toxic thought waste site

Theological whimsy, metaphysical larks, and other spiritually radioactive waste products.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Breaking the Spell: Chap 03 - Why Good Things Happen

I continue to find it hard to believe that any believer would spend time reading this book. While he explicitly says that studying a religion as a natural phenomena doesn't imply that there is no supernatural component, it certainly doesn't help the case that there is. And clearly if you *claim* that you can account for all the pieces in a naturalistic way then obviously the notion of a supernatural element begins to seem awfully superfluous. It's hard to imagine this not leading the god oriented reader to assume then that the naturalistic explanation must be wrong. I'm sure he's spoken to a lot of believers and is using his most successful tactics to keep them engaged, but it really strains credulity that many have even made it this far into the book. And he's barely even started rolling up his sleeves.

In this chapter he explains that using evolutionary reasoning is the best way of explaining why organisms do what they do, like what they like. E.g. we like sugar not because it is sweet, rather sugar is sweet because it was adaptive to prefer concentrated sources of sugar. Well it was at one point in our history now it's a trait that is too easily abused.

Humorously Dennett bids farewell to the religious believers who refuse to accept that evolution is well established and important science. "Good bye and hope to see you back someday".

Dennett then continues with the main thrust of the chapter, looking at all the different possibilities that an evolutionary perspective provides when trying to explain a phenomena.

One family of theories is the "sweet-tooth" theories. Religion may be providing something in intensified form that we are genetically programmed to need. Another family of theories is the "symbiont" theories. Religion could be a mutualist, commensal or parasitic resident of our brain. And of course religion may be some combination of sweet-tooth *and* symbiont. In either case the idea is to figure out who gains what from the relationship between our brain and religious thought.



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