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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best-selling author of The Rational Optimist and Genome returns with a fascinating, brilliant argument for evolution that definitively dispels a dangerous, widespread myth: that we can command and control our world.

The Evolution of Everything is about bottom-up order and its enemy, the top-down twitch - the endless fascination human beings have with design rather than evolution, with direction rather than emergence. Drawing on anecdotes from science, economics, history, politics, and philosophy, Matt Ridley's wide-ranging, highly opinionated opus demolishes conventional assumptions that major scientific and social imperatives are dictated by those on high, whether in government, business, academia, or morality. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the bottom up. Patterns emerge, trends evolve. Just as skeins of geese form Vs in the sky without meaning to and termites build mud cathedrals without architects, so brains take shape without brain makers, learning can happen without teaching, and morality changes without a plan.

Although we neglect, defy, and ignore them, bottom-up trends shape the world. The growth of technology, the sanitation-driven health revolution, the quadrupling of farm yields so that more land can be released for nature - these were largely emergent phenomena, as were the Internet, the mobile phone revolution, and the rise of Asia. Ridley demolishes the arguments for design and effectively makes the case for evolution in the universe, morality, genes, the economy, culture, technology, the mind, personality, population, education, history, government, God, money, and the future.

As compelling as it is controversial, authoritative as it is ambitious, Ridley's stunning perspective will revolutionize the way we think about our world and how it works.

©2015 Matt Ridley (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

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  • Winfield
  • BRYAN, TX, United States
  • 12-16-15

Brilliant!

Would you listen to The Evolution of Everything again? Why?

Yes, I am in the process of listening and reading it a second time now. At the age of 79, I sometimes fall asleep while listening so I miss some parts. Not that Ridley's book is boring, but that I might need a nap even in the middle of a terrorist attack -- or something.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Having taught evolutionary ecology at the graduate level, Ridley's expansion of the idea of evolution to "everything" -- including morality, religion, goverment, etc. is a fascinating, testable hypothesis worthy of further study. It will drive incipient and active tyrants into a frenzy.

Have you listened to any of Steven Crossley’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No. The "English" accent was sometimes difficult to hear, but otherwise well-done.

If you could give The Evolution of Everything a new subtitle, what would it be?

Why "Creationism" is Irrational

Any additional comments?

Many thanks for a job well-done.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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A "must read" on how the world really works.

Some may find this material a bit long and dry because the it requires you to really listen and think deeply to get the most out it. Some people don't want to have to think, but if you do make the effort, you will find yourself rewarded and become very informed and enlightened for your effort.

The range if topics covered is broad so as soon as I finish this review, I will be listening to it a second time to be sure I didn't miss any important points. Though not required, you may find it useful to get another book by this author "The Rational Optimist" which has different but complimentary information that helps build a fuller picture of the author's ideas.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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excellent overview of a view of societal evolution

I enjoyed this book with its extensive review of examples of societal evolution from history, economics, politics, science, and all facets of life.

More discussion of the impact of the asymmetries of power in society would strengthen his argument.

well worth the investment in time.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Ex
  • 09-08-16

performer is annoying

smug and arrogant in the delivery of a fairly smug topic. the content itself was interesting. disagreed with some assessments, but over all fairly convincing and well argued.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Another Reason to be amazed at Darwinian Evolution

I have always loved Datein's Theory but my eyes were really opened to see how it applies to almost everything. Especially the chapters on how governments mess up what they try to design instead of getting out of the way to let the small interactions between individuals evolve the processes. The chapter on the developement of the 2008 economic crises was very illuminating.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good book but a little disappointing on depth

I just finished The Evolution of Everything and it was hard to stop listening at times. I will re-listen to it. There were many good spots that I found educational and thought provoking. However, there were also several chapters that became more political commentary on current issues rather than an indepth exploration of the "evolution" of the subject. It could have been that Mr. Ridley did not want to lose his audience in the weeds of history, which I understand. Still, I would have preferred more historical perspective. Overall I found the book quite useful and informative.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Truly enlightening!

One the best, most fascinating and enlightening books I’ve ever been through! I will probably read it again! And again! And again!

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Strawman

While I agree with the author on many of the individual views that he has on the innumerable topics that he talks about in this book, his central thesis that was supposed to bind them all together is rather weak. Yes, all processes of change and invention, all institutions and behaviors are subject to trial and error and evolutionary pressures. But instead of providing any enlightening insights on this process itself, the author goes through topic after topic claiming that some people attribute change and invention to planning and intelligent design and are unaware of the influence of trial and error. So it is hour after hour of him calling others stupid. and what's worse, I think that is mostly a strawman. I think very few people actually tjink that way. He does also offer some advice and personal positions on how many of these issues and areas should be handled. While much of his views have have some merit, that is more or less accidental. They don't follow a consistent pattern. He tries to derive them from an argument against planning and design, but really, all actions always involve planning and design (and are also always all subject to evolutionary pressures). So in the end there is painfully little to take away from this book.

Also, maybe this is just me, but I found the narrator annoying in how he made the text seem even more arrogant than it already was by reading it in a tone and with an accent that I couldn't stand.

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excellent as always

this is a feast of food for thought. i will listen to it again because it deserves it.

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Everyone should read this

The concepts explored in this book are challenges to our persistently flawed "conventional wisdom." I found it refreshing and empowering.