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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

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  •  
    Dan SF Bay Area, United States 05-28-13
    Dan SF Bay Area, United States 05-28-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Illogical Mumbo-Jumbo"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    The thesis was not thought through very well at all. The author uses the term "SCIENCE", as though he were speaking about a religion and not a structured method of determining cause and effect. For example he writes, [Athough SCIENCE has sometimes exhibited racist or sexist ideas...."]. Science does not exhibit any ideas; people do. But, if you replace the word SCIENCE, with any of the world's religions, the sentence may have some validity.The author uses words like SCIENCE, MORALITY, ETHICS, WELL-BEING, all as uppercase nouns [Science ordered a BLT sandwich at the Deli, even as Islam still maintains it is wrong to eat pork; and by-the-way, some people are still circumcising there little girls]. This kind of thing goes on thoughout the book. I bought this book because I really enjoyed his other book "The End of Faith". But I really wish someone close (such as a friend or editor), would have given him a few constructive boots in the pants.


    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Miguel Cheswick, PA, US 03-15-13
    Miguel Cheswick, PA, US 03-15-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Intelligent, bright, original, innovative."
    If you could sum up The Moral Landscape in three words, what would they be?

    The myth supporting the position that science and morality cannot relate or explain each other is analyzed and destroyed.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Moral Landscape?

    There are many. The critical analysis on religion makes a lot of sense along the book.


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

    His personal conviction.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The description of the author's medical research, leading to his thinking about his whole proposition in the book.


    Any additional comments?

    Courageous take on "established" trues. Fearless denunciation of the status quo in science and morality.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian DURHAM, NC, United States 10-01-12
    Brian DURHAM, NC, United States 10-01-12 Member Since 2013
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    "Science _can_ tell us how to live a good life."

    As one of the "Four Horsemen of New Atheism", Sam Harris gets hated on a lot. If you can't take some straightforward, pull-no-punches criticism of religion, you'll probably have some trouble listening to this. Nevertheless, he does a masterful job of outlining a method by which humanity can arrive at an objective measure of morality and human values through science. He admits that some questions are hard--even inanswerable--but his airtight logic demonstrates why science may just be the only objective guide for determining what values are worth promoting and what constitutes morality.

    The author reads the book himself, and his tone is very conserved, conversational, and logical.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen New Hope, PA, United States 07-29-12
    Karen New Hope, PA, United States 07-29-12 Member Since 2011
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    4
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    "Incredible!"
    Where does The Moral Landscape rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    #1


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    N/A


    What about Sam Harris’s performance did you like?

    He has a brilliant mind.


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

    From a scientific standpoint, ethics relates to the well being of sentient creatures.


    Any additional comments?

    This book has changed my view of ethics and the world. It is a must read!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jesika Bryn Athyn, PA, United States 07-11-12
    Jesika Bryn Athyn, PA, United States 07-11-12
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    "Riveting"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Sam Harris is one of the most important thinkers of our times. This book clearly defines a starting point for fixing the great troubles of our world. I listened to Moral Landscape for most of a 12 hour drive and was riveted, SH is an excellent writer and speaker.

    If I could make one book required reading for all humans this would be the one.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wade T. Brooks Portland, OR, USA 06-25-12
    Wade T. Brooks Portland, OR, USA 06-25-12 Member Since 2010
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    "One of the best books I've read in years."

    One of the best books I've read in years. Harris describes the current state of the moral landscape and why defining 'human well being' and states of the brain are important in moving the discussion on morals forward. Why as a society we are stuck on all moral values / religious values being equal and not able to openly discuss their relative merits even though we almost all agree that certain things should not be accepted social/moral practices. He goes on to explain how we can use rational, measurable, scientific means to move human culture forward.

    Harris has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA, and is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University. As you would expect he backs up his arguments with a number of widely accepted studies in the fields of brain science, human behavior, psychology, sociology and economics.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ML Carlsbad, California, USA 05-01-12
    ML Carlsbad, California, USA 05-01-12
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    "Good book, but often a tough listen."
    What did you like best about The Moral Landscape? What did you like least?

    Really important arguments put forth. When he provides examples, it's more compelling. Tough to grasp some of the material by listening. He's very articulate, but the concepts can get complicated.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victoria Klassen 04-23-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Morals are rational and scientific; not relative"

    Really appreciate this book; taking back morality from the religious. In planting the idea that individual morals and "good" societies can be measured, studied and evaluated based on scientific criteria, Sam Harris fertilizes a discourse that has so far been lacking among secular humanists and new age liberal relativists. Scientists can and should study societies to determine which moral practices are favoured over others. As usual, cogently written, persuasively argued, with clear language.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. 04-07-12
    C. 04-07-12
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    "so much more than its title"

    This book is so much more than its title, another book that I would re-read regularly. It's almost impossible to read this book if you have preconceived notion of what Morality is or who should define it. Also, if you start the book thinking that Sam Harris is trying to reconcile the differences between science & religion, then you’d be disappointed. He may seem a little more soft-spoken compare to Richard Dawkins, he doesn’t hide his disgust toward scientists who tiptoe around religion when it comes to research findings.

    I always liked the audiobooks that are read by the author, but this was almost an exception to that rule. After the first sentence, I thought I was listening to a very calm Nicolas Cage & that was rather distracting. His voice was also a bit too soothing, given a boredom inducing topic such as “Science & Morality”, if I wasn’t so curious about what he had to say & concentrating on the content, his voice alone would have lulled me to sleep right at Chapter 1.

    Overall, even though some of the arguments are a little repetitive and out of place within the chapter layout, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about his point of view on the matter. I need to digest this material further & re-evaluate my own stand on the issues.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary 03-10-12
    Gary 03-10-12 Member Since 2014
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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
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