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A Review
Chapter 5
Daniel C. Dennett's

Breaking the Spell
by Doug Renselle

Doug's Pre-review Commentary

Start of Review


2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Notes Appendices

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Chapter 5...............Religion, the Early Days

This chapter has five sections:

Section 1 - Too many agents: competition for rehearsal space

Section 2 - Gods as interested parties

Section 3 - Getting the gods to speak to us

Section 4 - Shamans as hypnotists

Section 5 - Memory-engineering devices in oral cultures

Section 1 - Too many agents: competition for rehearsal space

Dennett begins chapter 5 claiming that ancient beliefs in anima (i.e., soul in all of nature) which he describes as their interpretations of nature as intentional. Making too much of a good thing, language, ancients socially talked about anima and nature's soul. Implication anima as soulful other: gods. Such activity makes people feel better, he says. This evokes in all people of all cultures a tendency to treat 'things' as agents with beliefs and desires. Extreme ancient interpretations of these natural 'bouts of animism' evoked in ancients god like essences.

Dennett actually writes something useful at this juncture: "It is not surprising that the attempt to explain patterns discerned in the world has often hit upon animism as a good — actually predictive — approximation of some unimaginably complex underlying phenomenon." Page 117.

But rain dances didn't always work!

Dennett describes how Skinner operationally conditioned, using random reinforcement, pigeons to literally perform abstract dances in order to get another pellet of food.

So mankind learned, via nature's random reinforcement, to do rain dances to attempt to get rain. Didn't work! Except sometimes! Like gambling... (Read about Turu and his clan, especially clan's rain priest, in Hesse's three stage, i.e., Turu, Josephus, and Dasa, Epilogue to his Nobel prize winning Magister Ludi. Ponder well how Hesse is advocating what Dennett is attempting to defile.)

Clouds weren't good enough, so ancients invented gods...anthropomorphic gods. Though invisible!

Dennett tries to show us that paradoxes arise from such thought: Impossible human forms. Boxes without internal space for storage. Unwet liquids, etc.

Dennett writes, "To put it crudely, these ideas are not interesting enough to be puzzling for very long." Page 118.

Some notions are very memorable and others are not. Dennett's criteria for what is memorable and what is not is crucial here. And language, a then — at time of ancients was a — new trick. But language has a lot to do with how one assesses either what is memorable or what is apparently reasonably, rationally, objectively, substantially, materially 'not.'

So now we live in a blizzard of attention commodities and our minds have learned which to keep and which to rationally blow off. This is interesting here. Dennett is using Breaking the Spell as an attention getter to get our attention to listen to him tell us that we should pay more attention to science and attenuate our attentions toward religions.

Of course our work intends to answer whether Dennett's scientific and philosophic foundations are adequate means for him to pursue such an endeavor.

Which notions should we keep and which should we discard? As students of Quantonics you may ask, "But Doug, doesn't that approach beg SOM's wall?" O'gadon, you are think-king well! It also begs SOM's Valuation technique. Dennett and his ilk call it 'science.'

Dennett refers Pascal Boyer (2001, Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought). We know naught about Boyer.

A talking ax passes our acceptance threshold! A disembodied one does not. An ax made of cheese does not. (Plural nots? Is Dennett showing us that negation is actually subjective, or is he saying it is selectively objective? But what about 1-1 correspondence? What about two-valuedness? Can an ax really have more than one 'not?' Is an ax's absence its not? Is ax minus ax zero? Is ax minus cheese zero? Is cheese 'not' ax? Hmmm...)

Do you see Dennett doing any reevaluations of his bases of judgment to assess science above religion? What kind of logic is he using here? Hmmm...?

"Put these two ideas together — a hyperactive agent-seeking bias and a weakness for certain sorts of memorable combos — and you get a kind of fiction-generating contraption."

Dennett just described classical science! That is just what classical 'science' is and does! Let's paraphrase his sentence, again:

"Put these two ideas together — a scientific agent-seeking bias and a curiosity for certain sorts of memorable combos — and you get a kind of hypothesis-generating methodology."

This is just embarrassing to read, and it gets worse.

Dennett writes this:

"Mutation in DNA almost never happens — not once in a trillion copyings — but evolution depends upon it." Page 120.

What is "almost never?" Well, how does DNA copy? Several processes copy DNA: meiosis, mitosis, apoptosis, etc. Let's just look at apoptosis. We have to guess at how many cells containing chromosomes are in one human body. There are about 1027 atoms and if we assume 1013 atoms per cell we get 1014 cells. We may be off several orders of magnitude, but numbers involved are huge and we can still make our point. A trillion is 1012.

We have shown elsewhere that apoptosis, given above assumptions, occurs 106 times per second in every human body, everywhere. How to calculate (be calculating) genomic transcription error rates: Using Dennett's transcription error rate we get 10-6 transcription errors per second per human on Earth. Considering there are ~31,500,000 seconds per year, is 31.5 transcription errors per human per year, almost never?

What about rapidly changing n-somias on nearly all human chromosomes? As we speak!! Almost never??

Even if we are off by ten orders of magnitude, our transcription error rate for humans is enormous. (total Earth-human-seconds per year, alone, exceeds 1017: 3.15 • 107 • 6.5 • 109)

So our range of transcription (Tr) errors per year given Dennett's estimate of 1 in 1012 gives us:

Accepted 2006 Estimate
+ or -  105
Apoptosis Cycles per Second

 Assumed Number of Cells
One Human Body
 Per Human Tr 'Errors'
per Second
Dennett's Rate is < 10-12
 Tr Mutations

 Tr Mutations
Earth Human Population
 10  109  10-11 3.15 • 10-4 2 • 106 
 106  1014  10-6 31.5 2 • 1011  
 1011  1019  10-1 3.15 • 106  2 • 1016 

Legend - We Assume:

~31,500,000 seconds per year - 3.15 • 107
~6,500,000,000 humans on earth - 6.5 • 109

So total annual human race (apoptotic) DNA transcription errors are estimated between two million and a 20 thousand trillion per year. "Almost never?" (we left out meiosis and mitosis, et al.)

Notice that Dennett calls these "transcription errors." Actually they are part of Nature's, especially an Earth-chauvinistic biological, evolutionary process. Dialecticians say "transcript(ion) errors." Quantumists say "nature~memetically required transcription evolutionary mutations." Also be keenly aware that without those mutations, reality would ideally, classically, not evolve.

Aside - 24Oct2006:

Actual technical jargon used by geneticists is more precise than our usage above. Here are a few terms from Griffiths, Gelbart, Lewontin, and Miller's, GGLM's, Modern Genetic Analysis:

Some paraphrasing and editing by Doug. GGLM's text is just fabulous as reference and resource. We also recommend Helena Curtis' Biology. If you are a serious student of Quantonics you should seriously consider have a copy of each in your personal library.

As you can see, there are beau coup opportunities for quantum uncertain RNA | DNA transmutational change in biological phenomes. FYE, formal software genetic algorithms try to mimic this durational quantum~process state-ically, stoppably, mechanically. Also, every word used by GGLM is SOMitic and thus requires quantum remediation in Quantonics! We anticipate a day not to far away when texts of this calibre will be written in full QELR and quantum biologists will view their art as wholly quantum... however, academe has to dump dialectic and give up classical notions like objectivity for that to happen, so it will be perhaps a 100 or more years... sad. Also see our QELR of duration.

While you are learning and having fun see PBS on RNAi. Great!

Doug - 24Oct2006.

End aside.

Given our reviews of previous chapters can you fathom how, just as classicists try to disable quantum reality by zeroing h-bar, you see a similar mind set as evolution as dialectically non ideal? Doug will lay odds that Dennett will offer classical dogma that his "transcription errors" are 'scientifically' objective!

His typography and mind are running on automatic! Ideal classical mind: accessing rote tote know ledges following canonic crown jewel mechanistic rules is tules for fules.

Dennett appears to us to describe evolution occurring as anthropocentric quanta. We view evolution as ubiquitous and varying from Planck rates down to, only apparently, almost no flux. We see massive intra human individual real time evolution as manifest and verifiable, e.g., learning. Our interpretation of Dennett's view is that he sees inter human classically-social evolution increments only manifesting via coital-conceptual increments, i.e., via predominately social inter 'actions.' Real quantum human evolution requires quanton(intra_human,inter_human) and countless other ephemeral influences (quantum coobsfective interrelationshipings) like earth core and surface weathers, sun core and surface weathers, Milky Way influences, and so on...which we can script simply like this: quanton(extra_human,quanton(intra_human,inter_human)).

Let's move on...

Section 2 - Gods as interested parties -

Those of you who spend time observing nature and he-r critters may find this section objectionable. Dennett doesn't hold critters in very high regard. His exceptional mind condescends theirs as less so. In our view, were he to do some critter watching his estimation of their capabilities might grow.

For all his scientific and philosophically "Bright" objectivity, Dennett offers an interesting list:

"...we human beings are obsessed about our personal relations with others:

How would you rank those as to their objectivity? Their subjectivity?


Now those are more objective, but still superpose huge islands of subjectivity, do they n¤t? Religious tenor? Scientific tenor?

Having read this far in Dennett's Breaking the Spell, we are concerned that Dennett isn't asking less shallow questions which have much to do with H5W he answers those listed questions:

We cann¤t resist reusing a Henry D. Aiken quote we offered during our review of Chapter 2. It appears, to us, to belong here with an attending one from Julian Jaynes.

"Might it not be true, perhaps,
that [classical] reason, the supposed liberator of the human mind, is no
more than the repository of ancient [Greco-Roman] prejudices and habits of mind that
have no general validity whatever?"
(Our brackets - Doug.)

by Henry D. Aiken,
The Age of Ideology,
pp. 20-21, 1962 ed., Mentor
(paperback, total 283 pages).

Dennett, to good, mentions Julian Jaynes' excellent The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (HMCO, 1976), in Section 3 of this chapter. Jaynes metaphorically alludes an Aikenesque observation similar Jaynes' calling common 'reason' mostly superstition, not 'facts.' Here, allow us to offer it...

"Applied to the world as representative of all the world, facts become superstitions."

by Julian Jaynes,
The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind ,
p. 443, 1976, HMCO
(paperback, total 493 pages including 'The Drawings')

Elaine Pagels gluons similar nexi. Our research agrees. Both science and religion are practicing superstitions n¤t 'facts,' and 'laws.' And as Dennett points out in Section 3 of this chapter, both do so in attempts at "decision avoidance." O'gadons should detect similitude of classical attempts at "zeroing h-bar," "stoppability," "denying evolution," "zero momentum," "order is stability," "status quo is the way to go," "immutability," "social 'state' as 'legal,'" "decrying natural selection," and "decision avoidance." We call it, again, "running on automatic." Physicists do it, mathematicians do it, even 'catholic' Holy Cs do it, let's n¤t do it...

"Do you see this egg...?"

We have shown under our Buridan's Sophismata connections how "decision avoidance" normatives taken classically as tautologies are actually, though unseen by classicists as, deep~Li~la~dancing~quantum~evolutionary memetic~sophisms.

Given history of evolution of human thought, knowledge, and epistemology, what are odds that Dennett's methods are valid? We posit, "quantum uncertain," with high likelihood they are both incomplete and inconsistent. (Our modes too; anybody's for that matter.) If that doesn't bring humility to any attempts at Breaking the Spell, scientific and religious, et al., n¤thing will. Doug - 11Mar2006.

Does he understand that? Apparently n¤t. Wæ d¤!!!

His behaviour, to us, is — 'science' is a social good-citizen — role playing based upon community consensus that a current paradigm is — order is stability — correct, that's all. It is ordinary, n¤n extraordinary. But to be fair, we have to say same about religion, as we have paraphrased Dennett previously.

'Religion' is social role playing based upon consensus that a current paradigm is correct, that's all. There, we did it.

But isn't it arrogant to believe in scientific belief which is bogus?

Isn't it arrogant to believe in religious belief which is bogus?

Yæs to both, and yæs to our assumptions that both classical science and religion's underpinnings are just and simply bogus! They are omnifferent however. Science uses objectivity to study and worship objects. Religion uses objectivity to worship and study subjects. Our claim, following Bergson, James, Pirsig, Bohm, Bohr, d'Espagnat, Schrödinger, et al., is that reality's objectivity is an apparition. Science tries to be honest via its self-admitted provisionality, but its dialectical foundations are simply bogus and invalid. Religion is more quantum in its acceptance that subjectivity is above objectivity, and dishonest and hypocritical in its absent declaration of self-provisionality.

You may recall our 16Apr1999 letter to Washington Post editor. As Pirsig might write it, "Both science and religion share a chronic mental disease, a genetic defect of reason."

If Dennett is using invalid methods of reason to attempt Breaking the Spell, what can we say about his opus? (Doug used a similar approach against EPR's 1935 paper. It works!)

Dennett's scientific arrogance froths again:

"Consider the various continuities relied on by natural selection: those supplied by the fundamental laws of physics (gravity, etc.)..."

Won't you agree that Dennett just said that Nature relies on physics' fundamental laws? (Arrogance? Nature depends upon human perspectives of he-r to do what s-he does?)

Do you believe that?

That, to us, is worse than saying "6000 years ago, God created the Earth in seven days..."

Do you believe that?:

It is just as bogus as Dennett's statement!!!

Both physics and religion 'model' reality dialectically.

As Pirsig et al., have said, "The map is not the territory." Religion's map is not real and physics' map is not real. They are only models! Both models find their bases in dialectic and dialectic, as Quantonics shows in abundance, is wholly bogus...from its very is bogus!

Both science and religion want to control nature. They want to control everything! Desire for hegemony is spawn of either-or CTMs.


Section 3 - Getting the gods to speak to us -

This whole section is about a human trait. Decision avoidance. I.e., "If we can get God to decide for us, we do not have to." "If we can have our government make choices for us we do not have to." "If we can depend upon God and State to avoid natureal evolution, then we do not have to."

You can imagine by now that Dennett wants to show that religion is just "decision avoidance." We somewhat agree: religion uses its belief in God to make God an ultimate decision maker. Muslim terrorists do this in spades. "Mohammed told us that God wants us to kill all Muslim apostates."

South Dakota outlaws abortion for its natives, so they do not have to make that choice. "Decision avoidance by those who are in control vis-à-vis individual decision and natureal selection management by individual women in their own family contexts." Which is more evil? Individual female selection of abortion? A 'State' telling all individuals what it believes is 'right' (based upon funda as fundus mental (fundamen tal) dialectical bogosities)?

But what is "decision avoidance?" What do we have to do to decide? Choose! What is choice? Selection.

How would Dennett say reality became? Natural selection. Evolution.

So "decision avoidance" is "evolution avoidance." We are all trying to avoid reality!

But Doug, "How does science practice 'decision avoidance?'" Rules! Axioms! Principles! Facts! We call it, "Running on automatic."

Science's God is a set of anthropocentric Earth chauvinistic rules, axioms, principles, facts, etc. which are consensually, paradigmatically either true or false decision generators. Rule-based decisioning alleviates a scientist's personal need to make decisions, while avoiding any 'need' and 'want' and 'desire' to endlessly evolutionarily and memeotically recapitulate "first principles." Science uses rules to practice "decision avoidance." See our QTMs.

Science and religion are unnatural!

Evolution depends upon each quantum making its own decisions locally given quantum comtextings in which it is immersed.

Recall Irenæus? He used 'heresy' as a means of taking all choice away from a fledgling 'catholic' church's flock. He said, "Choice is not permitted. We will tell you what to thingk and what you should decide!" Even today, that is 'catholic' orthodoxy.

What is science's orthodoxy? Objectivity. Dialectic. Rules. Laws. Including a consensual paradigm and disciplinary matrix to enforce them. Just another 'catholic' church of reason.

Note Dennett's attempts at scientific Inquisition. He's acting just like a good 'catholic' 300-1600 a.d. rope a dope pope attempting to Break Science's Spell.

In that light Dennett fits Voltaire's paraphrased, "The first scientist was the first rogue who encountered the first fool."

Dougle ugh!

Section 4 - Shamans as hypnotists -

Dennett's premise here is that humans may have a "God gene."

They evolved it! How? Witch doctors were both medical and spiritual leaders. Treatment selected both better health and a tendency to greater spiritual sensitivities and nuances. Not a bad premise. We like it!

"Recall Dawkins's point quoted in chapter 3: 'If neuroscientists find a 'god center' in the brain, Darwinian scientists like me want to know why the god center evolved. Why did those of our ancestors who had a genetic tendency to grow a god center survive better than rivals who did not?' ('What is Religion?,' Part I, June/July, 2004b, p. 14). We now have one eventually testable answer to Dawkins's question, and it invokes not just biochemical facts but the whole world of cultural anthropology. Why did those with the genetic tendency survive? Because they, unlike those who lacked the gene, had health insurance! In the days before modern medicine, shamanic healing was your only recourse if you fell ill. If you were constitutionally impervious to the ministrations that the shamans had patiently refined over the centuries (cultural evolution), you had no health-care provider to turn to. If the shamans had not existed, there would have been no selection advantage to having this variant gene, but their accumulated memes, their culture of shamanic healing, could have created a strong ridge of selection pressure in the adaptive landscape that would not otherwise have been there.

"This still doesn't get us to organized religion, but it does get us to what I am going to call folk religion, the sorts of religion that have no written creeds, no theologians, no hierarchy of officials. Before any of the great organized religions existed, there were folk religions, and these provided the cultural environment from which organized religions could emerge." Pp. 139-140. We effaced Dennett's footnotes.

Trouble is all classical scientific 'testability' depends upon dialectical analytic objective-quantitative scalarbation. Scientific 'testability' stops and reifies perpetually evolving reality!

Chougle ugh!

Section 5 - Memory engineering devices in oral cultures -

Here Dennett breaks a Pirsigean tenet which Doug broke early on in a very tentative and tenuous Pirsig~Renselle relationship.

Design is ESQ. ESQ is n¤n ESS. That is mostly what is wrong with funda mentalist's notions of 'Intelligent Design.' See p. 142.

'Design' scalarbatively and minimalistically reifies perpetual evolution. Again, see Zeno's first paradox, and see Heraclitus' comments on dialectic.

Dennett pursues alingual ritual as a cultural memory. We tend to agree with most of this, except for unending issues borne of dialectical mechanics. Memory's essence for us is that it is really quantum waves whose probabilities, plausibilities, and likelihoods become quantum~entropic. Latter, from our view, is a much better exegesis than classical notions and concepts. Of course music is, to us, quantum real, and offers huge quantum~metaphorical advantages for extraordinary animate, unstoppable, think-king. Rhythm too. Planck's rate and all its subharmonics are quantum reality's ultimate musicings and rhythmings. Quanta are he-r notes. Doug - 11Mar2006.

Design and canonic 'architecture,' and 'form,' are, to us, just classical quantitative, digital if you will, Babelian bricks in SOM's wall. "Tear down that wall." "Teacher, stop religiously proselytizing academic bricks!"

Bhougle Lugh!

Thank you for reading,

Doug - 11Mar2006.


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To contact Quantonics write to or call:

Doug Renselle
Quantonics, Inc.
Suite 18 #368 1950 East Greyhound Pass
Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730

©Quantonics, Inc., 2006-2011 Rev. 24Mar2009  PDR Created: 8Mar2006  PDR
(12,14Mar2006 rev - Add (apoptotic) to total DNA Tr description. Add several parentheticals under apoptosis discussion. Extend transcription error comments.)
(13Apr2006 rev - Respell 'intelligent.')
(2,9May2006 rev - Minor punctuation adjustments. Add a 'Jaynes on Superstition' anchor.)
(24Oct2006 rev - Add a list of technical jargon to transcription error topic.)
(23Apr2007 rev - Reset legacy red text.)
(2Nov2007 rev - Change contact information and hidden HTML header info.)
(24Sep2008 rev - Add a 'Mutation' anchor to transcription error omniscussion.)
(6Oct2008 rev - Add 'how to calculate (be calculating) genomic transcription error rate.)
(24Mar2009 rev - Add 'Decision Avoidance Sec 3' anchor.)

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