The Study of Ideas

TED is a group of thinkers who center on the ideas of technology, entertainment and design. Each year, their group of 1000 gather in Montery, CA to talk about creativity and other ideas. It is Disneyland for pointyheaded types and one day I would love to be invited.

I've been surfing the TED conference website and ran across these two speakers - Rick Warren and Dan Dennett - with two very different takes on the meaning of life. If you can handle listening to people who disagree, you'll enjoy listening to these back to back.

Warren gives his standard "You were born for a purpose" talk. It's good stuff. Not e=mc2 by any stretch of the imagination, but valid nonetheless. I'll admit, it sounds a little tired in places, as if he could have phoned it in with more enthusiasm than he musters sitting in the chair on the stage, but it's still very good.

Then it hits the fan. Dennett calls the Purpose Driven Life "brilliant..." even while appearing to throw the intellectual smackdown on the poor guy.

In refference to the book and Warren's approach in general, Dennett says it's

"...a brilliant redesign of traditional religious themes, updating them, quietly dropping the obsolete features, putting new interpretations in place, this is the evolution of religion that has been going on for thousands of years and he's just the latest brilliant practitioner of it."
Dropping the hammer, he says...

"I wish he could do this with a revision of the book...the truth will set you free. My problem is...some of the bits in it, I don't think are true."

Dennett actually seems to smoke his time picking the book to pieces based on comments like "I don't agree with him there...".

If anything, we learn this....if there's going to be a disagreement between to panel speakers, dude, you want to go last, not first.

Rick Warren certainly doesn't need a defense from me, but Dennett comes of looking kind of goofy. I think he has a few semi-valid points, but most of his talk is nitpicky and condescending. He also goes nowhere in offering an alternate answer to the great questions of life...just expresses his distast for Christianity's conclusions.

Of course, he invites Warren to do a rebuttal but the video cuts off. My guess is Warren wasn't even there and the invitation was grandstanding.

Rick Warren's video is here.
Dan Dennett's video is here.

Promise me you'll watch/listen to both of them or neither of them. You can also download the audio for either and sling it on your iPod.

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