31 May 2008

Darwin's Dangerous Idea - Daniel C. Dennett

Review by Danny Yee

Dennett begins by explaining why he thinks Darwin deserves the prize for the "single best idea anyone has ever had" and why his idea was (and is) so revolutionary, so dangerous. He illustrates this with a brief account of pre-Darwinian ideas — with Locke as an exponent of the traditional viewpoint and Hume as someone who came very close to Darwin's insight. The key elements of Darwin's "dangerous idea" are a denial of essentialism and an understanding of natural selection as a substrate neutral, algorithmic process, applicable to an extremely wide range of phenomena and capable of achieving immense feats by slow accumulation over large extents of time and space.

Darwin's original application of natural selection was, of course, to the origin of species. Dennett explores different ways of visualising the "tree of life" and explains the problems involved in defining species (decisions about species status are necessarily retrospective). This is illustrated with an explanation of the often misunderstood "Mitochondrial Eve" phenomena.

At this point Dennett introduces a metaphor which is used throughout the book: "cranes" are devices or "good tricks" that allow design to proceed faster, but which build on existing foundations; "skyhooks" are entirely mysterious, pre-existing hooks in the sky which enable some problem to be solved or some complexity to be created entirely independently of ordinary processes of design. Dennett argues that there is no place at all for skyhooks and that the only bad reductionism is a "greedy" reductionism that tries to do without cranes. (click for full review)

http://rapidshare.com/files/118961017/kitap11.rar (2858 KB, şifre: 11kitap55)

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