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← Sam Harris's Guide to Nearly Everything - review

Sam Harris's Guide to Nearly Everything - review - Comments

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 1 by Cook@Tahiti

Here we go again...

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 18:33:21 UTC | #595575

locutus7's Avatar Comment 2 by locutus7

Atran attacked Harris during the early Beyond Belief conferences 2006/07 (videos on The Science Network -TSN), and his criticism, as I recall, was that only Scott Atran posssessed the credentials to truly understand Jihadists. Rude AND unpersuasive. I sensed that Atran had an ax to grind then, and this article did nothing to change my opinion.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 18:34:35 UTC | #595577

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 3 by KRKBAB

Damn- I read a lot (not all) of the silly article before I noticed it was written by Scot Atran!

He says that "few" of the 100-150 million deaths in the 20th century wars had religious motives! total garbage

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 18:36:53 UTC | #595578

AxePilot's Avatar Comment 4 by AxePilot

Clearly Scott isn't a Sam fan...

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 18:52:01 UTC | #595585

Sajanas's Avatar Comment 5 by Sajanas

Oh yeah, I had a long discussion about with someone on WEIT about how Artan proved Dawkins and Harris 'wrong', but the poster was unable to do anything other than refer me to his book. I found it quite hilarious how people can hold up someone else's viewpoints without being able to clearly summarize them.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 19:03:20 UTC | #595598

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 6 by bendigeidfran

I've read Mill and Hume but not Sam. I've watched him on youtube etc for hours and I think he's gone mad. It only matters because he was once the sharpest wit in town. The funniest horseman. I hope someone posts some vintage Sam.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 19:08:44 UTC | #595602

BigNoboDaddy's Avatar Comment 7 by BigNoboDaddy

Could not bring myself to click the continue reading link. This comment will suffice.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 19:13:54 UTC | #595607

locutus7's Avatar Comment 8 by locutus7

Sajanas,

Let me help you by summarizing Atran:

1) New atheists are misguided

2) Islam is not bad, just a very few bad apples cause the problems, and NOT for religious reasons.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 19:33:16 UTC | #595621

Alovrin's Avatar Comment 9 by Alovrin

Mr Atran certainly seems to have a few bones to pick over with Sam Harris.

Oh look there's a crazy person rummaging thru a pile of old bones......... Hi Scott

All the world’s cultures have religious myths that are attention arresting because they are counterintuitive. Still, people in all cultures also recognize these beliefs to be counterintuitive, whether or not they are religious believers.

Religious myths are counterintuitive? eh? They are "attention arresting"? Is that what anthropologists call it nowadays! I would say, in my unscientific analysis, very intuitive driven, just because they happen to be fantastical doesn't mean they weren't intuitively dreamt up.

In our society, Catholics and non-Catholics alike are manifestly aware of the difference between Christ’s body and ordinary wafers and between Christ’s blood and ordinary wine. Catholics are no more crazed cannibals for their religious beliefs than Muslims are sick with sex when they invoke the pretty girls floating in paradise.

Who knows what goes on behind the civilised veneer of anyone. It is these strange little everyday rituals we take for granted that need to be put under the full glare of some kind of rigourous scrutiny. And conclusions drawn as to the efficacy or not of their practice. Their effect in concert with our psychology is not all wine and innocent fantasies of prepubescent sex.

According to Harris, Dawkins and other prominent neoatheists (Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett round out the self-styled “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

I thought they were given this title somewhat derisively by opponents. But what do I know. Anyway I read it and thought Ho hum. In trying to condemn Harris's faltering efforts toward a science of morality, for lack of a better term, Atran just comes across as a ...well.... crazy person picking over old bones bleached dry in the desert heat. Maybe he's got sunstroke.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 19:36:34 UTC | #595624

JHJEFFERY's Avatar Comment 10 by JHJEFFERY

I thought I tolerated Scott Atran. I seem to recall citing him in a paper I wrote a few years back. But there is an undercurrent of bile in this "book review" that is unwarranted and makes the review ultimately unsuccessful. To put it shorter--he's trying too hard.

But even forgetting over two millennia of unresolved philosophical debate about morality, there are huge problems with utilitarianism,

Two millinia? Where did he get that? Does he think that debates about morality started with Jesus? I would think they have been with us since before we were homo sapiens.

(think early Christianity, which won over the marginalized masses of the Roman Empire through charitable works, versus the militarized Christianity that developed after Constantine’s conversion).

Horribly wrong here. He should stick to his own field. Biggest estimate of all historians is that less than 15% (most estimate lower) of the Roman world was Christian when Constantine converted--"won over the marginalized masses?" I think not.

Universal monotheisms created two new concepts in human thought: individual free choice and collective humanity. People not born into these religions could, in principle, choose to belong (or remain outside) without regard to ethnicity, tribe or territory.

This statement simply cannot be taken seriously and proves my initial assertion that there is more than a book review going on here. Let him tell this crap to Servetus or Galileo or anyone stretched on the rack or burned to death. The comment is so far off base I wonder if there is not a misprint here somewhere. Either that or, more likely, some personal animosity.

I candor, I have not yet read Sam's book, but I have heard him and others speak of it and Atran seems to believe that Sam has set the bar higher than I think he intended. As I understand him, Sam is merely suggesting that science may, in the future, should we make sufficient effort in this regard, have something to say about human morality. I think Sam's bar is set quite low for the present.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 19:40:13 UTC | #595626

tuxedobyrd's Avatar Comment 11 by tuxedobyrd

This guy's negative review completely backfires due to it's heavy use of quotations. I was strike by Sam's clarity and reason even in the quotes that were supposed display the opposite. E.g., 'In this world view, “Only a rational understanding of human well-being will allow billions of us to coexist peacefully, converging on the same social, political, economic, and environmental goals.”' Wow! Sam must be a total nutcase to believe that!

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 20:32:22 UTC | #595658

MostlyHarmless's Avatar Comment 12 by MostlyHarmless

(think early Christianity, which won over the marginalized masses of the Roman Empire through charitable works, versus the militarized Christianity that developed after Constantine’s conversion).

Horribly wrong here. He should stick to his own field. Biggest estimate of all historians is that less than 15% (most estimate lower) of the Roman world was Christian when Constantine converted--"won over the marginalized masses?" I think not.

There's also the fact that it had little to do with charitable works. Gibbon thought the primary reason was due to the convincing evidence behind it. His secondary reasons were Christians inflexible zeal, the doctrine of a future life, the miraculous power the Church held, Christian morals and the nature of the Christian republic.

Bertrand Russell agreed with all his secondary points bar the matter of a future life, due this to also being taught by the Orphics and later Greek philosophers.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 20:53:03 UTC | #595668

JHJEFFERY's Avatar Comment 13 by JHJEFFERY

Comment 12 by MostlyHarmless

Bertrand Russell agreed with all his secondary points bar the matter of a future life, due this to also being taught by the Orphics and later Greek philosophers.

Funny enough. I just finished rereading Russell's Why I am Not a Christian yesterday and was struck by the convergence of his thinking with Sam's.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 21:09:44 UTC | #595675

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 14 by Peter Grant

The Bertrand Russell quote was the only part of this review I liked. Added his "The Impact of Science on Society" to the feed. Here's another good bit:

I do not pretend that birth control is the only way in which population can be kept from increasing. There are others, which, one must suppose, opponents of birth control would prefer. War, as I remarked a moment ago, has hitherto been disappointing in this respect, but perhaps bacteriological war may prove more effective. If a Black Death could be spread throughout the world once in every generation survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full. There would be nothing in this to offend the consciences of the devout or to restrain the ambitions of nationalists. The state of affairs might be somewhat unpleasant, but what of that? Really high-minded people are indifferent to happiness, especially other people's.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 21:14:25 UTC | #595676

Piero's Avatar Comment 15 by Piero

From the article:

Harris’s proposal to ban Islam (and wage war on it, if necessary) to stop suicide bombing would be terribly ineffective and wasteful if put into practice, ...

WTF? Where has Sam Harris proposed to ban Islam? It would have been nice to have a quotation supporting this drivel.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 21:28:34 UTC | #595683

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 16 by robotaholic

@ JHJEFFERY agreed.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 21:28:38 UTC | #595684

dbmartin's Avatar Comment 17 by dbmartin

Scott Atran may be helpful if you must negotiate with a muslim in a dangerous situation. He does know how to reframe islamic sacred values through reinterpretation. They might actually listen to him.

If your job is to protect people from islamists, dont ask Scott who they are or where they might be. He oft proclaims that madrassas, islamic schools, do not produce murderers or suicide bombers. The dead victims in India, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa would have liked to know who they were, earlier.

His views on Sam Harris or his book or his philosophy are irrelevant.

dwain

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 21:49:19 UTC | #595700

BaltimoreOriole's Avatar Comment 18 by BaltimoreOriole

Everyone knows that Atran and Harris are bitter enemies. Reasonable people can disagree with Harris, but this piece is simply a hatchet job, full of snark (eg, "newly minted Ph.D"). Responsible publications don't give angry people a chance to settle personal scores with their enemies under the guise of a "review".

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 22:17:19 UTC | #595714

BounderCad's Avatar Comment 19 by BounderCad

Look at this quote, from page 6:

William Shockley, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who invented the transistor, argued that “the application of scientific ingenuity to the solution of human problems” clearly and undeniably demonstrated that the civil-rights movement, by empowering inferior races, would lead to an overall degradation of human intelligence; and Dawkins himself wonders whether science should seriously study prospects for banning fairy tales, like Harry Potter, if they involved “bringing up children to believe in spells and wizards.

Dawkins has proposed banning fairy tales? Is there any truth to this at all?

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 22:39:30 UTC | #595724

Monkey Man's Avatar Comment 20 by Monkey Man

@ 19 BounderCad

No. Here are the quotes that got the woomeisters all riled up.

"'I think it is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know,' he told More4 News." "Looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research."

I think that's a great idea. We shouldn't underestimate children. We should fill their minds with as much science and rationality as they can handle at every age. Leaving them alone with pure entertainment seems lazy and wrong.

I don't think any rational person is for banning fantasy! This guy says he's for banning Harry Potter but Richard is all for teaching the bible (because you can't understand literature or culture without it apparently) so I think we can chock this guy up to being a crank.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 23:00:42 UTC | #595736

Monkey Man's Avatar Comment 21 by Monkey Man

Comment 6 by bendigeidfran :

I've read Mill and Hume but not Sam. I've watched him on youtube etc for hours and I think he's gone mad. It only matters because he was once the sharpest wit in town. The funniest horseman. I hope someone posts some vintage Sam.

Who cares what you think? Why do people make comments like these without explaining themselves? If he's gone insane than so has Dawkins and Shermer because they are extremely supportive of Harris. Have you read his replies to his critics?

To me, it seems like it's the philosophers are tripping all over themselves criticizing things that he's not even saying or implying just because he's stepping into their territory. I like Sam Harris because I was already thinking his way before the book came out, probably because I've never engaged in philosophy because it's usually useless, unless you're Dan Dennet of course.

"Thus, to a great extent, the uncertainty of philosophy is more apparent than real: those questions which are already capable of definite answers are placed in the sciences, while those only to which, at present, no definite answer can be given, remain to form the residue which is called philosophy."

Bertrand Russell

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 23:15:27 UTC | #595743

JS1685's Avatar Comment 22 by JS1685

"...lies from truth."

Hmm. Without having thought too hard about it, I'd say Atran has, at this early point, already started barking up the wrong tree. Does Harris characterize his project as a method for discerning between objective truths and deliberate lies? Not that I've heard. On top of which, lies/truth seems to me to be a false dichotomy, which observation Harris would probably also recognize. Harris never claims to make morality simple or easy.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 23:44:41 UTC | #595747

ukantic's Avatar Comment 23 by ukantic

Comment 17 by dbmartin :

If your job is to protect people from islamists, dont ask Scott who they are or where they might be. He oft proclaims that madrassas, islamic schools, do not produce murderers or suicide bombers.

Maybe not in the UK, but in other parts of the world they certainly do. Ex:

"Nearing Peshawar, we passed perhaps the largest religious school in Pakistan,the Darul Uloom Haqqania, which has produced hundreds of recruits to bin Laden's cause and is sometimes described as the Harvard of the Taliban movement,"

Holy War - Peter Bergen p7.

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 23:58:23 UTC | #595753

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 24 by Marc Country

Page one shows me that the reviewer doesn't get it, and then I see there are six more pages! Good grief!

Fri, 25 Feb 2011 00:18:15 UTC | #595764

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 25 by Marc Country

The author breaks bad right off the hop, but this is the line that REALLY made me gag, from the first page:

"Harris leads the charge in ways that Russell, a scientific thinker of great insight and nuance (albeit with a fundamentally flawed view of how children learn language and knowledge of the world), would not likely have ventured. "

This assertion is apparently pulled out of the author's ass... Russell "would not have ventured" in these ways? When would he not have done this, exactly? If he were alive today? What on earth makes the author so sure of this supposed likelihood?

Harry Frankfurt wrote a book on this kind of thinking, that sits between truth and lies: "On Bullshit". According to Frankfurt's thesis, it is bullshit, not outright lies, that are the worst threat to society.

Fri, 25 Feb 2011 00:38:57 UTC | #595779

Toronto Atheist's Avatar Comment 26 by Toronto Atheist

. . . has hobbled the West in its generational war against radical Islam; and it may yet refashion the societies of Europe into a new Caliphate.”

I really wish Sam would stop with this "Caliphate" nonsense. It's all based on absurd unscientific projections about Muslim birthrates, motivated by irrational fear. Islamic fundamentalists have certainly become a problem but predictions of the Muslim takeover of Europe cannot be believed by a rational person.

Fri, 25 Feb 2011 02:15:25 UTC | #595805

DELETED_ACCOUNT_1ST_AMENDEMENT_TRUMPS_ALL's Avatar Comment 27 by DELETED_ACCOUNT_1ST_AMENDEMENT_TRUMPS_ALL

As philosopher John Gray of the London School of Economics convincingly argues, it is universal forms of monotheism, such as Christianity and Islam, that merged Hebrew tribal belief in one God with Greek faith in universal laws applicable to the whole of creation that originated the inclusive concept of Humanity in the first place.

Oh really? Let me see if I have this right. Christians and Muslims did not envy to the point of plagiarizing the brash brutality of the Maccabees fighting battles to keep Jerusalem from becoming a Greek city once again, steamrolling Hellenism and Hellenistic Jews right out of Judea, restoring a theocracy and priest control of society, replacing philosophy and reason and all other rival sects with one dominant, unquestionable Cult of Yahweh, and otherwise expunging anything and everything Greek and humanistic from the territory, but rather they only impassively adopted the good, wholesome parts of Hebrew tribalism into some larger, brand-new, warm and fuzzy, hug and include everyone, happy, smiley, humanist project they dreamed up first before everyone else?

Did I get that straight? And this was on planet Earth that this supposedly took place? Right here? Terra firma? The planet we all live on, right? Not an exoplanet or something?

Fri, 25 Feb 2011 03:50:47 UTC | #595824

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 28 by DocWebster

Comment 2 by locutus7

I watched that video and you could tell he felt superior to the Bourgeoisie who were still stuck on that silly evil religion thing while He alone had, with his superior intellect, sussed out the true if somewhat obscure basis for Muslims turning homicidal, Soccer.

Fri, 25 Feb 2011 04:44:45 UTC | #595837

Steve Hanson's Avatar Comment 29 by Steve Hanson

I suppose if you're biased as fuck, and have a personal grudge against Sam Harris, you might feel like expressing yourself in that way, trying to put words in his mouth and such. Like the people who don't seem to bother to actually read The God Delusion before speaking out against it.

Fri, 25 Feb 2011 05:15:34 UTC | #595840

satan augustine's Avatar Comment 30 by satan augustine

Comment 6 by bendigeidfran I've read Mill and Hume but not Sam. I've watched him on youtube etc for hours and I think he's gone mad. It only matters because he was once the sharpest wit in town. The funniest horseman. I hope someone posts some vintage Sam.

I suggest reading the book before making a diagnosis of madness in Sam. Also, Atran's article misrepresents Sam's argument, builds a strawman, and claims that Sam offers no science in his book which is utter bullshit. Most of the science was in the endnotes. Maybe Atran couldn't be bothered to read them. And it's quite obvious he has a ax to grind with Sam.

Fri, 25 Feb 2011 05:50:29 UTC | #595849