Copyright 1997, Lawrence Erlbaum. Assciates, Inc


Evolutionary Theory Developing:
The Problem(s) With Darwin's
Dangerous Idea

Rod Swenson
Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action
University of Connecticut

Daniel Dennett's book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, is presented as an historical account and explication of evolutionary theory, and a demonstration of how Darwin's "dangerous idea" provides an explanation of the psychological or epistemic dimension of the world (or of mind in nature) - Its real agenda is to present Dennett's own theory of the origin of "mind" in nature, a kind of computer age, neo-Pythagoreanism that seeks to legitimize the claims of artificial intelligence by locating the source of all agency, meaning, or "mind," in an otherwise "dead" world of physics in algorithms. This approach continues the dominant tradition in modem science of radically separating the psychological and physical into two incommensurable parts, and it is this, the paradigmatic dualism at its core, and the erroneous and outdated empirical assumptions on which it is based, that are the book's undoing. By correcting these assumptions, a principled basis is provided for grounding a commensurable theory that dissolves the anomalies inherent in such Cartesian accounts.


Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea1 (1995b) purports to present an authoritative history and explication of evolutionary theory, to vindicate Darwinian theory by showing the failure of

1In this essay I cite both Dennett's book (1995b) and his own essay by the same name that summarizes the central ideas of the book (1995a).
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