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Dennett at the Darwin Festival - Comments

j.mills's Avatar Comment 1 by j.mills

I haven't even read this yet, and already I'm filled with unholy glee! :)

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 09:07:00 UTC | #377413

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 2 by Cartomancer

Once again Dan Dennett hits the nail on the head. I am surprised the coffin has any left sticking up by now.

Will the full Dennett talk from the Wednesday be available at all? Or anything from the David Sloan Wilson talk on religiosity among American teengagers?

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 09:39:00 UTC | #377415

Quine's Avatar Comment 3 by Quine

One of the things I got out of reading Boyer's book is that to understand the propagation of religion you should not spend so much time worrying about the theology, but rather, just follow the money.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 09:46:00 UTC | #377417

GalacticAtom's Avatar Comment 5 by GalacticAtom

"Kenotic (self-emptying) theology". But how can something be emptying when there was nothing in it in the first place?

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 09:56:00 UTC | #377419

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 4 by Steve Zara

Brilliant piece. So much of what Dennett reports seems wonderfully bonkers:

Jesus was “a spiritual mutation, ” and “the culmination of the evolutionary process,” marking a turning point in world history.

This suggests an exciting project. Look for Jesus' tomb. Presumably there might be traces of DNA, even after the resurrection. This means that his genome sequence might be obtained (perhaps something Craig Venter might be interested in?). From sequence comparison, we could then find the "gene for being the Son of God".

I suggest we apply for Templeton funding.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 09:56:00 UTC | #377418

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 6 by Steve Zara

Comment #394775 by GalacticAtom

Actually, it makes perfect sense, if you consider theology as anti-knowledge.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 09:58:00 UTC | #377420

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 7 by Enlightenme..

"The conclusion of Alexander’s talk was that it is nowadays a little “more plausible that it isn’t necessarily the case that the evolutionary process doesn’t have a larger purpose.” "

I'm reading that as.. open ended - we will not be able to conclude for certain that the evolutionary process isn't directed until completion of the project? Is that right?


Father Fraser Watt: Jesus was.. "the culmination of the evolutionary process"

Oh.. the project has been completed!

Is it Evolutionary Christol'ogy or Evolutionary Christ'ology?
This is important because I know if I don't get it rehearsed in my mind I'm gonna say Evolutionary Christalography and that'll be so embarrassing.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 10:22:00 UTC | #377422

j.mills's Avatar Comment 8 by j.mills

Christal Healing begins to make sense...

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 10:31:00 UTC | #377424

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 9 by Dr. Strangegod

Indeed, Quine, indeed. Also, check out the geography of natural resources, ports, etc.

Great stuff from everyone. Many thanks for the report. And huge respect to Mr. Hinde.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 11:17:00 UTC | #377431

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 10 by Enlightenme..

We could blend apophatic and kenotic together,

Apophakenotic Theology? (Help.. Carto) and see what happens, or how about Kenotapophatic Christology?

Will that work?

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 11:31:00 UTC | #377433

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 11 by rod-the-farmer

Ruse declared that while he is an atheist, he wishes that those wanting to explain religion wouldn’t start with the assumption that religious beliefs are false

Pardon ? Did I miss something here ? This seems to say that people who already believe religion is false, are explaining religion to....people who haven't made a decision either way ? Huh ? Is that really happening somewhere ? If so, how can I join ? Or is he saying people who believe religion is false should not be explaining religion to anyone ?

On second thought, if I stretch this, he is saying atheists shouldn', wait....gosh.

I confess personal bafflement.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 11:32:00 UTC | #377434

Jay Cee's Avatar Comment 12 by Jay Cee

I’m Dan Dennett, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,

When I read this sentence the hair stood up on the back of my neck and my stomach lept. It's like in a battle scene in a movie when a hero saves the day. Just imagine being able to introduce yourself as one of the four horsemen. Brilliant!

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 11:55:00 UTC | #377439

AfraidToDie's Avatar Comment 13 by AfraidToDie

I wish I could have been there to see the faces of the snake oil salesmen when DD introduced his self and asked the first ball busting question. Maybe that is the real reason Robert Hinde withdrew from speaking?

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 11:59:00 UTC | #377440

SurfDude's Avatar Comment 14 by SurfDude

Very enjoyable article.

This needs to be sent as a QED to all the fleas that continually complain that RD should not comment about religion without understanding theology first. It strikes me that the more one studies it, the less comprehensible it becomes!

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 12:11:00 UTC | #377442

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 15 by Steve Zara


I am not sure that theology from centuries ago is that awful. It sounds like there were some interesting ideas being discussed.

But what is simply laughable is the attempt to reconcile theism with the findings of science over the past few centuries.

There surely has to be a point at which modern theologists realise that their words are ridiculous and just give up.

Or perhaps not.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 12:24:00 UTC | #377443

Michel's Avatar Comment 16 by Michel

I was at the festival on wednesday morning, and the Dennett lecture absolutely was one of the highlights. Steven Jones was equally impressive, although his time to speak was criminally short (8 minutes).

It's a pity Dennett couldn't stay for the speciation session, that was a treasure of new insights into evolution.

And it was a delight to see Richard Dawkins leading the rounds of applause for Dennett :-)

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 12:32:00 UTC | #377446

MaxD's Avatar Comment 17 by MaxD

We should get to work on this grant proposal for the Templtons immediately. We could settle a long standing spiritual debate upon finding some Jesus DNA. Parthenogenesis or Demigod by means of Deity/jail-bait horizontal copulation (assuming missionary position was the most common Deity-human coupling among nominally male god-heads and their female human consorts)? A clear prediction, clear results. (Though if Francis Collins calls DNA the language of God, what does he call actual Godly DNA? An interesting thought no? Take that kenotic Christology!)I do smell a Templton Prize, a large portion of which we could donate to the RDF in Ray Comfort's name!
Anyone else up for the project?

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 12:38:00 UTC | #377447

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 18 by rod-the-farmer

How could there be a missionary position before there were missionaries ?

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 12:41:00 UTC | #377448

MaxD's Avatar Comment 19 by MaxD

Now there is silly akenotic question. You must empty your head of such concepts as before and after, the missionary position sits outside of space and time, quite simply transcending both with love.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 12:43:00 UTC | #377449

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

Comment #394804 by MaxD

This suggests that the project may be possible:

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 12:44:00 UTC | #377450

MaxD's Avatar Comment 21 by MaxD

Well we should try to get in touch with the Pink Tiger Research foundation and see if they mind sharing some of their protocols. The next step is to do an epidemiology of this gene and track down its origin. From there back into antiquity and the introduction of the proto-gene from which the current Christian gene is derived. Presumably we can track it back to the middle-east?

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 12:54:00 UTC | #377452

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 22 by Steve Zara

Comment #394809 by MaxD

Of course, what we need if we are to test for the ability of genes to enable incarnating is some actual God-presence, so we can see if it will be taken up with or without a certain gene. I wonder if Father Watt can provide us with some, or at least tell us where to locate it?

It is rather tempting to write to him about this.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 12:57:00 UTC | #377453

phiwilli's Avatar Comment 23 by phiwilli

Dennett maybe has one wee mistake - kenotic theology is not new (if he means "in the last few years"), although clearly it is new to Dennett. Almost 50 years ago I encountered it at a Southern Baptist seminary - although at that time no one connected it with evolution. In fact, many of my seminary profs had no complaints at all about evolution. Of course, since then there have been big changes in Southern Baptist beliefs!

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 13:06:00 UTC | #377455

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 24 by Enlightenme..

^ "Of course, since then there have been big changes in Southern Baptist beliefs!"

Theolomemetic evolution

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 13:44:00 UTC | #377460

SurfDude's Avatar Comment 25 by SurfDude


Re: "I am not sure that theology from centuries ago is that awful." You are surely right. However, in grand No-True-Scotsman style, that is not the theology the fleas are referring to. RD is supposed to understand their particular brand.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 13:45:00 UTC | #377461

RichardofYork's Avatar Comment 26 by RichardofYork

Just try to pry the smile from my face

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 14:06:00 UTC | #377463

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 27 by Cartomancer

This suggests an exciting project. Look for Jesus' tomb. Presumably there might be traces of DNA, even after the resurrection.
You have, I assume quite unwittingly, stumbled upon a rather vexed piece of later medieval theological disputation there. Whether or not christ left anything behind on earth after the ascension, or whether he took every last particle of himself with him when he resurrected and buggered off, was a question on which not only doctrinal clarity but also a fair amount of money and prestige rested.

The reason for this is the relic cult. Important relics were often huge tourist attractions in the later middle ages, and relics of christ were without a doubt the most sought after relics of all. Bits of the true cross, the nails that were banged into it, the crown of thorns, the spear of longinus, the shroud - thanks to the crusading spirit western Europe went absolutely mad for these things. It wasn't long before certain religious groups and orders started producing vials and vases filled with what was allegedly the spilled blood of christ - either from his exertions on the cross or decanted during his preparation for burial. Henry III of England received just such a vase of christ's blood from the heads of the orders of the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller, who had taken it from the patriarch of Jerusalem. Henry gave it to Westminster Abbey in 1247, in the hope that it might attract pilgrims and become the centre of a relic cult to rival Sainte Chapelle, which the French king Louis IX had endowed with a variety of the more traditional and less contentious christ relics. Now, blood relics were common among the saints (particular saints, such as Januarius or Genarro, were famous for their blood) but the blood of christ held an altogether different significance thanks to its supposed real presence in the wine of the eucharist. A strand of eucharistic theology insisted that christ's blood was never present on earth as sloshy red stuff after the resurrection, but rather it existed as the true essence of his humanity, whatever that meant. As such the notion that people could own actual vials of the stuff in its original form was rather contentious. Similarly, the theology of the resurrection stipulated that jesus was resurrected whole, which gave a certain degree of doubt as to whether he actually could have left bits of himself behind.

Many medieval authors weighed in on this tricky problem. Some, such as Robert Grosseteste and Gerhard of Cologne, were commissioned to give a learned opinion by interested parties - churches who had acquired relics and wanted it demonstrated that they were legitimate. Others, such as Aquinas, had less partisan involvement. There was even an official commission set up in 1448 by the theology faculty of Paris to pronounce on the issue, thanks to the prominence of a blood relic owned by the Parisian chapter of the Franciscans. Almost all authors tried to use the physiological theories of contemporary medical thought as well as the theological framework to come to their answer, citing Hippocrates, Galen, the Pantegni of Constantine Africanus and Avicenna's Canon with great care.

Needless to say no consensus was ever reached. Still, if you choose to go with the faction who believed that blood relics of christ are indeed possible, the nearest surviving sample is probably at the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Belgium, so you don't even have to go grubbing round in the holy land with a packet of cotton swabs.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 14:30:00 UTC | #377466

H u d's Avatar Comment 28 by H u d

It was wonderfully awful.

That's theology.

kenotic theology

This is just a deffensive technique

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 14:37:00 UTC | #377468

j.mills's Avatar Comment 29 by j.mills

Re #27: The Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges is featured in a hilarious scene of the movie, er, In Bruges. Go watch the film, it's great.

Ta for the informative post, Carto.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 14:46:00 UTC | #377469

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 30 by Steve Zara

You have, I assume quite unwittingly, stumbled upon a rather vexed piece of later medieval theological disputation there.

Not really unwittingly - I had strong suspicions!

Surely during his life Jesus, if in any sense human, would have left all kinds of traces behind. Milk teeth. Hair. Skin cells. Toenail clippings.

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 14:50:00 UTC | #377471