Sam Harris – Aspen Ideas Festival

I’m swamped today (almost grant season again!), so I’m just passing along a link that might be of interest.

Sam Harris, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

The video is about 1h long, but well worth it. It’s typical Sam; witty, insightful, and dead on the money. I just wish he wouldn’t begin every talk by “apologizing” for insulting anyone in the audience for insulting (i.e. providing justified criticism to a particular delusion) their religious beliefs. We’re way past that now, Sam. And besides, no one would be insulted if you criticized their favourite sports team, or their favourite sandwich, or even their favoured political party. Those are fair game; but unjustified “knowledge” of what the creator of the universe mandates with regards to work, sexuality, or biomedical research is verboten?

To be fair, Sam has a unique view of spirituality, which has landed him in some hot water with dyed-in-the-wool skeptics such as James Randi (read Sam’s response to Randi’s claims here). I personally tend to agree with Sam in some respects; we can be aware of our own “spirituality” without presupposing anything on insufficient evidence. In other respects, however, Sam occationally goes off the deep end, and provides what appears to be unjustified support for certain Eastern philosophies which, although they don’t by definition suggest the existence of a personal god, do make evidence-free claims about the nature of the universe.

For my part, these criticisms do not detract from the central message espoused by Sam: there is no evidence to suggest the existence of any particular god or of god in general. I would argue that such evidence cannot exist, though some would disagree. Nevertheless, Sam’s point is clear: our civilization cannot survive the unmitigated coexistence of Bronze Age ideas about morality and 21st century technology of warfare. The longer we allow religious dogma to go unchallenged; the more we privilege faith over all else, the closer we move toward the efficient commingling of these two destructive forces. Thankfully, there are people like Sam, Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling, Christopher Hitchens, and PZ Myers (to name a few) who have started to speak against this ridiculous scenario in which we now find ourselves.

No matter what your religious persuasion, do yourself a favour and listen (really listen) to what Sam has to say, and consider the reasons why you “know” the things you think you do.

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