The main idea of this book is that evolution is not something limited to survival of biological entities after their change via random modifications in DNA, but rather all encompassing process covering existence, change, and development of all known entities including human cultures. This process occurs slightly differently and at different speed in various areas, but the logic of the process is always the same: maintenance of somewhat wide variety of features and processes in stable environment with survival of only part of them when environment changes significantly enough for the least consistent with new environment entities not to be able to reproduce themselves, resulting in the next generation’s range of features being shifted to fit the new environment.
Prologue: The General Theory of Evolution
Here author discusses application of evolutionary principles to society, culture, and history overall, concluding that it all is result of human actions, but not human planning, therefore being driven more by evolutionary processes than by intelligent design of geniuses and great individuals. This book is pretty much review of various areas of human knowledge and activities demonstrating consistent movement of ideas away from skyhook (intelligent design explanations) to cranes (evolutionary processes occurring without any plan and/or intelligent design).
1 The Evolution of the Universe
This is a brief review of development of human knowledge and understanding of physical world around them that starting with Lucretius and centuries later promoted by Newton removed one by one skyhooks of supreme intelligence in its explanation and modeling, resulting in human ability dramatically change world via application of technology.
2 The Evolution of Morality
This is about evolution of morality from set of rules allegedly established by superior being to its understanding as set of rules established by people with consequent ability to change morality dramatically for example from rejection of homosexuality to rejection of individuals who refuse accept homosexuality within one generation. There is also interesting discussion of common law which is defining lives of people in Anglo-Saxon cultures to much higher extent than formal laws establish by written codes. It is reviewed in contrast to French driven cultures of continental Europe where written code rules supreme.
3 The Evolution of Life
This is a brief look at development of ideas of evolutionary biology with main protagonists being Darwin, Gould, Dawkins, and Wallace. It has somewhat interesting point at the end of chapter that we are probably on the brink of switch to culture driven genetic evolution when human would be able to chose and design biological features of their children.
4 The Evolution of Genes
This is discussion of genetic evolution including our limited understanding of genes working. Especially interesting point is that what was considered a junk DNA just a dozen years ago looks more and more as quite functional part of the biological processes. It also points to the new understanding of dynamics of gene expression that links nature and nurture in way unimaginable before, making this old dispute practically meaningless.
5 The Evolution of Culture
This is a look at human evolution in cultures going through specific points: evolutions of language, cities, marriage, and institutions overall.
6 The Evolution of the Economy
In discussion of evolution of economy author seems to be inclined to support “invisible hand” set of views proposed by Adam Smith. Authors even calls him Adam Darwin to stress the idea that market economy is evolutionary process that is moving with lightening speed driven by changes in consumer needs and wishes. Author’s example from history of friendly societies providing medical services versus national healthcare provided by Leviathan correctly points to deficiencies of Leviathan’s services, but does not look at reasons of why inferior solution won handedly in Europe and made huge gains in USA over the last century.
7 The Evolution of Technology.
The chapter on technology is somewhat surprising because it avoids enumeration of technology achievements, but rather looks at link between technology and science finding that it is technology and human needs driving science, including fundamental science, not other way around as we all taught at school. It is supported by research and just plain observation that government spending of public money did not produce that many benefits, but rather starved real science of resources.
8 The Evolution of the Mind
This chapter is about development of ideas about human mind or more specifically about mind vs. body. It goes thru ideas of Spinoza and idea of little homunculus in the head representing self then moving all the way to current understanding of neural networks. Strangely enough it also discusses issue of determination vs. free will despite what seems to be a logical inference from neural network model – it is as meaningless question as nature vs. nurture.
9 The Evolution of Personality
This chapter somewhat based on work of Judith Harris on twins and traces evolution of attitudes in human behavior in such key areas as violence and sexuality. The key here is practical decline of social, cultural, and paternal determinism in human behavior that is crowded out by individual freedom as dominant cultural feature.
10 The Evolution of Education
The chapter on education traces evolution of contemporary education thru Prussian militarized system design to condition individuals for role as soldiers and little cogs in industrial machine to its current mainly dysfunctional state as system serving mainly to transfer resources via government violence from productive people to educational bureaucrats. It ends with clear statement of hope that it will evolve in something more meaningful.
11 The Evolution of Population
Here author analyses evolution of attitudes to population growth starting with Malthusian fear of mass starvation, which, while rendered definitely wrong by advances agricultural productivity and changes in cultural attitudes, still serve as a great source of income go governmental “scientists”. Then it goes on discussing tragedies of implementation population growth restrictions in totalitarian China and quasi-democratic third world caused by uncritical attitude of elites in these countries to theories promoted by governmental “scientists” of the West. Luckily for the people of Western democratic countries their elite has not enough political power to cause similar damage to them.
12 The Evolution of Leadership
This chapter traces evolution of management and leadership from general believes in top down management and leadership by great individuals to amazing fact that economy prospers and any population does much better overall when there is little if any centralized control and individuals free to act doing whatever they need to improve their lives on their own. The great example reviewed is Hong Cong vs. Mainland China.
13 The Evolution of Government
This is a very brief of ideological history of evolution of attitudes to government that is still in the middle of struggle between various forms of fascism including liberal fascism that look at government as supreme being capable to solve all problems and more libertarian / American Conservative approach that looks at government as necessary evil that should be limited to areas where use of violence is necessary. There is an interesting reference to research on nature of government as violent machine of order based on gang development in American prisons.
14 The Evolution of Religion
This chapter looks at religious ideologies as a powerful explanatory tool that helps handle multiple unknowns in human live and cope with their consequences. There is nice touch about climate change god currently worshipped by elite in developed countries.
15 The Evolution of Money.
This chapter on money nature and evolution discusses successful system of Scottish system of independent free market money issue that provide high levels of monetary stability from 1716 to 1844 when Scotts were forced to move to British currency. It is obvious that in XIX and XX centuries monetary system went through development of central banking in practically all developed country with hugely detrimental consequences for economy. Author discusses inferiority of central banking and expresses hopes that new mobile electronic money would help to overcome the current monetary problems.
16 The Evolution of the Internet
This is discussion of Internet evolution with stress on development of block chains and history of Bitcoins.
Epilogue: The Evolution of the Future
Author seems to believe that future as well as past belongs to evolutionary processes in all areas and creationists of all shades from religious Supernaturalists to central planners have very little ability to influence it. Obviously they still have a lot of coercive power, but it is a far cry from levels of power they held in the past.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I also believe in evolutionary self-development of everything so this book is a nice confirmation to my approach, which is a good thing. However I think that struggle is far from over and we’ll have decades, but not centuries fighting creationists of all sorts. The reason for this is human nature we have as hunter-gatherers highly dependent on environment with little to none ability to influence it so we always needed help of gods or great leaders to cope with it. Luckily we now have so much more technology and knowledge that we becoming quite good in handling environment so, I believe after some time of getting used to it, the vast majority of people will come to conclusion that we do not need creationist method of thinking anymore.