• In total there are 0 users online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 0 guests (based on users active over the past 60 minutes)
    Most users ever online was 616 on Thu Jan 18, 2024 7:47 pm

Ch. 11 - Now What Do We Do?

#29: July - Sept. 2006 (Non-Fiction)
MadArchitect

1E - BANNED
The Pope of Literature
Posts: 2553
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2004 4:24 am
19
Location: decentralized

Re: Ch. 11 - Now What Do We Do?

Unread post

Me: A pretty important question, though, and one that is a stumbling block for all attempts to get religion taught in schools, is that of how they should be taught.GDR: What are your suggestions?What policy you craft depends a great deal on what your purpose is in attempting to get something pushed into the curriculum. Dennett, for example, wants to provide some basis for evaluating religion -- that, at least, is the basic claim he's making here. So from that point of view, an education curriculum would present religion as a set of claims to be considered and tested, and that approach would yield certain methods and determine what sort of information about religion would be presented. Presumably, a lot of it would be the sort of statistical information that Dennett has presented in the book, along with, perhaps, some conjectural origins of religion, although I think that would be harder to pass through review.And if Dennett's broader purpose is to make people wary of religion, then you can bet that anyone who shared that purpose and was involved in crafting the curriculum would, whether deliberately or subconsciously, tailor the information presented in classrooms towards that end.So the first step in evaluating suggestions of this sort is to evaluate the avowed intentions behind putting it in the curriculum at all.Personally, I think that legitimate theology and any sort of study geared towards sorting out belief should be reserved for voluntary education -- college and grad work, and maybe a few extra-curricular classes at the high school level. Probably nothing of that sort before then, as it smacks too much of indoctrination. And classes of that sort should never be required in public schools.That said, I do think that there's a legitimate rationale for including some education about religion in the compulsory education. We live in a pluralistic society, a society that is, to some degree, participatory, and those two facts make it important that we understand one another to some degree. If it can be granted that religion plays a large part in some people's lives, that it plays some part in their decision making process, and that a person's religion is one of the factors that should be taken into consideration when crafting policy that will effect them -- if all those things can be granted, then it should follow that knowing something about religion will help us in dealing justly and fairly with religious believers in our own society. That, I think, is the best argument for including some religious education in the curriculum.And if that's your rationale for the inclusion, then you should have an eye towards shaping the curriculum along those lines. What I would suggest are classes that present the tenants of the major religious traditions, specifically with the intention of providing a platform for understanding the beliefs of denominations and sects related to those traditions. That presentation would be geared towards conduct rather than belief -- understanding what is expected of people in those traditions, how their beliefs shape their conduct and their view of the world, rather than exhorting anyone in the classroom to believe. Some religious history would have to be included as well, and probably some general theory of religion, but only as a supplement to educating the student about the role that religion plays in shaping our interactions with other people.We have all kinds of sacred testing devices now. For a cow, for instance, there's a sacredness measuring rod that you stick into a cow's ass. If it's shit doesn't stink, you got your self a sacred cow.Funny, but my point stands. Scientific method works mostly because it puts certain limits on itself. Most of what is important in religion falls outside those limits.Who decides what compulsory education has to say?In America, it's handled mostly on the level of the school district. School boards and local communities have fought hard to keep the federal and state government from interfering too much in determining what the curriculum of local schools will be. This is counter-balanced by school accreditation systems, which in turn functions as a kind of survival of the fittest. Unaccredited schools can graduate students, but most higher education institutions won't accept applicants from unaccredited schools. If getting a diploma a particular high school isn't likely to allow your kid into college, a great many parents will put their kid in a school whose diploma will. The schools that don't get accreditation tend to dry up and die for lack of students. So there are two forces that help shape curriculum, but the local school district is the more direct force, and accreditation checks tend to be periodic and more glacial in pace. My high school underwent an accreditation check my junior year. The accreditation board gave them 5 years to make some changes, and another 10 to make additional changes. So even if their curriculum weren't entirely up to snuff, they still had 10 years left of accreditation, in which time they could more or less teach the curriculum they wanted.What are the risks of no education of History at all?Depends on the person, I'd say. Most of your garden variety plumbers probably haven't benefitted that much from 10th grade History classes.
User avatar
Dissident Heart

1F - BRONZE CONTRIBUTOR
I dumpster dive for books!
Posts: 1790
Joined: Fri Aug 29, 2003 11:01 am
20
Has thanked: 2 times
Been thanked: 18 times

Re: Experimenting and Engaging

Unread post

MA: All of that is fine on the individual level, or even at the level of small intra-classroom groups, but I think it's entirely impractical to think that those considerations can play more than a nominal part at the level of policy and regional administration.I agree the model is impractical, if you simply want to reproduce current educational structures. If you are working for a change of direction in theory and policy, I think the participatory model is well worth consideration. I think engaging whole-school conversations around these questions (the shaping of school ethos) will impact policy making in the short run, ie. organized voices in unison influencing policy makers and administration. In the long run, as the children who are raised in these participatory models grow up and take leadership roles in their communities. Frankly, I think there is a great deal that is profoundly impractical about the status quo public school system...so I think any suggestion requires an ingredient of substantial change.MA: Saying that public education should take an active role in determining the meaning disseminated to the student sounds a great deal like arguing that we should be striving to indoctrinate them to something, even if we suspend the decision as to what that something should be.Leaving questions of meaning out of the equation is taking an active role: actively silencing concerns of meaning and purpose. I think the stronger indoctrination occurs when students are told "Don't ask why you're learning this, to what end, or for what purpose and value...don't bother with what meaning it has for your life or the world around you." I think the inquisitive spark of existential concern is paramount to keeping students, and teachers, interested in the sacrifice of time and effort that school requires. I also think if students are not actively engaging these concerns, they will be consuming the answers deemed appropriate by the dominant cultural/economic forces of the day...answers that may or may not be in the students' or society's best interest. MA:Compulsory education should make sure, first and foremost, that students can read, write and perform basic math skills, since that's what is necessary to function in society (although some people are clever enough to get by without one or more of those skills); for its own good, society should also make sure that its students know what is expected of them as citizens.What should they read, and what kinds of questions should they ask of their authors, and what kinds of concerns should the authors raise for their lives, and what issues should they write about, and to whom should they write...our answers to these questions are drenched with values and meaning and purpose. What kind of Citizen are they expected to be: simply reinforce the status quo desires of the dominant classes; dissident activists challenging structures of domination....for what good and what kind of society? We do our youth no favor by denying them the skills and opportunities to explore these questions. Again, I think these kinds of questions inspire minds to think and challenge and critique...all worthy goals for any educational process.MA: To say that a scientist should participate in religious phenomenon is to say that he should cease, for whatever duration, to operate from scientific method. Which is fine, so far as the suggestion goes, but it has almost nothing to do with Dennett's argument or my reply to it.In some cases yes, but not all. And I don't know how a scientist could determine in advance, apriori, that all religious experiments must be illegitimate. And, the fact that both you and Dennett leave out the simple challenge (i.e., actually attempting the activity in question) portrays a striking deficiency. Your claim that science cannot address religion and his that science must, both leave out the eminently practical issue: have you tried it yet? MA: I'd say that scientific method leaves no room for that sort of experience as an epistemological method. The chosen tools of scientific method simply cannot operate on that sort of holistic experience. I'd say that some scientists will interpret the scientific method that way, others won't. I suggest the latter are far more attuned to the spirit of experiment and wonder that make science worthy of its sacrifices. I think a great deal of its strength lies in its willingness to attempt and explore, to see for oneself if a claim is worthy of the adjective "true". MA: And yet you keep making the suggestion, as though the only alternative were to keep plugging away at the dance until the metaphysical naturalists let their guard down. Why not try something new?No, another alternative would be to actually pursue the suggestion and see for oneself if engaging these practices confirm or deny the claims of those who adhere to them...or to admit that one knows nothing about what they are from the inside, as one who actually employs them- which is to admit how little one knows about the phenomena. It's like saying "Let's try to understand music, but you cannot pick up an instrument and play it, or hum a tune, or do anything that actually requires performing music...we can only look at from a distance and describe how others do it."MA: Would you say that those traditions leave much purchase for scientific method?As far as these traditions recognize a demand members seek to know and understand Creation: to utilize all facets of intelligence and will to explore the depths and reaches of all that God has made (and I think these traditions can be shown to do just that)...then I think they are great fuel for the scientific effort.MA: Even if the Judeo-Christian tradition allows for a this-wordly experience of the divine, is that experience measurable and quantifiable? That, after all, is the reason I brought up the topic of the sacred.Quote:Luke 20-22: When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' " At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard : The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
MadArchitect

1E - BANNED
The Pope of Literature
Posts: 2553
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2004 4:24 am
19
Location: decentralized

Re: Ch. 11 - Now What Do We Do?

Unread post

GOD defiles Reason: It's hard to tell if that's a yes or a no.Sorry about that. A lot of times, yes or no just doesn't cut it.I don't think Dennett gives an explicit answer on this one. What he seems to be saying is that any suggestion that the sacred element in religion (and every religion that I know of claims a sacred element -- it's a defining feature, it seems)... ahem, that any suggestion that the sacred element in religion must be respected by researchers is nothing but a smoke screen "designed" -- either intentionally or memetically -- to shield religion from scrutiny. That, at least, is how I understood it.The important question, though, is what that assumption entails for actual research. In other words, if we accept Dennett's premise on this count, how does it effect the conduct of research which Dennett is so vigorously advocating? What do people who espouse this perspective actually do when they're studying a religion?One way to look at it is this: some religions have sacred sites, to which only confirmed adherents are admitted. Mecca, for example, is Muslim's only -- so much so that Spike Lee had to hire and all Muslim crew to film segments of "Malcolm X" there. Dennett's "smoke screen" view might serve as justification for stepping over that taboo, but I think the results of that would be disastrous.Another way to look at it -- and this is more to the point of what I was saying earlier: if Dennett dismisses "the sacred" as a way of diverting attention, then he's bound to dismiss it altogether. If, as I've suggested, the concept of the sacred is fundamental to religion, then by excluding it from consideration Dennett would be limiting his research to only what is peripheral to religion. It would be like demanding that we research HIV, but that we restrict ourselves to the symptoms and not do any research on the virus itself.I sometimes wonder if you aren't using smoke screens yourself -- not only in your responses to me, but in your criticisms of Dennett.Not me. The memes in my head, maybe, but not me.I know you could just as easily switch over and argue my points far better than I could.I could tell you what I thought the strong points of your perspective were, but I'm really not the sort of person that can effectively argue something I don't believe.You know goddamn well that there's a whole hell of a lot more to religion and religious beliefs today than love.That isn't what I meant to imply. What I'm saying is that every religion, every religion, is organized around something it thinks is sacred or divine. In this particular example it was love, but it could just as well be justice, or transcendence, or just a particular conception of God. For Kierkegaard, love was the cornerstone of Christianity, and even if it doesn't hold true for all Christians, Kierkegaard was sincere enough that I don't really doubt that, in his mind, love was the one big organizing feature of the Christian God, Christianity as a practice, and the whole damn universe when you came down to it. And the priests of Solomonic Israel probably thought the whole of existence hinged on divine justice. For all I know, the Pythagoreans might have truly believed that this particular mathematical proportion really was divine, the key to all existence, and a transcendent basis for morality. What is sacred to any given religion varies according to the context and content of the religion, so don't be mislead by the example I gave -- the point is that every religion has something that is sacred. And the question that still remains to be answered is, what is a researcher adhering to scientific method to do with that central, fundamental claim?Since my last example caused some problems, let's take a new on. The Pythagoreans gave us a lot of ideas that have been very useful in secular mathematics, but the historical fact is that Pythagoreanism was a religious cult. And one of the claims they made was that the Golden Mean, as it was called, was sacred. Now the mean is just a proportion, one that turns up a lot in nature, and it's useful as an example because a mathematical formula is susceptible to testing: that's how you end up with a mathematical proof. So you can, perhaps, test the claim that the Golden Mean shows up so much in nature because it has certain features which make it structurally stable, but how do you test the claim that it's sacred? There's nothing to measure, nothing to quantify, no substance which can be acted upon.Dennett supposes that this is an evolved feature which protects religious claims from skepticism. I'd say that a modified form of that is correct -- ie. that religions which have had the misfortune to take as their sacred object something which can be tested and disproved are more likely to lose the gamble when they submit to the desire to prove the truth of their religion. But I don't think that's why all religions form around some conception of the sacred or divine. But I digress.Sacred -- what the hell does "sacred" mean anyway? It's not really anything that exists outside the human mind, is it?Neither are love, morality, consciousness, music or creativity, for that matter, but we don't take their cultural basis as sufficient reason to jettison any of those. They have sentimental value. They're almost sacred -- to me.Okay, that's a good place to draw a dinstinction. By analogy, we often take sacred to mean something like "very valuable". Dennett gives a few examples of things he takes to be sacred, but it isn't clear if he means sacred in the same way that Judaism takes the Ark of the Covenant to be sacred, or simply very valuable. If we're talking about the sacred thing at the center of your religion, then we're talking about something which your view of the entire world hinges upon. The litmus test may well be imagining what it would mean to you if the sacred thing were destroyed or proven to be illusory. Would the world seem to unravel around you if your grandmother's paintings were destroyed in a fire? I don't mean to diminish the importance of something with real sentimental value. You'd be upset; it might even throw you into depression -- I'd feel much the same if certain objects of sentimental value were destroyed. But it wouldn't have quite the same effect -- not the same kind of effect -- as having something as central as the basis of a deeply felt religion destroyed.When I read about or imagine what it must have done to the Israelites and Judeans to have the Temple destroyed, the thought is genuinely appalling. Not because I condone or share their belief, but because I have some inkling of what it means to have the whole world supported by a particular pivot, and to have that pivot rattled to its core. To put it into perspective, imagine what it would do to you if, in one fell swoop, someone managed to undermine your belief in your own reason. Imagine that you were forced to second guess every action you had taken because you could no longer be certain that it was as moral as you once believed, that the meaning of events in your past and your hope for events in the future were all called into question, that the significance of your relationships could all be plausibly dismissed.Not everything categorized as sacred has that kind of importance, but just about every religion offers one thing or concept which, for true believers, is the hinge upon which the whole world swings.I think it can be shown that it's not the objects that are "sacred," but rather it's the human mind mentally placing some sort of emotional attachment to those objects.Give me a method, something compatible with scientific method. My claim here is that scientific method explicitly restricts itself from dealing with the sort of claim embodied by sacrality, but I'm open to suggestions as to how it could test that claim.So what's the science that I'm talking about here? Psychology? Can it be combined with cognitive science or neurobiology? How do those sciences fit into evolutionary biology?All of the mind sciences can look at the phenomenon of thought functionally -- this is what happens in the body before, during and after thought; this are potential interruptions to those process; these are ways of simulating, maybe even provoking those processes -- but it looks to me as though they are methodologically incapable of dealing with meaning or with ultimate questions of the correspondence between reality and conception. What I mean by that is, cognitice sciences can show what goes wrong when the mind makes an obvious mistake in cognizing something perceived: the researcher holds up a pencil and the patient calls it a lighter. But that's applicable only when the researcher herself can accurately identify the thing being cognized. So a researcher can only say that a patient has misidentified a sacred object if the researcher has already verified whether the object is or is not sacred.It's even plausible that the congitive sciences could demonstrate how the idea of holiness is cognized in the first place, but that would demonstrate absolutely nothing about its correspondence to reality. We are, after all, capable of conceiving of infinity and nothing without ever actually being able to directly perceive either.
GOD defiles Reason

Re: Ch. 11 - Now What Do We Do?

Unread post

MadArchitect: Sorry about that. A lot of times, yes or no just doesn't cut it.I didn't think you'd like to be tied down to a definitive yes or no, anyway. If the answer's 'yes,' (that Dennett is suggesting that sacred objects are to be tested somehow) then we'd have to break out the Sacredness Measuring Rod -- turn your head and say "mooooooo." If the answer is 'no,' then the study turns to the way the human mind has evolved, and what sacredness means to us, to religious people, and how the idea came about in the first place. On the other hand, if you're completely wrong in your interpretation of Dennett's meanings behind his words, then it's Uranus that may need to be probed.I don't think Dennett gives an explicit answer on this one.If that's the case, then it's not Dennett who is suggesting what you say he's suggesting. It's you suggesting what he's suggesting. At least, that's what I'm suggesting.What he seems to be saying is that any suggestion that the sacred element in religion (and every religion that I know of claims a sacred element -- it's a defining feature, it seems)... ahem, that any suggestion that the sacred element in religion must be respected by researchers is nothing but a smoke screen "designed" -- either intentionally or memetically -- to shield religion from scrutiny.What's your opinion about that in general? Do you think anyone at all would ever use the sacred element of their religion to guard against critical questioning?Like, have you ever heard the "God is beyond/above logic" meme? I know I've seen that on tv. I'm pretty sure I've seen it on the internet. And sure enough, my mother repeated it to me as well. What do you think is the purpose of that? Isn't that like a smoke screen? A protective shield?These may not be the same as using the sacred as a smoke screen, but I've got another situation that shows what at least one local church does to protect itself from criticism. My mother recently told me about an outside preacher coming to her church. Her message was about deceit. They read about deceit in the bible, and she tied that message to "members coming to the congregation for reasons other than what they come here for." My mother used words like "troublemakers" "sent by Satan" and something about a "gifted tongue." What do you think the purpose of that preacher's message was?Not me. The memes in my head, maybe, but not me.You are what you meme.Neither are love, morality, consciousness, music or creativity, for that matter, but we don't take their cultural basis as sufficient reason to jettison any of those. Jettison? Like to do away with? Dennett doesn't want to do away with religion -- nor do I. Would the world seem to unravel around you if your grandmother's paintings were destroyed in a fire?Well, I was going to mention that, although it might be a bit irrational, that if I thought I could save anything from a fire, I'd probably save them before I tried saving anything of real monetary value....When I read about or imagine what it must have done to the Israelites and Judeans to have the Temple destroyed, the thought is genuinely appalling. Not because I condone or share their belief, but because I have some inkling of what it means to have the whole world supported by a particular pivot, and to have that pivot rattled to its core....But yes. I do understand that distinction. And I recognize that it's an important one. I wonder if the Shiites feel the same way about their Samara Mosque being attacked. But I think there are scientific explanations for why humans have those feelings about objects or ideas. So to me, it's not about scientific inquiries about the objects as it is about the human mind, and how we evolved to behave that way. And I'd like to see better explanations of how human culture coevolved with biological evolution.Not everything categorized as sacred has that kind of importance, but just about every religion offers one thing or concept which, for true believers, is the hinge upon which the whole world swings.Well, we certainly don't want any of these true believers to become unhinged. Both pun and sincerity intended.If people weren't already indoctrinated in their religion, then there wouldn't be anything to become unhinged about if our society decided to teach our chitlins what religion is and how it has evolved.
User avatar
Mr. P

1F - BRONZE CONTRIBUTOR
Has Plan to Save Books During Fire
Posts: 3826
Joined: Wed Jun 16, 2004 10:16 am
19
Location: NJ
Has thanked: 5 times
Been thanked: 137 times
Gender:
United States of America

Re: Ch. 11 - Now What Do We Do?

Unread post

God:Just want to say I appreciate your last response. Very well done!! Except the part about not wanting religion to go away...I do hope one day people will let that go and focus on the here and now and not place false hope in pretend.Mad:Quote:that any suggestion that the sacred element in religion must be respected by researchers is nothing but a smoke screen "designed" -- either intentionally or memetically -- to shield religion from scrutiny.Exactly! And I feel that it is true whether people realize they are doing it or not. The 'sacred' is almost always used when I approach people about why they believe, and when I offer arguments against what they offer. They do not offer anything but "It is god's will" or "we cannot hope to understand god's ways", "the bible says so right [here]..." or other nonsense. Sometimes, when I luckily come up with a good comeback, these excuses are preceeded by blank, hopeless stares as they realize that the smoke screen has failed to activate as quickly as they would have liked.Mr. P. Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
MadArchitect

1E - BANNED
The Pope of Literature
Posts: 2553
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2004 4:24 am
19
Location: decentralized

Re: Ch. 11 - Now What Do We Do?

Unread post

GOD defiles Reason: I didn't think you'd like to be tied down to a definitive yes or no, anyway.It isn't that I don't want to be tied down. I don't want to make a black and white issue of something that's more complex than that.If that's the case, then it's not Dennett who is suggesting what you say he's suggesting.Dennett is suggesting, and he's being very vague about some points, presumably in order to be diplomatic about suggestions which are likely to meet a flat refusal from some corners. And yeah, I'm suggesting what seems to me to be the most reasonable interpretation of what it is that Dennett is suggestion, but it's open to alternative interpretations as well. I just happen to think that Dennett has furnished good reason to think that he'd point to a particular way of dealing with things, even though he's keeping rather tight-lipped in the book itself.Me: What he seems to be saying is that any suggestion that the sacred element in religion (and every religion that I know of claims a sacred element -- it's a defining feature, it seems)... ahem, that any suggestion that the sacred element in religion must be respected by researchers is nothing but a smoke screen "designed" -- either intentionally or memetically -- to shield religion from scrutiny.GDR: What's your opinion about that in general? Do you think anyone at all would ever use the sacred element of their religion to guard against critical questioning?Yeah, of course people could, and I'm sure that people do. On the tawdry level, sham artists have been doing it for ages. But that doesn't mean that there's an element of sham in every religious feature that makes claims that are unassessable by science. And I happen to think that there are good alternative explanations for those features. It looks to me like Dennett's smoke screen hypothesis is rooted in the assumption that all of these features are best explained by how they protect religion from skepticism. But it doesn't seem to me that skepticism has been, historically, sufficiently continuous or consistent to explain features that you find in almost every durable religious tradition.Like, have you ever heard the "God is beyond/above logic" meme? ...What do you think is the purpose of that? Isn't that like a smoke screen? A protective shield?I think it can very often be used to answer questions the person is unable to answer or unwilling to consider. That it lends itself to that use doesn't make it patently obvious that the smoke screen is the original or even primary function of that "meme". (Do we really need to call it a meme here? What use does the term "meme" serve in this context, that isn't covered by the term "idea"?) The idea that God is beyond logic is a direction pointed to be the monotheistic idea. In a polytheistic religion, like that of the ancient Greeks, it wouldn't have made much sense to posit that the gods superceded logic, and they pointed to this hierarchy of being by making the Olympic pantheon subject to Necessity and Order, which were religious conceptions of their own right. But once you've posited that the whole of the material world is the product of a single supernatural being, it becomes possible to ask in what relation that being stands to logic. And Christian theologians have debated the point as to which is ontologically (if not temporally) prior: God or logic.I don't see any evidence to suggest that "God is beyond logic" arose as an element of apologetics prior to its advent as a point within theological discourse. In other words, it's entirely possible that the idea originated in theological elaboration and from there filtered into common and defensive usage. Dennett certainly doesn't provide any evidence to the contrary, but he seems to think it sufficient to suggest that, since such formulas can be deliberately used as smoke screens, it follows that there initial and primary function is just that. That's a possibility, but it's one that's bolstered mostly by his own bias, and not one that we're safe in building policy on until we've found better reason to accept it at face value.Dennett doesn't want to do away with religionAre you sure about that? I think part of his implicit assertion in the book is, that those who engage in this sort of research should be willing to drop religion altogether should the results show that it has more disadvantages than advantages. And I can't say for certain, but his tone and the direction of his conjecture leads me to wonder whether or not he isn't betting that the research will show against religion in the end.But I think there are scientific explanations for why humans have those feelings about objects or ideas.Sure. I think that very few religious believers in the industrialized world would argue that point. But that there are scientific explanations for those feelings shouldn't destroy the import of the feeling. Nor does it say much about the religious claims that precipitate those feelings.If people weren't already indoctrinated in their religion, then there wouldn't be anything to become unhinged about if our society decided to teach our chitlins what religion is and how it has evolved.I don't think it works that way. It's difficult to function at all without some sort of world view that serves as the nexus for your understanding of the things around you. If it isn't traditional religion, it'll be something else, and when everything you believe about the world is so intimately tied up with one unitary worldview, that worldview will tend to play the same role that traditional religions play. I'm not saying that, if religion were somehow removed from the playing field, something else would become a religion. It's entirely possible that we could displace religion with some combination of science and atheistic philosophy; they wouldn't necessary become religion as a result. But we would still try to weave them into a worldview that made possible certain institutions and behavior (like morality), and that would make them susceptible to the same sort of corruption and misuse that religion suffers now.misterpessimistic: Exactly! And I feel that it is true whether people realize they are doing it or not.You feel it's true, but how do you go about demonstrating that it's true. Dennett throws out the suggestion, says that it would make sense, but doesn't provide any solid support for it before he takes it as a given in later chapters.The 'sacred' is almost always used when I approach people about why they believe, and when I offer arguments against what they offer.This is more or less what I'm talking about. A distinction needs to be made, and it can be a subtle one if you're not looking for it. The scenario you're talking about is one that encourages religious believers to use the concept of the sacred in a certain sense, but that isn't necessarily the sense in which it was, and is, used in its normal context. You (and probably Dennett, as well) are encountering the term "sacred" in debate -- you've issued some sort of challenge to the person's belief, and they're returning an answer designed to meet that challenge. And if that were the only use of the term "sacred", then we wouldn't expect to find it in other contexts. But the term shows up in religious practice, in other words, when no challenge to belief is being made. In those contexts, there's no reason to assume that it's being invoked in order to answer skepticism. Moreover, there's every reason to believe that those are the normative uses of "sacred", and that the use of "sacred" in debate is an example of turning an idea to serve a goal which it was not originally intended to serve.It looks to me as though Dennett has made the mistake of thinking that the debate scenario is indicative of the total context in which sacrality is invoked. But there's no reason that we should make the same mistake.
Post Reply

Return to “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon - by Daniel Dennett”