Author(s): Matt Ridley
Human society evolves. Change in technology, language, morality, and society is incremental, inexorable, gradual, and spontaneous. It follows a narrative, going from one stage to the next, and it largely happens by trial and error--a version of natural selection. Much of the human world is the result of human action but not of human design: it emerges from the interactions of millions, not from the plans of a few.
Drawing on fascinating evidence from science, economics, history, politics, and philosophy, Matt Ridley demolishes conventional assumptions that the great events and trends of our day are dictated by those on high. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the bottom up. The Industrial Revolution, cell phones, the rise of Asia, and the Internet were never planned; they happened. Languages emerged and evolved by a form of natural selection, as did common law. Torture, racism, slavery, and pedophilia--all once widely regarded as acceptable--are now seen as immoral despite the decline of religion in recent decades.
In this wide-ranging, erudite book, Ridley brilliantly makes the case for evolution, rather than design, as the force that has shaped much of our culture, our technology, our minds, and that even now is shaping our future.
'He argues we live in a bottom-up world...a compelling argument and in this fascinating work, an evolution from Ridley's other books, such as The Rational Optimist of The Origins of Virtue, he takes it to all realms of knowledge and how new ideas emerge... Ridley has amassed such a weight of fascinating evidence and anecdote that the pages fly by' Ed Conway, The Times 'Intriguing and artfully argued' Ian Critchly, The Sunday Times 'This is a book of remarkable scope (when Ridley says everything, he isn't exaggerating), clearly written by a polymath who reads whatever is interesting, old and new. What's more, it does not have the feel of a book written on commission so much as one that has been slowly assembling its own emergent thesis over time, tentatively testing and sometimes rejecting ideas along the way. As so often in nature, something wonderful has thereby come about' Literary Review 'The book displays his wide and deep knowledge of many different fields. It is fast paced and elegantly written. Few readers will come away without fresh information and a challenge to their preconceptions' Prospect 'Readable, provocative and infuriating' New Statesman Praise for Matt Ridley: 'What a superb writer he is, and he seems to get better and better.' Richard Dawkins, author of 'The Selfish Gene' Praise for 'The Rational Optimist': 'A triumphant blast on the vuvuzela of common sense' Boris Johnson 'A glorious defence of our species... a devastating rebuke to humanity's self-haters' Sunday Times 'No other book has argued with such brilliance against the automatic pessimism that prevails' Ian McEwan 'His theory is, in a way, the glorious offspring that would result if Charles Darwin's ideas were mated with those of Adam Smith' The Economist 'As a work of bold historical positivity it is to be welcomed. At every point cheerfulness keeps breaking through' The Times
Matt Ridley received his BA and D. Phil at Oxford researching the evolution of behaviour. He has been science editor, Washington correspondent and American editor of The Economist. He is the author of bestselling titles The Red Queen (1993), The Origins of Virtue (1996), Genome (1999) and Nature via Nurture (2003). His books have sold over half a million copies, been translated into 25 languages and been shortlisted for six literary prizes. In 2004 he won the National Academies Book Award from the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine for Nature via Nurture. In 2007 Matt won the Davis Prize from the US History of Science Society for Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code. He is married to the neuroscientist Professor Anya Hurlbert.