At Home in the Universe - Stuart Kauffman
This is an astonishing book which explores the nature of self organising processes and their role in the origins of life. At it’s heart is a profound question. ‘Is life and humankind the product of an incredibly luck and unlikely accident, or is humankind the natural product of order emerging from chaos.
Stuart Kaufman has an engaging style and an enviable talent for illuminating and explaining ideas which might otherwise be impenetrable.
He constructs a powerful case for the emergence of order from seeming chaos, and challenges some of our most basic scientific beliefs. He begins with the second law of thermodynamics which defines entropy as a measure of disorder that is claimed to always increase. Yet as he writes these words he looks from his window and all he can see is order, lovely order.
From this simple starting point he begins an exploration of the limitations in adequately explaining the world we experience, of a scientific mindset framed by Newtonian thinking. Kaufman constructs a compelling case that the belief in a controllable ‘clockwork universe’ is inadequate.
He explores a wide range of examples of self-organisation and with his biological background homes in one of the most intriguing examples, ‘Ontology’ the process by which a single cell repeatedly subdivides and creates the complex structure of a creature such as you or I.
I think I wrote more notes reading this book than any other. It covers some complex ground but whenever the going began to become challenging he would revert to a simple illustration to bring a new concept into focus.
An absolutely stunning book. Highly recommended.