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Darwin's Dangerous Idea

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Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Evolution and the Meanings of Life

Simon & Schuster,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

A comprehensive introduction to the theory of evolution…or, what makes Darwinism so dangerous?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Daniel C. Dennett’s book is worthy of its subject matter. That is to say, beautiful in its essence, but complex in its details. Dennett is not trying just to explain Darwin’s core ideas about evolution or natural selection. Rather, he is trying to explain how evolution fits into humanity’s understanding of itself, life and the world. To do so, he has to explain his views on evolution’s context, its implications for human understanding, and the philosophical and scientific currents it rides. He grapples with the emotional uproar that the idea of evolution produced. He works hard to illustrate these concepts, via stories, autobiographical asides, examples, metaphors, drawings, quotes and even jokes. The book is challenging, because of the stimulating content, but absorbing. getAbstract recommends it warmly to readers interested in evolution, and in the intersection of science and culture. Despite its methodical approach, this thoughtful exploration is not for beginners. One other caveat: If you want science blended with faith, Dennett believes that given humanity’s quest for facts, “There is no future in a sacred myth.” He forthrightly tells those who are distressed by this point of view to “close the book now and tiptoe away.”


Evolution: Context, Meaning, Implications

In many contexts, if you bring up evolution, people wince. Many fear the controversy Charles Darwin’s theory has generated, or the threat they think evolution poses to their religious beliefs. And you might well wonder: is there room for awe, faith or spirituality in a world defined by evolution? The answer is yes – but to find it, you need to understand evolution and the revolution in thought that it implies. Start with this observation: Scientists almost universally accept the theory of evolution. It cuts across disciplines. It explains many elements of life. Other scientific fields support it, from geology to genetic engineering. Evolution is essential to human understanding of the biological universe. It is the center about which all else turns.

However, Darwin’s initial audiences found evolution shocking, confusing or even unpalatable for many historical reasons, and some still do. Throughout history, people have tried to explain humanity’s place in the world: who are human beings? Where did they come from? Why do they exist? Some answer this question by telling a story – a creation myth – that relates how people came ...

About the Author

Daniel C. Dennett is the director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, and author of Consciousness Explained.

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