What Daedalus Told Darwin – Reviewers

Darwin-Punch-1882-manisbutaworm“Biologists generally have not thought very deeply about what design means and how it works, largely because we are trained to believe there is no such thing, that ‘well-designed’ creatures are simply the product of selection of ‘good-function’ genes. Problem solved. We biologists could learn a thing or two, though, by listening to someone who has thought carefully about the process of design. In If Microbes begat Mind and What Daedalus told Darwin Zann Gill engages us in an extended meditation on the process of design, and what it means for our understanding of life’s designs, its evolutions and its origins.  Her book thoughtfully weaves many disparate threads into a fascinating tapestry that casts decades, even centuries of accumulated conventional wisdom about design into a challenging new light.”

J. Scott Turner, author, The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life ItselfThe Extended Organism: The Physiology of Animal-Built Structures

Zann Gill’s exploration of creativity — biochemical, evolutionary, and human — is appropriately creative and original itself. A bravura performance.”

John Horgan, author, The End of Science and Rational Mysticism


“Very good — intriguing presentation of the mesh principle. Hofstadter was also concerned with Gödel and undecidability. If GAIA is valid, and life adapts the world, and if Zann Gill is correct that an interacting network of relationships is responsible for the origin of life, then a mathematical representation of such a world would have to include undecidable statements, probably those that are self-referential. . . the paradoxes usually occur there. This may be why we encounter such difficulties when we try to identify the differences between life and non-life. The fact that we (life) are trying to state something definitive about our own condition (alive or not alive) may result in even more than a Gordian knot — a Gödelian knot!”

Bill McDaniel,  formerly Senior Scientist, Adobe Systems Inc.


“Zann Gill weaves a web of questions and hypotheses that is bound to stimulate and challenge any thinker concerned with the most profound open issues of our time: the origins and evolution of life, the nature of intelligence and consciousness, and an understanding of problem-solving behavior, both in humans and in artificial systems.”

Dr. Silvano Colombano,  Biophysicist and Computer Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center, Organizer and Chair of “Robosphere” 


“Zann Gill’s book, What Daedalus told Darwin reminds us that reality isn’t what we think it is — that our most important challenge of the 21st century is:  Can we develop satisfying ways to think of ourselves and our place in a universe in which we are both acted on by continuous change and are ourselves contributors to that change? This valuable and distinctive contribution to a developing literature addressing that challenge lays out principles applicable to physical, biological, intellectual, and social change.”

Dr. Paul Grobstein (1946 – 2011) Eleanor A. Bliss Professor of Biology, Director, Center for Science in Society, Bryn Mawr College


The engraving above, published in PUNCH magazine December 6, 1881 (though listed as 1882), shortly before Darwin’s death, pokes humor at the research Vegetable Mould and Earthworms that Darwin was doing at the end of his life. Darwin’s accounts of that research show the playfulness of his method of doing science, as he created experiments to test the intelligence and pattern recognition capabilities of his worms, described in What Daedalus told Darwin.