There's enough going on with this controversy to make me hesitate to write all that up in detail, but I did stumble across one point worth looking at closely. Here's Varghese, Talking about Dawkins et. al.:
In the first place, they refuse to engage the real issues involved in the question of God's existence. None of them even address the central grounds for positing a divine reality (Dennett spends seven pages on the arguments for God's existence, Harris none). They fail to address the issue of the origins of rationality embedded in the fabric of the universe, of life understood as autonomous agency, and of consciousness, conceptual thought, and the self. Dawkins talks of the origins of life and consciousness, conceptual thought, and the self. Dawkins talks of the origins of life and consciousness as "one-off" events triggered by an "initial stroke of luck." Wolpert writes: "I have purposely [!] avoided any discussion of consciousness, which still remains mostly poorly understood." About the origin of consciousness, Dennett, a die-hard physicalist, once wrote, "and then a miracle happens."There are a number of misrepresentations here, but the bolded [by me] sentence is what really caught my attention. Varghese clearly wants his readers to think Dennett's solution to the problem of consciousness is a hand-waving declaration that it's miraculous. Immediately, it smelled funny: my first guess was that it was a rhetorical gesture by Dennett describing an apparent problem in his view, which would have been followed by an attempted demonstration that the problem was not what it appeared. So, I looked up the citation and went to the library to get the journal article. When I read the relevant section, my immediate response was to slump back on my stacks-browsing stool and think, "Oh my god, it's worse than I thought." Then I sat up and thought, "why on earth would I expect better from Varghese?" Here's what I had found:
This raises Foster's main point: isn't this way of characterizing the difference the difference between unacceptable dualism and tolerable expansionist materialism vacuous or question-begging? Why, Foster asks, should the dualist be required to explain things more deeply than the materialist? I'd pose a more lenient demand: that the dualist offer any articulated, non-vacuous explanation of anything in the realm of psychology or mind-brain puzzles. Since I am simply proposing a constraint on what sort of theory to take seriously, it really doesn't matter to me (except as a matter of communicative convenience) whether the term 'dualism' is defined in such a way as to permit varieties of dualism to meet the constraint. Indeed, Nicholas Humphrey declares that his position is, in a certain sense, a kind of dualism, and yet since it undertakes to meet the demands of objective science, I consider it radical, but eminently worthy of attention, now - not a theory to postpone till doomsday. And if Penrose were to declare that his position, too, was really a sort of dualism, and if this understanding of the term caught on, I'd want to shift nomenclature and find some new blanket perjorative for theories that tolerate 'and then a miracle happens.'In other words, Dennett isn't describing his own view of consciousness, he's describing what he believes to be a common flaw in the views of some (but not all) of his opponents.
Notice the trick in Varghese's presentation: he gives every reason for his readers to think the quote refers to Dennett's views, but only says that Dennett wrote the words in a discussion of consciousness. I think this provides a useful piece of context for evaluating Varghese's statements elsewhere. In much of what he writes, he comes off as a crackpot whose follies are best explained by abysmal reading comprehension and reality-blindness caused by a fanatical need to "get those darned atheists." His attack on Dennett, however, suggests that he is capable of sitting down and calmly contemplating subtle ways to give a false impression of the facts. Chilling.