Made You Think Podcast

Feb 6, 2018
Evolution Made this Podcast: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett
Part of

In this episode of Made You Think, Neil and I discuss  Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett (a guy with an amazing beard). In this book Daniel remind us we are not so special as we think, but just an ordered set of material refined by evolution.

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Evolution as an amazing and super-simple algorithm for refinement
  • Why we are not special but just a random result of a process
  • Bottom-up “cranes” theories vs “skyhook” theories
  • How memes are the cultural equivalent of genes
  • Why it’s very unlikely that we will talk with aliens one day

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett!

Links from the Episode

Mentioned in the show:

Books mentioned:

People mentioned:

Show Topics

0:00 – “When you ask functional questions about anything –organism or artifact– you must remember that it has to come into its current or  final form by a process that has its own requirements, and these are exactly as amenable to functional analysis as any features of the end state.”

0:51 – Connections of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea with Godel Escher Bach book. Talebian writing style of the author. The author focuses one part of the book to refute other people’s ideas.

3:20 – Problems derived by bad wording and God directed evolution. Mind-first theories depending on a “sky hook” vs “cranes” bottom-up theories. Concept of things that can grow and organize spontaneously, without the need of an external influence. Application in markets.

10:02 – Numerals vs Quantity. Why humans prefer base-10 to count. Use of different numbering bases, like the Mayan base-20 numeral system.

12:14 – Darwin’s main idea. Evolution as a simple algorithm based on natural selection: random things happen, some of those things make the more fit to the environment, therefore those thing last. Explaining genes using energy harvesting and autonomous robots.

14:23 – What’s the point of sleeping? Sleeping is energy efficient. Being awake is the weird thing. An hypothesis on why our brain developed so much is because being awake we have to deal more often with threatening situations. Humans prefer to sleep by night because we are sight animals.

16:29 – About the danger of Darwin’s idea. We are not special, we are just another result of this algorithm, we have no meaning. Against “our mind is special” argument. Winning in evolution. Domesticated animals winning evolution over wild versions: “They are selected to be OK with us”.

20:44 – About unfortunate naming and wording. “Knowledge”, “Natural Selection” and “Invisible Hand” example. Random-process-that-results-in-a-refinement concept.

22:26 – Memes <-> genes analogy. Ideas spreading in cultures is like genes spreading in populations. There’s nothing special with ideas, there are memes that caught on and last, natural selection applies to them too. Sacred texts interpretation in religions: texts are brutal, core ideas are valuable.

26:25 – Tribal doctors analogy. Nat’s experience in the Amazon Jungle.

28:17 – Losing valuable bottom-up knowledge. Paleo diet as going back to this knowledge. How fetishizing technology made as loose knowledge. Golden Rule: the older something is the longer probably will be around because there is a reason that it lasted.

30:31 – Tangent. Why the Greeks seem to have invented so many concepts. Japan preserved as Galapagos. Asian cultures compared to the US . Why in Tokyo they don’t have trash cans. Street food culture in Asian countries.

36:40 – Spreading of ideas and knowledge in animals. Whales teaching others to create bubble nets. Lions teaching cubs how to hunt.

38:40 – Myths. Writing as a better way to preserve ideas. Enhanced understanding and being able to abstract and comprehend relativity.

41:28 – Different types of understandings: design level, technical understanding, physical, intentional. Function of bones, appendix and pinky toes.

42:59 – Tangent. About raw water, beer and coffee. How coffee may have caused Renaissance.

45:53 – Aquatic ape hypothesis. The reason we differentiate from chimps is because at one point of our history we were at half way of being dolphins. Inclination to live near water bodies.

50:30 – Epigenetics. Why the author overlooked this topic. Genes and phenotypes. How modifying our diets and behaviors can bias our evolution in few generations. Keto diet reaction for different regions. Effect of testosterone on facial traits.

59:25 – Tangent. Food labeling. Labeling in beer as a marketing strategy . Sugar allowance and lobbies. Super high carb diet and avoiding mixing carbs and fat diets. Against Mediterranean diet.

1:03:55 – Concept of of speciation. We can analyze evolution going backwards but can’t predict it. Problems with too much forward planning. “Strong goals loosely held” (instead of opinions). Humans won because we cooperate, or, we survived some event. Traffic jam example.

1:08:03 – Retrograde motion. Geocentric orbit model. “God hides in the gaps.”

1:12:15 – Intentional and unintentional creations. Scientific discoveries vs art creation. Library of Babel thought experiment: infinite library that has every possible human creation but there is only one random variation expressed, as an analogy for genetic expression. Example of horned birds. “Evolution can explain how whe are here, but can’t explain why”.

01:16:23 – Darwin’s warm pool idea of how life could have formed. The chances that we find human-like life in other planets are very low. Possible branches of evolution and comfortable homeostasis. “If the astro hadn’t hit, would we have stayed a dinosaurs’ planet?

1:18:46 – Misinterpretations of seeing humans as the end of evolution. Coin flipping contest example. “Winning” evolution.

1:22:37 – Connection with Godel Escher Bach. Our consciousness and our minds are not special. Parallel with ants. Evolutionary algorithms in Computer Science and AI. Against the “all of this constants are right for us to exist” argument. Relativity and clocks in space example.

1:28:53 – The Ethics problem and why we should stop trying solving it problems. Where we draw the line for human “soul”?.

1:34:40 – Subscribe to the Mailing List to receive bonuses, giveaways, and more. People that make this show happen: Perfect Keto is the one-stop shop for all your ketogenic diet needs. The ketogenic diet is really effective for weight loss. Perfect Keto’s exogenous ketones helps you get into ketosis. Use the 20% coupon mentioned in the episode or use this link! The mushroom coffee from Four Sigmatic energizes you with less caffeine. Chaga Elixir and Lion’s Mane mush’s are stimulants and give a really nice buzz, and the Cordyceps Elixir is a caffeine-free stimulant. They hot cocoas instead, are relaxing and work as a delicious night dessert. Kettle & Fire bone broth helps you warm in this winter. Theory says we were scavengers and sucked up the bone colagens. K&F bone broth is excellent to get all those nutrients we don’t get anymore. Also it helps combat modern diseases like small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Finally, you help the show for free shopping on Amazon through our affiliate link.

1:40:06 – Crypto tangent. Ethereum rise is not really a rise. Buying other coins. Opportunity cost and parallel with business: investing in client acquisition vs client retention. Invest in the bottleneck.