Fritjof Capra:
THE WEB OF LIFE (Anchor Books, 1996)

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Capra views the world as an integrated whole. His speculations draw from vitalism, gestalt psychology, quantum physics, self-organization theory and constitute a nice introduction to all these fields. There is very little original thinking in the book, other than the claim that living systems are networks interacting with other networks (the network being a popular metaphor these days for nonscientific thinkers, the equivalent of water pipes and steam engines in the old days). Organisms are networks of cells, ecosystems are networks of organisms, biological systems at all levels are networks. The web of life consists of networks. Everything else is a survey of mostly neglected biological theories, and that is the real value of the book: Bertalanffy's system theory, cybernetics, self-organization theories, dissipative structures, symbiogenesis, the mathematical foundations of complex systems and even fractal geometry, and lots of Maturana and Varela.
Capra outlines his three key criteria for life: a pattern of organization (autopoiesis), a structure (a physical embodiment of the pattern of organization, which must be a dissipative structure), a process (the process of organization, or mind, which is no longer a thing but the process of life itself, i.e. Maturana-style cognition).

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