“Darwin’s Strange Inversion of Reasoning”
(January 14th, 2009, Frederick Wood Theatre)
One of Darwin’s earliest critics noted his “strange inversion of reasoning: in order to make a perfect and beautiful machine it is not requisite to know how to make it.” This is indeed a counterintuitive idea, but it is central not just to biology but to computer science and, indeed, all of science.
Resistance to this ‘strange inversion’ is at the heart of popular discontent with both evolution by natural selection and computer models of the brain and mind. It helps to understand some of the controversies surrounding theories of consciousness to recognize that some of the participants are “mind creationists” who cannot accept Darwin’s inversion when applied to minds.
Daniel Dennett is a prominent American philosopher whose research centers on philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies, the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and a University Professor at Tufts University. Dennett is a noted atheist and secularist as well as being a prominent advocate of the Brights movement.