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Dennett’s Biological Reductionism Undressed

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, takes apart Daniel C. Dennett’s new book, “Breaking the Spell,” in Saturday’s New York Times in a way that one wishes the Times’ own editors–and other editors in the MSM–would examine.

In the very first line of his trenchant review, Wieseltier reminds — or perhaps informs — the reader that “The question of the place of science in human life is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question.” The attempt to self-define science, as Dennett does, of course, is to turn science into scientism. And scientism (or materialism) is the issue that Darwinists and their media fans are resolutely avoiding in public policy discourse.

Dennett’s books serves as a “sorry instance of present-day scientism,” says Weseltier. It’s a “shallow and self-congratulatory book.” Shamelessly, Dennett says he is in danger of personal attack because of his views; which concern Weseltier mocks. Maybe Dennett fears that he will be assaulted by all the Darwin critics that have been admitted to the Tufts faculty lately.

No, Dennett is looked to as a respectable scholar and made welcome at the most prestigious scientific gatherings. Watching him, you might start to think that Darwinism itself is shot-through with the kind of religious motivation (anti-religious, in this case) that is lodged as a telling dismissal when applied to Darwin critics.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.