Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

breaking the spell...

Daniel C. Dennett has written a book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Here's a snippet of the review by New York Review of Books:
For Dennett, the visions of saints and mystics are worthless as evidence, since they are neither repeatable nor testable. Dennett is examining religion from the outside, following the rules of science. For him, the visions of saints and mystics are only a phenomenon to be explained, like falling in love or hating people of a different skin color, mental conditions that may or may not be considered pathological.

The second section of the book is the longest and contains the core of Dennett's argument. He describes the various stages of the long historical evolution of religion, beginning with primitive tribal myths and rituals, and ending with the market-driven evangelical megachurches of modern America. Looking at these evolutionary processes from the outside, he speculates about ways in which they might be understood scientifically. He explains them tentatively as products of a Darwinian competition between belief systems, in which only the fittest belief systems survive. The fitness of a belief system is defined by its ability to make new converts and retain their loyalty. It has little to do with the biological fitness of its human carriers, and it has nothing to do with the truth or falsehood of the beliefs. Read the whole review here
Blame Ron, he emailed me the link!

3 Comments:

Blogger GreenSmile said...

A great "alternative interpretation" of the observation that virtually every culture has a religion or two, i.e. that it is a common phenomenon in human populations was written a hundered years ago by William James: "the varieties of human experience"

I am to lead a discussion of a chapter of James' book next month and the chapter I picked is beginning do disappear under the irate ink of my reactions to the gentle if prolix and florid writing...you might get something different out of it Gerry.

BTW, Dennett spends more than a few pages trying to disassemble James contentions.

June 20, 2006 1:39 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Greenie, I'll see if I can get a copy of James's book from the library. When Dennett's book makes it to OzLand, I'll read it as well.

I'm fascinated by apparently rational humans in the 21st Century still buying the rabid superstitions and downright whacky moral conflicts embedded in Western religions. It's like their intelligence is out to lunch. As I've said elsewhen, it reeks of population control through brainwashing, and I am utterly opposed to such things...

I should stop ranting now...

June 21, 2006 7:23 PM  
Blogger JahTeh said...

I thought this sounded familiar and there was an article about Dennett's book in New Scientist, 4th March, 2006. I found it online but only subscribers can read the whole thing so I'll look for it in the pile I have at home.

June 22, 2006 5:59 PM  

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