Sunday, March 28, 2010

On a day when I praise Sam Harris

Sean at Cosmic Variance tears Sam's assumptions apart.

I watched the Ted Talk he refers to shortly after it was posted, but I didn't find it interesting enough to recommend to friends, nor to listen to again. Ah, I'm listening to it again and this is the question that made me dismiss the talk a minute and a half in: "Why is it that we don't have ethical obligations towards rocks?"

Of course, in my bizarre worldview, I do have ethical obligations towards rocks.

Sam goes on to ask:

And if we're more concerned about our fellow primates than we are about insects, as indeed we are, it's because we think they're exposed to a greater range of potential happiness and suffering. [Uh, no, again, I'm as concerned with insects as my fellow primates and it has nothing to do with their range of potential happiness and suffering--both primates and insects are sentient.]

Sean appears to have become hung up in the lack of logic at this same point, although for a different reason: "Let’s grant the factual nature of the claim that primates are exposed to a greater range of happiness and suffering than insects or rocks. So what? That doesn’t mean we should care about their suffering or happiness; it doesn’t imply anything at all about morality, how we ought to feel, or how to draw the line between right and wrong." Sean says that science doesn't really have anything to do with morality, and his points seem valid to me.

When I listened to the original talk, I realize that I thought that Sam Harris is like the rest of the world--he doesn't share my worldview. He has a Judeo-Christian-scientific view that doesn't match mine. Yes, I know. I'm weird.

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