Steelmanning one of Dennett’s arguments


This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell.Back in the cultural history of religion sections of the book, Dennett touches on a very powerful argument against religion.  He writes: "And here is an interesting fact: the transition between folk religion to organized religion is marked by a shift in beliefs from those with very clear, concrete consequences to those with systematically elusive consequences--paying lip service is just about the only way you can ac … [Read more...]

If only I could throw dinner parties for semi-fictional characters…

table with books

I've been reading Hillary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety, and I'll admit I don't like it as well as Wolf Hall.  I don't feel the same intimacy with Robespierre that Wolf Hall gave me with Thomas Cromwell, and the distance is killing me.  However, I thought readers of the blog might like this dialogue between Camille Desmoulins and a French judge in the early days of the revolution. "I object to the use of the courts as instruments of the intrusive moralizing state""Really?"  The judge le … [Read more...]

7 Quick Takes (11/9/12)

--- 1 --- This has been a contentious week, so, if you want to have high-intensity fights not about the presidency, may I suggest the board game Credo?  Here's the description from BoardGameGeek: Odd premise for a game, players represent early Christians arguing over the actual precepts of their Church. The game mechanism involves collecting worshipers to your side, gaining money and influence over different factions, and you can win by reaching different goals. As the game proceeds, gradually … [Read more...]

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...]