Tag Archives: sam harris

Outgrowing Sam Harris

I’m writing this for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that I don’t agree with most of Sam Harris’s fans that Islam is the largest immediate threat to the USA. The context is that right now thr [Russian] Christian white supremacist party is trying to dismantle democracy and to increase their long-term control over 3 branches of government, and are a much bigger threat than the 2 percent who are Muslims in the USA. I think Sam needs to focus on the real elephant in the room, and wait a few years before he spends most of his time attacking Muslims again. We can handle a 1% increase in Muslims if we can just save this republic and either reform or marginalize the GOP.

I think his center-left fans have largely left him to focus their resources on economic issues and opposing Russia/China, (which realistically requires retrenchment from the Middle East.) Meanwhile his circle of friends has become mainly conservatives from the “intellectual dark web,” and over time many of his fans became racist conservatives. For that reason I can no longer stand most of his fans (which includes people on the /samharris/ sub,) because I disagree too much about the best strategy for fixing the USA by popularizing enlightenment ideas.

Sam Harris’s laser-like focus on Islamists, and the vicious SJW versus anti-SJW fights on social media sites have clouded many atheists’ judgement about the most pressing dangers in the country. (For now I’ll let you imagine which problems are being neglected.)

 

 

….I think he is distracted, and distracts others by talking about the wrong things at the wrong time. He does oppose Trump the person, but he doesn’t disagree much on his general policy of limiting immigration. Too many immigrants can be a problem (illegal or Muslim), but there really aren’t that many in the population, and it’s not nearly as big a problem as the kind of conspiracy thinking that has become mainstream in conservative circles.

He also doesn’t really criticize the military-industrial complex, and hasn’t faced the reaity that it’s no longer 2002 and the unipolar world is no more because Russia and China are emergent militant powers. American influence and power has declined in the Middle-East since the Hitchens era when neocons could afford to intervene anywhere, and it’s too idealistic to continue to talk about nation-building and leading the fight against jihadists in every new country that needs help. (Right now we are fighting for limited gains in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Libya,) while own infrastructure crumbles.

 

I also don’t think he’s a jackass, just misguided. I think Hitchens with his more political background would have had to concede by now that we need to put the war on terror on the backburner and fix our democracy. To this day Sam Harris would still rather vote for Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders or someone who wants to focus on the economy. Just like Hitchens in the years of abundance, he said in 2016 that he’s a single issue voter for the war on terror. Hypothetically, unemployment could hit 30% with no wage increases, and Christian Nazis could takeover the GOP, but meanwhile Sam Harris would still be talking about voting for whoever will fight Islam.

Advertisements

Secular Talk: Burden of Proof and fundamentalists

He makes a great point in this video about burden of proof: the default assumption when you read something is that you’re supposed to take it literally. When someone tries to read the bible in a more complicated way, they are required to meet the burden of proof and not just wash their hands and say that “no one really knows so let’s move on.”

It is the willingness of scientists to say “I don’t know”-to really integrate doubt into their view of the world-that constitutes their privileged position with respect to truth

I just read part of an email exchange Sam Harris had a a few years ago with Andrew Sullivan, a ‘moderate’ conservative gay Catholic who worked for the Atlantic (how much cognitive dissonance he must live with!) It was a fruitless exchange and shows the limits of rational discourse when religious people simply refuse to answer Socratic questions or have their premises challenged. So I just wanted to share a well written paragraph by Sam Harris:

It is the willingness of scientists to say “I don’t know”-to really integrate doubt into their view of the world-that constitutes their privileged position with respect to truth. As you know, there are an uncountable number of questions upon which religion once offered a faith-based answer, which have now been ceded to the care of science. Indeed, the process of scientific conquest and religious forfeiture is relentless, unidirectional, and highly predictable. Some smart person begins to doubt received opinion-about the causes of illness, the movement of celestial bodies, the nature of sensory perception, etc.-he or she then observes the world more closely (often making shrewd use of technology and/or mathematics) and makes predictions that can be verified by others. What we see, time and again, is a general unwillingness for religious people to seriously interact with this discourse (and even an eagerness to subjugate or murder its perpetrators) whenever it challenges doctrines to which they are emotionally attached. Eventually, however, the power that comes with actually understanding the world becomes too seductive to ignore, and even the clerics give in. In this way, real knowledge, being truly universal, erodes the basis for religious discord. Muslims and Christians cannot disagree about the causes of cholera, for instance, because whatever their holy books might say about infectious disease, a genuine understanding of cholera has arrived from another quarter. Epidemiology trumps religion (or it should), especially when people are watching their children die. This is where our hope for a truly nonsectarian future lies: when things matter, people tend to want to understand what is actually going on in the world. Science (and rational discourse generally) delivers this understanding and offers a very frank appraisal of its current limitations; Religion fails on both counts.

http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/secular-philosophies/is-religion-built-upon-lies.aspx?p=16

Today’s news from social media (6/25/2018)

On social media Glenn Beck just walked off CNN interview, and then did a turn and “kind of” apologized to Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz on twitter today. Though a preliminary check of Rational Wiki revealed that he spent many years going crazy with conspiracy theories and partisan bullshit, when he had a program on Fox news, and as the owner of “the Blaze,” (a conservative news aggregator.) He was also a rodeo clown and is still a Mormon. So I’m not sure if it’s an act as he tries to associate himself with the “intellectual dark web,” or if he has seen some error in his needlessly incendiary ways in the era of Trump, and has decided he wants to moderate himself a little better. Judging by his one-sided incendiary Twitter attacks on liberals,  I think he’s lying again like a sociopath trying to save his popularity and his failing company.

Anyway it’s strange to read his twitter and see the right is demanding civility even though they voted for a guy who used so many nicknames you can’t even screen cap it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nicknames_used_by_Donald_Trump

Meanwhile on Fox news, Trump’s campaign manager told a black man “You’re out of your cotton picking mind!” If that isn’t a racist dog whistle then I don’t know what is, but somehow the Trumpers will defend this even though so many of the people he employs are low class bigots. (And in defending it, they’ll show they’re comfortable with racism and racist epithets, which is fortunate as it makes it easy for liberals to identify our worst enemies.)

More importantly, Sam Harris had an influential debate with Jordan Peterson, on an important panel that I look forward to seeing. His term, “The intellectual dark web” is catchy and promises to reverberate for years. Perhaps it’ll be even more significant than the new atheism label has been, as a term that encourages rationality, openminededness and debate.

 

Thr splc admits guilt

https://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2017/07/22/kpfa-dawkins/#comments

First of all I’d like to share this. This is old but it’s relevant and still a good summary of the dishonest smear attacks regressive leftists have been using against the New atheists.
Anyway the SPLC has just admitted guilt and settled the lawsuit by giving 3.7 million to the progressive Muslim reformer who they defamed for being Islamphobic:
https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress…lim-extremist/

 

All progressive movements are essentially critique movements that attempt to push for change. For instance, a Professor that thinks of herself as a Marxist will be a master at finding systemic problems in our economic, political and social systems. She’ll be able to explain why exactly the last recession happened, who it primarily effected and why it will happen again. What she’ll have a hard time doing is explaining what to do about it, perhaps by trying to organize her colleagues in her union, or maybe by protesting. Progressives are well versed at finding problems, but very bad at finding solutions, or at least good solutions that actually change things on a systematic level. The problem is that those problems have become systemic only because there is really no easy, better alternative.

It makes more sense if you look at it like that. Progressives tend to be young and naive, so when they’re taught about some of our systemic problems having to do with race and gender at the moment, they immediately want to go out and try and “fix” those problems, not really understanding that all they’re armed with is a critique and no good tools to actually change anything. If it was easy to fix our natural tendency to favor the our own group and feel xenophobic towards outsiders, then racism would have already have been fixed long ago. Lots of groups are working hard to do what they can though, doing things like opening up women’s shelters and food shelves. Doing good takes a lot of effort like that.

The SPLC is a special case though, I think. They represent progressive movements in the same way that the Ku Klux Klan represents President Trump supporters. From what I’ve read in the sources in your main post, it looks like more morally sound progressives are vocally distancing themselves from the SPLC.

Though I still like how progressives can ackowledge certain problems whereas many conservatives are are unable or unwilling to see the problems exist or when their own actions are part of a system of actions that harm others, (and they aren’t merely compromising or being pragmatic. ) Right now I am listening to an audio book by Steven Linker titled Enlightenment Now and he seems to be a neoliberal pragmatist. It’s hard to get the details though when it’s an audio book since dense facts often wash over you when it’s hard to rewind.

Chomsky

I recently wrote to the effect that you only need to read a primary source when you want to confirm a person’s real views.This is an important distinction, because history tends to coalesce around figureheads, who we treat as “great men.” It shouldn’t happen, but it does. If we treated every quotation as pure philosophy, then all arguments would need to stand up on their own regardless of the speaker, and reading the sources would matters much less. Ancient writers aren’t known for writing directly. Unfortunately, sometimes we are misled, and disagreements tips us off to the need to go back to the primary sources. I recently had such an experience with Chomsky. Continue reading Chomsky