This chapter returns from general philosophical matters to questions specifically about Darwinism. Even though the central core of Darwinism can be taken as established beyond doubt, that is in itself relatively unthreatening to traditional conceptions of the kind of thing we ourselves are. The real danger comes with the possibility that Darwinian explanation might spread further, beyond the range of organic evolution.
The fundamental problem here is to find a way of presenting a complex and confused debate in a way that does not distort the issues. This chapter divides controversies about the application of Darwinism to human nature into two main kinds. The first is about whether Darwinism can give a complete account of our origins, and justify a materialist account of what we are. The other is about the extent to which a Darwinian understanding of our evolution can provide insight into the details of our character, as is claimed by researchers in the field of evolutionary psychology (sociobiology). These controversies within Darwinism seem to have further-reaching implications for our view of ourselves than the controversy about whether the theory is true at all, and are the ones about which public debate is most passionate. The chapter outlines these debates, and in particular explains what evolutionary psychologists take their subject to be about.
However, it also argues that there is no possibility of resolving these debates here, and that for the purposes of this enquiry the question of which view is right will have to be left open.
The previous chapter claimed that the core Darwinian theory of organic evolution by natural selection must now be regarded as settled beyond any reasonable doubt. That, however, does not mean that serious Darwinian controversies are at an end. There is still the question of whether Darwinian explanation can be confined to this core, or whether it really is the universal acid Dennett suspects it is; and from the point of view of understanding the implications of Darwinism, the disagreements between Darwinists themselves - the people who have crossed the Darwinian threshold, but disagree about how far to go beyond it - look far more momentous than those between Darwinists and their fundamentalist opponents.
It is of course well known - as part of the great Darwin legend - that Darwin's ideas were regarded with horror by many of his contemporaries. The biblical account of creation was widely accepted at the time as literally true; and, quite apart from anxieties about challenges to the revealed word of God, it was also shocking for refined Victorians, with their sense of natural superiority even to the lesser (human) breeds without the law, to be told that they were related to