Monday, 6 October 2008

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel C. Dennett

Cranes or skyhooks? I'm an unabashed crane man myself.

Dennett explores the wider implications of Darwin's theory of natural selection. We get lucid summaries of the current debates on Natural Selection as a logical algorithm or philosophical approach, we are introduced to the mindboggingly complex library of Mendel and a quick tour of many of the biological challenges to Darwin's ideas and why they are now disregarded, finally a section on mind, meaning, maths and morality which is incredibly thought provoking.

Dennett's style is careful and deliberate with as much thought given to the structure of his argument as the style of his prose. This is fortunate as he tackles some areas of thought in which it would be very easy to lose your way. I read this book a little while ago whilst on holiday and would recommend taking it in in fairly big chunks otherwise you will yourself having to constantly recap his complex arguments.

In fact it's so good - you don't even mind that a lot of what he covers is actually philosophy.

Ultimately Dennett aims o show that Darwin's theory and everything it tells us about the world around us is life affirming and how it can help to bring meaning to life.

A cracking good read.

Four out of five stars.


  1. While I enjoyed the ideas in this book, the presentation could have been much, much more succinct. In fact, I haven't ever finished it. :-(

  2. Yes I think you have a point. I had the advantage of reading it whilst on holiday so could have a good run up at it so to speak.