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. 😉

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30 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

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