Magazine December 31, 2015, Issue

The Reductionist Trap

The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge, by Matt Ridley (Harper, 368 pp., $28.99)

The author of this always-informative new ode to Darwinism took a doctorate in zoology at Oxford. I am a grad-school dropout who took geology (Rocks for Jocks!) to avoid math as an undergrad at George Washington University. So it’s gingerly that I suggest Matt Ridley calm down a bit on the explanatory power of evolution by natural selection.

Ridley has written a number of books more narrowly focused on genetics and biological evolution, and, even having skimmed through them, I can say they are more careful on the subject than this latest free-for-all.

The central question about a cosmology of ideas in

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