The New Atheist Sam Harris recently offered to pay $10,000 to anyone who can disprove his arguments about morality. Jonathan Haidt analyzes the nature of reasoning, and the ease with which reason becomes a servant of the passions. He bets $10,000 that Harris will not change his mind.
I saw this article while putting together the related list on the previous post. I’m highlighting it because it ties into a number of posts I’ve done over the last couple of weeks. Haidt is sure that no one will change Harris’s mind, and is willing to bet $10,000 on it. I suspect he’s making a safe bet.
I thought Sam Harris’s view held a lot of promise when ‘The Moral Landscape‘ first came out. But I was bothered by the criticisms of it, many of which sounded reasonable to me. My doubt increased with Harris’s flippant attitude toward those criticisms. Did he maybe know something they didn’t? Or was he simply oversimplifying in his zeal to attack religion?
That led me on a quest in much of 2011 to read everything I could on morality. The more I read, on moral philosophy, meta-ethics, evolutionary psychology, and other topics, the less plausible Harris’s view became. It became clear that Harris is arguing for a specific type of morality, and only if you accept it, will the science he describes by of any use.
That isn’t to say that science can’t inform morality. It most definitely can. But, as I’ve said in multiple posts, it can’t determine it.
Anyway, Haidt gives a good description of the reasons why Harris is unlikely to change his mind based on anyone’s 1000 word essay, and in the process discusses the limitations of reason. Well worth the read.