Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Darwin's Dangerous Idea : Evolution and the Meanings of Life

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In Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life Daniel C. Dennett argues that the theory of evolution can demystify the miracles of life without devaluing our most cherished beliefs. From the moment it first appeared, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection has been controversial: misrepresented, abused, denied and fiercely debated. In this powerful defence of Darwin, Daniel C. Dennett explores every aspect of evolutionary thinking to show why it is so fundamental to our existence, and why it affirms - not threatens - our convictions about the meaning of life. 'Essential and pleasurable for any thinking person' Stephen Pinker 'A surpassingly brilliant book. Where creative, it lifts the reader to new intellectual heights. Where critical, it is devastating' Richard Dawkins 'A brilliant piece of persuasion, excitingly argued and compulsively readable' The Times Higher Education Supplement 'Superb ...This is the best single-author overview of all the implications of evolution by natural selection available ...deserves a place on the bookshelves of every thinking person' John Gribbin, Sunday Times 'Dennett's book brings together science and philosophy with wit, complex clarity and an infectious sense that these ideas matter, to us and the way we live now' A.S. Byatt, Sunday Times Books of the Year Daniel C. Dennett is one of the most original and provocative thinkers in the world. A brilliant polemicist and philosopher, he is famous for challenging unexamined orthodoxies, and an outspoken supporter of the Brights movement. His books include Brainstorms, Brainchildren, Elbow Room, Breaking the Spell, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Consciousness Explained and Freedom Evolves.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 592 pages
  • 134 x 198 x 32mm | 358.34g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • bibliography, index
  • 014016734X
  • 9780140167344
  • 31,123

Table of contents

Part I Starting in the middle: tell me why; an idea is born; universal acid; the tree of life; the possible and the actual; threads of actuality in design space. Part II Darwinian thinking in biology: priming Darwin's pump; biology is engineering; searching for quality; bully for brontosaurus; controversies contained. Part III Mind, meaning, mathematics, and morality: cranes of culture; losing our minds to Darwin; the evolution of meanings; the emperor's new mind, and other fables; on the origin of morality; redesigning morality; the future of an idea.show more

Review Text

An exploration - at a consistently high level of discourse - of the implications of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, which extend far beyond biology. Dennett (director, Center for Cognitive Studies/Tufts Univ.; Consciousness Explained, 1991, etc.) goes directly to the crux of the natural selection controversy: its implicit denial that a divine "first cause" is needed to account for the origin of life. While Darwin discreetly avoided a confrontation with orthodox religion, he could not prevent the proponents of divine creation from launching preemptive attacks against his theory. Dennett takes a rationalist tack, pointing out that any theory of a creator begs the question of how life began: If complex DNA molecules cannot have come into being without a creator, must not that creator have been even more complex to have designed the molecules? He argues his points more from a philosophical and logical position than from analysis of the scientific literature on evolution, of which he openly admits only an amateur's understanding. (On the other hand, few of the critics of Darwinian selection have any deeper knowledge of the subject.) Among the fascinating subjects he brings up in passing are the laws of probability, computer simulations of evolution, and the revisionist Darwinian theories of Stephen Jay Gould and Roger Penrose. Ultimately, he contends, the Darwinian revolution's greatest achievement is the denial of the supernatural explanation of the universe, replacing it with an even more miraculous natural explanation. Readers had best be prepared to think long and hard about the points Dennett raises, but those who stay with the author will be amply rewarded for their efforts. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Daniel C. Dennett

Daniel Dennett is the author of Brainstorms, Brainchildren, Elbow Room, Consciousness Explained and Darwin's Dangerous Idea. He is currently the Distinguished Arts and Sciences Professor and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He lives in North Andover, Massachusetts.show more

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10,951 ratings
4.03 out of 5 stars
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4 33% (3,611)
3 19% (2,104)
2 5% (579)
1 2% (261)
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