Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The best idea ever
Gautam Bastian points me to an excellent interview of Daniel Dennett, author of "Darwin's Dangerous Idea," in which Dennett says:
I would give Darwin the gold medal for the best idea anybody ever had. It unifies the world of meaning and purpose and goals and freedom with the world of science, with the world of the physical sciences. I mean, we talk about the great gap between social science and natural science. What closes that gap? Darwin -- by showing us how purpose and design, meaning, can arise out of purposelessness, out of just brute matter.Indeed, if the concept of God was created by us as an explanation for how life, in all its complexity, came to be, I think Darwin took away that reason. As Douglas Adams said about Darwin's theory in this interview:
It [natural selection] was a concept of such stunning simplicity, but it gave rise, naturally, to all of the infinite and baffling complexity of life. The awe it inspired in me made the awe that people talk about in respect of religious experience seem, frankly, silly beside it. I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.The book Adams credited with having opened his eyes to evolutionary biology was "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins, whose other books are also required reading on the subject. The best book I have read on the implications of evolutionary theory is Steven Pinker's remarkable "The Blank Slate."