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Daniel Dennett

Daniel C. Dennett (born 1942) is an American philosopher and cognitive scientist, presently (2002) employed as the director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University.

He is the author of several books on evolution and consciousness. He is a leading proponent of the theory known by some as Neural Darwinism.

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Selected works

Selected quotations

  • "If I were to give a prize for the single best idea anybody ever had, I'd give it to Darwin for the idea of natural selection--ahead of Newton, ahead of Einstein. Because his idea unites the two most disparate features of our universe: The world of purposeless, meaningless matter-in-motion, on the one side, and the world of meaning, and purpose, and design on the other. He understood that what he was proposing was a truly revolutionary idea."

  • "The process of natural selection feeds on randomness, it feeds on accident and contingency[?], and it gradually improves the fit between whatever organisms there are and the environment in which they're being selected. But there's no predictability about what particular accidents are going to be exploited in this process."

  • "When we replace the traditional idea of God the creator with the idea of the process of natural selection doing the creating, the creation is as wonderful as it ever was. All that great design work had to be done. It just wasn't done by an individual, it was done by this huge process, distributed over billions of years."

  • "Whereas people used to think of meaning coming from on high and being ordained from the top down, now we have Darwin saying, No, all of this design can happen, all of this purpose can emerge from the bottom up, without any direction at all. And that's a very unsettling thought for many people."

  • "For more than a century, people have often thought that the conclusion to draw from Darwin's vision is that Homo sapiens--our species--that we're just animals, too, we're just mammals, that there is nothing morally special about us. I, in myself, don't think this follows at all from Darwin's vision, but it is certainly the received view in many quarters."

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