Sam Harris vs. The Regressive Left

When you consider the battles between Sam Harris and the Regressive Left, it occurs to me that neither side has the moral high ground.  Now, I’m not very familiar with Harris’s anti-Islam writings.  But I do know that when it comes to his anti-Christian writings, Harris likes to create straw men through the careful application of cherry picking and reliance on stereotypes.  These straw men then come in quiet handy when Harris begins to traffic in fear-mongering.  After all, we are talking about the guy who tried this approach to lead a crusade to prevent Francis Collins from becoming head of the NIH.

Now, I doubt Harris has changed his methods when it comes to Islam (and from what I have seen, he doesn’t).   So if his anti-Islam writings are also characterized by cherry picking, straw men arguments, stereotypes, and fear-mongering, it makes sense that the Regressive Left will rush in to exploit this and condemn Harris as a racist.   After all, cherry picking, straw men arguments, stereotypes, and fear-mongering are the bread-and-butter of racists.

Of course, the Regressive Left comes off no better.

When Harris uses the same approach against Christians, the Regressive Left says nothing.  In fact, one gets the distinct impression that if Sam Harris would just keep the Catholic and Evangelical Christians in his cross-hairs, the Regressive Left would be happy to promote him and hold him up as a great thinker.

Many in the Regressive Left seem to have this “What happened to my hero?” attitude.  That is, they claim they used to be a huge fan of Dawkins or Harris back in the day, but no more.  Y’see, when Dawkins/Harris focus their bigoted approach only on Christians, the Regressive Left was there to guffaw and slap em on the back.  “Good one, Richard!”  “Brilliant as ever, Sam!”.  But when Dawkins or Harris turn their focus, and same approach, on feminists or Islam, suddenly the Regressive Left is appalled.  How dare they rely on by cherry picking, straw men, stereotypes, and fear-mongering!

Go figure.

As for me, I notice that both sides tend to think themselves as being smarter than the rest of us, as being Champions of Reason, Defenders of Science, and paving the way for a better future.  Yet what I see is one side trafficking in cherry picking, straw men arguments, stereotypes, and fear-mongering, while the other side insists this approach must be guided by political correctness.

 

 

 

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5 Responses to Sam Harris vs. The Regressive Left

  1. tildeb says:

    Having read most if not all of Harris’ published writings, I can assure everyone that Harris is staying on target and criticizing the exporting of religious faith-based belief into the public domain here in the West first… where the public domain is the strongest. (But it also includes Europe and the confused policies regarding a rising Islam.) That necessarily promotes Christianity to the forefront and targets it for the most criticism. This is not a difficult point to grasp. End of Faith was written in response to 9/11 and in it Harris does go after Islam.

    There is no difference in principle between exporting the Catholic Church’s dogma into public policy (or the Anglican clergy privileged to hold government seats in England, the Southern Baptists and Born Agains in positions of public authority over science funding and education, Orthodox Jews on gender discrimination, and so on) and the global movement exporting Sharia into public law. Both monotheisms should be equivalently eviscerated for this illegitimate incursion (so much for the non-overlapping magesteria relied upon by most faitheists to pretend there’s no conflict or incompatibility between religion and science… but it ain’t the religionists OR the faitheists OR the accommodationists criticizing this incursion… they just meekly go along and avert their eyes leaving the task to those loud and obnoxious New Atheists like Harris). And Harris does so. But because Jainism and the Amish do not do so means some religions get off far easier from Harris’ directed criticism than others and so he spends little if any time going after particular and generally innocuous religions. He also tends to stay away from other kinds of faith-based interference – like the various denialist movements plaguing us from granting the political capital needed to those in positions of public office from addressing in any meaningful way many vital issues (by manufacturing dissent and doubt where is none is justified and promoting and heavily funding those advocating for the status quo, for a do-nothing and let’s study it more approach).

    Harris isn’t helping to fund 24 hour security for Ayann Hirsi Ali against stereotypes, because he wants to criticize a straw man, because he’s the one trying to fear monger. You’ve got it exactly backwards. He does so because he’s trying to accomplish what you do not have the intellectual courage to do: face real problems in real life caused by pernicious religious ideas in the public domain with real solutions. And religious bullying accomplished by threats and intimidation by violent means is a very real pernicious problem to real people in real life caused by such religious ideas in its many formats. For you to paint Harris’ motivations and methods in this dishonest way is a transparent attempt (for religious reasons alone) to misinform, to misrepresent, and to smear the man and his character rather actually address his published criticisms.

    Shame on you for promoting this kind of blatant and cowardly dishonesty.

  2. Ilíon says:

    Yet what I see is one side trafficking in cherry picking, straw men arguments, stereotypes, and fear-mongering, while the other side insists this approach must be guided by political correctness.

    But it is guided, that’s the key! There are standards to be maintained.

  3. Michael says:

    Ever notice how the devotees of Sam Harris are so zealous, authoritarian-like, and thin-skinned? It’s almost cult-like.

    tildeb complains about

    the Southern Baptists and Born Agains in positions of public authority over science funding and education,

    I guess that means Southern Baptists and Born Agains should not be allowed to be part of the government bureaucracy. Ironically, this is the same dumbass argument Harris tried to make in his hit piece trying to convince people Francis Collins should not head the NIH.

    After defending his hero with misdirection, tildeb lashes out at me:

    For you to paint Harris’ motivations and methods in this dishonest way is a transparent attempt (for religious reasons alone) to misinform, to misrepresent, and to smear the man and his character rather actually address his published criticisms.
    Shame on you for promoting this kind of blatant and cowardly dishonesty.

    Shame on you for dishonestly trying to posture as if your leader Harris does not rely on cherry picking, straw men arguments, stereotypes, and fear-mongering when attacking religions. It is blatantly and cowardly dishonest to somehow imply I, and others here, are responsible for Ayann Hirsi Ali needing 24 hour security.

  4. Kevin says:

    In everything I’ve read from Sam Harris, the general impression I get is of a guy who really really wants to be taken seriously as a thinker, and gets destroyed every time he comes across an actual thinker who disagrees with him. Much of this comes from his shallow skin, but the simple fact is that he doesn’t have any real points to make. Granted he scores against the regressive left, but they are about as detached from reality as you can get. Broken clock being right and all.

  5. Doug says:

    @tildeb,
    “religious faith-based belief” (perhaps a bit redundant?) is as prevalent today in the public domain as it has always been. However, when the existing public domain was under construction, the guiding religion was one that founded Universities, Hospitals, schools and charitable organizations (de Tocqueville > Harris). That is, its religious impulse was constructive. More recently — and tragically — a religion consisting of an odd melange of secularism, consumerism, populism, and socialism is ascendant. And, as your own expressions of “religious faith-based belief” have amply demonstrated, it is by no means a constructive endeavor: its efforts are entirely destructive — imagining (on the basis of no evidence whatsoever) that when and if “religion” (including those constructive manifestations responsible for a robust public domain in the first place) are eradicated, a full-bloomed Gnutopia will emerge!

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