In February, Sam Harris gave a TED lecture discussing science, relativism, and values. It is his opening salvo in the project of putting morality talk on a more objective basis, in anticipation of his soon-to-be-released book, The Moral Landscape, an ambitious task indeed. The thrust of his argument is that we can say sensible, objective things about value, or human well-being, without recourse to absolutist religious claims, and that we should advocate conditions, policies, and practices that lend themselves to advancing those sensible, objective things. Like previous efforts in this sphere (e.g., Michael Shermer’s The Science of Good and Evil), Harris wants to corral morality into the territory of scientific inquiry; just as previous domains of religion have had to cede authority, so too now the domain of value must yield. Continue reading »
Archive for June, 2010
I share this quote of the week in recognition of World Humanist Week. It’s by author and secular humanist Taslima Nasreen, the Bangladeshi woman who has been harassed and vilified and threatened by religious fundamentalists for two decades. It sums up my view of the essential conflict pervasive in the United States and around the world.
“Humankind is facing an uncertain future. The probability of new kinds of rivalry and conflict looms large. In particular, the conflict is between two different ideas, secularism and fundamentalism. I don’t agree with those who think the conflict is between religions or between the East and the West. To me, this conflict is basically between rational, logical thinking and irrational blind faith. To me, this is a conflict between modernity and anti-modernism. While some strive to go forward, others strive to go backward. This is a conflict between innovation and tradition, between those who value freedom and those who do not.” -Taslima Nasreen