Nature’s Magic: Synergy in Evolution and the Fate of Humankind. Peter Corning. Cambridge University Press.

Nature's Magic: Synergy in Evolution and the Fate of Humankind Book Cover Nature's Magic: Synergy in Evolution and the Fate of Humankind
Peter Corning
Cambridge University Press
May 5, 2003

Nature’s Magic presents a bold new 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. The final chapter addresses our current challenges and future prospects.

Peter Corning’s varied career has included a tour as a naval aviator, a stint in journalism as a science writer for Newsweek, a Ph.D. in the social sciences, post-doctoral training and research in biology and behavioral genetics, several years of teaching in Stanford University’s interdisciplinary human biology program, and broad private-sector experience as a senior partner in a Silicon Valley consulting firm. Currently Director of the Institute for the Study of Complex Systems, Dr. Corning is a member of several scientific organizations and a past president of the International Society for Systems Sciences. He has also published more than 150 professional articles and three previous books and is widely known for his work on the role of synergy as a causal agency in evolution.