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'The Evolution of Confusion' - Comments

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 1 by mordacious1

"If it's not worth doing, it's not worth doing well". So that's why most preachers suck at their jobs. Haha

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 01:03:00 UTC | #410148

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 2 by mordacious1

This was an excellent talk, which is not unusual for Professor Dennett. (crap, now I'm afraid of making a deepity)

Nice job again, Josh. These lectures posted here don't quite make up for not being able to attend, but they help.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 01:33:00 UTC | #410153

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 3 by prolibertas

I think Zen in particular is an example of a religion composed almost entirely of deepities, in the form of their 'koans', i.e. 'The boy tried to understand the sound of one hand clapping, until he eventually reached a soundless sound'. This koan says absolutely nothing, but nevertheless it provokes the sense of 'Ahhhh' that they take to be 'transcendent wisdom'. So much for the 'religion of no religion' (Ahhhh...).

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 02:18:00 UTC | #410158

j.mills's Avatar Comment 4 by j.mills

Stops at the very point when he's at his most interesting! Great stuff though, and he's by far the most avuncular horseman. :)

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 02:39:00 UTC | #410159

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 5 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Great video!

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 02:50:00 UTC | #410160

crusader234's Avatar Comment 6 by crusader234

Fantastic! Dan Dennett is a joy to listen to.
I love that he quoted Andy Goldsworthy, my all time fav sculpure/land artist who inspired my own efforts...

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 03:47:00 UTC | #410167

Alovrin's Avatar Comment 7 by Alovrin

"Philosophical theology is a pseudo sophisticated mugs game
Full of wilful obscurities and wilful use of deepities."

"Just like beetles, or for that matter palm trees. Religions can benefit from adaptations that neither they nor anything else understands. The understanding comes later in the analysis not before in the process of creation."

What a wonderfully funny and concise(as in getting to the heart of a matter) orator Dan Dennett is.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 04:11:00 UTC | #410168

romeo2009's Avatar Comment 8 by romeo2009

Somehow I feel that the word "Deepity" will live and flourish.
Thanks Dennet for the enlightening lecture

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 04:28:00 UTC | #410171

glenister_m's Avatar Comment 9 by glenister_m

"If we want to extinguish religion"

Made me immediately think of the movie "Pitch Black" where Vin Diesel's character asks a religious character "How many of your sons have to die before you stop believing in your god?"

Unfortunately for many that would only strengthen their faith as they couldn't handle having to lose it as well.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 05:03:00 UTC | #410175

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 10 by Chrysippus_Maximus

I love how easily he makes Karen Armstrong look silly. Use-mention errors are completely ingrained into English vernacular, and this irks me constantly.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 06:17:00 UTC | #410181

GOTT MIT UNS's Avatar Comment 11 by GOTT MIT UNS

Great presentation delivered with profound atheist compassion, humanitarianism and - a typical for Dan Dennett's - dry humor.
I would happily adopt him as my granddad.
He is very much a cross between Santa Claus and Charles Darwin.

Dan Dennett's wise words changed my views on militant atheism.

The ordained people/priests/seminarians/"religious professionals" trapped in a religious lie must not be ridiculed or condemned. They need our understanding and support. Of course I have in mind those people who want to be helped.

I hope Herr Ratzinger is watching this video as we speak.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 06:18:00 UTC | #410182

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 12 by Jos Gibbons

The great thing about talks by Dan Dennett is that they make original points from which I learn a lot. (Maybe that's my ignorance showing, but I'm grateful to learn whether from him or anyone else.) I appreciate the string theory dig too. Does any rationalist actually defend it? I'm a physics undergraduate who expected to find someone defending it in my university with whom I could discuss it, but I can only find other sceptics, the most humourous exchange being when I was talking to another sceptic and a third sceptic mistook the second sceptic for an advocate and started digging in to him, only to be quickly corrected on his error. I don't know if I'd say string theory is a religion ... yet, but I am fascinated by the shortlist of people who find it somewhat unconvincing.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 08:45:00 UTC | #410192

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 13 by Friend Giskard

That was brilliant.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 10:14:00 UTC | #410201

MMAtheist's Avatar Comment 14 by MMAtheist


I've waited quite a while now to hear from Dan Dennett again. It's always a treat.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 10:59:00 UTC | #410205

stephen.stallebrass's Avatar Comment 15 by stephen.stallebrass

"Theology, particularly philosophical theology, is a pseudo-sophisticated mugs game full of wilful obscurity and deepities."


Sat, 31 Oct 2009 11:02:00 UTC | #410207

UncleJJ's Avatar Comment 16 by UncleJJ

Dan is so insightful, I always learn something or gain a new way of looking at an old idea. The book (or was it a report?) that he and the lady interviewer he's co-operating with, are writing will be most illuminating. I have long suspected that many of the clergy don't really believe in all the theological nonsense and I can sympathise with their predicament, trapped by economic and social pressures.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 11:07:00 UTC | #410208

GOTT MIT UNS's Avatar Comment 17 by GOTT MIT UNS

So called theologians and other religious professionals are loosing intellectual and moral battle with 21 century reality and reason...and they know it.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 12:09:00 UTC | #410213

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 18 by Sally Luxmoore

Richard: "I never listen to a talk by Dan Dennett without my mind racing and exulting in the sheer joy of intellectual exercise"


Wonderful talk.

Flying Goose - why don't you contact Dan? I think you are one of those who could help in his project - and it might help you too.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 12:39:00 UTC | #410217

Follow Peter Egan's Avatar Comment 19 by Follow Peter Egan

That was a treat with breakfast. I always like to hear Dan talk, and have been lucky enough to see him in person. I understand his ideas much more in lecture form, as, whilst I enjoyed Breaking the Spell, I found Darwin's Dangerous Idea quite difficult to follow and a bit of a slog.

I've studied the history of Christianity myself, and though I was already an atheist by then, it's hard to imagine anybody could still believe after they know how cobbled together over hundreds of years the whole thing is.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 14:23:00 UTC | #410240

nother person's Avatar Comment 20 by nother person

Let me add my voice to those celebrating Dan’s excellent talk. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

But having said that (and meaning it sincerely!) and after thinking over his talk, it occurs to me that what he is talking about is a special case of a general rule. That is, many different kinds of employees find themselves in this very same trap for these very same reasons. It is glaringly absurd when the company’s product is belief, for one of the sales team or one of the production crew to not believe in their product, but when the product is, say, auto transmissions, we don’t think twice about it. No one would bother to remark that Joe six pack feels stuck in his job due to considerations of his family and finances. And no one thinks twice about whether Joe believes in the work he does or not. Belief is not a requisite for working in any field, except the belief that the paycheck will come at the end of the week. Why should religion be an exception?

Those who focus their criticism only on religion may not care about the larger lesson here. But to me, it seems there is an implied indictment of the general culture in Dan’s talk, whether he intended it or not.

[edit for grammar]

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 15:34:00 UTC | #410255

kederer's Avatar Comment 21 by kederer

nother person, I'll try and explain the difference between Joe six pack and a preacher.

Joe isn't supposed to set an example of actually doing what he preaches (sells), nobody is expecting Joe to use the auto transmission he's selling, but everybody is expecting that a preacher will believe in God and the tenets of religion that he preaches (sells) to his audience.

I really think that a *lot* of priests don't truly and literally believe what they preach during sermons.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 16:11:00 UTC | #410261

A's Avatar Comment 22 by A

Richard seemed very strident at the start of the video, or loud, or something - I am easily confused.

By the way Josh . . . . great video, nice grading, the yellow wash is gone !!!


Sat, 31 Oct 2009 16:12:00 UTC | #410263

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 23 by SaintStephen

Corollary to the Panikkar Conjecture:

Buggering altar boys is so great that the greatness precludes existence.

-or my personal favorite-

Monogamy is so great that the greatness precludes existence.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 16:14:00 UTC | #410264

Sonic's Avatar Comment 24 by Sonic

Spinoza, thank you, I didn’t know there was a name for this until right now -

It seems to me that “use-mention error” or “UME” is a basic thing people should be taught to be aware of as citizens in a democracy. I would love to live in a democracy where one politician could point out another politician’s use-mention error, and we could expect the public to follow what this means. Maybe that’s too much to ask, but I wish my public education here in the US had made UME explicitly clear as a phenomenon I should watch out for.

One of my favorite things in the book Your Religion Is False is

Chapter 3. A few words about religious language
Partly to defray criticism, and partly to mislead potential believers, religions routinely twist language to the point of incomprehension. . . . In fact, pretty much all religions use euphemisms to disguise claims and practices that everyone would consider outrageous if only we called them by their descriptive names. As you read through this book, never forget that each religion re-appropriates words to mean whatever it finds most convenient. If something doesn’t make sense, that’s probably why (as opposed to any fault of the author [Joel Grus]).

Incidentally, I typed “Karen Armstrong” plus “use mention” into Google, and Google returned your post from this thread from about 10 hours ago at the top of the list. Freaky!

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 16:25:00 UTC | #410269

nother person's Avatar Comment 25 by nother person

Kederer, thanks. You make an interesting point. Are you saying that Joe is not expected to have integrity but preachers are? I think it is the expectation that preachers are supposed to have integrity that highlights the absurdity of non-believing preachers. And Dan did include in his description of the trap a bit about not disappointing people (who are expecting you to have integrity) which creates a double bind in which you opt for the appearance of integrity over the real thing because to actually have integrity requires you to admit that you don’t... : )

The point I was trying to make is, why is it not important for Joe to have integrity? Why do we value it for some people but not for others? Why do we think preachers ought to have it, but it’s optional for Joe? Why is it OK for Joe to sell something he doesn’t believe in and doesn’t use?

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 16:59:00 UTC | #410276

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 26 by the great teapot

Philosophers should spend less time thinking and more time ironing new shirts.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 18:21:00 UTC | #410296

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 27 by the great teapot

Dan Dennett isn't really a philosopher.
He just talks common sense.
real philosophers are normally french or german and speculate on the nature of being offering only pompous half baked opinions

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 18:41:00 UTC | #410304

DarwinsDad's Avatar Comment 28 by DarwinsDad

IMHO coining the phrase 'deepity' deserves an 'Emperor Has No Clothes' award. Hope that Dan will soon come forward with the name of his friends' daughter so someone can suggest her.

Sun, 01 Nov 2009 00:09:00 UTC | #410345

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

nother person asks:

Why is it OK for Joe to sell something he doesn’t believe in and doesn’t use?
As a first run at it, I would say that what the preacher is selling is belief itself. Somebody can sell you a car, with both you and the salesman understanding that it's your decision and your assessment that finally counts. But it makes no sense for an overt atheist, for instance, to try to convert somebody to christianity. The car salesman can say, "You should buy this one because it meets your needs." But that line doesn't work for religion, because the only reason to buy one religion over another is that it is true. So if the salesman himself doesn't believe it's true (or profess to) - no sale.

But you have raised an interesting question...

Sun, 01 Nov 2009 02:29:00 UTC | #410358

cornbread_r2's Avatar Comment 30 by cornbread_r2

Thanks to RD net for making this available!

My brother is a Roman Catholic priest and my sister is a nun. We used to discuss religion and theology, but the more I learn about both subjects (thanks to this and other sites) the less inclined they are to engage me. The looks on their faces, like the look on George Coyne's face during the referenced RD interview, tells me that I'm touching philosophical nerves that they would prefer to remain permanently anesthetized.

Also, I'm fairly certain that they would continue to function as clerics even if they stopped believing in God for the simple reason that belief in prayer and an after-life brings comfort and hope to the people occupying the pews. I'm not saying that such intellectual dishonesty would be right, I'm just saying that it would be terribly difficult to tell a dying woman, for instance, that the baby Jebus probably wasn't really waiting to reward her for a lifetime of self-sacrifice and devotion.

Sun, 01 Nov 2009 02:50:00 UTC | #410361