The “synergism hypothesis,” and the closely related concept of “synergistic selection,” involves a theoretical frame shift. The theory proposes that cooperative functional effects (synergies) of various kinds have provided selective advantages over time and has driven the evolution of complexity; the theory is concerned with the benefits and costs of various forms of cooperation.
What is complexity, asks author-journalist George Johnson in a recent “Science Times,” the science section of The New York Times (May 5, 1997)? Below the headline, “Researchers on Complexity Ponder What It’s All About,” Johnson reports that there is still no agreed-upon definition…
Although its role is often unappreciated, synergy can be considered one of the core concepts of the systems sciences. Indeed, synergy is a ubiquitous phenomenon in nature and human societies alike. Here I will briefly discuss one aspect of the relationship between the two.
In the end, what salvages the “case” that this volume seeks to advance is the final chapter by editor Niels Gregersen. By tacitly adopting a more sophisticated and balanced understanding of evolutionary biology, Gregersen deftly transcends the shortcomings and misconceptions (and even some internal contradictions) that might otherwise have undermined the organizers’ basic objective.
Here I briefly explore the case for a paradigm shift in evolutionary theory to focus on the economics and the role of functional synergy as a distinct class of causal influences.
Robert Reid’s provocative book is perverse; he uses a semantic sleight of hand to claim credit for a non-Darwinian theory of emergent evolution. Not so.
“Emergence” is a concept with a venerable history and an ambiguous standing in evolutionary theory. This paper briefly recounts the history of the term and details some of its current usages. The reductionist approach to explaining complexity has entailed a search for underlying “laws of emergence.” Another alternative is the “Synergism Hypothesis,” which focuses on the “economics” – the functional effects produced by emergent wholes and their selective consequences.
There have been many different ways of characterizing and describing the phenomenon of life over the years. Synergy should be added to the list.