After skimming Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”, I suggested earlier that I already knew it from secondary sources. Well actually no, there is lots of new material for me with fresh links to my threads.
Something Rather Than Nothing – as a pan-Darwinist I never had any trouble with the evolutionary explanation of life the universe and everything emerging out of the chaotic void. Nor also that whilst the specific world we know has human supporting features and a particular set of laws of physics, any range of possibilities could have arisen instead, which may or may not have supported life as we don’t know it. The only catch is the prior existence of more than nothing.
Buildings and Process – Throughout the book he uses the skyhook vs cranes analogy of never really having “get-out-of-jail” convenient starting points, but always needing to imagine how the crane was built to provide your starting platform. Dennett also has a large section on biology as “engineering”, and on the engineering process generally. He relates it to archeaological analysis of features of ancient building structures, and recognising that many features are not to do with the primary function of a building as an enclosed space of given dimensions, but are to do with the processess of constructing it and the processes that will continue after it is complete. In fact he even goes so far as to say that the point of completion is far from clear in most cases. A building has a process lifecycle.
Edge of Chaos – is a fashionable phrase cropping up in many fields. One point in Darwinian evolution is the idea that not all mutations are in fact random, they are “directed” by naturally occurring patterns in the first place, hence multiple emergence of many identical design solutions – working with nature, not against it. These sweet-spot states where natural progression is easy, and meaningful patterns emerge, are typically associated with complexity and modern “chaos”. Mark Maxwell’s MoQ paper uses the edge of chaos analogy for the coherence or sweet spot when dynamic quality is achieved (and the optimum chance exists of loosing your arrow cleanly and hitting your target, to use Herrigel’s analogy) is a point of “resonance” or maximum potential between complete stasis on the one hand and good-old-fashioned chaos (absence of any meaningful order) on the other. More than just linguistic coincidence ?
Oh, and Nietzsche and Marx got the real significance of Darwinism first.