Sam Harris, PhD, is host of the popular podcast "Making Sense". Is he making sense or faking it?
What a great lesson in critical thinking. Thanks the breakdown was very informative.
I had to stop and pause when I read the 3 questions, what type of world would we be in if more people stopped and not only asked these questions but deeply contemplated them
“Why do you believe that?”
“Why should we?”
“Who are your teachers and on what grounds do you let them dictate how you think about your own experience?”
While I have heard of Mr. Harris, I am not familiar with his work other that what I can gleam from your piece here. Thus, my comments may be off target. However, the argument against faith for not being logical is itself devoid of logic. Hence the terms “The Faith” and “The Faithful”. Then, he goes on and puts his faith not in Faith but in Science, rather the pronouncements of certain scientists and MDs. Not very logical, in my view. But then to claim victory over a faith for pointing out it is a faith is a real hoot.
What he does not realize, is that he too is a very religious being. His religion just has a name that disguises itself from its practitioners; SCIENCE. His faith in his trusted clerics is no different from that held by the faithful of the traditional religions. As do the followers of traditional religions, he calls out nonbelievers as heretics, though by different names.
Another fantastic article, Dr. I’m fascinated by the lockstep disrespect for RFK, Jr., it’s so odd. Do these people actually listen to what he says? Why don’t they face him and prove him wrong? He always welcomes the opposite opinion and will admit he’s wrong if anyone can prove him wrong. Sam Harris might have a big IQ, but so do the literal thousands on the Great Barrington Declaration. Fauci called them “fringe”. RFK does his homework, there’s a reason he wins cases, and a reason he’s a solid candidate for president. I’ve never voted for a democrat, but I’ve learned over these last 3 years the truth is more important than the party affiliation, and the truth is what we should seek, always. So far Vivek and RFK show promise and intelligence we have not seen in a long time.
I think there is a 4th possibility for Sam's behavior, (or maybe it's an expansion to number 3) and it's based on the model of how humans come to their positions, provided by social scientist Jonathan Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind (https://righteousmind.com/). Essentially, Haidt argues that we come to our decisions about right and wrong not through our cognitive minds and reasoning, but intuitively, beneath conscious awareness. Take the issue of abortion--in Haidt's model, people intuitively decide whether they support it or not. We have this in common with other creatures, by the way.. Haidt says that what sets humans apart, our vaunted language and cognitive functions, evolved in large part because of our need to explain our actions to others, (something other animals don't need to do.) So, to recap, we decide instantly, intuitively, what side of an issue we feel comfortable with, whatever that means, then we task the cognitive function to come up with reasons to justify it. Ergo, the old saying from another Jonathan, Swift this time--"Reasoning will never make a man correct an opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired." applies. In this instance, it may be that Harris just simply doesn't want, intuitively, to investigate Kennedy's perspective, and so his intuition has tasked his reasoning to throw whatever reasons and excuses it can throw against the wall to see what might stick. I think this same phenomenon is also relevant to trying to change people's minds about official narratives about many things, from Covid to 9/11. No matter how many degrees people have or even how intelligent in general, if Haidt is right, our intuition rules our cognition. Otherwise rational people will come up with all kinds of bullshit reasons not to acknowledge actual scientific evidence and actual logical reasoning if their intuition warns them, beware, here be dragons.
In my view, any person who worships the establishment and the "science" is not worth taking seriously. I have also read a couple of his books on religious beliefs and he had some good points, but it is really not too hard to take apart religious texts. It is about belief ultimately and not logic or rationality. People like Harris have religious style faith in the "science," experts and the establishment. This faith is no better justified than the religions that he criticizes.
I know very little about Sam Harris, but I do know alot about self-hypnosis and how people delude themselves. See https://www.hughwillbourn.com/book or Amazon. Thank you for your work, Dr Setty.
Sam lost credibility with me a while back but I watched some of this video when it came out and it just reinforced the idea that my time is better spent elsewhere than listening to Harris mumble on.
I actually think figuring out Sam Harris is pretty simple. As someone who has made his fame and name by eschewing religion, his entire identity is wrapped up in the rational world. The scientific institutions are his gods now, not to be questioned. What he demonstrates is the intrinsic need for humans to have an unshakeable belief in something bigger than themselves.....a non-wavering, unquestioning devotion to something. Sam Harris has supplanted God with ‘Science’ and in doing so refutes the entire premise that made him famous in the first place.
Well done! Your writing here has clearly, concisely and logically shown true critical thinking. As we age, it’s far too easy to fall into rigid parameter habits, particularly if we have an audience we are invested in, as he does. Bravo!
Absolutely love the following excerpt from your article. 100% agree.
"But rather than diving into scripture for guidance, my intuition tells me that the best teacher is whatever is transpiring in my life right now. Why not pay attention to it before listening to what anyone else has to say about it?"
Ding. Ding. Ding. If I were a boxing referee, I'd count to ten, grab your arm and parade you around the ring. Great analysis. Sam Harris is a fallible human being and not immune to the onerous tribal thinking going on today among the hotshots of personalities. Who knows why Sam has a bug up his patootie about RFKJr. He might be totally blind to his own political partiality on some subconscious level, and truly believe the people he believes are the more expert of the experts. That is how deep our divides have become.
I hear what you say about trying to separate the man from his ideas to avoid personal attack (which is what Sam is doing to RFK by discrediting him as a whack job) so it's good to keep in mind that ideas are fluid and can change over time. They should develop as we learn more and more....and how do we learn more? By discussing our ideas! Maybe if Sam wasn't so quick to dismiss RFK out of hand, he'd learn something, or at the very least have more facts than feelings to counter RFK?
My frustration level with "intellectuals" who are above debating these topics is through the roof. This is how we fully lose our democracy. Thank you for drawing attention to this.
I hope you have Sam’s email address. This essay needs, no, MUST go to him. Excellent work, Dr. Setty. Thank you.
I like the term 'ad hominem' to describe the type of argument Harris is engaging. This mode is employed by too many people today, notably fact checkers and public officials.
I have not been aware of Sam Harris until fairly recently. My intuition tells me that while he may have started on the right path early on, he has become a narcissistic product of mass adoration and self congratulation. I will listen to what he has to say (won’t demand that he is unworthy of a platform), as well as RFK, Jr. and other candidates, but I will use my intuition to glean my truth from their words. Thank you for such an insightful article!
Thank you for writing this so I don’t have to listen to the podcast! 😉