Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Materialist Toast

There's nothing like a good bloodletting book review -- and Scott Carson links to a real corker. Leon Weiseltier reviews Daniel Dennett's latest in the NY Times. Weiseltier opens strong and never lets up:

The question of the place of science in human life is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question. Scientism, the view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical, is a superstition, one of the dominant superstitions of our day; and it is not an insult to science to say so. For a sorry instance of present-day scientism, it would be hard to improve on Daniel C. Dennett's book. "Breaking the Spell" is a work of considerable historical interest, because it is a merry anthology of contemporary superstitions.
From later on in the review:
It will be plain that Dennett's approach to religion is contrived to evade religion's substance. He thinks that an inquiry into belief is made superfluous by an inquiry into the belief in belief. This is a very revealing mistake. You cannot disprove a belief unless you disprove its content. If you believe that you can disprove it any other way, by describing its origins or by describing its consequences, then you do not believe in reason. In this profound sense, Dennett does not believe in reason. He will be outraged to hear this, since he regards himself as a giant of rationalism. But the reason he imputes to the human creatures depicted in his book is merely a creaturely reason. Dennett's natural history does not deny reason, it animalizes reason. It portrays reason in service to natural selection, and as a product of natural selection. But if reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? The power of reason is owed to the independence of reason, and to nothing else. (In this respect, rationalism is closer to mysticism than it is to materialism.) Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.
Scott Carson has some great things to say on the review and on Dennett in general as well. For anyone who feels like materialists like Dennett get too much respect too much of the time, this is a must read.

1 comment:

John Farrell said...

You're not kidding. I posted it too. It's good in the sense that, for all the grief the ID types get, the rad materialists don't get a free pass thereby from the Old Gray Lady....