Bestselling author Sam Harris has proposed yet another heretical idea: the notion that science can and should answer questions of good and evil, right and wrong. He appears to be arguing that science should shape morality and define goodness and what constitutes a properly lived life.
First unveiled in a TED talk in February, Harris’ ideas are already sparking a firestorm on the web. Most fascinating to me is the more than 440-comment debate bubbling up at Harris’ Project Reason web site. In it, people call Harris and his ideas genius, bash him for turning his back on his atheist credentials (which he didn’t do), and argue that there is, in fact, no such thing as right and wrong. That last point certainly surprised me. I had no idea anyone actually thought that.
Harris’ ideas are interesting, but the debate on the Project Reason site is even more fascinating. The argument is revealing what appear to be strata of secular, progressive thinking about morality. For that reason alone, it’s worth reading, although many of the comments are rather distressing, at least to me. Even tackling the topic of morality — or thinking that there are moral answers — appears to throw some people into mouth-frothing fits of anger. I don’t understand this. Can anyone clue me in as to why?
Harris’ book The Moral Landscape is out Oct. 5.