Dennett: Darwin Had The Single Greatest Idea Anyone Ever Had

Dennett: Darwin Had The Single Greatest Idea Anyone Ever Had February 12, 2011

This is a terrific video in which Dennett and Dawkins get further into the weeds discussing the dynamics of evolution, responsibility, how you can make living things out of dead stuff and conscious ones out of unconscious ones, the wonder of natural processes, the idea that we have souls—but they’re made of neurons, and many more of the key philosophical notions which can be derived from an evolutionary outlook.  Here’s the video’s opening claim:

In my book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, I say if I could give  a prize to the single best idea anybody ever had, I’d give it to Darwin—ahead of Newton, ahead of Einstein, ahead of everybody else.  Why?  Because Darwin’s idea put together the two biggest worlds, the world of mechanism and material, and physical causes on the one hand (the lifeless world of matter) and the world of meaning, and purpose, and goals.  And those had seemed really just—an unbridgeable gap between them and he showed “no,” he showed how meaning and purposes could arise out of physical law, out of the workings of ultimately inanimate nature. And that’s just a stunning unification and opens up a tremendous vista for all inquiries, not just for biology, but for the relationship between the second law of thermodynamics and the existence of poetry.

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(Reposted, but with a new title, from September 2009)

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