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Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

Daniel Dennett (author) and Cary Wolinsky (covers)
Original language:
Penguin Books
Biology and science
Publication year:
Original publication year:
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Table of Contents:
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  • Preface

Part I: Starting in the Middle

Chapter One: Tell Me Why
  1. Is Nothing Sacred?
  2. What, Where, When, Why—and How?
  3. Locke's "Proof" of the Primacy of Mind
  4. Hume's Close Encounter
Chapter Two: An Idea Is Born
  1. What Is So Special About Species?
  2. Natural Selection—an Awful Stretcher
  3. Did Darwin Explain the Origin of Species?
  4. Natural Selection as an Algorithmic Process
  5. Processes as Algorithms
Chapter Three: Universal Acid
  1. Early Reactions
  2. Darwin's Assault on the Cosmic Pyramid
  3. The Principle of the Accumulation of Design
  4. The Tools for R and D: Skyhooks or Cranes?
  5. Who's Afraid of Reductionism?
Chapter Four: The Tree of Life
  1. How Should We Visualize the Tree of Life?
  2. Color-coding a Species on the Tree
  3. Retrospective Coronations: Mitochondrial Eve and Invisible Beginnings
  4. Patterns, Oversimplification, and Explanation
Chapter Five: The Possible and the Actual
  1. Grades of Possibility?
  2. The Library of Mendel
  3. The Complex Relation Between Genome and Organism
  4. Possibility Naturalized
Chapter Six: Threads of Actuality in Design Space
  1. Drifting and Lifting Through Design Space
  2. Forced Moves in the Game of Design
  3. The Unity of Design Space

Part II: Darwinian Thinking in Biology

Chapter Seven: Priming Darwin's Pump
  1. Back Beyond Darwin's Frontier
  2. Molecular Evolution
  3. The Laws of the Game of Life
  4. Eternal Recurrence—Life Without Foundations?
Chapter Eight: Biology Is Engineering
  1. The Sciences of the Artificial
  2. Darwin Is Dead—Long Live Darwin!
  3. Function and Specification
  4. Original Sin and the Birth of Meaning
  5. The Computer That Learned to Play Checkers
  6. Artificial Hermeneutics, or Reverse Engineering
  7. Stuart Kauffman as Meta-Engineer
Chapter Nine: Searching for Quality
  1. The Power of Adaptationist Thinking
  2. The Leibnizian Paradigm
  3. Playing with Constraints
Chapter Ten: Bully for Brontosaurus
  1. The Boy Who Cried Wolf?
  2. The Spandrel's Thumb
  3. Punctuated Equilibrium: A Hopeful Monster
  4. Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Burgess Shale Double-Play Mystery
Chapter Eleven: Controversies Contained
  1. A Clutch of Harmless Heresies
  2. Three Losers: Teilhard, Lamarck, and Directed Mutation
  3. Cui Bono?

Part III: Mind, Meaning, Mathematics, and Morality

Chapter Twelve: The Cranes of Culture
  1. The Monkey's Uncle Meets the meme
  2. Invasion of the Body-Snatchers
  3. Could There Be a Science of Memetics?
  4. The Philosophical Importance of Memes
Chapter Thirteen: Losing Our Minds to Darwin
  1. The Role of Language in Intelligence
  2. Chomsky Contra Darwin: Four Episodes
  3. Nice Tries
Chapter Fourteen: The Evolution of Meanings
  1. The Quest for Real Meaning
  2. Two Black Boxes
  3. Blocking the Exits
  4. Safe Passage to the Future
Chapter Fifteen: The Emperor's New Mind, and Other Fables
  1. The Sword in the Stone
  2. The Library of Toshiba
  3. The Phantom Quantum-Gravity Computer Lessons from Lapland
Chapter Sixteen: On the Origin of Morality
  1. E Pluribus Unum?
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche's Just So Stories
  3. Some Varieties of Greedy Ethical Reductionism
  4. Sociobiology: Good and Bad, Good and Evil
Chapter Seventeen: Redesigning Morality
  1. Can Ethics Be Naturalized?
  2. Judging the Competition
  3. The Moral First Aid Manual
Chapter Eighteen: The future of an Idea
  1. In Praise of Biodiversity
  2. Universal Acid: Handle with Care
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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