This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.



Randy Ping's Avatar Comment 1 by Randy Ping

Get well soon , Dan. You are a true inspiration.

Sat, 04 Nov 2006 22:23:00 UTC | #7045

robzrob's Avatar Comment 2 by robzrob


Sun, 05 Nov 2006 01:45:00 UTC | #7054

MakingBelieve's Avatar Comment 3 by MakingBelieve

Fantastic! I'm so glad this harrowing experience didn't change his brilliant clarity of thought and expression. I have made a donation to the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation in your honour.

Sun, 05 Nov 2006 04:37:00 UTC | #7057

JackR's Avatar Comment 4 by JackR

Get well soon, Dan. And thanks for the piece. Religious people need to know that some of us can face fear and death without retreating into superstition. Thank goodness, indeed....

Sun, 05 Nov 2006 11:09:00 UTC | #7067

Paul Caira's Avatar Comment 5 by Paul Caira

Get well soon, Dan. You're my hero.

Sun, 05 Nov 2006 16:56:00 UTC | #7077

Paul Caira's Avatar Comment 6 by Paul Caira

After reading the article in detail, I paid £15 to a heart charity (the British Heart Foundation, admittedly, but I assume it's all to the greater good of hearts everywhere).

Please accept it in place of my prayers.

Sun, 05 Nov 2006 17:03:00 UTC | #7078

Nebularry's Avatar Comment 7 by Nebularry

Once again, Mr. Dennett has enlightened me with his insights. (Dare I say "revelations"?) And it was all said so eloquently. Thank goodness for Daniel Dennett!

Get well soon.

Sun, 05 Nov 2006 17:35:00 UTC | #7079

Al Steuart's Avatar Comment 8 by Al Steuart

I appreciate you are feeling happy, I assume, that you survived and are still among us living organisms and I appreciate your thanking not some "spirit" but thanking the persons whose behaviors increased your chances of continuing to live. Regarding those persons who were praying for you, at least, I assume, they were thinking about you. If they were praying to the Christian God for your recovery from this event, I am wondering if any of them considered that this God, if omnipotent and omniscient, was surely aware of your event and, presumably, knew the outcome no matter what the prayers - wouldn't a "god" know that?

Regarding your statement "These messages from my family and from friends around the world have been literally heart-warming in my case, and I am grateful for the boost in morale (to truly manic heights, I fear!) that it has produced in me," I am not understanding how anything you read or heard could have "warmed" your heart or how "it" (what you saw or heard) can produce any activity in your brain whatsoever. No word, no image, no sound ever enters your brain, does it? What does occur in those specialized neurons with which the light "waves" (in case of the eyes)and sound "waves" (in case of the ears)come into contact? Although I do not know you, as Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies, I was expecting a bit more accurate use of language than used in the phase I quoted - know what I mean? I appreciate you felt something when you heard or read some words persons spoke or wrote, but I am thinking whatever you felt was the result of some patterns of thinking of your own that your brain used to interpret what you were seeing (reading) or hearing - so it was those patterns of thinking of yours that produced the feelings, not the words read or heard - wasn't it? "It" (the words read or heard) did not "produce" the boost in morale - "it" could not - why? So now I am wondering what thoughts you might be thinking about these thoughts I've shared.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Mon, 06 Nov 2006 16:25:00 UTC | #7122

Jenna's Avatar Comment 9 by Jenna

Dear Prof. Dennett,
Please get well soon. The world truly needs you and your wisdom! Best wishes, Jenna
P.S.: I just started reading your book. From what I've read thus far, brillant!

Mon, 06 Nov 2006 20:00:00 UTC | #7128

iain's Avatar Comment 10 by iain

Get well soon.

Your atheism gives me hope. I feel that religion seeks to hijack morality. You claim it back in the name of reason and humanity.


Tue, 07 Nov 2006 00:48:00 UTC | #7149

LadySpankington's Avatar Comment 11 by LadySpankington

Thank goodness alright!

You are such an inspiration, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

Tue, 07 Nov 2006 05:53:00 UTC | #7171

Megan's Avatar Comment 12 by Megan

Wonderful! As a clinician, I have often marveled at how frequently patients give their god the credit when things go well, and blame the clinician when things go poorly. What a great gig that god has going!
A dear atheist friend with spinal cancer frequently hears from well-meaning religious friends that they are praying for her. She says it is all she can do not to respond with, "Would that be the same god who GAVE me the cancer?" But of course, lucky God gets only the credit for good, never the blame for bad. When my friend is assured that "God never gives you more than you can bear," she adds, "Except when he kills you."
I think we should have two distinctly different kinds of hospitals. One would be science-based, with medical care based on evidence from rigorous research, and the other would be staffed only with clergy, who would pray and chant and cast spells of sorts. Patients would have to choose which hospital they wanted.
Thank goodness, and thank science.

Tue, 07 Nov 2006 06:31:00 UTC | #7173

David's Avatar Comment 13 by David

Best wishes for a speedy recovery! Your continued eloquence and shining example of intellectual honesty are much needed.

As one who suffered four cardiac arrests in ten months a couple years ago, I can personally report from the edge of oblivion that it is just that: no tunnels, blinding lights, angels, or what have you, just "lights out." Which doesn't distress me. On the contrary, I find it reassuring as it confirms my understanding of the cosmos.

Tue, 07 Nov 2006 07:03:00 UTC | #7178

William's Avatar Comment 14 by William

Hi Billy!

HA HA HA HA! Your down-to-Earth Humour never fails to make me laugh!

Truth be told Billy, many Believers attribute success of some sort or something positive as a 'miracle'.

Yet, if they stepped back and REALLY looked at that success, they'd see that they did it all on their own.

Kind Regards, William.

Tue, 07 Nov 2006 08:07:00 UTC | #7184

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Comment 15 by Jonathan Dore


Your climbing story reminds me of the film/book "Touching the Void", about Joe Simpson's amazing struggle to survive after breaking his leg and falling into a crevasse on the descent from Siula Grande in the Andes. In the film, he describes his thoughts after landing in the crevasse:

"I was brought up as a devout Catholic. I had long since stopped believing in God. I always wondered if things really hit the fan, whether I would, under pressure, turn around and say a few Hail Marys and say, 'Get me out of here.' [But] it never once occurred to me."

The most inspiring moment of an inspiring film.

Tue, 07 Nov 2006 09:12:00 UTC | #7189

DrBrianRobinson's Avatar Comment 16 by DrBrianRobinson

Oops, that comment 51 was from me, I must remember to look at the lines in the little boxes more closely.

Tue, 07 Nov 2006 13:01:00 UTC | #7204

Al Steuart's Avatar Comment 17 by Al Steuart

Regarding Codonya's comment (#22) to my comment (#21), I appreciate the comments, but I regret you expressed your evaluation of my comment rather than responding to the questions I posed to Dennett. Since Dennett chose to publicly express his thoughts about his heart attack experience and his not changing his belief in the existence of no gods, then I did assume that his thinking processes were not affected by his heart attack and I did assume that his statements about some words read or heard "warming" his heart and those same words producing a "boost" in his morale were reflections of his thoughts about how feelings (and thoughts) are created. I was not and am not now thinking that Dennett shared his thoughts for the purpose of getting expressions of "sympathy" or "get well" wishes or additional "prayers." I am thinking that in his thoughts shared he was communicating that he "believes" (thinks) that words read or heard have some magical power to generate thoughts and feelings in others. I am wondering if you might be thinking similar thoughts? I think DE Ford (comment $ 41)does think that words (or actions) seen or heard do have some sort of power to generate various thoughts and feelings in others. Because "B" follows "A" then "A" must be the "cause" of "B" - I do hope we agree that such a pattern of thinking has been identified as a "fallacy" in thinking? If desired, perhaps we could continue a discussion of this in some forum at this web site?

Regarding my asking a "provocative" question, since I am thinking no question can be a "provocative" question (no question can "provoke" any particular thought or feeling in another), then I am thinking that by that statement you are communicating that you created some thoughts of your own about that question - the thoughts I shared did not "provoke" those thoughts you had - you created those thoughts yourself - didn't you? Also, of course, I am thinking questions cannot be "interesting" (either more or less)or "basic," but certainly you may create your own level of "interest" (some pattern of thinking?) in any question or not and you may evaluate any question asked according to your own patterns of thinking - but your doing so does not make that question have any characteristic that one might label "basic" - does it? I am understanding that you did not like my question - an expression of your own preferences - not a description of some characteristic of the question posed. Regarding my expression of my expectations, I am thinking that as long as I don't violate the quidelines for posting messages at this website, then I do have a "right" to express my expectations about any person in any position - and so do you. Certainly no person has any obligation to meet my expectations, but surely I can express my thinking that some person does not meet my expectations in some thought shared, just as you have a right to communicate that I did not meet your expectations in the thoughts I shared. Regarding my being "polite" or not, I am understanding that to mean that you did not like the thoughts I shared - I appreciate your letting me know that. Still, I did expect and I do expect a Director of Cognitive Studies to pay attention to the degree of validity and accuracy of any thought, shared in public or not. That is my expectation and, as far as I know (which, of course, may not be "far" enough), I have every "right" to express that expectation - Dennett has no obligation to meet my expectations. Regarding my "coming off" as "bright and condescending," again I am thinking you are communicating your own interpretation of my shared thoughts that you read - please note I think I cannot be "bright" or "condescending" - I can only be a human being who was thinking and still is thinking that at this web site all of us are focused on using critical thinking to evaluate the degree of validity and accuracy of our patterns of thinking - those publicly shared and those not publicly shared - aren't we? Of course, it may be I do not understand the intentions of the person or persons who created this website - if I don't, then I am assuming they will let me know.

Again, if you wish to continue a discussion of any of these thoughts I've shared, perhaps we could do so in another forum - I am thinking this forum might not be the forum to continue this discussion.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Al Steuart
Wofford Hts., CA US 93285
GMT -8

Wed, 08 Nov 2006 12:05:00 UTC | #7253

codonya's Avatar Comment 18 by codonya

I think you are right about the forum...I'll share a couple thoughts, and then we can continue elsewhere. You can name the forum.

I think there is lots of scientific evidence that spoken words directly affects other's brain physiology and thoughts. Sound waves are transduced into signals that travel chemically/electrically via neurons to the brain where they are processed in neural nets, etc.. My orignal intent was to say that if you don't follow the gist of what is written above in this paragraph that you are not on very solid ground to be critiquing Dennett's use of language in his article/post. I don't question your "right" to say it, you certainly have every right. I meant rather to question the credibility of your criticism and was using "right" in that sense.

Your words:
Because "B" follows "A" then "A" must be the "cause" of "B"

I agree that is a fallacy, however, it is not the case that saying that spoken words cause thoughts is an example of that fallacy. It would only be so if one's only warrant for saying that thoughts are caused by the spoken word was that one followed the other.
Rather we know it to be the case not simply because thought follow spoken words, but because we can trace a good deal of the physiological processes in impressive detail. If you don't agree that this is the case, then probably our discussion won't get either of us, or anyone else, anywhere of value.

I have to mention that your idea that no one else's actions / words etc. can cause any internal response sounds an awful lot like Albert Ellis' Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy or the folk wisdom attributed to Elenor Roosevelt along the lines that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. It is a nice thought, but it simply isn't true in any strict sense. It hints at truth in the loose sense that I can have some influence over what my internal response will be to what someone else says to me, but is show to be false in that I would rightly be held responsible if I walked up to a stranger and told him I was going to kill him. It would cause a cascade of thoughts, hormones, and brain activity that would cause suffering.

You are correct that my thinking that your question that was combined by your expressed disappointment with Dr. Dennett metaphoric use of language was basic is an evaluation on my part. On the other hand, I think a good number of credible people could be found who would agree that 2 + 2 = 4 is a relatively basic computation. Basic is merely an evaluation that is not contained in the equation, you are right, but I disagree if you're saying that saying that the statement "2 + 2 = 4 is a simple math problem" would hold no meaning beyond my personal evaluation. Large numbers of people could be found who would readily agree. It holds conveys a useful public meaning.

I look forward to talking more in the forum of your choice. Perhaps you could post it here so I can find you.

Wed, 08 Nov 2006 14:34:00 UTC | #7258

Max's Avatar Comment 19 by Max

Get well, yours is a voice we definately need.
Thanks for all the work you have done to clarify our thinking. Except about football, here you have problems. Anyone who would root for the Patriots against the Colts has clearly been deranged by quasi-relgious sports loyalties. It is a demonstrable fact that the Colts are the perfect football team.
Seriously though, get well.

Thu, 09 Nov 2006 23:52:00 UTC | #7378

Al Steuart's Avatar Comment 20 by Al Steuart

Regarding Codonya's reply to me (#58), I have posted a message in the forum "The God Delusion Book Discussion" that concerns the topic of "Language: Validity and Accuracy" so any discussion of my comment regarding words not having the power to generate feelings (emotions or thoughts or actions, for that matter)in a person may continue in that forum - since I see statements in Dawkins book The God Delusion that communicate something similar to what Dennett communicated regarding those "warm" feelings and that "morale" being uplifted.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Thanks for your feedback!

Fri, 10 Nov 2006 13:52:00 UTC | #7426

codonya's Avatar Comment 21 by codonya

Wow Malcom, that's rough. You got people around you who are sympathetic with you wanting to make your way through this sticking with the rational? I sure understand the how the God stuff can sound alluring—promises of comfort and watching over your family in the event that you couldn't. I had a conversion experience in my teens and was a fundamentalist for about 4 years. Early on trying to make it without the social support of the church that I'd invested all my and relationships in not to mention the world view that answered most of the tough questions (until I learned more) was pretty rough going. I used to wonder if I would end up getting scared enough if I were aware that I was dying that I would revert back. Though even if I did revert, technically I dout I would have believed, but like Dennett has written about, I would have wanted to believe (believed in belief).

I admire you working to stick with the rational despite the inevitable pressures to do otherwise. Throughout history there proportionally haven't been all that many folks who've done so. Most people haven't known there was actually an option to opt out of a supernatural world view. I hope you experience some sense of pride in that. Hope your treatment is going well and that it does the trick.

Sat, 11 Nov 2006 12:46:00 UTC | #7512

Cowcakes's Avatar Comment 22 by Cowcakes

This reminded me of a story I watched on television about an infamous bank siege in the USA a few years back where the bank robbers were heavily armed with assault rifles and full body armour. A policeman was critically wounded and had to be retrieved under fire by his colleagues. He almost died and even then nearly lost a leg.

What astounded me was that he gave most of the credit for his survival to god, with much lesser thanks to the courage and selflessness of his fellow officers whom risked their own lives to save his. As for the skill and dedication of the host of medical staff, from the ambulance crew through to doctors and nurses, that toiled for hours if not days and weeks to save not only his life but also his leg, they hardly got a mention. It was all due to big sky daddy. As an emergency services worker myself(volunteer rural fire brigade) his attitude made me want to puke.

Sun, 02 Nov 2008 00:17:00 UTC | #262847

Bacopa's Avatar Comment 23 by Bacopa

Dan, If what I read about you in your essay "Where Am I?" is true, your brain was never in danger. Presumably Fortinbras is giving out on you. Or is this the other body you hinted about at the end of your paper, the one that was supposed to resolve the Yorrick/Hubert dispute? Is it Yorrick or Hubert who controls this body? Did Yorrick/Hubert ever get that second body? I know back in 1980 or '81 you took measures to not know which mind was hooked up to your body? Did you change your mind? Is it Yorrick or Hubert who went through this? Was Hubert simply killed? He's just a machine after all. And why bother with operating on Fortinbras? NASA gave you Fortinbras, I'm sure they can find you a Guildenstern, or even an Ophelia if you want the best sex-change ever.

BTW, Moderators: I am sure all the above seems like nonsense. Read Dennett's "Where Am I?" and it will all make sense. This comment was written as if the thought experiment in the essay really happened.

Sun, 28 Dec 2008 20:18:00 UTC | #293189

rscriven's Avatar Comment 24 by rscriven

I have a really hard time with the view that my belief in God makes me a "weaker" person. I believe that my struggles with my "self" and my beliefs have been very difficult. I don't believe that I am "taking the easy way out." I wish that I had the time to discuss this further, but simply cannot at this time.

Sat, 06 Jun 2009 22:06:00 UTC | #368457

CelestialSpeedUp's Avatar Comment 25 by CelestialSpeedUp

It's amazing that many doctors, especially one of America's most beloved heart surgeons, Dr. Mehmet Oz, has witnessed many unexplained miraculous miracles.
Dr. Oz, in his book, Healing From The Heart, tells of many of these 'unexplained miracles', and believes that things happen to people, oftentimes due to their spiritual states.
I wonder if such a thing was the result in Mr. Dennett's illness.

From my studies, I would say that God is trying to get Mr. Dennett's attention. A Course In Miracles (the voice from Jesus - which came upon the non religious Columbia University psychologist - and asked her to take notes) - said "Everyone will answer in the end, but for some the end can be a long long way off".

I recommend A Course In Miracles to everyone to read, for a Celestial Speed Up from the hereditary drag of religious dogma our generation is in the midst of.

P.S. Jesus wasn't a member of an organized religion. His message (which he said to hang all of the laws of the prophets), was love to the Lord and love to the neighbor.

Sounds like Mr. Dennett received alot of love from those in the medical field. It would be nice if he would simply thank God....which is goodness itself.

Sat, 28 Nov 2009 02:59:00 UTC | #417513

Megan's Avatar Comment 26 by Megan

Who is this Megan that posted comment number 12? I did not post that and this is apparently my account... This is all so odd..

Mon, 20 Sep 2010 03:19:55 UTC | #521630

EvN's Avatar Comment 27 by EvN

Get well, Dan.

Mon, 20 Sep 2010 04:39:31 UTC | #521657