Sam Harris’s Book Description

Here is a screen shot of Sam Harris’s book description that is found on amazon.com:

harris2

Has the description been criticized by any other New Atheist leader? By any New Atheist?

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16 Responses to Sam Harris’s Book Description

  1. Mark Plus says:

    Meditation has effects that we can observe in the here and now, regardless of its origins in Eastern religious traditions like Buddhism. In fact the testable claims of Buddhism make the Buddha’s historicity irrelevant. This fact puts Buddhism into a wholly different, and more interesting, category from a rationalist perspective than religions like Christianity which depend on dubious woo-woo historical claims.

    You can read psychologist David Vernon’s examination of the scientific literature about meditation in this ebook:

    http://www.imd.inder.cu/adjuntos/article/456/Human%20Potential%20Exploring%20techniques%20used%20to%20enhance%20human%20performance.pdf

  2. TFBW says:

    @Mark Plus:
    So, in short, your answer to the question posed in the OP is, “no?”

  3. Crude says:

    In fact the testable claims of Buddhism make the Buddha’s historicity irrelevant.

    Really? Reincarnation, nirvana… these are testable claims?

    Also – ‘testable claims’ are those things which are “more than science or secular culture generally allow”? 😀

  4. iblase says:

    In another years, I think Sam Harris might be a Christian. He seems to be softening for sure.

  5. woctor says:

    Mike,

    Has the description been criticized by any other New Atheist leader? By any New Atheist?

    What about that description deserves criticism? Please be specific.

  6. Kevin says:

    I would assume this line: “…there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow.” I’d love to see a Christian get on Richarddawkins.net and say that, and just see what kind of reaction they get. I may do that just out of curiosity.

  7. TFBW says:

    @Kevin:
    Curiosity? Which part of the overwhelmingly negative knee-jerk reaction to your comment would pique your curiosity?

  8. Michael says:

    I would assume this line: “…there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow.” I’d love to see a Christian get on Richarddawkins.net and say that, and just see what kind of reaction they get. I may do that just out of curiosity.

    Indeed. I would also add: “there are important truths to be found in the experiences of such contemplatives” Important truths discovered through subjective experience.

  9. Michael says:

    Meditation has effects that we can observe in the here and now,

    The same is true with regard to attending church or having faith.

    regardless of its origins in Eastern religious traditions like Buddhism. In fact the testable claims of Buddhism make the Buddha’s historicity irrelevant. This fact puts Buddhism into a wholly different, and more interesting, category from a rationalist perspective than religions like Christianity which depend on dubious woo-woo historical claims.

    Another indicator that New Atheism is turning atheism into a religion. How so? Your argument is basically this – “My religion is better than your religion.”

    All of this is beside the point. Do you agree with Harris that there is more to understanding reality than science will allow? That important truths can be discovered through subjective experience?

  10. Kevin says:

    TFBW,

    Though the reaction would be entirely predictable, possibly down to accurately predicting exact wording of said reaction, I guess I would be most interested in using that phrase and then revealing it was a Sam Harris quote, if any of them missed it. That reaction would also be predictable, but I gotta get my kicks in however I can. 🙂

  11. Dhay says:

    …but who suspect that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi and the other saints and sages of history could not all have been epileptics, schizophrenics or frauds. Throughout the book, Harris argues that there are important truths to be found in the experiences of such contemplatives…

    Am I wrong in reading this blurb as stating, not that some of these named and un-named ‘saints and sages of history’ were indeed ‘epileptics, schizophrenics or frauds’, but as affirming that none of them – the named ones, at any rate – were. If so, I note your support for Jesus, Sam, and, for example, that you don’t consider Jesus’ claim to divinity fraudulent.

    Psst, Sam: the Prophet Mohammed was also one of the ‘saints and sages of history’.

    According to this blurb, Jesus was a ‘contemplative’. Odd, that, for when asked, “How shall we pray?”, Jesus replied, “Say, ‘Our Father…’”, not “Sit still and silently count breaths” or any other recognisable meditation practices. Nor any recognisable contemplative practices, for that matter, for we may be sure that the prominent modern contemplative, Thomas Merton, had he spotted Jesus either engaging in contemplation or relating his contemplative experiences, would have said so.

    I hope this vacuous nonsense, inconsistent with other things Harris has said, is the output of a clueless advertising copywriter, because if Harris had input or approved this, he too is mindless and clueless.

    I have often read people with New Age and Neo-Hindu ideas making the claim that Jesus was something weirdly different from what the Gospels say; now Sam Harris (or perhaps his publisher) has launched his own similarly woo bid to assert who Jesus “really” was. Sam, you have emphasised in your book, “Lying”, that you never wilfully deceive – don’t you think you should get this blurb changed.

  12. Meditation has effects that we can observe in the here and now

    Then I’m sure that you’ll be thrilled to learn that meditation is an important part of the religious tradition of Eastern Catholic and Orthodox mystics.

  13. TFBW says:

    @Dhay:

    Am I wrong in reading this blurb as stating, not that some of these named and un-named ‘saints and sages of history’ were indeed ‘epileptics, schizophrenics or frauds’, but as affirming that none of them – the named ones, at any rate – were.

    From a strictly logical perspective, “not all” is satisfied if one or more of the nominated list were not epileptics, schizophrenics or frauds. As such, the statement is non-committal towards any particular candidate, such as Jesus. Some of them can be epileptics, schizophrenics or frauds, but not all of them.

  14. TFBW says:

    As a corollary to the above observation, it would be sufficient to consider everyone but the Buddha an epileptic, schizophrenic, or fraud.

  15. Dhay says:

    The book description omits to say that Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” will be promoting the use of psychedelic drugs, despite Harris knowing that “bad trips” are “excruciating experiences”.

    I found this article linked to from Harris’ blog — Media/Print/”Spreading the Word on the Power of Atheism” — so it must have Harris’ approval:

    Sam Harris, who wrote “The End of Faith” (2004), also writes about free will and about lying; his next book promises to expand on his case for psychedelic drugs.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/us/spreading-the-word-on-the-power-of-atheism.html?_r=0

    The last few words quoted linked back to Harris’ blog article entitled, “Drugs and the meaning of life”, where I see Harris say: “But as the peaks are high, the valleys are deep. My “bad trips” were, without question, the most harrowing hours I have ever suffered—and they make the notion of hell, as a metaphor if not a destination, seem perfectly apt. If nothing else, these excruciating experiences can become a source of compassion. I think it would be impossible to have any sense of what it is like to suffer from mental illness without having briefly touched its shores.”

    It is not compassionate of Harris to encourage his readers towards those shores.

  16. Dhay says:

    …but who suspect that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi and the other saints and sages of history could not all have been epileptics, schizophrenics or frauds. Throughout the book, Harris argues that there are important truths to be found in the experiences of such contemplatives…

    From Sam Harris’ “Drugs and the Meaning of Life” blog article: “People generally come away from [positive psychedelic experiences] with a sense that conventional states of consciousness obscure and truncate sacred insights and emotions. If the patriarchs and matriarchs of the world’s religions experienced such states of mind, many of their claims about the nature of reality would make subjective sense. A beatific vision does not tell you anything about the birth of the cosmos, but it does reveal how utterly transfigured a mind can be by a full collision with the present moment.”

    Harris seems to have been reading John Allegro’s long-discredited book, “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross”; for he here insinuates that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, Muhammad and the other saints and sages of history were high on magic mushrooms (psilocybin) or the like.

    So now we know: the ‘dark night of the soul’ experienced by St John of the Cross was nothing but a bad trip.

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