The latest pseudo-intellectual sally to save the “God hypothesis” published on the NYTimes OpEd page brought forth some good responses from letter writers. Among them, was this pithy observation:
…While personal revelation is an excellent way to know whom we love, it is an abysmal way to seek knowledge about the universe. It becomes an excuse to believe what one wishes to believe.
Paul L. LaClair Kearny, N.J., Aug. 23, 2009
My hat’s off to Dan Dennett for his great response, quoted in full here (my emphasis):
To the Editor:
Robert Wright notes that the speculations he outlines on how a moral sense could evolve are “compatible with the standard scientific theory of human creation.” Indeed, these speculations — actually rigorous abstract arguments — have been developed by evolutionary theorists who, like Mr. Wright, see our moral intuitions as real phenomena in need of an explanation.
But the point of these arguments is to demonstrate that there can be a traversable path, an evolutionary process, from, say, bacteria, to us (with our moral intuitions) that doesn’t at any point require that the evolutionary process itself have a purpose. In other words, their implication is that our moral sense would evolve even if there weren’t a creative intelligence in the background.
So the compatibility that Mr. Wright finds is trivial.
Go ahead and believe in God, if you like, but don’t imagine that you have been given any grounds for such a belief by science.
Daniel Dennett Medford, Mass., Aug. 23, 2009
Dennett is the author of Consciousness Explained, one of the best books I have ever read on the mind-body problem. I am tickled to see that the Wiki article cites T. Nagel’s criticisms of the book in its summary – one of my favorite parts of Dan’s book is his dissection of Nagel’s famous article, “What is it Like to Be a Bat?”