Clayton Calls out Dennett

With Evolution Weekend coming up, along with Darwin's 201st Birthday this coming week, it looks to be a good time to have a discussion of religion and science!   Folks like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett take a rather narrow view of what religion is -- essentially defining it in its most fundamentalist forms.  When non-fundamentalists suggest conversation they seem unable or unwilling to engage in that debate.

Well, Philip Clayton, who is a progressive theologian and trained in the philosophy of science, has been trying to get Daniel Dennett to engage in a debate, but so far has been unsuccessful.  Though, Dennett didn't mind writing a blog piece for Richard Dawkins denigrating Philip's message.

Apparently, Dennett will be in Claremont on February 16th, and Philip has issued another challenge.

Here is Philip's invitation as he lays it out on his own blog:


Dan Dennett is disappointed that theists in general, and theologians in particular, don’t take science seriously. They are more interested in immunization strategies. They retreat into faith assertions, deny (or don’t understand) evolution, and show little interest in  philosophical arguments.  Presumably Dan will be making some of these claims when he speaks at Scripps, one of the Claremont Colleges, on February 16th.

In the spirit of empirical feedback, it would be great to put some of these claims to the test. So I suggest that Dan join me in a brief, one-hour debate on some of these themes while he’s here on campus. Albrecht Auditorium is available, and Claremont Graduate University is ready to make special arrangements for live online streaming of the discussion, so that it can be available to everyone.

There’s a little history behind this call, which you can find here and here. When we were both at the big Darwin Festival at the University of Cambridge in early July 2009, Dan came to listen to my paper on Darwin and theology. Afterwards he publicly expressed his disappointment that such a topic would be on the agenda at the Darwin Fest. Later in the same session I invited Dan to enter into a public discussion with me on some of the broader philosophical and theological questions raised by biology today, even listing some of the topics where (in my view) productive discussion is possible. Dan chose not to enter into that debate. But he did post a blog on Richard Dawkins’ website a few days later, complaining about the session and claiming that “neither speaker had anything to offer.”

Since the debate that Dan calls for is one that I’m eager to join him in, shouldn’t we take a few minutes when he’s on campus here in Claremont to let it happen?

To make this invitation to dialogue more warm and friendly, Iet me close with a personal invitation to Dan:


Anonymous said…
Hitchens, and Dennett aren't scientists, and I resent them trying to represent them. There are serious scientists out there more worthy of debate. These three have had there day, you're only helping them sell their condescending books. Let's add Pat Robertson to the lot of them and set our brain to "ignore".

Hitchens' my favorite, he's such a sweetheart-

I wish more people would listen to "real" honest scientists-

To live without fear is a good thing.

Inconceivable nature of nature.

David Mc

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