BMT-99906 The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution

Literature course, 6 credits.

Course responsible: Andre S. Ribeiro (andre dot sanchesribeiro at

Course Description: This course consists of reading a book by Stuart Kauffman that presents a compilation of his contributions as well as ideas for evolutionary biology. This book has revolutionized the works of evolutionary theory since its appearance. The most important idea, in our opinion, is that of self-organization as a driving force for order in living organisms as well as means to evolve faster. Kauffman makes use of models and solid arguments to study the spontaneous emergence of order that is observed throughout nature. From there, it is argued how self-organization plays an important role in the Darwinian process of natural selection. It is still an open debate how complex systems adapt, and how selection contributes to this effort. This book shows how complex systems spontaneously exhibit order, a necessity for the sustainment of life on Earth. Topics ranges from biotechnology, to statistics, to molecular evolution, network theory, dynamic systems theory, physics and computational science. These are used as tools to better understand the balance between order and chaos in nature. In summary, this book provides the arguments that have opened the possibility for knowledge from Signal Processing, Physics, and Complex Systems Theory, among others, to be applied to the study of biological systems. This book will be of great interest to students from Signal Processing. For those students focusing on Computational Systems Biology, this book is a “must-read”.

Info: “The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution”, by Stuart A. Kauffman


Requirements to complete course: To complete the course, the student is required to prepare: a verbal presentation (15 min., the audience consisting of the responsible professors and anyone who wishes to attend), a programming assignment on Boolean network models, and a 12-page essay. Original ideas and critiques in this essay are encouraged.


Evaluation criteria for the course: Grading is PASS/FAIL.


Prerequisites: None.

Remarks: The course is suitable for postgraduate studies.