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Table of Contents and Excerpts

Excerpts from Reviews

About the Author

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§    Introduction


§                           1. The Ladder of Cultural Evolution

§                           2. The Way We Were

§                           3. Add Technology and Bake for Five Millennia

§                           4. The Invisible Brain

§                           5. War: What Is It Good For? 

§                           6. The Inevitability of Agriculture 

§                           7. The Age of Chiefdoms

§                           8. The Second Information Revolution

§                           9. Civilization and So On

§                           10. Our Friends the Barbarians 

§                           11. Dark Ages

§                           12. The Inscrutable Orient

§                           13. Modern Times

§                           14. And Here We Are

§                           15. New World Order

§                           16. Degrees of Freedom


§                          17. The Cosmic Context

§                          18. The Rise of Biological Non-zero-sumness

§                          19. Why Life Is So Complex

§                          20. The Last Adaptation


§                          21. Non-crazy Questions

§                          22. You Call This a God?


§                          Appendix I: On Non-zero-sumness

§                          Appendix II: What Is Social Complexity?









Excerpt of e-mail from Robert Wright to Daniel Dennett, Oct. 7, 2004


Dear Dan—


Thanks for this e-mail. But after re-watching the tape--and transcribing long stretches of it, as you’ll see below--I’m still convinced that my article accurately portrayed our dialogue and its implications.


You now characterize your concession at the end of the tape as follows:


> But all I am granting in this acquiescences [sic] is that IF evolution

> exhibited the properties that embryogenesis exhibits (which it doesn't,

> as I've kept insisting) this would work to some extent in favor of your

> purpose hypothesis.


Dan, not only, have you *not* “kept insisting” that evolution and embryogenesis don’t have common properties. You’ve spent most of the several minutes prior to your final concession *agreeing* with me that they share common properties. Here are the two key stretches:


bob [after describing ontogeny]: “I would submit that if you step back and observe life on this planet in time lapse, including not just the evolution of human beings, but the cultural--including technological--evolution that led to where we are today, the process would look remarkably like that, and in fact you yourself in your most recent book, freedom evolves, you say, there’s a sentence something like `the planet is growing it’s own nervous system, us.’ And it’s true—it looks like that”

dan:  Yeah absolutely.

bob: “And there is a functionality about it”

dan: Yeah, yeah.

bob: “And you agree there’s been a directionality about it”

dan: Yes.


[Then I trot out the evidence-for-design argument and you resist it. Then,  it’s true, you do start asserting one *difference* between ontogeny and evolution. BUT,  as the following transcript shows, you then agree with me that this “difference” doesn’t work against my argument. And in the course of this exchange, you resume your agreement with me on the various similarities between ontogeny and evolution:]


dan: “…in the same way that most of the organisms that ever lived on this planet died childless and most of the lineages that have ever started off are extinct, and so much more than 99 out of 100 of the lineages that have ever evolved have extinguished themslves without ever leading to intelligence. So intelligence is the rare thing. yes, but it’s still, given enough time, it’s very likely to [unintelligible]…”

bob: “But I think that works in favor of the argument I’m making. first you said tons of organisms die childless. Right, and yet you agree that they were designed by natural selection to--”

dan: “Not to die childless, yes.”

bob: “—create offspring. the fact that some of them don’t do it doesn’t rule out that possibility.”

dan: “Yep, yep.”

bob: “Secondly, the fact that lineages go extinct, that’s true of epigenesis as well.”

dan: “Sure”

bob: “If you look at the cells that you started out with, tons of them go extinct. And what goes on inside your body is more like a process of natural selection than a lot of people realize.”

dan: “Oh, absolutely, yes.”

bob: “And one thing it has in common with natural selection is that although certain properties are very likely—I was very likely to wind up with eyesight, eyeballs—it wasn’t at all inevitable which of my stem cells would be the grandfather of the lineage that led to the eyesight.”

dan: “Right”

bob: “And that’s also true of natural selection.”

dan: “Yeah.”

bob: “So, I’m just saying that to the extent—I think we’ve agreed that observing, what is it, I guess ontogeny is the term, you know, the development of an organism, that it has its directional movement toward functionality by design, and that’s in fact a hallmark of design, would you agree that to the extent that evolution on this planet turned out to have comparable properties, that would work at least to some extent in favor of the hypothesis of design—to some extent, to any extent.”

dan: “Ummm, yeah, I guess. Yeah. Yeah.”