Sam Harris revisits 9/11

Wonderist
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Sam Harris revisits 9/11

Haven't even finished reading it yet, but this is so awesomely cogent I just had to post it right away: September 11, 2011

Sam Harris wrote:

The Blog

Atheism | Ethics | Politics | Religion | Terrorism | September 9, 2011

September 11, 2011

image

(Photo by Sprengben)

Yesterday my daughter asked, “What is gravity?” She is two and a half years old. I could say many things on this subject—most of which she could not possibly understand—but the deep and honest answer is “I don’t know.”

What if I had said, “Gravity comes from God”? That would be merely to stifle her intelligence—and to teach her to stifle it. What if I told her, “Gravity is God’s way of dragging people to hell, where they burn in fire. And you will burn there forever if you doubt that God exists”? No Christian or Muslim can offer a compelling reason why I shouldn’t say such a thing—or something morally equivalent—and yet this would be nothing less than the emotional and intellectual abuse of a child. In fact, I have heard from thousands of people who were oppressed this way, from the moment they could speak, by the terrifying ignorance and fanaticism of their parents.

Ten years have now passed since many of us first felt the jolt of history—when the second plane crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. We knew from that moment that things can go terribly wrong in our world—not because life is unfair, or moral progress impossible, but because we have failed, generation after generation, to abolish the delusions of our ignorant ancestors. The worst of these ideas continue to thrive—and are still imparted, in their purest form, to children.

What is the meaning of life? What is our purpose on earth? These are some of the great, false questions of religion. We need not answer them—for they are badly posed—but we can live our answers all the same. At a minimum, we must create the conditions for human flourishing in this life—the only life of which we can be certain. That means we should not terrify our children with thoughts of hell, or poison them with hatred for infidels. We should not teach our sons to consider women their future property, or convince our daughters that they are property even now. And we must decline to tell our children that human history began with magic and will end with bloody magic—perhaps soon, in a glorious war between the righteous and the rest. One must be religious to fail the young so abysmally—to derange them with fear, bigotry, and superstition even as their minds are forming—and one cannot be a serious Christian, Muslim, or Jew without doing so in some measure.

Such sins against reason and compassion do not represent the totality of religion, of course—but they lie at its core. As for the rest—charity, community, ritual, and the contemplative life—we need not take anything on faith to embrace these goods. And it is one of the most damaging canards of religion to insist that we must.

People of faith recoil from observations like these. They reflexively point to all the good that has been done in the name of God and to the millions of devout men and women, even within conservative Muslim societies, who do no harm to anyone. And they insist that people at every point on the spectrum of belief and unbelief commit atrocities from time to time. This is all true, of course, and truly irrelevant. The groves of faith are now ringed by a forest of non sequiturs.

Whatever else may be wrong with our world, it remains a fact that some of the most terrifying instances of human conflict and stupidity would be unthinkable without religion. And the other ideologies that inspire people to behave like monsters—Stalinism, fascism, etc.—are dangerous precisely because they so resemble religions. Sacrifice for the Dear Leader, however secular, is an act of cultic conformity and worship. Whenever human obsession is channeled in these ways, we can see the ancient framework upon which every religion was built. In our ignorance, fear, and craving for order, we created the gods. And ignorance, fear, and craving keep them with us.

What defenders of religion cannot say is that anyone has ever gone berserk, or that a society ever failed, because people became too reasonable, intellectually honest, or unwilling to be duped by the dogmatism of their neighbors. This skeptical attitude, born of equal parts care and curiosity, is all that “atheists” recommend—and it is typical of nearly every intellectual pursuit apart from theology. 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.

Ten years have passed since a group of mostly educated and middle-class men decided to obliterate themselves, along with three thousand innocents, to gain entrance to an imaginary Paradise. This problem was always deeper than the threat of terrorism—and our waging an interminable “war on terror” is no answer to it. Yes, we must destroy al Qaeda. But humanity has a larger project—to become sane. If September 11, 2001, should have taught us anything, it is that we must find honest consolation in our capacity for love, creativity, and understanding. This remains possible. It is also necessary. And the alternatives are bleak.

(From original here: SamHarris.org)

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Cpt_pineapple
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And that's why I usually

And that's why I usually tend to not read or support Sam Harris.

His "Get rid of religion or we all die damn the other causes of human suffering/conflict" rhetoric. It's down right encouraging us NOT to study the causes of human suffering/conflict.

Yes, I agree with him that a society of logic and reason and empirical evidence would be benifical and should be strived for. But ask him to provide those things in support for his arguments and things break down.

I've been noticing a trend of appeal to emotion rather than scientific inquiry. Using emotion is fine, as long as you can produce evidence to back it up.

Not that I don't understand the emotions of course, Harris sees a precieved injustice and is working to fix it, nothing wrong with that.

 

 

 


BobSpence
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Capn,Where do you see him

Capn,

Where do you see him expressing "damn the other causes of human suffering/conflict"??

Quote:

some of the most terrifying instances of human conflict and stupidity would be unthinkable without religion.

Did you miss the word I underlined?

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


redneF
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Cpt_pineapple wrote:And

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

And that's why I usually tend to not read or support Sam Harris.

His "Get rid of religion or we all die damn the other causes of human suffering/conflict" rhetoric.

WTF do you extrapolate that he advocates neglecting the 'other' causes off human suffering/conflict, in any argument that Sam Harris makes??

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
It's down right encouraging us NOT to study the causes of human suffering/conflict.

Can you prove that?

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
Yes, I agree with him that a society of logic and reason and empirical evidence would be benifical and should be strived for. But ask him to provide those things in support for his arguments and things break down.

I've been noticing a trend of appeal to emotion rather than scientific inquiry. Using emotion is fine, as long as you can produce evidence to back it up.

I don't know WTF you're talking about.

Have you read 'The Moral Landscape'?

Have you ever seen his numerous lectures and debates on how we can objectively begin to map out the difference between right/wrong?

Here's a start:

http://www.samharris.org/site/debates/

 

The 'theist' position, or 'worldview' is that 'objective' (right/wrong) is independant of human minds (or 'outside' of the natural world, and is not bound by space/time).

1- They claim this, without any evidence that it could even be possible.

2- (And I've argued this many times) That the logical conclusion is that by the theist 'worldview', ideally our lives should be no different than the game of 'Simon Says' ('God' being 'Simon', of course), in order to be as 'righteous' as possible for humans.

 

Fortunately, there is no proof that the philosophical or theistic assertion that such a thing as 'objective morals' is not a logical fallacy.

What there is great evidence for, and a multitude of evidence for, is that there are times where the question of 'right/wrong' is a category mistake.

Some things are 'neither'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


Brian37
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Cpt_pineapple wrote:And

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

And that's why I usually tend to not read or support Sam Harris.

His "Get rid of religion or we all die damn the other causes of human suffering/conflict" rhetoric. It's down right encouraging us NOT to study the causes of human suffering/conflict.

Yes, I agree with him that a society of logic and reason and empirical evidence would be benifical and should be strived for. But ask him to provide those things in support for his arguments and things break down.

I've been noticing a trend of appeal to emotion rather than scientific inquiry. Using emotion is fine, as long as you can produce evidence to back it up.

Not that I don't understand the emotions of course, Harris sees a precieved injustice and is working to fix it, nothing wrong with that.

 

 

 

Captain, it may interest you to know that Sam IS on my shit list, well, not in a serious sense, but in the fact that he clings to "something" being there with the Buddhist woo. So I have my qualms with him for other reasons.

BUT, HE IS in line with most atheists in that religion gets a free pass. You seem to equate that as he hates all religious people. NO. He is simply saying that religion does not deserve a pass. Much like you'd be a fool to blindly accept a used car salesmen saying " No, don't inspect the car, it is a pretty blue and you like blue"

THAT is what he is getting at. If you read the entire article he ALSO and has in the past, like other atheists, equated BOTH religion and dogmatism as being the same blight on the progress of human thought.

The blind dogmatism of Stalin and Hitler is the same blind dogmatism of Iran and the Dark Ages. You seem to think he is only attacking religion. All he said in this article is that religion gets a free pass.

The dogmatism of Hitler and Stalin, at least in the west, did not get a free pass, but they are the same dogmatism that you are falsely giving a free pass because you RIGHTFULLY defend freedom of thought and religion.

DONT confuse someone's right to make claims ON ANY SUBJECT with them being right merely because both you and I agree with their right to utter the claim.

Whatever good religious people claim they have done, can be done by any other religion and by atheists. Where religion gets itself in trouble is the same place politics gets itself in trouble. It confuses a label with human behavior which we all are capable of, both good and bad.

Which is why I do have a beef with Harris when he, without a peer reviewed study, claims that there is "something" to Buddhism.

But he is RIGHT in a very Jeffersonian attidude. DONT ACCEPT ANYONE'S WORD FOR IT. That is ultimately what he is saying.

You don't want to face, is just like  old food in the fridge out of date and  I simply say "That will make you sick".

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
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redneF
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Brian37 wrote:Captain, it

Brian37 wrote:

Captain, it may interest you to know that Sam IS on my shit list, well, not in a serious sense, but in the fact that he clings to "something" being there with the Buddhist woo. So I have my qualms with him for other reasons.

I don't glean that he's implying that there is 'something' out there, other than what humans imagine in their imaginations.

He's expressed many times that he's studied the claims (and had many of his own) of what he calls transformative experiences of humans, and is enormously interested in expanding the neuroscience into those areas.

 

 

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


Brian37
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redneF wrote:Brian37

redneF wrote:

Brian37 wrote:

Captain, it may interest you to know that Sam IS on my shit list, well, not in a serious sense, but in the fact that he clings to "something" being there with the Buddhist woo. So I have my qualms with him for other reasons.

I don't glean that he's implying that there is 'something' out there, other than what humans imagine in their imaginations.

He's expressed many times that he's studied the claims (and had many of his own) of what he calls transformative experiences of humans, and is enormously interested in expanding the neuroscience into those areas.

 

 

He has talked about Buddhism as if it is something that needs to be studied. I never said he believed in any superstition. Just that I get annoyed that he brings up Buddhism by implication that there is "something' to it.

He has a tinge of woo that bothers me. Just like when atheists claim that the transporter from Star Trec is a possibility.

FYI, you don't have to take my criticisms of Harris on my word. Read "The New Atheism" by Victor Stinger. He brings up the same criticisms I do with Harris. Human study doesn't require focusing on a label, it requires study of actions, and biology. In short, we should study humans with science and not bother needlessly conflating natural science with the needless attachment of a label to that study.

Quote:
transformative experiences

Vacuous words. When Harris uses descriptions like this it sounds to me like his endorphins get to him like a God believer gets when they look up at the "pretty stars in the night time sky". Harris is a brilliant man, but woo is woo, no mater who is selling it.

 

 

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37


100percentAtheist
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 Wow. In my opinion Sam

 Wow. 

In my opinion Sam Harries got it all wrong ... as most Americans did.

On September 11, 2001 my thoughts were that any rational nation would impeach its president/government for a) not providing safety and b) for advancing foreign policy that have lead to this disaster.  Ha!  How I was wrong about American people!  A day later, on public radio in Boston, I've heard a discussion about what target the US should chose to nuke em all.  I can't even imagine a Texas broadcast. 

The attacks were NOT for several Muslims to come to their Muslim heaven, but as it was claimed the attacks were a response to American political actions in Middle East.  I am stunned that Sam Harris still didn't get it.  He probably got stuck in his religion-all-around-us agenda.  Hey, but he is Jewish, which can explain his bias ... a double bias now.  So maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. 

To be fair, I do agree with his post on his own page that religions are often used as tools in committing horrible acts.  However, religions are not always the reason for terrorism.  Terrorism <- poverty + unfairness.

 

Edit: also 2-1/2 year olds asking about the origin of gravity do not add credibility to his story.  I have a 2 year old, she does not talk yet, but even if she would ask me "Dad, what is the half-life time of a plutonium atom?", I would simply conclude that she is good in copying me.  It's strange to hear a neuroscientist makes such a big deal out of it, but it is not strange at all when we learn that it's Sam Harris.