Archived Versions

21L.448J / 21W.739J Darwin and Design

As taught in: Fall 2009

Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin. (Image courtesy of National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.)




Prof. James Paradis

Course Description

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.