Best debates against Sam’s points

 
Ola
 
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Ola
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29 November 2016 08:00
 

I’m looking for the best arguments against Sam’s points -  ideally a debate or discussion or article that specifically takes on any or all of Sam’s positions.

Any recommendations?

 
no_profundia
 
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no_profundia
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29 November 2016 20:13
 

I like Sean Carroll (physicist). He wrote two short blog posts that are critiques of Sam’s book The Moral Landscape:

http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2011/01/18/the-moral-landscape/
http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2010/03/29/sam-harris-responds/

There is nothing earth-shattering or life-changing in them. They are more casual asides as opposed to deeply thought out critiques but I think he makes some good points.

 
 
Ola
 
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Ola
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29 November 2016 20:43
 

Thanks! I usually enjoy Sean Carroll - at least, as far as the very little I understand about physics allows - so I’ll give that a go.

 
TroliusMaximus
 
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TroliusMaximus
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08 December 2016 06:55
 

- Confronting religion — instead of letting it die on its own volition — may back it into a corner, which could result in the oft quoted “clash of civilisations” (i.e., it’s still strong enough to wage war for its survival)

- In the same way some nations ‘need’ despots to rule over them, and / or communism to keep them in line, so, too, do some (read: many) people ‘need’ religion in order to stop them cracking each others’ coconuts open to feast on the sludge within (see: “moral compass”).

- In the case of Islam, being an “infidel”, Harris’s ruminations and propositions will invariably fall on deaf, indoctrinated ears; thus his actions serves little, tangible positive purpose.

- People aren’t ready for the truth.  The “Voldermort effect” is the bliss of ignorance that keeps the Ponzi scheme of self-delusion from toppling over.

- No one knows for sure whether or not there exists a “God” / or gods, or even an advanced alien species that, in our minds, would qualify as an effective deity.  As such, Harris is coming from no more firmer base than any given godtard is coming from with their claims for the existence of omni-everything entities.

- Harris’s stances misconstrued and / or miscontexualised, can used to give great strength to the arm of fascists; who are now on the march, in this “post-intelligence” era of information dissemination.

 
After_The_Jump
 
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After_The_Jump
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08 December 2016 12:59
 

@ no_profundia

There is nothing earth-shattering or life-changing in them. They are more casual asides as opposed to deeply thought out critiques but I think he makes some good points.

I feel I’ve learned a lot by listening to Carroll too. Although, as it relates to his Moral Landscape response, I think he errs a bit. I think this statement from him distills my concern the most succinctly:

The real problem — how do you balance the interests of different people against each other? — is completely ignored.

I’ve read the Moral Landscape; this point is *precisely* the point I believe Harris was responding to and yet Carroll’s implication is that Harris “completely ignored” it. Harris’s point, at least as I understood it, was that morality need not be treated differently in discourse than any other topic. Specifically, we need not act as if everyone’s opinion about morality is equally valid on the basis that ‘morality’ is somehow a subject matter that can’t be objectively defined in precisely the way we’ve structured comparisons of opposing viewpoints in any other domain.

Not only does Harris have a point technically, but there’s a functional point in his position that seems even stronger than the technical one. Specifically, the functional point is that - for us to make a decision about *anything* that has moral implication - we are inevitably going to be identifying someone’s definition of ‘morality’ as better than another person’s. Thus, since score keeping people’s values is an inevitable reality of societal decision making, we should seek to engage in such score keeping in terms that are as objective *as possible*.

So, to Carroll’s comment of:

Morality isn’t out there to be measured like some empirical property of the physical world, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to be moral or to speak about morality in a rational, thoughtful way. Pretending that morality is a subset of science is, in its own way, just as much an example of wishful thinking as pretending that morality is handed down by God.

The false equivalence Carrol relies upon here can be bore out quite easily. Consider by way of example stem cell research. For the better part of a decade, the United States placed a moratorium on various kinds of stem cell research. The explanation for why the United States did this was explicitly about ‘morality’ and it was explicitly in direct contrast to opinions of scientists who saw stem cell research as the most promising method of research for Parkinson and MS treatments (among other debilitating conditions).

But, unlike Carroll’s implication, the two ‘moral’ cases being made were not two sides of the same coin. Rather, the case scientists made was based in quantifiable fact - embryonic stem cells are in no conceivable way similar to fetuses growing in the uterus of woman and thus stem cell research should not be seen as akin to abortion. The case people like George W. Bush made was not rooted in any such facts - rather, it was a case rooted in purely unfalsifiable religious interpretation.

Again, stagnation isn’t an option here - a choice was going to be made about how to move forward on this issue and someone’s ‘morality’ was going to be deemed ‘better’ than someone else’s no matter how off putting the basic concept may seem to some. Harris’s point then is rather simple - since there is no ‘balancing’ people’s views of morality because various views will always be in zero sum opposition to each other, we should seek to operate from a definition of morality that can actually be measured.

Carroll never manages to dispute that point. Rather, he draws a false equivalence between a mythological definition of morality and a scientific definition of morality by saying, in essence, ‘who’s to say which one’s better?’. inevitably, we will say one is better than the other so it stands to reason that we should be as rigorous in how we go about such a determination as possible.

 

 

 

[ Edited: 08 December 2016 15:09 by After_The_Jump]
 
no_profundia
 
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no_profundia
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10 December 2016 15:52
 

@After_The_Jump

Thank you for the interesting post. I have been meaning to offer a brief response for the last couple of days but I have been feeling lazy and, in full disclosure, I have not read The Moral Landscape yet. My understanding of Sam’s position comes from watching him on panels and debates. I intend to read the book soon (hopefully) and will return to the forums and post my thoughts after I do. Hopefully you will still be around on the forums and we can discuss it further.

Also, I wanted to add: You and Ola are doing God’s work on the pizzagate thread. It would take the patience of a…well…something that is extremely patient…to read and respond to that non-sense.