“What would happen if you somehow came upon or created a dollop of universal acid? Would the whole planet eventually be destroyed? What would it leave in its wake? After everything had been transformed by its encounter with universal acid, what would the world look like? Little did I realize that in a few years I would encounter an idea—Darwin’s idea—bearing an unmistakable likeness to universal acid: it eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized worldview, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways.”
The idea that the there are some ideas that are so profound and powerful that they just bust through all conventional wisdom, in the way that the theory of evolution struck the religious magisteria like some bolt out of the blue in 1860, at once converting all the world’s religions to the plain obviousness of enlightened reductionism. Also, Dennett contended, cosmology, psychology, sociology, epistemology — everything can be reduced to this founding principle. Dennett’s publishing career since has been basically applying his new hammer to every metaphysical nail he can find. God, Mind, Free Will — all get a proper treatment.