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Dennett's Dangerous Idea

AnnaP's picture

In last week’s webpaper, I wrote about the exciting and progressive possibilities that evolution presents for education, and the ways in which people like Paulo Freire already seem to embody some of these ideas. User hlehman wrote about the idea of evolutionary education too, asserting that:

“Evolution is about change and questions, an ongoing process and story to explain why things happen. It is important for children to have a positive exposure to the story of evolution because it allows them to open their minds and see what science does for us.  Science provokes people to think in a new way without limitations or rules.”

While I think that hlehman was talking more specifically about science education than me, I also felt that the change and questioning inherent in evolution could lead to a more exciting inquiry into the world around us. I say that I “felt” that way in the past tense. Well, that’s because this week in Professor Dalke’s discussion section, we talked more specifically about evolution as an algorithm—which seemed to make evolutionary thinking all about limitations and rules, rather than moving beyond them. At first, I thought that Dennett too was excited about the possibilities of evolutionary thinking…Now I just think that maybe he is reducing everything to a single equation.

Dennett insists that a proper reductionist explanation of our culture’s meaning and purpose would leave them “still standing, but just demystified, unified, placed on more secure foundations” (Dennett, 82). I’m not so sure though, and I wonder if the metaphor of the algorithm will give us a more dynamic understanding of our world, or if it will merely become a new dogmatic foundational story.



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