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The Evolution of Everything
Cover of The Evolution of Everything
The Evolution of Everything
How New Ideas Emerge
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The New York Times bestselling author of The Rational Optimist and Genome returns with a fascinating argument for evolution that definitively dispels a dangerous, widespread myth: that we can command and control our world.

Human society evolves. Change in technology, language, morality, and society is incremental, inexorable, gradual, and spontaneous. It follows a narrative, going from one stage to the next; it creeps rather than jumps; it has its own spontaneous momentum rather than being driven from outside; it has no goal or end in mind; and it largely happens by trial and error—a version of natural selection. Much of the human world is the result of human action but not of human design: it emerges from the interactions of millions, not from the plans of a few.

Drawing on fascinating evidence from science, economics, history, politics, and philosophy, Matt Ridley demolishes conventional assumptions that the great events and trends of our day are dictated by those on high, whether in government, business, academia, or organized religion. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the bottom up. Just as skeins of geese form Vs in the sky without meaning to and ter-mites build mud cathedrals without architects, so brains take shape without brain-makers, learning happens without teaching, and morality changes for no reason other than the prevailing fashion. Although we neglect, defy, and ignore them, bottom-up trends shape the world. The Industrial Revolution, cell phones, the rise of Asia, and the Internet were never planned; they happened. Languages emerged and evolved by a form of natural selection, as did common law. Torture, racism, slavery, and pedophilia—all once widely regarded as acceptable—are now seen as immoral despite the decline of religion in recent decades. In this wide-ranging and erudite book, Ridley brilliantly makes the case for evolution, rather than design, as the force that has shaped much of our culture, our technology, our minds, and that even now is shaping our future.

As compelling as it is controversial, as authoritative as it is ambitious, Ridley's deeply thought-provoking book will change the way we think about the world and how it works.

The New York Times bestselling author of The Rational Optimist and Genome returns with a fascinating argument for evolution that definitively dispels a dangerous, widespread myth: that we can command and control our world.

Human society evolves. Change in technology, language, morality, and society is incremental, inexorable, gradual, and spontaneous. It follows a narrative, going from one stage to the next; it creeps rather than jumps; it has its own spontaneous momentum rather than being driven from outside; it has no goal or end in mind; and it largely happens by trial and error—a version of natural selection. Much of the human world is the result of human action but not of human design: it emerges from the interactions of millions, not from the plans of a few.

Drawing on fascinating evidence from science, economics, history, politics, and philosophy, Matt Ridley demolishes conventional assumptions that the great events and trends of our day are dictated by those on high, whether in government, business, academia, or organized religion. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the bottom up. Just as skeins of geese form Vs in the sky without meaning to and ter-mites build mud cathedrals without architects, so brains take shape without brain-makers, learning happens without teaching, and morality changes for no reason other than the prevailing fashion. Although we neglect, defy, and ignore them, bottom-up trends shape the world. The Industrial Revolution, cell phones, the rise of Asia, and the Internet were never planned; they happened. Languages emerged and evolved by a form of natural selection, as did common law. Torture, racism, slavery, and pedophilia—all once widely regarded as acceptable—are now seen as immoral despite the decline of religion in recent decades. In this wide-ranging and erudite book, Ridley brilliantly makes the case for evolution, rather than design, as the force that has shaped much of our culture, our technology, our minds, and that even now is shaping our future.

As compelling as it is controversial, as authoritative as it is ambitious, Ridley's deeply thought-provoking book will change the way we think about the world and how it works.

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About the Author-
  • Matt Ridley is the award-winning, bestselling author of several books, including The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves; Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters; and The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. His books have sold more than one million copies in thirty languages worldwide. He writes regularly for The Times (London) and The Wall Street Journal, and is a member of the House of Lords. He lives in England.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 6, 2015
    Working from the idea that evolution is “happening all around us” and is “the best way of understanding how the human world changes, as well as the natural world,” Ridley (The Rational Optimist) looks at how numerous facets of society and nature develop and change over time. “Evolution is far more common, and far more influential, than most people recognize,” he says. The book’s primary argument is that, more often than not, there is no rational mind or organized decision-making behind the development of common concepts or widespread phenomena, but an unconscious reaction to an immense variety of factors. “The genome has no master gene, the brain has no command center, the English language has no director, the economy has no chief executive,” he states. Ridley observes this principle in culture, government, and technology. There’s a lot of information to work through, but the reasoning is sound and arguments are well-supported with historical precedent and general observation. While the premise may not sit well with everyone, Ridley provides enough evidence to support his claims and generate no shortage of debate. Agent: Peter Ginsberg, Curtis Brown.

  • Library Journal

    June 15, 2015

    A New York Times best-selling science writer with best book nods from the Los Angeles Times and the National Academies of Science--and a viscount to boot--Ridley argues that ideas aren't designed, then signed, sealed, and delivered by authoritative sources. Instead, they rise like bubbles from the bottom up, twisting and turning into view as a pattern finally emerges. Morality, culture, the economy, personality, history, God--all are endlessly evolving.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • New York Times Book Review "A highly intelligent and bracingly iconoclastic view of the world. It forces us to see life through new eyes."
  • Wall Street Journal "This penetrating book is Mr. Ridley's best and most important work to date...there is something profoundly democratic and egalitarian-even anti-elitist-in this bottom-up approach: Everyone can have a role in bringing about change."
  • Washington Times "An exceptional book: exceptionally easy to read, easy to understand, easy to appreciate...Of the many good general texts on the subject, THE EVOLUTION OF EVERYTHING emerges as the fittest to champion the case for the ubiquity of evolution."
  • The Times (Saturday Review) "A compelling argument...a fascinating work...The way the book frames the argument is delightfully novel...Ridley has amassed such a weight of fascinating evidence and anecdote that the pages fly by."
  • London Sunday Times "Ridley is a provocative, occasionally pugnacious writer and his book is intriguing and artfully argued."
  • New Scientist "Highly readable, invariably interesting...Ridley's laudable aim is to disenthrall us of our intuitive creationism and make us see evolution at work everywhere...Ridley succeeds in spades...He possesses the rare power to see the world in a different light - one made not by great men or women but by undirected, incremental change."
  • Booklist (starred review) "Ridley shows how hard it has been for even the most definite evolutionists to fully abandon the notion of a guiding intelligence...Yet that is what the hard evidence...that Ridley adduces in every chapter compels us all to do."
  • Kirkus, starred review "An ingenious study...fascinating...thought-provoking...difficult to put down."
  • Library Journal "Impressive...Readers of evolutionary theory, sociology, history, anthropology and philosophy shall be highly entertained by this thought-provoking read."
  • Stewart Brand, Author, Whole Earth Discipline "Building on the timeless insights of Lucretius, Ridley examines how civilization inexorably organizes itself. Wrong-headed social theories, he and Lucretius agree, just get in the way."
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How New Ideas Emerge
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