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Where Sam gets it wrong

 
Thom_Quine
 
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Thom_Quine
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12 March 2016 09:09
 

Have read all of Sam Harris’s books and am a big fan, but I see where he gets into trouble with some of his views and I disagree with him on several points.

Big one is this. Sam frequently argues: “The truth is that a belief in specific religious doctrines is sufficient to produce all the violence, intolerance, and backwardness we see in the Muslim world.”

Quite wrong. Here I side with Jonathan Haidt in Harris’s recent podcast interview with him. It’s a lot more complicated and subtle than that.

Harris seems to put a lot of stock in rational argument, and to credit the notion that Muslims are motivated by a literal reading of the Koran. The reality is that most Muslims are peaceful and loving people and do not put a lot of stock in a literal reading and are certainly not convinced that they should go out and kill infidels.

However if you are angered by the oppression and racism that Muslims experience in the Middle East and elsewhere, if you are infuriated by the role of Israel, and if you are raised in a devout Muslim family and society, you have a ready-made ideology you can adopt, you have an Islamist chain-mail vest you can put on to go to war.

If Harris spent a little more time recognizing the radicalizing effect of American foreign policy, Israeli racism, and oppression and corruption in the Arab world we would not have to listen to him defend himself from his many critics and we could enjoy his very valuable insights into religion.

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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12 March 2016 11:47
 

Welcome Thom,

I’ve never heard Harris be so black and white, can you provide a link or citation?

 
 
Thom_Quine
 
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Thom_Quine
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12 March 2016 13:22
 

http://www.salon.com/2015/11/25/harris_and_illing_correspondence/

I am saying that I disagree with Sam Harris on this point, religious doctrine is not sufficient to explain all the violence and terrorism etc. Without American foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the whole middle east, and without Israel, you cannot explain Islamist violence. Why doesn’t Sam Harris just accept this?

Thanks,

- Thom

[ Edited: 12 March 2016 13:27 by Thom_Quine]
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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12 March 2016 13:37
 
Thom_Quine - 12 March 2016 01:22 PM

http://www.salon.com/2015/11/25/harris_and_illing_correspondence/

I am saying that I disagree with Sam Harris on this point, religious doctrine is not sufficient to explain all the violence and terrorism etc. Without American foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the whole middle east, and without Israel, you cannot explain Islamist violence. Why doesn’t Sam Harris just accept this?

Thanks,

- Thom

I believe that there was violence there for 1000’s of years before America ever existed. I believe the Jews have lived in the middle east for 1000’s of years. I believe that Islam came into power through violence not peace. And I believe most Islamist violence is Muslim on Muslim but you blame the US and Israel for them killing, raping and robbing each other in pursuit of their own desires and power?

 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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12 March 2016 13:49
 
Thom_Quine - 12 March 2016 09:09 AM

Have read all of Sam Harris’s books and am a big fan, but I see where he gets into trouble with some of his views and I disagree with him on several points.

OK, I’ll play devil’s advocate (Harris is the devil here).

Big one is this. Sam frequently argues: “The truth is that a belief in specific religious doctrines is sufficient to produce all the violence, intolerance, and backwardness we see in the Muslim world.”

Quite wrong. Here I side with Jonathan Haidt in Harris’s recent podcast interview with him. It’s a lot more complicated and subtle than that.

IOW they are just shitty violent people and religion is just an excuse. 

Harris seems to put a lot of stock in rational argument, and to credit the notion that Muslims are motivated by a literal reading of the Koran. The reality is that most Muslims are peaceful and loving people and do not put a lot of stock in a literal reading and are certainly not convinced that they should go out and kill infidels.

IOW they don’t really believe in the Koran. So then why are Muslim countries so shitty? Because they are just shitty violent people…

However if you are angered by the oppression and racism that Muslims experience in the Middle East and elsewhere, if you are infuriated by the role of Israel, and if you are raised in a devout Muslim family and society, you have a ready-made ideology you can adopt, you have an Islamist chain-mail vest you can put on to go to war.

It’s hard to feel sorry for shitty violent people who use a religion they don’t really believe as an excuse of why they have to be shitty and violent.

 
 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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12 March 2016 13:51
 

Thom,

It strikes me that you’ve mischaracterized Harris’s argument - at least in this Salon article. Harris’s arguments often require some paragraphs to establish and state. If you cherry pick a few sentences, you’re apt to come to the wrong conclusions.

That, and I largely agreed with GAD on this point!  :O

 
 
Thom_Quine
 
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Thom_Quine
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12 March 2016 14:01
 

GAD, sorry, you are way off base here. I am not speaking about the inglorious history of violence committed by man against man going back millennia. I am saying that today’s violent upheavals that are taking the form of radical Islamism and Jihadism are directly traceable to the post-war (post oil) policy of colonial powers and most recently American foreign policy in the Middle East, and to the founding and continued racism of the state of Israel.

The Muslim-on-Muslim violence is very often directed and fueled by the existence of corrupt and oppressive regimes (such as that of the Shah or Mubarak or Zia-ul-Haq or the Saudis or whoever) who were put in place by the imperialist powers.

Yes, the violence talks Islam but without this history there would be no ISIS or Al-Qaeda. In large Islamic countries like Indonesia and Malaysia this form of radicalism is almost non-existent because they don’t have the history of the Middle East.

Surely this is obvious and when Sam Harris glosses over this or ignores it he leaves himself open to the criticism that he discounts or dismisses this ugly history - as indeed you seem to do GAD…

- Thom

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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12 March 2016 14:10
 

Hey Thom,

Here are some factors that *might* be contributing to the situation in the ME. If you had to assign percentages to each to arrive at 100% (and by all means, feel free to add more factors), how would those percentages look?

- Core messages / edicts in Islam
- Arab culture
- Israel
- 100 year old western interventions
- 20 year old western interventions

If you put a lot of weight on the west, can you explain Muslim behaviors in the Muslim majority countries that aren’t in the ME? For example, can you explain widespread FGM?

 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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12 March 2016 14:16
 
Thom_Quine - 12 March 2016 02:01 PM

GAD, sorry, you are way off base here. I am not speaking about the inglorious history of violence committed by man against man going back millennia. I am saying that today’s violent upheavals that are taking the form of radical Islamism and Jihadism are directly traceable to the post-war (post oil) policy of colonial powers and most recently American foreign policy in the Middle East, and to the founding and continued racism of the state of Israel.

The Muslim-on-Muslim violence is very often directed and fueled by the existence of corrupt and oppressive regimes (such as that of the Shah or Mubarak or Zia-ul-Haq or the Saudis or whoever) who were put in place by the imperialist powers.

Yes, the violence talks Islam but without this history there would be no ISIS or Al-Qaeda. In large Islamic countries like Indonesia and Malaysia this form of radicalism is almost non-existent because they don’t have the history of the Middle East.

Surely this is obvious and when Sam Harris glosses over this or ignores it he leaves himself open to the criticism that he discounts or dismisses this ugly history - as indeed you seem to do GAD…

- Thom

I understand what you are saying, that the middle east is filled with shitty violent Muslims who kill and do the most horrific things imaginable to each other, but, but, but, it’s not their fault, no, America and Israel make them do it, they have absolutely ZERO responsibility.

 

 

 
 
Thom_Quine
 
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Thom_Quine
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12 March 2016 14:26
 

Let me be clear, I hate Islam and all religion and this kind of medieval backwardness is certainly responsible for hateful practices such as honor killings and female genital mutilation. However my point was about the kind of Islamic violence that takes the form of terrorism, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jihadism, etc.

I think for different Muslims the percentages would be different, for some Israel would be huge, for others fear of the modern world, for others their local dictator in the pocket of the U.S. or Israel or Russia or China.

In another era the Islamist youth would be communists or anarchists or nationalists who also committed acts of terror. Islamism is just the ideology that is today taking the fight to the perceived enemy.

It is not my intention to defend Islam or excuse medieval backwardness. I am just saying that if you deny or dismiss the importance of the history of the middle east you just don’t understand human motivation.

- Thom

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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12 March 2016 14:36
 
Thom_Quine - 12 March 2016 02:26 PM

Let me be clear, I hate Islam and all religion and this kind of medieval backwardness is certainly responsible for hateful practices such as honor killings and female genital mutilation. However my point was about the kind of Islamic violence that takes the form of terrorism, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jihadism, etc.

I think for different Muslims the percentages would be different, for some Israel would be huge, for others fear of the modern world, for others their local dictator in the pocket of the U.S. or Israel or Russia or China.

In another era the Islamist youth would be communists or anarchists or nationalists who also committed acts of terror. Islamism is just the ideology that is today taking the fight to the perceived enemy.

It is not my intention to defend Islam or excuse medieval backwardness. I am just saying that if you deny or dismiss the importance of the history of the middle east you just don’t understand human motivation.

- Thom

And I’m not saying that history isn’t a factor. But when you start to slam Israel I wonder which exact slice of history Muslims are leaning on here? What is the date range you think is appropriate for Muslims to consider?

 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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12 March 2016 14:43
 
Thom_Quine - 12 March 2016 02:26 PM

Let me be clear, I hate Islam and all religion and this kind of medieval backwardness is certainly responsible for hateful practices such as honor killings and female genital mutilation. However my point was about the kind of Islamic violence that takes the form of terrorism, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jihadism, etc.

I think for different Muslims the percentages would be different, for some Israel would be huge, for others fear of the modern world, for others their local dictator in the pocket of the U.S. or Israel or Russia or China.

In another era the Islamist youth would be communists or anarchists or nationalists who also committed acts of terror. Islamism is just the ideology that is today taking the fight to the perceived enemy.

It is not my intention to defend Islam or excuse medieval backwardness. I am just saying that if you deny or dismiss the importance of the history of the middle east you just don’t understand human motivation.

- Thom

Sure, I get history. Here’s a question though, in the history of the world everyone has fought everyone and did horrible things to each other, colonialism, imperialism reigned for 500 years, Germany started not 1 but 2 world wars, the greatest conflicts in human history and Japan got nuked, yet they are now world leaders, other countries have followed. So why do the Muslim countries seem so far behind, it can’t just be conflict, there has to be other factors, what might they be?

 
 
Thom_Quine
 
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Thom_Quine
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12 March 2016 14:59
 
icehorse - 12 March 2016 02:36 PM
Thom_Quine - 12 March 2016 02:26 PM

Let me be clear, [...] I am just saying that if you deny or dismiss the importance of the history of the middle east you just don’t understand human motivation.

- Thom

And I’m not saying that history isn’t a factor. But when you start to slam Israel I wonder which exact slice of history Muslims are leaning on here? What is the date range you think is appropriate for Muslims to consider?

I am not asking Muslims to consider anything except to drop Islam. However I do understand that when people feel oppressed they will turn to violence and look for justification where they can find it. Right now a lot of them are finding it in radical Islamism. There are even youth raised in other religions who are upset about social injustice and want to fight it and convert to Islamism. That is horrible and lamentable.

But to combat Islamic violence you need not only to attack the Koran, which is obvious nonsense, but you need also to address the oppression and racism that breeds Islamism. That means you need to at least talk about American foreign policy and Israel and corrupt middle eastern dictators - not ignore it or dismiss it.

- Thom

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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12 March 2016 15:19
 
Thom_Quine - 12 March 2016 02:59 PM
icehorse - 12 March 2016 02:36 PM
Thom_Quine - 12 March 2016 02:26 PM

Let me be clear, [...] I am just saying that if you deny or dismiss the importance of the history of the middle east you just don’t understand human motivation.

- Thom

And I’m not saying that history isn’t a factor. But when you start to slam Israel I wonder which exact slice of history Muslims are leaning on here? What is the date range you think is appropriate for Muslims to consider?

I am not asking Muslims to consider anything except to drop Islam. However I do understand that when people feel oppressed they will turn to violence and look for justification where they can find it. Right now a lot of them are finding it in radical Islamism. There are even youth raised in other religions who are upset about social injustice and want to fight it and convert to Islamism. That is horrible and lamentable.

But to combat Islamic violence you need not only to attack the Koran, which is obvious nonsense, but you need also to address the oppression and racism that breeds Islamism. That means you need to at least talk about American foreign policy and Israel and corrupt middle eastern dictators - not ignore it or dismiss it.

- Thom

One thing at a time:

- what oppression are you talking about?
- what racism are you talking about?
- What did Israel do again?
- Corrupt leaders… what countries around the world buy OPEC gas?

 

 
 
Thom_Quine
 
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Thom_Quine
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12 March 2016 15:54
 
icehorse - 12 March 2016 03:19 PM
Thom_Quine - 12 March 2016 02:59 PM
icehorse - 12 March 2016 02:36 PM
Thom_Quine - 12 March 2016 02:26 PM

Let me be clear, [...] I am just saying that if you deny or dismiss the importance of the history of the middle east you just don’t understand human motivation.

- Thom

And I’m not saying that history isn’t a factor. But when you start to slam Israel I wonder which exact slice of history Muslims are leaning on here? What is the date range you think is appropriate for Muslims to consider?

I am not asking Muslims to consider anything except to drop Islam. However I do understand that when people feel oppressed they will turn to violence and look for justification where they can find it. Right now a lot of them are finding it in radical Islamism. There are even youth raised in other religions who are upset about social injustice and want to fight it and convert to Islamism. That is horrible and lamentable.

But to combat Islamic violence you need not only to attack the Koran, which is obvious nonsense, but you need also to address the oppression and racism that breeds Islamism. That means you need to at least talk about American foreign policy and Israel and corrupt middle eastern dictators - not ignore it or dismiss it.

- Thom

One thing at a time:

- what oppression are you talking about?
- what racism are you talking about?
- What did Israel do again?
- Corrupt leaders… what countries around the world buy OPEC gas?

It’s not hard to find oppression in the middle east, just look at the history of corrupt dictators, the Shah, Assad, Saddam, the Sauds, Mubarak, Ghaddafi, the list goes on. But don’t forget American invasion of Iraq, Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the whole British carving up of the region post-war. And don’t forget the seizure of Palestine by Israel.
The racism I am talking about is the racism of someone like GAD who cannot say the word Muslim without the adjectives “shitty” and “violent”.
Israel is openly racist - a recent survey showed that almost half of Israeli Jews believe all Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel. The whole concept of a Jewish religious state with citizenship rights for any Jew and with an actual apartheid wall is blatantly racist and we should view it with the same distaste we would an intolerant Islamic state or a right-wing Christian state. People react with disgust at Trump’s talk of a wall to keep out Mexicans - he is just learning from the Israelis.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/09/world/middleeast/study-israel-jews-pew-research.html
I don’t understand your comment about countries that buy OPEC gas.

- Thom

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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12 March 2016 16:06
 

Thom,

Yes, there are lots of f#cked up things in the ME. Are you blaming all of that western interventions?
Yes, Israel’s record isn’t perfect, name an ME county who has a perfect record? Ask yourself why there are so many 3rd generation Palestinian refugees scattered around the ME…

 
 
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