This highly interdisciplinary book discusses the phenomenon of life, including its origin and evolution, against the background of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Among the central themes is the seeming contradiction between the second law of thermodynamics and the high degree of order and complexity produced by living systems. As the author shows, this paradox has its resolution in the information content of the Gibbs free energy that enters the biosphere from outside sources. Another focus of the book is the role of information in human cultural evolution, which is also discussed with the origin of human linguistic abilities. One of the final chapters addresses the merging of information technology and biotechnology into a new discipline – bioinformation technology. This third edition has been updated to reflect the latest scientific and technological advances. Professor Avery makes use of the perspectives of famous scholars such as Professor Noam Chomsky and Nobel Laureates John O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edward Moser to cast light on the evolution of human languages. The mechanism of cell differentiation, and the rapid acceleration of information technology in the 21st century are also discussed. With various research disciplines becoming increasingly interrelated today, Information Theory and Evolution provides nuance to the conversation between bioinformatics, information technology, and pertinent social-political issues. This book is a welcome voice in working on the future challenges that humanity will face as a result of scientific and technological progress.
Front Matter i–xii
Chapter 1. Pioneers of Evolutionary Thought 1–13
Chapter 2. Charles Darwin’s Life and Work 15–37
Chapter 3. Molecular Biology and Evolution 39–78
Chapter 4. Statistical Mechanics and Information 79–101
Chapter 5. Information Flow in Biology 103–117
Chapter 6. Cultural Evolution and Information 119–149
Chapter 7. Information Technology 151–189
Chapter 8. Pathfinding 191–199
Chapter 9. The Evolution of Human Languages 201–211
Chapter 10. The Mechanism of Cell Differentiation 213–217
Chapter 11. Bio-Information Technology 219–252
Chapter 12. Looking Towards the Future 253–265
Back Matter 299–316
"This marvelous book distills diverse knowledge streams into a single coherent scientific narrative explaining the immense diversity of life forms and, even more importantly, of human societies. Lightened by anecdotes and titbits of history, it tells how energy and entropy inexorably drive biological and social evolution from simplicity towards complexity. Through a much-needed gentle introduction to information theory and thermodynamics, success is related to knowledge generation and directing its flow. But global civilization – or what the author calls a human superorganism – may have succeeded too well and so imperiled its own survival. The recommended course corrections are just as important as the rest of the book."
– Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan
"Fascinating new primary sources bring John Scales Avery's book Information Theory and Evolution, in third edition. His book builds from Charles Darwin's studies, molecular biology, and thermodynamics. The third edition adds six chapters. Accelerating computation develops Wikipedia and Google effective search engines. A new chapter, The Evolution of Human Languages, comes from world-famous linguistic scientist, Noam Chomsky. He asserts that humans acquired their astonishing linguistic abilities quite suddenly, quite against Darwin. The last chapter, Looking Towards the Future, Avery points to serious problems, especially the threat of catastrophic climate change."
– Prof Dudley Herschbach, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 1986, Harvard University, USA