- Paperback: 586 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (June 12, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 068482471X
- ISBN-13: 978-0684824710
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 221 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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DARWIN'S DANGEROUS IDEA: EVOLUTION AND THE MEANINGS OF LIFE Reprint Edition
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One of the best descriptions of the nature and implications of Darwinian evolution ever written, it is firmly based in biological information and appropriately extrapolated to possible applications to engineering and cultural evolution. Dennett's analyses of the objections to evolutionary theory are unsurpassed. Extremely lucid, wonderfully written, and scientifically and philosophically impeccable. Highest Recommendation!
From Publishers Weekly
Dennett's philosophical argument in support of Darwinism was a National Book Award finalist.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
While it's not *directly anti-religion (read his 2007 book for that), it studies the deeper meaning of -- and the backlash against -- Darwin's idea that supernatural explanations are not needed. At all. For anything.
When Dennett takes the middle ground it's only after careful exploration of the extremes. He does this with 1. adaptationism (it's useful to speculate how evolutionary forces may have caused something we discover today -- but there are dangers in doing so carelessly); 2. memes (ideas are a powerful unit of natural selection which create cultures, religions and ideologies. But a *science of memetics is unlikely, as the process is too complex), 3. reductionism (yes, simple algorithms not only reveal underlying processes, they often result in impressively complex outcomes. But reality is too complex to be modelled by simple rules). And 4. morality (in practice, it is always a matter of compromise, simplification, rationalization, and justification. Calculating an "optimal" moral path is impossible to; in practice we are at best moral satisficers).
He is less compromising when it comes to what he calls "skyhooks", which include any supernatural causal force. Dennett uses the analogy of "cranes" (the construction type) explaining all of life. So he does not pull any punches against Chomsky and especially against Stephen Jay Gould, both of whom (he argues) are often wrong on the fine points of evolution, and are unclear, mistaken, or even purposefully misleading. "A person who really doesn't like Darwin's dangerous idea often finds it hard to get the idea in focus," Dennett writes of Gould. ... "I see his antipathy to [it] as fundamentally a desire to protect and restore the Mind-first top-down vision of John Locke -- at the very least to secure *our place in the cosmos with a skyhook."
I've only drawn out some themes of the book with this review; it is broad in scope, rich with interesting distinction and keen observations, detailed, and often quite funny. Usually he is clear and sometimes convoluted. I did wish now and then than an editor had shortened bits, including the final chapter with its unsubstantiated personal opinions.
It's not short (521 pages of text), and it's not easy. But it is definitely worth a careful read, or -- for the average Joe like me -- a slow but illuminating crawl-through.