Sam Harris Promotes Sam Harris Memes

I recently checked out Sam Harris’s blog and found the latest entry entitled “Meme#8” Which means there is a #7, #6, etc.

And they are all quotes from….Sam Harris speaking on his podcasts.

So Harris is using his blog to promote Sam Harris memes.

At first, I thought maybe he was finding his memes and helping to spread them.  But then I noticed that all eight of the memes credit the same artist for the illustration.

Does this mean Sam Harris is actually making and promoting Sam Harris memes?  Some people just can’t get enough of themselves.

Anyway, it does make sense that Harris’s insights are actually…….memes. 😉

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

52 Responses to Sam Harris Promotes Sam Harris Memes

  1. Dhay says:

    > Does this mean Sam Harris is actually making and promoting Sam Harris memes? Some people just can’t get enough of themselves.

    Looks like it. I reckon the cartoonist produced Meme #1 without prompting, because it’s different from the others in being misquoted from a Harris book — yes, there’s quotation errors in it, it’s definitely not what Harris wrote; as for the other Memes, the ones using quotes from Harris’ podcasts, I reckon Harris probably liked Meme #1 so much he commissioned those other Memes.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/sam-harris-just-wont-admit-he-is-closed-minded-2/#comment-17242

  2. Dhay says:

    Meme #8 says: “Pretending to know things one doesn’t know is a betrayal of science — and yet it is the lifeblood of religion” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast..

    For those who have lived closeted the last few years, this is not a Sam Harris meme at all, but one of Peter Boghossian’s most repeated memes, and is reproduced with scant changes, especially to meaning, and without acknowledgement.

    OK, compare and contrast:

    While we attempted to make the challenges to the political statements as strong as possible, we also cannot rule out the possibility that the non-political challenges were somehow inherently more persuasive. Both categories involved exaggerations or distortions of the truth, but our political participants may have been more likely to identify these distortions for the political issues, especially if they were more familiar with these issues.

    [Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence, from the fourth paragraph up in the Discussion, P.9 of the pdf, my emphasis.]

    http://www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

    What was that about betrayal of science.

  3. Dhay says:

    Meme #5 says: “Certainty about the next life is incompatible with tolerance in this one” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    Says Sam Harris, so it must be true, mustn’t it.

    From the cartoon, and the fact that Harris has happily blogged Meme #5 with that cartoon and with no disclaimer or qualification — Harris has ‘owned’ it — I conclude Harris means us to take Meme #5 to refer to Christians.

    Unfortunately for Harris, I reckon many or most Christians would disagree that Meme #5 applies to themselves, whatever Harris might have meant or still mean by it.

    Let’s try one possible meaning:

    “Certainty about whether there will be a next life is incompatible with tolerance in this one”: that’s double-edged, because it applies also to atheists, to people who have certainty there will be no next life. Is the certainty of an atheist incompatible with them being tolerant. Do Stalin and Pol Pot exemplify this. Wow, Harris could be on to something here.

    Then there’s Buddhists (like Harris himself), and Hindus, who are certain there is a next life and that by the iron dictates of the Law of Karma — sounds like it’s scientific, guys — the deceased will be reincarnated as an ant (say) or as a more advanced Buddhist type known as a ‘stream-winner’ or ‘never-returner’; the only uncertainty is how to calculate whether the deceased will go up or down the virtue scale, and how far — ant? or cat? — or in rare cases whether they will finally reach that goal of final extinction. Is the certainty of a Buddhist or Hindu about reincarnation to a next life incompatible with their being tolerant in this life.

    I’ve looked at one possible meaning; perhaps, probably, there are other meanings, but I’m not going to write a thesis exhausting every possibility: it is for Harris to make his meanings clear, not for me to speculate on which possibility, or comment on a plethora of possible meanings.

  4. Dhay says:

    Meme #6 says: “Bad ideas, however sacred, cannot survive the company of good ones forever” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    It always astonishes me how much of a Gish Gallop of innuendo and mere assertive claim Harris can manage to squeeze into his very shortest sentences.

    From the cartoon, and the fact that Harris has happily blogged Meme #6 with that cartoon and with no disclaimer or qualification — Harris has ‘owned’ it — I conclude Harris means us to take Meme #6 to refer to the three Abrahamic religions and to assert that their ideas are bad.

    Says Sam Harris, so it must be true, mustn’t it.

    Harris doesn’t tell us what the alleged “good ideas” are, nor tell us what the alleged “bad ideas” are: it’s innuendo and it’s innuendo, unsupported. That it’s a meme is no excuse or explanation, it’s Harris’ meme, Harris’ choice of message medium. His fans may love it, it plays to their prejudices and echoes in the echo chambers of their postings to each other, but it fails rational analysis through lack of content.

    *

    Where’s Hinduism, where’s Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, where’s all the other well-known and widespread religions in that cartoon — Harris (and his cartoonist) singles out the Abrahamic religions only.

    Chapter 1 of Harris’ Waking Up includes this lament, which I am sure is not complaining purely about Christians:

    Buddhism offers a truly sophisticated, empirical approach to understanding the human mind, whereas Christianity presents an almost perfect impediment to such understanding.

    Or put another way, Bodhisattva Sam Harris laments Christians, Moslems and Jews being resistant to conversion to Harris’ beloved Buddhism.

    My heart bleeds for the poor man.

  5. unclesporkums says:

    Amen, I’ll pray for him as well.

  6. Dhay says:

    Meme #7 says: “We will embarrass our descendants just as our ancestors embarrass us. This is moral progress” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    Says Sam Harris, so it must be true, mustn’t it.

    Odd, then, that things were always better in the good old days. Some research I heard about (probably a couple of decades ago) found that the ‘good old days’ were about twenty years ago — indeed, they have always been about twenty years before any date you look at — even back to those Elizabethan days when things were better back in the good old days before the unruly apprentice boys.

    I’d say this research finding of better-ness always being better in the previous generation is a perfect mirror to Harris’ picture of better-ness always being better in the subsequent generation.

    And has Harris never ever heard the likes of “Tsk, tsk, the young people of today [fill in the blank]!” It is commonplace (though not universal) for the older generation to disapprove of the younger.

    Would people of 1850 or [insert year] say of today’s commonplace abortion-seeking that that is moral progress — or would they be not just embarrassed but appalled.

  7. TFBW says:

    Meme #7 says: “We will embarrass our descendants just as our ancestors embarrass us. This is moral progress” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    Dawkins has framed moral progress in the same sorts of terms (in his “Root of all Evil?” TV shows, and possibly elsewhere). I think that Sam has made a one-word error in his statement, however. I offer the following correction.

    We will embarrass our descendants just as our ancestors embarrass us. This is moral parochialism.

  8. Dhay says:

    Meme #3 is peculiarly American; best that I avoid it.

    Memes #2 and #4 display Harris’ interest in Buddhism; there’s not a lot to say about #2 except that he is very likely correct (but who cares either way): Meme #4 says: “Consciousness is the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    Actually, it dates back to Harris’ 11 October 2011 blog entitled “The Mystery of Consciousness”, so for once it’s possible to find the context without listening intently – personally I won’t – to a hour or two of some podcast or other, or to all of them (Harris doesn’t even tell us which are the relevant podcasts!): https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-mystery-of-consciousness

    It’s a typically over the top Harris proclamation — for an enthusiastic proponent of mysticism, he’s packed that short statement full of the concepts that underwrite our dualistic materialistic perception of the world; if I were to use my own words for what I think Harris is getting at, I’d say the pithier “Here is this”, but I’ll stay focused on what Harris actually says.

    It’s an odd claim: everything might be an illusion except this one thing, consciousness — oh, and a universe as well, that’s two things, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition; or if consciousness is the one thing that cannot be an illusion, the universe can be and perhaps is an illusion. Where’s the clarity of thought and expression which Harris’ fans claim to see and love.

    (He’s that unclear, I could read this sentence as claiming there is a Cosmic Consciousness. Heck, if consciousness is ‘the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion’, there’s room there for consciousness to be a ‘one thing’, ‘one thing only’ in the universe; there’s room there for the universe to be nothing but consciousness – everything else whatsoever being merely illusion.)

    OK, let’s drop the universe (and cosmos) as the irrelevant distraction I suspect it is and concentrate on that one non-illusory consciousness. It’s consciousness singular, I note, as reinforced by that “… one thing …”, not consciousnesses plural, not even a mere two consciousnesses. Because – so far as I know – nobody has experienced someone else’s consciousness, still less provided objective evidence of doing so, I have to presume that Harris was here talking about his own consciousness.

    So let’s plug that into the Meme: “Sam Harris’ consciousness is the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion”.

    Says Sam Harris – once you work out what it is he’s trying to say – so it must be true, mustn’t it.

    *

    Has anybody spotted Harris’ absurdity, spotted that consciousness cannot be “in” a material universe. It’s unfindable in its most probable home, the material flesh-and-blood brain, Harris reckons it will remain unfound and unfindable, and the likes of Alex Rosenberg, Paul Churchland and Daniel Dennett deny consciousness altogether as just an illusion. No agreement there, which shows how out on a limb Harris is in his views.

    *

    SJW activists have recently been pilloried on S2L for prioritising their subjective feelings over objectivity. If you want a very glaring example of subjectivity being prioritised over objectivity, read Meme #4.

    *

    Harris has kept on repeating this Meme #4 mantra over a number of years. It must be important to him, it must be one of his core views. Why should that be.

    I observe that Harris’ Buddhist-derived and very typically Buddhist denial of a self (and thence of free will) relies upon that “Consciousness is the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion”: his argument that there is no self boils down to the observation that a meditator who has cleared their mind of thoughts and is no longer locked into thoughts of self – that person will find they are not conscious of a self, there’s no sign of anything to call a self within consciousness: if the meditator isn’t conscious of a self, if the meditator doesn’t see a self, then there is no self, the self is an illusion.

    It’s horribly simplistic, that: if I am not conscious of a self causing and directing my thoughts and actions – that’s the other part, in meditation you still not just thoughts but all activity – there is no self causing and directing my thoughts and actions. Yeah, yeah, by that standard of thinking, by that standard of refusing to use reasonable inference, by that standard of peek-a-boo babyish if-I-don’t-see-it-it’s-non-existent logic, if I don’t see the electronics and motor in the lift it’s all just happening electronic-less and motor-less; as for my computer, nothing whatsoever causes e-mails to come in, those workings of the computer and the external world, being outside consciousness, are not only deniable as illusions but should be denied as illusions – by Harris’ Meme #4 standards.

  9. Dhay says:

    “Neuroscientist Sam Harris” — how many times have I seen that.

    It occurs to me that Meme #4 amounts to science-denialism; nor does it look well-reasoned (even in full blog context); whatever happened to that ‘Science and Reason’ which Sam Harris’ fans presumably love to love, and which in their eyes Harris presumably embodies, as model, as pattern, as the very paradigm of neuroscientific logic and reason.

  10. TFBW says:

    “Sam Harris’ consciousness is the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion”

    That’s pretty funny, but Sam’s position on consciousness is a point (possibly the only point) on which I agree with him. The short version of why his claim is true goes like this: an illusion is a form of consciousness — a non-veridical form, but a form even so. To experience an illusion is to have a form of consciousness, so if consciousness were an illusion, it would still be consciousness, and therefore not an illusion. Saying that consciousness is an illusion is a self-contradiction, much like saying, “you’re not thinking — you only think that you’re thinking.”

  11. Dhay says:

    TFBW > … Sam’s position on consciousness is a point (possibly the only point) on which I agree with him. …

    I agree it’s a Sam Harris strong point. There are those who insist on an ultra-materialistic ‘leptons and baryons only’ approach, an approach which concludes that consciousness is an illusion. Like you and Harris, I agree that is an absurdity, and I applaud Harris for subverting the usual reductionist materialist narrative by turning the ‘consciousness is an illusion’ claim completely around.

    *

    I don’t think Harris is coming from the same philosophical viewpoint as you, or arriving there via philosophical arguments as you do. I judge Harris is a Buddhist through and through, and that it is no accident that he echoes a characteristic Buddhist teaching; here’s from the Buddhist scholar DT Suzuki’s analysis of the Lankavatara Sutra entitled Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra and, subtitled ‘One of the most important texts of Mahayana Buddhism, in which almost all its principal tenets are presented, including the teaching of Zen’:

    So far no special efforts have been made to prove why there is Mind itself and no external realities. The Lankavatara is not a philosophical treatise and naturally does not profess to prove anything specifically in connection with the teaching or statement it propounds. But as we peruse the sutra, we cannot help coming across certain attempts at advancing proofs for its main thesis: svacittadrisyamatram. We will try to gather up these attempts already alluded to, though sporadically in previous pages, and present them in a more systematic way. …

    P.267 (P.298 of the pdf)
    https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/Suzuki_Studies_in_the_Lankavatara.pdf
    [Large pdf download. My emboldenings.]

    Good luck with understanding any Mahayana Buddhist Sutra, even when systematically presented.

    Now the question naturally suggesting itself is: what is really meant by cittamdtram, or “mind-only”? It is often phrased, svacittadrisyamatram, meaning ”own-mind-seen-only.”

    P.248 (P.279 of pdf)

    Or search for “matram”, which amongst other findings will find:

    “the triple world is no more than [the product of] discrimination, there is no such thing as an external world”

    P.439 (P.470 of pdf)

    I trust you can see why I reckon Harris’ “Consciousness is the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion” comes from Buddhism, perhaps or perhaps not from this Sutra but from the same tradition of thought. Yes, you can find Western philosophical tradition arguments, correct and smart, to support Harris, and Harris can, too; but that’s not where I think Harris is coming from, for him that would be a case of his being skilled at defending things he arrived at for non-smart reasons.

  12. Dhay says:

    Meme #9 says: “The liar stands between his listeners and reality. To lie is to block the light of the world” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    Each political and non-political statement was associated with 5 challenges. In order to be as compelling as possible, the challenges often contained exaggerations or distortions of the truth.

    For instance, one challenge to the statement “The US should reduce its military budget” was “Russia has nearly twice as many active nuclear weapons as the United States”.

    In truth, according to statistics published by the Federation of American Scientists: Status of World Nuclear Forces (www.fas.org) in 2013, Russia has approximately 1,740 active nuclear warheads, while the United States has approximately 2,150.

    [Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence, from “Materials and Methods”, “Stimuli” P.2 of the pdf, my emphasis.]

    http://www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

    It appears that — but no, Stuart Kaplan and Sam Harris explicitly state it was part of the experimental design, it was deliberately intended — that Kaplan and Harris deliberately lied to their experimental subjects. They deliberately, er, “block[ed] the light of the world”.

    To hammer the point about deliberately lying, he repeats it in the Discussion, P.9, adding that some experimentees will have seen through the lies while some won’t have (and they don’t know who saw through what — how’s that for experimental controls!):

    While we attempted to make the challenges to the political statements as strong as possible, we also cannot rule out the possibility that the non-political challenges were somehow inherently more persuasive. Both categories involved exaggerations or distortions of the truth, but our political participants may have been more likely to identify these distortions for the political issues, especially if they were more familiar with these issues.

    Looks like the paper was mis-titled: Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of sometimes detected, sometimes not, deliberate lies, anyone?

    *

    In Britain we refer to “pulling the wool over someone’s eyes”: Meme #9 looks horribly pompous and affected in comparison.

    Perhaps I’m being uncharitable; perhaps Americans don’t know of that expression.

  13. Dhay says:

    Looks like Meme #10 is going to say: “There is no place in your brain for your soul to be hiding” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    Looks like Harris is denying that anyone has a soul, on the grounds that no soul can be found in anyone’s grey matter. (And I strongly suspect he would also deny that anyone has a self, same reasoning.)

    Yet as Harris’ 11 October 2011 blog entitled “The Mystery of Consciousness” claims, and as Harris has claimed repeatedly since (including in the source of Meme #4):

    Consciousness is the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion

    Has any neuroscientist (or other competent person) ever found consciousness in anyone’s grey matter?

    If you answer, Yes, I would suggest that the patterns of electrical activity, increased blood flow, etc which serve as (indirect) evidence for consciousness serve as well as evidence for a self or a soul.

    And if, like Harris, you use lack of such evidence as grounds to deny anyone’s soul or self, that same lack of evidence is grounds to deny anyone’s consciousness. (Consciousness is Harris’ Buddhist ‘sacred cow’.)

    Looks to me like Harris is confused and inconsistent; but, hey, what fan cares if some of Harris’ Memes are logically incoherent and mutually inconsistent, so long as they are catchy and visually pretty.

    *

    I wonder whether Harris likes (he probably commissions) these Memes precisely because they are pictorial and by-pass rationality.

    Which reminds me, there is also no place in your brain for your rationality or [insert here] to be hiding; on that standard of evidence, rationality and reason are unreal.

    *

    Excellent artistry in each and every Meme: shame about the Harris quotes they are based on.

  14. Dhay says:

    Looks like Sam Harris has ceased to do much significant blogging, and has turned into being primarily a podcaster: of the nineteen blog posts since the beginning of December 2016, ten have been Meme #1-10 posts, and the consecutive last six blog posts have been Meme posts.

    In the same period, Harris has posted thirty podcasts.

    Podcasts predominate over blog posts, Memes predominate in blog posts.

  15. Dhay says:

    Since I last responded (28 June) there’s been no blog post and the next blog post — the picture source — looks like being yet another Meme; yet he’s pumped out another seven podcasts, at a rate of rather more than one a week; looks like Sam Harris definitely thinks podcasts are the future of his online presence.

    Meme #11 is going to say: “We decide what is valuable in our holy books. Religion is like a pickpocket who offers to loan you your own money until you can find your wallet” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    twitter.com/SamHarrisOrg?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.samharris.org%2Fblog%2Ffull_archive

    This highlights the dangers of taking a quotation out of context, as without that context this rather mysterious Meme could “mean” whatever you might choose to read into it. That which can mean anything is effectively meaningless.

    Who’s “we” in that first sentence, for a start? “We” do, do “we”?

    The second sentence carries the meaning, albeit devoid of detail and specifics, of someone (who?) first depriving you (how?) of what was already yours (what was it?) then offering to let you have it (what, again, is it?) back for a price (what price?) while pretending they hadn’t deprived you (how?) of it. Harris’s words are about as vague and woolly as you can get. Whatever can and does that convoluted second sentence actually mean?

    Meme #11 refers to “religion” — religion in general rather than specified religions — so the Meme applies also to Harris’ own religion, Buddhism; the Buddhism Harris is mostly promoting is a Buddhism-lite, heavy on meditation and LSD, lite on traditional Buddhist ethical teachings and practices; yet he himself has studied and practiced Tibetan Buddhist teachings at an advanced level “from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who was generally thought to be one of the greatest living Dzogchen masters” (Quoted from Waking Up); and in that book he so praises Dzogchen it is plain he is recommending it to serious seekers — but Dzogchen is unmistakably traditional Buddhist, so Harris via his book is recommending traditional Buddhism and traditional Buddhist practice.

    Does Meme #11 apply to that, or does it not? Can we read, “Buddhism/Dzogchen is like a pickpocket who offers to loan you your own money until you can find your wallet”. On a plain reading, we can.

    I’m sure Buddhist retreats cost Harris (or his mum) a lot of money. including those with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.

  16. Dhay says:

    Harris is taking a while to post Meme #11 on his blog, and I find the picture link I gave (when the missing https:// is added at the beginning) just takes you to the top of Harris’ Twitter account with two weeks’ worth of scrolling down to do. So here’s a better link to the Twitter post, and if you click on the picture and note it’s “find” location, you’ll see it’s already there on Harris’ blog waiting to be revealed:

    *

    I’m glad I decided to check whether Meme #11 had appeared yet. Scrolling down the various replies to Harris’ Tweet, I see Harris has been engaging in a bit of plagiarism; he has added a little tweak to a much earlier meme, and ‘Stardust’ spotted which one:

    Anybody who tells you he has some way of leading you to spiritual enlightenment is like somebody who picks your pocket and sells you your own watch.

    wwww.twitter.com/StelliferousLuv/status/892193428670480384

    I Googled that latter meme, and found it attributed to the late Alan Watts, a famous author of books on Buddhism.

    https://www.google.co.uk/search?newwindow=1&q=anybody+who+tells+you+he+has+some+way+of+leading+you+to+spiritual+enlightenment+is+like+somebody+who+picks+your+pocket+and+sells+you+your+own+watch&oq=anybody+who+tells+you+he+has+some+way+of+leading+you+to+spiritual+enlightenment+is+like+somebody+who+picks+your+pocket+and+sells+you+your+own+watch

    Harris’ tweaked version …

    We decide what is valuable in our holy books. Religion is like a pickpocket who offers to loan you your own money until you can find your wallet

    … has been twisted to picturing “religion” as the villain who deceives you by offering you what is already yours, whereas the Alan Watts original says the villain is “Anybody who tells you he has some way of leading you to spiritual enlightenment”; that is, in the original version of the meme, the pickpocket villain is people such as Sam Harris.

    *

    Watts’ words remind me strongly of the story of the Zen Buddhist abbot who remarked that for many years he had been engaged in “selling water by the river”; what I particularly dislike about Harris is that not only is Harris also selling water by the river, he insists that river water is Acid- (LSD-) flavoured, so try LSD as a taster and bugger the mental health hazards, they’re worth it.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/new-atheists-fading/#comment-10766

  17. Dhay says:

    Although Meme #10 took a few days from early publication on Sam Harris’ Twitter account to appearance on Harris’ blog, it was but a few days, as I recall.

    Meme #11 has taken three weeks so far, so long that I wonder whether it will ever appear.

    Stardust found out that Harris took an Alan Watts meme and turned it 180 degrees so it denigrated “religion” instead of gurus such as Harris himself.

    In view of the lengthening delay in publication, I wonder: has Stardust so embarrassed Harris that Harris has decided never to publish Meme #11?

  18. Dhay says:

    Sam Harris has bottled out of his original Meme #11.

    Meme #11 instead says: “Where are the Tibetan Buddhist Suicide Bombers?” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/meme-11

    Those Tibetan Buddhists are wonderful aren’t they. Mind you, where are the [United Reformed Church / insert just about any denomination of just about any religion worldwide] suicide bombers? Even most Muslims are peaceful family-oriented people just getting on with life.

    And those Tibetan Buddhists are not at all like those nasty Japanese Zen Buddhists who supported Japanese warmongering in WWII, are they. Or the very peaceful and compassionate(?) Rinzai Zen Buddhist samurai.

    Maybe those non-suicide-bomber Tibetan Buddhists are just ordinary peaceful family-oriented people, like nearly everybody else. Maybe they are living in a Chinese-dominated police state with no bomb-making materials or weapons readily available locally, and with smuggling difficult because of mountains and distances.

    You don’t expect Tibetan suicide bombers inside Tibet; you don’t expect Tibetan suicide bombers outside of Tibet in the nations which host exiles, are friendly or are indifferent or neutral: where should one expect to find Tibetan suicide bombers?

    What a silly question Harris asks — even as a rhetorical question.

  19. Dhay says:

    So far I have just looked at the text of Meme #11; but what of the picture, what story does the picture promote.

    Basically, it’s a hand holding a lotus flower; the lotus’ stem and roots reach way down — it’s very clearly traditional Buddhist symbolism, symbolising beautiful enlightenment arising out of the mud of passions and cravings.

    Also traditional Buddhist symbolism is the hand position, thumb to second finger, known as ‘teaching mudra’; it’s the characteristic finger positioning the Buddha is depicted in when teaching the Dharma (Buddhist teachings); that is, the hand is portrayed as the Buddha’s, teaching Buddhism.

    From the Buddha’s little finger dangles what’s either a key or more probably a linchpin; that is, the Meme portrays that it’s the Buddha who (or Buddhism which) “holds the key.”

    Finally, the arm and hand are golden, not flesh toned; it’s a statue of the Buddha which is portrayed, not the Buddha as person; and it’s a golden statue, a gilded statue, the kind that devoutly reverent superstitious Buddhists make golden by saving up to donate gold leaf to cover the statue with, in the belief that they somehow attain merit thereby.

    The bottom line is that, whatever the message of the text, the message of the picture itself is unambiguously promoting village temple Buddhism of the most traditional and superstitious kind.

  20. Dhay says:

    Meme #11 > Where are the Tibetan Buddhist Suicide Bombers?

    Looks like Buddhists, Burmese Buddhists, anyway, are into ethnic cleansing; here’s part of a recent BBC News article:

    However, we do know the latest conflict was sparked on 25 August when Rohingya militants attacked police posts, triggering a military counter-offensive.

    The military says it is fighting against Rohingya militants who are attacking civilians.

    But the Rohingya families streaming north into Bangladesh have been reporting that security forces, sometimes backed by armed Buddhist civilians, burned their villages and opened fire on their inhabitants.

    Their story has been contradicted by Myanmar’s Minister in charge of Border Security in Rakhine, Col Phone Tint. He told our correspondent Jonathan Head who is travelling on a government-organised visit to the border town of Maungdaw that the destruction of villages was a deliberate strategy by the militants, aimed at forcing the Muslim population to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

    Meanwhile, two Bangladeshi government sources told Reuters news agency they believe Myanmar has been laying fresh landmines along the border, despite the flood of refugees trying to cross to safety.

    The allegations came after blasts were heard in the area, in which two children and a woman were injured, according to news agency AFP.

    The area was mined in the 1990s, during military rule, to prevent trespassing. Myanmar’s government has yet to respond as to whether or not fresh mines have been laid in recent weeks, Reuters said.

    But on Monday, Ms Suu Kyi’s spokesman Zaw Htay questioned who exactly had placed the explosives.

    “Who can surely say those mines were not laid by the terrorists?” he asked Reuters.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-41170570

    Lets see, the Burmese government claims that the Rohingya are attacking and burning their own villages, are deliberately forcing their own people to flee into Bangagladesh, and are placing landmines to blow some of their own people up on the way. Ah, yes, very plausible.

    The situation there is unclear; which is largely because the Buddhist Burmese government has as an act of policy withheld international aid agencies from providing the humanitarian aid which the government has itself pointedly not provided. If more detailed and trustworthy news is not coming out about what’s going on, it’s because the Buddhist government doesn’t want that and has banned reporters (and those proxies, aid workers) from the region.

    So much for the notion of peaceful, kindly, unwarlike Buddhism and of peaceful, kindly, unwarlike Buddhists.

    “Where are the Tibetan Buddhist Suicide Bombers?” asks Sam Harris. Dunno, but to find hate-filled murderous Buddhists, he needs look no further away than Burma.

  21. Dhay says:

    Looks like Buddhists, Burmese Buddhists, anyway, are into ethnic cleansing; and now it’s official; here’s part of a recent BBC News article:

    The security operation targeting Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, the UN human rights chief says.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-41224108

    Here’s a taster from BBC reporters who were escorted on a visit to the area:

    The government’s purpose in bringing us was to balance the overwhelmingly negative narrative coming from the Rohingya refugees arriving in Bangladesh, who have almost all spoken of a deliberate campaign of destruction by the Myanmar military and Rakhine mobs, and appalling human rights abuses.

    But right away these efforts faltered.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-41222210

    So where are the Buddhist terrorists? Sam Harris insinuates there aren’t any, or not in Tibet at any rate; but that is economical with the truth.

  22. Dhay says:

    Regarding Sam Harris’ promotion of Buddhism, I see he is not the only one making Sam Harris Memes:

  23. Dhay says:

    Looks like Meme #12 is going to say: “”Atheism” is a term that shouldn’t even exist. No one needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” We don’t have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle.” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.
    .

    .
    I rather think that the term “atheism” exists because theism has more than one alternative, principally agnosticism and atheism. One category just doesn’t suffice, and these two are different enough to need and get distinct names. Does Harris not understand the use of English?

    Then there’s the fact that atheists label themselves “atheists”; and do so with gusto and creativeness, recently creating sub-variants with sub-variant names to distinguish themselves from the run of the mill mere “atheism”: there’s the very recent social-activist sub-variant, “Atheism+”; there’s the still recent anti-theist sub-variant, “New Atheism” (aka the equally self-named “Gnu Atheism.”)

    When atheists call themselves “atheists”, and many of them fully ‘own’ and are proud of the term — and are even prouder that they are not those other atheists — what’s Harris’ complaining about? Who’s he trying to convince, and what would he have them and himself replace the term by — some circumlocution? Go on, Sam, be the change you want to see in the world; set the example; get circumlocuting.

    *

    “No one needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist”, says Harris; well you do if you are at an astrology convention and you are the odd one out; context is important. (Ditto if at an alchemy convention.) Theism has been the norm in all(?) societies as recently as a century ago, and in terms of the whole world theism is the norm today. It’s the odd ones out who need to identify as “non-” or “a-“, and specifically to identify as non-normal or atheist.

    This is nicely supported by Harris himself, who finishes:

    We don’t have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or [doubt] that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle.

    Of course we don’t: those doubters are the majority; those doubters are normal.

  24. Dhay says:

    The last response is also nicely supported by Hemant Mehta, whose 30 September 2017 blog post entitled “Christian Theologian: The Existence of the Word “Atheist” Proves God Is Real” says:

    Look: Atheists don’t believe there’s any evidence for God. The only reason we use the word is because so many people think otherwise, and it serves a purpose to identify ourselves separately.

    Atheism has less to do with the existence of God and more to do with the existence of God’s followers. If believers didn’t exist in huge numbers, we wouldn’t need a word to distinguish ourselves from them.

    [The emphases are Mehta’s.]
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/09/30/christian-theologian-the-existence-of-the-word-atheist-proves-god-is-real/

    Harris says one thing, while Mehta contradicts him.

    (Or perhaps the Meme #12 wording functions indirectly as a moan, the moan that theists are the majority. Perhaps it is (also?) a moan that not only should “atheism” not exist but its (for Harris) contradefining term, “theism”, should not exist.

    There’s an old proverb starting “If my aunt had a beard [and other bits] she’d be my uncle, but she hasn’t and she ain’t. Tough.)

  25. Dhay says:

    I quite like the Twitter comment on Sam Harris’ Meme #12 preview tweet by John Murphy:

    Female is a term that shouldn’t exist. No one needs to identify themselves as a “non male” …another example of Sam being dumb as a rock

    http://www.twitter.com/SamHarrisOrg/status/913764860076343296

    As someone pointed out a few threads ago, one test of a claim is whether the proponent would accept it re-stated with different terms substituted, and if they wouldn’t, the original also fails by parallelism. The “female … non-male” substitution makes Harris’ Meme look ridiculous.

  26. Dhay says:

    Meme #11 > Where are the Tibetan Buddhist Suicide Bombers?

    Sri Lanka might become another Myanmar, with a Buddhist majority persecuting and killing its Muslim minority (with Hindus and Christians targeted likewise). Here’s from a 2015 BBC report:

    And later, in 1959 Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike was assassinated by a Buddhist monk…

    Yet there is no evidence of violent extremism among Sri Lankan Muslims. Rather, they have been at the receiving end of attacks from other parts of society.

    In the small town of Aluthgama last June, three people died in clashes that started when the BBS and other Buddhist monks led an anti-Muslim rally in a Muslim area. At the time, I met Muslim families whose homes and shops had been burnt and utterly destroyed, and who were cowering in schools as temporary refugees.

    Moderate Buddhists have also been targeted by hard-line ones.

    Last year Rev Wathareka Vijitha Thero was abducted, rendered unconscious, tied up and forcibly circumcised – he says this was meant as a gesture of ridicule because he had worked for closer cooperation between Buddhists and Muslims.

    He believes Buddhist monks – he doesn’t know who or whether they were aligned with any particular group – were responsible.

    In a separate case, a few weeks earlier, Vijitha Thero had held a news conference to highlight the grievances of the Muslim community – the gathering was broken up by the BBS. Gnanasara had hurled insults and threatened him: “If you are involved in this type of stupid treachery again, you will be taken and put in the Mahaweli River,” he said.

    The reference to the Mahaweli is significant – there was a left wing insurrection against the Sri Lankan government in 1989 – it’s estimated 60,000 people disappeared and many dead bodies were dumped in the river.

    Of all the moral precepts instilled in Buddhist monks the promise not to kill comes first, and the principle of non-violence is arguably more central to Buddhism than any other major religion. So why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32929855

    Look what happens when Buddhists have the strength and opportunity to persecute and murder.

    *

    Then there’s the characteristically cynical comment in RationalWiki’s entry on Harris:

    Moreover, Harris “never quite stoops to articulate why suicide bombing is objectively worse than more common variants of homicide like the monopoly enjoyed by Christians and Jews on aerial bombing which rubbles entire nations with far more loss of life than a semtex in a rucksack.” In ironic fashion, Harris endorses drone strikes declaring that both drones or units of Navy Seals mean: “you’re going to kill some number of innocent people and that’s terrible; and the terrible truth is there is no alternative to that.”

    https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Sam_Harris#Debates_about_Islamic_terrorism

    Ah yes, for Harris it’s “suicide bombs bad, Western hi-tech killing pretty good”. Harris has obviously read his George Orwell, albeit without detecting the satire.

  27. Dhay says:

    It’s taken a full month for Sam Harris’ Meme #12 to go from Twitter pre-announcement to eventual inclusion in his blog.

    Evidently he though long and hard before including it. The original version of Meme #11 (“Religion is like a pickpocket…”) never made it to the blog, it was so bad, and looks like this one too nearly got consigned to oblivion.

    I’m not surprised.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/sam-harris-promotes-sam-harris-memes/#comment-20278

  28. Dhay says:

    Meme #13 says: “No society in human history ever suffered because its people became too reasonable” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/meme-13

    That’s a very strong claim indeed: “no … in [all of] human history … ever …”; that’s precisely zero. Is that likely; is it even plausible; how could Harris possibly know about all human societies [with everywhere implied] throughout all of human history; is it a claim he can back up with a valid epistemology or by quoting an authoritative expert person or a team who have researched the matter thoroughly.

    I expect the claim is bollocks: that is, he just made it up as he went along, he not only doesn’t know whether it’s true or not, he doesn’t even care.

    And don’t you just know that whatever counter-example(s) you come up with, you will be told that the identified society didn’t suffer “because its people became too reasonable”, they suffered for some other reason.

    Let’s think, Tibetan society hasn’t suffered at the hands of the Chinese for being too reasonable, they suffered for being too weak militarily. Yep, I see how it works.

    Then there’s the equivocation between reasonable as per being calm and conciliatory and ready to discuss, and reasonable as per being rational.

    Looking at the Meme graphic, Paul Lachine draws (and Harris tacitly accepts) the former – ie reasonable as being calm and conciliatory and ready to discuss: the graphic depicts a battlefield – they are fighting with staffs, very deadly weapons in trained hands, with one character at the bottom plainly getting its head stoved in or neck broken and another near the right having its chest stoved in; in the centre two have decided not to fight but are instead engaged in drawing ‘a line in the sand’ around themselves, a line in the shape of a speech bubble, symbolising dialogue.

    The flip side of this is, Lachine (likewise Harris) is not depicting reasonable in the sense of rational.

    (it’s perhaps unkind of me to suggest that when one side or the other retreats, one of those two reasonable centre figures is going to receive, at best, one hell of a beating up. Lachine is evidently using his skill to depict what should be, discussion instead of fighting.)

    War is reasonable as per being rational: Carl von Clausewitz famously said that war is “a fascinating trinity—composed of [1] primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; [2] the play of chance and probability, within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and [3] its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to pure reason.” [Wiki]

    *

    It’s reasonable to ask, at what point on the axis of ‘unreasonable – reasonable – too (or very, very) reasonable’ did (and do) societies cease to suffer and start not to suffer. According to Harris, that is. Examples, please, together with your quantitative measure of reasonable and your rationale.

    *

    Memes should be stand-alone, but this one is unclear enough that I looked for the original and for context. It’s from a The Sun interview from September 2006 entitled “The Temple Of Reason: Sam Harris On How Religion Puts The World At Risk”, and it was originally about communist atheist atrocities, namely genocide or hurling women and children into mass graves:

    Saltman: Atheism doesn’t always go hand in hand with reason and compassion. Look at the destruction and violence caused by atheist ideology in China and the old Soviet Union.

    Harris: What I’m really arguing against is dogma, and those communist systems of belief were every bit as dogmatic as religious systems. In fact, I’d call them “political religions.” But no culture in human history ever suffered because its people became too reasonable or too desirous of having evidence in defense of their core beliefs. Whenever people start committing genocide or hurling women and children into mass graves, I think it’s worth asking what they believe about the universe. My reading of history suggests that they always believe something that’s obviously indefensible and dogmatic.

    https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/369/the-temple-of-reason

    Well, actually, I reckon those ordering genocide were followers of a rational (ie reason-based) philosophy called Dialectical Materialism, and the genocide and the mass graves were presumably a reason-based consequence of those Communist atheists being very reasonable indeed, what the Meme refers to as too reasonable.

    For what it’s worth, those purged included many clergy:

    Within just weeks of the October revolution, the People’s Commissariat for Enlightenment was established to remove all references to religion from school curriculums. In the years that followed, churches and monasteries were destroyed or turned into public toilets. Their land and property was appropriated. Thousands of bishops, monks and clergy were systematically murdered by the security services. Specialist propaganda units were formed, like the League of the Godless. Christian intellectuals were rounded up and sent to camps.

    The Soviets had originally believed that when the church had been deprived of its power, religion would quickly wither away. When this did not happen, they redoubled their efforts. In Stalin’s purges of 1936 and 1937 tens of thousands of clergy were rounded up and shot. Under Khrushchev it became illegal to teach religion to your own children. From 1917 to the perestroika period of the 1980s, the more religion persisted, the more the Soviets would seek new and inventive ways to eradicate it.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2017/oct/26/why-the-soviet-attempt-to-stamp-out-religion-failed

    Harris’ calling Communist atheist systems dogmatic “political religions” is like the Atheism+ guys calling other strong atheists “alt-right” and “Nazis”; it obfuscates by implicitly claiming that people whose core beliefs and motivations overlap with the name-caller’s have completely different beliefs and motivations.

    As regards having evidence in support of their beliefs, I rather imagine the Communists thought they did have evidence in support; much as Harris presumably thinks he has evidence in support of whatever his are; funny how it’s the other guy who is dogmatic, while I – for any “I” whatsoever, but specifically including Harris – am always dogma-free and (in both senses of reasonable) am almost too reasonable – it’s you unreasonable lot who cause society’s sufferings.

  29. Dhay says:

    In that 2006 The Sun interview I spotted an early version of Meme #12:

    Saltman: You talk quite a bit in your book about how tolerance is part of the problem: that we feel we’re supposed to be tolerant of other people’s religions; we’re supposed to step back and allow them to have their own beliefs. But if we’re not tolerant, I’m not sure how we should express our intolerance.

    Harris: How do we express it with respect to people who believe Elvis Presley is alive?

    Saltman: We laugh it off.

    Harris: No, we’re worse than that. I mean, if someone applies for a job that involves significant responsibility, and in the process he or she expresses absolute certainty that Elvis is still alive, I would hope that person wouldn’t be hired. The belief that Elvis is alive is clearly incompatible with a reasonable evaluation of the evidence.

    Saltman: So we should express our intolerance of religious believers by not allowing them into positions of power?

    Harris: Well, yes. The belief that Jesus is going to come down out of the clouds like a superhero sometime in the next fifty years and save us — which 44 percent of the American population apparently believes — is every bit as specious as the belief that Elvis is still alive.

    https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/369/the-temple-of-reason

    Ah yes, it’s the old ‘Communist Party members only in positions of power’ line. I said in my response above that there’s overlap between Harris’ atheism and Communist atheism, I just hadn’t read far enough down to spot how much overlap, how much similarity.

    *

    As we know, Harris didn’t just talk this interview talk, he went on to express his active intolerance of religious believers by agitating against Francis Collins being allowing into a position of power heading the NIH.

    Funny thing, that. I have seen no evidence — and Harris’ 2009 article in the New York Times broadcasting his opinion also provides no evidence — that Collins is one of those ‘Elvis is live today’ types, the type who “expresses absolute certainty” that the Second Coming will happen before 2056. That didn’t stop Harris from knee-jerking (or Jerry Coyne either.)

    *

    You just know that Harris wouldn’t stop at banning Collins from the NIH, or Christians from other positions of power in the administration. He would love to ban Christians from political office — in Harris’ mind there’s no difference between them and people who express absolute certainty that Elvis is still alive.

    Isn’t it Harris who’s the nutter.

  30. Dhay says:

    I could wait for Sam Harris to publish a meme advocating, as he did in The End of Faith and did again in articles and a couple of his blogs, for torture as an interrogation method:

    My argument for the limited use of coercive interrogation (“torture” by another name) …

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/why-id-rather-not-speak-about-torture1

    Or I could get in first with a Guardian article entitled “The scientists persuading terrorists to spill their secrets” and sub-titled “Expert interrogators know torture doesn’t work – but until now, nobody could prove it. By analysing hundreds of top-secret interviews with terror suspects, two British scientists have revolutionised the art of extracting the truth.”

    The sub-title nicely summarises that (and how) inflicting water-boarding and other tortures on eg terrorist suspects has been shown by evidence and reason to be ineffective and counter-productive, and Harris’ long term obsession with the same is a mistaken obsession.

    The detail, ‘the long read’, is at:

    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/oct/13/the-scientists-persuading-terrorists-to-spill-their-secrets

  31. Dhay says:

    Both Meme #14 and Meme #15 have now been published: I’ll look at Meme #15 first.

    Meme #15 says: “Some ideas really are worse than others. And the idea that all religions, cultures, and belief systems are equal is one of the worst of them all.” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.
    .

    .
    Yes, we already know that. Personally I reckon that Harris’ own ideas – his religion, his culture and his belief system – “really are worse” than others’.

    I’ll come back to that.

    *

    Harris first tweeted a version with “≠” (the mathematical symbol for “does not equal”) as the moustache under the Nazi’s nose …
    .

    .
    … then tweeted a revised version (reason: “At the suggestion of a reader, the meme logic has been changed”) where it has been replaced by “=”. The “=” version shown at top now appears on Harris’ website, on ‘The Blog’, as the final Meme #15.

    Colour me puzzled regarding that “=”: one would have thought that a ‘Nazi’ – probably this is meant to depict a ‘neo-Nazi’, presumably those on the US alt-Right who are so often thus labelled – surely Harris’ claim that “the idea that all religions, cultures, and belief systems are equal is one of the worst of them all” is a claim which neo-Nazis would wholeheartedly agree with.

    I observe that US neo-Nazis (and neo-Nazis worldwide) claim their own religion, culture and belief system are the best and should reign supreme; a neo-Nazi would reject there’s any equality between their own superior religion, culture and beliefs and the inferior religion, culture and beliefs of Those Others. So the apparent identification of people who have “the idea that all religions, cultures, and belief systems are equal” with ‘Nazis’ or neo-Nazis makes poor sense or none.

    The cartoonist Paul Lachine therefore got it right by originally making the moustache a “≠”, which as I have just said would rather better capture the attitude of a ‘Nazi’ or neo-Nazi; it’s Harris who got the logic wrong, not Lachine.

    Bit of a cleft stick for Harris, really: he could have withdrawn the Meme entirely – it wouldn’t be the first to appear on Twitter but not make it to Harris’ blog; or he could have run with Lachine’s “≠” and run the gauntlet of a succession of people spotting the obvious jibe – someone obviously did, and very quickly, and told Harris, hence the quick about-turn; or Harris could (and did) change it to that nonsensical “=”.

    I guess the change was made because someone pointed out that Lachine’s identification of ‘Nazis’ and neo-Nazis with people who reckon “the idea that all religions, cultures, and belief systems are equal is one of the worst of them all” – that identification identifies ‘Nazis’ or neo-Nazis with … with Harris.

  32. Michael says:

    It is interesting that someone who is supposedly a public intellectual spends so much time makling…..memes. But do any of Harris’s memes actually ever go viral? If not, aren’t they just failed memes?

    What’s more, is there a difference between an old fashioned propaganda poster and a Sam Harris meme?

  33. Dhay says:

    Meme #1 came out on 04 December 2016, some thirteen months ago. In the next two months there were nine non-Meme blog posts, some of them very slight indeed, some just a tetchy response to criticism, some just a link to a TED talk or to a video where Sam Harris was interviewee rather than interviewer (ie in effect, just a variant of a Harris podcast.) It’s plain that Harris was then already close to abandoning substantive blog posts.

    In the eleven months since 04 February 2017 the posts on Harris’ blog have been … been nothing but Memes, ten in succession

    Harris has increasingly focused on recorded-discussion podcasts and has evidently abandoned publishing thoughtful textual content in online or paper articles — Harris has effectively been no-platformed by his former usual article publishers — or on his blog; on his blog there’s long been no new thoughts, nothing but one Meme after another, ten in an unbroken row.

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/full_archive

    *

    One blog post from 12 January 2017 announced Harris was looking for (and has since appointed) a full-time Creative Projects Manager to “help oversee my various publishing channels, which include:” — which are various, but evidently no longer include channels for online or paper articles.

    Intriguingly, Harris plans that the publishing channels will include “a forthcoming app that will be a major new project for me in 2017, requiring continual development”.

    Podcasting (or the advertising clicks) and live events must be reasonably lucrative, for Harris is already envisaging expansion: “If you are the right person for this position, we will eventually need to hire someone to do all the things you shouldn’t be doing, and our team will grow.”

    There’s a few interesting facts and figures there, too:

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/im-looking-for-a-creative-projects-manager

    *

    (Harris’ website is white-paging at the moment. I reckon it’s probably deep night over there and that Harris is taking the opportunity of his readers being (presumably) revelers or sleepers to upgrade the website; I fancy there have already been some minor changes over the last month or so, perhaps this will be the biggie. We will see.)

  34. Dhay says:

    I wasn’t quite sure where to put this, but this thread will do as well as any.

    Sam Harris describes Podcast #108 as “Sam Harris speaks with Tom Nichols about his book The Death of Expertise. They discuss the “Dunning-Kruger Effect,” the growth of knowledge and reliance on authority, when experts fail, the repudiation of expertise in politics, conspiracy thinking, North Korea, Trump, and other topics.”

    I was interested to come across a Medium (three free views only) article entitled “The Kings Of Dunning-Kruger” which — complete with quotations and the Podcast times the quotations are from — strongly criticised both Harris and Nichols for being exemplars of … of the “Dunning-Kruger Effect”:

    The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people without expertise or experience in a particular field suffer from illusory superiority. You can find a 10 minutes dissertation of the Dunning-Kruger effect at the beginning of this podcast: [Link to Podcast #108]

    What you’ll also find in this podcast is a slew of Dunning-Krugery, many other cognitive bias, lies, mind-reading episodes and a lot of straight-up hallucinations.
    Let’s begin.

    https://medium.com/@ryandelongpre/the-kings-of-dunning-kruger-d053714883d1

  35. Dhay says:

    As of 16 January 2018 Sam Harris has re-designed his website. (Presumably this is the work of the Creative Projects Manager appointed last year — see a couple of responses above.)

    https://samharris.org/im-looking-for-a-creative-projects-manager/

    The first observation is that the web addresses of posts, podcasts, etc have all changed, so old links will fail. It should be there if you search for it, though.

    It looks prettier, but has lost functionality: when looking for a particular blog post (say) the former easily found list of all titles (with links thereto), going right back to his first — that was searchable using the Windows Ctrl-F feature to quickly find eg “The limits” — is no more; nor — and I am astonished by the omission — is there the usual Search box such can be found on S2L, Friendly Atheist or Jerry Coyne’s blog; if you are looking for Harris’ earlier posts you currently have to scroll down from the latest page through a succession of dynamically loading earlier pages.

    I might have to resort to an archived copy of the former design when I search. Or a “site:” search of the new design site.

    Some Harris fans will be disappointed about the Forum — which once was two forums, the more active one on the Project Reason website, the lesser on the Sam Harris website, that latter later absorbing the abolished former. Not that Harris has posted to or participated in either Forum this many years, mind; if you look at Harris’ blogged e-mail exchanges with Andrew Sullivan, Noam Chomsky, and the many others over the years it’s plain that Harris feels he has to claim to win each of them — each “debate” when he feels he might possibly claim to have won in the eyes of his fans, each “conversation” when he has failed — or at least to have the last word (on his own blog, if not on theirs’): he can do this with his blog, but if he attempted to interact with his Forum members it is they who would always and inevitably have the final closing words; the which would inflict unacceptable damage on Harris’ public image and self-image (ego).

    The Forum has not been abolished, but it has now been removed one further stage from association with Harris and his website by being moved to an entirely separate website. I wonder whether Harris keeps the Forum going only because he wouldn’t want to estrange his most loyal fans, their click-custom and their donations.

    At the moment the moved Forum is not yet up and running; presumably that’s migration problems which will soon be resolved.

  36. Dhay says:

    Meme #14 says: “Where we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; where we have no reasons, we have lost our connection to the world and to one another.” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    .

    .

    The Meme claims its wording is from a Harris podcast, though the words are quoted verbatim from Harris’ 2005 book, The End of Faith; it’s from the Epilogue, P.225, written and published long before Harris started his podcasts.

    The claim that the wording is from the podcasts serves, I suppose, as an advertisement for the podcasts, an advertisement which would be widely seen if any Meme should go viral; the more podcast clicks, the more income.

    It also serves as a blatant lie, from a man who claims never to lie.

    *

    I couldn’t make a lot of sense of Meme #14’s wording, so I looked up the original source in hope that the local context would help; it doesn’t; I then looked through the book for other context that might help me discover what Harris meant by “faith” there in the book hence likewise here in Meme #14.

    This is the same book where (P.39) Harris tells us that:

    Without death, the influence of faith-based religion would be unthinkable. Clearly, the fact of death is intolerable to us, and faith is little more than the shadow cast by our hope for a better life beyond the grave.

    That is, in the book from which his ‘faith’ Meme #14 is taken, Harris tells us what faith is: apart from whatever presumably small remainder is indicated by that “little more than”, faith is “the shadow cast by our hope for a better life beyond the grave.” Substituting this into the Meme, we get:

    Where we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of the shadow cast by our hope for a better life beyond the grave; where we have no reasons, we have lost our connection to the world and to one another.

    Somehow, I’m missing where this makes sense. Perhaps that “[a] little more than” small remainder, whatever it is, it’s unspecified, adds the sense; but Harris doesn’t tell us what the remainder is, or how it contributes to whatever sense there is.

    Let’s look at the next “faith is…”, on P.65:

    Despite the considerable exertions of men like Tillich who have attempted to hide the serpent lurking at the foot of every altar, the truth is that religious faith is simply unjustified belief in matters of ultimate concern—specifically in propositions that promise some mechanism by which human life can be spared the ravages of time and death.

    ‘Faith’ is evidently “our hope for a better life beyond the grave” for Harris again, emphasised by repetition; he’s clearly fixated on the idea.

    But wait, he’s in full flow of rhetoric at this point; and he continues:

    Faith is what credulity becomes when it finally achieves escape velocity from the constraints of terrestrial discourse—constraints like reasonableness, internal coherence, civility, and candor.

    This is really wild stuff, verbal diarrhoea, really. Does Harris ever read what he’s written? Let’s see, Christians (etc) are unreasonable (or is it unreasoning?), incoherent, uncivil and are neither open nor truthful; two sentences later he adds ignorant to the charge sheet. He and his supporters would do well to consider whether his own words there in that quote are not a vicious libel, and themselves “achieve escape velocity from the constraints of terrestrial discourse—constraints like reasonableness, internal coherence, civility, and candor.”

    Another page, and it’s “… This demonstrates that faith is nothing more than a willingness to await the evidence.” One more page and it’s “A man’s faith is just a subset of his beliefs about the world:” Or there’s “faith is [not] anything more sublime than a desperate marriage of hope and ignorance” (P.21).

    OK … so just which or what is “faith” according to Harris, when Harris has so many versions of “faith is”, and when one “faith is” doesn’t substitute with any sense for another “faith is” but is quite different.

    I’m left wondering how these alternative versions of “faith is” can make sense when substituted into the Meme; I don’t think they do or can.

    *

    Looks like Harris can’t make up his mind what faith is, or wants it to be a muddle of anything and everything – perhaps he hoped the incongruities and contradictions would simply fly past fans admiring his loquacity and without them registering the lack of consistency and rationality.

    Does this matter? Well, when Jerry Coyne’s book Faith vs Fact got slated by Edward Feser one criticism was that Coyne was claiming religion is one thing on one page, something quite different on another, and was all over the place, Coyne obviously hadn’t got his ideas straight in his own mind.

    Feser’s criticism of Coyne’s Faith vs Fact applies also to Harris’ The End of Faith. Harris is the same: he gives multiple “faith is” definitions (by usage); he has no consistent definition or usage; he’s scatter-brained.

    Because Harris doesn’t himself know what “faith is”, anything of his with “faith is” in (especially if it’s a quote from his book, as this Meme is) is ambiguous waffle. It’s waffle which can be discounted because it’s impossible to discern what it might mean through the fog of “faith is” alternatives.

    *

    I tried to discern, both rationally and by intuition, what the message of the Paul Lachine drawing might be; but the drawing’s failed to give a clear message; Lachine seems to depict the Library of Science starting to crumble and collapse as, and because, a saintly person enters – which is almost certainly not the message Lachine or Harris would aim to convey; the lack of a clear message from the graphic parallels the words by failing to give a clear message.

    *

    Insofar as I can make sense of the Meme’s words, it seems to claim in the closing words that Christians (and other religious people) “have lost [their] connection to the world and to one another.”

    That is very, very odd indeed; indeed I can only think Harris self-deluded: if there’s anything that Christianity is known for, anything that is most certainly central to Christianity, anything that runs right through the Gospels and Epistles, it’s a commitment to community and love of neighbour; heck, even of enemies.

    Harris is as clueless about this as he is about whatever he thinks faith is.

  37. Dhay says:

    Stephen Hawking has sadly died. He will most recently be remembered for his role in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Hexagonal Phase as ‘The Guide Mk II’.

    Rumour has it that he has kindly bequeathed his computer-generated voice system to Sam Harris. Contacted for comment, Harris told our reporter:

    Gr-eat. Now my de-liv-er-y should be-come more li-ve-ly

    Sam Harris is famous as the man who used evidence and reason to conclude that if the Sun newspaper can corner the market in slow readers, he should himself be able to corner the market in slow listeners.

  38. Dhay says:

    The source book for Meme #14 – previously responded to above – is The End of Faith, so if Harris’ versions of faith are nonsense, the main thesis of the book is nonsense; let’s substitute for “Faith” in that title Harris’ own expansions of “faith is …”; according to Harris’ “faith is…” expansions, The End of Faith is variously The End of …:

    * The End of the shadow cast by our hope for a better life beyond the grave [P.39]

    Perhaps not; let’s substitute some of the book’s other “Faith is” expansions:

    * The End of unjustified belief in propositions that promise some mechanism by which human life can be spared the ravages of time and death [P.65]

    Isn’t that what Hindu Meditation aims at (nirodha, as extinction) and what Buddhist meditation aims at (nirvana as the ending of reincarnation); and I recall Harris expert ‘David’ has told us the secular “mindfulness” meditation that Harris promotes also aims to solve the “issue of death”:

    What Harris calls the state of “self-transcendence” refers to the experience of “ego loss”–of momentarily experiencing oneself in the third person, thereby severing one’s enslavement to the thoughts and emotions we typically ascribe to our own volition. Sam Harris explains that being able to induce this state at will (generally as the end result of practices of meditation such as Vipassana/”mindfulness” but also through more direct approaches) is a central principle of Buddhism and certain forms of Hinduism, and he asserts that it is one of the most valuable skills one can develop, period. We’re talking solving-the-issue-of-death degree of valuableness.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/sam-harris-saved-by-ectasy/#comment-7872

    Let’s keep substituting for The End of …; the book could be renamed:

    * The End of a desperate marriage of hope and ignorance [P.21]

    * The End of [eg] a certain, rather thrilling “conviction” that Nicole Kidman is in love with me [P.64]

    * The End of what credulity becomes when it finally achieves escape velocity from the constraints of terrestrial discourse—constraints like reasonableness, internal coherence, civility, and candor [P.65]

    * The End of nothing more than a willingness to await the evidence—be it the Day of Judgment or some other downpour of corroboration. It is the search for knowledge on the installment plan: believe now, live an untestable hypothesis until your dying day, and you will discover that you were right [P.66]

    * The End of [believing that] things will turn out well in the end [P.70]

    * The End of simply the license they give themselves to keep believing when reasons fail [P.232]

    Nope, these titles don’t seem to make any more sense than Meme #14 does. Looks like the very title and theme of the book is muddled. Is Harris supposed to be an intellectual?

    *

    Then there’s Harris’ confident statement on P.13 that “criticizing a person’s faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture.” Yeah, yeah.

    Evidently Harris doesn’t get out much.

    *

    And on Pp 30-31, the following passage:

    Islam is a missionary religion: there is not likely to be an underlying doctrine of racism, or even nationalism, animating the militant Muslim world. Muslims can be both racist and nationalistic, of course, but it seems all but certain that if the West underwent a massive conversion to Islam—and, perforce, repudiated all Jewish interests in the Holy Land—the basis for Muslim “hatred” would simply disappear.

    Er, if the West underwent a conversion to which Islam: Sufi, Shia or Sunni? Shias and Sunnis famously attack, bomb and suicide bomb any denomination not theirs. The immoderate Wahhabist and Qutbist Sunnis famously attack, bomb and suicide bomb ordinary moderate Sunnis.

    If the West underwent a conversion to Islam, Harris-style, it would either find itself riven with sectarian conflict, much as the Middle East currently is, or it would be siding with one Middle Eastern faction against others. Why ever should we expect Muslim “hatred” [Harris’ quotes] to disappear?

    Evidently Harris doesn’t get out much.

    Then there’s Harris second part, that ‘if the West repudiated all Jewish interests in the Holy Land the basis for Muslim “hatred” would disappear’. Call me a cynic, but the recent experience in the Balkans, where whichever group was on top persecuted the underdogs (ditto Armenia before the expulsion) tells me the Balkanised Holy Land would become a bloodbath.

    Evidently Harris doesn’t get out much.

    *

    What I found is classic “Quantum Harris”, Harris making a number of inconsistent and even contradictory “faith is” statements, such that the reader doesn’t know, cannot discern, which one to choose, which to discard; and if you try to keep them all it’s a muddle of gibberish.

  39. Dhay says:

    Meme #15 shows a Nazi, complete with swastikas. And I think we can rightly assume that for Sam Harris, of the unequal “religions, cultures, and belief systems” referred to in the Meme’s text, the best “religion, culture, and belief system” is his beloved Buddhism.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/sam-harris-promotes-sam-harris-memes/#comment-21978

    Here is item 4. of “… six items of interest from from [the] book Buddhism and Science: A Guide for the Perplexed:

    4. Although hailed in Victorian Europe for its rejection of the Indian caste system and its championing of the spiritual potential of all social classes, Buddhism also played a role in the science of race during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1914, the Sinhalese Buddhist Anagarika Dharmapala described the Buddha as ”the great Aryan Savior,” while explaining that ”the life of the Nazarene Jew was not of cosmic usefulness.” In 1937, the Chinese Buddhist monk Taixu wrote a letter to Adolf Hitler, recommending Buddhism as the ideal religion for the Aryan race.

    http://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/493121.html

    Looks like Buddhism might, in the opinion of some of its adherents, be the ideal partner of Nazism.

  40. Dhay says:

    Meme # 11 has also been looked at by the atheist blogger, Marcus Ranum, who is no more impressed than I. Why does it ask “Where are the Tibetan Buddhist Suicide Bombers?” — because if Harris didn’t cherry-pick Tibetan Buddhists, specifically, it would be very easy to find violent or self-immolating Buddhists, past or present, in eg Japan, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

    Ranum went further than I did; he asked himself what is the history of this apparently uniquely non-violent society and state, and to answer that he got himself a history book: it’s a violent history of warring factions; that Lhasa looks like a fortress is no coincidence, it’s a fortress; it’s a violent history of warring factions.

    That Tibet has been unwarlike for a few centuries is due to very powerful neighbours — first Mongolia, then China — with (until Mao) an ‘if you don’t bother us, we won’t bother you’ policy. Step out of line or be troublesome or engage in external or civil war, the overlords would be straight in there knocking seven bales of hay out of them.

    That when the Dalai Lama or another Lama dies the successor is (allegedly) the very same person as the original Lama, is a system of perpetuating and legitimating the power structure — peacefully, without controversy and without a civil war and outside imposition of a power structure.

    It’s not as if Lamaism was an enlightened power structure:

    Tibet, under the Dalai Lamas – by the way – was a typical theocracy, with palaces for the priesthood and everyone else pretty much lived a subsistance life-style. Oh, yeah, and the lamas had the power of life and death over the peasants – the peasants loved the lamas because the lamas would murder them if they didn’t. Basically, the Dalai Lama’s complaints that China has thrown him from power, are remarkably similar to the Monty Python sketch in Life of Brian where the Judeans are going “…. other than roads, libraries, running water, common, law, and peace, what did Rome ever do for us!?”

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/stderr/2018/04/15/sunday-sermon-buddhism-sucks-too/

    And in the comments I spot:

    Decades ago I read a book on the history of Tibet, written by the Dalai Lama’s older brother. I found it mostly blandly boring – if that phrase can be used for a recounting of invasions and coups – but leavened with occasional laugh-out-loud moments.

    The one of those I remember best was a description of the ravening bands of outlaws under which Tibet usually suffered, whom, it turns out, were not really so bad after all – because they always shared a part of their loot with the priests. How many of the innumerable hells and demons inhabiting Tibetan Buddhism such generosity spared them from, he did not enumerate.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/stderr/2018/04/15/sunday-sermon-buddhism-sucks-too/#comment-12211

    Failure to suppress violence is not non-violence. The bandits “shared a part of their loot with the priests” — that’ll be monks, not priests, but it’s the same: in a Buddhaocracy headed by the Lamas and Dalai Lama that amounts to tacit authorisation by the Tibetan state and its hierarchy of Lamas of violent plunder of its own people — for a cut.

    At the end of the blog are some more discursive comments, including:

    Sam Harris sure likes to promote some weird people as the good guys. It’s like he’s too lazy to read a history book or something.

    Sam Harris and logical fallacies: he is also pretty good at picking his targets, which is an essential strategy for the skeptic. On the occasions where Harris chooses someone more knowledgeable than him, he endures a thrashing with bad grace and worse faith, then complains at length once his opponent has left the field. [schneier] [chomsky] Opponent-picking as a form of cherry-picking is a skill Sam Harris’ ego does not allow him to hone.

    Yeah, I’d noticed that as well.

  41. Dhay says:

    Meme #16 says: “The true horror of religion is that it allows perfectly sane, intelligent people to believe by the billions what only lunatics or imbeciles could believe on their own. If you think that saying a few Latin word over your pancakes is going to turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you have lost your mind. But if you believe more or less the same thing about a cracker and the body of Jesus, you’re just a Catholic.” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    https://samharris.org/meme-16/

    The succinct comment on this is that it is obviously written by a bigot for bigots.

    *

    Of course, that could be re-cast as:

    “The true horror of religion is that it allows perfectly sane, intelligent people to believe by the billions what only lunatics or imbeciles could believe on their own. If you think that counting breaths [or substitute any other meditation practice] is going to stop you reincarnating, you have lost your mind. But if you believe more or less the same thing about meditation and karma, you’re just a Buddhist.”

    That’s probably not so palatable to Harris and to those presumably few of his fans — there’s precious little sign of them — who actually follow where he leads.

  42. TFBW says:

    Sam’s “true horror of religion” is also the true horror of science. The “true horror” of the thing only becomes evident after the underlying theory falls out of favour, of course, and out-of-favour theories tend to get flushed down the memory hole rather quickly. Scientific rationalists maintain an immensely inflated opinion of the value of science due, in part, to their optimistic view of change in the field as continual improvement, rather than a litany of past failures. In general, they’re not even particularly familiar with outmoded theories and the good reasons scientists of the day had for holding them. Instead, they praise their field for the eventual rejection of theories once new ones become more popular, rather than castigating it for ever holding to the old, now-rejected theory in the first place. The litany of past failures strongly suggests that much of the present will become “past failure” in future. It is near certain that several key concepts held to be indisputable fact by modern scientists will be rejected by future scientists — considered a quaint misapprehension of a bygone age — because that’s what invariably happens, given enough time.

    Only the truly educated can be so certain about such nonsense.

  43. Dhay says:

    Meme #10, “There is no place in your brain for your soul to be hiding”, together with it’s silly pictorial depiction of what Sam Harris means …

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/sam-harris-promotes-sam-harris-memes/#comment-18375

    … is based on Harris’ “simply a bad theory of consciousness”:

    Harris Relies on Folk Beliefs of Consciousness

    Even though as a neuroscientist Sam Harris certainly knows better, Dennett points out that he nevertheless keeps slipping into a folk belief about how consciousness works whenever he wants to prove free will doesn’t exist. He must be doing this without realizing it. But he keeps doing it all the same. As Dennett says, “Harris shrinks the me to a dimensionless point, ‘the witness’ who is stuck in the Cartesian Theater awaiting the decisions made elsewhere. That is simply a bad theory of consciousness.” Indeed.

    https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13814

    Indeed.

  44. Dhay says:

    Browsing the Sam Harris FaceBook pages, I spot a Meme which didn’t get onto his Blog pages and didn’t get an official number. From the date, it would have been Meme #5, but another got that number, so I’ll call it Meme #4a.

    Meme #4a says: “Faith, if it is ever right about anything, is right by accident.” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.
    .

    .
    That this one never made the grade, never reached Harris’ Blog, is no surprise, for even Harris must have realised how poor the claim is.

    If I read it right, the claim is in two parts: that faith is very seldom right about anything; that when faith is right about anything, that’s pure luck.

    One could substitute into that claim a three-year old with their first bow and arrow, and their hitting the target rarely and by luck; the occasional startlingly talented three-year old excepting, that reworded claim would indeed be correct; does it apply to faith, though, no it doesn’t.

    The speciousness of the claim is nicely illustrated by my faith in the accurate timekeeping of my watch; far from the aspersion, “if it is ever right about anything”, being correct, my watch is very reliable indeed; each and every day – until some serious mishap happens or the end of life of some critical part is eventually reached – it confirms my faith in it; my faith in my watch is repeatedly demonstrated to be fully justified; and each and every time my faith in my watch is justified, it’s justified not by accident but by engineering.

    This is but one example: I also have faith in my SatNav, my TV, my wife, my cup, my ability to finish a marathon race, my chapel’s Elders, my knife and fork, that there’s a region called Scotland – the examples can be multiplied endlessly, and in each case I am right to have that faith, it is reasonable faith.

    Harris’ general case against faith falls at the first hurdle.

    *

    The Paul Lachine accompanying cartoon graphic shows a praying woman with a halo acting as a blindfold (and perhaps her eyes are closed anyway, if praying), so there’s the implication that the scope of Meme #4a is restricted to Christian faith. It’s difficult countering someone’s argument when to are given no clue what the argument actually is – especially when that someone is notorious for always claiming to have meant something else – so I’ll assume this is the ‘Hebrews 11 equals fideism’ (basically, blind faith, irrational faith) claim which is so common in New Atheist circles, and I’ll let one of aRemonstrant’s blog posts answer Lachine’s insinuated claim that faith is a blindfold.

    https://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/a-manual-for-creating-atheists-part-3-2/

    *

    We do know what Harris himself thinks faith is. On page 62 of The End of Faith I find:

    Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Read in the right way, this passage seems to render faith entirely self-justifying: perhaps the very fact that one believes in something which has not yet come to pass (“things hoped for”) or for which one has no evidence (“things not seen”) constitutes evidence for its actuality (“assurance”). Let’s see how this works: I feel a certain, rather thrilling “conviction” that Nicole Kidman is in love with me. As we have never met, my feeling is my only evidence of her infatuation. I reason thus: my feelings suggest that Nicole and I must have a special, even metaphysical, connection – otherwise, how could I have this feeling in the first place? I decide to set up camp outside her house to make the necessary introductions; clearly, this sort of faith is a tricky business.
    [My emboldening.]

    I think the relevant comment to make here is that fancies – the fancies in that quote and in Meme #4a – can be dismissed as fancies.

    *

    How about the Meme’s relevance in the context where it first appears, which is in the first few pages of the first section of the Introduction to Harris’ The Moral Landscape:

    The scientific community is predominantly secular and liberal – and the concessions that scientists have made to religious dogmatism have been breathtaking. As we will see, the problem reaches as high as the National Academies of Science and the National Institutes of Health. Even the journal Nature, the most influential scientific publication on earth, has been unable to reliably police the boundary between reasoned discourse and pious fiction. I recently reviewed every appearance of the term “religion” in the journal going back ten years and found that Nature’s editors have generally accepted Stephen J. Gould’s doomed notion of “nonoverlapping magisteria” – the idea that science and religion, properly construed, cannot be in conflict because they constitute different domains of expertise. As one editorial put it, problems arise only when these disciplines “stray onto each other’s territories and stir up trouble.” The underlying claim is that while science is the best authority on the workings of the physical universe, religion is the best authority on meaning, values, morality, and the good life. I hope to persuade you that this is not only untrue, it could not possibly be true. Meaning, values, morality, and the good life must relate to facts about the well-being of conscious creatures – and, in our case, must lawfully depend upon events in the world and upon states of the human brain. Rational, open-ended, honest inquiry has always been the true source of insight into such processes.

    Typical woolly Harris. Are the processes “meaning, values, morality, and the good life”, are they “facts about the well-being of conscious creatures”, are they “events in the world and states of the human brain”? Or are they processes as yet unnamed and unmentioned – Harris should not be playing ‘guess-my-meaning’. Yet again.

    The paragraph is an extended bleat against religion and the alleged spinelessness of the scientific community, together with his “hope” that the reader will eventually, after reading the following Chapters, be persuaded that science is – and scientists are – “the best authority on meaning, values, morality, and the good life”. And ending this paragraph about how he hopes his readers will substitute scientism for religion, there’s that semi-attached (or semi-detached) non-sequiteur of a sentence which is … is Meme #4a, “Faith, if it is ever right about anything, is right by accident.”

    So no, Meme #4a doesn’t look relevant in context, it’s a out-of-place tack-on to a dubious paragraph.

    *

    Many have reviewed Harris’ book and ideas and found them faulty in principle. But there’s good ‘Science and Evidence’ reasons to discount Harris’ book and ideas: the central thesis, that science (and scientists) can determine “meaning, values, morality, and the good life” is disproven by the deafening silence from science and scientists ever since: science hasn’t done so; scientists haven’t done so; there’s no sign that they have, can, or will.

    The way to test out a prediction, especially a confident prediction, is to assess whether, and to what extent, what was predicted has come to pass. Perhaps Harris would review the journal Nature – even better, conduct a systematic review of the scientific literature, including meta-analyses of any research papers covering similar areas – review the eight years since his book was published; I’d love to discover what glorious progress (or none) science and scientists have made in determining “meaning, values, morality, and the good life”. Scientifically.

    Is there evidence that science (and scientists) can determine “meaning, values, morality, and the good life”. Or is Harris merely spouting what he hopefully but irrationally and without supporting evidence has mere faith in. Let’s see:

    Faith that science (and scientists) can determine “meaning, values, morality, and the good life”, if it is ever right about anything in “meaning, values, morality, and the good life”, is right by accident.

  45. unclesporkums says:

    And again, they bleat on and on about this vague “morality” then seem to engage in as much hedonism as they possibly can.

  46. Dhay says:

    Sam Harris seems to have stopped posting Paul Lachine’s illustrated versions of his memes to his website and official Blog, but he’s posting simple ‘text on plain background’ memes to his official FaceBook page. Of course, anyone who can have pithy sayings extracted from their books, articles and podcasts will find fans are seizing on these to make them memes, and Harris cannot be blamed for anything out of his control. But by publishing and promulgating them himself he ‘owns’ them, they become his own officially promulgated memes.

    I ask myself who creates, publishes or re-publishes memes, who pushes any memes on any subject: while I don’t have a definitive answer, the baiting style and intellectual level is that of the playground bullies who think they’re witty when shouting “You’re stupid, you’ve got red hair, you smell…” [You’ve heard them all at some time, fill in any more taunts you care to.]

    The latest official meme on Harris’ FaceBook page is:

    NOTHING IS MORE SACRED THAN THE FACTS.

    [The emboldening is original to Harris’ meme.]
    https://www.facebook.com/Samharrisorg/photos/a.418781761014/10157068206586015

    “Sacred” has a number of dictionary meanings; shorn of context what it now means is whatever interpretation the individual pig-ignorant meme-reader now chooses to put upon it; the full quotation from P.225 of The End of Faith helps, by indicating that “more sacred” then meant something like “more to be valued”, or perhaps “to be valued more than all else”:

    People who harbor strong convictions without evidence belong at the margins of our societies, not in our halls of power. The only thing we should respect in a person’s faith is his desire for a better life in this world; we need never have respected his certainty that one awaits him in the next.

    Nothing is more sacred than the facts. No one, therefore, should win any points in our discourse for deluding himself. The litmus test for reasonableness should be obvious: anyone who wants to know how the world is, whether in physical or spiritual terms, will be open to new evidence. We should take comfort in the fact that people tend to conform themselves to this principle whenever they are obliged to. This will remain a problem for religion. The very hands that prop up our faith will be the ones to shake it.

    I’ll run through that shortly, but first focus on Harris’ claim that the FACTS are to be valued. What ever is a FACT? Let’s take that rock of certainty, mathematics; is 1 + 1 = 2 a fact: no, not if you are adding haystacks, where you end up with one bigger haystack (1 + 1 = 1); not if you are adding oceans, where you end up with not even one ocean but a huge volume of water (1 + 1 = undefined). Or what of contested FACTS; or uncertain FACTS; what of mere likelihoods, and at what numerical value (calculated how, pray, especially when there are different statistical methods, who decides which calculation method) of likelihood would Sororites — look up his Paradox — reasonably accept as changing likelihoods to FACTS?

    And I observe that you can have huge amounts of data — ie FACTS — but it’s worthless until analysed and interpreted, which might go swimmingly though your typical scientific or social-sciences study has all sorts of limitations and caveats and doesn’t amount to FACTS or only in a rather limited way; and there’s famously lies, damned lies and statistics. And FACTS are useless in themselves, useless unless used.

    *

    In short, “Nothing is more sacred than the FACTS” is only superficially meaningful.

    So how about the rest? To me the whole of it looks like a Gish Gallop of incoherent train of consciousness nonsense: —

    People who harbor strong convictions without evidence belong at the margins of our societies…
    1. The evidence for that being … what, exactly?
    2. Harris appears to be strongly convinced of that … on his own account he belongs at the margin of our society.

    The only thing we should respect in a person’s faith is his desire for a better life in this world; we need never have respected his certainty that one awaits him in the next.
    1. The context is religious faith, but the only — the only — valuable part of it is the religious person’s desire for a better life in this world. Hmmm, I’ve seen that before, it’s the secular pursuit of life, liberty and happiness by each individual, as per the US Constitution. Does Harris even know about religion and its far better than secular this-worldly social concerns, he’s not praising the religious person’s characteristic wish that all may enjoy a better life. What Harris praises is the individual’s selfish desire for their own better life, liberty and happiness, and if Harris means otherwise and actually does have a good grasp of what religion’s about, he’s made that very unclear.
    2. Back in 2004 when Harris’ The End of Faith was first published Chapter 1 included “There also seems to be a body of data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena, much of which has been ignored by mainstream science.18” and Footnote 18 incuded “There may even be some credible evidence for reincarnation.” Harris fumbled and fudged again in 2006 when Lawrence Krauss challenged him on his views on reincarnation, Harris “I hear there’s all this data … I’m awaiting the evidence. I don’t want to talk about reincarnation.”
    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/sam-harris-is-a-religious-man/#comment-26840
    Should we respect his apparent certainty, his evident desire, that another life awaits him after death? If he meditates a lot and is a good little bodhisattva he’ll enter a better life a bit nearer to eventually attaining Nirvana. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.

    Nothing is more sacred than the facts.
    See above.

    Nothing is more sacred than the facts. No one, therefore, should win any points in our discourse for deluding himself.
    1. His book’s a monologue.
    2. How can the second sentence follow logically (Harris’ “therefore”) from the first.

    The litmus test for reasonableness should be obvious: anyone who wants to know how the world is, whether in physical or spiritual terms, will be open to new evidence.
    1. This is more or less a truism, something nobody will object to.
    2. It’s also misleading: in the “Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence” experiment he (or the actual experimenters with Harris’ knowledge and blessing) used ‘Fake News’ as the “new evidence”.
    3. It’s always the other guy who should change their mind when presented with the “new evidence” of Harris’ claims and opinions. On the rare occasions when Harris has changed his mind he has done so very ostentatiously and on some trivial matter, apparently to boast that he, alone in the world, can and does change his mind. When faced with a knowledgeable opponent it’s always the other guy who’s deluded, self-deluded, that’s why they won’t ‘tap out’ their defeat and change their mind.

    We should take comfort in the fact that people tend to conform themselves to this principle whenever they are obliged to.
    We should be happy that people change their minds in response to new evidence only when they (“are obliged to”) have to? A strange idea.

    This will remain a problem for religion.
    What’s “this”? What’s the “problem”? Why will whatever the problem is remain a problem for religion? Is this religion generally including Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, etc etc? Why is Harris writing short sentences. Characteristic of newspapers the poorly educated read?

    The very hands that prop up our faith will be the ones to shake it.
    1. What on earth is this incoherent nonsense about? Hands!? What hands, whose hands, how do these hands prop up “our” faith, how will these hands shake “our” faith, who’s the “we” of “our”?
    2. Just in case there’s some other passage in the book, the entire book and footnotes, which talks about hands and explains this I searched (Ctrl-F) for “hand” and found … found a few of the usual “on the other hand” and nothing even vaguely relevant.

    Harris fans tend to think Harris writes wonderfully fluent intelligent prose expressing his ideas clearly: I find instead a Gish Gallop written by that ‘scattered all over the place’ monkey-mind Harris sometimes talks about.

  47. Dhay says:

    Sam Harris meme (see above) > NOTHING IS MORE SACRED THAN THE FACTS.

    I see that the theoretical physicist and FreeThought blogger, Mano Singham, is writing a book, The Great Paradox of Science: Why its theories work so well without being true:

    As the title suggests, the book deals with a key aspect of the nature of science that seems puzzling. It may seem obvious that the success of science in revolutionizing our lives is due to its theories getting inexorably better with time and steadily approaching the truth about the world. But paradoxically, scholarship in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science offers little support for such a view. Not only are we unable to prove that our scientific theories are true or approaching a greater correspondence with reality, we cannot prove them to be false either. Furthermore, scientific theories and experimental data are not distinct entities but inextricably intertwined, making the latter unable to serve as objective facts about the world. Scientific theories are also underdetermined in that no amount of data can uniquely determine a theory.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2018/10/29/oxford-university-press-is-going-to-publish-my-book/

    Assuming Singham is correct — and I’d trust Singham on matters scientific far, far more than I would trust Harris the chat show pundit — assuming Singham is correct, where and what and what value are Harris’ FACTS?

  48. Dhay says:

    Mano Singham (see response above) has written more that’s pertinent to Sam Harris’ “NOTHING IS MORE SACRED THAN THE FACTS” official meme. In his 29/12/2018 blog post entitled “What is obvious is not always that obvious” he used the famous ‘Gorilla’ video and experiment – did you even see the gorilla walk through the basketball players? – to illustrate that watchers are not just blind to the obvious – the gorilla, the total number of passes, what genders and ethnicities the players were, their hair colours, the ‘S’s on the wall behind, and much else that is “obvious” – watchers are not just blind to pretty much everything they are not actively looking at, they are blind to pretty much everything they are not actively looking for.

    The result that 70% of viewers do not see the gorilla has become widely cited to sustain the idea that people can be blind to the obvious. But Teppo Felin, professor of strategy at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, writes that this interpretation is wrong and that there is a better interpretation that is consistent with the experimental results ad also what we know about observations in general.

    Obviousness is not self-evident. Or as Sherlock Holmes said: ‘There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.’ This isn’t an argument against facts or for ‘alternative facts’, or anything of the sort. It’s an argument about what qualifies as obvious, why and how. See, obviousness depends on what is deemed to be relevant for a particular question or task at hand. Rather than passively accounting for or recording everything directly in front of us, humans – and other organisms for that matter – instead actively look for things.

    ‘All observation must be for or against a point of view,’ is how Charles Darwin put it in 1861.

    In the context of science, experimental observations are always theory-driven or as Albert Einstein put it in 1926, ‘Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.”

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2018/12/29/what-is-obvious-is-not-always-that-obvious/

    Looks like FACTS are not only useless without a theory of how to interpret them, you need a theory to even look for them intelligently.

    *

    It doesn’t escape me that in Harris’ Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence paper the sacred FACTS presented as counter-evidence in order to neuro-image (often presented as coloured pictures) what the experimentees’s brain looked like when resisting counterevidence were often deliberately exaggerated (ie false or falsified), often obviously so to a strongly committed Liberals participating.

    So what’s that then: nothing is more sacred than the FACTS except when deliberately lying to people who know you’re lying?

  49. Dhay says:

    I’ve found something relevant to Sam Harris’ “NOTHING IS MORE SACRED THAN THE FACTS” official meme:

    In a 1921 essay marking the Manchester Guardian’s centenary (at which time he had served nearly fifty years as editor), Scott put down his opinions on the role of the newspaper. He argued that the “primary office” of a newspaper is accurate news reporting, saying “comment is free, but facts are sacred”.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._P._Scott

    Ah, “sacred facts” were originally accurately — accurately — reported news. Whereas evidently the “primary office” of a New Atheist blogger involves mis-reporting and mis-representing quotations such as Snow’s. So much for “sacred facts”, Harris-style.

  50. Dhay says:

    Sam Harris evidently considers his “NOTHING IS MORE SACRED THAN THE FACTS” [emboldening original] official meme a failure — probably there were too many adverse comments when he trial-posted it on his FaceBook page; it never got elevated to the hallowed status of a numbered Meme # on his blog. (My own adverse comments are in this thread.)

    http://www.facebook.com/Samharrisorg/photos/a.418781761014/10157068206586015

    “We need to live our lives with more than just understanding facts,” he says. “Not being wrong is not the ultimate state of being for people in this life.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/16/sam-harris-interview-new-atheism-four-horsemen-faith-science-religion-rationalism

    Of course, Harris might have been using the word, “sacred” in a disparaging sense in the Meme, it’s a religious term and he vehemently disparages all religions bar Buddhism; if so, he will have been disparaging those “sacred” “facts” also.

    (The Meme is so ambiguous it might as well be a Rorschach blot provided for the reader to read into it whatsoever authorial intent or personal understanding they want, or whatever understanding their social conditioning and prejudices guide them towards.)

    But if we take it as a positive statement rather than a cynically disparaging one (or probably, even if we consider it cynically disparaging), we can put the two together to find that “We need to live our lives with more than just understanding the facts we hold so sacred.”

    Yep, compare and contrast; and welcome to the concept of Quantum Harris, the guy who says one thing one place, contradicts himself another — the guy whose evidently confused and ambiguous position on a topic is … is whatever he later declares he really meant instead of the contradictory things he actually said.

  51. Dhay says:

    Sam Harris’ Meme #11 says: “Where are the Tibetan Buddhist Suicide Bombers?” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/meme-11

    A better question is, Where are the Myanmar (formerly Burma) Buddhist suicide bombers?

    The answer is, They are oppressing, burning out and murdering Rohingya Muslims.

  52. Dhay says:

    Returning to Meme #9, which says: “The liar stands between his listeners and reality. To lie is to block the light of the world” ~ Sam Harris – The Waking Up podcast.

    In view of the recent flurry of accusations that Michael has been lying, I re-read Harris’ book (booklet, really), Lying. There I found his definition:

    To lie is to intentionally mislead others when they expect honest communication.

    And soon thereafter, in a discussion in “Two Types of Lies” of the difference between actively stealing $100 and passively failing to return $100 found, I found this:

    And so it is with lying. To lie about one’s age, marital status, career, etc. is one thing; to fail to correct false impressions whenever they arise is another. For instance, I am occasionally described as a “neurologist,” which I am not, rather than as a “neuroscientist,” which I am. Neurologists have medical degrees and specialize in treating disorders of the brain and nervous system. Neuroscientists have PhDs and perform research.

    In 2011, fresh from his PhD and with his co-authored “Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence” (2016) still to come, it was (questionably) possible to concede Harris was still a neuroscientist.

    Harris still has his PhD, simply because — unlike many professional qualifications which lapse if you retire or fail to keep up with your professional body’s requirements to maintain Continual Professional Development — he has that qualification for life. (I used to work with an admin who had gained a BA in Chaucer’s English some ten years previously, but freely admitted he’d now forgotten the lot, so I get cynical about skills persisting unused.)

    Harris nowadays definitely does not meet the second part of his own criteria for being a neuroscientist, he doesn’t perform research.

    Harris goes on to explain he doesn’t have to correct everyone who (it’s frequent, or was then) mistakenly calls him a neurologist, and I guess the same applies to everyone who mistakenly calls him a neuroscientist. But the point is, Harris calls himself a neuroscientist. Still. It’s right there on his Home page: “Sam Harris is a neuroscientist, philosopher, New York Times best-selling author, host of the Making Sense podcast, and creator of the Waking Up course.” And he hasn’t practiced neuroscience research (or any other variety of neuroscience, he doesn’t say there are any and he’s never let if he has practiced one or more variants, if any.)

    On his own testimony, Sam Harris is not a neuroscientist; on his own testimony Sam Harris is a liar.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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.