Investigations

by Stuart Kauffman

299 pages, ISBN 0-19-512104-X, Oxford, New York, 2000.

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Reviewed by J. M. Haile, Macatea Productions, http://www.macatea.com/

Investigations is a personal series of interrelated reflections and conjectures on evolution, the origins of life, the laws of thermodynamics, complexity, economics, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. The emphasis here is not on what we know, or even what we think we know, but rather on what we might be able to learn in the near future, if we expand our thinking appropriately. So if you are unprepared to engage Kauffman's writing with your thinking apparatus activated, find another book.

One review cannot do justice to all the issues raised in Investigations, so I will limit this review to just three:

  1. A Fourth Law of Thermodynamics?
  2. Expanding Possibilities
  3. A Science of Ethics?

It takes a measure of courage (and perhaps a touch of hubris) to publish a book like Investigations, filled as it is, not so much with science as with scientific possibilities and conjectures. It reveals something of the man behind the science—an exposure that many scientists avoid with considerable vigor. I am sure some scientists dismiss the book as "unscientific," but that is their lost. The author is to be commended for sharing his thoughts and hopes—if you want to keep abreast of developments in our perceptions of how the world works, then you must pay attention to Stuart Kauffman.

(jmh 05 Sep 06) © 2006 by J. M. Haile. All rights reserved.