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Sam Harris: ‘The Separation Between Science and Human Values Is an Illusion’

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Posted on Apr 5, 2010
Harris
ted.com/talks

We were a little slow on the uptake when it came to finding this TED talk that author and Truthdig contributor Sam Harris gave this past winter, but it’s definitely worth a belated look, or even a second look, as the case may be.

Harris, who wrote “An Atheist Manifesto” and “Letter to a Christian Nation,” defends science’s usefulness in helping us answer the biggest questions about “what constitutes a good life” in his usual thought-provoking style in this presentation, recorded in February.  —KA

TED.com:

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By samosamo, April 11, 2010 at 7:51 pm Link to this comment

By OzarkMichael, April 11 at 10:13 pm

I told you you were boring and here you are treating me as I
would expect a hubric religious fool to act, do I know what
spurious means, do I know what debunking means, you’re a ever
the clever insulter( a fine moniker for such a christian as yourself)
and you sure did not pay attention to what the Monticello crew
said:

THEY COULD NOT TELL IF TJ SENT SUCH A LETTER TO THE GOOD
DR. WOOD so they don’t even know if it was sent or not and you
jump out saying it is debunked as if an authority on the matter
which you aren’t! I intend on contacting the people that provided
my first access to the quote and let them explain, but CASE AIN’T
CLOSE ON THIS AS YOU CLAIM!!!

Your insult to me about glenn beck has just earned ‘Report this’
from here on to anything from you to me.

Report this
OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, April 11, 2010 at 7:13 pm Link to this comment

I apologize for the link not working, but you were able to find the information.

From the website: http://www.monticello.org/library/reference/spurious.html

Please take advantage of our years of debunking spurious Jefferson quotes, and read on for information on some of the most frequent and recent troublemakers…

You know what spurious means? It means that scholars dont think the person really said it. And you know what debunking means? It means exposing the flasehood.

There are a number of quotes that we do not find in Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence or other writings; in such cases, Jefferson should not be cited as the source.

That means we shouldnt pretend that Jefferson said it, because someone else made it up.

They include the following…

“I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.”

There is your quote, on the debunked list. If you like the words, use them yourself. Just dont attribute it to Jefferson.  But I can tell that you and your stupid atheist internet sites will keep attributing it to Jefferson anyway.

Do you realize you are on Glenn Beck’s level? He likes to use spurious quotes to make his point too.

Congrats!

Report this

By samosamo, April 11, 2010 at 4:26 pm Link to this comment

By OzarkMichael, April 10 at 10:47 pm

http://www.nobeliefs.com/jefferson.htm

I’ll leave out the link to Positive Atheism’s Big List of
Thomas Jefferson as not to insult your vastly superior
intelligence over the rest of us underlings you love to deprecate
so mush.

This one should for most carry some weight of validity and does
for many but in your unwavering defense of religion with out a
truly reliable source then maybe you would be more comfortable
in picking up a copy of R. Crumb’s illustrated ‘Book Of Genesis’
to see a literal version of genesis in the actual text and pictures.

http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff1650.htm

Just thought I would add a little more fuel to your fire:

http://jpetrie.myweb.uga.edu/TJ.html

How you managed to evade these I am not sure, but let me to
once again help you with your ‘researches’ I throw you this little
prize on the quote:
“I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of
the world, and do not find in our particular superstition
[Christianity] one redeeming feature”,
which you will most likely get as much milage out of for your
religiously perverted pleasure.
But be advised it just puts this quote as a neutral thing.

“We are asked about this one on a fairly regular basis. As with
many spurious Jefferson quotes, it is frequently seen on various
Internet sites. Many sites do not cite a source, but a good
number of those that do attribute this quote to a letter from TJ
to a “Dr. Wood.” As far as we know, TJ never wrote to an
individual calling him/herself Dr. Wood.”

Don’t forget, this hangs on the that last part ‘as far as we know’
but feel free as I do.

“Jefferson was always reluctant to reveal his religious beliefs to
the public, but at times he would speak to and reflect upon the
public dimension of religion. He was raised as an Anglican, but
was influenced by English deists such as Bolingbroke and
Shaftesbury. Thus in the spirit of the Enlightenment, he made
the following recommendation to his nephew Peter Carr in 1787:
“Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if
there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason,
than that of blindfolded fear.”

“”“In Query XVII of Notes on the State of Virginia, he clearly
outlines the views which led him to play a leading role in the
campaign to separate church and state and which culminated in
the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom: “The rights of
conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are
answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of
government extend to such acts as are injurious to others. But it
does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty
gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg . .
. . Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against
error.” Jefferson’s religious views became a major public issue
during the bitter party conflict between Federalists and
Republicans in the late 1790s when Jefferson was often accused
of being an atheist.”“”

Now the final bone and once again I am highly surprise, or
maybe not, that you didn’t find this link which is where the last
of my quibbling came from:

http://www.monticello.org/index.html

Which I had checked out long before your ‘wiki’ view of the the
link I provide just above. Well let me go there and see what kind
of editing and meddling those eager to adjust what TJ said.

Oh, that is rich, looky looky looky what I found upon opening
YOUR link that you provided:

“There is currently no text in this page, you can search for this
page title in other pages or edit this page.” I like that ‘edit this
page’, leaves a lot of room for reinterpretation.

There, out in the open and not hiden as some esoteric bunch of
garbage. Hope you enjoy you visit to Monticello.

Did I tell you yet that you are really boring?

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By OzarkMichael, April 10, 2010 at 7:47 pm Link to this comment

Samo claims his favorite books are compelling and practically commands me to “READ” them or I will be forever lost in ignorance.

Often i accept such challenges, and so I begin with what I have available to me, namely the ideas and quotes that samo has written here.

I decided to start with samo’s first lecture against Christianity, rather rudely hurled at me as if it would crush and anger me. Ok, for the sake of learning something I will put up with some insults.

Lets start with samo’s opening quote of Jefferson:

“I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.”


About that Jefferson quote, samo. That didnt sound like Jefferson to me. So I hope you dont mind that i looked for it. But I couldnt find it in my books here at home. So I checked the internet. I will now quote a scholarly Thomas Jefferson website:

We have not found this quotation in any of Jefferson’s known writings.

ooopsie! Samo’s favorite atheist authors apparently have an axe to grind. They are prone to just make stuff up.

What samo so carelessly presents as Christianity-crushing “fact”, turns out, under close examination, to be atheist fluff.

Now samo should react to this. He should question the books he thought so highly of. He should read something better. Something that challenges him instead of pandering to his prejudices. But he wont.

And samo should apologize for the lie he passed along about Jefferson, and he should apologize for his rude insinuation that I would want to dig up Jefferson’s grave and to burn Jefferson’s bones over the “quote”. But he wont.

And finally, samo should not use this “quote” any more. Oh but you know he will. He will hurl it at other Christians he comes across.

He will snarl the same accusation at someone else about how the Christian wants to dig up Jefferson’s body and burn his bones. An accusation which has nothing to do to with me or any person samo will accuse. No. The source of the disgusting accusation is samo’s own fevered brain, projecting his own hatred on to others around him. 

samo is so slipshod in his presentation of ‘facts’ that his recommendation to read a book is about as enticing as Bernie Madoff recommending a book on financial planning.

A person would not want to read such books unless the person has a desire to be decieved. I do not have the desire to be decieved. I do not have time to learn things only to find out it was a lie. So i am not interested in reading samo’s stupid atheist books.

Check out scholarly work on Thomas Jefferson at:

http://wiki.monticello.org/mediawiki/index.php/Superstition_of_Christianity_(Quotation)


Internet access cost: 8 dollars a month

Watching samo destroy the reputation of atheist authors: Priceless!

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By samosamo, April 9, 2010 at 8:46 pm Link to this comment

By OzarkMichael, April 9 at 8:11 pm

Now,where were we. NO PLACE!

You claim a lot about christians and how sweet and kind hearted
you all are but some where in there maybe between the
massacres of the american indians on the north and south
continents there were not few few mexicans, spanish, cubans
killed and somewhere in the mid 1800s there seems to have
been some sort of conflict right here on this land we stole from
its rightful owners in the on-going massacres mentioned above
where lord above both christian governments from the blue and
the grey were slaughtering each other in not so unkind of a
fashion.

And from then on, have we not been in some kind of war on
some foreign soil killing in the name of god with prayer in good
standing before each battle to ensure victory. Need I mention all
the governments in the 2 major ww’s in the 20th century, that
spilled over into africa, in japan(surely those heathens
worshiping buddha are way beneath the dignity of our god
cause he is better than their god). Really is hard to tell how
many have been killed in all.

And think of korea, why did we go there except to kill
commies(you surely adhere to that, those nasty atheist commies
who are only good when they are dead) then glory hallelujah
here comes viet nam and more commies and better yet, a war
that was NOT to be won but just sustained.

Then pedophile ronnie reagan managed to keep up in training
by invading panama, granada and dropping a few bomb on
Libyia, then onward christian soldiers under the benevolent
g.h.w.bush got the ambassador to Iraq to indicate the u.s. would
not mind if saddam invaded lowly ol kuwait, but wasn’t that a
trick and it worked great, huh?

But old man bush just decided that was enough and thought he
would take it up again when he won his second term but
crimminy, he lost. No worries slick willie stepped up to pinch hit
and lord what did he do, well I guess, and mind you I guess
here, he started or continued the embargo against Iraq( wasn’t
that where about 500,000 kids died from that?) while inbetween
he signed almost the rest of american’s jobs away to overseas
via NAFTA(heard of that, huh?) then he gave
$70,000,000,000.00 of publicly owned broad band to the
corporate thieves for their benefit and then he got a blow job,
well earned CONsidering all that hard good christian work he did
for the american workers.

Then along came w, stole both 2000 and 2004 elections, his last
office he won by election, legally, was governor of texas, I think
now the rest is history you should be aware of and certainly you
are aware of w’s brother o, the current president that hasn’t
done much of anything different than his brother w except I
have to say, even as tenuous as it is, this nuclear agreement,
nothing signed yet I believe, has some decent potential but
there are a lot of people who remember a campaign ran on
chance(opps, sorry again, that was change)  and it was a rainy
stormy day when the realization sank in that that change meant
‘short changed’.

But why go on, you live on prescribed precepts than forbid
questioning or searching for anything but what your mind is
hard wired for, and in your mind you fear to leave for fear of
what I can only think is contradictions and truth.

Stalin killed:
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_people_did_Stalin_kill
accepted: 20,000,000

How many all 3 killed?:
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?
qid=20080624202621AAK9oBH

72,000,000 to 86,000,000

Oh, surely you have heard how our government had to
confiscate prescott bush’s financial businesses because he was
bankrolling the nazis going into ww11, that is bush, sr’s dad
and w’s grandpapy. Shame too, seeing how that was a traitorous
thing to do while our country was about to go to war.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondwor
ldwar

Since you presented a bunch of assumptions, I tried to hold
mine to a minimum.

Report this

By samosamo, April 9, 2010 at 7:33 pm Link to this comment

By OzarkMichael, April 9 at 8:11 pm

You sure do assume a lot about someone you try to categorize
from your beliefs, well, you pegged it wrong and since you won’t
look into the people’s works I have named except to come up
with a bunch of figures(and horrendous they are) on stalin, lenin
and pol pot who have only been in the game for what maybe a
hundred years? Most likey less, but Jefferson was going back to
the beginnings of judeo-christianity not just a hundred years
but maybe 2000 years and I would think your friends in the
papacy would have killed more than your 3 angels you mention
and if you still think it is still low just think of that grand
invasion your european friends and how well they helped the
native americans(north and south america) via extermination
and if that don’t grab you think of how your church of england
starved many millions of indians and chinese during famines in
the 1700s, 1800 and into the 1900s because they knew how to
shuffle food around to the markets that bought high so they
could send it back home to sell even higher all the while when
there was enough food to ease the number of people dying from
starvation from these fine christian thugs looking for profits.
READ IT. Mike Davis wrote the book, ‘Late Victorian Holocausts’,
sure to make you laugh.

No Jefferson was not wrong, he was correct and he would STILL
think he was correct!

““you are the stupid one who insults by a fantasy.’‘’‘

Believe it or not but you did point out a discrepancy here, but
since you haven’t and most likely will not read any thing I have
suggested then it should have read:

“you are the ignorant one who insults by a fantasy.”

There is a term for what you consider has to be a belief….opps,
there I go again, putting words in your mouth, what you
consider me to be, a believer or an atheist, then you are wrong
both counts and in this wonderful world I doubt very much you
will ever find that term, word or phrase.

This is what real people thought of the white devils who came
from europe and their religions:

““Their wise ones said ‘we might have their religion’ but when
we ?tried to understand it we found that there were too many
kinds? of religions among white men for us to understand, and
that? scarcely any two white men agreed which was the right one
to ?learn. This bothered us a good deal until we saw that the
white?man did not take his religion any more seriously than he
did his ?laws, and that he kept both of them just behind him, like?
helpers, to use when they might do him good in his dealings
with ?strangers. These are not our ways. We kept the laws we
made? and lived our religion. We have never been able to
understand ?the white man, who fools nobody but himself.”“?
Plenty Coups
?Absaroke Crow Indian

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By OzarkMichael, April 9, 2010 at 5:52 pm Link to this comment

There are some atheists whose occasional strokes of goodness and wisdom makes me admire them. One such atheist is WriterontheStorm, who in this exerpt is speaking to Sam Harris:

No, those horrors started the same way you’re starting—with the absolute conviction that what’s best for society is a thing that can be quantified, verified and eventually imposed upon the hapless masses. “For their own good”.

That is good insight. Usually I try to explain this stuff to atheists and dont get very far. I have never seen an atheist understand the problem and explain it so well as WriterontheStorm. Oh but dont worry, i will still argue with him/her fiercely about other things.

But for today i concur.

Here is a good view of the matter: The dividing line between good and evil is not between nations, or belief systems, or religion vs science, or Democrats vs Republicans, but right down the middle of every human heart. Any worldview or person that fails to understand this is liable to do harm no matter what they believe or how pure their intentions. And modern man has so much power to control and harm others it is frightful.

Kronosaurus and Jose come up strong too. So this thread has good stuff in it, and atheism scares me a little less when i see you guys counterbalance the usual fare that I have read.

So there is some hope.

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By OzarkMichael, April 9, 2010 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment

Samo said: I don’t look to convert anybody and sure don’t think of people that don’t think as I do as stupid

Cool, i would look forward to having a cordial and intelligent discussion with you.

But then in the next breath samo says: you are the stupid one who insults by a fantasy.

Ah. thats a new record. samo went only 20 seconds before contradicting himself. I didnt expect better.

Very well. Have it your way, samo. Lets forget about Harris.

My beliefs insult you? Thats too bad. What do your beliefs do to others, samo? Did you ever wonder about that? 

samo quotes Jefferson: Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined
and imprisoned.

Sad. To think that over the course of 20 centuries several million people were killed, tortured, fined or imprisoned.

Certainly it was wrong and it was sad that Christians would do such things to further religion.

However we must do a comparison to understand how bad Christianity really is. The track record of atheism would be worthwhile to compare, yes?

Very well. When atheists were able to establish governments(freed from the supposedly awful and murderous influence of Christianity) one would expect a lot less killing and torturing and fines and imprisonment… at least if we are to believe the hype.

But in fact, the atheist regimes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, et al managed in the space of just one lifetime to kill almost 100 million people. And they tortured a heck of a lot more. Imprisoned even more people than that.

It took atheists only about five years to equal two thousand years of Christianity in the catagory of murder.

Wonder what Jefferson would say about that?

The atheists needed only about 50 more years to double… no, triple. No, in fact they would quadruple anything that any religion had ever done over the whole long sorry history of man.

Thats frightening, isnt it? When it comes to killing, torturing, and imprisonment… atheism is much much much worse than Christianity. Probably worse than all religions combined. 

Some say that atheism is the wave of the future. If so, the future looks grim. Your beliefs frighten me samo.


Internet access cost: 8 dollars a month

Watching samo prove that atheism is the worst and most destructive world-view the world has ever seen: Priceless!

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By samosamo, April 9, 2010 at 12:42 am Link to this comment

By OzarkMichael, April 9 at 1:33 am
““You are dealing with a fundamentalist Christian who is not
good at turning the other cheek.”“
*******************
Well, as intelligent as you claim you are, I would have thought
you would have tried to go back into history to find the origins
of religion but being the fundamentalist you claim, who will
not turn the other cheek, you wouldn’t waste you time and I
don’t blame you when you believe in stuff people have told
you all your life and for what ever reason you don’t question,
so you bring that attitude with you to the present day and,
viola, you have a little man in the sky watching everybody and
everything we do ready to punish and even banish or
condemn us to a place called hell.

If you think I insult you about your religious convictions,
people who profess to a religion and evangelize others is even
more insulting to me. But there are those who have
determined from historians, even during the said time of a
messianic figure, that he never existed, well I won’t even
present a cheek.

I don’t look to convert anybody and sure don’t think of people
that don’t think as I do as stupid, maybe not informed enough
to realize a scam when they should and if you think me a
straw man, go back into history and find the beginnings of the
religion you profess, find a real historian or philosopher or
any real person from about 10bce to 60ce that ever wrote
about a messianic figure like christ that performed miracles
that are claimed to him. If you look and find anything tell me
the difference in exoteric and esoteric information from the
‘high’ priests of the early years of formation of religion.

Religion doesn’t come close to a spiritual self when it comes
to dealing with people and the planet.

Read the works of Thomas Paine, George Washington’s,
Hamilton’s, Franklin’s and Jefferson’s friend who wrote
extensively about what would turn into our constitution, bill of
rights and the declaration of independence. Read what he said
about the american and french revolutions. Then read his
works on the bible, prophecies, and the rights of man. But
with your lumber jack justice and hubristic attitude, you
already know what is true and real no matter what anyone
says and if that means you say I am stupid via a straw man
you are the stupid one who insults by a fantasy.

And for a parting quotation which may make your hair stand
out, this is from Thomas Jefferson, who has been stricken
from the history books in Texas for such pronouncements:

““I have examined all the known superstitions of the world,
and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity
one redeeming feature.

They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.

Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the
introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined
and imprisoned.

What has been the effect of this coercion?

To make one half of the world fools and the other half
hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.”“

                Thomas Jefferson*****
________________________________________________
Did that make you want to dig that man’s bones up and burn
them?
Sorry I didn’t make this one big paragraph to confound your
super intelligent mind.

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By OzarkMichael, April 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm Link to this comment

samo said: Since seem to think my original comment was so far in left field that by ozarkmike’s comment about it that it was ‘killing you’ I take it that as om and propgandhi missed or just thought my
comment was nothing to do with reality, you also gave little thought to what I said.

true. i didnt deal with your more thoughtful points. In fact I think you said something important, but then you said some things that were ignorant and insulting. You seem to think that people who disagree with you are stupid. Now dont get me wrong, i love to disagree and have a good argument.

But your attack on religion was a straw man argument, so I felt perfectly free to turn your prolonged sentence into a straw man that i could easily attack. By the end of my post, it makes you look stupid. Not that you really are stupid, but if you insist on expressing a prejudiced sort of ignorance i will highlight it.

But if you treat what i believe with some respect, then I will do the same to you. Not that i expect you to. I am just explaining how it works. You are dealing with a fundamentalist Christian who is not good at turning the other cheek.

There are some good comments by other posters too. I agree with much of what has been posted. I even agree with some of what Sam Harris says!

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By WriterOnTheStorm, April 7, 2010 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment

The context of the presentation is important: it’s a response to the argument
that religion (god) is the creator, enforcer and final arbiter of all morality. Sam
seems to be claiming that science provides a more accurate, efficient, and
logical way to establish moral values than religion.

All fine, except for one not so minor detail. It’s usually not the moral value
itself that’s the problem, it’s the imposition of the morality where all the
trouble starts. Without the slightest hint of irony, Sam blasts the “imposition”
of the chador on Muslim women, never realizing that his imprecation is itself
just another moral imposition.

He speaks of facts without acknowledging that scientific knowledge is
constantly evolving. The scientific “facts” of today are the theoretical scrapheap
of tomorrow. Remember when Pluto was a planet? What facts are we going to
cherry-pick to establish the moral code that he would impose upon the world?

A case in point is the Prisoner’s Dilemma from game theory. This little gem
became an established “fact”, leading to the notion of radical self-interest as a
pillar of military strategy, economic theory, political discourse, marketing, and
social programs for two generations. It turned out to be false. If any of those
fancy thinkers had bothered to actually test the Prisoner’s Dilemma on their
own secretarial pool, they would have realized that people can’t really be relied
upon to act out of self-interest.

Every good scientist will readily attest to the dangers of going off half cocked,
but that is just what Mr Harris proposes to do. The only difference between him
and the Pope at this point is the “authority” he invokes.

As an argument against religion as a moral authority Harris’ presentation is
overkill. There are plenty of studies clearly pointing to evolution and group
survival as the root of morality. People will understand this in time. Harris’
career goals notwithstanding, there’s no need for another hegemonic
confrontation, especially one reeking of cultural imperialism.

Report this

By samosamo, April 7, 2010 at 12:39 pm Link to this comment

By rfidler, April 7 at 2:09 pm

Since seem to think my original comment was so far in left field
that by ozarkmike’s comment about it that it was ‘killing you’ I
take it that as om and propgandhi missed or just thought my
comment was nothing to do with reality, you also gave little
thought to what I said.

But as kronosauras commented and I had read that comment
before reading yours, (s)he was commenting on most all points
in the talk, where for me I would have to have the transcript to
make sure I was microscopically being correct in what I said; but
if you read that comment, I said:
***************
“‘I do have to say a most important point is the ‘loss of touch
with nature’ that has more than most of anything to do with the
thought provoking talk here, and to me, that means we humans,
according to that have also passed a point where technology
cannot save or fix the problems that abound in this world and
most obvious is one thing sam harris decided that is not a
concern is the vast amount of humans and all the systems in
society and civilizations that cannot cope with this overload of
humans and some false sense of science or technology being
able to rush in and save the day or eventually save the day.”’
************************

Nothing about all the things about what harris talked about, just
what I found to most relevant for me, as I would rather think
that is the way most people comment-expressing their opinion
and mine were ‘no one cares about nature and that science will
find a fix to save the ridiculous number of humans on this
planet, and that is where science has a far far better chance of
NOT SAVING the people or the day.

I could give a rats ass about how long my sentences are as om
seems to have extreme moonshine attention deficit by having to
wrestling a meaning that he wants to agree with or repudiate.

Now, you may or may not have issue with my urging people to
do a deep search into the origins of religion and you may or
may not have issues with my quoting the gallup poll figures of
how people in this country perceive evolution, but it was from
gallup and I am sure other polls had different %s so I guess you
or om or gandhi could rag me for cherry picking the stats but
none of the stats I saw were much different.

And I can only think propagandhi never or maybe even now has
not realized the full intent of either of my references to Einstein.

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rico, suave's avatar

By rico, suave, April 7, 2010 at 11:09 am Link to this comment

samo:
Did you read Kronosaurus? Now there’s a thoughtful piece. No person attacks, no extraterrestrial fact sources, just a well thought out opinion. Try it some time.

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By Kronosaurus, April 7, 2010 at 7:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Once again TED shows itself to be a spankfest for narcissistic people. If you want an intelligent
discussion on morality any number of philosophers
could blow this guy out of the water. His talk is
incoherent and superficial. He’s trying to argue for
moral objectivity but he can’t seem to break away
from moral relativity. It’s as if he wants his cake
and eat it to. Look, there are these peaks which he
seems to call societal configurations. Within those
configurations we can have different moral rules and
so it looks like he is doing moral relativism. But
then he says certain practices like veiling women and
corporal punishment would never be in one of these
peak civilizations. Huh? A societal configuration
will be complex, multivariate and interconnected. I
can imagine a society where women give up the right
to choose not to veil but trade it for other benefits
like respect and power over certain spheres. Or a
society where corporal punishment is sanctioned but
rarely used and so forth. The point is that they are
within a system that overall is good. This is moral
relativism because any rule can be good or bad. It
depends on context. So Sam can’t rule out anything
yet. But he does. And he bases much of his beliefs on
western individualism. He gives no props to
collectivism or cultures that value larger units like
families and societies as a whole equally or more so
than the individual. Can science answer the
individual vs. the collective argument? I’m not
saying moral objectivity is necessarily wrong, but
Sam is not giving a good argument for it. This guy is
obviously on the self-important speaking tour getting
fawning attention from other self-important people
and attracting audiences from corporate tax
deducters. Is that representative of peak society?

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By Jose, April 7, 2010 at 5:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think Sam makes some good points but I think he ruins his case as well by launching some ill thought out broadsides against foreign cultural norms he finds distasteful.

He makes half a case then declares burkhas evil without any supporting argument. That doesn’t sound very scientific to me.

e=mc2 therefore we must do away with Nike footwear. Makes sense?

Still he does say some things of merit but I’d like to see a more coherent and better supported argument before jumping on this paticular bandwagon.

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By samosamo, April 6, 2010 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

Ahhh, the attack squad is out in force today between squashing
free speech and no body’s opinion matters but their own and
always ready to play their favorite roll as to who is ‘worthy
enough’ to be heard.

I would have thought with all the excellence and perfection in
your thoughts, and combined at that, that there would be no
need of a site like truthdig or any other multitude of web sites
which huff post seems to be where you two would be most
suited for your perticular virulent version of free speech.

Robert Scheer must give you two boys or girls or boy or girl, a
hefty stipend to pronounce your verdicts and the pope waits on
your very words.

Here is to sam harris who at least tries to promote thought and
constructive criticism, opposite what you 2 ‘good old boys’ with
the higher intellect promote.

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rico, suave's avatar

By rico, suave, April 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment

Ozark:
“...highly evolved Truthdigger.” samosamo???

Get the fuck out! Yer killin me here.

Once again “oxymoron” meets perfection in example.

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By propagandhi, April 6, 2010 at 1:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The comments section of Truthdig is one of the least
intellectually stimulating places I have ever visited.
OzarkMichael quotes txt without citing where it
appeared, which makes it not worth reading at all.
samosamo mentions Albert Einstein twice without making
any sort of cogent argument against Sam’s critique of
the inability of educated people in infering “ought
from is”, and WriterOnTheStorm ignores Sam’s
presentation as “Facts as Values” completely. Almost
every contention he had with the talk is addressed by
sam in _in the talk_.

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By samosamo, April 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment

Gee, guess some people just don’t have enough attention to pay
attention to what needs attention as they think everyone should
pay them the attention he demands as if he is the main
attraction.

But it’s fun making some to have to read more that what was
said in the first lines as I believe the whole idea was to provoke
thought whether one agreed or disagreed even if it takes…. put
this way, I can see why a lot of people don’t try to read A.
Einstein.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, April 6, 2010 at 10:47 am Link to this comment

Of the four atheist authors I have read, Harris is the least intelligent. He knows how to be provocative and can make a headline.If he had verbal skills he would do great talk radio.

Anyway, here is a quote from a highly evolved Truthdigger, whose sentences are long enough that some evolution actually occurs in nature while you read his sentence, and whose purpose for the sentence seems to evolve while he is writing the sentence, so that the end of the sentence is not able to mate with the first part of the sentence because it is a completely different animal, and by golly by the end of his sentence you better not be the (1%)who dont answer his question, because you know this fella has the answers even though he wont even talk about it UNLESS you meet his conditions first:

Religion, I see no need what ever to discuss religion in the context of this current world UNLESS anyone wishing to do so would be willing to go back as far into the past as possible to examine the origins of religious ideology and those why for’s and what not’s about those beginnings and how they have evolved to a point where the underlying hope that technology will find a fix every time but the real science of reality is shoved aside to second place of a big stern old man pronouncing judgments and talking to only special people prevails, case in point only 39% of people in this country believe in evolution but that fact is covered over by the 25% who don’t with the remainder(36%) that just aren’t sure or gave no answer(1%).

Internet access cost: 8 dollars a month
Enjoying that pseudo-scientific justification of atheism: Priceless!

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By samosamo, April 6, 2010 at 7:49 am Link to this comment

I do have to say a most important point is the ‘loss of touch with
nature’ that has more than most of anything to do with the
thought provoking talk here, and to me, that means we humans,
according to that have also passed a point where technology
cannot save or fix the problems that abound in this world and
most obvious is one thing sam harris decided that is not a
concern is the vast amount of humans and all the systems in
society and civilizations that cannot cope with this overload of
humans and some false sense of science or technology being
able to rush in and save the day or eventually save the day.

Religion, I see no need what ever to discuss religion in the
context of this current world UNLESS anyone wishing to do so
would be willing to go back as far into the past as possible to
examine the origins of religious ideology and those why for’s and
what not’s about those beginnings and how they have evolved to
a point where the underlying hope that technology will find a fix
every time but the real science of reality is shoved aside to
second place of a big stern old man pronouncing judgments and
talking to only special people prevails, case in point only 39% of
people in this country believe in evolution but that fact is
covered over by the 25% who don’t with the remainder(36%) that
just aren’t sure or gave no answer(1%).

http://www.gallup.com/poll/114544/darwin-birthday-believe-
evolution.aspx

And I sure would hate to judge whether another culture is
inferior just because they don’t or can’t build an atomic weapon,
just as I don’t try to think animals or probably all life doesn’t feel
or isn’t cognizant about the world or universe around us, or
maybe any form of animate or inanimate matter, for that matter,
and speaking theoretically here, there are very few elements, all
those substances on the periodic chart, that are not in animate
or inanimate objects.

“Make everything simple as possible, but not simpler.”
                                                        Albert Einstein

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By WriterOnTheStorm, April 5, 2010 at 10:56 pm Link to this comment

So let us get this straight. According to Sam, the primary reason for needless
human suffering is society’s failure to recognize its true moral authorities?

Really??

So all those Muslim women are going to immediately throw off their chadors and
squeeze into a pair of Calvin Kleins once presented with scientific evidence
prooving the inferiority of their culture?

Really??

And one can extrapolate likewise that all the captains of industry here in the
west will surrender their wealth once we can demonstrate with some scan or
other that their money isn’t stimulating the “happiness” centers of their brains?

Really??

Mr Harris, this ill-advised foray into mad scientist territory almost prompted me
to burn my dog-eared copy of “Letter to a Christian Nation”. What astonishes is
your apparently complete obliviousness to the fact that every example you give
comes down to you myopically (I’m being kind, most would call it hateful or
racists) projecting your own set of values on another culture. Worse, you use the
old rhetorical hat trick of comparing what feels good about your own culture to
what looks bad about another, blithely passing judgement with seemingly no
ability or need to comprehend another culture’s moral system in its entirety.

It’s as if, after all your travels and spiritual quests, after all your brilliant books
and lectures, you still haven’t figured out that life is a fairly fucking subjective
experience, and most of are just trying to make a few roadside repairs. You
seem to believe that Catholics started out with the idea of burning heretics at
the stake, or that Joe Stalin just woke up one day with a hankering for pogrom?

No, those horrors started the same way you’re starting—with the absolute
conviction that what’s best for society is a thing that can be quantified, verified
and eventually imposed upon the hapless masses. “For their own good”.

Your brave new world creeps the bejesis outta me—all human interaction
limited to pre-approved “scientific” precepts—morality defined by the results
of double-blind studies, carried out over multiple generations—notions of
taboo and transgression stripped down to synaptic nuts and bolts to be
reassembled according to cookie-cutter behavioral schematics—drives and
urges quantified and calibrated to maximum emotional efficiency ratios…

I’m as repulsed by the Great-Ant-Farmer-In-The-Sky-Guy as the next atheist,
but do you really want to go here?

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