Daniel Dennett - Evolution Quotes
6 Sourced Quotes
Let me lay my cards on the table. If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone ever had, I'd give it to Darwin, ahead of even Newton or Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law. It is not just a wonderful idea. It is a dangerous idea.
I have shown that those who deplore Artificial Intelligence are also those who deplore the evolutionary accounts of human mentality: if human minds are non-miraculous products of evolution, then they are, in the requisite sense, artifacts, and all their powers must have an ultimately mechanical explanation. We are descended from macros and made of macros, and nothing we can do is beyond the power of huge assemblies of macros.
Evolution is all about processes that almost never happen. Every birth in every lineage is a potential speciation event, but speciation almost never happens, not once in a million births. Mutation in DNA almost never happens — not once in a trillion copings — but evolution depends on it. Take the set of infrequent accidents — things that almost never happen — and sort them into the happy accidents, the neutral accidents, and the fatal accidents; amplify the effects of the happy accidents — which happens automatically when you have replication and competition — and you get evolution.
The evidence of evolution pours in, not only from geology, paleontology, biogeography, and anatomy (Darwin's chief sources), but from molecular biology and every other branch of the life sciences. To put it bluntly but fairly, anyone today who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant — inexcusably ignorant, in a world where three out of four people have learned to read and write. Doubts about the power of Darwin's idea of natural selection to explain this evolutionary process are still intellectually respectable, however, although the burden of proof for such skepticism has become immense...