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 was expecting an anti-religious dialogue; however, I found myself repeatedly saying, “I feel the same way”.
The author clearly makes the point that religions have so many contradictions in their message that thinking people cannot understand what the message really is; while others pick and choose what they believe from the contradictions. These people often become a part of the religious fringe that drives so many others from the good things that many religions offer.
I enjoyed and learned much about religions that I had not known. I also found the Mr. Harris had done his research well when I checked his statements.
This will probably go down in history as a sentinal piece of literature. Harris is extremely capable with the English language and introduces many ideas and arguments in this book that require quite a bit of thought to digest fully. I am about to start the audiobook again. In short, this is a must listen.
Having said that, there are a few warnings I would add to temper ones expectations. First, I think he would have been better off to give the narration over to a professional reader rather than do it himself. I have heard Sam Harris give public speaches, and he is a fine speaker. However, he is a bit monotone here and at times comes across a little lifeless when it would seem to have been easy for him to be more entertaining. Second, some of the material is so intellectually dense, that you will feel like stopping the tape to ponder and think. Third, his overuse of "etc" is maddening.
Minor quibbles with a ground breaking book. Listen to or read this book!
After reading Christopher Hitchens "God is not Great" I had an epiphany about the realities and contemptibility of dogmatic religions. It was like taking blinders off. Now I have had that experience again after reading "The Moral Landscape". Of course, morality should be looked at objectively and be allowed to develop in the light of empirical analysis and thinking.
Sam Harris is considered one of the new atheists, beside Christopher Hitchins and Richard Dawkins, in that they try to scientifically prove the failings of religiosity. Harris goes in a different direction and tries to frame morality in terms of fairness, personal and community well-being, and best choice scenaries. He succeeds. He does not berate those who are religious believers; he just makes different analogies: not good and evil, but fair and unfair, selfishness and caring for others.
Though he succeeds in not offending those who are faith believers, he does speak out on the premise that religiosity has no place in the study or leadership of science, especially where it intersects with bioethics regarding stem cell research. I agree. Well written, brief enough to sustain my interest, and well narrated, I would recommend this book to all but the most evangelical readers.
Brilliantly written, brilliantly delivered, this book will become as relevant as the works of Kant, Descartes or Rousseau some day. Life-changing.
I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.
This is a fast, straightforward read that might just change the way that you view the world. It starts with a simple, yet novel statement about the nature of morality and knowledge and then systematically guides you through a well-reasoned argument that sets about a logical and humane philosophy for the modern age. All you have to do is get past a relatively uninspired reading (sorry, Sam Harris, you - like many authors - aren't great at reading your own book.) Once you ignore that factor, this book redefines morality and sets a new goal for treating your fellow human beings with decency and respect.
The general thrust of this book is simple: thus far in human history we have relied on science and rational understanding to explain the things we ALREADY value, but don't presume that such methods of thinking can tell us what we SHOULD value. However, in this wonderful argument, Mr. Harris says this message is patently false. It ignores a sentiment we already know in our hearts to be true, it asks us to tolerate intolerance in our world and it allows bad ideas and bad morality to foster. Combining neuroscience with a better understanding of human happiness, we can know what makes us healthier and happier people and we can get BETTER at it.
I have been a fan of Mr. Harris' for many years and I have read his other two books, both of which are very good. But unlike his other writing, where he decries the things that people already believe - and yet shouldn't - here is argues a positive statement, about things we should pursue and value. It's his most "useful" writing to date. Highly recommended!
I wish that everyone could read a book like this. The world needs to start thinking for themselves and not relying upon age old myths and stories. We all make up our own morality. It doesn't take magic or a God to make us moral. We all choose to do what we do.
Sam Harris is spot on. As I listened to ???The Moral Landscape???, I cannot help but think of the frustration that so many intelligent people throughout history have felt when confronted by the masses that refuse to listen to simple fact and reason. Whether trying to convince people that the world is round or that skin color does not matter, changing the minds of the majority has never been easy - or popular. Thankfully there are people like Sam who challenge us and aren't afraid to try to sail around the world.
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
“The fact that millions of people use the term "morality" as a synonym for religious dogmatism, racism, sexism, or other failures of insight and compassion should not oblige us to merely accept their terminology until the end of time.”
― Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape
I've avoided Sam Harris probably from a bit of prejudice. Although I've always enjoyed Christopher Hitchens, I've thought others of the New Atheists a bit shrill. I just assumed Sam Harris was going to be more hammer and less scalpel. I was wrong. I really enjoyed this book. While there is little doubt what Sam Harris feels about religion, his method here is more an attempt to 'cut a third path' through the wilderness between those educated liberals who think there is no universal foundation for human values AND the claim that a universal morality requires the support of faith-based religion. Obviously, being able to criticize religion plays a part of this effort, but Sam Harris (in this book at least) seems more interested in pushing people to think that a scientific approach to morality is at least an important step. I agree. The idea that science has an important thing to say about values and morals is fundamental.
I admire Harris' philosophy, research and writing. But this book could benefit from a professional narrator.
In an interview, Harris claimed that "read by author" was desirable because one can hear the writer's inflection and intent. IMO, that's quixotic. "Read by author" has always been a red flag for me and this book proves my point. Harris is a brilliant man and this audio book is well worth having but he doesn't sustain the narrative the way a pro could. After a while, he's just reading aloud. He's not really telling us what he wants us to know. His narrative lacks the passion of his words and ideas. Alas. I, nevertheless, recommend it.
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