Wednesday, December 08, 2004


In his book, "Darwin's Dangerous Idea," Daniel Dennett characterized Darwinism as a "universal acid" because of its power to chip away at so many traditional ideas. His point was that Darwinism is not just about natural selection; it is about the way that complexity can arise by itself through automated algorithms, rather than by intelligent design. By removing design and outside intent from the catalog of explanations for the way the world is, Darwin made possible a radical new worldview of naturalism, materialism, and secularism. As Richard Dawkins said, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. In this way, Darwinism is a "universal" acid because its central idea is too powerful to contain within biology alone.

So on that note, welcome to my blog. I intend to write about biology, science, politics, society, and the intersections between those areas. I have titled it "universal acid" because it seems like an apt metaphor for my general worldview - secular, naturalist, critical, modern. This will, I hope, provide a theme for a blog that touches on such diverse subjects.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Andrew this is a cool blog and a great title. But I wondering whether you think that "universal" has some stronger normative ideas than are captured by secular, naturalist, critical and modern notions alone?

12/10/2004 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Hey Anonymous, you're my first reader! Welcome!

I intended "universal" to refer to the idea that Darwinism is too powerful an idea to remain confined to biology, that it inevitably spills into other areas of intellectual inquiry. This was supposed to be my justification for writing about non-biological subjects, with an eye toward secularism and naturalism, which Darwinism helped make possible, and modernity, which secularism and naturalism are a part of. But this kind of disciplinary universalism lends itself to all kinds of universalism, as you say. I'll have to think about this more...

12/14/2004 01:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made my way here via the little Blogger bar at the top but found your page interesting enough to stop and read.

Wow, what an interesting and intriguing theme for your blog and you are already off to a very good start.

Posted by Summer

1/04/2005 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know "Universal Acid" could be used to describe the acid that we all share as a human race, i.e. DNA and RNA.

12/12/2005 03:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew...Sure like the implication posed by your phrase UNIVERSAL ACID. Meaning of course a coming together of organisation(s) under natural influence alone.

As Anonymous suggests, alludes to DNA and RNA..Have a raft of logics which adds the universal shape, with many characteristics inclusive, of the human brain as a thinly necked operative unity with our bodily nervous system, with it's localised intersensing plus reactivity. A most elementary and amateurish run of realisations. E T

5/15/2006 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Just noticed the recent comments on my welcome post - I never thought of the DNA/RNA connection, what a cool point! And indeed, we share the universal acid not just with other humans, but with all organisms on this planet, even bacteria, right down to the right-handed orientation of the helix. This fact is itself something of a "universal acid" in the Dennett-ian sense, in eroding the view of a) humans as special and separate from other animals and b) life as having magic "vital force" instead of being based on biochemical interactions. Not to mention that the unity of life is an argument in favor of Darwin's "common descent" - part of the "universally acidic" theory of natural selection...!

5/16/2006 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Stve said...

andrew, i just want to say that your blog is very intresting. I study Molecular Life Science and i cited you in my dutch philosophy paper as an modern point of view about darwinism versus religion.


Steef Engels.

12/12/2007 04:29:00 PM  
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