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The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values | [Sam Harris]

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

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".
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Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (781 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Gary Durham, NC, United States 03-10-12
    Gary Durham, NC, United States 03-10-12 Member Since 2000
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    "A new way to look at religion's claim on morality"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edward United States 03-05-12
    Edward United States 03-05-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Clear, concise, well -reasoned"
    What made the experience of listening to The Moral Landscape the most enjoyable?

    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,


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    N/A


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Nashville, TN, United States 03-05-12
    Stephen Nashville, TN, United States 03-05-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Just Scratched the Surface"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cisca Vancouver, BC, Canada 02-06-12
    Cisca Vancouver, BC, Canada 02-06-12 Member Since 2011
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    "very thought provoking"
    What did you love best about The Moral Landscape?

    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.


    What does Sam Harris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Raleigh, NC, United States 01-30-12
    Laura Raleigh, NC, United States 01-30-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Loved this book!"
    Would you listen to The Moral Landscape again? Why?

    Yes. This book is great & rich with information. The author is also an expert at explaining things clearly & logically. This is a great book!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    F.M.Story Greenville, NH, United States 01-29-12
    F.M.Story Greenville, NH, United States 01-29-12

    Manitonquat

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    "Shockingly Excellent"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Moral Landscape to be better than the print version?

    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


    What did you like best about this story?

    So clear, so well thought out, well supported with research and pertinent anecdotal material


    What aspect of Sam Harris’s performance would you have changed?

    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


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    The assertion that most scientists since Gould have given up the idea that morality could be a legitimate area for science


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tyler St. Louis Park, MN, United States 01-23-12
    Tyler St. Louis Park, MN, United States 01-23-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Sam Harris is Awesome"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael United States 11-29-11
    Michael United States 11-29-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Great"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lucas Austin, TX, United States 06-25-11
    Lucas Austin, TX, United States 06-25-11 Member Since 2009

    on a quest to read Audible's entire nonfiction science section...

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    "Some good points but, ultimately, doesn't deliver"

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roy Sagle, ID, United States 05-06-13
    Roy Sagle, ID, United States 05-06-13 Member Since 2013

    Reader and long-distance commuter.

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    "Did not make his point"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    No. While I like his succinct rule of morality, science is not needed to live it.


    What could Sam Harris have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    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.


    How could the performance have been better?

    He is too monotonic to read his own work -- hire someone!


    Did The Moral Landscape inspire you to do anything?

    It inspired me to read no more Harris (although I like The End of Faith).


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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