Complete video at: http://fora.tv/2010/11/10/Sam_Harris_Can_Science_Determine_Human_Values
Author Sam Harris argues that Islam — like most religions — is not simply a peaceful faith misrepresented by extremists. “The only problem with Islamic fundamentalism are the fundamentals of Islam,” says Harris. “To call Islam a religion of peace … is completely delusional.”
In this highly anticipated, explosive new book, the author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation calls for an end to religion’s monopoly on morality and human values. In The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values to dismantle the most common justification for religious faith — that a moral system cannot be based on science.
The End of Faith ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In its aftermath, Harris discovered that most people, from secular scientists to religious fundamentalists, agree on one point: Science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Even among religious fundamentalists, the defense one most often hears for belief in God is not that there is compelling evidence that God exists, but that faith in Him provides the only guidance for living a good life. Controversies about human values are controversies about which science has officially had no opinion. Until now.
Morality, Harris argues, is actually an undeveloped branch of neuroscience, and answers to questions of human value can be visualized on a “moral landscape” — a space of real and potential outcomes whose peaks and valleys correspond to human states of greater or lesser wellbeing. Different ways of thinking and behaving — different cultural practices, ethical codes, modes of government, etc. — translate into movements across this landscape. Such changes can be analyzed objectively on many levels, ranging from biochemistry to economics, but they have their crucial realization as experiences in the human brain.
Bringing a fresh, secular perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, Harris shows that we know enough about the human brain and its relationship to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, cultural relativism is simply false — and comes at increasing cost to humanity. And just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality. Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of our “culture wars,” Sam Harris delivers a game-changing argument about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation. – Berkeley Arts and Letters
Sam Harris is an American non-fiction author, and CEO of Project Reason. He received a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA, and is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University. He has studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions, along with a variety of contemplative disciplines, for twenty years. He is a proponent of scientific skepticism and is the author of The End of Faith (2004), which won the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award, Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), a rejoinder to criticism of his first book, and The Moral Landscape (2010).