Is Project Reason Gone?

Here is the link to Sam Harris’s webpage for Project Reason.  Click on it.  What do you see?

It looks to me like Project Reason is dead.  Which is weird given that there is no announcement or explanation.  If Project Reason is indeed gone, then Harris is quietly trying to slip it down the memory hole.  But why?

So I looked around on the internet and the only information I could find was in a very brief thread on the forum on Sam Harris’s remaining webpage:

The Administrator:”Project Reason has been retired as a website. It’s forum has been transplanted here.”

Someone asked, “Does that mean Project Reason itself has dissolved and is not taking on projects?”

Administrator replied: “Correct.”

If it is true that Project Reason has been dissolved and is no longer taking on projects (since it no longer exists), then why hasn’t Harris made this announcement?


This entry was posted in New Atheism, Sam Harris, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Is Project Reason Gone?

  1. TFBW says:

    Why make a big announcement that you’re closing a project that hasn’t actually done anything or involved anyone in years? You don’t do a press release when you’re taking out the trash. I mean, what did Project Reason ever actually produce? Can it actually be attributed with anything related to its stated purpose — anything at all?

    I’m sure that setting it up was a good PR move at the time, like using “neuroscientist” as a title is a good PR move, but it seems to be a thin façade in both cases as far as actual substance is concerned: Sam hasn’t done any actual neuroscience since his PhD, and Project Reason hasn’t done any project work that I can find. Project Reason is not being actively used as a PR tool any more, so there really is no further point to the costs involved in keeping the façade up, is there? That would just make its lack of activity more conspicuous in any case.

  2. TFBW says:

    It seems that they ran a video contest on more than one occasion (I can find mention of 2010, 2011, and 2012). Presumably they have divested themselves of their donor contributions as legally required via the prize money. I’m not sure that getting other people to produce and submit atheist videos warrants the title “Project Reason”, though — or “project” or “reason” separately for that matter.

  3. mechanar says:

    I agree with TFBW. Given that the hole new atheist wave was a narcissistic carnival to begin with it now seems the guests of the party are starting to get Tired and want to go home.

  4. Mr Orange says:

    I think TFBW is on to something.

    Here are the publicly available tax forms for Mr. Harris’s non-profit:

    Doesn’t look like the Reason Project accomplished much after 6 years.

  5. Dhay says:

    > If it is true that Project Reason has been dissolved and is no longer taking on projects (since it no longer exists) …

    Looking on Sam Harris’ personal website’s forum today (July 2016), it is startling to see that there is still a forum sub-folder entitled Ideas for Projects – Have [sic] any suggestion for Project Reason to undertake? in the Project Reason folder.

    It’s full of inanities (“donuts”) such as the suggestion that whether cannabis is more harmful than alcohol or vice versa could be tested by twin threads, in one of which posters would post stoned, in the other post drunk, compare later to see which thread ends up with the more intelligent content. The sub-folder’s not being treated seriously, evidently, but the point is, it’s still there.

    So has Project Reason actually closed – I don’t mean the website, which has been “scaled back” to just a logo – I mean the 501(c) charity and its non-web based activities; or is it, as it appears to be, still seeking ideas for Projects.

    The WayBack archive site shows that the Project Reason’s — “spreading science and secular values” — website effectively closed down sometime in May or June 2015, the little previous content relevant to its aims of spreading science and secular values vanishing at that time, leaving just three pages accessible (home, directors and donations).

    But I’m wondering whether Project Reason is still functioning even today as a 501(c) charity despite disappearing from online view. I see that back in July 2015 there’s:

    Susannah Gardner, one of Sam Harris’ web developers, here. Sam has asked me to let you all know about his plans for the Project Reason forums.

    First things first, the forums are not going away, although as some of you have noticed, Project Reason has scaled back its web presence. What’s in the works is a merger of the Sam Harris and Project Reason forums. …

    There’s nothing there about actually closing and winding up Project Reason as a 501(c) charity, it’s purely about the website.

    The forums have now indeed been merged, as announced, and the at-the-time “scaled back” web presence of Project Reason has now been pared to the bone and comprises just a logo. So the website has indeed closed down; but has the eponymous 501(c) charity also closed down – if there has been an announcement that the Project Reason charity would be wound up at some future or now past time, or that it has already been wound up, it’s an announcement I have missed.

    Dhay, from the 07 January thread > And [the Project Reason website is] no longer soliciting new donations and new monthly donations.

    I wrote that because that long-lingering “Donate Here” button had finally disappeared, so the charity was no longer soliciting donations via its website; but it looks like the Project Reason charity was still collecting monthly donations well after the Project Reason website was defunct; when I looked about a bit further in the Project Reason portion of Harris’ forum I found this interesting and informative exchange:

    23 November 2015 11:13 AM
    Raúl – Dammit, I must have missed some strange Donut fetish around here…
    Also, if there are no projects, where are my donations going to? Is there a roadmap at least?

    nv – Did you donate to Project Reason recently? If so, how much?

    Raúl – I set a monthly recurrent donation of 20€. Why the interest?

    nv – I don’t know, but I haven’t seen any Project Reason activity other than this forum, for a few months now. Thanks for supporting the forum, at least.

    Raúl has been making a recurrent monthly donation to Project Reason of 20 per month of whatever currency unit “€” might have been before electronic mangling (of original unicode?); nobody donates 20 pence or 20 cents unless they’re the mickey-taking sort, and Raúl doesn’t come across as that. So I take it that months after the Project Reason website had all but vanished, nearly a year after its vanishing act started, and arguably several years after Project Reason’s last Project worth writing home about – if indeed it ever had one or more – Project Reason was still happily taking 20 whatevers a month in donations from Raúl, and presumably still taking donations from all those other regular donors too.

    Continuing to collect donations doesn’t sound ethical, does it – unless the Project Reason charity was (is?) still functioning as a 501(c) charity, of course. Does anybody know if it is, or if not when it formally wound up and what happened to its funds?


    Going back to Michael’s question about whether “… Project Reason has been dissolved … (… no longer exists) …”, who can tell whether it has indeed been dissolved and whether it still exists; we only know for sure about the website.


    There’s another issue raised by this: Harris is the man who emphasises he never knowingly and willingly tells a lie; Harris’ integrity is exemplary, or so he implies. Why, then, does a man with nothing to hide act so opaquely, even secretively, making major changes very quietly and with no prior or post- announcement on either the Project Reason website or on his own blog; he was so secretive that for a long time even his Project Reason Forum moderators could not answer questions about what had already happened – well after the link to the Forum had vanished from the home page – or what was going to happen.

    As regards the future of the charity, and even whether it still exists and what it might be doing, and where its funds have gone or will go, that is a yet greater mystery. It’s a mystery so easily and obviously dispelled, it has to be a deliberate mystery.

    I see a certain Larry Olson posting there:

    Well it could have had a much cleaner exit. A message on the project reason website months ago that there are plans to shut it down, explaining why, and whether the project reason organization is closing down or just the website domain. Leaving it up to the gossipers to decide why project reason is shut down is not the best strategy or tactic. [Incoherent and inaccurate rant against ‘gossipers’ here at S2L followed.]

    … Internet gossip, yo! Make people search web forums for an explanation, rather than just coming out with an official HTML page or blog post explaining that sh*t that’s going down…. Okay.

    Yep, Larry Olson, that’s why we gossip. I do, anyway. The behaviour of Harris (ditto the other two trustees) looks very odd, very out of place, suspicious. Remarkable – so I remark on it.

    I see Jerry Coyne has made no comment on what Olson calls “that sh*t that’s going down”. Does even Harris’ friend and Project Reason Advisory Board member not know what’s going on.

    For a man who never lies, it is surprising that Harris should behave in such a secretive and opaque manner that even his peanut gallery notices and complains. Why, I ask, should Harris behave in a way which is not open and transparent, but secretive and opaque. I note cynically that one way not to lie – technically, anyway – is to be silent and thereby avoid answering awkward questions; why should he lie, when he can keep quiet. What’s he keeping quiet about?

    The ‘gossip’ can be stopped with eg a blog post telling Harris’ fans and interested others what is happening (or has finally happened) with the Project Reason 501(c) charity, including when (if ever) regular donations from such as Raúl stopped being collected and what has happened to those monies.

    I look forward to seeing the clarification and appropriate information which I am sure a man of honesty and integrity will be glad to provide.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.