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Dennett and religion

This interview has already been trashed quite nicely here, but I have another comment:

Traditionally, evolutionary biologists like Stephen Jay Gould insisted on keeping a separation between hard science and less knowable realms like religion.

He was the evolutionist laureate of the U.S., and everybody got their Darwin from Steve. The trouble was he gave a rather biased view of evolution. He called me a Darwinian fundamentalist.

Which I imagine was his idea of a put-down, since he thought evolutionists should not apply their theories to religion.

Deborah Solomon’s comments are in italics, Dennett’s are normal.

It sounds like Solomon is saying Gould called Dennett a “Darwinian fundamentalist” for applying evolution to religion. Anyone who knows anything about that label of Gould’s knows it was used as a criticism of their devotion to natural selection:

In this light, especially given history’s tendency to recycle great issues, I am amused by an irony that has recently ensnared evolutionary theory. A movement of strict constructionism, a self-styled form of Darwinian fundamentalism, has risen to some prominence in a variety of fields, from the English biological heartland of John Maynard Smith to the uncompromising ideology (albeit in graceful prose) of his compatriot Richard Dawkins, to the equally narrow and more ponderous writing of the American philosopher Daniel Dennett (who entitled his latest book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea).[1] Moreover, a larger group of strict constructionists are now engaged in an almost mordantly self-conscious effort to “revolutionize” the study of human behavior along a Darwinian straight and narrow under the name of “evolutionary psychology.”

Some of these ideas have filtered into the general press, but the uniting theme of Darwinian fundamentalism has not been adequately stressed or identified. Professionals, on the other hand, are well aware of the connections. My colleague Niles Eldredge, for example, speaks of this coordinated movement as Ultra-Darwinism in his recent book, Reinventing Darwin. Amid the variety of their subject matter, the ultra-Darwinists share a conviction that natural selection regulates everything of any importance in evolution, and that adaptation emerges as a universal result and ultimate test of selection’s ubiquity.

The question remains:

So that’s the world’s best newspaper – assigning a clueless hack to ask questions on a substantive subject. What on earth is the point? Why not either do it right or refrain from doing it at all?

As an aside, Dennett’s book looks sort of interesting. I doubt it can match Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust, though.

Categories: Religion, Science, The media
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