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)
I expected nothing less from Sam Harris; not only does he provide compelling arguments for his case (which, as many people pointed out, are not entirely original), but he does so with the vocabulary of a professionnal poet.
I have edited 38 national best sellers and had a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Sam Harris voices strong opinions about science, scientists, religion, politicians, anthropologists, and humanity's morality, values, and capacity for good and evil. The content is so fascinating and densely packed, I occasionally had to back up the file to listen again to what Harris said. The book requires close, constant attention.
Harris, who does a good job as narrator--similar to Malcolm Gladwell's delivery--believes we have a measure available for right and wrong, and we don't have to turn to religion for guidance. (I don't think anyone would argue that atrocities have been and are committed in the name of religion.) He proposes that we can measure what is good and what is bad by whether actions promote the well-being of the people directly and indirectly involved. Scientific advances have allowed us to quantify neurochemicals released, thereby determining our well-being or its opposite.
One thing in particular that struck me was his discussion of the mutilation of young girls' genitalia. If we conceptualize one eight-year-old girl held down by two men while a third cuts into her, then sews her up, allowing only enough of an opening for urination and menstruation, we are appalled. Multiply that horror by thousands and thousands of girls, and anthropologists say we should chalk it up to religious beliefs and cultural traditions unlike ours, and within that context, respect our differences, excuse, and accept. Whatever the context, Harris says, mutilation is wrong.
And that was only one point Harris makes. I recommend this amazing book.
This book was phenomenal. A beautiful and rich blend of philosophy and science that lends itself to intriguing argument on nearly every page.
The concepts themselves are novel and well developed. The opposing arguments well considered. You can certainly hear Sam's overall ideology throughout, not least of all when approaching religion head on, but even so it doesn't seem to sour the purity of his thoughts with any sort of poisonous bias, simply the inherent kind that is inescapable.
The audio version being narrated by Sam made the experience better than I'd imagine it would've been otherwise. The regular speed sounded painfully slow for some reason, as if he were drowsy (atop his already naturally slow cadence). 1.25x speed sounded more like his regular dialogue and 1.5x was perfectly swift workout losing any mental footing when attempting to keep up with his postulates.
Highly recommended, probably the most interesting read of the year for me thus far.
I'm not really sure. It just seemed not to get to the point. I generally love non-fiction of this sort—contemplating human values versus scientific endeavor and all—but this one is really boring.
He droned. Usually I like when an author narrates but his is the exception.
Delete the long intro and get into the meat of the book sooner.
Listening to books like this are very inspiring and make me feel much more optimistic for the future. Sam discusses complex and sensitive real-world issues and articulates them in such a way that is truly awe inspiring. I think this book is easy enough for anyone to understand and so I would would recommend to anyone. I feel like he speaks for many individuals(myself included) that want everybody to understand that through only the power of science and reason can EVERYONES lives be improved.
Harris mixes profound insights with a dry humor that really underlines many of his more brilliant points. Not that he needs humor to make them, but it makes reading the book that more enjoyable.
I used to be annoyed by Sam Harris' voice, but I've come to love it after listening to many of his lectures. He's very calm in his speech, almost to the point of being lulling. Also, having the book read by its author is always a plus as far as I'm concerned.
This is one of the best books on the subject on human morality one can read. Even if you don't agree with Harris you would be the poorer for letting it pass you by.
Sam Harris makes a strong case for ending the appearant collective blindness regarding morality and cultural practices (such as female genital mutilation).
One can only hope that anthropologists and others in the social studies read this book.
My only concern is that the book shows a lot of examples of what should constitute moral valleys and not enough examples of moral peaks and how to progress from the first to the second.
Nevertheless this would need a lot more research and should be a separate book.
Report Inappropriate Content