Book of the Week: The Evolution of Everything – Matt Ridley

Agree or disagree with his arguments, Ridley is always among the most consistently interesting “big think” writers around. He is perhaps best known for his award winning and bestselling Genome. But the scope of his work goes way beyond science writing. His last book, The Rational Optimist, made the provocative and contrarian argument that the human condition is improving. The NYT called it “a grand unified theory of history from the Stone Age to the better age awaiting us in 2010. It’s an audacious task, but he has the intellectual breadth for it.” Mark Zuckerberg included both these books in Facebook’s “Year of Books” initiative.

Ridley’s newest book sets out to prove that bottom-up evolution trumps top-down directives as the primary agent of change in almost every type of human organization—be it government, business, academia, even morality. An impressively wide-ranging and opinionated thinker, Ridley draws on examples from science, economics, history, politics and philosophy to make his case.

A serialization of The Evolution of Everything starts this week in the WSJ. Reviews are scheduled for the NYTBR, The National Review, Science Magazine and Reason.

Ridley 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…. [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.”
Publishers Weekly

An ingenious study…fascinating…thought-provoking…difficult to put down.”
Kirkus (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.”
Booklist (starred 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.”
The Times (Saturday Review)

The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge (9780062296009) by Matt Ridley. $28.95 hardcover. 11/3/15 on sale.

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