Book Fashion Picture Each Day Of The Year History Ecology: The Ascendent Perspective By Robert Ulanowicz (1997) – Book Review

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Ecology: The Ascendent Perspective By Robert Ulanowicz (1997) – Book Review

This is a review of the book Ecology: The Ascending Perspectiveby Robert E. Ulanowicz.

Brief overview:

Ecology: The Ascendent Perspective, first published in 1997, is in many ways a more accessible and more philosophical follow-up to Ulanowicz’s pioneering but highly technical Growth and development (1986), and can also be seen as an intermediate book between this earlier technical text and his later book A Third Window: Natural Life Beyond Newton and Darwin (2009), which is primarily philosophical. Intended for a scientific audience, it is not a pop science book, but it is quite accessible and will be an easy read for career researchers in any field, as well as motivated, science-minded undergraduate students.

The book outlines the core aspects of Ulanowicz’s network-based theory of how ecological systems grow and develop, but without delving too deeply into the mathematics. It is primarily an idea book. The book also explores the philosophical and historical underpinnings of the ideas, which I personally find far more important than the specific theories themselves. Ulanowicz seems to know that his theories are somewhat crude and unrefined, but I think the philosophical points he makes are rock solid and show deep insights that go far beyond what most scientists have to offer. While there are many reasons why Ulanowicz’s theories can be criticized, it is hard to argue with the big picture themes he presents, which show a deep awareness of cultural and societal influences on scientific research and the inherent limitations of what types of questions can fruitfully asked and answered in a scientific context.

A personal story:

My story of reading this book is quite personal and bizarre.

In the fall of 2001, I enrolled at Oberlin College, where I was in my senior year majoring in mathematics. This semester I attended a private reading at the Biology Department, on the subject of systems theory as it applies to biology and ecology. On September 11, 2001, early in the morning, I secluded myself on one of the upper floors of Oberlin and sat down to read this book. I read a large part of this book in one sitting, and I can say that it produced a revolution in my worldview, an unfolding of new ideas that continues to this day. As I left the building to take a lunch break, I was shocked to hear about the recent terrorist attacks. This day was truly a world-changing day, in more ways than one.

My recommendations:

I recommend this book as a must-read for anyone studying any of the following subjects: ecology, network, philosophy of scienceand systems theory. The book will be of particular interest to anyone interested in questioning the dominant paradigms of science, and anyone who wants to become more of a systems thinker or who wants to think more in networks. The book may even be useful to economists or people interested in applying a more systems-based approach to business, public policy, or other fields involving human systems. The style is lively and the book is thought-provoking. And it’s surprisingly easy to read, given the deep ramifications of the ideas contained.

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