest disagreement with Ridley is his lack of concern for climate change to put it mildly. His point is that climate change supporters are acquiring religious overtones against deniers. The truth is that Mr. Ridley is underselling the overwhelming global scientific consensus for climate change. We can disagree on the approach to address this real problem but we can’t deny the scientific facts.4. I disagree with his characterization of the 2008 financial crash. Ridley defends the free-market enterprise at the expense of the facts. No mention of predatory lending, abuse of the banking industry, golden parachutes, lobbying to benefit the powerful, and the fact that you can help those with lesser incomes to purchase affordable homes without compromising the entire economy. In fact a lot of the financial crisis can be attributed to emerging cancer cells of greed that manipulated the market to their benefit at the expense of society. In short, banks privatized the earnings and socialized the losses. 5. The chapter on money may be above the heads of most laypersons. 6. Underestimates the power of government to fund projects that are too high risk for private industry.In summary, a very stimulating and interesting book to read. I debated myself whether to give three or four stars to this book and concluded that despite my vehement disagreement on climate change and the financial crisis of 2008 that the book is stimulating and well written enough to justify four stars. In general, I agree with the premise that ideas emerged or evolved than planned for from the top down. Despite my aforementioned strong disagreements worthy of four stars. I recommend it!Further recommendations: If you like books with a libertarian bent you will enjoy anything from John Stossel “No, They Can’t”, “Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity” and “Give Me A Break”, “The Rational Optimist” and “The Red Queen” by Matt Ridley, “The Vital Question” by Nick Lane, “The Swerve” by Stephen Greenblatt, “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation” by Bill Nye “The Greatest Shown On Earth” by Richard Dawkins.
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  • Цветозар Бонев
    January 1, 1970
    Опростенчество в книжна форма. Пълна загуба на време.Не мисля да споря с всичко, което тази книга твърди, от една страна, защото повечето пропуснах и, от друга страна, защото всичко се свежда до една и съща фундаментална грешка. Грешката на опростяването на сложни неща, като, примерно, буквално цялото човешко съществуване. Мат Ридли застава гордо пред читателя и започва или да казва истини, които са невероятно очевидни (като фактът, че хората подобряват неща, които са лоши) или "истини", които с Опростенчество в книжна форма. Пълна загуба на време.Не мисля да споря с всичко, което тази книга твърди, от една страна, защото повечето пропуснах и, от друга страна, защото всичко се свежда до една и съща фундаментална грешка. Грешката на опростяването на сложни неща, като, примерно, буквално цялото човешко съществуване. Мат Ридли застава гордо пред читателя и започва или да казва истини, които са невероятно очевидни (като фактът, че хората подобряват неща, които са лоши) или "истини", които са "очевидни" (като фактът, че климатът няма "кранче"). Едно интересно и гениално твърдение на Ридли е, че градовете "почти никога не умират", което, нали, сериозно ли? Троя още седи на брега на Мала Азия и Ангкор Ват все още е най-големият град в света, разбираемо. Но пък повечето твърдения на Ридли карат читателя да си каже "тоя сериозно ли?", затова не е никаква изненада, че толкова много си вярва.Идеята, че всичко еволюира е леко безсмислена, главно защото може да се опрости до "всичко се променя", което, комбинирано с факта, че хората използват инструменти и мислят за бъдещето (нещо, което гените и мутациите не могат), лесно позволява всичко добро да се сведе до "Ам то еволюирало, бре!". Културата еволюирала, науката еволюирала, религията еволюирала (и помнете деца, религията е лоша, но повече за това по-късно), моралът е еволюирал (тук ако вече не схващате на къде бия няма и да схванете). Преди да премина към главния си проблем с мислите на Ридли ще спомена само, че Мат Ридли, поради идеологията си, смята, че не трябва да се хвалят индивиди, които преодоляват лошите обстоятелства на живота си (все пак свободна воля нямаме, както Ридли споменава, че Харис смята [тук си споменавам, че рецензията ми на есетата на Харис от 2016 г. не са верни спрямо сегашните ми възгледи]). Според Ридли не трябва да се хвалят и учените, защото изобретенията са щели да еволюират и без това. Нали, ако трябва да се придържа стриктно към идеологията (не науката, защото повечето теми в тази книга са идеологични) аз като българин трябва да почна да пренебрегвам саможертвите на революционерите, защото магическата еволюция на Мат Ридли щеше да създаде един Левски, дори ако Левски го нямаше. Този детерминизъм е глупав и ненужен.Та, главният ми проблем с тази книга е и главният ми проблем с новия атеизъм (тук трябва да спомена, че аз лично също не съм религиозен човек, вярвам в теорията на Дарвин за произхода на човека, но си имам граници спрямо някои атеистични "факти"). Мат Ридли е от онези атеисти, които биха използвали алегорията "Ако атеизмът е религия, то спреният телевизор е канал.", въпреки че неговият тип атеизъм е точно религиозен по природа, защото Мат Ридли просто изхвърля Християнството през прозореца на човечеството като суеверност и мит (въпреки че митовете са едни от най-важните аспекти на човечеството). /rant start warning/ Самият факт, че Мат Ридли може да отрече всичко от Християнството и да гледа своя спрян телевизор, не взима предвид факта, че този телевизор, представляващ цивилизацията в тази моя невероятно интелигента алегория, е построен от същите хора, които пускат религиозните "канали". Мат Ридли с пълна сериозност твърди, че моралът и законите на западната цивилизация са продукт на универсална игра на зарове, а не са построени върху същата митологическа скала, върху която Християнството е основано. Еволюцията не може да е обективна, при това условие как по дяволите може тя да е отговорна за моралът? Не може да се докаже, че неморалното обективно е грешно, но знаем, че е, защото не космически зарчета, а човешката психика и нейната склонност към митовете за богове не е просто случайност, а дори да е не променя факта, че съществува в този свой мит. Няма смисъл да се спори дали Иисус е бил истински, важен е архетипът, важен е митът, който позволява на съвременното човечество да бъде моралната цивилизация, която е, като му подражава. Но това е немислимо за един особен тип атеист, защото религията някак си е абсолютно зло, защото някак си западната култура не е християнска по природа, защото някак си едни от най-видните учени не са били вярващи или някак си Църквата не е запазила писмеността жива през вековете. Ридли споменава, че Иисус е базиран на други по-ранни митове, това е вярно, но не превръща архетипът в нещо, което можем просто да зачеркнем като "измишльотина". Измишльотините на човешката психика не са никак случайни и Ридли би осъзнал това, ако можеше да погледне по-далеч от самодоволния си атеистичен нос, който започва да ме кара да се срамувам, че генерално бих се вписал в неговата група. Да кажеш, че всичко в Библията не е вярно, не те прави интелектуалец, но да кажеш, че Библията не е един от корените на западната цивилизация те прави малоумник. /rant over/Напълно абсурдно е също как Мат Ридли набеждава християните, че са потискали поемите на неговия любимец Лукреций (което ако не беше станало, щяхме да летим из космоса или нещо подобно, повярвайте ми, атеист съм, знам ги тез работи), при условие, че ако не бяха християнските монаси тези поеми нямаше да се запазят във времето. Християнството позволява да се изкове меча на рационалността, който в съвремието идиоти използват, за да го убият, без да осъзнаят иронията на действията си…Идеята, че митовете са просто измишльотини и всички религии са потиснически структури е не само малоумна, но и опасна. Това абсолютно отричане на всички религии като ненужни си е религиозно и този circlejerk, който се получава в тази сфера на нови атеисти вече е на ръба на отврата. След няколко дни това "бижу" ще излезе на български и най-вероятно ще е доста надценено (въпреки че и безплатна тази книга би била прекалено скъпа), но пък това вече го знаете, все пак всички в този сайт ще видим един патрон на тази книга.
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  • Shaw
    January 1, 1970
    Some sweeping over-generalizations in this book took away from my overall rating but this was still a very interesting book. Recommended with a few grains of salt.
  • Andrew Carr
    January 1, 1970
    Evolution has always been a subversive idea. Order from chaos, progress without direction, design without a designer. But are humans the last word in natural evolution, or do their societies represent the evolution of evolution; from the biological to the ideational, cultural, and technological?This is the argument at the heart of The Evolution of Everything by the science writer Matt Ridley. Not only has life and the universe evolved, so do humans over time. These same basic laws of bottom up, Evolution has always been a subversive idea. Order from chaos, progress without direction, design without a designer. But are humans the last word in natural evolution, or do their societies represent the evolution of evolution; from the biological to the ideational, cultural, and technological?This is the argument at the heart of The Evolution of Everything by the science writer Matt Ridley. Not only has life and the universe evolved, so do humans over time. These same basic laws of bottom up, spontaneous order are to be found — and celebrated — everywhere. The book argues that what both explains the human world, as well as creates the best of it, is evolutionary. What is bad or harmful, is attributed to command and control attempts, from creationism to communism.The book works through 16 chapters, each ostensibly focused on a topic such as Morality, Technology, Education, Population, Religion, Genes and so on. Each chapter is packed with different ideas and arguments, bounding around the topic in an always entertaining fashion. The first part of the book which tends to focus more on science or broad social dynamics (morality, culture etc) is especially engaging. In one fascinating section, Ridley presents a view of humans as sites of ongoing evolutionary competition, as their genes, impulses, histories and circumstances dramatically shape their behaviour. So much for free will it seems, at least in its populist sense. He also rightly challenges the idea of ‘great men’ of history, whether pointing out that many, many ideas are developed simultaneously around the world, while many celebrated world leaders often simply got out of the way of big changes, rather than being the cause of them. At the half way mark, I was starting to recommend this book to my friends. The compelling idea within is that if you accept evolution in nature, you should encourage it in civilisation. Focus on open, competitive systems. Look to social norms rather than coercion, and have confidence in innovation and creativity as natural byproducts of humans left to live their own lives as they choose. An unrestrained society is a more moral, prosperous and interesting place.The problem is that as the book moves evermore from science to social science, this thread goes missing. Or rather, Ridley switches from arguing for a pro-evolution explanation, to arguing against management and direction. While these notions are opposed, they are not exclusive. But this distinction often seems lost, and with it an analysis of the role of evolution in human practice. So instead of offering an easily told but important tale of how governance has changed, been tested, failed, adapted and improved over time (and thus perhaps why we should seek further innovation), we get a somewhat banal attack on government as resistant to change, unable to provide services and generally inclined to authoritarianism.As Ridley gets out of his comfort zone of scientific issues, the chapters get clearly weaker. Topics bounce around far more, assumptions are less clearly identified and debates and opposing views more quickly dismissed. In one notable case on page 238 the author jumps uses a study of the evolution of social norms in prison to state that “in other words, government begins as a protection racket”. Quite how this study proves this, I never could understand. Worse, we have significant evidence for how government and states have formed, none of which Ridley seems to have engaged (See Fukuyama’s latest 2 volume on Origins of Political Order tome at the very least). Instead Ridley seems to dismiss all government as simply a form of domination forced upon us at the expense of our development and wellbeing.The Evolution of Everything also seems remarkably unwilling to confront exactly what evolution is or means. We get virtually no discussion of the way it transmits or operates outside of biological environments. And little mention, beyond the noble failures of entrepreneurs of the costs of evolutionary change. Instead, when the development of ideas about human eugenics and survival of the fittest is raised, it is done so to lay the entire blame at the feet of those who believe in government and command and control. Certainly in the application of these abuses government mattered, but it is ridiculous to ignore the logic which motivated these movements. Confusingly Ridley also spends time condemning the British willingness to ignore the potato famine in Ireland even though the ‘we shouldn’t interfere, let god sort it out’ logic was directly shaped by competitive, anti-statist notions. It’s not that we can’t embrace an evolutionary approach because of these downsides, but rather that an honest and ultimately more persuasive analysis of these ideas would confront, accept and discuss remedies head on. Ridley like many libertarians is quick to say he wants government and social aid, while spending most of his time saying how terrible it is and never drawing clear lines for how to do it with the least harm. Ultimately, I agree with most of this book. At its best it speaks of a philosophy that operates with human nature rather than against. One that celebrates human flourishing and works to remove any barriers and impediments that stand in its way. But too much of this book puts aside discussing the way evolution operates, and instead tries to attack what the author sees as some of the main barriers to it. All are well-known, and the book lands few if any telling blows against them.That makes it a frustrating read. I enjoyed it, I am glad I read it. I just wish it fulfilled its promise more effectively so I could recommend it more widely. Ridley is not the first to apply evolutionary ideas to human society, so in the spirit of this book, I hope that maybe those who come after will be more adapted to the task than he was.
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  • Jason Lockwood
    January 1, 1970
    Some people love Matt Ridley and some people hate him. Whatever your point of view, there's no mistaking that he gets people thinking and challenging assumptions. In his latest book, he gets us all reconsidering the notion that people and societies progress due to a top-down approach. Whether it's politicians who take (or are given) credit for economic progress or CEOs who are viewed as the only source of a company's success, Ridley provides ample evidence that neither are true.What he presents- Some people love Matt Ridley and some people hate him. Whatever your point of view, there's no mistaking that he gets people thinking and challenging assumptions. In his latest book, he gets us all reconsidering the notion that people and societies progress due to a top-down approach. Whether it's politicians who take (or are given) credit for economic progress or CEOs who are viewed as the only source of a company's success, Ridley provides ample evidence that neither are true.What he presents--and I agree with his basic view if not all the particulars--is that life is evolution in every aspect. He does the unthinkable, too: he criticises both the political left and right, but for different reasons. Some reviewers excoriate Ridley for being 'right-wing,' (a notion he mocks in the book), but what he really stands for is what writer Virginia Postrel called 'dynamism versus stasis.' He is equally scornful of government controlled and directed economies and religious control of people. This sets him apart from the warmed over left-right dichotomy so commonly put forth today. Even when I disagree with Ridley, I find that it's a gentle disagreement, because he presents ideas in such a calm way that he comes off not as a polemical crank, but as an avuncular adviser. I highly recommend The Evolution of Everything to anyone who invites challenge to his thinking, even if the book is unkind to many cherished viewpoints.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    Matt Ridley produces another libertarian classic, to match his earlier The Rational Optimist, with The Evolution of Everything. Taking evolution out of the strictly biological and to the cultural, technological, political, and about every other arena of human endeavor. What interests him particularly is exposing the creationism of the Left and government. By creationism is meant top down planning rather than a creator god. Mr. Ridley argues the case against planning and top down control in favor Matt Ridley produces another libertarian classic, to match his earlier The Rational Optimist, with The Evolution of Everything. Taking evolution out of the strictly biological and to the cultural, technological, political, and about every other arena of human endeavor. What interests him particularly is exposing the creationism of the Left and government. By creationism is meant top down planning rather than a creator god. Mr. Ridley argues the case against planning and top down control in favor of a bottom up strategy...in other words, an evolutionary strategy in which an idea, concept, technology, etc. is released into a social environment or market and allowed to freely compete with other ideas in order to determine which is better suited to the environmental niche. The idea of cultural evolution, Mr. Ridley's libertarian variety, is very compelling and fits in very well with his last book -- The Rational Optimist. Rating 5 out of 5 stars Recommended for those looking for an alternative to big government and an intrusive state. A must read for libertarians.
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  • James
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting walk in the park of history and evolution. There were a couple of ideas thrown in throughout the book that I found intriguing in that he proposed a new way to look at how things evolved (ex. history of religion). The other part of this book was the tie in with Titus Lucretius Carus. Most chapters seem to start with a reflection of one segment from Lucretius's De rerum natura. Written almost 2000 years ago, I will agree that many ideas proposed in his poem do hold true in some facet t Interesting walk in the park of history and evolution. There were a couple of ideas thrown in throughout the book that I found intriguing in that he proposed a new way to look at how things evolved (ex. history of religion). The other part of this book was the tie in with Titus Lucretius Carus. Most chapters seem to start with a reflection of one segment from Lucretius's De rerum natura. Written almost 2000 years ago, I will agree that many ideas proposed in his poem do hold true in some facet to today's theories and belief systems. At times it felt like a doctoral paper in the making based on Lucretius's ideas. Nice way to look at root and evolution of many of today's norms.
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  • D.L. Morrese
    January 1, 1970
    The following is a rather lengthy review. I'd apologize for that, but some things just need a bit more explaining than others.People have a natural tendency to seek agency. If something momentous happens, then someone must have caused it. If something complex exists, someone obviously designed and built it. But this natural human way of looking at things leads to unwarranted assumptions. No one, for example, planned the evolution of life.Ridley extends Darwin’s insight about biological evolution The following is a rather lengthy review. I'd apologize for that, but some things just need a bit more explaining than others.People have a natural tendency to seek agency. If something momentous happens, then someone must have caused it. If something complex exists, someone obviously designed and built it. But this natural human way of looking at things leads to unwarranted assumptions. No one, for example, planned the evolution of life.Ridley extends Darwin’s insight about biological evolution to human culture and invention. No one planned the development of language. No one planned the industrial revolution. No one planned today’s global economy. These things evolved. They weren’t designed from the top down. They emerged from the bottom up. In this book, Ridley specifically argues that Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand guides economics in much the same way that natural selection guides the evolution of life. Both emerge from the complex interplay of individual agents acting out of self-interest with no common goal. They operate without any grand plan, and yet they create (albeit unintentionally) complex, well-ordered, and reasonably efficient systems. He has great faith in the power of the Invisible Hand. Don’t try to direct it, and good things will happen.To me, his belief in the power of the Invisible Hand seems a bit too…well, utopian. Simplistic. Possibly even a bit mystical. The Hand works in mysterious ways. We don’t know how, exactly, but we must have faith that it is all for the best and let it get on with things. As long as we don’t interfere, all will be well. Society will evolve for the better. The state will wither away, and everyone will live in peace and prosperity. His end state seems ironically similar to the one Karl Marx envisioned, and I think it’s flawed for one of the same reasons Marx’s was—people. They aren’t ready for it…yet. There are those, and I like to believe the number grows with every generation, who do not require coercion or the threat of divine or secular punishment in order to behave properly toward their fellow human beings. But many still do. The state may be an unfortunate necessity at this point in human evolution.If it’s possible to be a cynical optimist, Matt Ridley qualifies. He makes several valid points in this book. Order can emerge from chaos. Actions motivated solely by self-interest can have unintended and broadly beneficial consequences. Human culture does evolve, and it has progressed and improved over time. But he makes an unjustified leap by concluding that it is therefore a mistake to attempt to bring about cultural change or broad social benefits intentionally. Evolution, both biological and cultural, he seems to argue, are best left to natural selection and the free market. Restraining the Invisible Hand leads to disaster.Well, it can, except sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the Hand needs a shove. Or maybe it’s better to say that the Invisible Hand has more fingers than he seems to think it has.Ridley often sounds like a cranky old man grinding philosophical axes*, and in this book, he vents his libertarian spleen on all things that smack of authority. This includes religion and crony capitalism, but his favorite target is government in all its current and historical forms. He doesn’t like government (which seems odd considering that Viscount Ridley is a member of the British House of Lords). He sees it as a top-down intrusion on the proper bottom-up evolution of human society. Let the free market work!But there is no free market, and I doubt one would last long if there was. (See Saving Capitalism by Robert B. Reich https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...) Markets in our modern society depend on governments to protect capital assets and intellectual property. Governments provide the framework within which individuals and businesses negotiate contracts with one another, and they provide legal recourse in the event of contract violation. Governments maintain competition by restricting monopolies so that large corporations cannot eliminate their existing and potential competitors (e.g. through hostile takeovers, dumping goods, or intimidating suppliers). Governments also help bolster the economy by instilling consumer confidence. Because of governmental regulations, you can be fairly sure that the food and medicine you buy isn’t toxic; that your appliances, cars, homes, and other purchases are reasonably safe to use; and that whatever else you buy will function almost as well as the seller claims it will. If you are in the unfortunate position of having to work for a living, your workplace is probably safer, your workday shorter, your pay better, and you may even enjoy some kind of insurance or even paid holidays because of governmental policies.A firm believer in laissez faire economics might argue that all of these benefits would come about on their own accord through the magic of market forces, but they didn’t, which is why these governmental policies came about. Worker exploitation, sweatshops, child labor, and unsafe working conditions were rampant only a century ago. The case of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York City in 1911 is probably one of the most famous examples. (http://www.history.com/topics/triangl...). In a bottom-up effort, voters demanded that something be done. Government responded by enacting laws. (e.g. the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1937, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972). Admittedly, these probably did not all work as well as many hoped, and some may have had unforeseen consequences, but these laws and others were passed because the ‘free’ market had not been able to prevent abuses by private businesses that exploited workers and cheated consumers. Clearly, not all business were dishonest or exploitative, but a top-down mandate was needed, not only to protect workers and consumers, but also to establish a level playing field to protect responsible business owners from unfair competition by those who were not.So, were these societal changes examples of bottom-up evolution brought about by voter demand or were they top-down impositions on the free market by government? Both? Neither?Personally, I think it’s a false dichotomy. Let me begin by saying that power bases emerge in human society whether you want them to or not. They form from the bottom up. We can’t prevent them, nor do I think we should try. They exist to pursue the interests of their constituents, and in doing so can provide benefits to each member that they cannot obtain as well on their own. But they can also unjustly impose their will on nonmembers. If one group becomes too powerful, or if two or more combine forces, they can oppress or exploit others. Maintaining some kind of power balance so that this does not happen can be difficult.Prior to the Enlightenment, government, in the form of a monarch and sundry aristocracy, could be seen as a separate power base, as could the Church, landed gentry, craftsmen, and peasants. Each of these had its own unique interests, which they pursued, sometimes cooperatively but often competitively. If you wish to imagine society as something guided by an invisible hand, these would have been its fingers, the two strongest of which were the monarch and the Church.Modern Western society has different fingers. These can be generalized as workers, consumers, business owners, and bankers. Religion is still with us, of course, and it does have unique interests and it does exert power, so it may be seen as a finger as well. As in the past, these groups may have overlapping constituencies, but they don’t have common goals, and the conflicts between them create the evolutionary pressures that move societies. Together, these five fingers shape human culture in unplanned ways. (I don’t include government as one of these modern fingers for reasons I’ll explain soon.)All of these fingers represent their members and push society in some way. Consumers want quality products at affordable prices. Workers want secure, well-paying jobs. Religions want to spread their faiths. Businesses and banks want to earn profits for owners/investors. Democratic government is a bit different in that it represents (or should represent) interests common to everyone. As difficult as it may be to imagine at times, and despite the real differences that may exist between them, all people have more interests in common than not…safety, property, opportunity, freedom…or as the U.S. Declaration of Independence puts it, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.A properly functioning democratic government has the unenviable task of ensuring equal rights for all its citizens and for being an impartial arbiter when the goals of the metaphorical fingers come into conflict. Is it more important for consumers to have lower prices or for workers to have higher wages? Are these more or less important than business owners reaping high profits or banks charging high interest? When does a religion’s goal of spreading the faith intrude on the freedom of nonbelievers? These are not hypothetical questions. All have had to be addressed in the past, and it has fallen on governments to do so because market forces can’t, at least not as well. When one group attempts to dominate, exploit, suppress, or even eliminate another, the purely evolutionary solution of allowing the strongest to win is probably not the best one for the long-term survival of a civilization. The government stands in defense of all, regardless of numbers or wealth. It codifies protected rights that apply to all its citizens, and it acts as a societal ratchet to prevent these rights from being denied in the future. Once proscribed by law, such things as slavery, child labor, and racial discrimination are far less likely to reemerge. A democratic government provides a balancing force so that the many cannot dominate the few and the rich and powerful cannot prey on the poor and weak.The balance breaks down if one societal power base exerts too much influence over governmental policies. Business control of government is just as detrimental to a society as governmental control of business. But democratic governments are self-correcting. They change from the bottom up. The dominating powers will fight to preserve their privileged positions. They’ll try to bend public opinion to maintain their position, but when voters feel that one group has too much influence, they’ll vote for change…and they might even achieve it. We may be seeing something like that happening now in the U.S. Time will tell.There is much about Matt Ridley’s argument with which I do not agree, but his central point that complex systems evolve in unexpected and unplanned ways is undeniable. They do. No single strategy directed the course of human progress. The scientific discoveries and cultural changes humanity has made since our ancestors first chipped stones into knives two and a half million years ago (or thereabout) have created a world that no one could have imagined, let alone planned. These advancements emerged incrementally, iteratively, one thing leading to another, with all the parts interacting in complex and often unpredictable ways. In short, our society evolved. There was no grand plan, but many of the little steps along the way were planned, which is where the comparison of scientific and cultural progress with biological evolution breaks down. The two processes appear similar from a great enough distance, but they differ in the details.Biological evolution lacks intent. Cells and microbes can’t imagine the future. They can’t plan. Over time, the individual cells that comprised the earliest forms of life came together, differentiated, and specialized to form larger and more complex organisms. This improved their survivability, but they didn’t adapt to survive. They survived because they adapted. This is an important difference. It’s a matter of cause and effect. It took natural selection billions of years to go from those earliest microbes to creatures like us because it operates without intent. It doesn’t build to a plan. Discrete biological changes (to DNA) are close enough to random to think of them as such, and most of those random mutations are fatal. Natural selection can create astounding complexity in this manner, but it’s hit or miss, and it takes a while.Cultural evolution is faster. The time span from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens took almost two million years. The time span from steam engines to nuclear power was less than three hundred. Why? Well, a lot of reasons, but complexity isn’t one of them. There are more differences between Newcomen’s steam engine and a nuclear reactor than there are between you and your multi-great grandmother a couple million years ago. A big factor for the difference in time scale is that each evolutionary step from pre-modern humans to us relied on unplanned natural selection. Each development between steam power and nuclear energy was the result of human premeditated action. Each improvement, every new idea along the way was proposed and developed by a human mind with intent.Ridley summarizes his position in the epilogue of his book. “To put my explanation in its boldest and most surprising form: bad news in manmade, top-down, purposed stuff, imposed on history. Good news is accidental, unplanned, emergent stuff that gradually evolves.”Ah, if only reality were that simple. The unfortunate truth is that most evolutionary changes are failures. Unplanned evolution doesn’t always bring success but neither does planned change. Most plans people make fail as well. What Ridley’s argument seems to boil down to is that evolutionary changes that have survived are successful. True, but tautological. Extrapolating from this dubious insight by claiming that unplanned evolutionary change is good and that manmade change is bad is simply absurd. It’s like claiming that doctors shouldn’t cut out tumors, prescribe antibiotics, provide vaccinations, or attempt to cure genetically inherited diseases because the bacteria, viruses, and genetic mutations they are trying to eliminate have evolved through natural selection and therefore must be good.Let me offer an alternate idea. Human culture and technology have advanced rapidly because when people see problems, they take action to fix them. They don’t wait around for the slow plod of evolution to make things better or, alternately and more likely, to drive them to extinction. Humans are toolmakers. The things we create, from hammers to stock markets, are tools that we intentionally design to accomplish certain tasks, and we improve upon them over time to make them work better.By all measurable criteria, our species’ quality of life has improved over time. People today (on average) are healthier, eat better, live longer, are freer, safer, and enjoy more material wealth than at any time in history. No one planned the current state of human affairs. It isn’t anyone’s imagined end state or ultimate goal. There is no end state. There is no final goal. Evolution is a continuing process. The reason our cultures evolve faster than our biology is partly that they have something biology does not. When it comes to the components of human culture, such as our religions, laws, forms of government, economic systems, philosophies, ethics, educational systems, music, art, inventions, and all other creations of the human mind, an intrinsic part of all of them is that they include an element of intent. People designed them from the top down in response to conditions imposed from the bottom up. They saw situations that they wanted improved, considered ways of adapting what they knew to the problems facing them, and came up with ideas they thought might work. Some did. Some didn’t. Those that work are more likely to survive. Richard Dawkins calls such ideas memes, but the important point is that these ideas do not spring up spontaneously. They originate in human minds. And although each of these ideas may be intended to address separate, seemingly unconnected issues, each forms a small component of a larger evolving system. Unlike biological evolution, human progress has an aspect of intelligent design.Which brings me back to Ridley’s issue with government and the free market. The Invisible Hand of the free market is not a separate ineffable force any more than the human mind is separate from the brain and body that create it. Both can be seen as emergent properties. But perhaps a better way to view the free market for this discussion is as a process. Just as evolution describes the process of living matter reacting to its environment, the free market describes the process of humans interacting to improve their lives. To do this, they build tools. If those tools don’t work quite as well as we’d like, we try to improve them.Businesses are tools. Banks are tools. Government is a tool. All of these are designed, built, modified, and used by people in order to improve their lives, and, over time and not at all miraculously, our lives have improved. Since this was and is the common intent, I’d say we’re not doing too badly. Evolution gave us our toolmaking ability. It would be a shame not to use it.————-*So am I, but that’s beside the point.
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  • Peter Tillman
    January 1, 1970
    Matt Ridley, The Evolution of EverythingAn important book, if somewhat scattershot. Ridley prefers things to be done from the bottom up, instead of from the top down, and so do I. But. Even though I’m sympathetic to what he’s writing, he does get carried away at times. But he’s likely right, and almost always interesting. And he’s done his homework. From my notes:Thomas Malthus’s evil legacy: A million people dead from the Irish famines, 1840s. “An effective mechanism for reducing surplus popula Matt Ridley, The Evolution of EverythingAn important book, if somewhat scattershot. Ridley prefers things to be done from the bottom up, instead of from the top down, and so do I. But. Even though I’m sympathetic to what he’s writing, he does get carried away at times. But he’s likely right, and almost always interesting. And he’s done his homework. From my notes:Thomas Malthus’s evil legacy: A million people dead from the Irish famines, 1840s. “An effective mechanism for reducing surplus population,” wrote one British official.Up to 10 million dead from starvation in India, 1877. Not only did the British Viceroy not feed them, but he forbade multiple private attempts to feed the starving people.Eugenics, neo-Malthusians: In the US, starting in the 1930s, 30 states passed laws allowing compulsory sterilization of “defective” people. 63,000 sterilized by the 1970s, when the laws were struck down. California is the leading state in this program.Nazi Germany explicitly models their eugenics program on California’s. By 1934, Nazis were sterilizing 5,000 people per month. 400,000 people sterilized in Hitler’s first 6 years in office. Then the murders began.India, 1966. US refuses to give famine aid until India sets up “massive” population control. 3 million sterilizations per year, 1972-73. 8 million sterilized, 1976. Congratulations from Robert McNamara. Paul Ehrlich is “astounded” at criticism of the massive Indian sterilizations. Very disturbing chapter. By then, India’s birth rates were already falling, and their food production rapidly rising, from new breeds of grain from Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution. 1779-81. Cornwallis’s army decimated by malaria in South Carolina and Virginia, in what one US historian called “covert biological warfare.” Cornwallis’s weakened troops defeated by Gen. Washington at Yorktown, 1781. US wins independence. Sample quote:“Far more than we like to admit, the world is to a remarkable extent a self-organizing, self-changing place. Skeins of geese form Vs in the sky without meaning to, termites build cathedrals without architects, bees make hexagonal honeycombs without instruction, brains take shape without brain-makers, learning can happen without teaching, political events are shaped by history rather than vice versa.”The review that led me to read the book, by Michael Shermer:https://www.wsj.com/articles/no-plann...(paywalled)Another good review:https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/bo...
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  • Raghu
    January 1, 1970
    Charles Darwin stated in his theory of biological evolution that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. This happens through a process of trial and error whereby beneficial variations are favored and injurious ones discarded. Author Ridley calls this the 'Special theory of Evolution' and goes on to extend it to a General theory of Evolution by applying it to Charles Darwin stated in his theory of biological evolution that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. This happens through a process of trial and error whereby beneficial variations are favored and injurious ones discarded. Author Ridley calls this the 'Special theory of Evolution' and goes on to extend it to a General theory of Evolution by applying it to a broad spectrum of human endeavour such as Religion, Morality, Economy, Technology, Culture, Money and so on. His argument is that all these and other aspects of our culture also change all the time but change very gradually and in a bottom-up manner without really being guided or directed, just like the species do. Just as evolution produces more and more sophisticated species albeit without a conscious goal or master plan, so do these aspects of human culture in an ostensibly progressive way on their own. This is the essence of the book and to substantiate the idea, Ridley discusses over sixteen chapters, the autonomous evolution of the following categories: Morality, Life, Genes, Culture, Economy, Technology, Mind, Personality, Education, Population, Leadership, Government, Religion, Money and the Internet. It is an expansive effort but it failed to convince me with its arguments. Of all the arguments, I found that I was in agreement only with the ones on the evolution of Genes and Technology. His contention that Technology has its own inherent advance and is independent of great inventors is borne by good evidence. In the same way, 'the genome has no master gene and the human brain has no centralized command node' is also well argued. However, one can advance counter-arguments to many of the other contentions in the book on Society, Population, Government, Economy, Education etc. I shall just touch on a couple of issues as a sample.Evolution works through trial and error. Ridley does not touch upon the consequences of such an approach when people in society are the ones being experimented upon by evolution. If Society, economy and education are subjected to such bottom-up growth, some of the errors can have disastrous fall-outs for the economy or the people. Surely, no one including the author, would want to suffer these consequences if they can be avoided through top-down planning. Evolution works at its own pace. For example, Dr.Joseph Stiglitz says that the real minimum wage of the US worker has remained stagnant for 45 years now. Globalization was said to trickle down its benefits but, the minimum wage has not seen upward mobility. So, would a minimum wage earner wait for evolution to work its magic or would he prefer active state intervention or protest movements to change his condition?Author Ridley cites the evolution of cities very approvingly as support for his theory. I wonder if he has ever lived in Indian cities like Mumbai for a prolonged period. Cities in India have mostly 'evolved' bottom-up, without any master plan or ultimate goal. What we have as a result, is mostly chaos. The buses and trains often are at odds with each other by way of service. Population grows in these cities without sufficient supply of water or electricity for its residents. There is hardly enough housing and sanitation. Though some of these aspects are due to poverty, Indian cities are often good examples of un-directed, bottom-up evolution. In contrast, Ridley's own city of London shows great top-down planning of its transport system in integrating its buses, underground trains and boats in a way that complement one another. All those beautiful green spaces that Londoners enjoy, like Green Park, Hyde Park, St.James Park and Kew Gardens came about by top-down planning and not autonomously. The book really has a go at Governments. Ridley's thesis is that protection rackets are the ones which eventually became top-down governments. He says that government policy planners underrate the merits of spontaneous, organic arrangements and fail to recognize that the best plan is often not to have one. History tells us that governments in Western countries never looked at things like employment, welfare, environment etc as part of their job prior to the end of the Second world war. In fact, as recently as the late 19th century, the only affluent sections of Western societies were the clergy and the aristocrats with 80% of the population being considered working class and not middle class. It is only active state intervention to institute the welfare state, organize employment for the citizens and provide substantial safeguards against many of the ills that afflicted society, that has resulted in the pervasive prosperity across all classes that we see today in the West. The book is as much about Evolution as it is about politics and ideology. Ridley seems libertarian in outlook and possibly also right-wing, even though he denies it in the book. Consequently, in every chapter, we have him lauding unplanned, bottom-up endeavours without government involvement in the manner of far-right Republicans and railing against totalitarianism and planned human endeavours. Unfortunately, Western societies are all about Security and Control and predictability about the future. The Western way of life is not about leaving things to chance but all about gaining control over the unknowns. With such a philosophy, a top-down, planned approach to life is the automatic consequence. For every one of the sixteen categories that the author analyses, it is probably equally possible to show that we are where we are because of top-down planning and directed growth. The book is good to read for the extensive effort that has been put into it, but in the end, one cannot escape the conclusion that Ridley's General theory of Evolution is not anywhere near the Special theory in its logic or water-tight evidence.
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  • Masoud
    January 1, 1970
    The book is making the point that through the incremental changes or with a lot of trial and error in history, all aspects of modern society such as morality, economy, language, cities, education, government, etc. have been developed. Instead of our obsession with designing changes from above, the theory of evolution should be embraced. EVERYTHING EVOLVES!P.S. If you have some basic studies in evolution and the history of civilization, the book could be informative. Otherwise, it is very confusi The book is making the point that through the incremental changes or with a lot of trial and error in history, all aspects of modern society such as morality, economy, language, cities, education, government, etc. have been developed. Instead of our obsession with designing changes from above, the theory of evolution should be embraced. EVERYTHING EVOLVES!P.S. If you have some basic studies in evolution and the history of civilization, the book could be informative. Otherwise, it is very confusing and kind of boring.
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  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    This was interesting for a while, until Ridley took off his scholarly hat and put on the Libertarian one. I don't have the background to make a judgment on his application of Darwin's ideas in realms other than evolution in the natural world, but when he says, for example, that evolution as it manifests itself in the family is largely a matter of biology and parental behavior has little, if any, effect in how the children turn out, my suspicions are alerted and the book is spoiled for me. He als This was interesting for a while, until Ridley took off his scholarly hat and put on the Libertarian one. I don't have the background to make a judgment on his application of Darwin's ideas in realms other than evolution in the natural world, but when he says, for example, that evolution as it manifests itself in the family is largely a matter of biology and parental behavior has little, if any, effect in how the children turn out, my suspicions are alerted and the book is spoiled for me. He also cites writers from the Cato Institute, that haven for Neanderthal capitalists. I feel I'm being manipulated by a clever propagandist even though I agree that it's a good idea to see how the whole idea of evolution expresses itself in different areas of human culture and not just the biological.
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  • Omar Essawi
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant. Distinguishing between a special and general theory of evolution. The latter of which applies to everything beyond genetics. Building on Dennett's "crane" and "skyhook" idea to explain how things evolve as bottom up (crane) phenomena as oppose to top down (skyhook) phenomena. Very well written, and although it is actually quite common sensical, it provides a very well rounded explanation putting the idea in to perspective. In addition to this, it provides a concise overview and backgr Brilliant. Distinguishing between a special and general theory of evolution. The latter of which applies to everything beyond genetics. Building on Dennett's "crane" and "skyhook" idea to explain how things evolve as bottom up (crane) phenomena as oppose to top down (skyhook) phenomena. Very well written, and although it is actually quite common sensical, it provides a very well rounded explanation putting the idea in to perspective. In addition to this, it provides a concise overview and background to a variety of ideas, inventions and concepts that play a part in our day to day lives. Admittedly I didn't like the tone of over-confidence felt throughout the book, and the politically biased comments here and there were unnecessary, but nonetheless, a very interesting read.
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  • Richard
    January 1, 1970
    These 3 quotes really sum this book up quite well:“For far too long we have underestimated the power of spontaneous, organic and constructive change driven from below, in our obsession with designing change from above. Embrace the general theory of evolution. Admit that everything evolves."“But if there is one dominant myth about the world, one huge mistake we all make, one blind spot, it is that we all go around assuming the world is much more of a planned place than it is.” “I want to do for e These 3 quotes really sum this book up quite well:“For far too long we have underestimated the power of spontaneous, organic and constructive change driven from below, in our obsession with designing change from above. Embrace the general theory of evolution. Admit that everything evolves."“But if there is one dominant myth about the world, one huge mistake we all make, one blind spot, it is that we all go around assuming the world is much more of a planned place than it is.” “I want to do for every aspect of the human world a little bit of what Charles Darwin did for biology, and get you to see past the illusion of design, to see the emergent, unplanned, inexorable and beautiful process of change that lies underneath.”
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  • Simon Mcleish
    January 1, 1970
    While there are many interesting ideas, points and quotes in this book, I found it frustrating and unconvincing. While it is apparently about how evolution works in a number of settings, essentially those of complex emergent systems, much of it uses that as the basis for an attack on any form of control or management of these systems - it's a libertarian manifesto in all but name.I have a fair number of issues with the book. First, and fundamentally, I don't think it makes a case for the word "e While there are many interesting ideas, points and quotes in this book, I found it frustrating and unconvincing. While it is apparently about how evolution works in a number of settings, essentially those of complex emergent systems, much of it uses that as the basis for an attack on any form of control or management of these systems - it's a libertarian manifesto in all but name.I have a fair number of issues with the book. First, and fundamentally, I don't think it makes a case for the word "evolution" being applied consistently to all the subjects. It starts, naturally enough, with one of the best known and best understood subjects, the evolution of life. Here, there is a sound mathematical foundation, a set of statistical rules which can predict many things (such as, for instance, the ways in which altruism can bestow an evolutionary advantage despite the immediate appearance that it shouldn't). While there are mathematical models for some of the other concepts, such as the economy, there isn't the same broad agreement on the most acceptable model. In some cases (education, for instance) it is hard to even see what a model would be like, and here it feels more as though something is evolutionary because it is complex and changes over time.Second, the shortness of the treatments of the different topics makes it appear that Ridley makes his points through selective quotation. Some of the discussions do talk about other ideas in the field, but I think they are not given even the appearance of a fair hearing. Some authors are quoted repeatedly, which makes selective quoting seem more obvious. I don't think that this appearance was Ridley's intention, but it does reduce the impact of the book.Thirdly, the book seems to me to avoid talking about some of the ethical issues involved in taking the libertarian approach. While he talks approvingly of unregulated private enterprise, and even makes it seem that this will improve the lot of everyone, the problem is that even in today's heavily regulated world, unethical individuals abuse positions of power over others: there have always been companies run as sweat shops, and we still see prosecutions for slavery and exploitation on a regular basis (especially, it seems, in those underground industries which are less regulated because of their essentially criminal nature, such as prostitution). It often seems that those who put forward libertarianism do so because they expect that they would be among the winners, and they don't really think about what this means for the losers. This isn't to say that live isn't going to be grim for the losers in the world as it is today, or hasn't been miserable in the past, and Ridley does cite several examples, including some from the worst moments of British colonialism.Overall, there is much said which is interesting, but I found the book more frustrating than convincing.
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  • Manu
    January 1, 1970
    For a while now, I have believed that Darwin's theory of evolution is the most paradigm-shifting idea to have emerged from a human mind. On a related thought journey, I have also shifted from determinism to free will and back to determinism, all in a few years. This book connects both these thoughts, and is fundamentally an argument for evolution and against creationism. It argues that change is incremental and emergent and has a momentum all of its own, as opposed to the idea that it is directe For a while now, I have believed that Darwin's theory of evolution is the most paradigm-shifting idea to have emerged from a human mind. On a related thought journey, I have also shifted from determinism to free will and back to determinism, all in a few years. This book connects both these thoughts, and is fundamentally an argument for evolution and against creationism. It argues that change is incremental and emergent and has a momentum all of its own, as opposed to the idea that it is directed by a person or a metaphysical force like God. The author calls Darwin's work "the special theory of evolution" because Darwin had applied this to the evolution of the human species. But as per the author, evolution is all around us, in pretty much everything we encounter - from culture to the universe and from money to population. The book covers sixteen subjects and sees the progress (or sometimes, the lack of it) for each of these through the lens of its evolution. It is fascinating to see how the blind hand of evolution has guided these ideas to where they are now. I say blind because it has no goal in mind and works mostly based on trial and error. I learned many things from this book beyond the excellent basic framing of evolution in the context of these subjects. About Titus Lucretius and his book De Rerum Natura (The Nature of things) in which he had conceptualised the idea of evolution. About how the role that history credits to one man - whether it is Steve Jobs or Adolf Hitler - is hugely exaggerated because if there is an idea whose time has come, evolution will make sure it manifests - "the sea will fashion the boats". About my mistaken notion that science needs to be funded by government - the portion on technology shows how the returns from private funding trumps public grants. I also learned that while the Nazis are the ones who blew up eugenics into a completely different level, from 1932 to 1970, ten thousands of people in the US had been forcibly sterilised or persuaded to undergo voluntary sterility. That Indira Gandhi was forced to scale up her government's sterilisation programmes because the "civilised nations" held aid money to India as ransom. About a company called Morning Star Tomatoes that has been experimenting with "self management" for 2 decades and is working just fine. That the government and the mafia have essentially the same roots. That the biggest religions of the world had borrowed their origin myths from a common pool and had gotten lucky with timing. On how environmentalism is now close to being religion and has its myths too! It also validated my view (not original) that both nation states and a central currency were ideas whose exit time has come. I came to know that the roots of the 2008 crisis lay in China! This is a fascinating book, and I am also awed by the author's knowledge and background work on so many diverse subjects. This goes very easily into my all time top 10 and I would highly recommend it.
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  • Martin Hromada
    January 1, 1970
    Pri čítaní podobnej knihy nejde o to, súhlasiť s autorom vo všetkom. Skôr o hľadanie nových myšlienok, spôsobu uvažovania. Prípadne starých myšlienok, pospájaných úplne novým spôsobom. A v tom je Ridley stále dobrý, i keď už dávno vykročil za hranice svojho odboru, evolučnej biológie. Napriek tomu, že ho v diskusiách (aj tu na GR) obviňujú, že je - podľa potreby - pravičiar, ľavičiar, konzervatívec i anarchista, Dawkinsov miništrant a podobne, podstatná je pointa. Ide mu o vysvetlenie, že rovnak Pri čítaní podobnej knihy nejde o to, súhlasiť s autorom vo všetkom. Skôr o hľadanie nových myšlienok, spôsobu uvažovania. Prípadne starých myšlienok, pospájaných úplne novým spôsobom. A v tom je Ridley stále dobrý, i keď už dávno vykročil za hranice svojho odboru, evolučnej biológie. Napriek tomu, že ho v diskusiách (aj tu na GR) obviňujú, že je - podľa potreby - pravičiar, ľavičiar, konzervatívec i anarchista, Dawkinsov miništrant a podobne, podstatná je pointa. Ide mu o vysvetlenie, že rovnako, ako to, že adaptácie živých organizmov sú zjavne účelné - oko slúži na videnie, mozog na myslenie, krídla na lietanie - ešte neznamená, že boli na tento účel niekým/niečím navrhnuté. Naopak, vznikli bez plánovania, vynorili sa z interakcie nespočetných jednotlivých čiastočiek, jednotlivcov. Evolúcia je slepá, nič nepredvída, nikam nesmeruje, napriek tomu dokáže efektívne riešiť momentálne problémy. Stačí, ak sa jednotky medzi sebou líšia, nie sú rovnaké, ich vlastnosti sa prenášajú na ich "potomkov", a prebieha medzi nimi súťaž, konkurenčný boj.Dnes už tušíme, že aj ľudská kultúra a technológia je pokračovaním evolučných procesov - prirodzeným výberom povstal nielen les, ktorý vidím z jedného okna môjho paneláku: kvetiny, vtáctvo a hmyz v ňom, ale aj vežiaky a za nimi mesto, komíny tovární, nemocnicu a školy, ktoré vidím z druhej izby. Aj to všetko a omnoho viac, povstalo v dôsledku prirodzeného výberu.Ridley preto pokračuje a navrhuje, aby sme nepoužívali kreacionistický prístup nielen v biológii, ale ani v ďalších oblastiach ľudského života. Rovnako, ako sa v prírode vynára organizovanosť, spolupráca, účel zdola, z interakcií miliárd jednotlivcov, nie z vôle nejakého centrálneho plánovača, verí v to, že ani vzdelávanie, štát, ekonomiku či internet nie je schopná riadiť zhora akokoľvek osvietená vláda, komisia, správna rada. Napriek tomu sa môžu postupne organizovať, zlepšovať, hľadať riešenia najlepšie pre daný moment. Musíme im však dať priestor, nezväzovať ich prílišnou reguláciou, dirigizmom.Je na čitateľovi, či s ním bude súhlasiť a čo si z knihy zoberie.
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  • Steklina
    January 1, 1970
    Matt Ridley měl zůstat u toho, co dobře zná a v čem je skvělý, tj. u evoluční biologie. V Evoluci všeho pojednává opravdu téměř o všem, většinou ale povrchně, zjednodušeně, nepoučeně a místy opravdu naivně. Pokud jde o oblasti, kterým aspoň trochu rozumím, tak můžu říct, že se dopouští i faktických chyb (holt si o tom přečetl v knize nějakého diletanta a beze všeho to přebral).
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  • Rodrigo Aragão
    January 1, 1970
    Simply amazing. Mind blowing.
  • Yoan Zapryanov
    January 1, 1970
    Голямо разочарование.Идеята на книгата изглежда много интересна и обещаваща, но всъщност е повтаряне на едно и също нон-стоп: всичко е изградено отдолу-нагоре, а не обратното. Всичко е изградено отдолу-нагоре, а не обратното. Всичко е изградено...Структурата е нула, хронологически е подредена като пълен хаос, който има сигурно някакъв смисъл в главата на автора, но който я е редактирал, никаква работа не е свършил.nope.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    I struggled with this book. I found myself in total disagreement with the author in some chapters and cheering his points in others. Ridley does not fit into our standard left/right or liberal/conservative viewpoints, and he tackles enough controversial topics just about everyone is bound to find something to disagree with. I think it can generate hours of discussion and recommend it to anyone looking for a good book club read or anyone interested in seeing many parts of the world around us in a I struggled with this book. I found myself in total disagreement with the author in some chapters and cheering his points in others. Ridley does not fit into our standard left/right or liberal/conservative viewpoints, and he tackles enough controversial topics just about everyone is bound to find something to disagree with. I think it can generate hours of discussion and recommend it to anyone looking for a good book club read or anyone interested in seeing many parts of the world around us in a new/different perspective. This book seeks to explain numerous and diverse swaths of life thru the lens of evolution. He addresses standard biological evolution (for me the most eye-glazing part), but goes far beyond that in discussing evolution of morality, culture, technology, education, cities, governments, money, the internet, etc. The key take-away is that the organic “bottoms-up” approach to just about everything allows for natural evolution of ideas/policies/practices/groups that results in better ends than can be achieved by “top-down” design and planning. “Far more than we like to admit, the world is to a remarkable extent a self-organizing, self-changing place… This book argues that evolution is happening all around us. It is the best way of understanding how the human world changes, as well as the natural world. Change in human institutions, artifacts and habits is incremental, inexorable and inevitable. It follows a narrative, going from one stage to the next; it creeps rather than jumps; it has its own spontaneous momentum… For far too long we have underestimated the power of spontaneous, organic and constructive change driven from below, in our obsession with designing change from above. Embrace the general theory of evolution. Admit that everything evolves.”My favorite chapter was on the evolution of education and the top down forces that today are resisting further evolution/improvements. The historical view of the origins of our education system were news to me and makes me wonder if we aren’t making some serious errors in our current educational approaches. Here’s one excerpt: ““The real tragedy of nationalized education is how little innovation it has seen… It was these Prussian schools that introduced many of the features we now take for granted. There was teaching by year group rather than by ability, which made sense if the aim was to produce military recruits rather than rounded citizens. There was formal pedagogy, in which children sat at rows of desks in front of standing teachers, rather than, say, walking around together in the ancient Greek fashion. There was the set school day, punctuated by the ringing of bells. There was a predetermined syllabus, rather than open-ended learning. There was the habit of doing several subjects in one day, rather than sticking to one subject for more than a day. These features make sense, argues Davies, if you wish to mould people into suitable recruits for a conscript army to fight Napoleon…”I disagrees most with his assessment of faith and religion, and not surprisingly his off-hand disparagement of the Latter-day Saints. While the point was minor in his overall narrative, he claims, incorrectly, that Joseph Smith didn’t show the gold plates to anyone else, while in fact we know of at least 11 others who signed witness statements that they saw and handled the plates, and none ever recanted their witness. Here’s how the WSJ book reviewer summarized it: “Mr. Ridley’s opus will not be well received by those who believe they are smarter than the masses, who think that most people are not capable of self-governance, who fancy themselves as intelligent social designers, or who simply have a hard time imagining non-command-and-control solutions to problems. Yet there is something profoundly democratic and egalitarian—even anti-elitist—in this bottom-up approach: Everyone can have a role in bringing about change regardless of intelligence, education, family background, socioeconomic class, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other category by which we are wont to divide ourselves. In self-organizing emergent systems anyone can participate and make a difference.”Here are a few other quotes from the book to wet your appetite: “The idea that the State originated to serve any kind of social purpose is completely unhistorical. It originated in conquest and confiscation – that is to say, in crime.’ Perhaps we have left all that behind, and the state is now evolving steadily towards benign and gentle virtue. Perhaps not.“Simultaneous discovery and invention mean that both patents and Nobel Prizes are fundamentally unfair things.”“Our habits and our institutions, from language to cities, are constantly changing, and the mechanism of change turns out to be surprisingly Darwinian: it is gradual, undirected, mutational, inexorable, combinatorial, selective and in some vague sense progressive.”“There are two ways to tell the story of the twentieth century. You can describe a series of wars, revolutions, crises, epidemics, financial calamities. Or you can point to the gentle but inexorable rise in the quality of life of almost everybody on the planet: the swelling of income, the conquest of disease, the disappearance of parasites, the retreat of want, the increasing persistence of peace, the lengthening of life, the advances in technology.”“When I began researching this book I thought of Malthusian theory, eugenics, Nazi genocide and modern population control as separate and distinct episodes in human history. I am no longer so sure. I think there is some persuasive evidence that a direct, if meandering, intellectual thread links the Poor Laws, the Irish famine, the gas chambers of Auschwitz and the one-child policies of Beijing. In all cases, cruelty as policy, based on faulty logic, sprang from a belief that those in power knew best what was good for the vulnerable and weak.”“To put my explanation in its boldest and most surprising form: bad news is manmade, top–down, purposed stuff, imposed on history. Good news is accidental, unplanned, emergent stuff that gradually evolves. The things that go well are largely unintended; the things that go badly are largely intended.”“One huge mistake we all make, one blind spot, it is that we all go around assuming the world is much more of a planned place than it is. As a result, again and again we mistake cause for effect; we blame the sailing boat for the wind, or credit the bystander with causing the event.”Summarizing Adam Smith: “specialization inevitably incentivizes innovation, which is also a collaborative process driven by the exchange and combination of ideas. Indeed, most innovation comes about through the recombination of existing ideas for how to make or organise things. The more people trade and the more they divide labour, the more they are working for each other. The more they work for each other, the higher their living standards. The consequence of the division of labour is an immense web of cooperation among strangers: it turns potential enemies into honorary friends.”“Far from being parasitic exploiters of the workers, most businessmen were innovators looking to outwit their rivals, by doing things better or cheaper, and in doing so they inevitably brought improvements to the living standards of consumers.”“In short, the explosion in sub-prime lending was a thoroughly top–down, political project, mandated by Congress, implemented by government-sponsored enterprises, enforced by the law, encouraged by the president and monitored by pressure groups. Remember this when you hear people blame the free market for the excesses of the sub-prime bubble.”“The elite gets things wrong, says Douglas Carswell in The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy, ‘because they endlessly seek to govern by design a world that is best organized spontaneously from below’. Public policy failures stem from planners’ excessive faith in deliberate design. ‘They consistently underrate the merits of spontaneous, organic arrangements, and fail to recognize that the best plan is often not to have one.”“We are told that we are sinning (by emitting CO2), that we have original sin (human greed), which has banished us from Eden (the pre-industrial world), for which we must confess (by condemning irresponsible consumerism), atone (by paying carbon taxes), repent (insisting that politicians pay lip service to climate-change alarm), and seek salvation (sustainability). The wealthy can buy indulgences (carbon offsets) so as to keep flying their private jets, but none must depart from faith (in carbon dioxide) as set out in scripture (the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). It is the duty of all to condemn heretics (the ‘deniers’), venerate saints (Al Gore), heed the prophets (of the IPCC). If we do not, then surely Judgement Day will find us out (with irreversible tipping points), when we will feel the fires of hell (future heatwaves) and experience divine wrath (worsening storms).”
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