Dennett’s Whirlwind Tour through Apologetics

god the geometer

This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell.As I said yesterday, most of Dennett's book isn't directed to the question of whether religious claims are true.  But in the final chapters, he takes a crack at the question.  Dennett warns the reader that his discussion is going to be cursory; he'll lay out his objections and give the reader the citations they need to examine the arguments in detail.From beginning to end, this section spans a little more than si … [Read more...]

Reading Dennett’s Breaking the Spell [Index Post]

daniel dennett breaking the spell religion as a natural phenomenon book review

In November 2012, I read and blogged through Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.  Below, are all the posts I wrote on the topic, along with a link to a rejoinder from Chris Hallquist in the atheist channel.  Dennett is one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism (along with Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens), but this book is more descriptive than debate fodder.The Bit I Liked Best About Dennett’s Book - In order to improve the quality of academic study of rel … [Read more...]

Dennett’s Thesis isn’t Evidence for Very Interesting Claims

religious evolution

This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell.The main thrust of Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell is that the history of religion is not incompatible with evolutionary theory.  That sounds a lot less exciting than an attack on religion, but it's what the book is actually about.  Dennett's book doesn't mount up any direct evidence against the truth claims of religion, but it does make the argument that religion is something you might be reasonably likely to ob … [Read more...]

And, now, some #natesilverfacts

nate silver

A Dennett post later today, I promise, but I'm terribly amused by the #natesilverfacts meme on twitter.  Here are my favorites: @mdlevinson: Nate Silver's great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson's name is going to be Hari Seldon. #natesilverfacts@temiri: Nate Silver once walked over each of the bridges in Konigsberg exactly once. #natesilverfacts@dilefante: Nate Silver's samples have only a median and a mode. Because no number would be mean to Nate Silver. … [Read more...]

A brief election-related post

This is what I grew up voting on.  Optical scan may be more reliable, but it just doesn't feel as official without a big lever to go *thonk*

Look, I don't want to derail our contentious discussion of Dennett's Breaking the Spell with a contentious discussion of the election, but I think it's very important that you all know about the parody Nate Silver twitter account (@fivethirtynate) that's popped up.  Among my favorites: Now is the nowcast of our forecasts, made glorious projection by this mean of polls.Teach a man to survey and he knows the race for a day. Teach a man to aggregate and there is no race.A pundit asks me … [Read more...]

Put Your Moral Philosophical Hands Where We Can See Them, Dennett!

coin hand

This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell.Very early on in the book, (page 17 in my edition), Dennett explains the title of his book: The spell I say must be broken is the taboo against a forthright, scientific, no-holds-barred investigation of religion as one natural phenomenon among many. I'll have more to say about this endeavor (which comprises the vast majority of the text) tomorrow, but let me say briefly here that I have no particular objection to t … [Read more...]

The Bit I Liked Best About Dennett’s Book

exam room

This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell.Daniel Dennett is the only one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism I hadn't read, and I felt like, for the sake of completeness if nothing else, I wanted to take a crack at Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.  I'll be getting more in depth with the meat of Dennett's thesis tomorrow, but there was one quote near the end I wanted to draw attention to: Anybody hoping to make sense of any highly soph … [Read more...]