Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people—from religious fundamentalists to nonbelieving scientists—agree on one point: science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the most common justification for religious faith. It is also the primary reason why so many secularists and religious moderates feel obligated to "respect" the hardened superstitions of their more devout neighbors.
In this explosive new book, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a "moral landscape". Because there are definite facts to be known about where we fall on this landscape, Harris foresees a time when science will no longer limit itself to merely describing what people do in the name of "morality"; in principle, science should be able to tell us what we ought to do to live the best lives possible.
Bringing a fresh perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong and good and evil, Harris demonstrates that we already 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, moral relativism is simply false—and comes at increasing cost to humanity. And the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can be finally repelled: for just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality.
©2010 Sam Harris (P)2010 Simon & Schuster, Inc.
“Sam Harris breathes intellectual fire into an ancient debate. Reading this thrilling, audacious book, you feel the ground shifting beneath your feet. Reason has never had a more passionate advocate.” (Ian McEwan)
“A lively, provocative, and timely new look at one of the deepest problems in the world of ideas. Harris makes a powerful case for a morality that is based on human flourishing and thoroughly enmeshed with science and rationality. It is a tremendously appealing vision, and one that no thinking person can afford to ignore.” (Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate)
Very thoughtful book, with very compelling ideas presented in calm but strong crystalline prose.
I wish others wrote as clearly or tackled hard ideas so well.
This is a most utilitarian response to the sometime-mean-spririted atheism of other essays. The gist is that we need to foster and embrace a scientific approach to morality and values.
Sam Harris makes a convincing case for using Science as a tool to guide moral choices, based on the simple criterion of human Well-Being. Excellent discussion of Moral Relativism,
The material is VERY interesting. However, when the book ended, I felt as though I missed something. I don't think the author went as deep on some subjects as he could have. There were several moments where I felt like I had spaced out and missed a transition to a new subject. The entire book was like one giant hypothetical question. It really makes you think, but if you want concrete answers or conclusions, this is not the book for you. The author was non-judgemental, but almost to a fault. I enjoyed it and I am also listening to The End of Faith, by the same author.
The author is also the narrator, which seems to be a great advantage in this book. He can convey his ideas with much more tact through his own emphasis. It's also a great listen. I am glad I listened to it.
Much more conviction. Although I simultaneously read and listened to the book. That seemed to make his points more understandable, as it can get dense at points.
Yes. This book is great & rich with information. The author is also an expert at explaining things clearly & logically. This is a great book!
Not necessarily. You need to stop and think a lot, go slow sometimes, sometimes flip back and review, look at the topic headings sometimes - all harder to do in audio than print
So clear, so well thought out, well supported with research and pertinent anecdotal material
Too much like a read speech, monotone, with little humor and less emotion, both of which would have helped - would help any non-fiction narrative. Might have been better with a professional reader - although I did like feeling the presence of the author
The assertion that most scientists since Gould have given up the idea that morality could be a legitimate area for science
I am absolutely delighted with this book. I had no expectation it would affect me so profoundly, how much I would treasure the clarity and depth of the thinking. I find myself clapping my hands, and shouting YES! unexpectedly as I listen. I could not be more happy with this acquisition. Makes me want to hear more from Sam Harris.
Sam Harris explains what should be obvious, but isn't to most people. His logic is astounding, and he covers a lot of ground quite effectively in a short amount of time. My only criticism is that he writes like an intellectual, which may be off putting and confusing to the lay listener.
Good job trying to explain how atheism rather than being non belief can also be a belief system with its own set of morals based in the realities of the real world rather than the supernatural.
on a quest to read Audible's entire nonfiction science section...
This was my introduction to Sam Harris and I was impressed with his writing (and reading) and thinking. Ultimately, though, I don't think he really delivers on showing how science can truly illuminate questions of morality. He spends so much of his time rebutting criticisms from both the religious community AND academia; he seems to feel he's in a no-man's land between radical right and radical left and he frequently uses this book to address issues that have come up at various conferences and in critiques of his earlier works.
There were some great passages and I did follow much of his reasoning but I really thought he should have focused on presenting his own case and finding another forum to defend it. It also seems like it would be better start with his earlier works, "Letter To a Christian Nation" and "End of Faith." This is also just difficult to process as an audiobook; I found myself drifting off frequently but, on the printed page, I think it would have worked better.
I do think science can inform us in issues of morality and I do think scientists need to present their perspective without (or with less) regard to what the enemies of science will say or how they will react. I just wish Harris had been more specific as to how science can help us navigate modern life and ethical issues.
Reader and long-distance commuter.
No. While I like his succinct rule of morality, science is not needed to live it.
First, I am not a believer, so I am not protecting Christians. I find Harris to be a coward. He bashes all religions, but he saves his harshest vitriol for Christians. Muslims get treated very lightly -- could it be because Harris does not want a fatwa on his head? He does not have to worry about the Christians trying to kill him. Be objective, even (or proportional with regard to abuses), or shut the hell up.
He is too monotonic to read his own work -- hire someone!
It inspired me to read no more Harris (although I like The End of Faith).
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