Sunday, November 9, 2014

Science, facts, values and morality

Just finished a very good book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris. It is quite meaty, as Harris is a neuroscientist, but this book is not about the brain, but about the basis of morality.

He says, science can help us ... understand what we should do, and should want ... in order to live the best lives possible. [28] He continues, there are right and wrong answers to moral questions, just as there are right an wrong answers to questions of physics, and such answers may someday fall within reach of the maturing sciences of mind.

Harris argues that the split between facts and values--and therefore between science and morality--is an illusion.[179]

And he claims that morality and values relate to facts about the well-being of conscious creatures .... and that consciousness is the only intelligible domain of value. He asks, what is the alternative? I invite you to try to think of a source of value that has absolutely nothing to do with the ... experience of conscious beings. [32]

An enjoyable, thoughtful book. Part of it is a spirited urging of his fellow scientists to stop ceeding the realm of morality to religion, as so often happens. Those sections were the most enjoyable. Most world religions have done a terrible job of describing morality, much less modeling it. If world religious leaders want to continue to speak of morality, they will need to step up their game.

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