In his path-breaking book, Beyond Reductionism (1969), the famed novelist and polymath Arthur Koestler remarked that “true innovation occurs when things are put together for the first time that had been separate.” He was talking about synergy, of course, a phenomenon that is still greatly underrated and vastly more important even than Koestler imagined. I call it “nature’s magic.”
Synergy is in fact one of the great governing principles of the natural world; it should rank right up there with such heavyweight concepts as gravity, energy, information and entropy as one of the keys to understanding how the world works. It has been a wellspring of creativity in the evolution of the universe; it has greatly influenced the overall trajectory of life on Earth; it played a decisive role in the emergence of humankind; it is vital to the workings of every modern society; and it is no exaggeration to say that our ultimate fate depends on it. Indeed, every day, in a thousand different ways, our lives are shaped, and re-shaped, by synergy.
All of these grandiose-sounding claims are discussed in detail, with many hundreds of examples, in three of my books: The Synergism Hypothesis (McGraw-Hill, 1983), Nature’s Magic (Cambridge University Press, 2003), and Holistic Darwinism (University of Chicago Press, 2005), as well as in many of my articles for professional journals. Some of these publications are also available for viewing and downloading at my website. Here I will add to these writings from time to time and respond to comments as appropriate.