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September 26, 2023


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21L.448J Darwin and Design (Fall 2010, MIT OCW). Instructor: Professor James Paradis. In the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin gave us a model for understanding how natural objects and systems can evidence design without positing a designer: how purpose and mechanism can exist without intelligent agency.

Texts in this course deal with pre- and post-Darwinian treatment of this topic within literature and speculative thought since the eighteenth century. We will give some attention to the modern study of feedback mechanisms in artificial intelligence. Our reading will be in Hume, Voltaire, Malthus, Darwin, Butler, H. G. Wells, and Turing. (from ocw.mit.edu)

Course Curriculum

  • Lecture 01 – Darwin and Design Unlimited
  • Lecture 02 – Alice in Wonderland Unlimited
  • Lecture 03 – Genesis, Aristotle, and the Emergence of World Views Unlimited
  • Lecture 04 – Voltaire and the Accidental World Unlimited
  • Lecture 05 – Hume’s Dialogues: Revealed Religion vs. Empirically-Based Religion Unlimited
  • Lecture 06 – Philo and the Limits of Analogy Unlimited
  • Lecture 07 – William Paley and His Legacy Unlimited
  • Lecture 08 – Adam Smith “Wealth of Nations” (1776): The Idea of an Oeconomy Unlimited
  • Lecture 09 – Malthus and the Compound Interest World Unlimited
  • Lecture 10 – Malthus and the Compound Mind Unlimited
  • Lecture 11 – Darwin and the Economy of the Natural World Unlimited
  • Lecture 12 – Natural Selection Unlimited
  • Lecture 13 – Darwinian Synthesis Unlimited
  • Lecture 14 – Darwin’s The Descent of Man (1871) and Human Culture Unlimited
  • Lecture 15 – Naturalism and Utopia: Samuel Butler’s Erewhon Unlimited
  • Lecture 16 – Butler and Technological Autonomy Unlimited
  • Lecture 17 – Evolution and Cybernetics Unlimited
  • Lecture 18 – Alan Turing and the Thinking Machine Unlimited
  • Lecture 20 – Dualism and Personality in Post-Evolutionary Fiction Unlimited
  • Lecture 21 – T. H. Huxley and the Two States Unlimited
  • Lecture 22 – H.G. Wells “The Time Machine” and the Final Utopia Unlimited

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