Sam Harris - The End of Faith

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seamus
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Sam Harris - The End of Faith

Post by seamus » Sun Nov 12, 2006 9:45 pm

I just ordered "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris
Anyone read this yet? What do you think?

Check out this video of a talk he gave

http://www.irishatheist.com/ia/cgi/pm.c ... &app_id=42

:)
CitizenPaine
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Post by CitizenPaine » Sun Nov 12, 2006 11:10 pm

Re: Sam Harris

I read his "Letter to a Christian Nation" and found it good. He also appears in the film "The God Who Wasn't There" (see my recent post).
seamus
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Post by seamus » Tue Nov 14, 2006 12:22 am

CitizenPaine wrote: He also appears in the film "The God Who Wasn't There"
Thanks for pointing that out. I wasn’t familiar with Sam Harris the first time I watched "The God Who Wasn't There” so I didn’t remember him being in it.

I had a few floating days to take before the end of the year so I'm taking a long weekend down the country somewhere. This should give me some reading / find-my-self :roll: time.
brianmmulligan
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Post by brianmmulligan » Sun Jan 07, 2007 9:15 pm

There is an article critical of Sam Harris here:
http://alternet.org/story/46196/
Sam Harris himself sent the link in his newsletter. The article suggests that he is in favour of torture, but I have been able to figure out that he is just in favour of it when the benefits clearly make it worthwhile (I know some of you may disagree with this, but it is still different to outright support of torture - my own mind is not made up on this issue).
The article also suggests that he also gives some credence to some paranormal phenomenon such as ESP and reincarnation. I have not got around to reading any of his books, so if someone has, you might make a comment on that. I did feel that the writer (John Gorenfeld) last some credibility by his misinterpretation (misrepresentation?) of harris's views on torture, but I would like to hear how anyone could suggest that there was anything to reincarnation.

Brian.
tigger04554
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Post by tigger04554 » Sun Jan 14, 2007 6:05 am

I just finished reading this book. Through most of it, I thought, excellent, this is like Richard Dawkins but uber hardcore.

Most of what he says is hard to disagree with. But I think he undermines himself and the credibility of the book with the last two chapters.

He introduces a rationalization that torture is as bad if not more ethical to "collateral damage" in modern warfare situations (odd this, as he spends the first chapter detailing the gruesome details of Christian torture during the 500-year inquisition, and the futility of the false confessions elicited through torture).

I get the impression he's perhaps just being influenced by the American war-on-terror mentality (despite his criticisms of the "war" on an abstract noun). Whatever the rights or wrongs of the justification for torture (and it makes me very uneasy indeed), I think it undermines the credibility of the book because it was so unnecessary to bring it up in this book, and totally out of context, IMHO.

Then he finishes off with a journey into spirituality. I can see where he's going with this, and what he is trying to convey, but I fear he will have lost a lot of readers by this point (if he hasn't already lost them on the torture-justification chapter).

I also think he's indicating that he's still holding out for some sort of life after death. (Didn't Hawking call this "wishful thinking"?) - Anyone else who read the book have a view on this?
brianmmulligan
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Post by brianmmulligan » Sun Jan 14, 2007 10:36 pm

I am a rationalist first and an aethiest second. i am an aethiest because my rationalism tells me that it is most likely to be true.

I sometimes worry that rationalism might bring me to conclusions that I don't like (eg. the route to my personal happiness may be best found in complete selfishness) - to date it has not.

While currently against torture, it is only an emotional opinion. I have yet to get around to examining that topic in a completely rational way. I accept the argument that there may be situations where the misery caused by torture may be dwarfed by the misery that it might protect us from. I suspect that this might be Harris's argument (and there is validity in it). However, it would be difficult to define such situations, particularly as it would be difficult to measure the long term negative effects of allowing torture in such exceptional circumstances. (This is a bit like the "no free speech for fascists" argument - sometimes it might seem as if it is best to restrict freedom of speech but it might lead to further restrictions in the future). So here is another issue I have to sit on the fence on.

By the way, the so called right wing magazine that I read a lot, The Economist, is against torture. Where does that put me?
Brian
tigger04554
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Post by tigger04554 » Mon Jan 15, 2007 12:29 am

By the way, the so called right wing magazine that I read a lot, The Economist, is against torture. Where does that put me?
The terms 'right wing' and 'left wing' are pretty one-dimensional terms that don't really reflect peoples politics. It's possible to be economically 'right' and socially 'left' for example.

There's an interesting website that puts it on a two-dimensional scale, you can see where you stand on different axes - authoritarian, libertarian, economic left and right... http://www.politicalcompass.org
brianmmulligan
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Post by brianmmulligan » Mon Jan 15, 2007 1:12 pm

tigger04554 wrote:
By the way, the so called right wing magazine that I read a lot, The Economist, is against torture. Where does that put me?
The terms 'right wing' and 'left wing' are pretty one-dimensional terms that don't really reflect peoples politics. It's possible to be economically 'right' and socially 'left' for example.

There's an interesting website that puts it on a two-dimensional scale, you can see where you stand on different axes - authoritarian, libertarian, economic left and right... http://www.politicalcompass.org
Well blow me down! Thanks for that tigger. I thought that I was left-wing socially and right wing economically. Turns out I'm a complete lefty (albeit a moderate one). I have to rush now and hand in the auld PD membership card.
Brian
tigger04554
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Post by tigger04554 » Mon Jan 15, 2007 2:54 pm

Well blow me down! Thanks for that tigger. I thought that I was left-wing socially and right wing economically. Turns out I'm a complete lefty (albeit a moderate one). I have to rush now and hand in the auld PD membership card.
LOL - that's funny, me too exactly. I always thought I was economic liberal (i.e. right) and socially left-liberal, turns out I'm an all-out (moderate) leftie as well. And funnily enough, an ex-PD supporter to boot!
brianmmulligan
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Post by brianmmulligan » Mon Jan 15, 2007 11:43 pm

tigger04554 wrote:
LOL - that's funny, me too exactly. I always thought I was economic liberal (i.e. right) and socially left-liberal, turns out I'm an all-out (moderate) leftie as well. And funnily enough, an ex-PD supporter to boot!
Yes I was a strong supporter of the PDs in the early days when the dogs in the street knew that high taxes were causing high unemployment. Since then I've done a lot of reading on the Economics of Happiness (Good book: Robert Frank's - Luxury Fever) and come to the conclusion that having largely solved the unemployment problem we are all working too hard. Frank suggests 'pigovian' taxes (I think that's the name) to discourage us.

Having said that, the survey is American. I had great fun at work today where I'm perceived as right wing telling them that I was classed as mildly left-wing. The centre in the US is located slightly to one side of the centre in Europe.
Brian
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