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The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,620 ratings  ·  338 reviews
The Evolution of Everything is about bottom-up order and its enemy, the top-down twitch—the endless fascination human beings have for design rather than evolution, for direction rather than emergence. Drawing on anecdotes from science, economics, history, politics and philosophy, Matt Ridley’s wide-ranging, highly opinionated opus demolishes conventional assumptions that m ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 27th 2015 by Harper (first published September 24th 2015)
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Diana Griffing Not particularly. In fact, such shallow dives into each topic glossed over so much complexity. I wasn't too impressed.…moreNot particularly. In fact, such shallow dives into each topic glossed over so much complexity. I wasn't too impressed.(less)

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☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Q: ... we may be extraordinarily lucky and vanishingly rare. (c)

Overall fascinating. Somewhat simplistic and haphazard, since all kinds of things are demonstrated changing. Still, the author pulls it off with more than a bit of grace. He flutters between different concepts, managing to reveal just enough tantalizing glimpses from varied topics: from morality to universe to population to internet to genome to culture to leadership to personality to tech to money to government to future. A fun rid
Riku Sayuj
Dawkins fanboy tries to dress up an ideological book as a scientific one. Tries to show that Darwin's theory of evolution is just a byproduct or a specific version of the general theory of evolution proposed by Adam Smith about the emergent order that will prevail bottom-up in any free society of selfish actors. In the process ends up unwittingly using just another"skyhook" - that of benevolent evolution - throughout, by arguing endlessly that all the good things happened bottom-up and all the b ...more
Parker F
Jan 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
I thought The Evolution of Everything was written by Matt Ridley--the one with a doctorate in zoology, the former science journalist from The Economist, the author of the well-researched Red Queen and Genome. Instead, the Matt Ridley who wrote the Evolution of Everything is a British aristocrat, bank chairman, and Conservative member of the House of Lords. Actually, these two Matt Ridleys are the same person, but the journalist Matt Ridley is a much more compelling writer. The contemporary Matt ...more
Nov 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015-reads
This satisfied my dilettantish wish to know something about everything. That's all. But it's not as if Ridley has done original scholarship, right? He is an acolyte of Richard Dawkins, and author of two books I never got around to but still feel as if I read (The Red Queen and Genome). He's a fan of Greenblatt's The Swerve and uses an epigraph from Lucretius's "De rerum natura" at the start of each chapter. Fine. He throws around Dennett's "skyhooks" very liberally and literally. Okay. I liked t ...more
Peter Tillman
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
An important book, if somewhat scattershot. Ridley prefers things to be done from the bottom up, instead of from the top down, and so do I. But. Even though I’m sympathetic to what he’s writing, he does get carried away at times. But he’s likely right, and almost always interesting. And he’s done his homework.

From my notes:
1779-81. Gen. Cornwallis’s army decimated by malaria in South Carolina and Virginia, in what one US historian called “covert biological warfare.” Cornwallis’s weakened troops
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The idea of a bottom up, generalized evolution theory for so many aspects of our life is new to me & well worth exploring, especially since it flies in the face of the current practice of top down legislation which has failed miserably all too often. It's a really interesting premise that's strained a bit occasionally, but overall makes sense.

Ridley relies heavily on the views of Epicurus (341-270 BC), Lucretius (99 BC-55 BC), Adam Smith(1723-1790), Charles Darwin (1809-1882), Richard Dawkins (b
Matt Gough
Nov 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Matt Ridley has an interesting theory here, and there are a few parts of the book that really shine. For instance, his chapters on the emergence of life, genes, culture, and technology are well-supported by his research, and with those subjects he makes a compelling argument for bottom-up evolution. However, I thought the theory felt forced with the other subjects he chose to focus on, especially education, population, and the economy. When writing about these topics in particular, Ridley seemed ...more
Alan Cook
May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have given a lot of books 5-star ratings, but this book stands out among them. I won't say it solves all the world's problems, but it certainly points to a lot of things that could be done better, which would improve the freedom and well being of the human race. The premise is that just about everything changes (and improves) by evolution in a bottom-up manner, rather than top-down by the action of somebody on high (such as God, the president, or anybody with power), including the universe, li ...more
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley

“The Evolution of Everything" is a book on social Darwinism and it’s wide reaching effect from a libertarian perspective. It’s highly readable and provocative but misses the mark on two very important topics: climate change and the 2008 financial crisis. Well known journalist, scientist and educator; Matt Ridley, makes the persuasive case that evolution explains virtually all of human culture changes: from morality to technology, f
Chris Jaffe
May 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
I was on page 10 when I first got the feeling that author Matt Ridley might be completely full of shit. And he never gave me any reason to go back on that impression. I plowed through the book anyway, because I'm into completing things, but can't say I liked it.

The part on page 10 that first set off my BS detector: Ridley writes about his discovery of Roman poet/philosopher Lucretius, Ridley fumes at his schoolmasters, "How could they have made me waste all those years at school plodding through
Steven Walle
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a very informative book. It is interesting to find out how new ideas are formed when they are most needed.
I recommend this book to all.
Enjoy and
Be Blessed.
Otto Lehto
Feb 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Starts off strong but devolves halfway into an unfocused diatribe. A more generous judgment is that the book is an ideological polemic with some scientific pretensions. Ridley starts from the intriguing premise (to which I am very sympathetic) that bottom-up processes of "self-organisation", from Charles Darwin's natural selection to Adam Smith's invisible hand, explain much of cosmic, biological, human, and socioeconomic evolution. In order to elucidate this claim, Ridley takes on the ambitious ...more
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Libertarians
Matt Ridley produces another libertarian classic, to match his earlier The Rational Optimist, with The Evolution of Everything.

Taking evolution out of the strictly biological and to the cultural, technological, political, and about every other arena of human endeavor.

What interests him particularly is exposing the creationism of the Left and government. By creationism is meant top down planning rather than a creator god. Mr. Ridley argues the case against planning and top down control in favor
Jason Lockwood
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Some people love Matt Ridley and some people hate him. Whatever your point of view, there's no mistaking that he gets people thinking and challenging assumptions. In his latest book, he gets us all reconsidering the notion that people and societies progress due to a top-down approach. Whether it's politicians who take (or are given) credit for economic progress or CEOs who are viewed as the only source of a company's success, Ridley provides ample evidence that neither are true.

What he presents-
Dec 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Some sweeping over-generalizations in this book took away from my overall rating but this was still a very interesting book. Recommended with a few grains of salt.
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Charles Darwin stated in his theory of biological evolution that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. This happens through a process of trial and error whereby beneficial variations are favored and injurious ones discarded. Author Ridley calls this the 'Special theory of Evolution' and goes on to extend it to a General theory of Evolution by applying it to ...more
Andrew Carr
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Evolution has always been a subversive idea. Order from chaos, progress without direction, design without a designer. But are humans the last word in natural evolution, or do their societies represent the evolution of evolution; from the biological to the ideational, cultural, and technological?

This is the argument at the heart of The Evolution of Everything by the science writer Matt Ridley. Not only has life and the universe evolved, so do humans over time. These same basic laws of bottom up,
Sairam Krishnan
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took my time with this, reading a chapter or two every morning, and not just because I was enthralled by the ideas. It was also because of how the arguments were constructed. This is a learned, scholarly book, drawing on the author's earlier works, and yet immensely accessible.

I'm familiar with the subject matter here: The evolution of our material world, as opposed to our physical world, and everything in it. Writers like Tim Harford have written about this, but in its holistic look at histor
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting walk in the park of history and evolution. There were a couple of ideas thrown in throughout the book that I found intriguing in that he proposed a new way to look at how things evolved (ex. history of religion).

The other part of this book was the tie in with Titus Lucretius Carus. Most chapters seem to start with a reflection of one segment from Lucretius's De rerum natura. Written almost 2000 years ago, I will agree that many ideas proposed in his poem do hold true in some facet t
D.L. Morrese
Jan 20, 2016 rated it liked it
The following is a rather lengthy review. I'd apologize for that, but some things just need a bit more explaining than others.

People have a natural tendency to seek agency. If something momentous happens, then someone must have caused it. If something complex exists, someone obviously designed and built it. But this natural human way of looking at things leads to unwarranted assumptions. No one, for example, planned the evolution of life.

Ridley extends Darwin’s insight about biological evolution
Elizabeth Gabhart
Sep 18, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book is a wildly biased, full-throated defense of neo-liberal capitalism. I only read about 2/3 of it before I simply couldn't stand it anymore. I have a PhD focusing on inequality and globalized economies, so I'm more familiar than most people are with the research associated with these topics.

At times, Matt Ridley's arguments are simply wrong. He cherry-picks data that supports his assertions and ignores the vast literature that disagrees with him. He's cites data that sounds impressive,
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
For a while now, I have believed that Darwin's theory of evolution is the most paradigm-shifting idea to have emerged from a human mind. On a related thought journey, I have also shifted from determinism to free will and back to determinism, all in a few years. This book connects both these thoughts, and is fundamentally an argument for evolution and against creationism. It argues that change is incremental and emergent and has a momentum all of its own, as opposed to the idea that it is directe ...more
Omar Essawi
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Distinguishing between a special and general theory of evolution. The latter of which applies to everything beyond genetics. Building on Dennett's "crane" and "skyhook" idea to explain how things evolve as bottom up (crane) phenomena as oppose to top down (skyhook) phenomena. Very well written, and although it is actually quite common sensical, it provides a very well rounded explanation putting the idea in to perspective. In addition to this, it provides a concise overview and backgr ...more
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
This was interesting for a while, until Ridley took off his scholarly hat and put on the Libertarian one. I don't have the background to make a judgment on his application of Darwin's ideas in realms other than evolution in the natural world, but when he says, for example, that evolution as it manifests itself in the family is largely a matter of biology and parental behavior has little, if any, effect in how the children turn out, my suspicions are alerted and the book is spoiled for me. He als ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
These 3 quotes really sum this book up quite well:

“For far too long we have underestimated the power of spontaneous, organic and constructive change driven from below, in our obsession with designing change from above. Embrace the general theory of evolution. Admit that everything evolves."

“But if there is one dominant myth about the world, one huge mistake we all make, one blind spot, it is that we all go around assuming the world is much more of a planned place than it is.”

“I want to do for e
Alexander Trifiro
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Matt Ridley's books are all very good and this is probably one of my favorites. Some of the arguments in this book showing how so many things in the universe move from centralized to de-centralized and how it might be one of the best explanation for how consciousness works. While crypto currencies are a tiny % in this book, the entire subject matter really gives a lot of credibility to the rise and importance of bitcoin/ethereum and maybe other crypto currencies for humanity. ...more
Simon Mcleish
While there are many interesting ideas, points and quotes in this book, I found it frustrating and unconvincing. While it is apparently about how evolution works in a number of settings, essentially those of complex emergent systems, much of it uses that as the basis for an attack on any form of control or management of these systems - it's a libertarian manifesto in all but name.

I have a fair number of issues with the book. First, and fundamentally, I don't think it makes a case for the word "e
Jul 21, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Years ago I read Genome by the same author and enjoyed his accessible approach to science writing. Unfortunately it seems that Ridley has forgotten how to be a science writer and instead uses his books as a way to wrap up his personal ideology and present it as hard science.

For the most part, chapters are short and reductive, mainly recycling ideas from the likes of Dawkins, Dennett and Pinker without adding anything of substance. Chapter two, for example, on the “Evolution of Morality”, is 15
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book has some great ideas and I’m glad I read it even though it was a chore.

The author’s thesis is that just like evolutionary biology results in species fitting their environment—healthcare, government, and businesses should be organized just well enough to be flexible enough to evolve and fit their patient/citizen/customer/etc needs.

I’m sure the author would murder me if he read this summary.

My main complaint (you knew this was coming) is that the author glosses over too many topics in t
Rodrigo Aragão
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Simply amazing. Mind blowing.
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Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley DL FRSL FMedSci (born 7 February 1958, in Northumberland) is an English science writer, businessman and aristocrat. Ridley was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford where he received a doctorate in zoology before commencing a career in journalism. Ridley worked as the science editor of The Economist from 1984 to 1987 and was then its Washington cor ...more

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43 likes · 6 comments
“There was never a better illustration of the validity of the Enlightenment dream – that order can emerge where nobody is in charge. The genome, now sequenced, stands as emphatic evidence that there can be order and complexity without any management.” 7 likes
“To put my explanation in its boldest and most surprising form: bad news is manmade, top–down, purposed stuff, imposed on history. Good news is accidental, unplanned, emergent stuff that gradually evolves. The things that go well are largely unintended; the things that go badly are largely intended.” 7 likes
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