This chapter describes a work presenting a description by Szathmary and Maynard Smith of the entire sweep of evolution, going from primitive molecules to human society and language, as a series of eight transitions. The transitions are defined as steps in which simpler structures combine to make more complex ones such that ‘entities which were previously able to reproduce independently before the transition can only replicate as part of a larger unit after it’. John Maynard Smith, who died in 2004 but whose career in biology spanned fifty years, was perhaps the most influential evolutionary theorist of his generation. Eors Szathmary, who is much younger, is an intellectually adventurous Hungarian who has made particular contributions to perhaps the hardest theoretical challenge of all – understanding the origin of life.
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