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Sam Harris: Can Science Determine Human Values?

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Published on Feb 4, 2011

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.

11.10.10
Berkeley Arts and Letters
First Congregational Church of Berkeley (2345 Channing Way at Dana, Berkeley)
Berkeley, CA

Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction.

Mr. Harris' writing has been published in over fifteen languages. He and his work have been discussed in Newsweek, TIME, The New York Times, Scientific American, Nature, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere.

Mr. Harris is a Co-Founder and CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.


http://fora.tv/2010/11/10/Sam_Harris_...

http://www.samharris.org/site/media_v...

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