Saturday, April 11, 2015

Daniel Dennett: Can Anybody Help Me?

A mountain climber, foolishly alone, slips and slides off a precipice. He finds himself dangling from his safety rope, hundreds of feet below the edge of the rock but also hundreds of feet above a jagged ravine. 
He can't go up or go down. 
So he hangs, slowly swinging from his rope. 
"Can anybody help me?" he cries. 
No answer. 
"Can anybody help me?!" he yells, a bit louder. 
"Can anybody help me?!!" he shouts. And it echoes through the mountains. 
This time, lo and behold, the clouds part, a beautiful ray of light pours through them, and a mighty voice booms out: 
"Yes, my son, I can help you. But first, you must have faith. Take your knife and cut the rope. Cut the rope..." 
"...My son, you must have faith. Cut the rope!" 
The man swings slowly back and forth. The mountains are silent. Finally, the man yells out: 
"Can anybody else help me?"
This is my own expanded version of a joke told by Daniel Dennett in his anti-religion book Breaking the Spell. I assume Dennett got it from somewhere, though I don't believe he provides a reference.

I studied under Dennett. Though he is thought of as one of the "four horseman of atheism" or whatever, in his personal relations he is a good and fair man. He was a great teacher. Among other things he taught me how to think. And while it may not be fun to be a target of his intellectual ire, I think he is intellectually honest.

All Christians can learn something from him. 

Indeed, this anecdote is useful primarily for Christians. The dangling atheist would think that he was hallucinating. It is the Christian who hears God and then sometimes, you know, seeks a second opinion.

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