Results tagged “Daniel Dennett” from onegoodmove

Daniel Dennett: The Design Fallacy

Daniel Dennett - The Genius of Charles Darwin

Richard Dawkins interviews Dan Dennett for "The Genius of Charles Darwin", the Channel 4 UK TV program which won British Broadcasting Awards' "Best Documentary Series" of 2008. Buy the full 3-DV...

tip to Patrick

Interview with Daniel Dennett BBC4

A man who has had to "forgive" his friends for praying for him during a life-threatening heart illness, philosopher DANIEL DENNETT is one of the world's best known atheists. He argues that religion is the greatest threat to rationality and progress that we face today and that it is stopping us becoming "the best we could be". Daniel Dennett will be speaking for the motion Religion is the greatest threat to scientific progress and rationality that we face today at the British Council on 22 April. The event is part of rethink, a season of events run by Agora (the Forum for Culture and Education) and The Guardian.
reposted from: Richard Dawkins . Net

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Debating a Religionist

Debating a religionist is like playing tennis with someone who lowers the net for their shots and raises it for yours.
—Daniel Dennett

Links With Your Coffee - Sunday

Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday

What Are You Optimistic About?

The Edge Annual Question — 2007


As an activity, as a state of mind, science is fundamentally optimistic. Science figures out how things work and thus can make them work better. Much of the news is either good news or news that can be made good, thanks to ever deepening knowledge and ever more efficient and powerful tools and techniques. Science, on its frontiers, poses more and ever better questions, ever better put.

What are you optimistic about? Why? Surprise us!

Here are three of my favorites to get you started:

Sam Harris
Richard Dawkins
Daniel Dennett

Daniel Dennett

links for 2006-12-14


This looks like fun, a new site devoted to discussing religion and here is an intitial post by Sam Harris

The Washington Post and Newsweek have jointly launched a website to discuss religion. Sam has signed on as one of the bloggers. This looks like it will be an interesting forum in which to have a discussion about the problem of faith, as Sally Quinn (Washington Post) and Jon Meacham (Newsweek) have attracted an impressive group of panelists. This may be the only opportunity to see Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam tangle with the likes of Bishop Desmond Tutu.


Illustration by David Johnson for Newsweek

A New Take on Atheism: Armed with evolutionary psychology and inflamed by the 9/11 attacks, these authors--Richard Dawkins (left), Sam Harris (center) and Daniel C. Dennett--treat belief in God as a superstition the modern world can no longer afford

Letter to A Christian Nation by Sam Harris

Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel Dennett

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

"If there is no God, why be good?" he asks rhetorically, and responds: "Do you really mean the only reason you try to be good is to gain God's approval and reward? That's not morality, that's just sucking up."

The New Naysayers

In the midst of religious revival, three scholars argue that atheism is smarter

Sept. 11, 2006 issue - Americans answered the atrocities of September 11, overwhelmingly, with faith. Attacked in the name of God, they turned to God for comfort; in the week after the attacks, nearly 70 percent said they were praying more than usual. Confronted by a hatred that seemed inexplicable, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson proclaimed that God was mad at America because it harbored feminists, gays and civil libertarians. Sam Harris, then a 34-year-old graduate student in neuroscience, had a different reaction. On Sept. 12, he began a book. If, he reasoned, young men were slaughtering people in the name of religion—something that had been going on since long before 2001, of course—then perhaps the problem was religion itself. The book would be called "The End of Faith," which to most Americans probably sounds like a lament. To Harris it is something to be encouraged.
And next month the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins ("The Selfish Gene") weighs in with "The God Delusion," a book that extends an argument he advanced in the days after 9/11. After hearing once too often that "[t]o blame the attacks on Islam is like blaming Christianity for the fighting in Northern Ireland," Dawkins responded: Precisely. "It's time to get angry," he wrote, "and not only with Islam." . . .

Dawkins and Harris are not writing polite demurrals to the time-honored beliefs of billions; they are not issuing pleas for tolerance or moderation, but bone-rattling attacks on what they regard as a pernicious and outdated superstition. (In the spirit of scientific evenhandedness, both would call themselves agnostic, although as Dawkins says, he's agnostic about God the same way he's agnostic about the existence of fairies.) They ask: where do people get their idea of God? From the Bible or the Qur'an. "Tell a devout Christian ... that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible," Harris writes, "and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever." He asks: How can anyone believe in a benevolent and omnipotent God who permits a tsunami to swallow 180,000 innocent people in a few hours? . . .

Links With Your Coffee - Friday

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"All truth is simple." Is that not doubly a lie?—Nietzsche

"President Bush said while he's on vacation he's reading two books about his hero Abraham Lincoln. That's his hero, and this has got his staff a little worried. See they know how much President Bush idolizes Lincoln and the feeling is it's going to be very upsetting to him when he gets to the part of the book where Lincoln gets shot. But then again it's ten days, so it could take awhile." --Jay Leno

Jesus and Mo

Don't be afraid or the president will win. Did you ever think that George Bush is completely fucked up. Even as he complains about how the the cut and run crowd is putting us at risk he's cheerleading for the run and hide crowd. We all know what the risks are. We don't need some inarticulate clown telling us the world is a dangerous place. Ze Frank is right we're more likely to die in an automobile accident than as a victim of terrorism, and heaven help him George is more likely to fall off his bike or choke on a pretzel.

Daniel Dennett (video tip to

Dan Dennett is a Tufts philosophy professor and cognitive scientist, renowned for his books, Consciousness Explained (1991) and Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995). His most recent book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a natural phenomenon calls for a rational examination of religion as a cultural phenomenon that has co-evolved over milennia to meet human needs. In this talk, which followed the presentation by Pastor Rick Warren, he takes issue with some of Warren's claims in The Purpose-Driven Life.

Don't miss this delightful bit of fun Samuel Jackson as the voice of God and a big thanks to Frank who provided the link, and while were on the subject of snakes you really should visit our good friend Chris Locke, expert herpetologist.

Richard Dawkins on Knowledge and Design

Natural ‘Knowledge’ and Natural ‘Design’
by Richard Dawkins
Op-Ed column in Free Inquiry 26 (3), 34-45, April/May 2006

As conscious animals, we think of knowledge as something that we consciously know. A zoologist might see knowledge as facts that are useful for survival and reproduction, whether or not they are known to a mind. An orb spider’s survival tool is its web, and it behaves as if it ‘knows’ how to build it. Each cell in an embryo lioness ‘knows’ how to participate, with millions of other cells, in a virtuoso performance of orchestrated origami whose end product is an adult hunter: a carnivorous machine with limbs to run, eyes to see, claws to subdue, teeth and enzymes to dismember and dissolve, guts to digest, and two uteruses to make new embryos that will preserve the genetically encoded ‘knowledge’.

A spider doesn’t know how to make a web as a fisherman knows how to make a net. Spider genes are a recipe for legs, muscles and spinnerets, together with a brain whose wiring diagram causes it to manipulate muscles in such a way that a web automatically results. The spider – presumably – knows nothing of webs or flies, any more than you knew how to build yourself during your nine months of unconscious gestation. Genes literally don’t know anything, but in a powerful sense they store knowledge about environments from the ancestral past.

Continue reading "Richard Dawkins on Knowledge and Design" »

Links With Your Coffee - Sunday

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Did you know that if you click on the word Archives at the top of the list of monthly archives you'll see a list of all the posts at onegoodmove.

Oh not again! Someone claiming there is something to Astrology after all. I see that the smugly complacent Ophelia Benson is already having some fun with it. By the way if you haven't already ordered her new book Truth Matters now would be a good time.


The 9/11 Conspiracy: A Skeptic's View

No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish... —David Hume, On Miracles

Daniel Dennett and others on being good with god

Limbaugh's mug shot. A few bucks and an expensive lawyer, it appears, bought Rush a sweetheart deal.

I'm the Law Bush run amok

Links With Your Coffee - Monday

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A Pair Of Limericks For a Six-Pack Of Generals thanks Mad

'When it comes to facts, and explanations of facts, science is the only game in town'

"That's one of my favourite phrases in the book," says Daniel Dennett, his huge bearded frame snapping out of postprandial languor at the thought of it: "If you have to hoodwink your children to ensure that they confirm their faith when they are adults, your faith ought to go extinct." The 64-year-old Tufts University professor is amiable of aspect, but the reception he has had while in Britain promoting his new book, Breaking the Spell: religion as a natural phenomenon, has not been uniformly friendly. His development of the theory that religion has developed as an evolutionary "meme", a cultural replicator which may or may not have a benign effect on those who transmit it, has drawn attacks, not least in these pages, where John Gray accused him of "a relentless, simple-minded cleverness that precludes anything like profundity".

But Dennett has allies. In recent times he and other non- believers - what one might call a movement of "the New God-less" - have been girding their loins to do battle with the forces of increasingly intolerant and aggressive religions. If anyone doubts the need for combat, evidence is provided by the foothold gained in public discourse by "intelligent design", a dressed-up version of creationism hardly heard of a couple of years ago.

Neighbours: What's The Beef?

I'm not sure why I'm linking to this. Perhaps it's because it affirms the long term benefits of cooperation using the Prisoner's Dilemma. It could also be the introduction of Old Testament prophecies being fullfilled that pulled me along. The cultural reference to Bart Simpson, yes that too. It is just a well written piece on the going-ons in the neighborhood, not my neighborhood mind you, but not one so different from mine.

Theocons and Theocrats

2 Registered Sex Offenders Killed in Maine

Benighted Religious Views

Trapped in the creationist briar patch

A response to the Bunting, Ruse, Dembski cabal by Daniel Dennett

I find it amusing that two Brits - Madeleine Bunting and Michael Ruse - have fallen for a version of one of the most famous scams in American folklore (Why the intelligent design lobby thanks God for Richard Dawkins, March 27). When Brer Rabbit gets caught by the fox, he pleads with him: "Oh, please, please, Brer Fox, whatever you do, don't throw me in that awful briar patch!" - where he ends up safe and sound after the fox does just that. When the American propagandist William Dembski writes tauntingly to Richard Dawkins, telling him to keep up the good work on behalf of intelligent design, Bunting and Ruse fall for it! "Oh golly, Brer Fox, your forthright assertion - that evolutionary biology disproves the idea of a creator God - jeopardises the teaching of biology in science class, since teaching that would violate the separation of church and state!" Right.

You also ought to soft-pedal physiology, since it declares virgin birth impossible, contrary to what many devout people believe. And you'd better start censoring the more inconvenient parts of geology, since they might be seen to disprove the widespread religious belief in the US that the world was created about 6,000 years ago. In America we have never banned teaching science that conflicts with benighted religious views and we never will, I solemnly hope. . .

Philosopher And Theologian

A mildly amusing exchange of letters between Daniel Dennett and Richard Swinburne on Daniel's Book "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon"
How should we study religion?

The Dennett-Ruse Affair

Evolutionblog: The Dennett-Ruse Affair

Michael Ruse and Daniel Dennett are two of the most prominent philosophers writing about issues related to evolution. It seems they have been engaging in a bit of e-mail correspondence on the side.

How do I know this? Because Ruse inexplicably sent the entire correspondence to William Dembski. I say this is inexplicable because there is no indication that Dennett consented to have his private e-mails made public. For Ruse to make public e-mails that were intended as part of a private correpsondence is an incredible breach of professional ethics.

Of course, it was also shameless of Dembski to publish the e-mails without asking Dennett first, but we already knew he lacks both scruples and conscience.

How And Why We Got Religion

Supernatural selection

The article inludes a nice summary of the different natural explanations for religion. I currently think Atran's explanation is best "Atran is one of the leading thinkers putting forward an alternate theory, in which religion is, as Yale psychologist Paul Bloom puts it, ''an accidental byproduct of stuff that is part of human nature." Religion, in this account, didn't arise because it served any purpose, but because the human brain is amenable to certain supernatural ideas. As social animals, we evolved to be acutely sensitive to the intentions of others, so much so that we are prone to see intention and agency where it doesn't exist-in things that go bump in the night or the way tea leaves settle. This makes a certain evolutionary sense: In a prehistoric, pre-scientific society, not paying attention to a rival's (or, for that matter, a mate's) state of mind carried a high cost. Believing in ghosts carried little."

A Tufts philosopher and famed Darwinist wants us to study religion like any other human behavior - as a 'natural phenomenon.' Scientists, meanwhile, may be on the way to explaining how, and why, we got religion.

WHEN THE philosopher Daniel Dennett was a teenager, he played the backwoods holy man Elijah in his prep school's production of ''Inherit the Wind." ''Bearded, wild-haired, dressed in a tattered burlap smock," Elijah comes down from the hills, on the eve of Bert Cates's trial for teaching evolution, to sell Bibles out of an old vegetable crate. ''Are you an evolutionist? An infidel? A sinner?" Elijah asks an out-of-town newspaperman.

Until he went to graduate school, Dennett claims, the play, famously based on the 1925 Scopes ''monkey trial," was the source of most of what he knew about evolution and natural selection. Today Dennett has a prophet's beard, one corner of which he will sometimes fold into his mouth for a ruminative chew, and he is one of Darwinian theory's foremost promoters. He sees it not just as an explanation for the origin of species, but for the fundamental whys and hows of human habits, beliefs, thinking, and desires. The logic of evolution, Dennett wrote in his 1995 book ''Darwin's Dangerous Idea," is a ''universal acid," it ''eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized worldview."

A month ago, when federal Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design could not be taught in a Pennsylvania school district, scientists and secularists celebrated the decision as a victory not only for the separation of church and state, but of church and science. A few editorials quoted Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould's argument that science, concerned as it is with facts, and religion, concerned with human purposes and values, were ''Non-Overlapping Magisteria," separate sources of authority that could exist in ''respectful noninterference." Judge Jones himself took pains to emphasize that the theory of evolution ''in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator."

Daniel Dennett, however, is no great believer in respectful noninterference, and in his new book, ''Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" (Viking), he argues vehemently against it. Religion, Dennett says, is human behavior, and there are branches of science to study human behavior. ''Whether or not [Gould] was right," Dennett told me in his office at Tufts University, where he is director of the Center for Cognitive Studies, ''and I don't think he was, I'm not making a claim that he would disagree with. I'm not saying that science should do what religion does. I'm saying science should study what religion does."

The argument that religion can be explained as a natural rather than a supernatural phenomenon is not new. The Scottish philosopher David Hume set himself a similar task over 250 years ago. Marx and Freud had their own explanations. Over the years, scholars have enlisted everything from rational choice theory to brain scans in their efforts to trace the origins of faith.

Dennett himself is not a researcher, nor is his book a sustained argument for any one theory. His primary role, as he sees it, is to be as much a standard-bearer as a thinker, introducing the world to the work of scholars who, in sometimes conflicting ways, are setting out to explain the workings of belief.

Dennett opens his book by comparing religion to a parasite. The lancet fluke is a microorganism that, as part of its unlikely life cycle, lodges in the brain of an ant, turning it into a sort of ant zombie that every night crawls to the top of a blade of grass and waits to get eaten by a grazing cow or sheep, in whose liver the lancet fluke can propagate. Dennett is being provocative, but he is also making a point: Certain religious behaviors-abstinence, for example, or martyrdom, or ritually sacrificing livestock in the middle of a famine-can look decidedly, almost inexplicably, irrational both to nonbelievers and behavioral scientists, so much so that it might be worth asking who or what is actually benefiting from them.

Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

Monkeys video magic tip to Ben

Terrorists Wear Suits tip to Rage Boy

The Real Story of John Walker Lindh
After years of almost total silence on his son's arrest and imprisonment, Frank Lindh sets the record straight about the 'American Taliban.'
Mad Kane has cooked up something different, an Ode to Takeout.

The Clergy Letter Project (tip to Jack)

Bible Warning (tip to Max)

Daniel Dennett on Philosophy Talk Radio Listen