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

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

Language: English

Pages: 0


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In a book that is both groundbreaking and accessible, Daniel C. Dennett, whom Chet Raymo of The Boston Globe calls "one of the most provocative thinkers on the planet", focuses his unerringly logical mind on the theory of natural selection, showing how Darwin's great idea transforms and illuminates our traditional view of humanity's place in the universe. Dennett vividly describes the theory itself and then extends Darwin's vision with impeccable arguments to their often surprising conclusions, challenging the views of some of the most famous scientists of our day.

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slightly, for they win their prizes by selecting such slight differences, yet they ignore all general arguments and refuse to sum up in their minds slight differences accumulated during many successive generations" (Origin, p. 29). The further diversification into species would occur, Darwin argued, because if there was a variety of heritable skills or equipment in a population (of a single species), these different skills or equipment would tend to have different payoffs for different subgroups

since they had no way of favoring ( selecting for an encore ) the behavioral options they were equipped to "try out," but others, we may suppose, were fortunate enough to have wired-in "reinforcers" that happened to favor Smart Moves, actions that were better for their agents. These individuals thus confronted the environment by generating a variety of actions, which they tried out, one by one, until they found one that worked. We may call this subset of Darwinian creatures, the creatures with

new joke, where it came from? If you are like almost everybody else I have ever known or heard of, you never make up jokes; you pass on, perhaps with "improvements," something you heard from someone who heard it from someone, who... Now, we know the process cannot go on forever. A joke about President Clinton, for instance, cannot be more than a year or so old. So who makes up the jokes? Joke-authors (as contrasted with joke-purveyors) are invisible.7 Nobody ever seems to catch them in the act of

gene (or an allele at a locus) 102 THE TREE OF LIFE bears only a passing resemblance to the intricate machinery of the codon sequences on DNA molecules. But thanks to these deliberate simplifications, their models are computationally tractable, enabling them to discover and confirm many large-scale patterns in gene flow that would otherwise be utterly invisible. Adding complications would tend to bring their research to a grinding halt. But is their research good science? Crick replied that

313 1. A Clutch of Harmless Heresies 313 2. Three Losers: Teilhard, Lamarck, and Directed Mutation 320 3. CuiBono? 324 PART III: MIND, MEANING, MATHEMATICS, AND MORALITY PART II: DARWINIAN THINKING IN BIOLOGY CHAPTER TWELVE CHAPTER SEVEN Priming Darwin's Pump 1. 2. 3. 4. Back Beyond Darwin's Frontier 149 Molecular Evolution 155 The Laws of the Game of Life 163 Eternal Recurrence—Life Without Foundations? 149 The Cranes of Culture 1. 2. 3. 4. 181 335 The Monkey's Uncle Meets the Meme 335

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