Thursday, February 23, 2006

Daniel Dennett

I was curious about his latest book. From a review:
His theory is that religion has evolved in the human cultural context in much the way human bodies evolved in the biological context. Early religious impulses, he says, have biological explanations -- the placebo effect of shamanistic rituals would likely have contributed to human health, for example. And, because humanity's animal instincts would have programmed humans to be wary of things that moved (such things might be predators), humans were predisposed to attribute agency to moving things. The movements of nature, then, must be attributable to agents we cannot see -- perhaps our dead ancestors, perhaps gods.
(The San Diego Union-Tribune
February 5, 2006 Sunday
Headline: The Crusader; Daniel C. Dennett's `Breaking the Spell' has good stuff -- but the wheat's hard to find in a sea of chaff
Byline: Cyril Jones-Kellett)

Besides the idiotic way that his mythological narrative of naturalism is written, the anthropological theory that spiritism evolved into polytheism and then theism was already advanced by better minds and refuted based on a broad pattern of anthropological evidence that indicates that cultures may have begun with theism and fallen away from the Great Spirit or invisible "Sky-God" rather than beginning with spiritism based on animals and evolving from there. It's a quaint little story that people naturally want to believe is true because they like thinking that they're more evolved but the evidence does not comport to it. The original theory was presented in a better form in Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art and Custom (London 1871), by Edward B. Tylor. Perhaps if Darwinists would actually look at the evidence or seek some ways of falsifying their little stories instead of writing yet more narratives about things that suit our vanities then they would not be proposing the same arguments over and over again. Most of their arguments seem to date to around the late 1800s, even the "just like gravity" nonsense. The really pathetic thing about it is that they sometimes still put the same hundred year old frauds in their textbooks even as they throw some sort of hissy fit about how technology and civilization will collapse if their texts are so much as labelled as "theory." Their hypothetical goo hardly rises to the level of a theory that can be falsified. But we can't have students thinking about the mythological narratives of naturalism typical to Darwinists, don't you know, otherwise they might start asking all the questions that Darwinists don't have answers to.

Reading Dennett is like reading a repeat of proto-Nazi times when people took Darwinism deadly seriously, even reviewers in the Old Press seem to see it. They're actually pretty critical of the little fellow. E.g.:
Dennett, who is a lifelong academic, is not really a very good writer for the general reader. He tends to get bogged down. He spends the first 60 pages minutely answering every possible objection that a religious person might have to his taking up the subject. The religious person facing page after page of begging and cajoling for open-mindedness* might fairly ask the writer to just get on with his points.

Second, Dennett is not convincing when he asserts that there is a taboo against the scientific study of religion. Religion has been the subject of "natural" study since at least the time of David Hume. What spell is left to be broken here?
In later chapters and in the appendices, he makes a startling leap from scientific speculation to social-policy prescriptions. This very nearly scuttles his entire project. It is a mockery of science to propose an admittedly rudimentary theory and then, from this sketch, start extrapolating policy implications. Perhaps a little bit of research first? Let's at least fill the theory [It's an old theory that crumbles in light of evidence drawn from many cultures.] in before we start treating it as a blueprint for our social life.

But Dennett is undeterred, and this is unfortunate, because his policy prescriptions have a frighteningly totalitarian bent. He suggests that government should perhaps forbid parents from passing on religious beliefs to their children unless the parents are willing to teach a government-approved curriculum.
(Ib.) (Emphasis added)

Perhaps next he'll be lecturing about the "fairy tale of the Jews" and the like, it seems to me that Darwinists may as well go ahead and use all the "brutally honest" language of people who took the Darwinian worldview as true, in all their own brutality. They are those who think that the truth is brutal, so they look to brutes for it.

*Did you ever notice how people constantly singing the virtues of keeping an open mind are usually the same people that want you to keep your mind open so that they can put their crap in it?

[Related posts: Evolutionism and Proto-Nazism]

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