Not that it discredits his work...

Deathmunkee
Posts: 16
Joined: 2006-04-26
User is offlineOffline
Not that it discredits his work...

[url=http://http://www.randi.org/jr/2006-09/092206bad.html]

By James Randi

SAM HARRIS ALERT

Dr. Michael Eslea, Department of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, alerts me to a startling – and disturbing – fact that I only became aware of when I finally had a chance to curl up with the Sam Harris book during the recent Amaz!ng Cruise. Eslea could have waited until I independently came out with this, but he decided to beat me to it…!

I am writing to endorse your enthusiastic recommendation (in last week's Swift) of Sam Harris's "End of Faith," but also to sound a note of caution. When Harris rails against theistic religions, End of Faith is a terrific read and a powerful argument, but when in the final chapter he turns approvingly towards Eastern mysticism and spirituality, he veers into woo-woo territory.

A warning sign appears very early in the book: in his introductory chapter (page 41) he states that

There also seems to be a body of data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena, much of which has been ignored by mainstream science.

Turn to note 18 on page 232 to see his justification for this statement, and you will find an astonishing paragraph citing books by Dean Radin and Rupert Sheldrake as evidence. Harris also notes that Ian Stevenson's work (on children supposedly born with memories of past lives) "may be credible evidence for reincarnation."

Dr. Eslea, I ask that you bear in mind this fact: if the Radin and Sheldrake declarations were really true and properly derived, then they would stand as good evidence for the reality of parapsychology, and would incidentally make the writers eligible for the JREF million-dollar prize. As we know, Sheldrake has directly refused to apply for that prize, and Radin has made the same decision by choosing to ignore it. The problem here as I see it, is that Sam Harris needs to be better informed on this subject; if he’d had the same experience of parapsychology that he has of religion, he would not – I’m sure – have cited this work as conclusive. Dr. Eslea continues:

It seems to me that Harris's own experiences of meditation, which he describes in the book, have convinced him that consciousness extends outside the body. He believes in the "interconnectedness of the universe," and so accepts, largely uncritically, any apparently scientific evidence that supports his view. Needless to say, this rather undermines his academic credibility. So by all means enjoy End of Faith as an anti-theism diatribe, but if you ever meet Sam Harris, have a word with him about parapsychology!

Oh, I will, Mike, I will! Only now do I understand a certain coolness I’ve experienced in Sam’s attitude toward me, and I now think that it can be entirely explained by his romance with woo-woo that you have pointed out. I’ll add that only recently he has expressed his rejection of the cattle mutilation stories and of astrology, so he’s reachable. But then, I don’t think that either Radin or Sheldrake ever endorsed these notions… Or did they…?


Derevirn
Posts: 32
Joined: 2006-08-14
User is offlineOffline
Harris argues about

Harris argues about Meditation and "mysticism" put in a rational framework, which is very possible. He is open to psychic phenomena but I don't recall The End of Faith saying anything about reincarnation.

Saying there can't be morality without God,
is like saying there can't be presents without Santa Claus!


floatingegg
Posts: 73
Joined: 2006-06-01
User is offlineOffline
Despite being a fan of Sam

Despite being a fan of Sam Harris's work, I am troubled by some of his statements. Even when given an opportunity to clarify on Infidel Guy, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. Of course, I can say the same thing about some board members here, on IIDB, and on the JREF forums. We're not all consistent on every issue.


Derevirn
Posts: 32
Joined: 2006-08-14
User is offlineOffline
Well sure, I didn't like

Well sure, I didn't like what he said about psychic phenomena either, but that psychologist totally misunderstood him.

Saying there can't be morality without God,
is like saying there can't be presents without Santa Claus!


Derevirn
Posts: 32
Joined: 2006-08-14
User is offlineOffline
I sent an e-mail to notify

I sent an e-mail to notify him about that newsletter... let's see what his response is.


Angelic_Atheist
Silver Member
Angelic_Atheist's picture
Posts: 264
Joined: 2006-04-06
User is offlineOffline
I am glad this topic was raised.

This may slightly reduce his credibility among those of us who have dismissed all supernatural means, but it gives him a connection to the theists. I wouldn't underestimate that connection if I were you.

We should not dismiss something just because someone says. We must investigate for ourselves, that which we can.
I have little doubt that Mr. Harris will eventually give up those supernatural beliefs. We are all (hopefully) growing and changing, and Mr. Harris is no exception.

To accept or dismiss something based solely on what an authority figure says is what children and theists do, not freethinkers.

We must favor verifiable evidence over private feeling. Otherwise we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who would obscure the truth.
~ Richard Dawkins


Derevirn
Posts: 32
Joined: 2006-08-14
User is offlineOffline
I have dismissed psychic

I have dismissed psychic phenomena after much research (I used to read magazines about such things). I got fed up with all the con artists like Uri Geller and I am now pretty sure that it's impossible to do such things... still, telepathy is probably the most plausible of the supernatural claims. It's like WiFi. Eye-wink

Saying there can't be morality without God,
is like saying there can't be presents without Santa Claus!


floatingegg
Posts: 73
Joined: 2006-06-01
User is offlineOffline
Angelic_Atheist wrote:This

Angelic_Atheist wrote:
This may slightly reduce his credibility among those of us who have dismissed all supernatural means, but it gives him a connection to the theists. I wouldn't underestimate that connection if I were you.

Can you explain how this type of connection can be considered positive?

Quote:

We should not dismiss something just because someone says. We must investigate for ourselves, that which we can.
I have little doubt that Mr. Harris will eventually give up those supernatural beliefs. We are all (hopefully) growing and changing, and Mr. Harris is no exception.

That's a good point, but what makes you think that we're dismissing psychic phenomena without investigating it? You didn't ask us if we've investigated psychic phenomena, so how can you possibly know?

Quote:
To accept or dismiss something based solely on what an authority figure says is what children and theists do, not freethinkers.

Not all children dismiss something based on what an authority figure says, and I'm sure you can find exceptions in the theist community as well. We don't need the influence of other people to believe weird things.


Angelic_Atheist
Silver Member
Angelic_Atheist's picture
Posts: 264
Joined: 2006-04-06
User is offlineOffline
There are exceptions to

There are exceptions to virturally every rule, and I was speaking in general terms. My opinion was based on observations of the people around me.

Perhaps someone else who has noticed the difference in communication between theists and theist/atheist conversations can explain it.

I never said I know you or anyone else is not examining information that comes their way. It was a general reminder to those who may be lapsing. If anyone took what I said personally, perhaps its time to reexamine their methods.

Regarding the blind faith of children and theists. I was referring to young children who lack the ability to critically examine, and theists who swallow what their preachers feed them without question.

We must favor verifiable evidence over private feeling. Otherwise we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who would obscure the truth.
~ Richard Dawkins


floatingegg
Posts: 73
Joined: 2006-06-01
User is offlineOffline
I wonder if children do lack

I wonder if children do lack the ability to critically examine.