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Ch. 7 - The Invention of Team Spirit 
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Post Ch. 7 - The Invention of Team Spirit
Ch. 7 - The Invention of Team Spirit


Be a team player and post about Chapter 7 in this thread. ::80




Tue Jun 27, 2006 12:46 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - The Invention of Team Spirit
Notes...
1. A path paved with good intentions
On p. 177 Dennett writes, "Why do people want to be stewards of their religions? It is obvious, isn't it? They believe that this is the way to lead a moral life, a good life, and they sincerely want to be good." Two points: a) Dennett's "obvious" there points to the possibility of the kind of cognitive slumber that presumes too much, and b) we have here, again, the assumption that morality is the sole or primary justification for religion.

3. The growth market in religion
Dennett miscompares Stark's observation that a monotheistic God without a counter-balancing malign force raises a contradiction in regards to the supposed benevolence of God, to the dramatic inclusion of kryptonite in the Superman mythos. (p. 192) Stark's observation has nothing to do with "dramatic considerations" (p. 193), but rather with modifications to theology that deal with a real problem of observation: if God is good, then a monotheistic God is nearly impossible to reconcile with the evil manifest in experience. But Dennett is apparantly not interested in looking at theology as a discipline that attempts to reconcile ideas with fact -- he wants to view (and wants us to view) religion as a phenomenon that develops according to economic forces of appeal. The devil appeals to some dramatic bias in human brains, and therefore the idea spreads. He gives zero consideration to the possibility that the devil idea might never have taken hold in Christianity if Christians had been able to reconcile the presence of evil in the world to the more central idea of a benevolent, monotheistic God.




Mon Jul 17, 2006 7:22 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - The Invention of Team Spirit
My main reaction to this chapter is that, in contrast to previous chapters, I just didn't get it. While I understood the individual sentences, I couldn't follow the overall argument. While sleeping poorly last night didn't help my comprehension, Dennett seemed to spend too much time delving into the esoteric arguments of people I'd never heard of before.

The first section of the chapter made more sense, but Dennett's emphasis was off. The dynamics of groups in general, and the us-vs.-them mentality in particular, is an important subject that can be tackled from numerous angles: psychology, sociology, economics, politics, etc. Dennett quickly dove into a narrow ev. psych. analysis of religious group behavior, omitting many worthwhile perspectives on broader issues.




Fri Sep 01, 2006 1:29 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - The Invention of Team Spirit
Julian: Dennett quickly dove into a narrow ev. psych. analysis of religious group behavior, omitting many worthwhile perspectives on broader issues.

In general, I think Dennett's emphasis on ev.psych and the meme model closed off a lot of avenues. Of course, they don't preclude anyone else from looking at religion through other scientific avenues, but in providing them as a foundation for the project, I think Dennett is funnelling reader interest into channels that ultimately aren't terribly productive.

Part of that, I think, is due to the very mixed nature of the book. Structurally, it meanders where a more focussed concentration might have been more needful. he could have very easily put forward an extended essay on the necessity of putting religion to greater scrutiny, elaborating on the way in which science could have been used and policy derived from it. But the book is part that and part conjecture, and I think the conjecture muddles the rest.




Fri Sep 01, 2006 4:42 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - The Invention of Team Spirit
Mad: "In general, I think Dennett's emphasis on ev.psych and the meme model closed off a lot of avenues. Of course, they don't preclude anyone else from looking at religion through other scientific avenues, but in providing them as a foundation for the project, I think Dennett is funnelling reader interest into channels that ultimately aren't terribly productive."

I don't think anything Dennett says in this book closes off any other possible angle for looking at religion. Whether his channels are ultimately productive or not is going to depend on what you and Dennett consider productive.

Mad: "Part of that, I think, is due to the very mixed nature of the book. Structurally, it meanders where a more focussed concentration might have been more needful."

I might somewhat agree that it meanders structurally. But I don't think this book was meant to be structurally sound or scientifically precise. In fact, I think he makes that point several times in the book. In greater fact, he states on the first page in the Preface that "among other things, this book is a sounding device"...."[I intended to reach ] as possible, not just the academics"......"this is an experiment"....."I simply do not know enough about other religions"......."but since the urgency of the message was borne in on me again and again by current events, I had to settle for the perspectives I had managed to achieve so far."

I can see how someone who is pretty well read would expect a better written, better researched work of literature. But for someone who still has his ears partially hung on to his sphincter valve, this book is right up my ally (heyy oooh...pardon that pun). Besides, he asked for an experimental license up front. I gladly grant it to him.

Mad: "He could have very easily put forward an extended essay on the necessity of putting religion to greater scrutiny, elaborating on the way in which science could have been used and policy derived from it. But the book is part that and part conjecture, and I think the conjecture muddles the rest. "

I doubt that this will be his last book on the subject. And he's probably working in concert with other authors. I think there's a purpose to what you're calling conjecture. I think his "proto-theories" -- he later calls them -- are meant to spark ideas and get the dialogue started. He said somewhere that his proto-theories will likely be replaced by better, well established theories. Those would be the theories where the eventual policies should be derived.




Fri Sep 01, 2006 6:21 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - The Invention of Team Spirit
GOD defiles Reason: I don't think anything Dennett says in this book closes off any other possible angle for looking at religion.

It may close them off to him, and anyone who follows in his assumptions. That's one of the inherent consequences of choosing a line of reasoning -- adhering to it means ignoring other possibilities. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but in this particular instance, I think he's chosen the wrong set of assumptions.

Whether his channels are ultimately productive or not is going to depend on what you and Dennett consider productive.

Productive of what, is the question. Dennett is a little vague on this point. The intent, he says, is to craft policy in regards to religion. And it seems clear to me that the policy he wants is policy that will limit the role religion plays in a civil democracy. In that sense, he's already decided the general policy, and he's calling on science as a way to defend that policy, only he wants to do so diplomatically enough that some religious believers -- in particular, those who consider themselves moderate and rational -- will take the cue he provides.

That's how the book seems to me. It's a rhetorical structure, not the open-ended scientific consideration he presents it as. That rhetorical structure is what determines his choice of what findings to highlight and how to present them. And I think that shows very clearly, particularly in the last chapter. All you have to ask to see that is the same question Dennett asks throughout: cui bono? Does he provide any argument for why ev.psych. is the best -- or even an adequate proxy -- tool for examining science? Does he provide an explanation for why an understanding of the origin of now defunct religions should determine our policy towards living religions? It's reasonable to assume that Dennett is sharp enough a thinker to have a reason for following the course he did. Figure out the why.

But I don't think this book was meant to be structurally sound or scientifically precise.

Then what's the point? The first third of the book argues for the necessity of more scientific study of religion. If that isn't what Dennett is offering in the second third, then why does he cover the subjects he covers.

I think there's a purpose to what you're calling conjecture.

Oh, I think there's a purpose to it, too. And I think that purpose is hostile, or at least ambivalent, towards something that a great many people hold dear.

Look, I know that a lot of people who know something of my background are going to think that I'm seeing anti-religionists under every bed. I really am open to the suggestion Dennett makes -- there's nothing necessarily wrong with using science to learn more about religion as a phenomenon. But I don't think Dennett's intention is as disinterested as he presents it. His mixed attitude towards his audience is part of the reason I think he has the spread of atheism in mind; the limitations he places on dialogue is another; that he went through the trouble of dispensing with theological arguments is yet another.

At the very least, I think it's safe to say that he's having a hard time keeping his suggestion and his feeling that all rational people ought to be freethinking atheists at arms length. At worst, he's purposely concealing a more fundamental ideological agenda in the hopes of confusing the issues. I'd say that truth is probably a far less sinister gray area between the two. Either way, mixed motives make for a problematic book.

Those would be the theories where the eventual policies should be derived.

Again, any theory that serves as the basis for policy of the sort that Dennett is proposing cannot be purely scientific. Policy has to have some foundation in ideology.

Quick example. You can go through tons and tons of scientific research, fund further research, test and re-test the validity of those findings. But none of that will help you craft policy on the permissability of animal testing until you've established some ideological underpinning on why inflicting pain is wrong. Science alone cannot take you to that point.

So the first question has to be, what principles are we going to refer to when crafting policy about religion. And I think it only begins to become clear in the last chapter which ideals Dennett would pick. Even then, the question is left fairly vague -- mostly because Dennett himself hasn't asked him. That's a curious thing for someone who claims to be writing as a philosopher.




Tue Sep 05, 2006 11:31 pm
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