In a book that is both groundbreaking and accessible, Daniel C. Dennett, whom Chet Raymo of The Boston Globe calls "one of the most provocative thinkers on the planet", focuses his unerringly logical mind on the theory of natural selection, showing how Darwin's great idea transforms and illuminates our traditional view of humanity's place in the universe. Dennett vividly describes the theory itself and then extends Darwin's vision with impeccable arguments to their often surprising conclusions, challenging the views of some of the most famous scientists of our day.
©2013 Daniel C. Dennett (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
Letting the rest of the world go by
This is by far the best book I have read this year. It uses the narrative of Darwin's deceptively simple idea of making complex things from a very simple algorithm. The author beats this thought in to the reader and at the same time covers how the world changed because of that.
The book is really more philosophical than scientific but it's accessible to the non-philosopher like me. He starts by telling the listener the mindset during Darwin's time. Plato's universal forms would lead to absolute categories such as species (either your a donkey or a horse) and Aristotle's importance of essence for the nature of things to be the thing. Darwin had to overcome that kind of thought. Darwin dances around what a species is in his "Origins of Species" because for his theory to work you must realize that there are intermediaries between objects and the thinking at that time would not allow for intermediaries. All of the above, I got from just the first chapter in the book, and you too can be just as entertained as I was!
The author tells me that Locke would say that mind must come from mind, that is God must have created man. Now, I have finally started to understand Locke. Oddly, David Hume, almost had the concept of evolution by natural selection but just couldn't take the next step to get there. (How I love David Hume!, a man a head of his times). Hobbes gave us "just so stories" to explain the creation of society and Leviathan.
The nearly infinite decision space (what he calls the 'library in the tower of Babel') gives false security to believers in Sky Hooks (deus ex machina believers, Gould, Penrose and Chomskey), as opposed to the believers in sky cranes (Darwin's Brilliant Idea).
The author has long sections on Psychology (Skinner is wrong!), and morality (morality is complex!). He even delves into one of my favorite topics, Godol's incompleteness theorem and how Penrose is wrong to say it proves artificial intelligence will never succeed. All the time, the author uses the narrative of Darwin's Brilliant Idea, simple algorithms can lead to amazing results.
A negative review on audible led me to this book. The reviewer said that the first half of the book was about philosophy and how good Dawkins is, and the second half spends most of the time criticizing Gould. I knew I wanted the book after having read that review. (To the reviewers credit, he's not being nasty, but fairly accurate).
I loved this book. It's a rare one which challenges my beliefs, keeps me focused and transcends me to hard to reach places in my mind which makes me really think about my place in the universe and understand it just a tiny bit more. Besides, it's fun to be able act like an intellectual snob while talking in a waffle shop with a stranger and have the person think I'm intellectual heavyweight while knowing I only know that stuff because I just listened to one fine book, and more importantly keeps me from having to listen to his stories about some unimportant job he had thirty years ago!
Right up front I will admit: I did not finish this book. I got about 2/3 through and stopped.
Daniel Dennett may be one of the "four horsemen" of the new atheism, but if so, he's the most boring of the four. He obviously idolizes Richard Dawkins. Everything Dawkins ever said is profound in the extreme. There's no need to read "The Blind Watchmaker" or "The Selfish Gene" if you read this, because Dennett quotes virtually every sentence in those books, and wastes no opportunity to tell us how profound and original each one is.
On the other hand, he absolutely despises Steven Jay Gould. He spends a majority of the latter half of the book outlining everything that's wrong with everything Gould ever said or did.
The first half of the book did have some interesting stuff. There was a chapter about John Conway's Life simulation that was very interesting. Some interesting stuff about memes (that I'd already read in Dawkins, of course, but still interesting). But then he decided to dedicate the rest of the book (or a very large chunk of it) to lambasting S. J. Gould, and to a lesser extent Noam Chomsky. Also, everyone who ever said a word in support of Gould is an idiot. I fast-forwarded to close to the end and he was still at it. At that point I called it quits.
I'm giving the book three stars mainly because I did enjoy the first half.
Yes- but considering the tome is 27 plus hours cover to cover, I will reserve a second listen for a winter stay in Antarctica or a South Pacific solo sailing cruise of long duration.
The ingenious meld of philosophy,history and biological science.
He is gifted with a vocal tone and style that is neither boring nor overly stimulating. It's just right.
Challenging All Barriers You Took For Granted.
Well written but sadly meanders through its intellectual / philosophical meadow with no visible direction,
Like other reviewers of this book, I could not get to the end, actually I could not get past the first download of the the four downloads, There is no doubt that Dennet is a smart man and great with words, just the words don't go anywhere. After a a few chapters it became too much, The narration was slow paced and constantly filled with road blocks as we are told that this last sentence in the book was from this reference, (Mr Authors Name in Book Tile Chapter number page number). I have read books from Dennet's horsemen friends Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Steven Pinker and Krauss and found all there books to be very enjoyable. I have tried a few times to come back to this book, I really want to like it but I couldn't Maybe it would be better in print.
Great read and very insightful. It is a well written discussion of the various discussions that have gone on in the scientific community concerning evolution.
Great reading of a great book. I am not sure if they meant to do this or not, but the narrator has a voice in cadence that is actually fairly close to Dennett's (I have watched/listened to a LOT of his lectures on YouTube), sometimes I almost forgot it wasn't him himself.
I'm a son, brother, husband and father. I design software and consider myself a free-thinker.
Shorter, more to the point. Most of the time I didn't really follow his analogies or they didn't seem to relate to the idea.
This was my first Daniel Dennett book. I only got it because I heard someone mention it was their favorite author of the non-believer genre. I have others in my wish list, but will probably get passed over for other books.
Cut out all of the referencing, made me wonder if Daniel actually had any of his own ideas. Put them in a PDF...it was very annoying.
I have to agree with the first review of this book. Boring!!!! It is like a bad movie that you keep waiting to take off, it did for a little while than came crashing down again. The analogies were awful and most of time I had a difficult time figuring out where we were going or what point we were trying to make. The continual interruption of giving references was very disruptive when listen to the book. I also could not finish this book, I got about 3/4 through it and that was probably way too much. I got nothing from this book, waste of a credit.
The narrator is great and at times makes a rather dry book come to life. Although dry the information contained within is fantastic. It not only helps give you a deep understanding of evolution but the tools to combat people opposing it. Show them cranes where they believed skyhooks existed...
"Coherent and engaging"
Dennett's dialogue remains coherent and engaging when spoken, thanks to excellent structure and generous inclusion of allegory. Stillwell's narrative tone is spot on.
Occasional technical details might be difficult to follow if the listener is not familiar with the vocabulary of biology, but this should not prevent fluent comprehension of the work. The commentary on Gould is a dreary incongruity in an otherwise delightful exposition of Neo-Darwinism.
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