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Sunday, February 19, 2006
Leon Wieseltier reminds me of one of those chiauaua owners on The Dog Whisperer that insists on believing his dog is not really a dog but rather a complex, emotional little human being (that just happens to be a little furrier and cuter.)

Why the hell did the New York Times have Leon Wieseltier read this book? From my latest New York Times' Books email newsletter:

'Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,' by
Daniel C. Dennett

Scientism, the view that science can explain all human
conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical, is a
superstition, one of the dominant superstitions of our day;
and it is not an insult to science to say so. For a sorry
instance of present-day scientism, it would be hard to
improve on Daniel C. Dennett's book. "Breaking the Spell" is
a work of considerable historical interest, because it is a
merry anthology of contemporary superstitions.

Dennett lives in a world in which you must believe in the
grossest biologism or in the grossest theism. Before there
were naturalist superstitions, there were supernaturalist
superstitions. The crudities of religious myth are plentiful,
and a sickening amount of savagery has been perpetrated in
their name. Yet the excesses of naturalism cannot hide behind
the excesses of supernaturalism.

Maybe feeling good about yourself as a human being requires just the right proportion of naturalism and supernaturalism. Understanding yourself as a human being requires a little less compromise.

And if all theories and explanations are just a variety of folktale by Wieseltier's lights, it doesn't necessarily follow that a static 3000 year-old folktale has more right or power to explain -- and predict -- events than an evolving folktale narrated with the insight (well, some of it anyway) of all the human experience and natural developments that have come to light during the interim.