Evolution and the Emergent Self is an eloquent and
evocative new synthesis that explores how the human species emerged
from the cosmic dust. Lucidly presenting ideas about the rise of
complexity in our genetic, neuronal, ecological, and ultimately
cosmological settings, the author takes readers on a provocative
tour of modern science's quest to understand our place in nature
and in our universe. Readers fascinated with "Big History" and
drawn to examine big ideas will be challenged and enthralled by
Raymond L. Neubauer's ambitious narrative.
How did humans emerge from the cosmos and the pre-biotic Earth,
and what mechanisms of biological, chemical, and physical sciences
drove this increasingly complex process? Neubauer presents a view
of nature that describes the rising complexity of life in terms of
increasing information content, first in genes and then in brains.
The evolution of the nervous system expanded the capacity of
organisms to store information, making learning possible. In key
chapters, the author portrays four species with high brain:body
ratios-chimpanzees, elephants, ravens, and dolphins-showing how
each species shares with humans the capacity for complex
communication, elaborate social relationships, flexible behavior,
tool use, and powers of abstraction. A large brain can have a
hierarchical arrangement of circuits that facilitates higher levels
Neubauer describes this constellation of qualities as an
emergent self, arguing that self-awareness is nascent in several
species besides humans and that potential human characteristics are
embedded in the evolutionary process and have emerged repeatedly in
a variety of lineages on our planet. He ultimately demonstrates
that human culture is not a unique offshoot of a
language-specialized primate, but an analogue of fundamental
mechanisms that organisms have used since the beginning of life on
Earth to gather and process information in order to buffer
themselves from fluctuations in the environment.
Neubauer also views these developments in a cosmic setting,
detailing open thermodynamic systems that grow more complex as the
energy flowing through them increases. Similar processes of
increasing complexity can be found in the "self-organizing"
structures of both living and nonliving forms. Recent evidence from
astronomy indicates that planet formation may be nearly as frequent
as star formation. Since life makes use of the elements commonly
seeded into space by burning and expiring stars, it is reasonable
to speculate that the evolution of life and intelligence that
happened on our planet may be found across the universe.
Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Health Sciences, Biological Sciences, Astronomy
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