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Dangerous Ideas: the Spell of Breaking the Spell

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

By investigating the philosophical premises behind Daniel Dennett's latest book, Breaking the Spell, this article sets out to present and critically discuss the range of validity which the theory of natural selection can consistently claim for itself. Deduced from a materialist notion of reality, which brings nature and culture on a common agenda, the explanation of religious ideas as products of meme-transmission exposes itself to the charge of reductionism and have thus provoked hostile responses from religious people as well as scepticism from some quarters of humanities. Far from arguing that Dennett should have exempted the sensitive field of religious belief from the intrusion of scientific investigation, this article criticizes the notions of religion as well as science, from which these investigations are set ashore, and remains uncompromising on the possibility of taking a moral stand on the premises of a theory of natural selection. Instead the article advocates for a more modest version of the theory that leaves room for other approaches with regard to self-understanding on a level of intersubjectivity.

Affiliations: 1: Department of the Systematic Theology, University of Aarhus, Taasingegade 3, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

10.1163/157006807X243610
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/content/journals/10.1163/157006807x243610
2008-01-01
2016-12-09

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