Atheist activists promote Sam Harris as one “of the world’s most respected scientists” who “celebrates science” by discussing “How do we become more scientifically literate?” and “How can we better educate society to value skepticism over faith?”
The notion that activist Sam Harris has some special ability or authority to teach others about scientific literacy or valuing skepticism over faith is laughable. That other atheists view Harris like this is even more laughable. After all, Harris is the man who makes a significant chunk of money peddling New Age woo. He is the man who wrote:
Although the insights we can have in meditation tell us nothing about the origins of the universe, they do confirm some well-established truths about the human mind: Our conventional sense of self is an illusion; positive emotions, such as compassion and patience, are teachable skills; and the way we think directly influences our experience of the world.
It has always been obvious to me that Harris is simply expressing his own religious faith here. After all, Harris is someone who has a lot of free time that gets spent meditating and yet is someone who is obsessed with his sense of self and how others view him. What’s more, I see no evidence that Harris has superior abilities when it comes to compassion and patience. The only thing he has going for him is the ability to employ the meditation teacher’s sleepy tone when he is making his apologetic points.
What’s even better is that a recent scientific study supports my skepticism.
Let me quote from Meditation does not make you a better person, study finds
Meditation does not make you a better person according to a new study despite widespread claims that meditation can make you calmer and more compassionate towards other people.
Researchers have found that despite popular beliefs that meditation can make people more compassionate and less aggressive the evidence for this is limited.
The research by scientists at Coventry University in the UK, Massey University in New Zealand, and Radboud University in the Netherlands, reviewed 22 studies involving 1685 people to investigate the effect of various types of meditation.
One of the authors is quoted:
“We did not find that meditation had any negative effects, however the good impacts can be compared to a placebo effect.
“A person may have the expectation of becoming a better person through meditating, and may believe that to be the case – but in fact this has not been proven.”
The meta-analysis found that meditation has no effect on aggression, connectedness or prejudice.
As for compassion, the meta-analysis uncovered something quiet remarkable:
Unexpectedly the study, published in Scientific Reports, also revealed that the more positive results found for compassion had important methodological flaws.
Namely compassion levels in some studies only increased if the meditation teacher was also an author of the published report.
Whoa. When your positive results depend on an advocate being part of the research team, you essentially have something like a drug company promoting positive research results for the drug it is selling. In other words, results that can’t be trusted by those who are scientifically literate.
How will Sam Harris responded to this scientific finding? Is he going to celebrate it and dial it down when it comes to promoting meditation?
Of course not. I predict he’ll ignore what science has to say about his faith and keep on promoting meditation the way Bill Nye promoted his magic water.