... an impressively brisk intellectual tour through the glory days of early 20th-century evolutionary biology ... The book’s opening chapter, 'The Cartography of Evolution,' is an accessible nonmathematical introduction to population genetics, natural selection and evolution ... If Life Finds a Way disappoints, it is only when the author tries to suggest what’s needed to cultivate creative problem-solving on a societal level. It is hardly original, in this regard, to recommend exchange of ideas, tolerance of failure, an abundance of free, unstructured time and an attitude of playfulness.
Wagner...provides multiple examples from nature that mirror how medical breakthroughs, artistic spurts, and technological innovations often come after multiple failures or as unanticipated results of seemingly unrelated experimentation ... His readable insights provide fresh ways of defining success with implications for business, research, and education.
In this intricate but accessible work, evolutionary biologist Wagner draws a fascinating analogy between how nature innovates to optimize itself and how human creativity works ... A brief foray into cultural implications—which recommends the cultivation of diversity and autonomy instead of hypercompetition in education and academia—is comparatively ill-developed and out of place. Nonetheless, this enjoyable popular science book, easy to follow without ever becoming oversimplistic, provides an intriguing new perspective on the mechanisms of innovation, whether molecule or symphony.
A thoughtful search for parallels between biological and human innovation ... [Wagner's] final section on human creativity contains less hard science but plenty of imagination ... Combining evolutionary biology with psychology to explain creativity is a stretch, but Wagner makes an ingenious case.