Who Says Science has Nothing to Say About Morality?

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Who Says Science has Nothing to Say About Morality?In his new book The Moral Landscape, neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris challenges the commonly held view that science has nothing to say about moral issues and that religion is the best authority on meaning, values and a good life.

For Sam, the goal of The Moral Landscape is to begin a conversation about how moral truth can be understood in terms of science.

Richard Dawkins is known for his persistence in demanding a rational and scientific approach to solving life's most fundamental questions wherever and whenever it can be applied. So, can science help us to determine how we should live in the 21st century?

These two pinnacles of rationalist thought discuss at The Sheldonian Theatre, University of Oxford, how the science of morality might be formulated and applied to human well-being.

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218 Comments / User Reviews

  1. princeton

    haha.. the truth will eventually win out.. and the trend i see among documentaries and youtube videos makes me optimistic about our future.. the species is waking up.

  2. Michael Brown

    A lovely circle jerk there.

  3. Jaak Wassmuth

    Great dialectics but methinks these two need to take some mushrooms or LSD and perhaps get wise about the mandelbrot set. It would have been nice if they discussed the morality of using fossil fuels but I think it would have spun their watches a little too much. Ok

  4. Gary V

    Thanks Vlatko for yet another very interesting doc. I can't wait for tonight's debate to liven up. With the outstandingly intelligent Prof. Richard Dawkins in the equation it should be pretty good.

  5. GrittyKat

    WOW, the part where he talked about if we could take a pill that would make us not feel grief, at what point would we take that pill blew me away. If you lost a child and could take a pill to make you forget the grief, would you take it right away, a bit later, or not at all? That is a pain I NEVER wish to feel but I cannot imagine taking a pill right away to make it go away. We are born with the abiity to feel pain, sorrow, hate, joy and love without any religion introduced into our lives. A bit hard to follow at times but definitly worth a watch.

  6. Gary V


    I think that the point that he was trying to make was if there was such a pill, would there ever be a point where we would want to get rid of our Human emotions & the answer is of course NO. He was saying that it is our emotions & our intelligence that gives us a sense of morality & that we no longer require an ancient book of outdated myths to tell us right from wrong.

  7. wald0

    Though I am a huge fan of both these men I have to admit this particular arguement was somewhat ambiguose to me. I have to agree with several of the audience members that said his arguement wasn't clear and somewhat subjective. I mean the facts he laid out were easy enough to follow and seemed correct, but that still didn't seem to conclude that science could inform us about morality. I think he should have spent more time talking about the nuerological component of his arguement. That seemed to be leading down the path he wanted to follow. If all consequences are measured by well being and well being is a "brain state" so to speak, and our brain states are the product of nuero-chemical brain functions or some kind of mechanical reaction to stimuli at the quantum level-- then it is logical that nuero science or quantum physics could be connected to morality. Maybe thats exactly what he said and I just didn't follow him, but he seemed to get lost in his analogies and metaphors sort of. Any way, well worth the watch- really makes you think about things in a new perspectiive.

  8. Gary V


    Yes I found that he did just skim over the surface a bit with most of what he was saying, I rather hoped that he would have gone a little more in depth into why science & rational thought can replace religion for most if not all of us in this modern age. Also that we are perfectly capable of creating a fair & just society for us all without having to revert back to outdated myths for guidance.

  9. Ammy Amp

    Look at the West. We are severed from any connection to spirit. And the world is in flames. There is, I maintain, a concomitant relationship between the two. You're alone in an unfriendly universe with no meaning? Okay, let's set this nuke off, even if it may scorch the goddamned stratosphere. It's not the Tibetan Buddhists who caused this dispassionate frenzy; it's not the Haredi Jews in Israel.. The materialist, scientist Westerner has his finger on the trigger, and this obsession with "disproving" God and junking the religious sensibility of our amazing species is to deny our birthright. We are conscious, spiritual animals; without spiritual experiences we feel alone, neurotic, and we become dangerously masochistic. We are killing the Earth mother, and science has nothing to say about it: it's all a bunch of quantum s*** that blinks in and out at will, anyway. If you reduce the world to the merely material, you reduce your connection to that world. Who cares if there's a God or not; spiritual people are not responsible for oil slicks and uranium-coated weaponry. There is a causal relationship: it doesn't matter, it's only matter..

  10. wald0

    Here, here- well said man.

  11. StillRV

    Agreed Neurochemestry in relation to cognitive brain function is a favorite subject of mine. I frequently read studies in relation to neurotransmitter PET scan studies being done and the findings are mind blowing.

  12. bbga

    Fascinating ideas that Sam Harris has. I agree with his answer to the last question proposed in the Q & A session that "I don't see the split between science and philosophy". Most science, although many try to argue otherwise, begins with conjecture and then arrives at hypotheses. I disagree that most scientific inquiry is based on the natural world. It isn't always.

    Notice that he brings into his discussion the issue of 'multiple universes'. Actually, to quote him, he says "there are copies of ourselves living out different lives. That is a physical claim based on some data...and that scientific picture has some bona fides". First, I find it interesting that he uses the latinate bona fides, which literary means "good faith" (chuckling to myself). And that's just it - it is based on faith. It is something unseen that through mathematical wizardry...viola! we have multi universes. In spite of the complete lack of qualitative evidence. So, it is NOT a physical claim. There is nothing physical about it.

    This hypocrisy among secularists who believe in science fiction while relentlessly denigrating Christians is...amusing.

  13. Gary V

    This is the first time that I have ever come across Sam Harris & he seems like an extremely intelligent guy, I think that I will have to go out & but some of his books & see what else that I can find out about what he has to say here on the internet.

  14. misterwong

    hehee,THAT made me larf."There's no such thing as God..and may the Force be with you" Actually,a subject that I wonder at constantly.I feel that an inherent need of the human organism requires the realization of non-Physical non quantifiable experience.Primitive man,awed by the powers beyond his comprehension,sought to imbue these mysteries with human or animal characteristics to know its will.The mind of God.We still do precisely that today.But the impulse or the need to relate to the Transcendent...Why is that?We with our limitless minds and limited understanding view life as somehow incomplete without a connection to this Greatest of Mysteries..May the Force be with you all

  15. misterwong

    Science and Religions are a search for Truth and Enlightenment.In this they're the same.Hell,at one time they were indivisible.The problem arises when Rationale collides with the slavish addiction to Dogma.A moral world is a conscious effort to achieve a sort of natural stability or equilibrium within a community and is therefore,I believe ,subjective.However,is there a Cosmic Order that goes on with or without us?Of course there is..Is it Moral?Well,who the hell are We to judge? oh,my little brain....

  16. Salvador Alonso

    I think your problem is thinking that science is a form of thinking. Is not, science is not even an idea, is a proccess. It's a proccess that help us to distinguis between true and false. You can take any idea and see if it's true according to science. If we take human well being as some sort of truth, we can use the tools of science, the method, to see if something true or false.

  17. wald0

    I am very familiar with the scientific process, but that doesn't link the two ideas of science and morality in any meaningful way. You have to do more than say we can use the scientific process to help us make moral decisions, thats just a superficial connection. What if the scientific method leads you to a conclusion that you have no sense of value for? Then you are practicing a form of consequentialism and are left with an ultimate value delima of who is more important the whole or the individual. If it is the individual then maybe you shouldn't push the guy off the bridge to stop the train from killing the three men on the tracks, cause it will torment you for the rest of your life and could even push you to suicide. But if the collective species as a whole is more important, then you should save the highest possible amount of lives no matter what it does to your personal mental well being, right? Now how can science solve that value judgement. Science can help me hash out the pro and cons of each choice, but eventually I have to choose the one I value the most personally- and that is something beyond our control many times, what we value I mean. It has been instilled in us as we grew up, and we can't just change it because scientific data says this or that.

  18. NAND Gate

    The multiple universe hypothesis is based on experimental evidence - namely issues arising from the double slit experiment. It is not just "made up".

    What IS amusing is religious zealots who do not understand the issues of science trying to invoke a god.

    What experimental evidence is your world based on?

  19. NAND Gate

    lols "the materialist, scientist Westerner has his finger on the trigger, and this obsession with "disproving" God and junking the religious sensibility of our amazing species is to deny our birthright."

    We don't have to disprove god - you have to prove it. It is your assertion after all. Don't tell ME what MY birthright is. I will tell you - it is to be free of fascist religious demagogs like you.

    Don't pretend religion has done anything. It didn't stop Hitler, it didn't start Hitler, it didn't create the concept of human rights, and it didn't create medicine. In fact, in 3000 years it didn't achieve bugger all.

  20. NAND Gate

    "We are killing the Earth mother, and science has nothing to say about it"

    What a load of disposable junk. Climate science and environmental science must have somehow eluded you, which is normal for conservative religious fruitcakes.

    "..spiritual people are not responsible for oil slicks and uranium-coated weaponry" - you really are completely out of touch aren't you? Are you saying that Al Qaeda are not spiritual? That Iran doesn't have weapons? That anyone involved in any kind of industry isn't spiritual? Go argue with a rock - that is the only audience that you deserve. It is YOUR kind of people that are the problem, not open minded scientific types.

  21. NAND Gate

    I can't stand reading the comments of you religious fruitcakes. So I wont. But get this straight - science implies ethics. You cannot do science while dead, nor when sick, nor when under assault. Therefore science implies life, well being and freedom.

  22. Soul

    Religion is not a solution... I agree, it is a survival tool for those who have faith and beliefs on their system of life.

  23. NAND Gate

    We had no idea what "good" or "bad" was, before science told us. Trying to make assertions about good or bad, without the information science provides us with, is nothing but a psychological game of neurosis.

    For example - one may make a convincing argument that using birth control is "anti-life". Hence, using birth control is "bad". But once you discover, scientifically, that condoms prevent AIDS, you realise that birth control can be "good".

    Before you can make a judgement on good or bad, you need information. Science is the study of information. Religion is nothing but the internal study of ones own neurosis, or, if you like, the personal refinement of what you WANT to be true.

  24. Guest

    Although I have real questions and more than a few doubts concerning this lecture, I'll save those for another day. I'm beginning to get a queasy feeling that atheism is sliding into its own dogma. Catch phrases are beginning to rise up not only in this and other documentaries but in books, websites, conversations, comment sections, and just about anywhere atheism is a subject of debate. Tonight Mr. Harris slipped in a couple that are downright Orwellian. 1) There is certain knowledge we should not know 2) Consequences are what matters. Now I know these are cited without context but I'm not too fond of the context either. Couple these statements "Free will is a non-starter", and "You don't need a notion of free will to have a notion of truth" to the first two and it really begins to get chilling.

  25. mrre

    Why are you attacking any moderate responses? Must we dismiss all people for whom religion is solace? Why is anything that doesn't mirror what you believe reduced to fascist religious demagoguery? Is it really that simple at all: either religious wingnut or rational human being? What about the nuclear weapons set off in the Van Allen Belt in the 50s? Was that a religious rite, or a scientific rite?

    Science, religion, politics, economics: all of these are tinged by myth and mythical thinking. And all versions of these myths have led to this place in which we now find ourselves: depleted soil, water, air and all other natural resources, a leveling of the economic climate that has devastated populations all over the world, (instead of raising the standard of living for individuals who suffer from historic poverty and starvation/malnutrition; we seem to be lowering the standard for all in effort to "homogenize" poverty,) climate change, ever MORE war.. Do you truly believe it is only religion that has brought us to this place? i think not! In fact, religion isn't the issue at all..it is people, making choices that are available who have led to this place. And one of those choices is complacency..the root of which is blame.

    This point-of-view, that religion is the source of all evil, reduces reason to mere polarity. And both poles are the same; they just exist in reverse. On one hand, fundamental Chrisitianity, and on the other rabid, hateful atheism. i will take the middle path, thank you very much.

  26. Stephen W.

    By not addressing the support Harris gave for the so called "Orwellian" claims then all you're doing is creating straw-men.

  27. Petar Vitanovich

    atheism is a dogma these days. especially when they get on this website and bash religion. its kind of ridulous that they say "well we dont believe in anything" and then bash religion saying it causes conflict. But then how can it cause conflict, when an atheist is bashing religion, that means they hold their belief in just the same fashion they believe someone who believes in god does, making them technically a religion too. that proves my point that the "beliefs" are not the problem, the problem is if some one has an agenda that they believe is possible, they will act upon it to achieve there goal, eg. war. my personal belief in god can't cause conflict in the world around me, unless i was seeking something that would cause conflict that is irrelevant with my beliefs. see all religion is, is personal hopes and dreams, unless the religion is saying to go and kill something, or act things out, then i would understand the problem atheists have with religion, but since no where in scripture there is a statement like "Go kill so and so and you will be cleansed from your sin" since that doesn't exist, well maybe in Islam but Islam is a whole other convo for me, then how can religion be negative in the world around us. coming from me, a religious person, religion to me just lets me rest easier at night by allowing me to hope for just maybe something else after death, other than that me and my atheist friend live pretty much exactly the same life. the problem is religions like catholicism and things like baptists, and protestants, who take scripture and try to turn it into todays world, which is redicoulus to me. Myself, i am Serbian Christian orthodox, and i highly recommend any athiest visit a orthodox church, and see what old religion, particularly old Christianity really is. no one forces anything upon you, no one tells you dinosaurs aren't real, and no one will ever, EVER prevent you from furthering your knowledge through science. see religion and science have always been two different parts of a man's life, today it seems to many people want to try and say religion is trying to fight science for the same part in a man's heart, that to me is a very misinformed human being. sorry for the spelling, im at work and had to write a comment since all around the world people are trying to eliminate religion, when the majority of religion ha never attacked someone for personal beliefs, and when something as personal as a simple belief can be attacked, that opens the door for anything you think about to be persecuted which in reality is a attack on conscious itself

  28. Mark Stouffer

    The multiple universe world-view is a way of explaining everything in the world by means of another world.

    It's as if you could only explain how a car works by referring to a ghost car which animates the brute, or muscle car.

    Then the problem begins. The alternate world requires a system for how the worlds act on each other. The two worlds have some world-interface. Worlds grow without number.

    Soon you realize the shabby truth: To describe this world you require an infinite number of worlds. Armed with your newly conceived infinity-verse, your unlimited limit, your meaningless meaning, your super-nature, you can explain everything.

    A theory that explains everything, explains nothing.

  29. Cody Gaisser

    A guy giving a speech on a subject while his friend stops him occasionally and asks him questions or throws in his own perspective? It wasn't like it was supposed to be a debate or anything.

  30. Mark Stouffer

    Is he saying he has no free will?

    Why should I trust him if he is not "the author" of what he is saying. I am explaining my decision. Trust is delicate.

    Oh and I can tell him exactly why I thought of Friedrich Nietzsche and not some other famous person. I just watched "Nietzsche and the Nazis". Just audit your thoughts. Piece o' cake!

  31. Sam Goldney

    the idea that materialism somehow cheapens human life is absolutely absurd, in actual fact, the non-existence of a soul makes life infinitely more valuable, in a world with an eternally existing soul all you're doing when you kill someone is taking away the vessel that they use to interact with the world. Big f***ing deal, their consciousness (which is what really matters) is still intact and well, but in a world with no soul consciousness is a process of the brain, killing somebody not only bars them access from the physical universe, it takes away their very existence, words cannot describe how terrible such an act is. Materialism isn't an excuse for killing, if anything it gives you a whole lot more to answer for.

  32. NAND Gate

    Have the courage to challenge you own belief systems in the face of empiricism. I, too, had to painfully throttle my own personal Tinkerbell on the altar of empiricism. It is just the way it is. So we make do with what we have - as we always have.

    Yes, we must attack ALL people for whom religion is solace. Why? Because religion is idealistic demagoguery - untrustworthy and subject to human fallacy. We must make a new "us". Religion is just a poster child for a form of human behavior/thought process that threatens us all. And that form I shall call - for the sake of this argument - the Cult of Me.

    While we roll around in the intellectual mud of our ancestors, we will achieve nothing but what we have already achieved. Which frankly, isn't a shadow of what we could achieve.

  33. NAND Gate

    The multiple universe theory is not a throw-away concept. Anyone who thinks it is, falls into one of two categories - 1) You have completely failed to understand the implications of the double slit experiment, or 2) You have a completely cogent EXPLANATION for the double slit experiment.

    So please - explain to me what the double slit experiment implies, if you are so clever.

  34. NAND Gate

    There is only one possible explanation for the double slit experiment that I can surmise, that ISN'T the multiple universe theory - and that is simulism.

    The theory is, that our universe is simulated, and therefore the laws of physics only have to make sense insomuch as they WORK FOR US. In this point of view, quantum physics and the double slit experiment are evidence of pixelation.

    This does not invoke a "god", and as it come from information science, it only describes and explains the conditions of our universe in the context of simulism - as to who or what are the simulators, well, feel free to dive into religion from this point. I do not. I choose to wait and see, since science seems to be revealing so much.

  35. Gary V

    Are you having a conversation with yourself because that's what it looks like from here, it looks like you are talking to yourself & answering yourself. lol
    Perhaps it's just me, I have been awake for 24hrs, maybe it's time that I went to sleep.

  36. NAND Gate


  37. Chih Seng Simon Ho

    it is now May 2011 already. If you Mr science can change the world , pls do. Nobody is stopping you. stop hidng in this room, and talk about how right you are and selling your book. if you have the answer , naturally people will follow you. Maybe you should start by giving part of your book sales to the poor.

  38. 0zyxcba1

    @ Michael Brown

    I love circle jerks. Don't you?

  39. ZarathustraSpeaks

    On what basis are you saying our minds are limitless? How would we know if limits exist if we only have access to what our brain has evolved to this point allows. Are you saying evolution has some greater purpose than procreation?

  40. 0zyxcba1

    A lot left to be desired.

    But I'm not sure that wasn't due to the time constraints imposed by the format. For example, a couple students' questions I felt to be truly thought driving. It would be great if follow-up discussion could be accommodated, but such a presentation would amount to series of seminars.

    Now, if the subject had been the history of footwear, it wouldn't really matter where you left off; a good time could still be had by all. The topic here has kept philosophers busy for thousands of years. What can one do in 90 minutes?

    Limited as they are, I think these kinds of cursory overviews have value.

  41. misterwong

    Helluva good question..and at the risk of revealing myself as numbskull,I believe we're only beginning to explore the potential of the mind,How do we explain the phenomena of Genius,for example.Apart from the creative and rational capacities of our mind what else is possible? And that's my point. Can we know all that is knowable? And how will we know it when we do?" you're only limited by your imagination,therefore you're really not limited at all",my grandpa used to say that..So.the awakening of the
    untapped universe in your mind breaks out of its confines and evolves into a conduit to all life ,energy,consciousness ,intelligence...That's evolution beyond procreation,don't you think? Yoda said"Luminous beings are we. Not this
    crude matter..."Kewl. Thanks for reading my geeky ravings.

  42. 0zyxcba1

    @ Psinet

    I liked your birth-control example.

    One could argue that AIDS, or no, using birth control is pro-life when one learns that the world has 6,000,000,000 people and an exponentially growing birth rate so that, assuming the entire eco-system doesn't first collapse, by 2050 there may be as many as 15,000,000,000 humans in varying states of starvation.

    As far as religion goes, in the context of the discussion here, there really are only two questions:

    a) Is it true?

    If the answer to a) is 'no' you need not read b).

    b) Is it useful.

    Whether a) is true, or not, history has shown religion utterly useless; nay, less than useless. Religion has always made matters either less good, or worse!

  43. skem

    Sam Harris is an egocentric nob.

    I'm no scientist and I don't believe in the God of the Bible or the Koran but as a school boy I was taught that every action has a reaction (science) and in another class, I was taught we reap what we sow (religion).

  44. Guest

    I didn't hear much support from him on his claims other than a vague "science and philosophy have determined that free will is a non-starter" and "it might be dangerous to know too much". And that last one brings up an interesting question. How are we to know that a certain knowledge is dangerous unless we know what that knowledge is or are we to allow a certain select few to have this knowledge and then just trust their say-so on the matter?

  45. Guest

    Sorry Stephen W. this should have been a reply to you. I don't know what happened.

  46. Guest

    You can't commit murder while dead therefore killing implies life, well-being, and freedom. Please.

  47. Guest

    Oh really. Lion stalking early human. He doesn't know if its good or bad. Stands there like an idiot waiting for science to come along and tell him. I've got some bad news for early human.

  48. Guest

    oh really. Lion stalking early human. Human awaits science to tell him good or bad. I've got some bad news for early human.

  49. over the edge

    while i don't believe science gave us our morals. it can explain how they developed. evolution doesn't care about good or bad but as social animals getting along and working together would be advantageous. if a group of early humans were working together for the common good (examples hunting together,sharing child care defending one another ....) and one or more of the group was stealing or killing punishing or expelling the offender(s) would increase survival. morals are a tool of evolution like it or not. if a moral or value benefits the group then it is adopted. there were laws and codes of conduct (granted some were brutal) long before modern religion and while holy books might try to teach values or morals they are not the original source

  50. Guest

    We could compare science and religion the way we could compare men and women. In both there is yin and yang energy.

    Between the two there is the birth of a newborn and science or religion DO NOT know what a newborn knows that we don't or that we have lost by influences.

    Although all religions claim to know the source, none does. A religion is a sprout that came from Energetic Spirituality in the mind of people, it is not the source it is what could have been or what could be.

    Science has made huge leap forward concerning the natural world, but it is now confronted with the fact that perhaps the "natural world" might not even exist other than in our mind (and that includes the mind itself).

    I wish i could have asked the question to my grandson on Nov. 22nd last year, the day he landed his energy on earth.


  51. mrre

    To what belief system do you refer?

  52. Kateye70

    @bbga: "First, I find it interesting that he uses the latinate bona fides, which literary means "good faith"".

    Bona fides is indeed "good faith", but I believe he used the term in the American vernacular:

    "...Linguistically, in the U.S., American English usage of bona fides applies it as synonymous with credentials, professional background, and documents attesting a person's identity..." (Wikipedia)

    Saying that the idea has "some bona fides" could also be put as the idea "has some credentials" or credibility based on the professional background(s) of the person(s) proposing the concept (i.e., it wasn't just conjured out of mythology, there was, as you quoted, "a physical claim based on some data."

    I'm sure you're well aware of that meaning, but just in case someone else wasn't...

  53. Kateye70

    ^^ This.

  54. wald0

    I think you meant, "science and philosophy have determined that free will is a non-sequitur." Which still doesn't make sense, here is the definition of a non sequitur-(A conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement.) Not picking just explaining, I would assume english is not your original language so its perfectly understandable.

  55. Guest

    Yeah, the species is waking up. We have now more nuclear weapons among various nations than ever before!

  56. wald0

    That may be your experience, but many people like myself learned our morals with no religious influence what so ever. They were instilled in us as we grew up by authority figures of various kinds, value judgements we made based on experiences, some pop culture influences, etc. Christianity specifically certainly did not introduce many of moral and ethical concepts we cling to. For instance the law codes of Hammurabi stated murder, theft, incest, infidelity, bearing false witness, etc. were all wrong and punishable by law. Now that was written in 1700 BC almost three hundred years before the ten commandments were recieved by Abraham supposedly.

    So it is clear people understood that to live together these things could not be tolerated long before they had ever heard of the christian god. Which isn't surprising, its only logical. Morality is merely a function of social evolution, we evolved cognitively and socially to the point we realized the value of a moral frame work that we teach to our children. Religion was just the way we chose to teach this moral frame work in the past. Of course religion also serves other purposes, but this is a huge part of it.

  57. Epicurus

    you said the bible doesnt tell people to kill?

    Psalms 137:9 Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks!

    do you want more?

  58. David Foster

    O daughter of Babylon who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

    Happy shall he be, indeed!

  59. Mark Stouffer

    The guy in the video said "non starter". But of course I would assume Latin is not your original language.

  60. cezy

    One thing is moral truth, another thing is free will, both for an individual and for a society. Even though the talibans are wrong, do we, rich westerners, have the right to tell them how to live? Women will emancipate when they are ready. It may take a century or a much less, but they will. Societies evolve just like organisms, and natura non facit saltum.

  61. Mark Stouffer

    If I can't explain the double-slit experiment there must be multiple universes? That is a quaint ultimatum to fling at the universe.

    But is multiple universes even an explanation? You are explaining the world that exists by use of many helper-worlds that exist only for the purpose of your explanation. Unfortunately they introduce a bunch of non-essential stuff. This is probably because they don't exist.

  62. Epicurus

    actually Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris both give money to charities.

  63. Epicurus

    what is your point in this example?

  64. StillRV

    This was a great thought. I am itching to discuss it but am staying out of the commentary for a bit because I seem to be attracting trollish venom with even my most innocuous statements. Well written man.

  65. Guest

    WaldO - I think he said non-starter but knowing me I could be wrong.

  66. wald0

    Changing taliban culture or ending the oppression of women is not the pretense under which we went after the taliban. We went after them because we claimed they were terrorists. Is that true, I don't know. But, if it is just saying it is thier culture is ridiculus and beside the point. Their right to culture ends when it encroaches on another culture's rights. Beside that, they say they are taking over the rule of villages and so forth in Afghanistan against the will of those that live there. Now how is this o.k., it certainly goes beyond just protecting thier own culture. For me the question is, are they really guilty of these charges. I have no way of knowing as I can't take the word of my own government anymore.

    I also think it is ridiculus to expect the women of this culture or the poverty stricken farmers in that region to be able to "emancipate" themselves against well trained, well armed, and battle harden taliban. Things don't work there like they do here in the west. Women and those in poverty have no means to "emancipate", if they speak up they get killed. You act as if they could circulate a petition or just organize some protests. Sorry, but I think you are badly out of touch with reality on this subject.

  67. RiverAsUsual

    Your point isn't quite valid because although western societies became more and more civilised, it eventually happened almost without anyone showing the way.
    The taliban, many african and south american countries etc do have examples of good and fair societies to follow.
    Why take millenia to evolve when the examples are there to follow? Answer: POWER and/or GREED for those at the top. simples!

  68. StillRV

    @Waldo; and any others here who want to understand more about the Taliban regime and their rule of that nation. Please read "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. This book is a factual tale of one mans experience in the transition to Taliban rule in Afghanistan. I hear they made a movie recently based on the book, however I have not seen it so cannot comment to it.
    In regards to terrorism; It was not that the Taliban themselves were a global terror group, but rather that they were one of the primary funders of Al Kaida and gave them a home base in which to train and operate.
    As to Cezys comment. I tend to agree in part. Some people believe that Alien races have come to earth and those races have not swooped in and said "hey monkey men quit that S*** now.''You are so backward" I think that idea is good. A more liberated society may well hate to watch the growing pains of another, but much as a parent must watch the mistakes of their children we will have to endure. Where I disagree is that This group has chosen not to keep it to themselves but to assault others for not agreeing, and as the aggressor should be put down.

  69. Guest

    Now that I've watched this a couple of times and taken copious notes, I'm ready to make the comment I wanted to make the first time around. When Prof. Dawkins reads from Dr.Harris' book he states that "this is what Dr. Collins would have us believe". Prof. Dawkins then holds up for public ridicule Dr. Collins' beliefs and by logical extension Dr. Collins. Perhaps it would be best if you Googled (God I hate that word) Dr. Frances Collins and save me a lot of typing. I'll wait. Do you see what Dr. Collins has accomplished through science and reasoning. He is a good man and he is a Christian. These are just facts.
    I am ashamed for Dr. Harris and Prof. Dawkins. Dr. Collins deserves better. His work "raises all the boats", and will lead to the betterment of all our lives. Yet a deeper problem presents itself and I'll switch to first person at this point.
    Dawkins, you remind me of some character from a Dickens novel. Dr. Collins' work benefits your field of study more than anything since Darwin yet there you sit bad-mouthing the man while you're sticking your hand in his pocket.
    Harris, did not Dr. Collins use science and reasoning, just as you said, to benefit us all? Is he not a moral man?
    I have no belief in God but please don't slap the label of atheist on me. I don't need a label. I'm but a humble human being in love with the universe and all she asks of me is that I use what little intellect I have to understand her. I try the best I can.
    The two of you seem to think that this dogma you've set forth gives you the right to ridicule someone and you encourage others to do so. I'm sick of it. What is this? The goddamned Atheist Inquisition? Are you not doing precisely what the Catholic Church did to Galileo? Christians are not bad people (well at least most of them). They honestly hold their beliefs. Right here on this website someone called them "religious fruitcakes". What good can come from that? What is gained? But more to the point who is this person mimicking?
    Harris, your philosophy is intellectually bankrupt not to mention dishonest. Dr.Collins does exactly that which you propose yet you ridicule him. You don't have a leg to stand on.

    OK. I'm finished and do I feel good.

  70. over the edge

    thanks RV don't let the trolls get you down .

  71. misterwong

    Which Western societies would you suggest became civilized independent of external influences?without anyone showing the way?What level of civilization are you describing?

  72. misterwong

    Nature makes no pass..I don't understand.

  73. Guest

    Epicurus - Somehow my screen is all messed up and surely, surely its not my fault. When I replied to Psinet I was just making a smart-ass rebuttal of his reasoning.
    Incidentally, Epicurus is one of my all time favorites.
    "Whence cometh evil."

  74. Gary V

    Thank you for that Dr Collins. Oh I see that you prefer to be called lakhotason here. Well thank you lakhotason.

  75. Guest

    I've read that book. Damn near broke my heart.

  76. misterwong

    I've read a lot of vehement Anti-Religious sentiment on this site.As an athiest myself I sometimes feel frustration ala Dawkins when one's faith and devotion are an obtuse barrier to rational discussion.However,I'm dissapointed at the outright hostility and resentment toward religious types expressed by self-possessed,rational,open-minded intellectuals....Especially about something they don't believe exists anyway.Counter-productive,pointless.Moot.Verbally,you persue,expose and seek to humiliate the faithful.Some men of Reason you turned out to be.
    I can't really defend Religion,I thinks it's silly..But I do defend your right to choose your belief.Im funny that way.
    SO,I have an object lesson.I was watching "All about the Mormons",a South Park episode(Cartoons!) Through the show,they just relentlessly ridicule the outright preposterous Laughable Whoppers that base the Mormon belief.( if you never read the Book of Mormon,it's quite a story) so the Mormon family is ostracized.but then,the kids realize that despite their wacky
    beliefs,the family were kind,generous,friendly,decent folks with values for happiness.They only had one terrible flaw,.they had the deluded affrontery to believe in something...THE END

  77. Guest

    Your words are heard, they don't necessarily have to land where you pitch them. We are many in the audience.


  78. Jack Seahorse

    the war between religion and science is absolutely pointless.

  79. cezy

    nature doesn't jump (C. Darwin in the origin of the species).

  80. cezy

    Sorry if to you I sound out of touch, but I do not think I have ever mentioned war, soldiers or anything that you are referring to.
    My point was that some things take time and if their society (or any society) is not ready to embrace our/western/modern values, then they cannot be forced. Of course I do not think that women should be oppressed, but you can't just go there and tell people how to leave their lives (and bomb them if they don't do what you say!). You can definitely show them the way, but again, ultimately is their choice! And by the way, I don't think americans (or british) are setting a good example, given the increasing social inequality they are going through... maybe they should worry about the suffering of their own people and leave other countries alone.

    Anyway, this doc was about the moral value of science, and I totally agree with that, but if people want to believe that there is a god and that this god tells them to wear certain clothes, why should I go there and tell them that they are stupid? To future humanity we are probably going to look stupid for a lot of things we may be getting wrong...

  81. Boxoun

    Even religous people arent religious. They just like the label. They dont actually believe in that cr*p. They just dont want to believe life is all an accident. GenerALLY speaking.

  82. Guest

    there may be a point between science and religion.
    like a nose in the face of the world.

    Religions say this is GOD...
    Science says there is no GOD...

    Religion cannot prove that GOD exist...
    Science cannot prove that GOD does not exist...

    Can Religion prove that we exist?
    Can Science prove that we exist?
    Can existence be proven without a doubt?

    If it was stated that the natural world is imaginary, then what?

    And what side could prove that, other than the middle.
    A spiritual scientist?

  83. Guest

    It may be that GOD does exist and that it is the only IT to exist. We may be God's dream alright!
    Wouldn't that be a torus kind of puzzle?

  84. monkeys_eat_food

    I am sorry but I have to dissagree because religion puts people in shackles metaphoricle shackles they may be but shackles none the less now I ask you all this (and by you all i mean the ones saying that science trying to oust religion is pointless) if you saw millions of people who were imprisoned and had rule after rule forced on them through the fear that they would suffer for an eternity if those rules were broken would you not try and lift that burden off of these people.
    I have no missunderstanding that thos who follow their religion are bad people or even stupid people but unlike many it seems I also have no missunderstanding that it is ok to just let continue but it should never be taken past simple debate and that debate should not be had in to forcefull a maner.
    I would also like to add that although science cannot prove that god does not exist atleast there are many provable examples of how it works if you can give me one example of a religious anything that can be proven to work in more that just a co-incedentle manar than i will drop my point

  85. David Foster

    True science provides only theories.
    True religion provides only speculation.
    In practice, is there really any difference?

    It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who confuse theory for fact. "Big Bang=Fact"; "Parallel Universes=Fact"; when in FACT, both are just theories on a blackboard. There is actually MORE evidence to suggest that no Big Bang ever took place; or that Parallel Universes are just mathematical fantasy; but few people choose to look at such data. I suspect that this comes from a determination to make our ancestors look like babbling idiots, more than from any true desire to understand the universe. After all, it was a true scientist who posited the theory of "Gaia".

  86. Vlatko

    @David Foster,

    A theory is supported by experimental and observational evidence. Gravity is a theory, but you're not going to argue that it doesn't exist, are you? The Big bang is a theory, but a well supported one.

    Where science is concerned, you may get away with saying something is 'just a hypothesis', but never 'just a theory'. The first is a speculation, the second is supported by evidence. (Taken from yahoo answers. It's a lame source but the paragraphs explain a lot).

    Now let me add a little bit on that. Fossil records tell us that the earliest known members of our species, Homo Sapiens, roamed Africa about 195,000 years ago. That evidence, combined with the DNA testing from hundreds of thousands of individuals around the globe forms a theory that we all came from Africa. Africa is our cradle. With more in-depth studies (fossils and DNA) we can trace how Homo Sapiens was populating the Earth.

    That is a theory (in scientific terms) until new fossil comes up, let say, in Asia which dates 300,000 years ago. That kind of evidence will completely destroy the theory in place, but until such evidence is discovered we have a sound, reasonable, rational theory supported by evidence.

    The same goes with any other scientific theory that is often carelessly labeled as "it's just a theory".

    However a scientific theory can be wrong, as shown by experiment or observation, since one of its hypotheses might be wrong or the reasoning might be flawed or new data might come along that disagree with it.

    Or its validity might be limited. So in science, a wrong theory gets modified, discarded, or replaced. This has happened, for example, in physics with the caloric theory of heat and the theory of the luminiferous ether, and in chemistry with the phlogiston theory of combustion.

    Theories such as classical mechanics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism are thought to be on excellent ground in both evidence and reasoning, but each of them is still "just a theory".

    Other theories, such as in cosmology and elementary particles, are still being developed, and do get changed as new evidence and reasoning come in. The fact that theories are subject to improvement is the great strength of science.

  87. Vlatko


    Science says there is no GOD...

    Science never says there is no God. Science in fact was/is never concerned with God whatsoever.

    Science cannot prove that GOD does not exist...

    Science never tried nor will ever try to prove that God exists.

  88. Spray Wipe

    Real spiritual person wouldn't want to prove God because it depends on faith but according to science faith is just blind response.

    Science on the other hand doesn't care much of the existence of God and its main course is to understand everything. Which in turn disproves the existence of God as a bi product.

    I liked the point u made about imaginary world but I think if the world is imaginary and it still feels so real then when we actually get into reality it would feel much different apart from the surroundings. Therefore, I think this might be the imaginary world but what we feel real is real. Even if we get out of this imaginary world into the real world, we will still feel the same way as our bodies are going to be the same.

    Perhaps a different feeling if we are the Gods ourselves.

  89. ?? ? A Citizen

    I must admit I did not get pass the 12th minute. I am terribly disturbed, as this academic himself is coming from a very old concept of good versus evil. The idea morality was not a battle between the two, but to follow what is the "Universal Empathy" and the Laws of the Universe. There is nothing religious about those.

    The attack on book-based religions like Bible, Quran is pointless. The inclusion of eastern philosophy/religion would totally wipe out his argument.

    The good thing : I stopped at 12 minute
    The bad thing : It was so boring, I finished a bar of chocolate.

  90. David Foster

    @Vlatko: I concede that everything you said is entirely accurate; and assert that you completely missed my point. Oh well. Points are meant for missing. :)

  91. David Foster

    "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" ... Religious concept ... The foundation of peace.

    It always seems to me that the folks carrying on the most heated debates are only concerned with proving or disproving the existence of God. I really couldn't care less if there is a god, as long as the principles are sound.

    You asserted that history is replete with people abusing each other in the name of their gods. I don't dispute that for one moment; except to say that gods were far from being the ONLY cause of such activities. In fact, the point I generally try to make to people is that many (if not most) of the religious texts are stories of people trying to escape those very situations; whether they were caused by religion, the acquisition of land and/or resources, or just some ambitious warlord wanting to be king of the world.

    The religion of today is quite literally the politics of yesterday; which, I imagine, is why you're best advised not to discuss either in polite company. :-)

  92. Doug Palmer

    This documentary has a number of problems. I will address the two biggest. The first of which is that it is not scientific at all. Science is defined as:

    Science (from Latin: scientia meaning "knowledge") is an enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world.

    Although Sam Harris uses the term, "science", a lot during the lecture, he gives no testable explanation nor prediction about the world. Instead he is giving a lecture on philosphy. Even so, he has serious flaws to his arguments.

    The first is his baseline. He uses the baseline of a universe with "the worst possible outcome for everyone." That is an indefinite statement. An indefinite statement cannot be used as a baseline. It is like saying I will use the largest negative integer as my baseline and anything above that will be better. Integers continue in the negative direction infinately. As soon as anyone gives a negative integer, you can just subtract one from it and now you have a new baseline.

    The same can be said for Sam Harris' baseline. No matter what anyone defines as "the worst possible outcome for everyone" then someone else can think of something worse.

    Example: Sam Harris uses the classic moral delema of a trolley car about to run over 4 people unless you push one person over to stop the car. What is the worse possible outcome? Some would say it would be if the four people were kill. Then the next person would say the worst possible outcome is if you push the man over, he is killed and the four other people are killed too. Then the next guy would say the worst outcome is if you fell pushing the man over, both of you die and the four other people died too. And on and on and on ad infinitum.

    In reality, everything is infinately better than Sam Harris' "baseline". Because everything is infinately better, they are also infinately different than each other. While trying to create an objective standard, Mr. Harris creates no standard at all.

  93. Vlatko

    @David Foster,

    OK let me examine your previous comment again.

    "True science provides only theories.
    True religion provides only speculation.
    In practice, is there really any difference?"

    This is false. There is a vast distinction between speculations and theories. Theories are not speculations.

    "It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who confuse theory for fact. "Big Bang=Fact"; "Parallel Universes=Fact"; when in FACT, both are just theories on a blackboard."

    Do I read the phrase "just theories on a blackboard" above. There are no "just theories" in science. Theory in a scientific sense means much more then what you're trying to present.

  94. Epicurean_Logic

    @David Foster

    What you are saying is absolutely wrong. Scientific theory is not the same as religious speculation.

    For the sake of simplicity lets call both faith:

    Now, If you cannot see the difference between what you class as 'faith' in science and faith in a belief in g-d then you are either a) not thinking deeply enough or b) purposely being antagonistic. Which one is it?

    Lets all have faith that it is now 8am and I have to get up and go to work. Lets have faith that the calendar is right ,summer is coming and the date is correct. Lets have faith that the computer system and its failsafes that controls nuclear weapons will work and not just happen to be wrong, not work and blow the human race to pieces. Lets have faith in Gravity so that if someone jumps out of the window the will not end up as a bloody pile of mush on the floor below. Lets have faith...

    Contrast that with. Lets have faith that there is life after death. Lets have faith that an unknowable being created all the creatures on earth completely formed and without ability to change… As well as there not being any chance of knowing the answer to some of these questions others fly in the face of what can be observed.

    I hope that you can see the error in what you are saying:)

  95. David Foster

    I said "in practice". Point was: in their true form, neither is able to prove anything. I thought my meaning was clear. Sorry if it was not.

  96. David Foster

    And, I would also add that every one of you has placed just as much faith in your scientific beliefs as any worshiper places in his/her god. I say this because I am certain that few (if any) of you have ever personally tested these theories you believe in. Someone spoke, and you believed. This is called "faith".

    There is nothing wrong with having faith in what one is told. And there is obviously no great "human defect" in there being so many religions in the world, as there is not a single society who has failed to produce one. And they are all different.

    The problem arises when we start pointing our fingers, and declaring others "evil" because they do not believe the same things we do. This practice of hating one's fellow man does not arise from religion, nor does it require any religion to operate; though, if allowed to fester, may well become one in the end. Consider the very existence of The Bible as evidence of this phenomenon.

  97. Guest

    I hate saying this but our great little world and our average class 4 star, the Sun, are primarily of no significance to the unfathomable cosmos, as the late great Carl Sagan said we are like the water vapour on a glass, one swipe and we are gone! Our sun even according to the size scale of stars becomes like a grain of sand, our earth like pixel and us humans would disappear.

    The shear audacity of the religious thinking that the universe revolves around us tiny little carbon units who were made in the image of some invisible deity, and according to the time span of the universe have been here as long as a neutrino colliding with a hydrogen atom, a little flicker, staggers the imagination!

  98. David Foster

    Let me ask the group:

    Do you think Alexander the Great was a highly spiritual dude trying to win favor with the gods of Mount Olympus? Or do you think he was more of a conquering warlord, whose only use for religion was as a tool to win popular support? How about Constantine? Napoleon? Hitler?

    I'll tell you something about where I come from... My dad never missed a Sunday. People in town all thought he was the picture-perfect Christian. They had to; it was part of his image. But all he truly believed in was money and power. The only Bible he ever read was the Wall Street Journal. His only idea of immortality was to have his name written in a history book. And in private he had absolutely nothing good to say about "anyone stupid enough to believe all that God crap!"

    Too bad he died so young. He might have been the next Joe Biden.

  99. David Foster

    Pure and perfect science would have us believing that life is just an accident; and therefore, expendable. The soul knows better than that.

  100. David Foster

    "Lets have faith that the computer system and its failsafes that controls nuclear weapons will work and not just happen to be wrong, not work and blow the human race to pieces."

    Yes, there is an awful lot of that going around.

    Tell me which is more dangerous... Believing that you can benefit mankind by praying; or believing that you can benefit mankind by developing nuclear energy?

    I will assume the real over the imaginary as being the greater threat any day!

  101. David Foster

    And my assertion still stands... If you have not tested your beliefs yourself, then they are only based on faith.

    As for my antagonistic nature, well... Science vs. Religion was always my favorite debate topic. Does that automatically qualify me as an antagonist, or no?

  102. Epicurus

    i have to disagree with you here.

    life is no more an accident than ice in the arctic. it is a necessary by-product of the determinism and physics of this universe.

    nothing about that MEANS it is all expendable. pure and perfect science uses objective methods to uncover truths about the universe. our subjective morals will guild the way we behave.

    what is a soul btw?

  103. Epicurus

    i think faith in prayer is much more dangerous than faith that nuclear energy will help man.

    prayer has been tested over and over again. it has shown to do nothing, or make things worse.

    lets put the faith in prayer up against the faith in radiation therapy for cancer.....

    2 hands working have always accomplished more than a million grasped in prayer.

  104. Guest

    Known, unknown, unknowable

    When something is unknown it is a step (long or short) before it is known.
    When something is unknowable it is an infinite amount of steps from ever being known.
    We hear God is unknowable, we cannot describe it in a physical matter and we suppose we never will. It is this super duper duper duper power that is outside of us.
    We also hear that GOD is non existant or as Valtko seem to say "a thing no science is curious about".

    If the "unknowable" is that the natural world does not exist then i do not exist. Describing it makes it knowable (if it's right) but at the same time it makes it unknowable because if i do not exist and the natural world does not exist then no one is there to "know it" therefore it is unknowable.

    If i do not exist and the natural world does not exist, then all there is is God. May be each and every one of us is a puff of air in the infinite universe, a simple fart of God.

    I am just playing with what's off the table, floating in the empty space of my mind. Ha ha ha lol

  105. Gwayne Li

    Yay, like everyone here sitting around a coffee and using virtual ink!

    My input:

    This debate is ought (no pun intended) to be made clear someday and it seems like it's today... well at least it has been put on the table today and 2-3 days ago on that other BBC talk show... And in this case I think of these guys as catalysts. From what people take from all of it, it just kind of reaffirms what they already believe in. @ David Foster, You put on a point when you say people believing in Science from someone who said something as another form of '' faith ''. In the end, it's a personal thing.
    One cannot go and say Atheists are right, religious people aren't. Or everyone that believes in Religion are stupid and ignorant fools... It's kind of a you take or you leave situation. Everyone's personal feeling about their beliefs are different. (Some people don't even consider this issue as relevant at all). Therefore yes, there are as many zealous religious people as there are zealous Scientific people ( note that many excellent scientists are believers)

    However, if you observe facts and look at the situation the analytical way, all prejudice aside, smoking is bad for health, as hitting kids at school might be bad for their education. If one can switch the value system from an outdated version of Religion and update / replace it into a more updated version of thinking (or paradigm shift on the personal level), then maybe there will be good coming out of it. OF COURSE All that is said under the presumption that I have faith in the scientific facts / experiments and sources I've read.

    Now it's but a question of choice, do you believe, or do you not believe.

    End line is, how is it PRACTICAL ? If someone's believes it is Practical for personal gain or whomever to be Christian, then so be it. If it puts on a Placebo so be it. I for one believe Science as far more Practical than Religion in such numerous ways.

    And just to turn in circle again as this debate is gonna be for a long time: The problem only arises for me when Religion steps on the competences of Science. Science is the physical manifestation of the realm as is. Religion is what is in our head.
    If by religion you simply mean the existence of a ''GOD'' creator... fine.. w/e but is it worth such angst and effort whilst there are so much more to do?

    BUT If by religion you mean the values and dictates of any Scriptures and with people following blindlessly without interpretation, That can be DANGEROUS. And that HAS happened. (Maybe that's more of my priorities)


    I can only say from my personal way, the only way to go is to be critical, supported by facts and use a scientific approach on life in general. If Religion helps people live a more happy life, so be it.
    There are much more grays in this world ...

  106. Epicurean_Logic

    "And my assertion still stands... If you have not tested your beliefs yourself, then they are only based on faith."

    You are missing the point.

    There is a difference between 'faith' in science and faith in religion! Please! Do you understand the details of quantum mechanics that went into building your computer? Or the mathematical coding that went into the software programs that run your computer? To say that you must know all the scientific minutiae that make your computer work in order to use the internet and post on your favourite web sites implies a totally different meaning of the word belief to 'believe in g-d and you will have immortal life after you die'.

    One is based on hard verifiable data that if you had the time and the inclination could be studied in detail at university and then your concept of scientific 'faith' crumbles to sand. There are people that know the details of how to build a computer. If there weren't you would not be able to reliably use your computer day after day. On the other hand however much you study at university you will never detail life after death.

    There are people out there who build computers and if you have the audacity to tell them that their masterful constructions are based on faith I am pretty sure that they will tell you where to go and stick your faith. Can the same be said about life after death?

  107. 0zyxcba1

    @ Vlatko


    Out of sheer boredom, I once posted in the Yahoo! Answers 'Religion-&-Spirituality' section a logic toy:

    Is faith in 2+2=5 possible? ? Is belief in 2+2=4 a choice?

    Quite unexpectedly, it nagged at me.

    Then it hit me! Faith is not possible. Contrary to all 'witnessing' throughout the ages, Faith cannot exist. It is quite simply impossible!

    But then, upon reflection, I remembered what the Carthaginian, Tertullian(200 AD), is purported to have said: "I believe it because it is absurd." I began to have qualms. Beyond trite self-delusion, might there not also exist some subtle essence of this 'faith' concept worthy of a modicum of respect?

    It really bothered me.

    Is faith in 2+2=5 possible? ? Is belief in 2+2=4 a choice?

    The answer to the second question, Is belief in 2+2=4 a choice, is an obvious: NO. One cannot choose to believe that sort of thing. It is self-evident. But not so easily disposed of is the first question: Is faith in 2+2=5 possible.

    Suppose one chooses to place oneself into a situation wherein 'suspension of disbelief' is likely to occur, like when one goes to see a play. The name of the play is 'Two Plus Two Equals Five' and the audience is in for a big surprise! 'Two Plus Two Equals Five' is cutting-edge avant-garde theatre and the audience is invited to participate in the play, on-stage, with roles to play, right there alongside the other actors. A few in the audience hesitantly give up their seats and make their ways to the stage where a crew-member hoists each by their outstretched hands up, onto the stage.

    Going one step further, imagine the play is set to last a thousand years.

    No one, but no one(neither audience, nor actor), actually believes that the title of the play has anything whatever to do with reality. But every good actor gets caught up in the dynamics of portraying his character. That is part of every actor's training and is indispensable to the art of theatre.

    Under pressure not to spoil the play for the remaining audience, nor for your fellow actors, who depend on you, and upon whom you depend, coupled to the very real, and unpleasant, consequences of being a 'spoiler'(consequences like being ostracized, or burnt at the stake), further coupled to the allure of tangible rewards for 'pulling one's weight', one could conceivably go on forever, always acting in character; never leaving the stage; never even intimating that there is a stage.

    Now, whether two plus two equals five is rendered irrelevant. 'Two Plus Two Equals Five' is the name of a play in which you happen to have an important role to play.

    Out-of-the-blue something unexpected happens! Fire breaks out. One finds oneself off-stage, outside, surrounded by reality. You always knew it was there, as a foggy memory, tucked away, just in case.

    What happens next is anyone's guess. But one thing is certain: the play is over; and 2+2=4, not 5, as it always has.

    But hold on! Suppose there is no fire. Suppose the show goes on forever. Then 2+2 might just as well be five, and leaving the stage(the very thought of which terrifies!) is simply not an option.

    By now all those on stage are full-fledged actors, forever drifting ever further and further away into the make-believe world where four and five, equals and plus, have long since lost all meaning.

    Is faith in 2+2=5 possible and, if so, do you come to this faith in a blinding flash; or do you choose to have faith? Certainly choices have been made: going to see the play; ceasing to be but a spectator; agreeing to go on stage; acquiescing to requests at getting involved; freely choosing to play a role. But not one of these choices relates to the play's title. At no time does faith enter into it.

    Or does it?

    While acting out your assigned character, you did forget yourself. Does holding true to your role not amount to a kind of 'virtual faith'? Or is it that faith is transmuted into meaningless irrelevance?

    My suspicion is that, in an odd sort of way, true faith cannot exist; that what we label 'faith' is really nothing less, or more, than 'suspension of disbelief', albeit, under duress: however subtle, abstract, or absurd, the duress may be; even should that duress be self-imposed.

  108. Vlatko


    You've said it nice: faith is suspension of disbelief.

    Faith that heterosexuality is a choice has nothing to do with this.

  109. 0zyxcba1

    You read it too quickly.

    I had cut-n-pasted from a page with all kinds of stuff on it, when I had actually rewritten it and was supposed to have pasted that.

    The one's that's there now is the one I meant to submit.

  110. Vlatko


    I would characterize the "faith" as lack of enthusiasm to pose the question "how things work around us?" You'll never find a definitive answer to that question (for now) but it would be an interesting trip.

    Faith is a good shortcut if you want to pass some of your responsibilities to an imaginary being. I would also dare to say It is a good shortcut if you're lazy. And for some people it's better that way. Take the "pill of fate" and go to sleep.

    Speculate, cherry-pick, fight with the others who seem not to share your "faith". Get angry at science and so on. If someone challenges your faith, make sure you post on random websites on the Internet how your faith is the right one.

    Then go on and create an argument about mix of spirituality and religion as if they're the same thing. Argue how your faith is giving you values, but make sure you dismiss the people who have the exact same values without having your faith.

    At the end it is a personal choice for one to have faith or not. What is sad is when people are subtly forcing their faiths onto others, especially children.

  111. David Foster

    @Vlatko: Word games. Faith is believing what one is told, without question. You do it with science because science tells you what you want to hear. Same as a follower does with his god. But, to the believer in god, the idea that science refutes god is like saying that neuro-science refutes the mind. You will never make that case.

    But believe what you want; I'm off to do other things.

  112. David Foster

    "it's only a theory, let pray and praise the Lord".

    When did I ever say that? I said "just a theory" as if to say: "not a proven fact". You know what I meant. You want to pick at words, I can think of better things I could be doing.

  113. Vlatko

    @David Foster,

    ...the idea that science refutes god...

    Science never tried to directly refute God, nor will ever try. If some of the theories being proposed minify the possibility of God, it is not the problem of science, it's the problem of religion.

  114. Vlatko

    @David Foster,

    No there are no word games. Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, concept or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof.

  115. 0zyxcba1

    @ Vlatko

    The on-the-ground function of faith is, of course, exactly as you describe. But that begs the question. Surely the 'consequences' of faith cannot, generally speaking, be cited as its 'cause'. If the cause of faith, as opposed to its consequences, cannot be identified, then it is not possible to know anything of its true nature. And if we know nothing of its nature, how can we ever hope to find a cure?

  116. David Foster

    Well, that's just it; they don't "minify" anything. They merely explain the process.

    Like I said: you know what I meant.

  117. 0zyxcba1

    @ Vlatko

    P.S.: I picked up on the link to 'String Theory for Dummies(lol).
    I thought it quite good and am going to give it a thorough look.

  118. Vlatko


    There is no cure and I think it will never be. Faith along with the religion will stay here for a long time to come, no matter how irrational they sound.

    Why? Here what Carl Sagan said:

    "We arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces."

    And it will. You have a nuclear energy available at the push of a button, capable to destroy the whole world, and yet you have people in power who don't even know, or refuse to know, that our sun is a star.

    The gap is huge and it will become huger as the time passes by. It will be miracle if we survive as a species on a long run.

  119. 0zyxcba1

    @ Vlatko,

    I agree!

    The situation, most especially here in the United States, is terrifyingly dangerous. The ignorance is so pervasive that it has taken on a character all it own. Per capita, Denmark spends more money for education that any other country on earth. America comes in DEAD LAST, even behind Mexico.
    These statistics apply only to Western industrialized contraries ? I am already trying to locate my links to the sources.)

  120. Vlatko

    @David Foster,

    Well yes they minify, and they never explain any process regarding religion. Bible says God created everything in 6 days, including the man out of a dust in his own image. Guess what science says?

    So I'm questioning you. If you're given a chance to answer a question (How everything was created and how we came to be?) to a group of innocent children what would be your answer?

  121. Epicurean_Logic

    @David Foster

    "Faith is believing what one is told, without question"

    That doesn't apply to science:

    I 'believe' that the codes that programme the software in my computer work and exist because the computer works! This is not the same thing as I believe that there is life after death, no-one can convince me of that unless I see that this is true with my own eyes. I 'believe' that quantum mechanics is an effective scientific tool because without it my computer wouldn't work! How is that even comparable to life after death? I 'believe' that I woke up at 8am today and went to work because thousands of years of working with time and the rotations of the earth and sun define time in that way. How is that comparable to I believe that god exists?

    The way that you are using the word belief is not the same in both contexts: Science and religion. They mean different things. One is based on huge amounts of data and evidence; plus clocks, your computer and gravity really do follow the scientifically defined rules and give tangible, hard results! Belief that life exists after death does not give hard results and is in no way comparable.

    Lets have 'faith' that our computers works. Lets have 'faith' that our clocks tell the right time and date and while we are at it lets have 'faith' that our washing machine works. These kind of statements make no sense whatsoever and neither does your definition of scientific 'faith'.

  122. Guest

    Is that the best you can do? Can't discuss what I said so you fall back to ad hominem?

  123. conor c

    Nurturant behaviour is emergent, and yet also innate: it is at the base of all biological life on Earth.

    Empathy, the multi--sensory ability to discern the content of the other, which emanates from self-empathy, the ability to sense self, is the biological source of nurturant behaviour.

    A person whose natural emergent empathy has not been damaged has no need of rules. On the other hand, a person whose natural emergent empathy has been damaged, relies upon rules : both as a base, and as a means to control others. Who makes the rules, and why?

    Another way to put this is this. If we do not damage the natural empathic child, we will not create emphatically damaged adults, who repeat the cycle.

  124. conor c

    there is belief and there is knowledge and there is not knowing. belief and denial go hand in hand. Knowledge and recognising that one does not know go hand in hand. Ignoring what one knows is being ignorant. Not knowing something is an open space. Accepting that open space creates the possibility of learning. Organised Belief Systems have great difficulty in true learning, for their learning is all geared towards preserving their beliefs, irrespective of the data. Perhaps all belief is a shield against the unknown, a fear of the unknown and perhaps that is WHY all belief systems indoctrinate: they fear the unknown insight and emergent wisdom of the natural child.

  125. Guest

    Very good. You mention "confident belief". I am of the same thought. How do you counter a confident belief with reason? For if it is confident it is by definition reasoned by the individual who holds the belief. What a friggin' (can I say that?) conundrum.

  126. Guest

    It is perplexing to me no one has mentioned the young Muslim lady seated in the audience. I find her almost noble. In the least she is hearing the other side which, if not noble, is certainly reasonable.

  127. David Foster

    @Vlatko: I am not a teacher, I am a builder. Children are --at best-- in my way.

    What is it exactly that you are trying to prove to me? You obviously haven't seen what I have seen. If you ever had, then you would likely believe as I do. If you never do, then I guess you never do! What else can I say?

  128. wald0

    First off, we believe what science has to say because we believe in the way they came to thier conclusion (the scientific method), we know that scientists live to one-up one another and constantly check each others work, we live with the visible, objective, and predictable results of science on a dialy basis, and they post thier experiments right along with thier results so anyone can repeat them and get the same results for themselves.

    Secondly, science very rarely tells me what I want to hear, thats just a laugh. If it did it would have told me I could keep on eating fatty foods, not exercising, that my appendix didn't need removing, and most of all that I would see my dad again after he was dead. What, you think we enjoy the fact that when our loved ones die they are gone forever, that it is never as simple as good versus evil? If we just wanted to be told what feels good we would be religious, genuise.

    The definition of faith is belief in the absense of proof. The whole point of science is not to believe without repeatable, objective proof. End of story, period!! You are intitled to your own opinion but, not your own facts. Your desperocity to equate science and religion suggests you are trying to justify your faith. I mean you don't really expect us to believe that you really think the two are the same do you? Religion knows how many jelly beans are in the jar because a voice told it so, because an assembledge of different ancient writings told it so. Science knows because it counted them, had three other people count them, and then made the jar available to anyone that felt like counting them for thier self. Now if you can't see the difference in the two, well no one is that thick.

  129. KsDevil

    Science has the ability to understand how the brain manufactures thought and, there for, morality. Electro-chemical responses to stimuli and the storage of previous responses.
    However, the number of possible permutations that can occur to generate a moral understanding is well beyond the tools available.
    We can talk until we are blue in the face, but until we know how we know, all those pretty words are meaningless.

  130. Gary V


    Az I do hope that was not a deliberate mistake. lol
    I don't think that it was, your just not like that from what I have seen of you on here.

    I like the samba pa ti track on your my space page, I'm a big fan of Carlos Santana, he is one of the best guitarists the world has ever seen.

  131. David Foster

    Scientists collect and analyze data. Are YOU a scientist? Or are you someone who just likes to watch documentaries? If you are the latter (which I think you are), then your understanding of science is based entirely on your faith in the truth of what someone else had told you; pure and simple. If you would like to continue to play with the idea of faith, then I suggest you take it up with someone else. I am finished.

  132. Norm

    First off, I am not a religious person. Secondly, as I now have the proof in your post, there are fanatics and "fruitcakes" on both ends of the God vs science debate. There would be room for everyone if both sides exercised the "Live and Let Live" principle. Your analogy is utterly ridiculous and offensive to those of us who are both open minded and scientific. Science implies ethics just as the bible implies God. Both are just opinions at best.

  133. Norm

    As far as birth control, abstinence will work as well. And... science has never been "bad"?

  134. 0zyxcba1

    Abstinence? -- a bit unrealistic, don't you think?

    Science can't be bad.
    Science is a tool.
    If science can be bad, then so,too, can a screwdriver be bad.

    Get real.

  135. Norm

    When I was younger and forced, on a few occasions, to go to church, I asked a few questions that started with why. Every time the answer from the minister was "More will be revealed". You seem to have the same faith as this minister. "Wait and see" is what many religious people do daily. Just as we have people of religion who kill, torture and maim in the name of god, we have people of science who kill, torture,and maim in the name of science. Until human nature evolves to an Altruistic nature, all of history will be repeated time and time again.

    By Elaine Howard Ecklund
    Oxford Univ. 228 pp. $27.95

    Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund offers a fresh perspective on this debate in "Science vs. Religion." Rather than offering another polemic, she builds on a detailed survey of almost 1,700 scientists at elite American research universities -- the most comprehensive such study to date. These surveys and 275 lengthy follow-up interviews reveal that scientists often practice a closeted faith. They worry how their peers would react to learning about their religious views.

    Fully half of these top scientists are religious. Only five of the 275 interviewees actively oppose religion. Even among the third who are atheists, many consider themselves "spiritual." One describes this spiritual atheism as being rooted in "wonder about the complexity and the majesty of existence," a sentiment many non-scientists -- religious or not -- would recognize. By not engaging with religion more fully and publicly, "the academy is really doing itself a big disservice," worries one scientist. As shown by conflicts over everything from evolution to stem cells to climate policy, breakdowns in communication between scientists and religious communities cause real problems, especially for scientists trying to educate increasingly religious college students.

  136. Norm

    Again, ridiculous. A screwdriver is an inanimate object until it's used by a person. It is a tool of science only when used, just as a crucifix is a tool of religion.
    Why don't you apply your own reasoning to religion too? Is it the fact that your reasoning also works to defend it? If science is a tool then so is religion. Both can and will be "bad" when used by a "bad" person. Someone with "bad" intent can hurt you with either a tool of science or a tool of religion, screwdriver or a brass crucifix. I bet you think that DDT and mustard gas are both wonderful examples of good science.
    Calling oneself an atheist does not automatically mean that one is a person of science.
    I'm terribly sorry about the blind spots you seem to have.

  137. Guest

    it was my mistake...remember i am French. And what, isn't Stuffer a possible name?
    Sorry and now to your link.

  138. Guest

    Santana was the first concert i ever saw live in Montreal...many many years ago. 1973 i think

  139. Norm

    It appears that when a fanatical atheist ( same as a fanatical religious person) gets to the point of being unable to logically respond to criticism, they ( same as a fanatical religious person) turn to grade school tactics, or worse. I LOVE THIS SITE!! The same egos and delusions of power exist on both sides of the coin. And by the way, I have learned from the comments provided here that for the most part, true "believers" in science try to state their opinions in a truly scientific manner; objectively. When opinion turn to insults there is no longer an intelligent debate, just amusing rants.
    I believe in Mother Nature, which is what I chose to call evolution. I also believe that it's not knowledge that's a problem, and I mean knowledge from any source. It's the misuse or the biased dismissal of knowledge that will eventually destroy this little speck of dust we call earth.

  140. Vlatko

    @David Foster,

    "your understanding of science is based entirely on your faith in the truth of what someone else had told you."

    "Told you" in science means written material of 300 pages with thorough theoretical and mathematical explanations/descriptions, diagrams, experiments, extrapolations, per-reviewed by 300 other people eager to refute/debunk the author (but they all got the same answer), and you can perform/test everything again by yourself if you want to and you will have the same outcome.

    That what it means "told you" in science.

    I say Methane freezes at -296.5F or 91K. Do you "believe me"?

  141. Achems_Razor

    Mark Stouffer:

    The guest is me, had to revamp and change my disqus protocol.

    First, what do you consider a soul to be? A consciousness perhaps? Are we a consciousness forever trying to know itself?

    Do we live in a conscious universe from the star stuff we are made of? Is that what you consider a soul? Since science believes we form our own reality every Planck second by our probable actions, a new universe every Planck second from the quantum foam, and since atoms can be in many places simultaneously. Hugh Everett's "many worlds theory" and what probabilities we chose not to take are still as viable and happened in "parallel universes" with our viable multidimensional selves.

    In the quantum world, there is no such thing as space or time, everything is static, happens at once. At lights perspective time stands still.

    So you talk of the smallness of humans, how small can we go? we and everything originate from the play of atoms, that themselves are devoid of matter, 99.99999% empty, only energy.

    So maybe by our collapsing the wave form, as in the double slit experiment we coalesce the energy into matter by our individual thoughts and collective consciousness? Thereby forming our grand illusion? Even Einstein said time is an illusion.
    This is basically a mind experiment with science thrown in.

  142. David Foster

    Dude... Even Einstein called it faith. Gimme a break!

  143. Mark Stouffer

    This discussion was explicated in great dramatic storytelling in the hit ABC TV show "LOST". Two philosophies were juxtaposed in "Man of Reason, Man of Faith" and throughout the show. Early in the series a main character, John Locke, holds up two playing pieces, one black and one white, and asks us to choose. Black and White turn out to be the forces battling behind many of the actions taken by the characters. A many-identity supernature turns out to be the bad guy. It's a very Phi-Fi show that tackles many of the issues that Mr. Harris touches upon. Perhaps the morally agnostic Richard Dawkins will start to pick up on this.

  144. Epicurean_Logic

    @David Foster,

    You were finished before you even started because your argument is effete and rudderless. Basic common sense of which you obviously have very little should lead you to the startling realisation that peer review by thousands of rabid scientists trying to make a name for themselves precludes the possibility that scientists are just guessing at results based on the toss of a coin or some religious epiphany!

    Also you fail to respond to the oh-so basic fact that your washing machine works very well. As does your watch. So How can you claim that they are faith based activities? You will no doubt dodge this question because it seriously pokes holes in your silly belief that 'faith' in science is the same as religious faith.

    For the record my background is in Mathematics and just the basic observation that you are trying to denigrate my credibility with your 'are you a scientist?' comment tells me that your argument is as dried up as a prune in the Sahara.

  145. Mark Stouffer

    The ancient schism between science and morality has already been solved.

    Dawkins is an intellectual descendant of the man who solidified the cleft. He derides people for believing in angels but waits for the day aliens will come and save us.

    The West won't properly solve these issues until they restore the general science of philosophy to it's core location at the center of the special sciences.

    The person who has already healed the schisms between science and morality in works such as "Philosophy, Who Needs It" is Ayn Rand.

  146. Gary V

    In 1973 I was only 9 years old, it was 1979 when I fist started listening to Santana. Moonflower was the first Album that I heard, I think that I have still got it somewhere. I have got the whole discography on one of my music hard-drives now.

  147. David Foster

    faith (fth)
    1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
    2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.
    3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
    4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
    5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
    6. A set of principles or beliefs.

    Are we having fun yet?

  148. Guest

    Mark - Of course Ms. Rand's thoughts should be considered. I think it was disingenuous of Ms. Rand to supplant philosophy with her own beliefs and not acknowledge her own beliefs are yet another philosophy.

  149. John Gros

    "Faith is believing what one is told, without question"
    As Epicurean_Logic has told you repeatedly, its not unquestioned and it has evidence. Religious faith is not questioned and has no evidence. That is totally different.

  150. Guest

    The year was different but we were both 15. Feb.73, i was about to celebrate my 15th birthday, what a great concert!...it was the start of a line of concerts...Jethro Tull Thick as Brick, Pink Floyd Brain Damage, Bob Dylan and a few more...my last big concert was Leonard Cohen in Vancouver last year...the style changed but the joy of being there remains strong!

  151. Guest

    If this argument continued every day on every doc for an other year here on TDF, wonder if we would come up with something new?

  152. David Foster

    Haha! Probably not!

  153. David Foster

    @Vlatko: I said I was finished with this word game.

    Do I believe you? No. Do I believe Google? On repeated search results: Maybe. Would I believe my own test results? Probably.

    "But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." ~ Albert Einstein

    Satisfied? Can we now move on to other forms of mental masturbation?

  154. Vlatko

    @David Foster,

    What you quote is what Albert Einstein wrote in his letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind, in response to his receiving the book "Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt". If you read everything in context you'll see that the letter states pretty clearly that Einstein was by no means a religious person.

    As I said the great physicist saw religion as no more than a "childish superstition". "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this", Einstein wrote.

    I understand cherry picking when you read the Bible, thus misguiding the people, but I do not understand it when you try to cherry pick the Einstein's letter.

    At least you believe Google on repeated search results.

    Now we can move on to other forms of mental masturbation.

  155. Luke Desaulniers

    In all the Dawkins material I've read, I never got the impression that he "waits for the day aliens will come and save us." Did I miss something? Please enlighten me!

  156. David Foster

    Ah, but therein lies the crux of the biscuit... No matter who is speaking, we invariably choose what want to hear.

    I never once said that I thought Einstein was a religious person. I merely stated that he was not adverse to using the word "faith" in his interpretation of how we perceive things.

    Some of you have assumed that I am a religious person simply because I defend the legitimacy of certain scriptures. Others, because I have openly stated that I believe there is something more to our existence than what science can display on a blackboard. Admittedly, I encouraged this situation because I find the rhetoric which proceeds from it to be quite stimulating. I learn much about the human condition in just this way.

  157. David Foster

    And to what Einstein thought religion was; I disagree (for the most part).

    I have studied tribal religions, and they (mostly) tend toward the same principal: That until you have shown yourself worthy (meaning that you have grown in wisdom and responsibility), you should not have access to true knowledge.

    And, no, they were not rocket scientists... Thank God!

  158. David Foster

    If one is able to imagine alien civilizations able to traverse the cosmos, then what is there to prevent someone from believing in angels? Would they not appear the same to one who knows neither?

  159. Guest

    Norman - Thanks for your comment. Sometimes the lack of civility I see and hear saddens me. I often remember the four rules learned in first grade. Play nice, remember your manners, share, and treat others as you would like to be treated. They always work.

  160. Guest

    Azilda - Watched your videos and enjoyed your photographs. But when you mentioned Leonard Cohen I knew you were special. Tres bien mon petit chou.
    PS. Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallelujah breaks my heart each time I listen.

  161. Guest

    Azilda - Watched your videos and enjoyed your photographs. But when you mentioned Leonard Cohen I knew you were special. Tres bien mon petit chou.
    PS. Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallelujah breaks my heart each time I listen

  162. Guest

    Please excuse me group but once again my laptop is showing me who is in charge. Comments I make will show up, not show up, or perhaps present themselves in the most unlikely places.
    Norman - This lack of civility which I see and hear and read greatly saddens me. I try to remember those things I learned in first grade. Play nice, mind your manners, share, and treat others the way you wish to be treated.

  163. OccultAlien

    life is about expressing energy, and energy isn't always life affirming. or for the greatest common good. life affirmation is just an evolutionary consequence of the expression of energy...

  164. OccultAlien

    religion is like music, sometimes good sometimes terrible, it effects the emotions and the body and fires the imagination. and good debaters could argue that music/religion is a delusion, not imprtant at all, and only science is what people need. but it doesn't change the fact that music/religion can have these effects and will always be. these effects can be measured scientifically too.

  165. OccultAlien

    I don't know but i'd like to. does richard Dawkins or Sam Harris write poetry? I'd love to read some.

  166. OccultAlien

    it's easy to stay away from religion when you are a well mannered, well brought up person from a good family background with a high I.Q. as well as having a well rounded education and are loved by those you love.

    But it gets a bit harder when you are an ex junkie struggling with alcoholism whose mother horriffically died in a burning fire along with all of your uninsured possessions and your bastard of a father who never gave you the love you craved blamed you for her death and the girl you always secretly had a crush on turned you away scathingly a week after your mothers funeral.

  167. Guest

    An other musician/singer i loved when i was young and still do is Shawn Philips...do you know of him? Saw him in concert a few times.
    Someone wrote below his song Woman on you-tube: "When I came back from the war in Vietnam, after three years of battleling for a lost cause, the anger? in me was healed by this man, and he shall forever be my brother...for there is a kindness in his song that is beyound profound for those who would but choose to listen...


    Funny how we call people little cabbage in Quebec, but we do!

  168. danielmcd3

    Music is nothing at all like religion. Music never makes large claims on people and life. It is there simply to enjoy. In my opinion it is Man's greatest art form. It never persecutes people or condemns people to eternal banishment if you do not believe, like or question it. Religion is a stain, a desire for a totalitarian "father". Your comparison really annoys me as I take the complete opposite view; I see music as a truly universal language that crosses and transcends geography, politics,religion, skin colour, race, language and personalities. One can argue that music is unimportant (Stravinsky said it expresses nothing) but to say that music and religion cause the same effects is flat out batty. Science is mankind at our best, questioning everything, music is also mankind at the artistic summit, forging something from nothing. Religion has nothing to offer only a slave-like state of mind, bigotry, self-righteous zeal, fundamentalism, intolerance and misogyny. Your omission that they produce the same effect: " it effects the emotions and the body and fires the imagination" is careless as this could be made with anything and compared with religion e.g nationalism, patriotism, soccer teams, or even love. Music is neutral, emotive and beautiful no doubt, but certainly not dangerous, intolerant and responsible for the tribal bile we see in the world today. Music is not like religion. It is just sweet music, one of our finest, most beautiful creations in an uncaring Universe. Stated with great passion as a musician and atheist. ;)

  169. danielmcd3

    Stated with great passion as a musician and atheist. ;)

  170. ilovepaulgilbert

    Anyone else think he looks like Ben Stiller?

  171. Drew-Jordan Maharaj

    that objection was answered by Harris, he said its a condescending attitude to take towards others and assumes that religion is the best or only way to deal with those problems which is patently untrue. Religion is a poor way to deal with those problems because it involves sacrificing your intellectual integrity

  172. Drew-Jordan Maharaj

    the concept of aliens entails any form of life that doesn't have its origins on earth, very broad indeed. It's mathematically likely that life has evolved somewhere else in the universe. Dawkins doesn't believe 'in' aliens, he merely acknowledges their likelyhood of existence given the evidence (biological theory + cosmology). The concept of angels is arbitrarily and strictly defined by religions as having certain specific properties and features, it is as likely that angel's exist as it is that god does.

  173. Grim Berge

    many words.... many words in a row....

  174. Anthony Pirtle

    Pretending something is true because it makes you feel better is the psychological equivalent of intoxication.

  175. Anthony Pirtle

    Sam's last words in his opening salvo remind me of W.S. Burroughs. "Be Just, and if you can't be just, be arbitrary." That is exactly what the morality invoked by holy texts is.

  176. doloresthomas

    The arbitrariness that comes from any kind of system that conceives of itself as "perfect" will always be insufficient, problematic, and downright dangerous, in the end. The beauty of science is that it is fundamentally open to revision. If any explanation, moral or legal code or interpretation keeps this character, it should work better than simple givens.
    On the other hand, I still question economics as science (more of a pseudoscience, just as psychology), and stick more concrete interpretations of what the scientific disciplines really are. Therefore, it's no wonder that Harris seems to have a difficult time when asked for his "low hanging fruit" examples, or his real adherence to scientific methods and principles.
    Should these guys tweak their mechanisms, sharpen their methodology, strengthen their arguments, I believe we would be ad portas of a really interesting transformation in human society.

  177. Alexander Svenson

    I like how he points out that a wider understanding of consequentialism, which includes scientific discovery, could work as a guide to morality.

  178. Jami Baade

    Actually it may be smart and extend your life to have selective focus on positives rather than negatives. Surely you are not so smart that you've figured out what no on in history has been able to.
    Even Einstein recognized the possibility of a creator / higher power. Just becuase many regligions and religious text appear to be fables, does not mean there is not more to life.

    We need air to live, but you can't see or touch it... does that mean it's not there?

  179. Jami Baade

    I don't agree with your comments on religion. I myself don't go to church very often but believe that the universe was not created without intelligent design and that we didn't "Big Bang" out of nothing with no pre-cursor. Yes, there has been religious persecution in the past and present, but the other 80 percent is positive. Just becuase a few people in certain races are bad people, doesn't make the whole race bad....too much of a generalization there in my opinion.
    To danielmcd3 below...

  180. Jami Baade

    It's not that far fetched that there is life somewhere else besides earth. The universe is vast and there are hundreds of galaxies. In fact we'd be quite self centered. To them we are the aliens. It's just a name

  181. Mark Stouffer

    Yes, Luke, you missed something. It was a discussion he was having in Scientific American.

    It is inaccurate to talk about the probability of other life forms existing in the universe. Statistics is a discussion about things we don't know about. The probability that you, I or Richard Dawkins exists is infinitesimal. Statistically speaking, we don't exist. Yet we exist. Which is wrong, statistics? Or existence?

    If we lived a thousand lives in a thousand universes it might be meaningfull to talk about the statistics of other life in the universe.

    But since we live only one life in only one universe (uni means one) statistics of the possibility are meaningless. There is only one answer to that question.

    And as far as we have seen when looking out at the galaxy we live in, there are no other habitable planets. Which brings us to the most exiting and revolutionary thought: There are no angels, there are no aliens, no one is coming to save us, we are on our own and each of us has limited information.

  182. Mark Stouffer

    Philosophies are beliefs.

    Is it more important that she solve this ancient schism or that she not seem to you as disingenuous?

    I don't know how she would have solved the problem without assert her beliefs.

    So I must ask, how is it disingenuous?

  183. lpslancelot

    I disagree with your statement. Religion is based on fear .i.e. (if you don't believe you are sent to "hell"), if fear is the basis for you morality you are not only thinking and acting irrationality, this position is morally incomprehensible, due to the fact that a system is manipulation
    based on human survival instincts, so religion is bad in all contexts. Sometimes the religious people do "good," but this does not make their religion good.

  184. Mark Stouffer

    He says free will is a non-starter. But isn't every issue a non-starter if he is correct? There would just be one start and nothing left to do, prove, or explain.

  185. mark1667

    This Sam like all rationalist can't see past their own intelligence. I like science probably just as much as he does, but I also like myths which happen to be universal to all cultures throughout time. He simply likes winning the battles by pointing out how absurd these myths can be because they don't fit into the rules and regulations of the laws of science or just simply historically untrue. Very easy to do and does it subtly as to not be so obvious about it. Even I could have done that. Did Jesus ascend into heaven? Well if he did and went the speed of light he would still be within our own galaxy...it's an easy battle to win that way. The thing that he or Richard doesn't mention is that these myths are "beliefs" and that means they transcend reality, not conflict it. When we look at say a creation myth, we look at the metaphorical quality that tells of inner truths and not the literal. When people take it all in the literal sense they, in a sense, miss the point, and the empiricists like Mr. Harris stand in position to scoff at it. To me, both the fundamentalist and the Empiricist can both be equally off the mark. The fundamentalist may in fact be wrong to deny the truth of science and the scientist can be guilty of not being right enough in the sense that they deny existence outside of their own perspective.

    Read Joseph Campbell and he ties it in nicely in the "Power if Myth."

  186. drziggy00

    since when is psyhology a pseudoscince? are you suggesting that it should be considered in the same vein as astrology? Psychology is based on applied science, uses the scientific based research methodology, and it isn't based on "guessing" or "common sense". One could suggest that psychiatry is much more of a pseudoscience than psycology....

  187. Goo Ball

    So you like myths, which are beliefs, which are metaphors. So you acknowledge they're not true ... but think scientists should give them attention and respect?

    I really don't see what your point is.

  188. mark1667

    I guess the point being is that they may not be a “particular” truth..for instance “Adam and Eve” just to pick on that one, did not happen. But these stories ring a truth that transcends a literal interpretation. Since a scientist can easily dismiss these as untrue, meaning they never happened at a time and place, they assume they are now valueless.

  189. mark1667

    So the debate can go a bit further to what really is truth itself. Is it something we or someone from the past have to bear witness to or is that just simply “a” truth but not "Thee” truth or the whole truth. Maybe the truth or truths is more well rounded that lives inside as well as or possibly outside the empirical perspective.

  190. Will Bogardus

    I think your terminology here is a little vague, mark1667. Are you saying that these creation stories serve as parables? It seems to me like the "truth" you are referring to is moral truth, rather than literal truth, which of course has immense value. Adam and Eve, for instance, could serve to show readers the dangers of giving into temptation.
    While this form of moral metaphor may serve some purpose, I think that attaching them to specific religious dogmas creates negative side affects that far outweigh any positive aspects. Although the truth behind some religious creation stories may be relatively universal, many people can't see past the literal differences between different versions. This can result in needless conflict, not to mention the fact that whatever truths lie behind the stories are often clouded by illogical and sometimes harmful reinterpretation within the context of whichever religious tradition that story belongs to.
    Wouldn't it be better to create a system of morals that agrees with and is backed up by literal truths? This would make our moral "truths" genuinely universal, and would avoid the conflict and dogmatism that religious people often attach to them.
    I think that's what Sam Harris is talking about here.

  191. Will Bogardus

    I think your terminology here is a little vague, mark1667. Are you saying that these creation stories serve as parables? It seems to me like the "truth" you are referring to is moral truth, rather than literal truth, which of course has immense value. Adam and Eve, for instance, could serve to show readers the dangers of giving into temptation.
    While this form of moral metaphor may serve some purpose, I think that attaching them to specific religious dogmas creates negative side affects that far outweigh any positive aspects. Although the truth behind some religious creation stories may be relatively universal, many people can't see past the literal differences between different versions. This can result in needless conflict, not to mention the fact that whatever truths lie behind the stories are often clouded by illogical and sometimes harmful reinterpretation within the context of whichever religious tradition that story belongs to.
    Wouldn't it be better to create a system of morals that agrees with and is backed up by literal truths? This would make our moral "truths" genuinely universal, and would avoid the conflict and dogmatism that religious people often attach to them.
    I think that's what Sam Harris is talking about here.

  192. mark1667

    Well the idea and definition of truth isn't an easy one since it was grown and evolved throughout the history of philosophy. It is sort of what I mentioned before as to what the discussion may really be about. Truth. So we can go to what Plato described as a divine Truth which all truths lead to one undenying truth or more of an abstract version of not any one truth but many fragmented truths based on individual perspectives. I tend to agree with the latter. So when I mention truth, I am not trying to be vague but rather more encompassing or not so clearly defined by one perspective only.

    So a myth might be a tale of morality, or not. Creation myths, like Adam and Eve to me, surpasses simplified morality, but rather, reaches within the psyche of the collective subconscious. They are powerful whether you consider yourself religious or not because it defines us as human. We have eaten the fruit from the tree of knowledge and now we are aware and conscious of our own selves. We have free will and now are free but responsible for our actions whether we choose a path of good or evil. And so on. These stories are deeply profound and many of these stories from all over the world are trying to come to terms with the mystery of life itself something that science wouldn't be able to explain.

    I agree that “literalists” whether they are religious or not are dangerous and persuade people off their own mode of critical thinking. Thats when I think religion takes a dark side. But I don't agree that all religion at all times were destructive thats just too glib of an answer. In some cases it was in some cases it wasn't.
    I don't mind that science is universal and that everyone around the world can benefit from it and in a strange sense, I do believe in a universal morality, but I don't know why the answer to humankind would be to eliminate religion for science. This has been done before when we prided ourselves as very cerebral rational thinkers in the victorian era...which created a very repressed victorian subconscious. Eugenics was also created by science which persuaded people to eliminate “inferiors” as a rational way to clean up the gene pool. I am not sure how moral that is.

    I like science but I place it as a perspective of understanding the universe, but not the finality of understanding. We have to come to terms with our own limits of understanding and out perspective as well. Its sort of a Carl Jung thing and why we created symbols for objects..we cannot fully understand any one thing in the world, not even a dull rock.

  193. jonathan jackward

    google this unified field of consciousness

  194. forthetimebeing

    @Mark Stouffer. "The person who has already healed the schisms between science and morality in works such as "Philosophy, Who Needs It" is Ayn Rand."

    Ayn Rand-ism is an apologist religious cult, neither science nor philosophy, which could no more heal a schism between science and morality than that other religion, capital-ism, for which it panders.

    "Like socialist pizza, the pie never get's any bigger so the pieces have to keep getting smaller."

    It seems you get your understanding of sociaism from a box of Cracker Jacks, or the cult of "Ayn Brand." Small wonder you have problems with Harris.

    "A Science of Morality based on a concern for human wellbeing would be on the same footing as a Science of Medicine based on a concern for health, or indeed any other Science that has to make axiomatic assumptions," as Harris says, is a modern rehash of Karl Marx, and how socialism defines itself today.

    "One should not expect the level of understanding that caused the problem, will be sufficient to solve the problem." A.E.

    Much less sufficient to see oneself as the problem, in one's beliefs.

  195. Thang Tran

    google new age psuedo-science?

  196. Thang Tran

    Why does Sam Harris keep holding on to this claim that science can really make moral judgments? It can certainly aid in making moral judgments but the act of making moral judgement rest squarely on philosophical thinking. Its seems to be all semantics.

  197. Victor Temprano

    is it just me, or is sam harris very offensive towards afghanistan in general? talk about thinkin u know what is wrong and right and forcing it on other ppl by violence... is he trying to justify overthrowing the taliban?????

  198. NS9117

    He is not offensive , and he is not talking about violence... They just have st*pid ideas ...

  199. Mantid

    I do believe science can provide more information for us to make moral judgments, also people sometimes forget that science isn't just about the universe and it's laws, there is science in everything (most of everything), one could even say philosophy is the science of thinking.

  200. Joseph Cesare

    yeah i thought it was strange too but the points he was making about literacy, infant death and torture probably remain valid.

  201. Jegres Ambro

    I would ask for exact answer- what is science and what is philosopy. At this I would pinpoint on two matters.First, dont we ever forget that we are humans and second, that some old recepies of life and happines still exist and (hope) will.

  202. Jegres Ambro

    I would ask for exact question what is science and what is philosophy. At this point I would pinpoint on two rather important matters. First dont we ever forger that we are humans (with Life which is gived to us) and second that some old "recepies" for hapiness and "success" still exist and so I (hope) will. Take care!

  203. AbdelZ

    In other words :

    Sam Harris misuses modern science under dominion of atheistic materialism as an ideology in order to prove his atheistic morality ethics right = truth at the service of ideology thus , not the other way around .


  204. Luis Tovar

    Science can say many things about morality (about his origin, about his empirical validiy). But science can´t say what is morally right or wrong. Science is a description of the natural world and can´t establish any moral normative position. The arguments of Harris are all based on logic. Logic is the base of ethics.

  205. Jaeson Booker

    I agree with Sam Harris when he speaks about things like free will, but he's full of **** about morality. The idea suffering is bad is still only a perception. Someone could view suffering as great. Also, an 'is' is not dependent on an 'ought' for this reason: though people may say you ought to adhere to science regarding the composition of water, this still doesn't change that water 'is' composed of H2O. Even if everyone said we 'ought' to adhere to religion regarding water's composition, it doesn't change water's actual composition.

  206. Alex Sala

    calling the Taliban a culture implies he doesn't really know how to define one.
    Also, the fact that he is on some sort of mission to prove Islam is somehow worse than other religions is a bit confusing.

  207. Barry_Joseph

    The Taliban were in power in Afghanistan from 1996 -2001, therefore they were running a culture so to speak and they believed and still do their islamic way of life/culture is better then the wests democratic way of life, sam was using them as an example for this reason, to define good morals and why he believes the wests way of life is better i.e. higher life expectancy is better, islamic women only live to 44 as he mentioned. I think you missed the point he was not singling out any religion.

  208. Daniel Clift

    I agree on many points, but their over arching generalizations on 'religion' truly are, their own intellectual prejudices directed at people with reduced means. 'oh they're 'religious', that must be why they're starving and dying.' they believe superstitions origininate in religion and not in lack of education and means. What is religion? the only one they seem to know is catholocism. Religion to them seems to hypocritically refer to anyone not raised with their advantges. They wish to reinvent a modern religion. They will only be able to accomplish this by creating something better, where is their earth shattering insight, where is their compassion?

  209. Yazan Al Nafisi

    I am extremely confused by what Harris means. After listening very closely to the entire discussion, I still cannot help thinking that there is no moral code to be based on science. Please, if someone here understands this properly, post a simplified explanation.

  210. LiquidCourage

    What Sam Harris is trying to say can be summarized in just 2 points:

    1. The basis for moral values must be the "well being of conscious creatures".
    2. Well being can be (scientifically) researched.

    The important point here is the first one. Because if you don't accept well being as the basis of your morality than you are left with arbitrary ones, like a set of religious dogmas written by people hundreds of years ago.

    The second point follows quite naturally if you accept the first one because well being can be seen as mental health (and like physical health be observed, measured, researched).

    Note: science here is necessary for morality but it is not sufficient. It ultimately falls onto society to decide how it should organize itself in order to maximize the well being (or as Sam Harris puts it, you may have many peeks in the moral landscape and society must decide which peek it wants). The important point here is that the society would be disallowed from choosing moral values that it knows lead to a decrease of well being (e.g. criminalizing homosexuality leads to a decrease of well being for some and to an increase for none and would thus not be a candidate for a moral value).

  211. LiquidCourage

    The question Sam Harris is trying to answer is this: Does morality have an objective basis? If not, than the bases for moral values are arbitrary and we would in principal have to accept all moral codes as equally valid. If we say, yes, morality has an objective basis than we must answer what this basis is. The answer "My basis is this set of arbitrary rules written by people long dead" leads again to an arbitrary basis. The only sensible answer you will ever get to this question is the one that Sam Harris gives us here: the basis must be the well being of conscious creatures (btw. "conscious creatures" means foremost humans but would ultimately include to some degree all sophisticated animals).

  212. Vexst Junglist

    lol at the comments, im glad i have a mind.

  213. Kateye70

    So which comments are lol-worthy in your mind?

  214. Uncle_grogin

    OMG that guy in the crowd twirling his hair made this for me. I haven't laughed so hard in ages. my favourite part was at 15:00.

  215. tusk321

    I love this analogy but what about music that does "inspire" hate and ignorance...? Hip Hop, Rap, even some christian songs "Onward christian soldiers, marching off to war"... Metal music and some Rock even combat our brains with pulsing chords of discontent and lyrics that state Rape! Kill! Anarchy!

  216. Vlarbik

    I think it's probably a mistake to try to derive a grand unified theory of morality from science or scientific reasoning. One thing that science teaches us, I think, is that different rules apply in different realms. To give one example, gravity is a powerful force at interplanetary scales, but at subatomic scale it is not relevant. Given that, what sense does it make to assume that we'll come up with some morality that always works in all situations?

    I think we are best advised to employ different moralities for different situations. What those might be, exactly, I am not sure. But I think it would be smarter to try to figure out where one morality applies and another doesn't than to try to devise one that suits all situations.

  217. Eric Lawson

    I thoroughly enjoyed this Documentary. Well Done Sam and Richard Peace!!!

  218. Anon

    Agreed! There were too many blanket statements to make it very applicable. It didn't hit the mark.

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