Sam Harris

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Sam Harris

Postby 24HourNut » Tue Jun 01, 2010 8:05 pm

I dig this guy. Here he is being interviewed by Maher, getting into some cool stuff regarding reason, religion, and what the harder issues are:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4erANdR9Yw

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Re: Sam Harris

Postby Brian » Tue Jun 01, 2010 8:29 pm

24HourNut wrote:I dig this guy. Here he is being interviewed by Maher, getting into some cool stuff regarding reason, religion, and what the harder issues are:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4erANdR9Yw




I think he makes some good points. However, I think he also makes a fundamental error: He assumes that people are consistent in their lives. I've known many people who I consider to be very intelligent theists, and I think they pulled it off by compartmentalizing. Harris and Mahr both assume that everything in the universe is subject to scientific scrutiny. But that's a belief, not a factual statement. One could just as easily (and with some justification) come to the conclusion that there are some things which will never be subject to scientific scrutiny (at least, not empirical scientific scrutiny). Two examples that spring to mind are the ultimate creation of the universe (pre-Big Bang) and death. We can't even clearly define the line between what it means to be either alive or dead, much less say anything meaningful about the experience of death itself. We've got a number of theories about what consciousness is, but no one's been able to pin down its origin and describe it. Harris and Mahr look at what we know empirically and conclude that that is the sum total of what reasonable people should believe. That's a defensible position, but it's not the only defensible position.
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Re: Sam Harris

Postby 24HourNut » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:00 am

I didn't see how his point depended upon people being consistent. Also, I think not only can the creation of the Universe and death be scrutinized by science, they have been and are continuing to be scrutinized. I also don't think something unable to be scrutinized by science rendered any of his points invalid or less true.
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Re: Sam Harris

Postby Brian » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:17 am

24HourNut wrote:I didn't see how his point depended upon people being consistent. Also, I think not only can the creation of the Universe and death be scrutinized by science, they have been and are continuing to be scrutinized. I also don't think something unable to be scrutinized by science rendered any of his points invalid or less true.


Harris talks about religious beliefs "inevitably" finding their way into other parts of a person's life. He seems to think you can't be a good scientist and believe "religious bullshit" as he calls it.

One of the things he mentions in the video is that you can't "apply enough pressure" to religious ideas in our society. What he's calling for there is a license to discriminate against those who have religious beliefs. In his world, the fact that someone believes in God disqualifies them from being a neuroscientist. I see that as a huge problem.
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Re: Sam Harris

Postby 24HourNut » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:25 pm

You definitely want scientists who don't subscribe to the bad and unsupportable ideas of religion guiding them and influencing what they seek out and help society with. Harris' point is well taken regarding the negative influence of that kind of dogma. Brilliant people were prevented from exploring how the Universe works in the past due to religion, its agents, its ideas and fantasies ...

I don't think he is saying it should disqualify you, I think he is saying the sooner we purge ourselves of this Iron Age bullshit and stop giving a free pass to religion by not calling it out for what it is, we prevent better progress and enable the kind of negative stuff that is fueled and initiated by religious dogma, superstition, etc.
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Re: Sam Harris

Postby Brian » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:12 pm

24HourNut wrote:You definitely want scientists who don't subscribe to the bad and unsupportable ideas of religion guiding them and influencing what they seek out and help society with. Harris' point is well taken regarding the negative influence of that kind of dogma. Brilliant people were prevented from exploring how the Universe works in the past due to religion, its agents, its ideas and fantasies ...


Harris's point is well-taken if scientists actually are guided by these ideas. My point is that the more successful religious scientists aren't guided by them. The large majority of people in the United States are some form of Christian. And yet, we still have computers, spacecraft, genetic engineering, and astronomical investigation. It's simply false that religious belief necessarily impedes scientific progress wherever it pops up.

Now you can certainly show examples where religion does stand in conflict with science, but I think the line is a little blurrier than Harris admits. Where conception begins isn't just a religious issue. It's an ethical issue. Where you have a genetically distinct human genome, you necessarily have a human being. Killing that human being is an ethical question, if ever I saw one.

[quote="24HourNut"}
I don't think he is saying it should disqualify you, I think he is saying the sooner we purge ourselves of this Iron Age bullshit and stop giving a free pass to religion by not calling it out for what it is, we prevent better progress and enable the kind of negative stuff that is fueled and initiated by religious dogma, superstition, etc.[/quote]

Listen to what he says starting at 6:00. It appears to me that he doesn't believe that people of faith can perform real science, because they are inevitably clouded by religious dogma. Now, I think that faith can cloud your reason as to science (e.g., I don't think it's possible to be a Creationist and a paleontologist at the same time), but it's not inevitably the case, or we'd all still be living in mud brick houses.
"I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower
Makes you talk a little lower
About the things you could not show her."

-- Counting Crows, "A Long December"
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Re: Sam Harris

Postby 24HourNut » Thu Jun 03, 2010 7:30 am

Our beliefs influence how and what we decide to research. It influences us on many levels - it's our world view. Go back in time and it is even more extreme due to the punishment you stood to face if even caught researching something against the local religion's view. We don't want our scientists to believe in the stork theory of life, the tooth fairy, or Santa Clause ... never mind that the End of Times is coming any minute due to Biblical prophecy, or that people go to Heaven or Hell when dead, or that a magical God intervenes to save people from hospital beds with miracles. We want sane, rational, mature, objective minds free from superstition and magical fairy tales.
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Re: Sam Harris

Postby Brian » Thu Jun 03, 2010 9:02 am

24HourNut wrote:Our beliefs influence how and what we decide to research. It influences us on many levels - it's our world view. Go back in time and it is even more extreme due to the punishment you stood to face if even caught researching something against the local religion's view. We don't want our scientists to believe in the stork theory of life, the tooth fairy, or Santa Clause ... never mind that the End of Times is coming any minute due to Biblical prophecy, or that people go to Heaven or Hell when dead, or that a magical God intervenes to save people from hospital beds with miracles. We want sane, rational, mature, objective minds free from superstition and magical fairy tales.


That's exactly the attitude I'm talking about, Frank. There are many people of faith who do good scientific work. Copernicus & Galileo weren't atheists. Neither was Pascal. In more modern times, you've got Einstein who believed in a god of some sort. For him, it wasn't a personal God, but it was still a creator.

People aren't nearly as consistent with their beliefs as Harris appears to think.
"I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower
Makes you talk a little lower
About the things you could not show her."

-- Counting Crows, "A Long December"
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Re: Sam Harris

Postby 24HourNut » Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:46 pm

I am sure there are many people who believe in organized religion that do good work, but that doesn't mean it isn't a negative or an obstacle enough times to warrant wishing it gone.

People don't have to be consistent with their beliefs in order to properly identify religious delusion as a negative.
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Re: Sam Harris

Postby Brian » Thu Jun 03, 2010 1:12 pm

24HourNut wrote:I am sure there are many people who believe in organized religion that do good work, but that doesn't mean it isn't a negative or an obstacle enough times to warrant wishing it gone.


I'm certainly not saying that it's never an obstacle. What I'm saying is that science only conflicts with religion for a certain subset of people. Other people, though, incorporate religion (or at least, their perception of it) quite nicely into scientific inquiry. Einstein called physics an attempt to read the mind of God.

24HourNut wrote:People don't have to be consistent with their beliefs in order to properly identify religious delusion as a negative.


But if people aren't consistent with their beliefs, it's much less of a problem than Harris believes. If you can believe in an omnipotent creator of the universe, but still study the Big Bang, your religious beliefs almost become moot.
"I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower
Makes you talk a little lower
About the things you could not show her."

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