116: The Emergence of Everything by Harold Morowitz

by Gerard


116: Morowitz, Harold J. The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 200 pp. ISBN 0-19-517331-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 110: Metaphysics
  • 116: Change

As soon as human beings became self-aware, they became universe-aware as well. While we seek to understand our place and our origins as individuals, we also have a need to explain the origin of all life and the universe as a whole. These are not easy questions, as they involves elements of many field of science and philosophy. Harold Morowitz, in The Emergence of Everything, lays out a fundamental structure for getting to the root of some of these questions by peering into the fields of cosmology, biology, physics, chemistry, and ultimately, theology.

The question here is one of emergence. Morowitz discusses the emergence of the universe from the Big Bang, the emergence of stars and planets, of life on planets, and of human beings in the ancient past and the upcoming future. How does one account for the emergence of complex life when also trying to boil the laws of the universe into a few simple equations? At what point does the whole become more than the sum of its parts? This book goes through the 26 stages of emergence in the known universe, starting with the primordium (the pre-Big Bang speck of all matter) through the formation of planets to the emergence of life then to the evolution of mammals and humans and finally with the emergence of language, philosophy, science, and religion. It’s the investigation of these points on the continuum of emergence that makes this book interesting.

Morowitz’s writing is necessarily heady, but still reads fairly quickly. He ultimately falls back on the concept of God (which is a little dismaying) to explain the spark of emergence, but his discussion of the formation of the universe and life are still deeply rooted in science. This book blends the conversation between philosophy and science pretty well. Another plus is that each chapter has a list of suggested reading at the end so that the reader can follow up on specific topics of interest. A complex and intriguing book.