By Daniel C. Dennett
In a booklet that's either groundbreaking and obtainable, Daniel C. Dennett, whom Chet Raymo of The Boston Globe calls "one of the main provocative thinkers at the planet," focuses his unerringly logical brain at the conception of normal choice, displaying how Darwin's nice thought transforms and illuminates our conventional view of humanity's position within the universe. Dennett vividly describes the speculation itself after which extends Darwin's imaginative and prescient with impeccable arguments to their frequently unbelievable conclusions, not easy the perspectives of a few of the main recognized scientists of our day.
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Extra resources for Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life
Just to give a general sense of the breadth and application of the concept, let me point to three very different examples. It is now generally agreed among evolutionary theorists that sex is a crane. That is, species that reproduce sexually can move through Design Space at a much greater speed than that achieved by organisms that reproduce asexually. Moreover, they can "discern" design improvements along the way that are all but "invisible" to asexually reproducing organisms ( Holland 1975 ). This cannot be the raison d'etre of sex, however.
That is what is common to the processes going on in the glowing steel bar and the humming supercomputer. Darwin's ideas about the powers of natural selection can also be lifted out of their home base in biology. Indeed, as we have already noted, Darwin himself had few inklings ( and what inklings he had turned out to be wrong ) about how the microscopic processes of genetic inheritance were accomplished. Not knowing any of the details about the physical substrate, he could nevertheless discern that if certain conditions were somehow met, certain effects would be wrought.
At no point would anything miraculous—from on high—be needed. Each step has been accomplished by brute, mechanical, algorithmic climbing, from the base already built by the efforts of earlier climbing. It does seem incredible. Could it really have happened? Or did the process need a "leg up" now and then (perhaps only at the very beginning) from one sort of skyhook or another? For over a century, skeptics have been trying to find a proof that Darwin's idea just can't work, at least not all the way.