THE question of the place of science in human life is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question. Scientism, the view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical, is a superstition, one of the dominant superstitions of our day; and it is not an insult to science to say so. For a sorry instance of present-day scientism, it would be hard to improve on Daniel C. Dennett's book. "Breaking the Spell" is a work of considerable historical interest, because it is a merry anthology of contemporary superstitions.Wieseltier is absolutely right. And that is why philosophy, and co-equal with it, theology, is so important to modern life.
It really is a pity we don't teach it to our students, and only offer it as an option for the few "geeks" in college who are even interested enough to seek out the courses there.
And I must say, with regard to Mr. Dennet's book itself: does he have the courage to challenge his own convictions by studying (at least) Christian theology, if not world religions (the works of Huston Smith or Jaroslav Pelikan are, I'm sure, readily available to him) and taking their claims seriously, as many a theologian and student of religion takes seriously the claims of science and the philosophies of science (not to mention the philosophies of empricism, logical positivism, and the analytical schools in general)?
Until he does, he has no warrant to brand himself a "hero".