Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Nature's Magic
Synergy in Evolution and the Fate of Humankind


  • Author: Peter Corning, Institute for the Study of Complex Systems, Palo Alto
  • Date Published: September 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107407503

£ 38.00

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Nature's Magic presents a bold vision of the evolutionary process from the Big Bang to the 21st century. Synergy of various kinds is not only a ubiquitous aspect of the natural world but it has also been a wellspring of creativity and the 'driver' of the broad evolutionary trend toward increased complexity, in nature and human societies alike. But in contrast with the many theories of emergence or complexity that rely on some underlying force or 'law', the 'Synergism Hypothesis', as Peter Corning calls it, is in essence an economic theory of biological complexity; it is fully consistent with mainstream evolutionary biology. Corning refers to it as Holistic Darwinism. Among the many important insights that are provided by this new paradigm, Corning presents a scenario in which the human species invented itself; synergistic, behavioral and technological innovations were the 'pacemakers' of our biological evolution. Synergy has also been the key to the evolution of complex modern societies, he concludes.

    • Presents for the first time the 'Synergism Hypothesis'; a major alternative to neo-Darwinism, this is an economic theory of complexity at all levels of living systems
    • Fascinating description of how synergy can be a positive or negative force in nature and evolution
    • A beautifully written book that covers a huge amount of ground succinctly and clearly
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'If you are under the impression that synergy is not particularly important, just try to tie your shoes with a single hand. The book will appeal to anyone interested in the place of evolutionary thinking in general intellectual culture. It will also be esteemed a particularly valuable contribution to the emerging discipline of bioeconomics.' Professor Michael Ghiselin, California Academy of Sciences

    Review of the hardback: 'I like this book. It's exciting, well-documented, and well-argued. It's very informative both for professional biologists and well-read lay people; it will change their minds and get them to see synergies everywhere.' Professor Jack Cohen, Warwick University and author of Figments of Reality, and Evolving the Alien (with Ian Stewart).

    Review of the hardback: '… a must for all who are interested in understanding the evolutionary process generally, as well as understanding human evolution and evolutionary perspectives on human behaviour … Nature's Magic is one of those rare books that will really make you see reality in a new way.' TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution

    Review of the hardback: 'Once you start reading this book, you just can't stop until the end … Effectively, Corning's fluent writing style and the manner in which he conveys his particular vision of the evolutionary process, from the Big Bang to the current, is definitely captivating.' Plant Systematics & Evolution

    Review of the hardback: '… this book is a classic … there is so much to chew over and consider.' Systems Research and Behavioral Science

    Review of the hardback: 'Only a scientist as eclectic and versatile as Corning could have conjured the rich panorama of evolution that we get in Nature's Magic. … After reading Nature's Magic, we were convinced that Peter Corning had delivered on his promise to show why the concept of synergy is so fundamentally important in the scheme of things, and how it has played a causal role in evolution. … We congratulate both the author and the publisher for a job well done.' Cybernetics and Human Knowing

    Review of the hardback: 'Nature's Magic is a pleasant mix of mysticism and science. Corning provides the reader with a feeling of reverence for the 'magic' of nature yet at the same time explores the various research agendas that attempt to explain many natural phenomena… Nature's Magic is packed full of current research topics. For someone wishing to get a broad sense of the current state of science, Nature's Magic provides it.' Artificial Life

    Review of the hardback: 'Corning's book is a masterpeice of integrating the most far-reaching facts and theories of evolutionary biology and applying them with finesse to a variety of social phenomena … the most intriguing chapter in Nature's Magic is the last one, titled 'Conjuring the Future' … Dramatic environmental change, complex technologies, and institutions for social cohesion can destroy as well as create. Corning's final message is that if the current world system is to survive we must understand the negative as well as the positive forces of synergy … Peter Corning has written a delightful and profound book about the human species. It should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the exciting field of social evolution and in the possibilities for human cultural evolution in the 21st century.' Journal of Bioeconomics

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107407503
    • length: 468 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 26 mm
    • weight: 0.68kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Prologue: the new evolutionary paradigm
    2. The enchanted loom
    3. The magic castle
    4. Black magic
    5. The synergism hypothesis
    6. The 'Sorcerer's Apprentice'
    7. Conjuring human evolution: the synergistic ape
    8. Conjuring history: does cultural evolution have an 'arrow'?
    9. The science of history
    10. Conjuring the future: what can we predict?

  • Author

    Peter Corning, Institute for the Study of Complex Systems, Palo Alto

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.