Know any Evolution books?

Richard M Kliman rkliman at runet.edu
Sun Jan 7 18:06:43 EST 1996


In article <4cjf45$5pe at lore.interserv.net>,  <golem at interserv.com> wrote:
>>   gmills at iamerica.net (Stephen Mills) writes:
>>  
>>  Has anyone read "Darwins Dangerous Idea"  by Daniel C. Dennet yet.  I
>>  was wondering if I should take the time.
>>  
>>  Stephen Mills
>
>Not really. After his success with "consiousness explaines" he got a $2oo.ooo 
advance for this 
>one. The first chapter is good history, good quotes. The rest is inconsistent 
and shows his lack of 
>knowledge and understanding of biology. Being a computer guy, he ignores the 
beautiful 
>complexity of nature, roles of contingency and chance in evolution and wants 
to make everything 
>clean and neat and reducible to formulas and algorithms.

    <<deleted section>>

>   Bora Zivkovic, NCSU

It would seem that Bora didn't like the book.  However, I don't think 
his review was particularly useful to the original poster.  Personally, 
I disagree with his assessment of "Darwin's Dangerous Idea."  The first 
part of the book was, IMHO, a well written discussion of basic evolutionary 
theory.  While Dennett *does* spend a good deal of time discussing 
algorithmic processes, he also makes it quite clear that algorithms do 
not necessarily predict exact results.  It did not appear to me that 
Dennett ignores chance in evolution; in fact, in his discussion of 
algorithmic processes, chance is far from ignored.
     I found the "dangerous idea" part of the book to be especially 
thought-provoking.  The dangerous idea wasn't what I originally expected - 
though I haven't read Dennett's earlier work, which might have tipped me off.
     I never found Dennett to be lacking in knowledge of Biology.  I 
certainly wouldn't make this accusation on the basis of reading the 
(whole) book (slowly and carefully).  In fact, after reading the book, it 
struck me that an interesting course could be centered on "Darwin's 
Dangerous Idea" and Weiner's "The Beak of the Finch."  This wouldn't 
replace a comprehensive Evolution course for biology majors or graduate
students, but, then again, these books weren't really written for that 
purpose, were they?
     Anyway, to the original poster: what's the harm in reading the 
book?  It takes a while, but it probably won't be wasted time.

Rich Kliman
Dept. of Biology
Radford University



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