Does Our Species Have a Future?

Peter Corning’s new book, Synergistic Selection: How Cooperation Has Shaped Evolution and the Rise of Humankind, is being hailed as a major contribution to the greatest shift in our understanding of evolution since The Origin of Species.  His book highlights the unique creative power of synergy and takes us on a guided tour of the history of life on Earth.  Does our species have a future? The answer can be found in synergy.

Synergy refers to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.  In the natural world, synergy arises from the combined effects produced by two or more cooperating genes, parts, or organisms.  Synergy contradicts the traditional, individualistic, “selfish gene” model.  As Dr. Corning puts it, “Nothing about the evolution of biological complexity makes sense except in the light of synergy… Life on Earth has been a synergistic phenomenon from the get go.”  He also shows how synergy has been a key to human evolution, including the rise of complex modern societies.  He describes our evolution as a cooperative, entrepreneurial process that he calls the “Self-Made Man” scenario.  “Cooperation may have been the vehicle, but synergy was the driver.” 

Sir Patrick Bateson, FRS, Emeritus Professor of Biology, Cambridge University, president of the Zoological Society of London and the author of (among others) Behaviour, Development and Evolution, offers a strong endorsement: “This excellent book is based on a relatively simple idea, namely that when independent entities come together they can create something that is different from the sum of its parts.  The idea is familiar in chemistry.  In biology, it is true at all levels of organisation… running from the origins of life to modern economics in human societies… Peter Corning’s approach is wise and he is astonishingly well read… He writes extremely well and I read every word with great pleasure and interest.  I am full of admiration and strongly recommend it.”

Dr. Corning’s book also examines the role of synergy in the context of twenty-first century economics, politics and the environment.  According to Anthony Trewavas, FRS, Emeritus Professor, Institute of Molecular Plant Science, University of Edinburgh and author of Plant Behaviour and Intelligence, “This magnificent book reveals the critical role of synergy in evolution and in all of biology, including especially in humankind…”

In this far reaching and comprehensive book, Dr. Corning provides an eloquent and powerful explanation for the evolution of complexity that has the power to change our understanding of how the world works and who we are as a species.  “This is an important book,” notes Daniel W. McShea, Professor of Biology, Duke University and co-author of Biology’s First Law. “It offers a solution to a problem that has been central to evolutionary biology for half a century, with implications that reach down to the foundations of evolutionary theory.”

Based on more than 30 years of research about the role of synergy in evolution, Dr. Corning’s book also addresses the future of our species, and of the planet.  As he shows, we are at a tipping point in our history.  He argues that, at this critical juncture, our ultimate fate as a species will depend on being able to make major social, economic and political changes on a global scale, and he offers us a synergy-based road-map to the future.  “One of the great take-home lessons from the epic of evolution is that cooperation produces synergy, and synergy is the way forward.” Anthony Trewavas concludes: “Peter Corning offers us a unique and hopeful new vision.”

Synergistic Selection: How Cooperation Has Shaped Evolution and the Rise of Humankind Retails for US$78 / £69 / S$115 (hardcover) and US$29.95 / £26 /    S$ 44 (paperback) at leading bookstores. To learn more about the book, visit














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