Sam Harris

Sam Harris

American author, philosopher
1967 —

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The history of science is riddled with abject failures of scientific objectivity. But that is just the point-these have been failures of science, discovered and corrected by-what, religion? No, by good science.

There is nothing we need to believe on insufficient evidence in order to have deeply ethical and spiritual lives.

If someone doesn`t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide that proves they should value evidence? If someone doesn`t value logic, what logical argument would you invoke to prove they should value logic?

Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence what so ever.

The only angels we need invoke are those of our better nature: reason, honesty, and love. The only demons we must fear are those that lurk inside every human mind: ignorance, hatred, greed, and faith, which is surely the devil's masterpiece.

It is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window.

The less competent a person is in a given domain, the more he will tend to overestimate his abilities. This often produces an ugly marriage of confidence and ignorance that is very difficult to correct for.

You can`t take credit for your talents, but it matters that you use them. You can`t really be blamed for your weaknesses, but it matters that you correct them. So pride and shame don`t make a lot of sense, in the final analysis, but they weren`t much fun anyway.

Spirituality can be - indeed, must be - deeply rational.

The difference between science and religion is the difference between a willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments, and a passionate unwillingness to do so.

We must find our way to a time when faith, without evidence, disgraces anyone who would claim it.

The problem with faith, is that it really is a conversation stopper. Faith is a declaration of immunity to the powers of conversation. It is a reason, why you do not have to give reasons, for what you believe.

Where we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; where we have no reasons, we have lost both our connection to the world and to one another.

Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything - anything - be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in.

We have a choice. We have two options as human beings. We have a choice between conversation and war. That's it. Conversation and violence. And faith is a conversation stopper.