The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex

The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex

The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex

The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex

Synopsis

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

Excerpt

This book began as an attempt to reify the concept of emergence by finding observed examples and looking for defining features and similarities. The emphasis was on emergences in nature as distinguished from the examples that can be generated almost without limit in computer modeling of complex systems. Rather than selecting cases at random, I chose a set that constituted a temporal array from the beginnings of the known universe to the most human of activities. These were somewhat arbitrarily divided into 28 cases. The intent was a more detailed view of the character of each emergence.

While pondering the cases I had chosen, I continued to peruse the journals Science and Nature. Almost every week I found at least one paper of significance in exploring one or more emergences. It became clear that the original goal was too ambitious. The detailed analysis of each emergence, while desirable, was far too unrealistic. I decided to settle for a broader view and try to get the “big picture” of emergences. Therefore, I apologize to the experts for such a fleeting view of each example. I am reminded of Herman Melville's description of his system of cetology: “The whole book is but a draft—nay, but the draft of a draft.”

We are clearly at the beginning of viewing science from the new perspective of emergence. I believe that it will provide insights into the evolutionary unfolding of our universe, our solar system, our biota, and our humanity. This essay is to introduce some of the concepts that are coming into focus. The outlook is largely scientific, but certain more philosophical and theological elements keep appearing. I offer no apology. I have a deep belief in monism, a world ultimately comprehended by a unified path of . . .

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