Darwin's Dangerous Idea

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Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (1995) is a book by Daniel Dennett which argues that Darwinian processes are the central organizing force that gives rise to complexity. Dennett asserts that natural selection is a blind and algorithmic process which is sufficiently powerful to account for the evolution of life including the complexities of human minds and societies. These assertions have generated a great deal of debate and discussion in the general public. The book was a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award in non-fiction.[1]

Contents

Background

Dennett's previous book was Consciousness Explained (1991). Dennett noted discomfort with Darwinism among not only lay people but even academics, and decided it was time to write a book dealing with the subject.[2] Darwin's Dangerous Idea is not meant to be a work of science, but an interdisciplinary book; Dennett admits that he doesn't understand all of the scientific details himself. He goes into a moderate level of detail, but leaves it for the reader to go into greater depth if desired, providing plenty of references to this end.

In writing the book, Dennett wanted to "get thinkers in other disciplines to take evolutionary theory seriously, to show them how they have been underestimating it, and to show them why they have been listening to the wrong sirens." To do this he tells a story; one that is mainly original but which includes some material from his previous work.

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