LIFE

Part Four WHAT WAS DARWIN'S ALGORITHM?

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The synthetic path to investigating the world is the logical space occupied by the physicist Murray Gell-Mann, the biologist Stuart Kauffman, the computer scientist Christopher G. Langton, and the physicist J. Doyne Farmer, and their colleagues in and around Los Alamos and the Santa Fe Institute.

The Santa Fe Institute was founded in 1984 by a group that included Gell-Mann, then at the California Institute of Technology, and the Los Alamos chemist George Cowan. Some say it came into being as a haven for bored physicists. Indeed, the end of the reductionist program in physics may well be an epistemological demise, in which the ultimate question is neither asked nor answered but instead the terms of the inquiry are transformed. This is what is happening in Santa Fe.

Chapter 19 "PLECTICS"

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J. Doyne Farmer: The first thing that makes me respect Murray is that unlike all his contemporaries, including Feynman, Weinberg, Hawking, and all the other particle physicists, he saw that complexity is the next big problem. The kind of breakthroughs he made in the early 1960s in terms of impact on the world of science are not going to get made in that domain, they are going to get made in this domain. Murray recognized that, and has become more than just conversant with what's going on and with what the problems are.

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MURRAY GELL-MANN is a theoretical physicist; Robert Andrews Millikan Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology; winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics; a cofounder of the Santa Fe Institute, where he is a professor and cochairman of the science board; a director of the J.D. and C.T. MacArthur Foundation; one of the Global Five Hundred honored by the U.N. Environment Program; a member of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology; author of The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex (1994).

Murray Gell-Man's Edge Bio Page

Chapter 12 "THE EMERGENT SELF"

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Stuart Kauffman: Francisco Varela is amazingly inventive, freewheeling, and creative. There's a lot of depth in what he and Humberto Maturana have said. Conversely, from the point of view of a tied-down molecular biologist, this is all airy-fairy, flaky stuff. Thus there's the mixed response. That part of me that's tough-minded and critical is questioning, but the other part of me has cottoned on to the recent stuff he's doing on self- representation in immune networks. I love it.

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FRANCISCO VARELA is a biologist; director of research at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, and professor of cognitive science and epistemology at the École Polytechnique, in Paris; author of Principles of Biological Autonomy (1979); coauthor with Humberto D. Maturana of Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living (1980) and The Tree of Knowledge (1987), and with Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch of The Embodied Mind (1992).

Francisco Varela's Edge Bio Page

Chapter 7 "GAIA IS A TOUGH BITCH"

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Richard Dawkins: I greatly admire Lynn Margulis's sheer courage and stamina in sticking by the endosymbiosis theory, and carrying it through from being an unorthodoxy to an orthodoxy. I'm referring to the theory that the eukaryotic cell is a symbiotic union of primitive prokaryotic cells. This is one of the great achievements of twentieth-century evolutionary biology, and I greatly admire her for it.

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LYNN MARGULIS is a biologist; Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; author of The Origin of Eukaryotic Cells (1970), Early Life (1981), and Symbiosis in Cell Evolution (2d ed., 1993). She is also the coauthor, with Karlene V. Schwartz, of Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth (2d ed., 1988) and with Dorion Sagan of Microcosmos (1986), Origins Of Sex (1986), and Mystery Dance (1991). 

Lynn Margulis's Edge Bio Page

Chapter 5 "WHY IS THERE SO MUCH GENETIC DIVERSITY"

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Stephen Jay Gould: I like Steve Jones' work. I've read most of his scientific papers. I work on pulmonate snails, and he's one of the best in this little field. I don't know him very well. He's a very good scientist. He's followed the path of a media person, but in my professional world — snail biology — his science is very good.

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STEVE JONES is a biologist; professor of genetics at the Galton Laboratory of University College London; author of The Language of the Genes: Biology, History, and the Evolutionary Future (1993); coeditor (with Robert Martin and David Pilbeam) of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution (1992).

Steve Jones' Edge Bio Page

Chapter 3 "A SURVIVAL MACHINE"

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W. Daniel Hillis: Notions like Selfish Genes, memes, and extended phenotypes are powerful and exciting. They make me think differently. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time arguing against people who have overinterpreted these ideas. They're too easily misunderstood as explaining more than they do. So you see, this Dawkins is a dangerous guy. Like Marx. Or Darwin.

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RICHARD DAWKINS is an evolutionary biologist; reader in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University; Fellow of New College; author of The Selfish Gene (1976, 2d ed. 1989), The Extended Phenotype (1982), The Blind Watchmaker (1986), River out of Eden (1995), and Climbing Mount Improbable (1996).

Richard Dawkins' Edge Bio Page

Chapter 1 "A PACKAGE OF INFORMATION"

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Chapter 1
GEORGE C. WILLIAMS
"A Package of Information"

Niles Eldredge: I remember the English evolutionary geneticist John Maynard Smith remarking to me that he was astonished to find out that George Williams wasn't in our National Academy. Williams finally got elected in 1993. When I visited him in Stony Brook in the mid 1980s, he told me he was having a hard time getting grant support for his research, and I couldn't believe that. The two thoughts converged, because George really is the most important thinker in evolutionary biology in the United States since the 1959 Darwin centennial. It's astonishing that he hasn't gotten more credit and acclaim. He's a shy guy, but a very nice guy, and a very deep and a very careful thinker. I admire him tremendously, even though we've been arguing back and forth for years now.

GEORGE C. WILLIAMS is an evolutionary biologist; professor emeritus of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook; author of Adaptation and Natural Selection: A Critique of Some Current Evolutionary Thought (1966), Sex and Evolution(1975), Natural Selection: Domains, Levels, and Challenges (1992), (with Randolph Nesse, M.D.) Why We Get Sick (1995), and The Ponyfish's Glow: and Other Clues to Plan and Purpose in Nature (1997).

George C. Williams' Edge Bio page

Part One THE EVOLUTIONARY IDEA

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Part One
THE EVOLUTIONARY IDEA


Chapter 1
GEORGE C. WILLIAMS
"A Package of Information"

Niles Eldredge: I remember the English evolutionary geneticist John Maynard Smith remarking to me that he was astonished to find out that George Williams wasn't in our National Academy. Williams finally got elected in 1993. When I visited him in Stony Brook in the mid 1980s, he told me he was having a hard time getting grant support for his research, and I couldn't believe that. The two thoughts converged, because George really is the most important thinker in evolutionary biology in the United States since the 1959 Darwin centennial. It's astonishing that he hasn't gotten more credit and acclaim. He's a shy guy, but a very nice guy, and a very deep and a very careful thinker. I admire him tremendously, even though we've been arguing back and forth for years now.

GEORGE C. WILLIAMS is an evolutionary biologist; professor emeritus of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook; author of Adaptation and Natural Selection: A Critique of Some Current Evolutionary Thought (1966), Sex and Evolution (1975), Natural Selection: Domains, Levels, and Challenges (1992), (with Randolph Nesse, M.D.) Why We Get Sick (1995), and The Ponyfish's Glow: and Other Clues to Plan and Purpose in Nature (1997).

George C. Williams' Edge Bio page


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