I found this book walking through a random garage sale around 6 years ago. I picked it up thinking it would provide valuable insight into the theory of Darwinism. I was right, but boy was it a challenging read!
An Honest Review:
This book took me 4 years to finish. Not because it’s long (it’s only 521 pages), but because it is hands down the most difficult book I’ve ever read. Daniel Dennett provides a subjective look at the hot topic of Darwinism vs. Creationism. He maintains a fairly “Switzerland” stance throughout this back and forth argument, which I found quite refreshing. While he does state his opinion on certain aspects, he maintains his search for what he seems to be cranes and sky-hooks. Cranes are described as segues or steps toward the truth, where sky-hooks represent the inexplicable. Dennett shares his knowledge with a little side of humor, which I found to be a nice break from the scientific explanations he provided.
I think it’s important to note that I do not have any scientific background nor education, and theocabulary used to write this book is insane. For the first half of the book I was whipping out my dictionary for every page. Using words like permutations, combinatorially, unscrupulous, and endogenously, I found it challenging to keep up with Dennett’s ideas, sometimes reading pages two or three times and still not being sure I understood it. Overall, I think that I would recommend this book to people with a strong passion for evolution.
What I Learned:
I learned so much within the context of this book, but the biggest thing I learned is how rewarding it can be to finish something that is challenging. I can’t count the amount of times I wanted to give up on this book, it was kind of my Everest, but I’m so very glad I didn’t.
“I do not suggest that Darwinian thinking gives us answers to such questions; I do suggest that Darwinian thinking helps us see why the traditional hope of solving these problems is forlorn.”
Meme, while we know them today as funny pictures on social media, was actually a scientific term, coined by Richard Dawkins, to explain an item in cultural evolution where a learned behaviour can change the operational system of the human brain.
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin – For very obvious reasons. I wish I would have read the Origin of Species first so I had a better understanding of his theories going into this book, but I was already committed.
Dennett, Daniel. (1995). Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolutions and the Meaning of Life. New York, USA: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.