Dan Dennett has a new book out, basically arguing (from what I can gather) that in our hyper-web-informed world, it will be harder and harder for people to continue to have religious beliefs – “It takes twenty years to grow a Baptist and twenty minutes to lose one.” There is an interview with Dennett here, and it closes with an interesting admission on Dennett’s part:
I think that over the centuries, one of the great things that churches of all varieties and religious groups have been able to do is to give people lives of importance, and provide love for people that otherwise don’t get love, along with a sense of community and belonging. This is extraordinarily valuable and important. And the state isn’t going to do it, and many other sorts of organizations seem incapable or unwilling to try. And I do think we want to preserve and enhance that function in society.
I think that’s the one function of religions that I would most want to see fostered and protected. How you can do that, and whether you can do that, with a frank acknowledgment of the mythic character of their creeds? I’m not sure it can be done, but I hope it can.
Secondly, there is an interesting essay by James Shannam arguing that the “conflict” between religion and science is not as stark as it is often presented as being, and that religion and scientific inquiry can, have, and should go hand in hand. Shannam has a book on how the medieval world laid the foundations of modern science. An excerpt from the essay:
Full-on confrontations between science and religion are reasonably rare. Even when such encounters occur, they are usually arguments between co-religionists with shared concerns about how new discoveries affect faith. We find this during the debate that followed the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species where Christians such as Asa Gray defended both the theory of evolution and Christianity’s accommodation with it. Another cause of confusion is when people seeking to attack religion seek to co-opt science onto their side. For instance, whether one is pro-life or not has nothing to do with science, but is often portrayed as such. Concerns about experiments on stem cells also arise from ethics.