Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins event


Tim Stephenson said...

Stephen, Do you think there is anything philosophically original in what Sam Harris is saying? There seems to be a long tradition of Humanist thinking around the idea of extending the domain of science in to Ethics and Morality (for example in the writing of Julian Huxley and Jacob Bronowski).

Paul P. Mealing said...

It was an interesting discussion, though I disagree with his anti-religious rhetoric. Using the Taliban as the standard for religious morality per se is not a good argument. Dawkins says it’s a baseline, but bullying and discriminatory behaviour under any guise could be used as a similar baseline.

I don’t really empathise with the culture wars that are so apparent in the northern hemisphere. It reinforces John Lanman’s thesis (lecturer at the School of Anthropology and Keble College, Oxford) that there’s a negative correlation between what he calls ‘strong atheism’ and ‘non-theism’. In countries where religion is not so overt or political, no one deems it necessary that a moral landscape can only exist if we rid the world of religion.

Humanist moral philosophy in the form of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, even Confucius, predates Christianity by centuries, so what’s the argument? Narrow mindedness and broad mindedness are relative, and, to some extent, dependent on knowledge and ignorance, as Harris intimates, yet moral philosophy, whether ancient or modern, has always hinged on empathy. All of which makes religion irrelevant to the argument.

I was caned when I was at school, along with many others, but it had absolutely nothing to do with religion. Harris and Dawkins love to equate every bad or morally dubious behaviour with religion, but it isn’t always the case, whether it’s in education or politics.

By the way, there’s no one more condescending than Dawkins.

Regards, Paul.

Stephen Law said...

Perhaps not that much Tim, but he is excellent at explaining stuff and constructing examples and analogies. Sometimes the philosophy is bit wobbly.