Why do some atheist/freethinkers dislike Sam Harris?

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Why do some atheist/freethinkers dislike Sam Harris?

I've read all of Sam Harris's books and recently finished "The Moral Lanscape," which I thought was excellent apart from a few things. But I noticed alot of atheists and freethinker don't like him and I'm curious as to what specific claims he makes that some of them disagree with. I've heard some people on this forum refer to his statements about buddhism and contemplative traditions as being "woo." Which I disagree with, I think he was spot on and that their are legitimate and useful things to learn about mental states during meditation, altered states of being, etc whether they are drug induced or naturally created. He's actually my favorite of the four horseman and I just wonder why there is so much disagreement among the atheist/freethinker/rationalist etc... community about his position.


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I think the root issue is

I think the root issue is two-fold;

 

1: Many don't like any respect given to theism, or at least want it in the forefront of discussion that all theism is based on a faulty premise.  Sometimes Harris glosses over that and focuses on the better parts of a particular thing.

2: He uses theistic language and that is often used against atheists.  "Well, Sam Harris says..."  Then you have to try and explain this and that.  Sort of like having to explain that when Einstein was talking about God, he wasn't talking about a personal God.

 

At least, that's what I've seen people talk about.  I've not read his stuff, personally.

 

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I think he gets that for

I think he gets that for religion to die off, it would need to be replaced with something better. That religion provides people with a moral code, a sense of community and a sense of purpose. He tries to address these issues. Whereas a lot of atheists just see religion as a big lie that does a lot of harm and we don't need anything in its place.

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Too Soft

Odd, isn't it?

Sam Harris is not for the casual anti-theism enthusiast. He takes very skeptical viewpoints on topics which are difficult to hear and he gives kudos where it is do, even when it is unpopular to do so. Harris is interested in learning about the topics of faith, religion, and how we make our choices. He is a thinker and is sometimes unpopular because he puts more value in introspective thought than in making a hard argument.

Dawkins and Hitchens are easy to get on board with. They are hard line and don't make exceptions or allowances when they probably should. They embrace the fist waving angry atheist crowd and don't seem to have much interest in looking at the subject from a more productive stance. Taking the "all religious practice is bad no matter what" stance is a good applause line but it is also an intellectually stunted approach to the conversation. Harris just doesn't hedge himself in like that.

My take.


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 I like him. However, I

 I like him.

 

However, I think the parts that might set people off is when he starts to talk about spiruality/mysticism in scientific context. While he's not giving anyone any ground that there's spirts/gods/demons involved, he also realizes that lots of people claim to have life-changing experiences by meditating, spending too long in a cave or whatever.   His position is just that if that's true and people are making these claims, maybe science should spend more time studying what those experiences are actually doing for the brain.  

I get the sense that atheists grit their teeth at that kind of stuff, not because what he's saying doesn't make sense, but because you can see that there's lots of material for believers to misunderstand and bend to their own view without shaking them from it.   The thought they might just go.. that's meditation, I pray.. same thing.   


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marcusfish wrote:Dawkins and

marcusfish wrote:

Dawkins and Hitchens are easy to get on board with. They are hard line and don't make exceptions or allowances when they probably should.

Religious idoctrination is a serious matter.

Both of them realize very clearly, that religions target ignorance, and use the 'target's' ignorance as a means to remove their free will, and behave like automatons, while giving them the illusion that they are in control of their own lives, when they are really motivated by fear, and not by intellectual and rational deliberation.

Neither of them are advocates of living without morals. They just want to expose the placebo effect at work, and free people from the prisons of their minds (fears).

The 'delusion'...

I keep asking myself " Are they just playin' stupid, or are they just plain stupid?..."

"To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy" : David Brooks

" Only on the subject of God can smart people still imagine that they reap the fruits of human intelligence even as they plow them under." : Sam Harris


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I dislike Richard Dawkins.

I dislike Richard Dawkins. Is Sam Harris much like him?


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Judge for yourself

 

 

 

                 Curtisy of the Halton Peel Humanist association;

 

 

           http://foratv/2010/11/10SaM_harris_can_science_determine_human_values.

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redneF wrote:

marcusfish wrote:

Dawkins and Hitchens are easy to get on board with. They are hard line and don't make exceptions or allowances when they probably should.

Both of them realize very clearly, that religions target ignorance, and use the 'target's' ignorance as a means to remove their free will, and behave like automatons, while giving them the illusion that they are in control of their own lives, when they are really motivated by fear, and not by intellectual and rational deliberation.

And they are correct, obviously. I wouldn't preach against their approach, though I would preach that theirs isn't the best. I just think it is designed for a broader audience. While Harris is just as lethal as a rational debate opponent, he is also willing to ease off of the gas enough to identify that some subjects are worth looking into - instead of just lumping them in with the conventional ideology. Harris is by far my favorite of these guys, he is the most reasonable and seems to avoid using such a broad and unforgiving brush when dealing with this complicated topic.

Google him Luminon. Watch a few of his videos and you'll get a sense of what sort of guy he is.


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marcusfish wrote:Google him

marcusfish wrote:

Google him Luminon. Watch a few of his videos and you'll get a sense of what sort of guy he is.

Also, read the Moral Landscape. You want to see how far outside the box he is willing to think, this is a masterful example.


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marcusfish wrote:And they

marcusfish wrote:

And they are correct, obviously. I wouldn't preach against their approach, though I would preach that theirs isn't the best. I just think it is designed for a broader audience. While Harris is just as lethal as a rational debate opponent, he is also willing to ease off of the gas enough to identify that some subjects are worth looking into - instead of just lumping them in with the conventional ideology. Harris is by far my favorite of these guys, he is the most reasonable and seems to avoid using such a broad and unforgiving brush when dealing with this complicated topic.

I'm not going to disagree entirely with you, as your points are fair.

However, it can be argued that their 'methods' are very deliberate, and done with the hope that they will stir up controversy, make headlines, and vault the topic into the forefront.

For me, it seems, that atheism was like a 'subculture', and very easy to 'demonize' atheists. Now it is becoming more mainstream in the media. and no doubt, in the conscious of many more people.

If these simple things were to simply set a new trend, I could live very happily with that.

A victory is a victory. And sometimes you have to fight dirty.

Innocent lives (and minds) are at stake.

I keep asking myself " Are they just playin' stupid, or are they just plain stupid?..."

"To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy" : David Brooks

" Only on the subject of God can smart people still imagine that they reap the fruits of human intelligence even as they plow them under." : Sam Harris


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Victory

redneF wrote:
A victory is a victory. And sometimes you have to fight dirty.

Innocent lives (and minds) are at stake.

Indeed.

Guys like Dawkins and Hitchens do incredible amounts of good and I, for one, think they should be revered for their efforts and victories. Some guys fight dirty because that's the arena they function better in and they personally feel that there is more to be gained. Some have a clean fight because that's their strength.

When it comes to appraoch we just need to look at results to see if their is value in the tactic. Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris are all incredibly influencial in their communities. Granted, they probably reach slightly different sects of humanity because of their approaches but I suspect they are well aware of this. There is no single method of dealing with people which reaches everyone so we have to decide which method best fits our personality tempered with which audiences we find it most important to reach.


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I simply hate Sam Harris

I simply hate Sam Harris because his I.Q. is about 60 points higher than mine...and he apparently metabolizes carbohydtares much better than I do...


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IQ

Rich Woods wrote:

I simply hate Sam Harris because his I.Q. is about 60 points higher than mine...

Oh I won't be comparing my IQ to Sam Harris'. I don't nee that kind of bad news.


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I have no problems with his

I have no problems with his "spiritual" stuff. The language he uses in that case can be misleading, but ultimately, I think he's just talking about psychology and emotional well-being.

I disagree with some of his claims about morality though.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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marcusfish wrote:redneF

marcusfish wrote:

redneF wrote:
A victory is a victory. And sometimes you have to fight dirty.

Innocent lives (and minds) are at stake.

Indeed.

Guys like Dawkins and Hitchens do incredible amounts of good and I, for one, think they should be revered for their efforts and victories. Some guys fight dirty because that's the arena they function better in and they personally feel that there is more to be gained. Some have a clean fight because that's their strength.

When it comes to appraoch we just need to look at results to see if their is value in the tactic. Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris are all incredibly influencial in their communities. Granted, they probably reach slightly different sects of humanity because of their approaches but I suspect they are well aware of this. There is no single method of dealing with people which reaches everyone so we have to decide which method best fits our personality tempered with which audiences we find it most important to reach.

Sometimes you have to shout down from a mountain top to really grab peoples' attention, and then there's the influence over an arena, than an individual, on the psyche that's distinctly different.

Imagine if you were Moses, and had to go door to door, and go "Hey, let me tell you about these tablets I have, and what some guy I can only tell you about, said that you must do, or you're going to regret it..."

I've seen some of his debates, and seen the 4 Horsemen. I have to say I like his style of speaking, and I've not really heard too much from him that is too dissonant to my ears, though he does start to loose my interest when he gets to playing too much with some philosophies.

But, I'm splitting hairs.

I think he's an important voice for atheism.

I keep asking myself " Are they just playin' stupid, or are they just plain stupid?..."

"To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy" : David Brooks

" Only on the subject of God can smart people still imagine that they reap the fruits of human intelligence even as they plow them under." : Sam Harris


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I like Sam Harris, because I

I like Sam Harris, because I think he's cute, and he reminds me of Ben Stiller.

All joking aside... I do like Harris. I'm not so sure I quite agree with his willingness to give so much respect to "spiritual experiences," and I need to re-read the Moral Landscape before I will feel comfortable making a critical statement.

I thoroughly enjoyed the End of Faith, and Letter to a Christian Nation.


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stuntgibbon wrote: I like

stuntgibbon wrote:

 I like him.

 

However, I think the parts that might set people off is when he starts to talk about spiruality/mysticism in scientific context. While he's not giving anyone any ground that there's spirts/gods/demons involved, he also realizes that lots of people claim to have life-changing experiences by meditating, spending too long in a cave or whatever.   His position is just that if that's true and people are making these claims, maybe science should spend more time studying what those experiences are actually doing for the brain.  

I get the sense that atheists grit their teeth at that kind of stuff, not because what he's saying doesn't make sense, but because you can see that there's lots of material for believers to misunderstand and bend to their own view without shaking them from it.   The thought they might just go.. that's meditation, I pray.. same thing.   

 

I can see where terms like spiritual, transcendent experience, and his statements about making the self "vanish" through meditation can be misconstrued as being nonsense. But he uses them within the context of genuine scientific inquiry and in the realm of reason. It's concepts like these that really do need to be explored with their useful benefits extracted and all the unecessary baggage removed. It also seems like an issue of atheist wanting to be firm in their stance, for example he also mentions that labeling oneself as atheist is not necessary and that simply calling "a spade a spade," would be better. In other words specific claims about the nature of the universe could either be factual or bullshit without the need to label one self. Although I personally identify with the title of atheist I would be more specifically "ignostic." Which is to say that no one has a concrete answer as to what constitutes "GOD," therefore a conversation can not be had on the existence of something without a clear definition. But when asked if I believe in a specific god like the god of abraham or zeus and can say  I am atheist with regards to those gods and any other one with a clear definition.

 


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funknotik wrote:I've read

funknotik wrote:

I've read all of Sam Harris's books and recently finished "The Moral Lanscape," which I thought was excellent apart from a few things. But I noticed alot of atheists and freethinker don't like him and I'm curious as to what specific claims he makes that some of them disagree with. I've heard some people on this forum refer to his statements about buddhism and contemplative traditions as being "woo." Which I disagree with, I think he was spot on and that their are legitimate and useful things to learn about mental states during meditation, altered states of being, etc whether they are drug induced or naturally created. He's actually my favorite of the four horseman and I just wonder why there is so much disagreement among the atheist/freethinker/rationalist etc... community about his position.

Gernally, he claims that moderate theists perpetuates extreme theist which resort to violence ect. and the rest stems from there.

As a gerneral rule, I think his principle argument against theism is (1) not unique to theism and (2) is a sort of genetic fallacy...

 

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funknotik wrote:I can see

funknotik wrote:

I can see where terms like spiritual, transcendent experience, and his statements about making the self "vanish" through meditation can be misconstrued as being nonsense. But he uses them within the context of genuine scientific inquiry and in the realm of reason. It's concepts like these that really do need to be explored with their useful benefits extracted and all the unecessary baggage removed. It also seems like an issue of atheist wanting to be firm in their stance, for example he also mentions that labeling oneself as atheist is not necessary and that simply calling "a spade a spade," would be better. In other words specific claims about the nature of the universe could either be factual or bullshit without the need to label one self. Although I personally identify with the title of atheist I would be more specifically "ignostic." Which is to say that no one has a concrete answer as to what constitutes "GOD," therefore a conversation can not be had on the existence of something without a clear definition. But when asked if I believe in a specific god like the god of abraham or zeus and can say  I am atheist with regards to those gods and any other one with a clear definition.

Sam Harris is right on that. Making the self "vanish" in meditation is a real achievement. I did it once for a moment and it was amazing. It's exactly as Krishnamurti says, "observation with no observer." I mean, there were some inner processes going on in my mind and body, but there was no "me."  "I" was definitely not there. All the bodily processes existed on their own, without any personality present, yet something not identifying itself personally was aware of them. Perhaps the parts of body and brain are aware of each other and whent the synthetic sense of self is withdrawn, the awareness remains. It is very puzzling experience for rational mind to comprehend, because many of us are self-important solipsists. How can I be sure that the world outide me is real? I would respond, how can you be sure that YOU are real? The world within and outside is real, maybe YOU are the illusion.

I've just watched something from Sam Harris on Youtube and he looks really competent. I mean, he says it right. He understands eastern philosophy! Finally someone who doesn't push Descartes down our throats. What he says is basically what Osho also explains, just in more serious style. And so far he doesn't seem condescending, unlike Richard Dawkins.
(My problem with Dawkins: "Isn't it enough, just this natural world that science so far managed to describe in repeated double-blind tests for the past couple of centuries?" No, it isn't !!! )

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Claims about morality

Butterbattle, I am interested to hear what specific claims he makes about morality you don't agree with.


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Your comments about god

Funknotik, You sound like a deist.


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Dawkins and Harris

Luminon, Dawkins has agreed with Harris about the ability of science to help us identify morals. Not the "white lab coat scientists", but the critical thinking process science provides.

. I believe I recall one of Mr Harris's talks where he said he once spent a year in a retreat meditating and has toured the world speaking with many people who lead groups that meditate. He is a Doctor of Philosophy and a Neuroscientist. He began speaking about what he has discovered after the world trade centre was bombed, out of his concern for where humanity was heading. This is why he always speaks in public debates in language that can, for the most part, be understood by the masses. He is very concerned about Islamic fundamentalism, and the Interpretations of the Koran preached in Mosques generally. He is very concerned about the statistically very significant number of people in the US who don't believe in evolution, or science, and the number of people in the US who believe that the bible is literally true (over 40%), or probably true (combined with the literalists over 60%). I think his views about traditional philosophical thought are really interesting too. His views excite me because he presents a completely new way of thinking about things, which may help given the old ways haven't done much to impove things and is so boring and steeped in far off history that few among the masses can be bothered listening anymore.


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It Isn't Woo-Woo

funknotik wrote:

I can see where terms like spiritual, transcendent experience, and his statements about making the self "vanish" through meditation can be misconstrued as being nonsense. But he uses them within the context of genuine scientific inquiry and in the realm of reason.

This is the root of the issue, Funk. Unfortunately people (skeptics and super-naturalists alike) get so focused on our viewpoint that we clog up our ears. Harris talks about a good many things, all within the realm of honest scientific inquiry and progressing the overall well being of mankind. He uses terms which make atheists shut down but that is because they aren't really listening.

In the context of what he is saying, if we are actually listening, he is not condoning anything without testing. Quite the contrary, what he is talking about is what we should be testing! He's talking about what science *can* have an opinion about! He's talking about using our minds to the fullest and not coming to knee jerk conclusions on either side!


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"Sciencey"

rocki wrote:

Luminon, Dawkins has agreed with Harris about the ability of science to help us identify morals. Not the "white lab coat scientists", but the critical thinking process science provides.

I love his description of the scientific mindset vs what we generally insist science is. He makes a distinction between the scientific approach to curiosity and hard scientific lab experiments usually attributed to scientific consensus. He clarifies that, science is not restricted to only things which are mathematically provable or which can be contained in a beaker. He describes it as an honest mindset with a tendency toward seeking all available proofs and minimizing unknowns, as well as flexibility toward the introduction of new information.

I have always been of the opinion that science is, in fact, only valid if it is done by the guys in the "white lab coats". That, if it can't be exactly described in a formula or tested first hand then science has no opinion about it. Harris, if I understand correctly, says that this is not the case but only a simplified misunderstanding.


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rocki wrote:Butterbattle, I

rocki wrote:
Butterbattle, I am interested to hear what specific claims he makes about morality you don't agree with.

 

I am a moral subjectivist, so I certainly do not agree with his unique attempts at moral realism or his suggestions that morals can be "scientific" truths. In, The End of Faith, he commits what I think is a fairly common error when he argues that moral relativism is internally inconsistent because it asserts that morals are "absolutely" not "absolute." 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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butterbattle wrote:rocki

butterbattle wrote:

rocki wrote:
Butterbattle, I am interested to hear what specific claims he makes about morality you don't agree with.

 

I am a moral subjectivist, so I certainly do not agree with his unique attempts at moral realism or his suggestions that morals can be "scientific" truths. In, The End of Faith, he commits what I think is a fairly common error when he argues that moral relativism is internally inconsistent because it asserts that morals are "absolutely" not "absolute." 

 

I have not read this stuff from him, but I'm curious:  Could he just mean the same thing that has been brought up in the Blake threads...not that morality is absolute in the typical sense, but that within a given axiom you can treat it objectively using science?

 

 

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rocki wrote:Funknotik, You

rocki wrote:

Funknotik, You sound like a deist.

No I don't.


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mellestad wrote:butterbattle

mellestad wrote:

butterbattle wrote:

rocki wrote:
Butterbattle, I am interested to hear what specific claims he makes about morality you don't agree with.

 

I am a moral subjectivist, so I certainly do not agree with his unique attempts at moral realism or his suggestions that morals can be "scientific" truths. In, The End of Faith, he commits what I think is a fairly common error when he argues that moral relativism is internally inconsistent because it asserts that morals are "absolutely" not "absolute." 

 

I have not read this stuff from him, but I'm curious:  Could he just mean the same thing that has been brought up in the Blake threads...not that morality is absolute in the typical sense, but that within a given axiom you can treat it objectively using science?

 

 

No he got a PhD in neuroscience for two main reasons. He use to consider the possibility that consciousness could exist outside or after the end of the body and to build morality off of neuroscience itself.  He starts with imagining a place where every living thing experiences the worse possible pain for as long as possible.  This is self evidently bad, Any movement from that state is good. Flourishing is good. The moral landscape or hills and peaks away from that baseline.

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marcusfish wrote:funknotik

marcusfish wrote:

funknotik wrote:

I can see where terms like spiritual, transcendent experience, and his statements about making the self "vanish" through meditation can be misconstrued as being nonsense. But he uses them within the context of genuine scientific inquiry and in the realm of reason.

This is the root of the issue, Funk. Unfortunately people (skeptics and super-naturalists alike) get so focused on our viewpoint that we clog up our ears. Harris talks about a good many things, all within the realm of honest scientific inquiry and progressing the overall well being of mankind. He uses terms which make atheists shut down but that is because they aren't really listening.

In the context of what he is saying, if we are actually listening, he is not condoning anything without testing. Quite the contrary, what he is talking about is what we should be testing! He's talking about what science *can* have an opinion about! He's talking about using our minds to the fullest and not coming to knee jerk conclusions on either side!

Yeah it seems as soon as those nebulous terms come into play people seem to pick them out and not understand the context of the whole presentation. Here is an article accusing him of being a "spiritualist." http://www.sacw.net/free/Trading%20Faith%20for%20Spirituality_%20The%20Mystifications%20of%20Sam%20Harris.html

 

This is an epic fail of understanding the book from someone claiming to be a skeptic: " He loads spiritual practices with metaphysical baggage, all the while claiming to stand up for reason and evidence. By the end of the book, I could not help thinking of him as a Trojan horse for the New Age. While Harris tries to distance himself from the more extravagant Whole Life Expo type fads (crystals, colonic irrigation and the like), he ends up endorsing fundamental New Age assumptions as rational alternatives to traditional religiosity."

But Harris can defend the rationality of mysticism only by completely contradicting himself, by forgetting the criteria of rationality which he applies so energetically when he is eviscerating faith in God. If he were to apply these same criteria to spirituality as rigorously as he applies them to faith, he will have no choice but to admit that mysticism is as much of an "imposter" as faith.

How is it that we extract such completely different ideas from the same book?

 


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mellestad wrote:I have not

mellestad wrote:

I have not read this stuff from him, but I'm curious:  Could he just mean the same thing that has been brought up in the Blake threads...not that morality is absolute in the typical sense, but that within a given axiom you can treat it objectively using science?

Now that you ask, I'm not completely sure. But, I had the impression that he was advocating some sort of moral realism. At least, I am positive he committed the equivocation that I mentioned. 

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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Luminon wrote:Sam Harris is

Luminon wrote:

Sam Harris is right on that. Making the self "vanish" in meditation is a real achievement. I did it once for a moment and it was amazing. It's exactly as Krishnamurti says, "observation with no observer." I mean, there were some inner processes going on in my mind and body, but there was no "me."  "I" was definitely not there.

But yet YOU observed it and YOU commited the experience to memory. So YOU didn't vanish.

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butterbattle wrote:mellestad

butterbattle wrote:

mellestad wrote:

I have not read this stuff from him, but I'm curious:  Could he just mean the same thing that has been brought up in the Blake threads...not that morality is absolute in the typical sense, but that within a given axiom you can treat it objectively using science?

Now that you ask, I'm not completely sure. But, I had the impression that he was advocating some sort of moral realism. At least, I am positive he committed the equivocation that I mentioned. 

 

I am like you on that one Butterbattle. I have not actually read his works yet, so I am not going to just outright dismiss him, but in some of the talks that I have gotten excerpts from on youtube and such, it seems that he is advocating some sort of moral objective for everyone.

I could be wrong about that. But that was just the feeling that I picked up on him. If I ever get caught up on my reading list, I'll pick up his stuff and see what I think Eye-wink

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EXC wrote:Luminon wrote:Sam

EXC wrote:

Luminon wrote:

Sam Harris is right on that. Making the self "vanish" in meditation is a real achievement. I did it once for a moment and it was amazing. It's exactly as Krishnamurti says, "observation with no observer." I mean, there were some inner processes going on in my mind and body, but there was no "me."  "I" was definitely not there.

But yet YOU observed it and YOU commited the experience to memory. So YOU didn't vanish.

I think it is really a matter of defining words. We use "I", "me" etc;, They really refer to this location of expereince, body/mind etc.;  This linguistic method of creating the subject of experience and action is associated with consciousness and consciousness in turn thought of as a self or soul.  But other ain't one. It is merely a consctruct of language and thought.

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Harris

Harris is simply trying to show a biological/evolutionary basis of morality.  He spent several years getting his doctorate in neuroscience to deal with his questions about consciousness/ morality and all those things theists wanna put in a spiritual bag.  He is not saying that there aren't relative aspects of morality but that morality stems from our behavior as mammals and is physiologically based from systems of neurons and brain functioning.  For example trust and compassion have part of their origins from mirror neurons.  When an ape sees another ape pick up something mirror neurons fire in the observing ape that mimic the "picking up of an object." These neurons are in the same area of the neurons that would have been used if the observing ape had reached out and tried to pick up something as well.  Thus an understanding (empathy) is developed and becomes memory.  These mirror neurons fire when one member of a mammal species sees another mammal suffer.  The result is empathy by the fellow mammal of the suffering.  That is why we sometimes wince when we see someone hit their finger with a hammer.  Studies are showing that psychopaths and socio-paths often have less associative mirror neurons than non-criminals.  His work is that morality should be freed from religion and even philosophy and studied in the arena of science.  He is not a New Ager. Dawkins the basic difference between Harris and the other Four Horsemen was that he entertain the possibility that consciousness was not a matter of being an epiphenomena of the physical world but something more fundamental in the physical world a position similar to the one espoused by David Chalmers.  Harris was an honoray guard of the Dalai Lama and has studied brain states of those who meditate for several years.  His interest originated from using LSD for several years as a teenager and in his early twenties.  I think that he use to believe that consciousness may be an localised occurrence of a panpsychism.  I doubt that he has believed that in several years.  These questions about consciousness that are shared by people like Penrose, Chalmers, and many physicists have more to do with trying to understand quirks in science such as the collapse of the wave function from observation and what consciousness is in itself. The idea of Harris is that there a re certain acts that are atypical and go against the normal evolutionary programming of are brains as social and familial creatures. But again the idea is to find the scientific origins of morality from evolution and neurosciencerather than rational speculations of philosophy or dogmatic proclamations of religion.

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What I got out of my reading

What I got out of my reading of the book was that: a) Harris believes in 'Morality' as being that which leads to more happiness and less misery; and b) that science can determine in an objective way what the results of given behaviors might be with that morality in mind.

It is much more complicated than that, and I must re-read the book more attentively before commenting further, but what I read did seem reasonable. He did not seem to be advocating for the establishment of any moral absolutes - only that science can be used to study moral questions more sensibly than ancient texts.


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Tadgh wrote:What I got out

Tadgh wrote:

What I got out of my reading of the book was that: a) Harris believes in 'Morality' as being that which leads to more happiness and less misery; and b) that science can determine in an objective way what the results of given behaviors might be with that morality in mind.

It is much more complicated than that, and I must re-read the book more attentively before commenting further, but what I read did seem reasonable. He did not seem to be advocating for the establishment of any moral absolutes - only that science can be used to study moral questions more sensibly than ancient texts.

Hmm interesting feedbacks above. I guess I am going to have to add some of his stuff to my reading list before I can comment better on this one.

I am currently reading Daniel Dennett's Freedom Evolved. It touches upon determinism, indeterminism and the existence of free will. Mind boggling stuff to say the least. I have to stop after every other page and honestly think about everything I have just read. I like books that do that to me.

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


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I'm not so well versed in

I'm not so well versed in Harris, as I am in Hitchens, Dawkins, Hawking.

I do like the way he articulates. He appears very self aware, and self disciplined. Almost like a Buddhist or Taoist.

I think he's choosing to look at theism from an oblique angle, instead of just the full frontal view, and attacking it from a Whorfianism perspective, of linguistics that distinguish and differentiate, and the demarcations that occur, and give rise to factions.

We use words to communicate ideas. But words carry much more than their simple meanings, and qualifiers/quantifiers. But single words can carry connotations and implications that are far more communicative than entire phrases, and paragraphs of words.

That's what I believe his angle is.

You and I might have very opposing views on a topic like abortion. And we 'agree' that it's a difficult topic, and that one's personal feelings on it, are unique, and personal, and entirely subjective, and one's 'right' to feel differently than another.

We might vehemently disagree, and even argue over it, but, we don't want to spill blood over it, and we still view each other as peers.

That's being civil, and in control over one's emotions and actions. We'll defend the other's individual 'rights' to think and feel differently about it. That's being impartial.

 

Now, depending on your 'religion', one might be characterized as 'wicked', or an 'infidel', for having those individual personal beliefs on a topic.

The connotations of the word 'wicked' or 'evil, or 'infidel', are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of control, emotional displays.

It's pathological that one can become on the verge of homicidal for contemplating 'moral' topics that are stay to oneself, and do not impose a will on others.

That's what can be seen and studied objectively.

There are marked differences in morals and ethics, between cultures, and religions. There's nothing subjective about it. There are, or there are not. There's no debate that there are.

Morals and ethics are not universal, therefore, are subjective.

 

Much to the chagrin of religions.

It's very clear that religions are about oppression, and thought policing.

They want people to not only drink the koolaid, but to recruit and bully others with condemnation, vitriol, contempt, threats and hatred.

That's terrorizing people.

 

Religious people are selfmotivated to do so. No one has control over them. Religion is often 'blamed', but religion is just an 'idea'. It's just a 'thoughts'.

You're thoughts are your own. They may be influenced by others, but they become your own as soon as you adopt them, and they begin to influence your actions.

Unless you have a gun to your head, and are being forced by a harmful threat to your safety, your actions are 'strictly' your own, and you are accountable for them.

Actions define your character, not your thoughts.

 

 

I keep asking myself " Are they just playin' stupid, or are they just plain stupid?..."

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EXC wrote:Luminon wrote:Sam

EXC wrote:

Luminon wrote:

Sam Harris is right on that. Making the self "vanish" in meditation is a real achievement. I did it once for a moment and it was amazing. It's exactly as Krishnamurti says, "observation with no observer." I mean, there were some inner processes going on in my mind and body, but there was no "me."  "I" was definitely not there.

But yet YOU observed it and YOU commited the experience to memory. So YOU didn't vanish.

Nope. My body did not vanish and indeed kept working, which includes memorizing events, which is not an intentional function.
But all the identity of the self was gone, not perceived at all. At that moment there would be no response to words like "you, me, I or mine." These words just had no meaning, which was later a very surprising realization. A neurologist could probably tell more about that phenomenon. If I'd have to live in that state longer, I'd be probably unable or unwilling to use personal pronouns.

I think this way of ego dissolution is a wonderful addition to my collection of extraordinary experiences. Every time my ego will feel bad, I will try to remember that it is just an illusion.

 

Beings who deserve worship don't demand it. Beings who demand worship don't deserve it.


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Luminon wrote:funknotik

Luminon wrote:

funknotik wrote:

I can see where terms like spiritual, transcendent experience, and his statements about making the self "vanish" through meditation can be misconstrued as being nonsense. But he uses them within the context of genuine scientific inquiry and in the realm of reason. It's concepts like these that really do need to be explored with their useful benefits extracted and all the unecessary baggage removed. It also seems like an issue of atheist wanting to be firm in their stance, for example he also mentions that labeling oneself as atheist is not necessary and that simply calling "a spade a spade," would be better. In other words specific claims about the nature of the universe could either be factual or bullshit without the need to label one self. Although I personally identify with the title of atheist I would be more specifically "ignostic." Which is to say that no one has a concrete answer as to what constitutes "GOD," therefore a conversation can not be had on the existence of something without a clear definition. But when asked if I believe in a specific god like the god of abraham or zeus and can say  I am atheist with regards to those gods and any other one with a clear definition.

Sam Harris is right on that. Making the self "vanish" in meditation is a real achievement. I did it once for a moment and it was amazing. It's exactly as Krishnamurti says, "observation with no observer." I mean, there were some inner processes going on in my mind and body, but there was no "me."  "I" was definitely not there. All the bodily processes existed on their own, without any personality present, yet something not identifying itself personally was aware of them. Perhaps the parts of body and brain are aware of each other and whent the synthetic sense of self is withdrawn, the awareness remains. It is very puzzling experience for rational mind to comprehend, because many of us are self-important solipsists. How can I be sure that the world outide me is real? I would respond, how can you be sure that YOU are real? The world within and outside is real, maybe YOU are the illusion.

I've just watched something from Sam Harris on Youtube and he looks really competent. I mean, he says it right. He understands eastern philosophy! Finally someone who doesn't push Descartes down our throats. What he says is basically what Osho also explains, just in more serious style. And so far he doesn't seem condescending, unlike Richard Dawkins.
(My problem with Dawkins: "Isn't it enough, just this natural world that science so far managed to describe in repeated double-blind tests for the past couple of centuries?" No, it isn't !!! )

 

Alot of people experience that same feeling while on mushrooms, mdma, lsd, and various psychedelic drugs. Also while meditating or in extreme states of mind like fighting, prolonged isolation from other people, or really extreme physical exertion or training. It's been referred to as "ego death" or "depersonalization" and seems like it is a dissolving of the ego or sense of self. Psychologists have analyzed the experience for it's use with PTSD and other disorders of the mind. Some people report a prolonged sense of well being afterward and also a greater feelings of empathy and compassion.  The point is that some religious or "mystic" types also experience this and sometimes seem  to attain these states of conscious and you may see them in a trance or lucid state. Think of indigenous rituals, zazen meditation, darmic chants etc. Sam Harris's whole point is that we should observe these experiences for there positive benefit to human well being. Regardless of their previous religious or metaphysical context we can now in a lab setting analyze and observe what these sort of experiences do in the brain and how they affect individuals on various levels.

 

I've experienced ego death as well after having ingested psilocybin tea and I have to say I will never forget the experience it made me appreciate sound in a new way and was dominated by aural hallucinations which basically solidified the idea that I wanted to make music. Also with the sense of self dissolved Carl Sagans statement about us all being "star stuff" took on new meaning I felt like a part of the universe in a way that I had never felt. It made me more interested in science and I would say a more compassionate and understanding person. It re enforced what Richard Dawkins said about how fortunate we are to be conscious and ask questions about the universe around us. Anytime I think of that trip I think of how fortunate I am to be alive and able to learn about so many amazing things the natural world has to offer without the need for superstition, magical thinking, or anything supernatural. Everything you could want to feel fulfilled, to have a sense of wonderment, a sense of awe, a feeling of belonging, it's all around you in the natural world. I could go on forever about that experience and how it shaped my mentality today but I would probably bore you. Again the whole point is you don't need tarot cards, astrology, and superstition when you can have a telescope, astronomy, pink floyd, and bag of shrooms.


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funknotik wrote:Luminon

funknotik wrote:

 

I've experienced ego death as well after having ingested psilocybin tea and I have to say I will never forget the experience it made me appreciate sound in a new way and was dominated by aural hallucinations which basically solidified the idea that I wanted to make music. Also with the sense of self dissolved Carl Sagans statement about us all being "star stuff" took on new meaning I felt like a part of the universe in a way that I had never felt. It made me more interested in science and I would say a more compassionate and understanding person. It re enforced what Richard Dawkins said about how fortunate we are to be conscious and ask questions about the universe around us. Anytime I think of that trip I think of how fortunate I am to be alive and able to learn about so many amazing things the natural world has to offer without the need for superstition, magical thinking, or anything supernatural. Everything you could want to feel fulfilled, to have a sense of wonderment, a sense of awe, a feeling of belonging, it's all around you in the natural world. I could go on forever about that experience and how it shaped my mentality today but I would probably bore you. Again the whole point is you don't need tarot cards, astrology, and superstition when you can have a telescope, astronomy, pink floyd, and bag of shrooms.

I have to strongly disagree... Large dosages of LSD were much better. The self, ego or whatever is just a construct like any other thought.  It might have originated with language so we could have a subject for our sentences.  The "I" is really not there most of the time anyway. When you watch a movie and are into it there's just the action and dialog.  When you are thinking and experience your thoughts in words the speaking is going on but your not there.  When you're in the zone with tennis there's just the game for large moments.  Some neuroscientists are following along the lines of Julian Jaynes and associating consciousness of consciousness as a result of language. Hofstader  wrote a book called I Am a Strange Loop.  Thus a mammal might have consciousness but no self consciousness and therefore no "I". Children until around three are conscious but may have no "I".  With LSD sometimes you get in a state of an absolute observer.  Everything is experience even things your body is doing, even the thoughts that pop out of the unconscious are realized as not something you are doing but simply happening. There is no agent or actor left. And sometimes even the observer blinks out and there are only conscious things happening sorta qualia but no one experiencing or maybe you wind up as the experience.  Sometimes you have synesthesia. Well after all it is a psychoactive. 

I also have to somewhat disagree about pink floyd.... Black Sabbath at 78 speed ..just joking... floyd a do it.

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Bingo!

Tadgh wrote:
He did not seem to be advocating for the establishment of any moral absolutes - only that science can be used to study moral questions more sensibly than ancient texts.

I agree with you and mellestad. Harris does not advocate a stance that science can or should determine some kind of absolute morals. He says this early in The Moral Landscape; he is quite clear, actually.

He is saying that there is no reason we should not look at the question of morality from a scientific viewpoint. If there are facts surounding how people feel and why, then why is it exactly science should have an "oh no, we can't talk about morality, that's naughty" approach? He says that this idea of moral relativism is not helpful and is basically just a retreat from having the conversation at all. As always, Harris wants to have a rational conversation and cut out as much assumption baggage as he can. This is how he goes after god belief and it is exactly the same as his approach toward spirituality and morals. He isn't telling us that we should know the answers, only that science should not be excluded from looking.

It is the best tool set we have for interpereting our surroundings. It is foolish for us to, for some strange reason, exclude it from what many will argue are some of the most important questions we know to ask.


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marcusfish wrote:Tadgh

marcusfish wrote:

Tadgh wrote:
He did not seem to be advocating for the establishment of any moral absolutes - only that science can be used to study moral questions more sensibly than ancient texts.

I agree with you and mellestad. Harris does not advocate a stance that science can or should determine some kind of absolute morals. He says this early in The Moral Landscape; he is quite clear, actually.

He is saying that there is no reason we should not look at the question of morality from a scientific viewpoint. If there are facts surounding how people feel and why, then why is it exactly science should have an "oh no, we can't talk about morality, that's naughty" approach? He says that this idea of moral relativism is not helpful and is basically just a retreat from having the conversation at all. As always, Harris wants to have a rational conversation and cut out as much assumption baggage as he can. This is how he goes after god belief and it is exactly the same as his approach toward spirituality and morals. He isn't telling us that we should know the answers, only that science should not be excluded from looking.

It is the best tool set we have for interpereting our surroundings. It is foolish for us to, for some strange reason, exclude it from what many will argue are some of the most important questions we know to ask.

 

If that is the case, then I agree with him.  Maybe I need to read some of his stuff so I can feel better about my tiny brain.

 

Also, maybe he needs to be more clear about that, there seems to be much confusion.

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.