Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

Why did so many find Charles Darwin’s concept of natural selection so subversive and disconcerting straight from the beginning? American philosopher Daniel Dennett explains. To get to the meat of things, you might want to skip to 1:16.

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Comments (16)
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  • Alexander says:

    Darwin denied his whole theory (which he previously stole from his granpa) right beofre his death. It’s amazing to me people still talk about evolution as Charles’ theory.
    It is even more amazing people sill believe in that pure nonsense.

  • Jon Tillman says:

    @Alexander Not only is the story of his recantation wholly false (http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/ladyhope.html) and the idea of his “stealing” the theory, whether from Erasmus (whose “Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life” was influential on many scientists and naturalists working in the field, or from Alfred Russel Wallace who was working on a competing theory at the same time does not in any way detract from the theory itself.

    Indeed, even if Darwin had repudiated his own theory, it would have no effect on the theory itself. Evolutionary theory meets the criteria generally accepted by scientists as defining science, and thus is testable. Those tests determine the truth or falsehood of a scientific theory, not the opinion of anyone; you, me, the promulgator of the theory, Ted “Come to this restroom often?” Haggard, or anyone else. Pure nonsense would be something that cannot be proven, has little to no chance of being true, and yet is still clung to by millions of people for no reason other than being inculcated in them when they were young and impressionable.

  • michelle says:

    well said Jon, Alex if you are brave enough to challenge your mind and faith read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

  • Alexander says:

    Jon, well said. Really.
    Michelle, I am alway up for a challenge. So I’ll check it out.
    & Berto. I read some of your pondering. You’re a smart guy. & I suggest you study the Bible, because it gives you all the answers to the contributes of God’s character. The very answers you asked.

  • Alban says:

    The view that evolution and natural selection explains why I can’t have a soul, or be more than a body with a brain, fails entirely to account for experiences like those of Jacques Lusseyran (“And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance”) who should by all means be an interesting and challenging study for anyone dealing with questions of the mind. What if you are hallucinating what you think to be reality, and all of this world is just your own imagination? Would you really want it?

  • Hanoch says:

    The darwinist-atheists always avoid one big question because it creates an obvious and significant problem for their theory that the world and everything in it is merely a product of random events. That is, even if you assume that life and the entirety of the universe evolved from basic elements over billions of years, you still must account for where those basic elements came from. Thus, irrespective of Darwin’s theory, you eventually come back to the question of a Creator. I have yet to hear any of these types address this issue head-on.

  • Mike says:


    Mutation (or variation) may be random, but there is nothing random about selection. If natural selection were random, ugly girls would get asked to dance just as often as pretty ones. As for your “big question,” if you think it hasn’t been addressed head-on, you haven’t been reading much. You’re talking about the First-Cause Argument for the existence of God. Since you say you haven’t heard “any of these (Darwinist-atheist) types” address it, I will just quote Bertrand Russell, addressing this issue in 1927:

    “I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: ‘My father taught me that the question, Who made me? cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question, “Who made God?’ That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity to the argument.”

    So there you have one atheist-type, Bertrand Russell, addressing the issue head-on, in agreement with another atheist-type, John Stuart Mill.

    I just have one question for you, Hanoch, and I would like you to address it head-on: Have you actually read Darwin’s “On the Origen of Species”?

  • Mike says:

    Spelling correction: ORIGIN of Species.

  • Hanoch says:


    Thanks for your comment, but I find it unsatisfying for the following reason.

    There is a big problem with positing that if elements require a cause for their existence, then a Creator does too. The former are natural objects which cannot create themselves. However, when one speaks of a Creator of the natural world, we are speaking of something that is, by definition, supernatural (i.e. above and outside the laws of nature) and thus not subject to the same natural laws of causation.

    More to the point (and entirely consistent with my original statement), your Russell quote does not answer the fundamental question I raised, i.e., what caused the existence of the basic elements that began the process of evolution? If an atheist were to argue that those elements simply exist without a cause, then it seems that that leap of faith is probably greater (given what we already know about the natural world) than the one taken by those who posit a Creator to explain their existence.

  • Mike says:


    The Russell quote bears directly on your question. It demonstrates the illogic of arbitrarily assigning a first cause (God or anything else) to explain those “basic elements that began the process of evolution” that you mention.

    As for your suggestion that an atheist would “argue that those elements simply exist without a cause,” I would suggest that you might want to speak with a wider range of atheists. In my experience, anyone with any intellectual integrity — not to mention humility — will admit that he or she does know what the ultimate truth of the universe is. To admit that one cannot credibly assign a first cause to the existence of the elements (by elements here I mean something more general and fundamental than the elements of the periodic table) is not the same as saying that “those elements simply exist without a cause.” For all I know, the chain of causation might be infinite. I simply don’t know. Do you?

    As for the assertion that what is natural is the product of something supernatural, or that a thing which lies “outside of causation” has “caused” the universal chain of causality to commence is an absurd fiat.

    I will repeat my question: Have you actually read Darwin?

  • Mike says:

    I guess I can’t post a comment without making a typo. In the middle paragraph, it should state that anyone with any intellectual integrity or humility will admit that he or she does NOT know what the ultimate truth of the universe is.

  • Alban says:

    @Mike and Hanoch:
    Only a madman would claim that God created the world as seen by the human mind. God by definition is eternal and perfect. Creation is extension. Therefore, what He creates shares His attributes. This world is not eternal, therefore, it can’t be real.

    It is only a “classroom” you have chosen to learn that you cannot be but perfect as God created you. Once this is known again, it will disappear into the nothingness it came from. A dream is a dream is a dream.

    Regarding your dispute about first cause, maybe it would help to look at the fact that you are looking at concepts and ideas. They only exist in your mind as well as the perception of the world you talk about. If you go back far enough in time, you would still be faced with your mind. You are faced with the dilemma that you are seeing as external to your mind what is still in your mind. God is the Mind with Which you think.

  • Stan says:


    What is the evidence for your claims about the nature of God? There is a lot of evidence about evolution, but none that I know of about the nature, or even the existence, of God. In case you want to claim the Bible as the evidence: simply because a book claims to be the revelation from God does not mean that it is. Other religions make exactly the same claim about their stories. Similarly, in case you want to claim that you know this to be true based on your own experience, there are innumerable other people who have “known” about the nature of God based on their own experience. Unfortunately, most of them have had a totally different belief than you do, and have been just as certain about it.

    As to the argument about the source of the material in the universe, claiming that the original cause is supernatural doesn’t get you anywhere. Even if it were true, that only gets you to a deist view. It would tell you nothing about whether a supernatural creator cares about us at all. Given the infinitesimal part of the universe – both physically and temporally – in which humans have existed, it seems to me that you would need to have a lot of evidence to support the claim that the creator of the universe created all of this just so he could suffer and die for us!

  • deltacentauri says:

    To add to the argument of how elements come about, well E=MC^2 explains this. Knowing energy and mass is interchangable, knowing if you take enough energy you can create mass. If the first atomic bombs, explosive diameter of merely a few miles is just a release of a few gram of radioactive mass, what about an explosion of a star or the big bang for that matter. The big bang is just a theory and its truth is still beyond our imagination, just as how energy and mass interchagability was beyond the imagination of scientists 100 years ago. At least we have some thought on how the universe is create rather than a more vague supernatural theory of a creator of the universe willing to die for us.

  • Dagwood says:

    In these debates about the natural world, it’s astonishing how the secularists so consistently and utterly trounce the creationists, who always, and quickly, wind up saying, “I don’t care what you say, it just is as I believe, period.” One terrible flaw in the creationists’ strategy is (always, as far as I can tell) to assert that if they can find ANY imperfection in their opponents’ accounts, ANY as-yet-unexplained datum, then somehow that PROVES their entire theory. This is absurd! Ask the creationists to offer specific, testable hypotheses about their account (when was the world created?, for example; where?; what was it created from?) and they run off. This makes the entire debate, very quickly, boring and proves that it’s not about the natural world at all. Yawn, already…or I would yawn if they didn’t continue to insist that children be taught their “theory” (which isn’t one).

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