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Darwin's dangerous idea : evolution and the…

Darwin's dangerous idea : evolution and the meanings of life (original 1995; edition 1995)

by Daniel Clement Dennett

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2,365302,661 (4.06)36
Title:Darwin's dangerous idea : evolution and the meanings of life
Authors:Daniel Clement Dennett
Info:New York: Simon & Schuster, c1995. 586 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
Collections:Your library, Darwin, Google Drive

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Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel C. Dennett (1995)


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English (26)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Dennett is a philosopher with interests in evolutionary biology and cognitive studies. Since I haven't read much philosophy and only a little of the evolutionary studies he cites, this book was a slow and sometimes difficult read. I do feel that he was persuasive that he is on the right track but he cheerfully admits that not everyone in the field agrees. Dennett argues that evolution is a done deal and that there are no 'skyhooks' (supernatural elements) needed to get from just formed earth to men asking questions about how they got here. He can also inject humor into his dialog with the reader.
  hailelib | Mar 4, 2016 |
Universally acclaimed for its brilliance, wit and insight into Darwin and the implication for man's place in the universe ( )
  Keith_Conners | Jan 22, 2016 |
The first 5 or 6 chapters are actually very good, not as good as any of Dawkins', but still pretty good. But gradually, it turns into a long-winded literature study. And the rambling becomes unbearable. In retrospect, having experienced Dennett's ability of filling pages previously when reading his Consciousness Explained, I should have exercised more caution in beginning this book. Mea culpa. ( )
  StanleyPhang | Sep 30, 2015 |
(almost gave it four stars) A little bit too preachy for those of us already convinced that evolution is fact and the bible is a story. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Although the topic is very interesting and his idea that evolution is an algorithm is interesting, I don't see where Dennett comes off as the authority on evolution even though he is neither a biologist, a paleontologist, nor a physicist. The other major annoyance is his writing style which circumlocutes all over the place. Brevity is certainly a virtue. What could have been said in three hundred pages, is said in over 500 pages.

So what is he? A philosopher, which is where the book has its strength. What are the philosophical attributes of evolution, what does it mean for us,etc. Yet, as a philosopher, he belies his own erudition by getting certain facts just plain wrong about religion, specifically Islam.

As a philosopher, you would think that part of your training is to examine the philosophies of major (and minor) world religions. Yet on the topic of Islam, he resorts to simple, hyperbolic stereotypes of Islam to support his point on the role of memes and evolution on society.

Dennett glosses over details in biology that if examined critically might not lend complete support to his theses. For example, in the chapter, Priming the Pump, Dennett postulates that small nucleotide sequences aggregate onto clay to form small self-replicating sequences. These inchoate sequences serve as building blocks for DNA sequences. The most common occurring sequences (e.g. GCC) would automatically pair up with, and code for the most common occurring amino acids, like glycine. It doesn't matter that the sequences don't code for anything, just that they replicate and they code for an amino acid. The sequences self-replicate by virtue interdependent feed forward systems, that by itself, each dependent system would not self-replicate in a dominant way. Together though, they feed forward each others systems, thereby producing large amounts of self-replicating nucleotides that code for particular amino acids.

Okay, this is an interesting idea but he glosses over the details. For example, while certain nucleotides base pair with each other (adenine with thymine and guanosine with cytosine) via electrostatic charge, how do you get adjaced nucleotides to covalently bond to each other without a catalyst? Also, he skips the intermediate steps of transcription and translation of DNA and mRNA to produce a protein. He skips over how proteins are produced and just says they make wonderful catalysts, which they do. But what coded them in the first place?

Lastly, what I find boorish is that he presumes that anyone who is religious is fanatical, irrational, and fundamentalist. He is so anti-religious that he himself borders on fundamentalism- Darwinian fundamentalism. He seems just as intolerant as those he condemns.

After all is said and done, I don't think he has convinced me that evolution obviates God. I now turn to Kenneth Miller's book finding Darwin's God. ( )
  inasrullah64 | Sep 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Daniel Dennett's fertile imagination is captivated by the very dangerous idea that the neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution should become the basis for what amounts to an established state religion of scientific materialism. Dennett takes the scientific part of his thesis from the inner circle of contemporary Darwinian theorists: William Hamilton, John Maynard Smith, George C. Williams, and the brilliant popularizer Richard Dawkins.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Daniel C. Dennettprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Darwin, Charlessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Neurath has likened science to a boat which, if we were to rebuld it, we must rebuild plank by plank while staying afloat in it. The philosopher and the scientist are in the same boat...

Analyze theory-building how we will, we must all start in the middle. Our conceptual firsts are middle-sized, middle-distanced objects, and our introduction to them and to everything comes midway in the cultural evolution of the race. In assimilating this cultural fare we are little more aware of a distinction between report and invention, substance and style, cues and conceptualization, than we are of a distinction between the proteins and the carbohydrates of our material intake. Retrospectively we may distinguish the components of theory-building, as we distinguish the proteins and carbohydrates while subsisting on them.

—Willard Van Orman Quine 1960, pp 4-6
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We used to sing a lot when I was a child, around the campfire at summer camp, at school and Sunday school, or gathered around the piano at home.
[...] by the time God has been depersonalized to the point of being some abstract and timeless principle of beauty or goodness, it is hard to see how the existence of God could explain anything. (p. 180)
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In 1859 verscheen een van de belangrijkste boeken van onze tijd: The Oriain of Species van Charles Danvin. De bescheiden Britse dokterszoon met een geniaal talent voor wetenschap veroorzaakte met dit boek een aardschok die nog altijd natrilt. Zijn stelling was dat alle leven op aarde voortkomt uit een
voortdurende strijd om de schaarse ruimte en j Bemiddelen. Alles wat ons verbaast en verrukt in de levende natuur, maar ook alles wat ons verbijstert door zijn nietsontziende wreedheid - inclusief het gedrag van de mens — kan uiteindelijk verklaard worden met één makkelijk te begrijpen idee: de evolutieleer.
Maar is Darwins leer ook bewezen? De eeuw die sindsdien verstreken is, heeft behalve aanhangers ook tegenstanders voortgebracht. Filosofen en religieuze denkers maar ook biologen vielen Danvin met krachtige argumenten aan, en doen dat nog. Dennett zet in dit boek alle voors en tegeos van de evolutietheorie op een rij en schrijft daarmee de complete geschiedenis van een idee. Met superieur inzicht in de grote lijnen maar ook in details beschrijft hij hoe één idee, op zichzelf zo simpel dat elk schoolkind het begrijpt, onze kijk op de natuur en op onszelf blijvend kon veranderen.
Daniel C. Dennett is een van de meest gerespecteerde filosofen van dit moment en sinds de VPRO-serie Een schitterend ongeluk ook in Nederland geen onbekende. Van zijn hand verscheen eerder bij Uitgeverij Contact Het bewustzijn verklaard, waarover de pers schreef:
'Stilistisch it zijn boek - zeker voor een Nederlands filosofisch publiek — openbaring door de korzeligbeul, de ironische toon, de grapjes en de aandacht voor wetenschap.'
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 068482471X, Paperback)

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!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:57 -0400)

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