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Sam Harris

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Sam Harris is a neuroscientist, author, proponent of scientific scepticism, Ben Stiller look-alike, and founder of Project Reason, a charitable foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and values in society.[1] He is best known for his books The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The Moral Landscape. Harris is a prominent face in the so-called new atheism movement, along with fellow atheists Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens, the "four horsemen." Of the four, his works are probably the most difficult to recommend to others for reasons pertaining to tone and his prose is by far the least spontaneously readable or enjoyable of the group.

Harris has been caught citing notorious peddlers of parapsychology such as Rupert Sheldrake and Dean Radin. He takes a range of alleged paranormal phenomena more seriously than do most scientists.[2]


[edit] Religion

Harris is intolerant of religious belief, and has a strong hatred of Islam in particular. He believes that ending religion would do more good than ending rape.[3]

From this perspective, rape is a crime that one man commits against the honor of another; the woman is merely Shame’s vehicle, and often culpably acquiescent—being all blandishments and guile and winking treachery. According to God, if the victim of a rape neglects to scream loudly enough, she should be stoned to death as an accessory to her own defilement (Deuteronomy 22:24).

[edit] Project Reason

See the main article on this topic: Project Reason

Project Reason is described on its website as "..a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. The foundation draws on the talents of prominent and creative thinkers in a wide range of disciplines to encourage critical thinking and erode the influence of dogmatism, superstition, and bigotry in our world." Its advisory board includes many well known scientists, sceptics and atheists, including the following:

[edit] The End of Faith

In The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason Harris argues that unjustified beliefs, specifically religious beliefs, need to be challenged. He defines a belief as a "lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person's life."[5]p. 12

He dedicates a section of the book to what he sees as the problem with Islam.[5]p. 109 He considers Islam to be a special case, due to the amount of text in the Qur'an that would need to be ignored for it to be a truly peaceful religion. He uses the results of a 2002 survey by the Pew Research Center which posed a question to Muslims of whether they felt suicide bombing or other violence against civilian targets could be justified in the defense of Islam, which revealed shockingly high support in many countries.[5]p. 125[6] Elsewhere he sees Islam as violent, anachronistic and opposed to important Western values, notably free speech. Harris accuses Western liberals of being more concerned with political correctness and with avoiding accusations of racism than with defending Western freedom.[7]

Ironically, at the end of the book Harris seems to show a greater respect for Eastern religions than for Western religions. He admits that Asia has had a fair share of "false prophets and charlatan saints," but that Asian cultures have also developed some wondrous insights into consciousness by direct experimentation with meditation.[5]p. 215-217 He also argues that this spirituality or mysticism does not need to be attached to a single dogma and can be experienced and experimented with in a scientific manner.[5]p. 217 This is part of a larger argument which he makes in the book: it needs to be acknowledged that spiritual experiences can be experience regardless of religious belief, and they are not evidence of any claims other than the experiences themselves. This makes mysticism a rational enterprise that can make claims about experiences and consciousness without attempting to attach them to claims about the universe as a whole, because it is such a powerful part of the human mind, but strong will to believe in something does not mean truth.[5]p. 221

[edit] The Moral Landscape

In The Moral Landscape, Harris argues that science can provide a system of morality.[8] He was notably savaged for this, within both the philosophical and the atheist communities. Specifically, he was criticized for breaking Hume's law and straw manning ethical and moral philosophies.[9] Harris has responded to these criticisms.[10]

[edit] Neuroscience

Harris has conducted research on the neuroscience of religious belief.[11]

[edit] Let's play "Harris or Malkin?"

Harris' stance on Islam is often indistinguishable from certain batshit ideologues. See if you can tell the difference:

Harris claims that these quotations have been taken out of context.[16] We've linked them in the footnotes, you can judge for yourself.

[edit] Bibliography

  • The End of Faith (2004)
  • Letter to a Christian Nation (2006)
  • The Moral Landscape (2010)
  • Lying (2011)
  • Free Will (2012)
  • Waking Up, A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion (September 2014)

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. The Project Reason website
  2. Sam Harris: A Man of Faith? The Skeptic's Dictionary newsletter #74
  3. The Temple Of Reason
  4. God’s Hostages
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Harris, Sam (2004). The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. W.W. Norton & Company.
  6. Considering that these countries are repressive theocracies where these thoughts are tailored, the reaction should be "duh."
  7. The Reality of Islam
  8. The TED talk based on the book
  9. See the reviews by Kwame Anthony Appiah; Scott Atran; Ophelia Benson; Russell Blackford; Robert Todd Carroll; Troy Jollimore; Jackson Lears; Kenan Malik; Thomas Nagel; H. Allen Orr; Massimo Pigliucci; Josh Rosenau
  10. Harris's Response to Critics
  11. Harris et al. The Neural Correlates of Religious and Non-Religious Belief. PLoS ONE 4(10)
  12. It's Real, It's Scary, It's a Cult of Death, Sam Harris, Los Angeles Times
  13. What Obama Got Wrong About the Mosque, Sam Harris, The Daily Beast
  14. Mired in a Religious War, Sam Harris, Washington Times
  15. In Defense of Profiling, Sam Harris, samharris.org blog
  16. RESPONSE TO CONTROVERSY, Sam Harris, samharris.org blog
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