Daniel Dennett Quotes

Image, Isn’t it true that whatever isn’t determined by our genes must be

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Isn't it true that whatever isn't determined by our genes must be determined by our environment? What else is there? There's Nature and there's Nurture. Is there also some X, some further contributor to what we are? There's Chance. Luck. This extra ingredient is important but doesn't have to come from the quantum bowels of our atoms or from some distant star. It is all around us in the causeless coin-flipping of our noisy world, automatically filling in the gaps of specification left unfixed by our genes, and unfixed by salient causes in our environment.

Daniel Dennett

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Image, Let me lay my cards on the table. If I were to

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Let me lay my cards on the table. If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone ever had, I'd give it to Darwin, ahead of even Newton or Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law. It is not just a wonderful idea. It is a dangerous idea.

Daniel Dennett

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Image, I am confident that those who believe in belief are wrong. That

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I am confident that those who believe in belief are wrong. That is, we no more need to preserve the myth of God in order to preserve a just and stable society than we needed to cling to the Gold Standard to keep our currency sound. It was a useful crutch, but we've outgrown it. Denmark, according to a recent study, is the sanest, healthiest, happiest, most crime-free nation in the world, and by and large the Danes simply ignore the God issue. We should certainly hope that those who believe in belief are wrong, because belief is waning fast,... Read more »

Daniel Dennett

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Image, Postmodernism, the school of ‘thought’ that proclaimed ‘There are no truths, only

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Postmodernism, the school of 'thought' that proclaimed 'There are no truths, only interpretations' has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for 'conversations' in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.

Daniel Dennett

Image, Virtually every major technological advance in the history of the human species-

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Virtually every major technological advance in the history of the human species- back to the invention of stone tools and the domestication of fire has been ethically ambiguous. If you want to reason about faith, and offer a reasoned (and reason responsive) defense of faith as an extra category of belief worthy of special consideration, I'm eager to play. I certainly grant the existence of the phenomenon of faith; what I want to see is a reasoned ground for taking faith seriously as a way of getting to the truth , and not, say, just as a way people comfort... Read more »

Daniel Dennett

Image, I should emphasize this, to keep well-meaning but misguided multiculturalists at bay:

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I should emphasize this, to keep well-meaning but misguided multiculturalists at bay: the theoretical entities in which these tribal people frankly believe — the gods and other spirits — don't exist. These people are mistaken, and you know it as well as I do. It is possible for highly intelligent people to have a very useful but mistaken theory, and we don't have to pretend otherwise in order to show respect for these people and their ways.

Daniel Dennett

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Image, I have shown that those who deplore Artificial Intelligence are also those

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I have shown that those who deplore Artificial Intelligence are also those who deplore the evolutionary accounts of human mentality: if human minds are non-miraculous products of evolution, then they are, in the requisite sense, artifacts, and all their powers must have an ultimately mechanical explanation. We are descended from macros and made of macros, and nothing we can do is beyond the power of huge assemblies of macros.

Daniel Dennett

Image, Is he a dread genetic determinist, or a dread environmental determinist? He

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Is he a dread genetic determinist, or a dread environmental determinist? He is neither, of course, for both these species of bogeyman are as mythical as werewolves. By increasing the information we have about the various causes of the constraints that limit our current opportunities, he has increased our powers to avoid what we want to avoid, prevent what we want to prevent. Knowledge of the roles of our genes, and the genes of the other species around us, is not the enemy of human freedom, but one of its best friends.

Daniel Dennett

Image, Cults and prophets proclaiming the imminent end of the world have been

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Cults and prophets proclaiming the imminent end of the world have been with us for several millenia, and it has been another sour sort of fun to ridicule them the morning after, when they discover that their calculations were a little off. But, just as with Marxists, there are some among them who are working hard to 'hasten the inevitable,' not merely anticipating the End Days with joy in their hearts, but taking political action to bring about the conditions they think are the prerequisites for that occasion.

Daniel Dennett