Talk:Sam Harris

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I just want to comment that having a PhD (in neuroscience or anything else) doesn't absolve someone from making Alt-Right arguments or being as stupid as Ben Carson. So insisting on adding the sentence that Harris's arguments are better than Trump because he has a degree that Trump doesn't have doesn't carry any weight and is also a fallacy. The article as it stands shows that he is frequently very poor at logic or doing accurate research once you look past his rhetorical devices and even tone. (talk) 02:08, 13 January 2022 (UTC)

Yes, that's true. It's just that Trump is not really like anyone, much less Harris. Trump is a true stupid person, whose only talent is enslaving other stupid people. Unfortunately, the people who make such comparisons are really not all that smart. Comparing Harris to Trump just makes Trump look better than he is. Get it? This is all about Trump, not Harris. Ariel31459 (talk) 04:03, 13 January 2022 (UTC)
By the way, Ben Carson doesn't have a PhD. The guy who wrote the article making the oomparison, Phil Torres, doesn't have one either. Just another writer trying to make a buck. Also, calling out someone for not having credentials is not a fallacious argument. It is a statement of fact. Uncredentialled people have no authority, is the point. Ariel31459 (talk) 04:12, 13 January 2022 (UTC)
The article you're referring to makes the case that the difference between Harris and Trump is that Trump says the silent part out loud. Harris often frames an argument in the words and language that you'd hear from the Alt-right, such emphasizing that black people, brown people, immigrants, (and especially Muslims) are violent, but he stops an inch short of saying the racist stuff after making sure to carefully lead the listener to the point that they'll reach the conclusion he wants. Those conclusions are invariably edgy, sadistic and illiberal. He often then publishes his violent or nativist conclusions in other mediums so they can fly under the radar of casual critics that don't know what he is doing, knowing full well that his listeners will hunt for and find out what his real conclusions are.
What conclusions has he drawn before that would align him with reactionary politics? If you had read the article you've edited you'd know, but I'll recap.
He concluded talking about the George Floyd protests by demanding more funding for more policing and training that would allow (bad) cops to be even deadlier in black neighborhoods, and that the protesters needed to just go home and trust the cops more. ("Can We Pull Back From the Brink?") He concluded through a decade that we should do everything possible to make it difficult for Muslims to immigrate to western countries while keeping them under constant surveillance and "ethnic profiling" up to the point of re-instituting segregation at airports. "In Defense of Profiling" & "To Profile or Not to Profile?") This would lead to taking away more rights elsewhere later), and would also make explicit racism officially part of policing and the legal system. He straight up wrote "In Defense of Torture," to steer the public conversation to be more accepting of torturing Muslims at Guantanamo Bay. (Which would set precedent to easily torture other scary and dangerous enemies of the state.) He concluded the US should tip its finger in religious favoritism by discriminating against Muslims and not other religious groups so that they wouldn't build a new mosque in Manhatten (even though that the government is not to prohibit religion under the 1st and 14th Amendments.) These are all hard-line positions he has advocated and they're the kind of fascistic positions that you wouldn't be surprised to hear garnering support from Trump, the John Birch society, or a neoconservative from the War on Terror era.
Harris's PhD could be relevant to bring up if he were speaking in his field, but his podcast normally is about current events, politics, and the culture war. It's sad that many people take the political views of a neuroscience major (who is not even a neuroscientist) and elevate them over the opinions of historians, criminologists, and so forth that are much better informed than he is just because he has a PhD in something else. He also thinks he knows better than them because he mediates, is deeply in touch with his mind-body connection, and knows woo-woo. (I couldn't have made this up.) (talk) 06:25, 13 January 2022 (UTC)
Honestly, it's pretty weak section anyway. It's further muddied by the fact that Harris' PhD isn't a real one - it was conferred by a University that's infamous for handing over PhDs to anyone with the money and the public profile (as happens too often, graduate students and post-docs so all the actual work, and someone attaches their name at the end). Using Harris an example of a credentialled individual in contrast to a know-nothing doesn't really work because what Harris holds is basically only one step above an honorary degree from a for-profit college. Queexchthonic murmurings 21:58, 24 January 2022 (UTC)
UCLA is a diploma mill? First I've heard of it. Let's just say that is a minority opinion. You can believe what you want to believe I suppose. I support eliminating the entire section.Ariel31459 (talk) 23:02, 24 January 2022 (UTC)
Not a diploma mill as a whole, but apparently quite free with doctorates when the right people with the right money come asking. I don't doubt significant work was done by Harris, just that it approached the amount of work a PhD generally demands. Annoyingly I can't remember where I read about the problem so I can't link to a discussion. Queexchthonic murmurings 23:12, 24 January 2022 (UTC)
The search for such is not made easier by the results being chock full of angry theists and angrier Harris fanboys spouting gibberish. Queexchthonic murmurings 23:27, 24 January 2022 (UTC)
I have found a few sententious online items aimed at Harris. So far, they have been by persons with fewer real credentials than him. At the end of the day we all make judgements about the intelligence of the people we are want to critique. Harris seems smart enough to me, and educated to a fair degree. But I always want to learn more, when there is more to learn. It perplexes me that some are taken aback to learn educated people are often wrong, especially when they venture outside of their area of expertise. Some distinguished academics think Harris is quite capable for some reason.[1]. I sometimes think Harris is autistic. That may be why I prefer accuracy to ridicule. Ariel31459 (talk) 23:46, 24 January 2022 (UTC)
One criticism I have found that I can't disagree with is that you can't call someone a neuroscientist when they don't do any neuroscience any more. Science is a process, after all. That seems like a bigger rewrite of what we have in the article than what's at issue, though. I confess I find it very hard to be charitable to Harris when so much of what he says is complete bollocks and he's never shown any inclination to admit when he's been wrong. Queexchthonic murmurings 00:00, 25 January 2022 (UTC)
With the PhD section removed is it safe to agree that Sam Harris promoting Charles Murray's arguments as scientifically true are an alt-right talking point, and that spreading this sort of disinformation is something Trump would do? (talk) 19:14, 26 January 2022 (UTC)

Project Reason[edit]

Project Reason died without accomplishing anything of significance, and in hindsight it appears to have just been one of Harris's early brand-building hustles and possibly a money-laundering scheme. I remember when it was being hyped up as a sort of atheist encyclopedia meets the early Intellectual Dark Web, but it didn't materialize and didn't become relevant before Harris quietly closed it. I would suggest pruning the section to a sentence or two and keeping a hyperlink to the separate article on it for details because it already exists. (talk) 19:37, 2 February 2022 (UTC)

Solidarity versus apology.[edit]

I suggest replacing the term "solidarity" with the term "apology." The reasons are obvious enough. Harris clearly apologizes or, tries to point out possible ambiguities in the cases given in the article. While he is certainly not a lawyer, he appears to be an advocate for these mostly disreputable people. That is not the same as solidarity, meaning he is in full support of their points of view or agendas. I think that the fact that he would bother to apologize for those people is troubling and raises doubts as to what his motives may be. However, to be in solidarity with someone is usually over stating the case. "Solidarity" is almost always used in a political context, which is not really apparent here, except to suggest that Harris is a supporter of right wing people and illiberal ideas. Thus the section spins Harris' rhetoric as necessarily in support of extremists. One could likewise spin it as an effort to moderate the sense of panic with which leftists view those on the right acting as social advocates (sometimes as public intellectuals). I am not trying to spin it that way either. He sometimes is an apologist for people we regard as so inexplicably wrong-headed, we use our modern synonyms for "evil" to describe them. UncleKrampus (talk) 17:47, 17 February 2022 (UTC)

I would be fine with that word substitution. (talk) 00:40, 26 February 2022 (UTC)
Other appropriate terms would also be "go to bat for" and "carrying water" etc. Granting unreasonable amounts of benefit of doubt, granting unwarranted weight etc. It's not a strongly committed position that "solidarity" suggests either. --It's-a me, Lgm sigpic.png LeftyGreenMario!(Mod) 01:43, 26 February 2022 (UTC)


Those two quotes put together, at the beginning of the article - I included the other one today - really encapsulate Harris' ideological foundation and intellectual depravity perfectly, imo. I can only hope community will agree.--ʘ ౪ ʘ °°° 16:54, 18 August 2023 (UTC)


Harris is a bigot. This is the guy who defended racial profiling, promotes the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, whitewashes Israeli apartheid, and also promotes racial pseudoscience. Let's not whitewash this article please. Carthage (talk) 21:37, 18 August 2023 (UTC)

Harris is a well respected American intellectual. A small minority on the left don't like him. You can say what you like about him without the insulting intro. "Bigot" is just an empty insult and ironic when used against a reasonable person. Islamic scholars think we are all bigots. Use your words.Ariel31459 (talk) 21:58, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
Arguments from authority are not gonna win you any credit. "Bigot" is a reasonable position to describe someone who, again, pushes for racial pseudoscience and defends racial profiling. Carthage (talk) 22:01, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
How about we stop editing the point of contention until a consensus has been found, please? Carthage (talk) 22:03, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
The fact is, I don't mind facts. Your desire to reduce the article to a series of insults is unacceptable.Ariel31459 (talk) 22:06, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
Except for the point that "bigot" is a factual description of these positions. We don't need a glorified puff-piece either. Carthage (talk) 22:07, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
Also, you're a real cheeky git, ain't ya? "Yes let's wait" after the fourth reversion you've made. You're not sly. "Bigot" was what the article called him before you decided to get on your hobby horse. No one had an issue with it until today. Carthage (talk) 22:09, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
Yes I am. I'm a real asshole when it comes to dealing with assholes. I just noticed the stupid thing. No one is stopping you from making your arguments in the article. It shows bad faith to start out with generic insults.Ariel31459 (talk) 22:14, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
You do realize that edit-warring is against guidelines, right? Also please clarify as to how "bigot" is an unreasonable descriptor for someone with unambiguously bigoted views? Our own article calls him out for these views. Carthage (talk) 22:17, 18 August 2023 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I don't care about this guy, but the article (and the introduction) already covers the accusations of bigotry and support for racialism. There's no need to add an insult in the first phrase of the article. GeeJayKWhere all evil dwells Where every lie is true 22:22, 18 August 2023 (UTC)

Ok, my contention is primarily with the edit-warring and unwarranted removal of content. Carthage (talk) 22:24, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
Insults are not legitimate content. And it takes two to war.Ariel31459 (talk) 22:27, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
So the mentioning of the Bosnian Genocide by predominantly Christian (and not Muslim) perpetrators is an insult and not a rebuttal to Harris' claims? Also, many of our articles contain quotes critical of the figures within them. Even if we were to remove the "bigot" piece, what makes Harris special. Also, while it takes two to war, I was the one who brought it to the talk page in the first place. Carthage (talk) 22:30, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
One of my edits was an addition of content, the other two were reversions of your axe-grinding. Four of your edits were removal of content for no substantial reason and edit-warring. Carthage (talk) 22:32, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
Look, if calling someone what they accurately are bothers you so much (I notice you still refuse to address how defending racial pseudoscience and racial profiling is somehow not bigotry), then just call them a "controversial neuroscientist and author." It's not that fucking hard. Carthage (talk) 22:33, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
I'm going to have to side with Carthage here. There is a slight but important difference between insulting someone and describing them with a negatively connotated yet accurate way. That difference does not vanish because Ariel worships the person being described.-Flandres (talk) 22:37, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
I wouldn't mind calling him controversial at all, but the article already describes him as a bigot and even as alt-right. I think this sort of inflammatory content just makes people close the tab and not read the article, especially since most people just know Harris for the "good" things he did. I also don't think bringing other articles is a Very good argument. My first edit on this site was creating the Walter Block article. I called him a "nutcase". Now I see that it was a mistake. We should stop insulting people and just engage with their ideas. GeeJayKWhere all evil dwells Where every lie is true 22:44, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
I mean, that's fair, but "nutcase" is an ableist insult. "Bigot" is an accurate descriptor. In any case, does anyone object to me reverting the edits and just removing "bigot" while adding "controversial" to the byline? Carthage (talk) 22:47, 18 August 2023 (UTC)

(Ec) Although, granted "nutcase" is ableist while bigot is not. Oh, you just said that. GeeJayKWhere all evil dwells Where every lie is true 22:49, 18 August 2023 (UTC) UTC)

I think the objection to the word “bigot” in the intro to be very dumb, just considering the names of the sections, the link to the alt-right portal, etc. The use of the word “bigot” would be expected by the presentation of the article. It would come off as strange if the word didn’t get used. We include snarky insults of so many different public figures on this site, explicitly do not promote a NPOV, and the sort of audience that would be “put off” by the use of the word “bigot” to describe Harris in the intro would already be put off by the giant “alt right” banner and list of sections. The sort of audience to whom this man appeals to doesn’t actually have much overlap with Ratwiki. We are already decidedly “regressively left” and a group of massive SJW’s in their eyes. - Only Sort of Dumb (talk) 22:55, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
Those are very good points. Yeah, I do too. Even if you think our article is overly critical, it's not in a way that is fallacious. It's all accurate. We do not intend to be uncontroversial, we intend to apply a critical lens to authoritarianism and pseudoscience. Hero worshippers we should not be. And even as critical as we are of Harris, we do go out of our way to point out the constructive work he has done. Carthage (talk) 22:58, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
(Ec) I have a suggestion for Ariel. If you disagree with the bigotry accusations, how about adding content that defends Harris? Like other scientists defending him or even himself. I think it would be more productive than axe off content, since the accusations do exist and I personally don't see we shouldn't cover them. GeeJayKWhere all evil dwells Where every lie is true 23:04, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
I mean I think we may want to assess that recommendation, given “scientist” is pretty broad and Harris doesn’t actually primarily write about science all that much. If Charles Murray or Kevin MacDonald were to give Harris their seal of approval how much would that matter? Maybe those are more obviously egregious examples, but I don’t think the personal opinions of individual scientists actually holds all that much epistemic weight, let alone ethical weight. - Only Sort of Dumb (talk) 23:14, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
(Ec)Also neither Ariel nor UncleKrampus are alt-right as far as I know, so I don't think it's accurate to say that his entre fandom is composed by bigots and edgy alt-right teens. Indeed, I was myself a Dawkins fan before reading our article and now I despise the Guy (back then it wasn't so acerbic as it is today). GeeJayKWhere all evil dwells Where every lie is true 23:17, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
Did anyone make that allegation? - Only Sort of Dumb (talk) 23:26, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
No, but you said that his audience does not overlap with ours, what I contested based on two users that apparently like him. I'd bet there are probably others. Only 40 people or so voted last year, so yeah, there is a relevant demographic here that likes him. GeeJayKWhere all evil dwells Where every lie is true 23:35, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
New Atheism being swallowed by the Intellectual Dark Web is a very prominent criticism of the crowd, I don't think any of the "new atheists" have as much currency as they did. Sam Harris probably would not have been described as a bigot in the mid 2000s, but that was then. Since this Wiki had more of the New Atheism crowd from what I gather at one point, it's not surprising some might fondly remember mainly those days.
My "bird's eye armchair quarterback" of that movement though is that there always was a fair bit of unnecessary asshole posturing with that crowd (eg, it wasn't enough to be atheist, you had to be antitheist), as well as a fair bit of Dunning-Kruger on topics, or even social groups, they weren't as familiar with. Elevatorgate sort of exposed the "atheist sausage party" bare and kind of revealed the "cracks" that eventually widened considerably, as many of the New Atheists post-Elevatorgate started turning against many other movements and groups that weren't white, atheist, and male.
I have no problems with calling Harris a bigot. It's one thing to criticize Islam's overall (as implemented today in most countries) hugely problematic regressive social conservative stances, but whenever I have heard his diatribes, I frankly doubt that Harris has ever even *visited* in an Islamic country whatsoever. Because his views are absurdly cartoonish, showing not even a nugget of understanding about these cultures, and over-focused on Islamic extremism vs. secularism. I doubt he will convince very few actual folks who are Islam.
(And no, in retrospect, the New Atheist crowd's asshole attitude towards Christianity helped nothing regarding Christian fundamentalism either. A little empathy and/or knowing what you are talking about regarding a social group helps a lot; that group had neither.) BobJohnson (talk) 23:44, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
For the record, I don't disagree that he's a bigot either. My point is more about the form of the article, not the substance. Many people come here to see about atheism, some of them are very new and are not aware about what people like Harris and Dawkins did. IMO flaming them in the first sentence is a way to alienate them, not to educate the audience about what these guys did. GeeJayKWhere all evil dwells Where every lie is true 23:58, 18 August 2023 (UTC)
(EC) Regarding the intro, having 'bigot' alongside 'author' and 'neuroscientist' reads strangely, as though it were another profession. The effect is rather comical, so I would at least modify the phrasing. 𝒮𝑒𝓇𝑒𝓃𝑒 talk 00:03, 19 August 2023 (UTC)
I know. Anyone who likes Harris is likely not to regard the article seriously.Ariel31459 (talk) 00:15, 19 August 2023 (UTC)
I tried a small rewrite of the intro to make it read a bit better. It preserves the criticism but doesn't imply that "bigot" is a job description alongside neuroscientist and author. Pizza SLICE.gifChef Moosolini’s Ristorante ItalianoMake a Reservation 00:19, 19 August 2023 (UTC)
Looks better to me IMHO. BobJohnson (talk) 00:57, 19 August 2023 (UTC)