Competence without Comprehension


MacKenzie described Darwin’s idea of Absolute Ignorance being the source of “all the achievements of creative skill” as a “strange inversion of reasoning,” since it turns upside down one of the most “obvious” ideas we have: comprehension is the source of competence. Why do we send our children to school, and why do we emphasize “concepts” over “rote learning”? Because we think that the best route to competence, in any sphere of activity, is comprehension. In general, the rule of thumb is hard to deny: comprehension is usually the key to (human) competence. Darwin really does invert that reasoning, showing, as MacKenzie so vividly put it, that Absolute Ignorance is the artificer. The process of natural selection is breathtakingly competent— think of Orgel’s Second Law—but utterly mindless. Moreover, the organisms it designs get the benefits of all their exquisite equipment without needing to understand why or how they are so gifted.

Resource Datasbase

Philosopher Daniel Dennett's Book Intuition Pumps