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Darwin's Dice: The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin

  • Reveals how chance and randomness played a major role in Charles Darwin's work
  • Applies these concepts to notable sections of Darwin's writing, including the giraffes in On the Origin of Species as well as his famous architect metaphor
  • Shows that studying the theme of randomness in Darwinist thought can help us understand this school of thought better

By: Curtis Johnson(Author)

288 pages, 14 illustrations

Oxford University Press USA

Hardback | Oct 2014 | #214079 | ISBN-13: 9780199361410
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $27/€23 approx

About this book

For evolutionary biologists, the concept of chance has always played a significant role in the formation of evolutionary theory. As far back as Greek antiquity, chance and "luck" were understood to be key factors in the evolution of the natural world. Emphasizing chance is an entire way of thinking about nature, and it is also one of the key ideas that separates Charles Darwin from other systematic biologists of his time. Studying the concept of chance in Darwin's writing reveals core ideas in his theory of evolution, as well as his reflections on design, purpose, and randomness in nature's progression over the course of history.

In Darwin's Dice: The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin, Curtis Johnson does exactly that. He examines the work of Darwin in terms of his views on randomness and chance, and how the views changed as his work progressed. Randomness was a focal point for Darwin, and pursuing it as a theme helped significantly transform his research. Darwin's Dice shows us how Darwin defined "chance," and explores Darwin's influential architect metaphor in relation to the idea. Through the lens of randomness, Johnson reveals how Darwin's treatment of free will becomes more complex.

This approach can shed light on many other quirks and points of interest in Darwin's work, including the curiously shifting presence of giraffes in subsequent drafts of On the Origin of Species. Johnson also reexamines Darwin's "Metaphysical Notebooks," and discusses the role Darwin felt that chance plays in morality and religion. Darwin's Dice presents a new way to look at Darwinist thought and the writings on Charles Darwin. Curtis Johnson reveals that chance and randomness play a large part in Darwinist thought, and that we can better understand Darwin's work by understanding that part.


Table of Contents

1. Two Faces of Chance
2. Chance Transport
3. Causes and Laws of Variation
4. Chance, Nature, and Intelligence
5. Darwin's Evolving Views about Chance
6. "So-Called Spontaneous Variation"
7. Darwin's Architect Metaphor
8. Darwin's Giraffes
9. Chance and Free Will
10. Chance and Human Morality


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Curtis Johnson is a Professor of Government at Lewis & Clark College. He has published many articles and chapters on the history of science and Darwinist thought.

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