Daniel Dennett: Breaking the Spell
For all the thousands of books that have been written about religion, few until this one have attempted to examine it scientifically: to ask why - and how - it has shaped so many lives so strongly. Is religion a product of blind evolutionary instinct or rational choice? Is it truly the best way to live a moral life? Ranging through biology, history, and psychology, Daniel C. Dennett charts religion’s evolution from "wild" folk belief to "domesticated" dogma. Not an antireligious screed but an unblinking look beneath the veil of orthodoxy, Breaking the Spell will be read and debated by believers and skeptics alike.
If you can approach the world's complexities, both its glories and its horrors, with an attitude of humble curiosity, acknowledging that however deeply you have seen, you have only scratched the surface, you will find worlds within worlds, beauties you could not heretofore imagine, and your own mundane preoccupations will shrink to proper size, not all that important in the greater scheme of things.
One of the surprising discoveries of modern psychology is how easy it is to be ignorant of your own ignorance.
Religion, like love and music, is natural. But so are smoking, war, and death.
Chapter 1, Page 26
We don`t love babies and puppies because they`re cute. It`s the other way around: we see them as cute because evolution has designed us to love things that look like that.
Chapter 5, Page 129
Love is blind, as they say, and because love is blind, it often leads to tragedy.
Chapter 9, Page 254
A philosopher is someone who says, "We know it`s possible in practice; we`re trying to work out if it`s possible in principle!"
Appendix B, Page 374
Evolution is all about processes that almost never happen. Every birth in every lineage is a potential speciation event, but speciation almost never happens, not once in a million births. Mutation in DNA almost never happens - not once in a trillion copyings - but evolution depends on it. Take the set of infrequent accidents - things that almost never happen - and sort them into the happy accidents, the neutral accidents, and the fatal accidents; amplify the effects of the happy accidents - which happens automatically when you have replication and competition - and you get evolution.
Chapter 5, Page 120