The Moral Landscape

I heard Sam Harris defend his new book, The Moral Landscape, last night on BookTV.Very Interesting. I’ll have to get a copy and read it.

From what I could tell, he has borrowed liberally from the biblical Christian perspective, but calls his method scientific. We all know that he rejects religion, but then again so did Jesus. Well, Jesus rejected the Pharisaic understanding of religion, and would reject all misunderstandings of true religion — even scientific misunderstandings.

Harris believes that the values of human well being, and I will enthusiastically add the longevity of human culture, can be quantified in some sense so that science can play a significant role in the determination of good values versus bad values. That is, in fact, exactly what the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden is all about.  In this Harris is, of course, following Kant, who also argued for the objectivity of truth, beauty and goodness.

I’ll be the last to argue against the objectivity of truth, beauty and goodness, except for the fact that human beings do no have access to such objective determinations. Objectivity is there, it’s real, but it’s beyond our limitations, like a ring suspended from a ceiling that is too high to reach, even if we jump — even if we build a ladder.

Harris’ comments about Islam were particularly interesting. He argued that the values behind Sunnis blowing up Sheites (and visa versa) are in fact the logical and consistent ends of Koranic doctrine. It is not religious extremism that is the problem, but the content of the religion that is taken to the extreme. In contrast, Janists who follow Janism to the extreme will be completely harmless to both man and beast, and harmless is superior to harmful.

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