Other reviewers have noted Professor Dennett’s axe-grinding in this book with  fellow atheist-philosopher Richard Dawkins. I found it tiresome, and think it will be so for all readers who are not deeply familiar with Dawkins’ work and for many readers who are familiar with it.

By Roger Strukhoff

My book today is From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds, written by Daniel C. Dennett, and originally published in 2017. I read the paperback edition, published in 2018.  I bought it at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, CA.

Daniel Dennett is a professor at Tufts University in Medford, MA in the Boston area. One of the great and outspoken atheists of our time, he’s also built a reputation as a strong personality, shall we say.

Himself Personified

Professor Dennett lives up to his reputation in this book, which encompasses more than 400 pages of fastidiously footnoted opinion.

I was careless in snatching up this book too quickly from the new-releases table at Kepler’s, breaking a cardinal rule by judging a book by its cover (or at least, its title). I did not find it useful in my quest for modern research about modern-day Artificial Intelligence (AI). My bad.

Other reviewers have noted Professor Dennett’s axe-grinding in this book with fellow atheist-philosopher Richard Dawkins. I found it tiresome, and think it will be so for all readers who are not deeply familiar with Dawkins’ work and for many readers who are familiar with it.

Not Nice to Make Fun of Animals

The author also makes a lot of fun of chimpanzees and other animals who don’t possess human cognitive powers. I don’t necessarily object to this on anti-speciest grounds, but think it’s irrelevant to my quest and also a benighted way to pursue the evolutionary nature of our intelligence and the perils of it.

This book also spends a lot of time on the development of language. This would normally be an interest of mine, as I’m fascinated by the implacable, ceaseless nature of human babble creation.

But I found the arguments here to be more prescriptive than I’d like, as they focused (again) on our superiority in developing language and how it uniquely equips us for the world.

I am quite sure that many (the most understated word I can imagine) species survived on our planet for millions and tens of millions of years without language. We have only been around for about 200,000 years and I think most would agree we may not make it to 200,001 given our violent and locust-like tendencies.

Time to Complete the Rant

So that’s enough bashing. The book is just not relevant to what I seek, and it did not open up any new doors for me, as open-minded as I think I am. It may be of huge value to others.

Neurons Swirling Around the Human Brain

Oh, wait, a little more bashing is in order.

My largest resentment about this book relates back to my being fooled by the title, with its very conscious evocation of Douglas Hofstadter’s famous Gödel, Escher, and Bach, an intellectual tour de force that sought to find the essence of creativity and what we think of as “genius.”.

Professors Dennett and Hofstadter have been associated with one another in the past, but Professor Dennett’s book is quite a different species, so to speak, from Hofstadter’s great work.

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