Penn State

Mark Mescher - Associate Professor of Entomology, Penn State University Park


Author: Daniel C. Dennett

Book Description:

I believe that Darwin's "idea" about natural selection is the most important intellectual discovery in human history. And this book provides an insightful elucidation of the power of that idea both within biology and beyond. With due respect to the towering discoveries of Copernicus, Einstein, and others, the Darwinian idea stands apart in providing an explanation of how purely mechanistic, physical processes give rise to adaptation and hence to the appearance of design in nature. Consequently, all the design-bearing things in the universe, from the human eye, to the plays of Shakespeare, to the scientific process itself, are produced by elaborations of the basic Darwinian logic—elaborations that often, as Dennett deftly explains, recapitulate that same logic, with adaptation at one level of organization providing the foundation for selective processes that structure information at other levels. Once this is understood, almost no field of human thought or endeavor is left untouched by Darwin's idea (hence the intellectual danger referenced in Dennett’s title). If the ongoing expansion of the Darwinian synthesis leads, in decades or centuries to come, to a unified and cohesive vision of human knowledge, its foundation will no doubt be built on the ideas discussed in this book.


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