Dennett and Darwinism

I have been reading Daniel Dennett’s book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. The dangerous idea being of course that evolution could occur, in all its complexity, from simple and mechanistic beginnings.

Dennett’s survey of the discipline had been rational and well described until page 154 where objectivity and rationality fly out of the window. Within a paragraph the text dissolves into a rant against religion or faith (Dennett doesn’t seem to be sure which) based on the presumption that Christians are either unable or unwilling to engage in rational discussion about their faith. The words he puts into the Christian mouth are certainly not recognisable as claims that would be made by any Christians I know. The tenor of the text is patronising to say the least. Two weaknesses in Dennett’s approach seem apparent to me:

Firstly, when dismissing God as an alternative to mindless algorithmic processes as posited by Darwinian science, Dennett appears to have conducted little or no research into the religion or faith that he disregards so easily. Moreover, had he done so he would understand the difference between the two.

Secondly, in seeking to deny God as creator, Dennett seems to satisfy himself by attempting to show that Darwinism might be able to explain how life today developed from a primordial cell. It strikes me that this is a particularly unscientific approach: in the absence of evidence, let’s assume that there might be evidence.

Dennett claims to be trying to break down a prejudice. It seems as if the only prejudice is his own. I will continue with the book to see how objectively he is able to discuss the alternatives. Watch this space.


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