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Holistic Darwinism

Synergy, Cybernetics, and the Bioeconomics of Evolution

Holistic Darwinism

Synergy, Cybernetics, and the Bioeconomics of Evolution

In recent years, evolutionary theorists have come to recognize that the reductionist, individualist, gene-centered approach to evolution cannot sufficiently account for the emergence of complex biological systems over time. Peter A. Corning has been at the forefront of a new generation of complexity theorists who have been working to reshape the foundations of evolutionary theory. Well known for his Synergism Hypothesis—a theory of complexity in evolution that assigns a key causal role to various forms of functional synergy—Corning puts this theory into a much broader framework in Holistic Darwinism, addressing many of the issues and concepts associated with the evolution of complex systems. Corning’s paradigm embraces and integrates many related theoretical developments of recent years, from multilevel selection theory to niche construction theory, gene-culture coevolution theory, and theories of self-organization. Offering new approaches to thermodynamics, information theory, and economic analysis, Corning suggests how all of these domains can be brought firmly within what he characterizes as a post–neo-Darwinian evolutionary synthesis.

504 pages | 9 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Biological Sciences: Evolutionary Biology, Natural History

Philosophy: Philosophy of Society


“Corning’s book is a masterpiece of synthesizing the most far-reaching facts and theories of evolutionary biology (and many other fields) and applying them with finesse to a variety of social phenomena. This book is a challenging and path-breaking contribution.”

John Gowdy, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

“This is an exceptionally ambitious and important book that proposes to change the way most of us have thought about ‘Darwinism’ and evolutionary processes. Corning achieves this goal in many ways, but most effectively by integrating both his own diverse work in recent years and citation of just about everyone who has played a major role in scholarly dialogue on evolutionary biology and behavior over the last generation.”

Roger D. Masters, Dartmouth College

“An extraordinary tour-de-force.”

Anthony Trewavas FRS, FRSE, Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh

"Seen as an exploration of the economy of nature and as a challenge to Neo-Darwinism, Holistic Darwinism articulates an alternative that is both broadly convincing and attractive. The collaborative dimension of evolutionary processes has suffered from a poor conceptualization and I see Holistic Darwinism as an important step forward in getting it right."

Max Boiset | E:CO

"There is clearly a vast amount of challenging and valuable material here and this will certainly be a standard text among biologists, sociologists and economists. It is clearly and entertainingly written, without any mathematics but with precise and careful reasoning."

Alex Andrew | Kybernetes

"[A] fascinating book on evolution, in which [Corning] uses synergy, cybernetics, and the bioeconomics of complex systems as his organizing principless."

Mike Knight | PsycCritiques

"All [of the chapters] are important building blocks in setting up the theoretical structure of this new paradigm. A very illuminating read!"

Biology Digest

Table of Contents

Part I - Synergy and Evolution: From the Origins of Life to Global Governance
1. Synergy: Another Idea Whose Time Has Come?
2. Holistic Darwinism: Synergistic Selection and the Evolutionary Process
3. The Synergism Hypothesis: On the Concept of Synergy and Its Role in the Evolution of Complex Systems
4. Synergy versus Self-Organization in the Evolution of Complex Systems
5. The Re-Emergence of Emergence: A Venerable Concept in Search of a Theory
6. Synergy, Cybernetics, and the Evolution of Politics
7. Devolution as an Opportunity to Test the Synergism Hypothesis and the Cybernetic Theory of Political Systems
8. Synergy and the Evolution of Superorganisms: Past, Present, and Future
Part II - Bioeconomics and Evolution
9. Evolutionary Economics: Metaphor or Unifying Paradigm?
10. Bioeconomics as a Subversive Science
11. Biological Adaptation in Human Sciences: A Basic Needs Approach
Part III - From Thermodynamics and Information Theory to Thermoeconomics and Control Information
12. To Be or Entropy: Thermodynamics, Information, and Life Revisited
13. Thermoeconomics: Beyond the Second Law
14. Control Information: The Missing Element in Norbert Wiener’s Cybernetic Paradigm?
Part IV: Evolution and Ethics
15. Evolutionary Ethics: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?
16. The Sociobiology of Democracy: Is Authoritarianism in Our Genes?
17. Fair Shares: A Biological Approach to Social Justice

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