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80 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Easy to Read, Heavy on Logic With Much Detail
There have been many comments on this book in the ten years since it was first published. I think what Carl Sagan said about the book is perhaps the most accurate: "a breath of fresh air". Contrary to many other people I thought the book by Dennett was easy to read, very well written, very straightforward, and not some sort of heavy philosophical discussion. He has lots...
Published on 3 Oct. 2005 by J. E. Robinson

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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dennett's theory of evolution doesn't explain everything.
Dennett was recommended to me as a rigorous thinker who tolerates no fools. This was in fact evident, his presentation of contemporary evolutionary theory is clear, lucid, well thought out and pleasantly eclectic. Unfortunately, it all starts unravelling when he starts presenting his own particular version of evolution as the cutting edge theory. To defend his...
Published on 28 Aug. 1998


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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A simplistic view of Darwinism, 1 Aug. 1998
By A Customer
Oh boy, this book is baaaad. A simplistic view of Darwinism wrapped in a pedantic package. Stay clear of it.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Complexities of Evolution, 3 April 2012
By 
I was looking for a basic text on evolution, and despite what others say, this was not it. The ideas within this book are, I found very complex and in some areas difficult to grasp. There is though some milage in this book as it further explores the work done by Dawkins around 'memes' which I found interesting and informative. I would suggest that this book is not for the feint hearted, but it does make some interesting points about evolution, but I do feel at times Dennett is using this book to have a go at the likes of Gould, not sure this helps?
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23 of 58 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much waffle, 16 Aug. 2006
By 
Alan Davies (Aberdare. Wales) - See all my reviews
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I looked forward to reading this book, having seen all the reviews and the endorsement by Richard Dawkins himself, but I was sorely disappointed. To me it was an exercise in academic rambling, and did not really teach me anything that I could not have had from other books on evolution with more lucid language.

I got the feeling of the King's new clothes here, that maybe I'm some kind of ignoramus for not appreciating the man's logic and depth of argument. Sorry, but the king is naked.

It was pretentious and uninspiring language, hard going in trying to follow what the author was trying to convey, and ending up none the wiser. Daniel Dennett may well be a respected academic, but I did not really learn anything from him. I'm sure there are ideas locked up inside his flowery language somewhere, but I got lost somewhere along the way.

He seemed to make the common mistake of many academics: why use three words to convey an idea when twenty will do instead? I got through it, just, but will never waste my time in reading anything by this man again. Life's too short, and I have more books by Richard Dawkins and other popularisers of science to inspire me.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 00102035974, 21 Jun. 1999
By A Customer
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6 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Skyhooked !!, 23 Mar. 2012
I am a physicist by profession and I just finished reading Dennett's book.

I share Richard Feynman's opinion of the usefulness of philosophers in the advancement of our understanding of the physical world ("Philosophy of Science is about as useful to scientists as Ornithology is to birds."), so I would not normally have contemplated reading this book - the only reason I did so was in an attempt to understand the reason for Dennett's vitriolic attacks on Roger Penrose's arguments, based on the mathematical works of Turing and Gödel, for the non-algorithmic nature of human thought.

Having read the book I now understand the reason - Dennett is clearly the high priest of Artificial Intelligence through Evolution by Adaptive, Algorithmic Selection and Penrose's 'proof' is a direct and very convincing refutation of Dennett's philosophy. Anything that does not conform to his 'algorithmic' world view Dennett labels and dismisses as a 'Skyhook'. The primary problem that Dennett has to face, it seems to me, is that the fundamental laws of physics are exactly that: Skyhooks ... just like, and with similar validity to, the axioms of Euclid in relation to plane geometry. And everything, including adaptive algorithmic natural selection and the human mind, hangs from those hooks.

Our hope is, of course, to end up with just one Skyhook - a mathematical principle not a supernatural fudge, that explains it all. But don't hold your breath waiting for DD to help us find that :-) because it is very unlikely to come from Darwin's idea (which is indeed both profound and dangerous) ** When it is found it will be found by a physicist or a mathematician and, if it cannot be found by them, then ... God help us, we will have to leave the problem with the philosophers ;-)

** although you might want to read Lee Smolin's 'Life of the Cosmos' for an alternative speculation on that The Life of the Cosmos
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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fiction and folly, 8 Sept. 1998
By A Customer
Dennett uses this book to stroke his own ego and lambast those who dare be so bold as to present well-reasoned, thoroughly-documented empirical theories that are not his own. The central theme of this tiresome book - to portray evolution as an algorithmic process - is a patent fallacy. Dennett's lack of understanding of basic evolutionary processes, pointed out in devestating reviews of his work by Richard Lewontin and others, leaps from every page. A waste of paper. As for his criticism of Gould and other original thinkers, it is nothing short of contemptible. Read the Origin of Species before your waste your time on this nonsense.
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4 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Jump on in, the acid's fine, 25 Aug. 1999
By A Customer
The universal acid metaphor is interesting but not original. It's been done, and done better by Jacque Monod, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, and King Solomon among others. Further, they all seemed to understand what Dennett does not: a universal acid eats through everything, even the constructs of those who wish to champion it.
I did find an interesting thought or two in reviewing the reviews below. One reader gushed about the book and at the same time said 'don't read it', 'watch TV instead', since 'what does it matter?' Indeed. Another called it a '20th Century Version of the Book of Job'. Well, it's the 20th century version of something. For some clues, I would direct this reader to Chapter 1 of the Book of Ecclesiastes however.
Dennett proposes (threatens?) that those who do not accept his ULTIMATE TRUTH should be marginalized in "cultural zoos", their children re-educated since "the survival of mankind and the planet depend on it". When I stop laughing out loud I could fill a chapter with everything that is contradictory and self-negating (in addition to the antic charm) about that thought, but let me just say this: It is here that Dennett's true nature as a vile little fascist comes through. Like all fascists, no measures are too extreme when it comes to securing his ULTIMATE TRUTH. Cultural zoos? One imagines Dennett already making preliminary measurements for barracks and barbed wire. "Your new quarters are right this way, Professor Gould, right down the hall from these simple religious folk".
Liberation is the sense you have waking from a nightmare in which you felt trapped. The ultra-Darwinism of Dennett shall soon take its place, not in a ''cultural zoo" but in a Museum of Intellectual History where it can start collecting dust along with all of man's other liberation myths.
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2 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Evolutionary 'love-in', 9 July 1998
By A Customer
The sub-text of this book is to 'prove creation false'. From the patronisingly a priori dismissal of the possibility of creation, and the aggressive assertion of evolution as fact, Dennett comes accross as 'threatened'. Dennett assumes that evolution happened, so his book has little to offer someone who doesn't agree with his assumption. Even taking that into account, the book contains a good deal of what, if I were less polite, I would call drivel.
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1 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing, 27 Aug. 1998
By A Customer
Dennett is the worst example of the establishment philosopher who is lazy to be following the real stories in the field and who keeps on churning out the same PC stuff that we have been hearing for too, too long.
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5 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A plausible extension of Dennett's "world view" to Darwinism, 19 Jan. 2002
Dennett rigorously applies his (non-greedy) reductionism to promote an "ultra-Darwinist" view with just enough bitchiness to keep it interesting.
But the great thinker does make a basic error on page 488 - "If a card has a "D" on one side , it has a "3" on the other side.", is not logically eqiuivalent to the drinking rule. In the former you only have to check one card - the "D" card because the "3" card could have anything on the other side without violating the rule. The drinking rule is correctly stated as "all and only people over 21 may drink". The card rule should therefore have stated "if a card has a "D" on one side, it has a "3" on the other side and only dards with "D" on one side have "3" on the other side".
Turning the problem around, if the drinking rule were the same as the card rule, it would state that "if you are over 21 you can drink" which, of course, does not say that under 21s cannot drink...
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Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life
Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel C. Dennett (Hardcover - 1 May 1995)
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