Sample clip of my debate with an
atheist on the issue of morality.
Find the whole debate at this link
Sam Harris “The Moral Landscape” aka “The End of Morality”, part 2 of 2
In keeping with his media manipulation savviness—whereby he and his fellow New Atheists have become instant celebrities—Sam Harris sent out an email stating:
While I would never presume to recommend that you buy a copy of my new book, please know that IF you intend to do so, you could help it come to the attention of many more readers by making your purchase between now and October 10th.
Timing is important because the first week's sales of a book can now determine its future (i.e., how many copies book stores order, whether it appears on best seller lists, etc.)
And please know that taking a moment to review the book on Amazon is also a genuine help.
And if you act now, he will throw in nose-hair clippers for only 5 easy payments of…well, you get the idea.
Keep in mind that this is the same Sam Harris who engaged in a behind the scenes media campaign to encourage people involved in various media forms to besmirch theism (perhaps the anti-Christian show The Office—here and here—took him up on his offer as it is, after all, produced by the atheist Ricky Gervais—see here and here).
So now, finally, to Sam Harris’s on his new book The Moral Landscape: in typical style he begins his article on the issue, The Science of Good and Evil, by doing what? Appealing to reason? Science? What? If you know Sam Harris then you know the answer: emotion.
That is correct, from the get go, he attempts to cause an emotional reaction in you. This way, you form a bond with him; since he is the one that insighted the emotion and since you can certainly agree with him as he refers to the Albanian “tradition of vendetta called ‘Kanun’” according to which the family of a murdered person “can kill any one of his male relatives in reprisal. If a boy has the misfortune of being the son or brother of a murderer, he must spend his days and nights in hiding, forgoing a proper education, adequate health care, and the pleasures of a normal life.”
There it is, typical Sam Harris; get you feeling something real so that any logic that attempts to overturn his argument seems oh so very abstract and ethereal. What is an idea compared to an emotion? One is tangible the other is not. How do you argue against emotion? Keep this in mind as it is a favorite New Atheist tactic. Indeed, within paragraphs he will mention “raping children,” “a 9-year-old girl raped by her stepfather” oh and that the Catholic Church did “not excommunicate a single member of the Third Reich for committing genocide.”
So to the issue, which Sam Harris examples thusly,
Can we say that the Albanians are morally wrong to have structured their society in this way? Is their tradition of blood feud a form of evil? Are their values inferior to our own?
But why does he focus on morality?
Religious thinkers in all faiths, and on both ends of the political spectrum, are united on precisely this point: The defense one most often hears for belief in God is not that there is compelling evidence for His existence, but that faith in Him is the only reliable source of meaning and moral guidance.
Well, this is certainly an overstatement; yet another straw-man and straw-God to be easily knocked down.
Yet, he explains further:
questions about values—about meaning, morality, and life’s larger purpose—are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures. Throughout the book I make reference to a hypothetical space that I call “the moral landscape”—a space of real and potential outcomes whose peaks correspond to the heights of potential well-being and whose valleys represent the deepest possible suffering.
Different ways of thinking and behaving—different cultural practices, ethical codes, modes of government, etc.—will translate into movements across this landscape and, therefore, into different degrees of human flourishing. I’m not suggesting that we will necessarily discover one right answer to every moral question, or a single best way for human beings to live.
Some questions may admit of many answers, each more or less equivalent. However, the existence of multiple peaks on the moral landscape does not make them any less real or worthy of discovery. Nor would it make the difference between being on a peak and being stuck deep in a valley any less clear or consequential.
Did you catch that? Did you note the premise? He goes on to state that “Many people seem to think that equating goodness with ‘well-being’ is philosophically problematic…” yet, this is not what I meant by catching his premise. His premise was “human flourishing.” But why? Perhaps his book The Moral Landscape will tell, perhaps not. But, indeed, why? Why should I be concerned about human flourishing? Because I am human? Well, that is merely speciesism (a prejudice towards my own species and against others).
This is part of why atheistic ethics or morals are an infinite regress of assertions: when they assert that the premise is human flourishing you can ask why? When whatever answer is given is given, you will note that it is another assertion of which you can ask, “Why?” When whatever answer is given is given, you will note that it is another assertion of which you can ask, “Why?” When whatever answer is given is given, you will note that it is another assertion of which you can ask, “Why?” And on it goes down the bottomless rabbit hole (another aspect of why atheist ethics/morals fail is found at this link).
Now, on the issue of there being “no facts without values” Sam Harris states:
Science has always been in the values business. Good science is not the result of scientists abstaining from making value judgments; good science is the result of scientists making their best effort to value principles of reasoning that link their beliefs to reality, through reliable chains of evidence and argument.
The very idea of “objective” knowledge (that is, knowledge acquired through careful observation and honest reasoning) has values built into it, as every effort we make to discuss facts depends upon principles that we must first value (e.g. logical consistency, reliance on evidence, parsimony, etc).
Therefore, or so Sam Harris reasons, since “Science has always been in the values business” with regards to linking beliefs to reality” now scientists will dissect, observe, manipulate and prescribe morality:
Just as there is nothing irrational about valuing human health and seeking to understand it (this is the science of medicine), there is nothing irrational about valuing human well-being more generally and seeking to understand it.
The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
In a God-free universe this makes perfect sense: rid ourselves of “useless eaters,” those whom the scientists declare to be less human than human: the handicapped, the lower races perhaps, etc. Why waste precious resources on malfunctioning bio-organisms who only consume and do not benefit the group? Why waste it on people who do not live lives worth living?
Wait, who is to determine who is living a “life worth living”? Apparently, Sam Harris and his elite class of scientists,
Some cultures will tend to produce lives that are more worth living than others; some political persuasions will be more enlightened than others; and some worldviews will be mistaken in ways that cause needless human misery.
Sam Harris has become a member of the elite class known as “scientist”—all hail!—and for some very odd reason atheism has been correlated with science (“odd” meaning nonsensical and unfounded as I demonstrate here). Now he can urge the pushing of the frontiers of science so as to allow “science” to contain that which he wished it to contain: namely, disproving God and now, prescribing morality as he states that he will,
will change the way we think about the frontiers of science and about the role of science in society. It will also transform the way we think about human happiness and the public good.
Well, we will just have to see of what Sam Harris' book The Moral Landscape actually consists and give it a fair reading even if, in typical style, he smuggles atheism in through the back door of science (actually, he brings it directly into the front door and with no apologies).
It may be republished in part or in its entirety on websites, blogs, or any
print media for whatever purpose (in agreement or in order to criticize it) only as
long as the following conditions are met: