Sam Harris must really be hurting after his public humiliation from his misguided attempt to engage Noam Chomsky (recall that Chomsky views Harris as a “religious fanatic”). We can tell this because he is in full damage control mode.
Harris, the man who tells us he has discovered there is no self through scientific experimentation with his meditation and drugs, is a man who is totally obsessed with his self-image. And this whole embarrassing incident with Chomsky allows us to watch him try to micromanage his self-image.
Consider when Harris first posted the exchange, he ended his introduction as follows:
I will let readers draw lessons of their own.
But that wasn’t true. When the critical stories and critical tweets began to pour in, Harris was no longer content on letting readers draw their own lesson. He decided to add a lengthy postscript, where he could continue to scold the empty chair that Chomsky left behind.
Harris, who seems quite impressed with himself, probably thought he turned the tide with that post-script. Not so. Web articles kept coming in, laughing at Harris. People were laughing at him on Twitter, likening him to a kid who was convinced he was winning a video game when his controller wasn’t even connected to the console. PZ Myers and his fans piled on, portraying Harris as a boxer who punched himself unconscious. In addition to all this, notice that none of Harris’s allies came to his defense. Neither Coyne, nor Dennett, nor Dawkins ever tried to defend Harris. Harris was left standing all alone with his mind-numbed followers.
I suspect Harris has had many sleepless nights as he obsessed over the self-inflicted damage he had done to his self-image. So, two weeks after his post-script, Harris comes back for more and again continues to argue with the empty chair. This time, he posted a 10 min podcast on his blog entitled, “Final Thoughts on Chomsky.”
In the podcast, Harris begins flattering himself as a seeker of truth, concerned only by the fact that it is so hard for people with differing viewpoints to have a discussion. Then we get the new spin: Harris tells us that the conversation was all “an experiment.” He wasn’t trying to have a debate, y’see. He was merely running an “experiment” as part of his research efforts to come up with ways to converse with people. That the experiment failed does not reflect on Harris’s great genius in anyway. My guess is that Harris’s fans buy into the whole story in their mind-altered conditions.
Anyway, after trying to spin his encounter as a disinterested experiment, Harris then proceeds to use the majority of his time to scold the empty chair. He goes on and on, even invoking new analogies, trying to make his case, but this time lashing out not only at Chomsky, buy Chomsky’s fans.
He then ends by acting as if people requested him to make the podcast, claiming there is nothing left to say. The final minute of his podcast contains Harris making his sales pitch.
I’m not sure who Harris’s PR person is, but I don’t think it was good advice to revisit this episode of his “career.”