On Sam Harris's Response to His Critics

On Sam Harris's Response to His Critics

There are 582 comments on the Siris story from Feb 2, 2011, titled On Sam Harris's Response to His Critics. In it, Siris reports that:

Sam Harris has an article up at The Huffington Post defending his work against some criticisms.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Siris.

Epicurus

Naples, FL

#21 Feb 7, 2011
Sam Harris
Consider: the city of New Orleans was recently destroyed by hurricane Katrina. At least a thousand people died, tens of thousands lost all their earthly possessions, and over a million have been displaced. It is safe to say that almost every person living in New Orleans at the moment Katrina struck believed in an omnipotent, omniscient, and compassionate God. But what was God doing while a hurricane laid waste to their city? Surely He heard the prayers of those elderly men and women who fled the rising waters for the safety of their attics, only to be slowly drowned there. These were people of faith. These were good men and women who had prayed throughout their lives. Only the atheist has the courage to admit the obvious: these poor people spent their lives in the company of an imaginary friend.

Of course, there had been ample warning that a storm “of biblical proportions” would strike New Orleans, and the human response to the ensuing disaster was tragically inept. But it was inept only by the light of science.

Advance warning of Katrina’s path was wrested from mute Nature by meteorological calculations and satellite imagery. God told no one of his plans. Had the residents of New Orleans been content to rely on the beneficence of the Lord, they wouldn’t have known that a killer hurricane was bearing down upon them until they felt the first gusts of wind on their faces. And yet, a poll conducted by The Washington Post found that eighty percent of Katrina’s survivors claim that the event has only strengthened their faith in God.

As hurricane Katrina was devouring New Orleans, nearly a thousand Shiite pilgrims were trampled to death on a bridge in Iraq. There can be no doubt that these pilgrims believed mightily in the God of the Koran. Indeed, their lives were organized around the indisputable fact of his existence: their women walked veiled before him; their men regularly murdered one another over rival interpretations of his word.

It would be remarkable if a single survivor of this tragedy lost his faith. More likely, the survivors imagine that they were spared through God’s grace.

Only the atheist recognizes the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.

Only the atheist realizes how morally objectionable it is for survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God, while this same God drowned infants in their cribs. Because he refuses to cloak the reality of the world’s suffering in a cloying fantasy of eternal life, the atheist feels in his bones just how precious life is -- and, indeed, how unfortunate it is that millions of human beings suffer the most harrowing abridgements of their happiness for no good reason at all.
Epicurus

Naples, FL

#22 Feb 7, 2011
Sam Harris
Of course, people of faith regularly assure one another that God is not responsible for human suffering. But how else can we understand the claim that God is both omniscient and omnipotent? There is no other way, and it is time for sane human beings to own up to this. This is the age-old problem of theodicy, of course, and we should consider it solved.

If God exists, either He can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamities, or He does not care to. God, therefore, is either impotent or evil. Pious readers will now execute the following pirouette: God cannot be judged by merely human standards of morality.

But, of course, human standards of morality are precisely what the faithful use to establish God’s goodness in the first place. And any God who could concern himself with something as trivial as gay marriage, or the name by which he is addressed in prayer, is not as inscrutable as all that.

If He exists, the God of Abraham is not merely unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.

There is another possibility, of course, and it is both the most reasonable and least odious: the biblical God is a fiction.

As Richard Dawkins has observed, we are all atheists with respect to Zeus and Thor. Only the atheist has realized that the biblical god is no different. Consequently, only the atheist is compassionate enough to take the profundity of the world’s suffering at face value. It is terrible that we all die and lose everything we love; it is doubly terrible that so many human beings suffer needlessly while alive.

“Is that all you've got?”

Since: Jun 10

Location hidden

#23 Feb 7, 2011
Drew Smith wrote:
<quoted text>
People kill other people, and steal their property. People do it all the time. Should we conclude that nobody has a right to life or property?
There's a big difference between telling a lie and murder.

“Is that all you've got?”

Since: Jun 10

Location hidden

#24 Feb 7, 2011
Drew Smith wrote:
<quoted text>
It has already been legislated to the degree that it can be. It's called "laws against perjury and fraud".
Now, let's see exactly what Sam Harris said,*in* context:
"When it counts, I don’t think people have a right to lie. Does a CEO of a major corporation have a right to lie about what his corporation is actually doing?"
But you chose to leave out the part "when it counts", as well as the specific example Harris provided, which is critical to understanding exactly what Harris is referring to.
Then he went on to say "...and if we could create a technology that made it difficult to lie, I think the feeling of relief that would come over us would be enormous." This comment suggests that everyone exposed to Harris' Utopia would have a loss of free will, would be intellectualy handicapped. Would you like the idea of giving up control of your mind to someone else's idea of universal, social honesty? Wouldn't you prefer to be able to lie to save your own life or a loved one's? How many Jews wouldn't have survived the holocaust if they and the people protecting them couldn't lie?

http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2010/10/17...

“Quantum Junctn: Use Both Lanes”

Since: Dec 06

Tulsa, Oklahoma USofA

#25 Feb 7, 2011
nanoanomaly wrote:
<quoted text>There's a big difference between telling a lie and murder.
Indeed.

But if one is drunk or stoned? Can they tell then?

Oh...wait.... nevermind.

Since: Feb 08

Tampa, FL

#26 Feb 7, 2011
People kill other people, and steal their property. People do it all the time. Should we conclude that nobody has a right to life or property?
nanoanomaly wrote:
There's a big difference between telling a lie and murder.
That would depend upon the kind of lie, would it not? For instance, lying on the witness stand that results in an innocent person being convicted of a capital offense. Or lying to the men in the Tuskegee syphilis experiment that they had "bad blood" and were being treated for it.

In any event, you're avoiding the point that you made and that I refuted. You were arguing against the idea that there isn't a right to lie merely on the basis that people can get away with lying. People can get away with theft and murder too, can they not? Do you conclude that there isn't a right to property or life on that basis? Is something a right only when you can be assured of 100% correct enforcement?

Since: Feb 08

Tampa, FL

#27 Feb 7, 2011
nanoanomaly wrote:
Then he went on to say "...and if we could create a technology that made it difficult to lie, I think the feeling of relief that would come over us would be enormous." This comment suggests that everyone exposed to Harris' Utopia would have a loss of free will
Free will doesn't involve the right to lie. Quite the contrary, it means only that you're held accountable for the choices you make, including lying.
nanoanomaly wrote:
Wouldn't you prefer to be able to lie to save your own life or a loved one's? How many Jews wouldn't have survived the holocaust if they and the people protecting them couldn't lie?
If *nobody* could lie, then Hitler wouldn't have been able to misrepresent his intentions toward the Jews in the first place. Or did you forget the fact that Jews were falsely told that they were being "resettled" instead of their actually being sent to extermination camps?

“Is that all you've got?”

Since: Jun 10

Location hidden

#28 Feb 7, 2011
Drew Smith wrote:
In any event, you're avoiding the point that you made and that I refuted. You were arguing against the idea that there isn't a right to lie merely on the basis that people can get away with lying. People can get away with theft and murder too, can they not? Do you conclude that there isn't a right to property or life on that basis? Is something a right only when you can be assured of 100% correct enforcement?
I'm not the one who said people don't have a right to lie.
And the enforcement of truth isn't truth when it doesn't apply to everyone. How could truth be "enforced" without force, chemical or otherwise? Who decides whom will be controlled? Rights are about freedom not restriction.

“Is that all you've got?”

Since: Jun 10

Location hidden

#29 Feb 7, 2011
Drew Smith wrote:
<quoted text>
Free will doesn't involve the right to lie. Quite the contrary, it means only that you're held accountable for the choices you make, including lying.
<quoted text>
If *nobody* could lie, then Hitler wouldn't have been able to misrepresent his intentions toward the Jews in the first place. Or did you forget the fact that Jews were falsely told that they were being "resettled" instead of their actually being sent to extermination camps?
But if someone makes it impossible for me to lie then my will isn't mine any longer, my choice is taken away.
I remember how the story went but you can't punish individuals in the future because of a tragedy from the past that has nothing to do with them. It's not humane, it's comparable to declawing a cat then letting it outside to fend off predators. Lying is part of the human psyche; we lie to ourselves all the time. It's a defense mechanism, sometimes, to keep from going insane. Children learn to lie with their first words and cognitive thoughts.

Since: Feb 08

Tampa, FL

#30 Feb 7, 2011
nanoanomaly wrote:
I'm not the one who said people don't have a right to lie.
I didn't say that you were. I said that you argued *against* that idea.
nanoanomaly wrote:
And the enforcement of truth isn't truth when it doesn't apply to everyone. How could truth be "enforced" without force, chemical or otherwise?
Harris made no claim that we have the technology today to enforce such a thing. A few centuries ago, far more people got away with murder because we lacked fingerprint technology and DNA technology (and other forensic technologies).

And why do you conclude that some future mind-reading technology would require "force"? Suppose there were some future technology that could tell 100% whether or not you were lying. Would you seriously object to its being used on anyone who sat on a witness stand involving a serious crime?

Since: Feb 08

Tampa, FL

#31 Feb 7, 2011
nanoanomaly wrote:
But if someone makes it impossible for me to lie then my will isn't mine any longer, my choice is taken away.
Do all your choices in life involve only whether or not to lie to people? Seriously?
nanoanomaly wrote:
Lying is part of the human psyche; we lie to ourselves all the time.
Harris isn't talking about "lying to oneself". He's talking about lying *when it counts*(as he himself said), such as in a court of law. Do you think it's acceptable for people to lie on a witness stand and send an innocent person to prison? Do you think it's acceptable for people to commit fraud (like Bernie Madoff did)?

“Quantum Junctn: Use Both Lanes”

Since: Dec 06

Tulsa, Oklahoma USofA

#32 Feb 8, 2011
Drew Smith wrote:
<quoted text>
Do all your choices in life involve only whether or not to lie to people? Seriously?
I would say so.

I would also suggest, that nanomind's >>chief<< mode of communication is "lying".

Especially to herself.

That's the way of godbots, after all...

“Is that all you've got?”

Since: Jun 10

Location hidden

#33 Feb 8, 2011
Drew Smith wrote:
<quoted text>
Harris made no claim that we have the technology today to enforce such a thing. A few centuries ago, far more people got away with murder because we lacked fingerprint technology and DNA technology (and other forensic technologies).
And why do you conclude that some future mind-reading technology would require "force"? Suppose there were some future technology that could tell 100% whether or not you were lying. Would you seriously object to its being used on anyone who sat on a witness stand involving a serious crime?
He's promoting invading another person's mind, a mental raping. That's violating a basic right; the right to be unmolested, to remain whole, intact.

If this was a Christian author promoting this abuse of individual rights you would be arguing against Harris's proposal. Which makes you a hypocrite with tunnel vision.

Since: Feb 08

Tampa, FL

#34 Feb 8, 2011
nanoanomaly wrote:
He's promoting invading another person's mind, a mental raping.
How is it "rape" to accurately label whether what someone *says* on the witness stand is true or not?

“Is that all you've got?”

Since: Jun 10

Location hidden

#35 Feb 8, 2011
Drew Smith wrote:
<quoted text>
Do all your choices in life involve only whether or not to lie to people? Seriously?
<quoted text>
Harris isn't talking about "lying to oneself". He's talking about lying *when it counts*(as he himself said), such as in a court of law. Do you think it's acceptable for people to lie on a witness stand and send an innocent person to prison? Do you think it's acceptable for people to commit fraud (like Bernie Madoff did)?
Why do you insist on using ad hominem against me? Of course I don't base all of my decisions on whether I need to tell the truth or not but I still want to have that option.

His (Harris's) desire will never come to fruition; politicians can't allow it and remain politicians. It is all about the lie/deception with them.

It will never be legislated even if the technology is created.

“Is that all you've got?”

Since: Jun 10

Location hidden

#36 Feb 8, 2011
Drew Smith wrote:
<quoted text>
How is it "rape" to accurately label whether what someone *says* on the witness stand is true or not?
Forcing someone to do something against their will is similar to rape, emotionally.

Since: Feb 08

Tampa, FL

#37 Feb 8, 2011
nanoanomaly wrote:
Why do you insist on using ad hominem against me?
Asks the person who said of me "Which makes you a hypocrite with tunnel vision."
nanoanomaly wrote:
Of course I don't base all of my decisions on whether I need to tell the truth or not
Then being forbidden to lie would not eliminate your free will. You would still be able to make choices.

Since: Feb 08

Tampa, FL

#38 Feb 8, 2011
nanoanomaly wrote:
Forcing someone to do something against their will is similar to rape, emotionally.
So when people go to prison or pay a fine for committing a crime, they are being raped?

“Is that all you've got?”

Since: Jun 10

Location hidden

#39 Feb 8, 2011
Drew Smith wrote:
<quoted text>
Asks the person who said of me "Which makes you a hypocrite with tunnel vision."
<quoted text>
Then being forbidden to lie would not eliminate your free will. You would still be able to make choices.
You did it first.:)

It would depend on whether the device used was drugs or simply a machine that detected lies, wouldn't it? As we already have lie-detector machines it's obvious that Harris is promoting some sort of mind control to enforce truth; drugs, as he already dismissed ( grudgingly) any modifying genetically.

“Is that all you've got?”

Since: Jun 10

Location hidden

#40 Feb 8, 2011
Drew Smith wrote:
<quoted text>
So when people go to prison or pay a fine for committing a crime, they are being raped?
Nope. They made their choice and were punished,*choice* being the principle action. But taking away the right to choose is abusive.

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