This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

"The Moral Landscape": Why science should shape morality

Thanks to Kim Z for the link

Sam Harris, the notorious atheist, explains his controversial stance on religion -- and his provocative new book

To call Sam Harris a divisive figure is to put it mildly. Harris — along with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens — is considered one of the most influential members of the so-called New Atheism movement, a term that generally refers to nonbelievers who seek a true separation of church and state, civil rights for atheists, and the freedom to openly criticize religious belief.

In his previous book, "Letter to a Christian Nation," Harris aimed to "demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms." In the wake of the book, theologist Madeleine Bunting wrote an article in the Guardian comparing Harris' arguments about Islam to "the kind of argument put forward by those who ran the Inquisition." In a debate about religion on Beliefnet, an exasperated Andrew Sullivan called one of Harris' arguments "a form of intolerance that reminds me of some of the worst aspects of fundamentalism."

His long-awaited new book, "The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values," deals head-on with issues that many atheistic thinkers have been skirting for years. If religion is so bad, where should humans look for a moral authority? The answer, for Harris, is science. Harris defines morality as anything related to the "well-being of conscious creatures." Since many scientific findings have implications for how to maximize well-being, Harris believes scientists should be authorities on moral issues. As Harris sees it, scientists not only have every right to make moral arguments, but should be authorities of the moral realm.

Salon spoke to Harris over the phone about suicide bombers, our hard-wired need for religious faith, and which religions are more objectionable than others.

In this book and others, you are particularly critical of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But what about Eastern religions, such as Buddhism or Hinduism?

I do criticize all religion, but I point out that "religion" is just a word, like "sports." There are many different types of sports, and they don’t necessarily have anything in common. And this same spectrum can be seen among religions. There are religions that are intrinsically peaceful. The greatest example is Jainism, which really is a religion of peace. Nonviolence is its central precept. Then there’s Islam, which is not even remotely a religion of peace, though many people insist that it is. There’s a reason why none of us are lying awake at night worrying about the Jains.

... Read more



Nasa's Curiosity rover zaps Mars rock

Jonathan Amos - BBC News Comments

Pew pew pew pew

Sun Is Roundest Natural Object Known

Dave Mosher - National Geographic Comments

The sun is the roundest natural object ever precisely measured, astronomers say.

Book written in DNA code

Geraint Jones - The Guardian Comments

Scientists who encoded the book say it could soon be cheaper to store information in DNA than in conventional digital devices

Prisoners pitch in to save endangered...

Ed Yong - Nature News Comments

Under the supervision of guards and graduate students, a small group of prisoners is breeding the beautiful orange-and-white insects in a greenhouse outside the prison. They have even carried out research to show what plants the butterfly prefers to lay its eggs on.

U.S. Should Adopt Higher Standards for...

- - Scientific American Comments

Teachers, scientists and policymakers have drafted ambitious new education standards. All 50 states should adopt them

17-year-old girl builds artificial...

John Roach - NBC News Comments

An artificial “brain” built by a 17-year-old whiz kid from Florida is able to accurately assess tissue samples for signs of breast cancer, providing more confidence to a minimally invasive procedure.





Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment