Sam Harris

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Sam Harris

Sam Harris is an American author and atheist. Harris is one of the founders of the New Atheism movement. Dr. Harris received a Ph.D. in neuroscience from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and is also a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University. He wrote two controversial, but New York Times best seller books, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. He has written essays such as "Science must destroy religion".[1]

Sam Harris' conflicts with feminists

See also: Atheism and women and Atheism and sexism

Like his fellow new atheist Richard Dawkins, Harris has raised the ire of feminists.[2][3][4] See also: Elevatorgate

In 2014, Harris said that atheist activism lacks an “estrogen vibe” and was “to some degree intrinsically male”.[4]

On October 3, 2014, Salon magazine published an online article titled, Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?[2] On September 20, 2014, the feminist blogger Libby Anne wrote an article entitled Is Sam Harris Sexist?[3] Atheist Sam Fincke wrote a piece entitled On Sam Harris’s Reply to Feminist Critics.[5]

In his defense, Harris published an article on his website titled, “I’m Not the Sexist Pig You’re Looking For”[6]

Accusations of Islamophobia

See also: Atheism vs. Islam

The new atheists Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens have received multiple accusations of engaging in Islamophobic behavior.[7] On the other hand, defenders of atheist criticisms of Islam/Muslims indicated that New Atheists should be able to criticize Islam without being accused of Islamophobia.[8]

On June 21, 2014 Harris published an article on his website entitled Response to Critics which was a response to his critics who accuse him of Islamophobia.[9]

Killing people for thought crimes and Harris' book The End of Faith

In his book The End of Faith, Harris wrote: “Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them”.[10] Harris was criticized by Christian apologist Victor Reppert and others for his promotion of the idea that killing people for thought crimes is morally acceptable.[10][11][12]

Theodore Beale wrote in response to Harris defending his statement:

whining about the fact that people are still actively holding him accountable for the clear and obvious meaning of his written words, and he is still attempting to shade the truth while doing so.
"I know one thing to a moral certainty, however: Both Greenwald and Aslan know that those words do not mean what they appear to mean. Given the amount of correspondence we’ve had on these topics, and given that I have repeatedly bored audiences by clarifying that statement (in response to this kind of treatment), the chance that either writer thinks he is exposing the truth about my views—or that I’m really a “genocidal fascist maniac”—is zero. Aslan and Greenwald—a famous “scholar” and a famous “journalist”—are engaged in a campaign of pure defamation. They are consciously misleading their readers and increasing my security concerns in the process."

What a load of utter codswollop. Sam Harris clearly and openly and unmistakably wrote that it MAY be ethical to kill people for believing dangerous beliefs. Not for doing anything, not for harming anyone, but for simply BELIEVING CERTAIN BELIEFS. His repeated "clarifications" and obfuscations don't change that established fact and he has never recanted his statement. Nor, I note, has he ever come right out and declared specifically WHAT beliefs are so dangerous that it is ethical to kill people for nothing more than holding them.[11]

Sam Harris on race and IQs

Sam Harris agrees with much of the work of Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray who co-wrote the book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.

The Bell Curve explored the relationship between intelligence and success in American life.

Below are Sam Harris interviews relating the topic of race and IQs:

Building a Civilization of Ignorance

The core of science: intellectual honesty
"The core of science is not controlled experiment or mathematical modeling; it is intellectual honesty. It is time we acknowledged a basic feature of human discourse: when considering the truth of a proposition, one is either engaged in an honest appraisal of the evidence and logical arguments, or one isn't."
— Sam Harris[13]

In his Letter to a Christian Nation, Harris complains about people who "can obtain a Ph.D. in any branch of science for no other purpose than to make cynical use of scientific language in an effort to rationalize the glaring inadequacies of the Bible" and then he continues: "While such people are technically "scientists," they are not behaving like scientists. They simply are not engaged in an honest inquiry into the nature of the universe."[13] However, while being harshly judgmental of others without care of factual accuracy, he fails to evaluate this criterion of an honest inquiry against his own views. If he would be an "intellectually honest person" as he requires of others, he would had to admit not only that he does not know "why the universe exists," but also that his resistance to patterns of "optimal design" in "the natural world" is, at best, uninformed. Despite his claim: "When we look at the natural world, we see extraordinary complexity, but we do not see optimal design," scientific research brings exactly opposite observations as has been shown by G. Cullmann and J. M. Laboygues already in 1985: "The genetic code is an instantaneous code absolutely optimal" (In French: "Le code génétique, code instantané absolument optimal").[14][15]

This is a fact that no longer admits of intelligent dispute. Thus, Harris himself is contributing to the very same thing he is afraid of: "These data are unequivocal: we are building a civilization of ignorance," let alone to mention that his behavior exhibits the traits of Selective Inattention, typical for character disturbance advisably subject of treatment by psychologists. If an honest inquiry is the declared thing to be after, then, after finding Harris possibly having attention deficiences, one has to be also inevitably afraid that he may seriously suffer from Evolutionary schizophrenia. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes the proposition "we do not see optimal design when we look at the natural world", purely on the basis of pseudo-religious evolutionary dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency.

Social science research on Sam Harris and his fellow new atheists

Sam Harris speaking in 2010.

Using special text analysis software, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt found that new atheists very often wrote in dogmatic terms in their major works using words such as “always,” “never,” “certainly,” “every,” and “undeniable.”[16] Of the 75,000 words in Sam Harris's The End of Faith, 2.24% of them connote or are associated with certainty.[16]

Despite the frequent expressions of certainty by new atheists. New Atheism has a reputation for shallow arguments. A frequent occurrence is that the works of new atheists often betray an amateurish knowledge of philosophy/religion.[17][18] For example, atheist philosopher Dr. Michael Ruse declared concerning new atheist Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion: "The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist."[18] Vox Day's book The Irrational atheist found multiple errors in reasoning and factual errors when it came to the works of new atheist authors.[19] See also: Atheism and irrationality

Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate

See also: Atheism debates and Atheism and morality and Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate

In 2011, Sam Harris debated the Christian apologist and philosopher William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on the topic of morality and the debate was the proposition "Is Good From God?".[20][21]

Reviews of the debate

Review by the New Zealand Christian apologetics ministry Thinking Matters

The New Zealand Christian apologetics ministry Thinking Matters said of the Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate:

Craig brought a great many cogent objections to bear against Harris’s view...

Craig started by drawing the audience’s attention to how Harris was confusing moral ontology with moral semantics: confusing the basis or the foundation for moral values with the meaning of moral terms.

...Craig brought down the hammer and completely crushed Harris for the rest of the debate, by not only showing that Harris wasn’t engaging with the topic (he was equivocating between moral epistemology and ontology) but that his entire ethical system was necessarily false, by his own admission...

“A less moral framework is atheism,” started Craig with an exasperated laugh, and then went on to point out that Harris had said nothing to defend an atheistic foundation for morality, nor to refute Craig’s own arguments. To demonstrate how poorly Harris understood Christianity, and how irrelevant his “arguments” were, Craig quipped, in regards to Harris’s claim that the goal on theism is to avoid hell, “Belief in God isn’t some kind of fire insurance.” He then went on to list a number of other ways in which the red herrings that Harris had laid across the path were irrelevant—which was fair enough since there wasn’t much else to say.[21]

To see the full review of the debate by the Christian ministry Thinking Matters, please see: Review of Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate

Other reviews by Christians:

Review of the debate by the atheist Luke Muehlhauser at Common Sense Atheism

The atheist Luke Muehlhauser reviewed the debate at the atheist blog Common Sense Atheism. Muehlhauser said of the debate, "As usual, Craig’s superior framing, scholarship and debate skills ‘won’ the debate for him."[22]

Harris claims the label atheist is right next to child molester as a designation

see also: Atheism, pederasty and NAMBLA and Views on Atheists

Dr. Sam Harris is a founder of the New Atheism movement. He is quite aware of the stigma surrounding atheism and has even advocated that atheists no longer call themselves atheists.[23][24] In fact, Harris has said concerning the label of atheist, "It's right next to child molester as a designation."[23][24]

Sam Harris' main website and his Project Reason website shutdown

See also: Internet atheism

As can be seen below, Sam Harris' main website has seen an uptick in traffic. This is probably partly due to his recent public commenary on superintelligent artificial intelligence to the public at large[25] and his commentary on Islam. In addition, perhaps new atheist Richard Dawkins' recent pulling back from public life due to an illness in 2016 caused Sam Harris, who is also a new atheist, to obtain some of Dawkins' web traffic.

On the other hand, as can be seen below, Harris' ambitious plans for his Project Reason website were not successful.

Sam Harris' main website

A March 2017 Alexa graph indicates that Sam Harris' main website experienced a surge in web traffic.
According to Alexa, Sam Harris' Alexa ranking largely plateaued during the first third of 2017. On May 5, 2017, it has an Alexa ranking of 33,829 which mean that according to Alexa it was the 33,829th most popular website in the world.

Project Reason

See also: Project Reason

Sam Harris' Project Reason website indicated concerning the online project:

Project Reason is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. The foundation draws on the talents of prominent and creative thinkers in a wide range of disciplines to encourage critical thinking and erode the influence of dogmatism, superstition, and bigotry in our world.

One immediate need is to build an archive of the best secular resources on the Internet. Registered users can submit their favorite articles, videos, interviews, etc."[26]

In addition, the article Sam Harris, Project Reason failed offers this web traffic graph from the web traffic tracking company Alexa:

An Alexa web traffic tracking graph for Project Reason taken from the article Sam Harris, Project Reason failed[26]


An updated Alexa web traffic tracking graph on January 31, 2014:

A January 31, 2014 Alexa web traffic tracking graph for the website Project Reason

The Shadow To Light blog wrote in 2016:

It looks to me like Project Reason is dead. Which is weird given that there is no announcement or explanation. If Project Reason is indeed gone, then Harris is quietly trying to slip it down the memory hole. But why?

So I looked around on the internet and the only information I could find was in a very brief thread on the forum on Sam Harris’s remaining webpage:

The Administrator:”Project Reason has been retired as a website. It’s forum has been transplanted here.”
Someone asked, “Does that mean Project Reason itself has dissolved and is not taking on projects?”
Administrator replied: “Correct.”

If it is true that Project Reason has been dissolved and is no longer taking on projects (since it no longer exists), then why hasn’t Harris made this announcement?[27]

See also

References

  1. Huffington Post article
  2. 2.0 2.1 Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris? by Amanda Marcotte, Salon magazine, October 3, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Is Sam Harris Sexist? by Libby Anne at the blog Love, Joy, Feminism, September 20, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 Atheist writer Sam Harris faces backlash over 'estrogen vibe' comments by Heather Tomlinson, Christianity Today, September 17, 2014
  5. On Sam Harris’s Reply to Feminist Critics by Daniel Fincke, September 16, 2014
  6. “I’m Not the Sexist Pig You’re Looking For” by Sam Harris, September 15, 2014
  7. New Atheism should be able to criticise Islam without being accused of Islamophobia by Andrew Zak Williams, New Statesman, Published 19 April 2013
  8. Response to Critics by Sam Harris, June 21, 2014
  9. 10.0 10.1 Sam Harris on Killing People for What they Believe by Victor Reppert
  10. 11.0 11.1 Sam Harris: genocidal maniac or suicidal logician? by Vox Day, October 13, 2014
  11. Madeleine Bunting, "The New Atheists loathe religion far too much to plausibly challenge it," The Guardian, May 7, 2007
  12. 13.0 13.1 Sam Harris (2006). Letter to a Christian Nation. http://www.samharris.org,+23+. 
  13. CULLMANN G.; LABOUYGUES J. M. (1985). "Le code génétique, code instantané absolument optimal" (in French). Comptes rendus de l'Académie des sciences. Série 3, Sciences de la vie (Paris, FRANCE: Elsevier) 5 (301): 157 – 160. ISSN 0764-4469. http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=9265098. Retrieved 3.5.2013. "The genetic code is an instantaneous code absolutely optimal". 
  14. David Berlinski (2009). "Denying Darwin: David Berlinski & Critics", The Deniable Darwin. Seattle, USA: Discovery Institute Press (reprinted from Commentary February 1998 by permission), 124. ISBN 978-0-9790141-2-3. “...the genetic code is „optimal“, a fact demonstrated by Cullmann and Labouygues („Le Code genetique, instantane et absolument optimal,“ Compte Rendue 301, 1985).” 
  15. 16.0 16.1 Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind by JONATHAN HAIDT, February 3, 2014 8:36 pm
  16. The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy of Religion edited by Graham Oppy, Chapter 4, New Atheist Approaches to Religion by Trent Dougherty and Logan Paul Cage, page 52, see: Google books excerpt
  17. 18.0 18.1 http://www.alternet.org/media/47052?page=entire
  18. Excellent refutation of ‘new atheists’ flawed by heterodox open theism, A review of The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens by Vox Day, Benbella Books, Dallas, TX, 2008, reviewed by Lita Cosner
  19. The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig, Notre Dame University YouTube channel, Uploaded on Apr 12, 2011
  20. 21.0 21.1 How William Lane Craig thrashed Sam Harris like a naughty puppy, Thinking Matters (New Zealand Christian Apologetics Ministry), April 9, 2011
  21. Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate review (part 3) by Luke Muehlhauser, Common Sense Atheism, oApril 17, 2011
  22. 23.0 23.1 Roberts, Jessica, et al. (June 19, 2007). "Interview with an atheist". News21. Retrieved on July 30, 2014.
  23. 24.0 24.1 NEWSWEEK Poll: 90% Believe in God, Newsweek 2007
  24. Harris, Sam (2016). "[https://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_can_we_build_ai_without_losing_control_over_it Can we build AI without losing control over it?[" TED. June 2016.
  25. 26.0 26.1 Sam Harris, Project Reason failed!
  26. Is Project Reason Gone?, Shadow to Light blog

External links