Kwinter begins by identifying two Copernican revolutions that have changed our consciousness of the world. The first is the hypothesis of continental drift and plate tectonics which introduced new understandings of energy flows. The second is the proliforation of imagery of the Earth from space, revealing the complexity and nuance of the Earth. His next argument involves linear and nonlinear systems. In a linear system the behavior of the whole is the sum of the parts. Nonlinear systems exhibit behavior where the whole is not the sum of its parts, rather, the primary behaviors exhibit properties from the interactions between the parts. Finally, Kwinter presents an overview of the work of biologist Conrad Waddington. Waddington was the first to investigate soft systems. He identified the epigenetic systems, which describe how form emerges from a homogeneous landscape.