THE SYNERGISM HYPOTHESIS: A Theory of Progressive Evolution by Peter A. Corning

THE SYNERGISM HYPOTHESIS: A Theory of Progressive Evolution

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A lengthy attempt--by example and metaphor--to wed biology to political science. Coming holds a joint appointment in the political science department and the Human Biology Program at Stanford. He has come to envision the process of evolution as a progression toward greater and greater complexity powered by a ""functional synergism""--meaning the selective advantages (survival, reproduction) that accrue from a combination of variables operating together. ""Synergism effects are the major underlying cause of the evolution of hierarchical organization at both the organismic and the social levels."" (For Corning, political behavior--defined as what happens when two or more people get together for a stated objective--illustrates his functional synergism.) The passage from non-nucleated to nucleated cells involves incorporating independent organelles (mitochondria, chloroplasts) under one roof. Jellyfish colonies also bespeak the safety (greater survival) of cooperating numbers. Corning presents these arguments in early chapters with the usual homage-to--but dissatisfaction with--Darwin, and the usual discontent with current rival theories. For the most part, however, his approach derives from the social sciences. He looks at the organizing structures of past and present cultures, and follows the growth of political systems in the march toward complex civilizations. Ultimately, it is hard to see this new synthesis as having testable biological roots. Rather, it seems a somewhat idealistic view of human potential by a scholarly political scientist browsing in biology.

Pub Date: July 25th, 1983
Publisher: McGraw-Hill