In 1991 Dennett wrote Consciousness Explained, and it so burned up the religious minded they tagged it Consciousness Explained Away. Here, Dennett presses forward the implications of natural selection (the “dangerous idea” ) in a presentation most readers will find rather technical, but for those who persevere, understanding of its mechanisms, particularly the algorithms by which natural selection operates, should gradually sink in. Understanding is facilitated by Dennett’s cogent organization, which accounts for all possible evolutionary outcomes (a virtual infinity of possibilities dubbed Design Space), followed by his explanation of the relentless, purposeless winnowing that results in the life-forms that exist today. Yet, however persuasive Dennett’s view is, not all evolutionists share it, namely the oft-cited Stephen Gould, and readers who enjoy argumentativeness can follow Dennett blasting Gould’s idea of “punctuated equilibrium” for dozens of pages. Ending with a Nietzschean explanation for human morals, Dennett’s deep-diving work challenges studious readers but should survive the struggle for shelf space in big, highly evolved libraries.
Copyright’ 1995, American Library Association. All rights reserved