Monday, May 9, 2011

Harris and Dawkins have a chat.

It takes an hour, but I do think this is worth a watch. There's a bit about 5 minutes in which is ... important. I think important is the word. The story involves someone who is apparently currently serving on the US President ethics advisory panel who is set against using MRI scanners as lie detectors against criminals/potential terrorists yet would not condemn torture by religious groups if said torture was explicitly permitted by their religious texts.  This, I think, is an example of where privileged ideas can lead you. The idea that religious ideas should not be criticized because they are held to be sacred can be used to let some fairly horrific things pass.

The whole thing is worth a watch though. Or a listen to. Harris has taken a lot of flack over the past few months since he put forward the view that science can say something about morality. I don't see how the objections he has faced detract from his central point. He doesn't claim to have all the answers. Or even to know about how to go about solving certain problems with measuring well being. The analogy that he touches on later in the piece which I think is apt is economics. It's a complex system, we down know how it works, we're only just now beginning to get the tools to be able to deal with some of the complexity involved and it'll be while yet before we can treat economics in a scientific manner. What I've taken from every thing I've read from Harris or heard in his talks is that we shouldn't automatically assume that science can't know anything about morality. It would put the study of morality about where the study of economics was 50 or so years ago, but it's not necessarily an impenetrable topic.

Anyway, go watch it.
 


Who Says Science has Nothing to Say About Morality?

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