Yesterday Guy Kawasaki posted a link to some talk given at the TED Talks. I went and downloaded a few because I like or knew the speakers. Specifically I wanted Rick Warren’s and Tony Robbin’s. I noticed that there was a response to Rick Warren by a philosopher, Dan Dennett. I downloaded it too because I listen to a lot of Ravi Zacharias’ podcast and wanted to hear a rigorous philosophy look at Purpose Driven Life.
I was disappointed.
Here’s the description of the talk: “Dan Dennett is a Tufts philosophy professor and cognitive scientist, most famous for his books, Consciousness Explained (1991) and Darwinâ€™s Dangerous Idea (1995). In this talk, he responds to the presentation by Pastor Rick Warren, taking issue with claims in his book, The Purpose-Driven Life. (Recorded February 2006 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 25:29)”
At first it was pretty good. The guy is an evolutionist. You know the old saying, if you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail? Well that applies here.
(A quick aside to let you know my bias up front. For me the jury is still out on evolution as a theory of origin. I don’t have enough knowledge to really evaluate the forensic science that points to the evolution of man from raw matter. I do believe in evolution as a theory of biology. Natural selection does fine tune species.)
I like the discussion of how religion has evolved. How it is a natural phenomenon that is worthy of study. I though his idea of factual study of world religions in school was interesting. I thought his idea that a catholic newspaper shouldn’t refer to the idea as totalitarian was strange, and to describe a mandated curriculum as Libertarian showed a lack of understanding of Libertarianism.
But where he went of the rails was when he started in on Rick’s book. Or rather where he said he was starting in on Rick’s book and then attacked something else. He was really going after Christianity as he wanted it to be.
He first disagrees with the idea that life would have no meaning or purpose if man evolved over time without the existence of God. He says someone made a movie that explained why it wasn’t so. And that that’s just a difference of opinion. I’ll just say, other people have shown life is meaningless and there is no basis for right and wrong and leave it at that.
Quoted Rick as saying that God created our environment so that we could live in it. And Dan feels that means to “a lot of people” that we shouldn’t listen to Al Gore – which is to him a bad thing. OK, I’m being a little factious. He is right in saying that some Christian’s don’t care about the environment because they think God will take care of it. But many Christians feel they need to be good stewards – a word Dan uses alot – of the environment precisely because it is God’s creation.
Then he REALLY pissed me off. He quotes another long passage. But it isn’t from Rick’s book. It isn’t even Rick. It’s some other guy who is a creationist. Then he attacks the quote to show how wrong Rick is. That’s just stupid. If you want to disagree with Rick, disagree with Rick. Don’t attribute to him ideas not in his book.
He also disagrees that God “carefully mixed the DNA cocktail that made you unique”. OK, enough. I’m not going to go on in a step by step manner. Here’s the deal. Dan thinks Rick doesn’t believe in evolution. That he doesn’t believe man evolved to where he is. But that isn’t said in the book. The means by which God worked isn’t discussed. God could have worked over billions of years to make us what we are. To me that would be a bigger miracle that having him do it by divine power in 7 days.
Also there isn’t anything that says God – a force outside of the natural – isn’t active in shaping mankind and even individual men. Weather via the process of evolution or not.
One last thing, since I wrote it first.
“Surrendered people follow God’s word even when it doesn’t make sense.” This bothered Dan, and I can understand why. But that is his interpretation of how this is worked out. He says it is the way a church controls its people, but saying they can’t question it. And that could be true. But it also means I as a Christian, able to study the Bible for myself, could come to conclusions that differ from the church. And I would be obligated as surrendered to GOD – not religion – to follow my conscience and the Bible and go against the church. The most famous of these instance is of course Martin Luther, but there are many many instances of people more committed to God than organized religion.
The thing that most bothered me about the whole talk was Dan seemed to have the idea he was smart and Rick wasn’t. Because he was smart, his ideas were right. I would LOVE to see Dan in a debate. To have someone poke holes in his strawmen. I think Rick Warren could probably do that, but I know Ravi would eat him for lunch.
My personal philosophy of Christianity is that in a marketplace of ideas, it will be shown to be true. That if you are really seeking Truth you will find it. To quote Jesus “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
UPDATE: I’ve now listened to Rick Warren’s talk as well. Had nothing to do with the stuff Dan talked about. I have a challenge for you. Go listen to Rick’s talk and to Dan’s talk and then decide who’s message is more useful for your life. More useful for all of humanity.