Nature's Magic, first published in 2003, presents a bold vision of the evolutionary process from the Big Bang to the 21st century. Synergy of various kinds is not only a ubiquitous aspect of the natural world but it has also been a wellspring of creativity and the 'driver' of the broad evolutionary trend toward increased complexity, in nature and human societies alike. But in contrast with the many theories of emergence or complexity that rely on some underlying force or 'law', the 'Synergism Hypothesis', as Peter Corning calls it, is in essence an economic theory of biological complexity; it is fully consistent with mainstream evolutionary biology. Corning refers to it as Holistic Darwinism. Among the many important insights that are provided by this new paradigm, Corning presents a scenario in which the human species invented itself; synergistic, behavioral and technological innovations were the 'pacemakers' of our biological evolution. Synergy has also been the key to the evolution of complex modern societies, he concludes.
"If you are under the impression that synergy is not particularly important, just try to tie your shoes with a single hand. The book will appeal to anyone interested in the place of evolutionary thinking in general intellectual culture. It will also be esteemed a particularly valuable contribution to the emerging discipline of bioeconomics."
- Professor Michael Ghiselin, California Academy of Sciences
"'I like this book. It's exciting, well-documented, and well-argued. It's very informative both for professional biologists and well-read lay people; it will change their minds and get them to see synergies everywhere."
- Professor Jack Cohen, Warwick University, author of Figments of Reality, and Evolving the Alien (with Ian Stewart).
"[...] a must for all who are interested in understanding the evolutionary process generally, as well as understanding human evolution and evolutionary perspectives on human behaviour [...] Nature's Magic is one of those rare books that will really make you see reality in a new way."
- TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution
"'Once you start reading this book, you just can't stop until the end [...] Effectively, Corning's fluent writing style and the manner in which he conveys his particular vision of the evolutionary process, from the Big Bang to the current, is definitely captivating."
- Plant Systematics & Evolution
"[...]! this book is a classic [...] there is so much to chew over and consider."
- Systems Research and Behavioral Science
"'Only a scientist as eclectic and versatile as Corning could have conjured the rich panorama of evolution that we get in Nature's Magic. [...] After reading Nature's Magic, we were convinced that Peter Corning had delivered on his promise to show why the concept of synergy is so fundamentally important in the scheme of things, and how it has played a causal role in evolution. [...] We congratulate both the author and the publisher for a job well done."
- Cybernetics and Human Knowing
"'Nature's Magic is a pleasant mix of mysticism and science. Corning provides the reader with a feeling of reverence for the 'magic' of nature yet at the same time explores the various research agendas that attempt to explain many natural phenomena! Nature's Magic is packed full of current research topics. For someone wishing to get a broad sense of the current state of science, Nature's Magic provides it."
- Artificial Life
"Corning's book is a masterpeice of integrating the most far-reaching facts and theories of evolutionary biology and applying them with finesse to a variety of social phenomena [...] the most intriguing chapter in Nature's Magic is the last one, titled 'Conjuring the Future' [...] Dramatic environmental change, complex technologies, and institutions for social cohesion can destroy as well as create. Corning's final message is that if the current world system is to survive we must understand the negative as well as the positive forces of synergy [...] Peter Corning has written a delightful and profound book about the human species. It should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the exciting field of social evolution and in the possibilities for human cultural evolution in the 21st century."
- Journal of Bioeconomics
1. Prologue: the new evolutionary paradigm
2. The Enchanted Loom
3. The Magic Castle
4. Black Magic
5. The Synergism Hypothesis
6. The 'Sorcerer's Apprentice'
7. Conjuring human evolution: the synergistic ape
8. Conjuring history: does cultural evolution have an 'arrow'?
9. The science of history
10. Conjuring the future: what can we predict?
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Peter Corning is the Director of the Institute for the Study of Complex Systems, Palo Alto, California.