greer-heard review 4 :analysis of mcgrath’s arguments on dennett
4/07/2007 08:54:00 PM
In McGrath's lecture, he addresses some critical issue in the relationship of science and religion. This particular relationship has been of great interest for McGrath. He has a number of titles on the subject, including his three-volume set, A Scientific Theology, and a primer of the subject called, Science and Religion, and Introduction. He is perhaps one of the most qualified people on the subject.

Although McGrath's resumé is impressive, it does seem that his presentation did have at least one internal contradiction. When he suggested that religions are difficult to define and that one should look for the essence of religion, and then critiques Dennett and Dawkins for not having a clear definition for memes, it seems that he is muddying the water for religion, and attempting to clear for memes. It is almost an imperative that one needs clear definitions in science as to what something is, and it is probably just as important to have one when discussing metaphysical matters. The problem with metaphysics though it that it is a subjective project, and definitions will vary. Perhaps the solution would be to have some sort of middle ground: working definitions and qualified attributes. A working definition is not necessarily a dictionary like definition, but one that is clear enough and understandable enough to uniquely identify something in the context of discussion. The qualified attributes would be cataloged characteristics that the items in discussion all have, such as the object of worship for a given religion. This is admittedly daunting, but one thing that any aspiring philosopher learns quickly is that clarity of the utmost importance.

McGrath does a sufficient job of pointing out that Dennett's work is really lacking in science. He points out that Dennett has theories but fails to back them up. All Dennett does is appeal to the analogy that he uses through out as the science, and for McGrath, that isn't science at all, and it is as if Dennett is expecting the analog to genes to be the science and do the science for the argument.

On memes, McGrath excelled. He proposes a catalog of objections to memes, some which are lacking. Of the eight that were mentioned there were at least two could be scrapped, but he would still have a case. The idea that there is no testable model is implied by the fact that there is no definition for memes. It seems to be implied. The other one that could be dropped is the suggestions that memes make great use of circular explanations, and offers not explanation as to how they do this. Even if these two are dropped, that still leaves six objections, all which he develops rather well.

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