02.101 Darwin and Design

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A broad survey of the sources and implications of the ideas animating Darwin’s revolutionary On the Origin of Species. Examination of Natural Selection as a model for understanding how objects and systems can evince complex design without implying the existence of a designer and how selection can drive evolutionary change without intelligent agency. Traces the import for ethical theory, the history of technology, the study of feedback control in the action of mechanisms and in the workings of social institutions. Readings include works by early naturalists like Linnaeus and William Paley, early economists like Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus, various recent proponents of artificial intelligence, and literary works by Voltaire, Pope, Samuel Butler, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, H. G. Wells, and E. M. Forster.

Michael Reid