Thursday, March 19, 2009
Philosopher Daniel Dennett lecture to explore modern religion By Katie Land, news editor
As one of the most controversial and incendiary topics around the globe, modern religion is the subject for the upcoming Richard J. Burke Lecture series, presented by philosopher Daniel C. Dennett.
The lecture, “Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,” set for 7 p.m. on Monday, April 6, in the Oakland Center Banquet Rooms, will analyze how religions come into being and evolve from a scientific perspective.
Nearly 500 people are expected to attend, a number that is continuing to grow based on both Dennett’s popularity and the divisive subject matter.
“Dennett holds that many aspects of humanity, including social matters like religion, can be understood in terms of evolution, Darwinian or cultural,” said John Halpin, associate professor and chair of philosophy. “Dennett argues that fundamental questions about humanity, from those about the mind and self to those about ethics and society can be understood from a purely materialistic viewpoint with no need of the supernatural.”
More widely known than some past presenters, Dennett is a philosopher and prominent spokesman in the contemporary debate on the status of religion. He belongs to a modern group of thought called the “new atheists,” and holds firm to his interests in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of biology and the philosophy of science.
Dennett has been published in journals, written hundreds of scholarly articles and books such as “Consciousness Explained,” “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” “Breaking the Spell” and “Freedom Evolves.” He has received multiple fellowships, lectured at Oxford University and is a PBS personality.
Dennett is no stranger to controversy. His 1995 book, “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” illustrates his desire to bring evolutionary theory to the forefront of people’s minds. He describes Darwin’s idea as a “universal acid” that eats through every topic and affects every study and aspect of life, including religion.
“Breaking the Spell,” Dennett’s 2005 book on religion, describes ways in which we might better understand religion as a social phenomenon, Halpin said. “Hopefully he can expand upon this ongoing work in the sociology of religion and explain what we may take away from this.”
The Richard J. Burke Lecture in Philosophy, Religion and Society series takes place annually, and is currently in its fourth edition. The lectures are designed to engage scholars and students alike with their selection of fascinating and controversial issues.
For more information or to reserve a place, call (248) 370-2650 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.