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At Home in the Universe: The Search for the…

At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and… (original 1995; edition 1996)

by Stuart Kauffman

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8291016,336 (3.88)6
Title:At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity
Authors:Stuart Kauffman
Info:Oxford University Press, USA (1996), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

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At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity by Stuart Kauffman (1995)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
I have learned a lot from this book. ( )
  parp | Aug 29, 2016 |
August science group discussion - no ILL, but does look way cool.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
I think I should have picked up Reinventing the Sacred instead, as a recent interview shows Kauffman's thinking has gotten deeper and more critical about the problem of scientific reductionism and the problem of mechanistic models in the life sciences. But there are useful ideas here, laying the foundations of the work he's known for now. For example, "order for free," the tendency of systems at a certain level of complexity to become self-organizing, or auto-catalytic, as he calls it. His understanding that living systems are open-ended, non-linear and non-equilibrium means they cannot be fully explained by the reduction of biology to chemistry, and chemistry to physics, as in the old school model. (As a consequence, this also means that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics has little application to them - overall they tend to build order up rather than diminish it.) And the idea that evolution thrives on the "edge of chaos" is another interesting one - certainly western artists have borne this one out...

When he went into Game Theory and liberal economic paradigms as an extension of his ideas about biology and evolution, he lost me. In the last 20 years it's become painfully clear that they are the constructs of an expansionist Western mindset that is too rapidly piling up corpses, extinctions, and exhausted ecosystems to be taken seriously as a model for the future. So I'm hoping he's a little clearer on that now too.

( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
This is an incredibly beautiful and fascinating book.

Similarities between biological and technological processes, auto-catalytic sets as a means for explaining complexity - founding a new subset of the theory of evolution - incredibly interesting ideas. I'm swimming in these beautiful thoughts. I'll have to write a better review later.

It's very complex (har har har) but revolutionary. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Stuart Kauffman elucidates his ideas about the principle of self-organization, in which large systems can spontaneously arrange themselves into surprisingly ordered and complex states. The general principles, as Kauffman presents them, seem to involve a lot of the mathematics of networks, with a bit of chaos theory thrown in. Mostly he concentrates on the biological sciences, though he also dabbles a tiny bit in the social sciences toward the end. Major topics include the development of cells in embryos, the patterns of evolution, and a possible mechanism for the origin of life. Unfortunately, I don't feel like I really have the tools necessary to evaluate the specifics of his arguments properly. My knowledge of organic chemistry, for instance, is just not good enough for me to be able to tell whether the assumptions and simplifications he makes about autocatalytic enzymes are reasonable or ridiculous. But most of what he has to say does sound very plausible, or at least very promising. Of course, this book was first published in 1995, so for all I know it's all a bit dated by now.

I do have to say, though, that something about Kauffman's writing rubs me the wrong way a little. I think it's mainly how he tends to intersperse careful scientific/mathematical analysis written in a slightly dry but serviceable style with occasional passages of poetic-bordering-on-pretentious prose in which he almost seems to be evangelizing his approach as if it were a religion. The thing is, I don't even really disagree with what he has to say in those sections. If his hypothesis on the subject is correct, then life is a very common and natural process in the universe, and that's an emotionally profound thought. But, you know, it's one thing to be pleased by the possible philosophical implications of your ideas, and another to be over-invested in them as sources of some kind of spiritual comfort. And while I doubt it's entirely true, Kauffman does give off a slight vibe of the latter, which causes skeptical alarm bells to ring faintly in my head. ( )
1 vote bragan | Nov 9, 2011 |
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Out my window, just west of Santa Fe, lies the near spiritual landscape of northern New Mexico - barrancas, mesas, holy lands, the Rio Grande - home to the oldest civilization in North America.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0195111303, Paperback)

The best treatment I have yet encountered about how order emerges naturally -- and possibly even necessarily -- out of chaos. Profoundly important, and considerably more informed than better-known pop-science treatments of chaos theory. Very highly recommended.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:58 -0400)

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