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Does Sam Harris’ books literally deny any kind of afterlife
Posted: 13 September 2008 07:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]  
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bhbs - 13 September 2008 03:41 PM

After reading through most of these responses, and seeing Sam’s own take on it, I think Sam’s contention is similar to that of Dawkins’ in The God Delusion when he was talking about the seven levels of believing in God. Level 1 was entirely certain that there was a God, Level 7 was entirely certain that there was not. Dawkins put himself in the 6 range, but right up against the border with the 7 range.

If we apply this to Sam’s belief of the afterlife, he seems to be in the 5 or 6 range that there is no afterlife, but he simply cannot be sure, and that is what he is saying. Maybe I’m putting words in his mouth or something, but it seems like he’s unwilling to make a statement about something he cannot be sure about. He’s simply saying that, just like his comments at the Beyond Belief 06 conference where he basically says (I’m paraphrasing), “The jury is still out on Reincarnation” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbwBqn3esy8&feature=related), he cannot know and wants to wait for the data. Why he doesn’t take this kind of a track when he talks often about God… I don’t know.

I think part of the issue is this: not believing in God can at times have a freeing aspect to it—it frees one from the restraints of religion and allows one to live a happier life. I can see why people would WANT to not belief in God. I do not see, however, why people would WANT to not believe in an afterlife of any kind. I’d like there to be an afterlife where I sit in a comfortable chair all day, drink beer, eat chips, watch television, and have a loving relationship with a member of the opposite sex. That’s an afterlife I would really dig. I want to believe in that afterlife.

So, basically, I can see how someone would easily reject the idea of God, but still cling to the idea of an afterlife. I don’t personally believe any of it, but a life without God is more appetizing than a life with God. A life without an afterlife, however, is not necessarily more appetizing than a life with one. Am I saying that this is why Sam is not exactly coming strongly to one side or another? No. But, if it was, I’d understand.

For me, the logic just falls apart. It is hard for me to accept any of the points they are making because, using the scale you cited, I’m a Level 7 on both counts. Now, I understand the politically correct and safe, even statistically and scientifically correct approach on this. It’s like the normal distribution curve, the ends are open, however slightly, to infinity. Many scholarly Atheists on this forum will say, I don’t believe because there is no evidence. We can’t and are not obligated to prove a negative. We’re withholding judgment, until and unless you show me. But that’s a cop-out as far as I’m concerned.

I say, given all that we know and have observed, with all our knowledge of science to date, indeed all the knowledge we have in every area of study and academics known to man, including human relations, it is obvious that the evidence hasn’t and won’t show up. It would have by now. We can’t even say God has eluded detection, since the ancient texts have him living and breathing. Same with Spirits, there are people on TV talking to them. But I know of no one who can document seeing, speaking or communing with god, ever, except in the figurative sense. All books, scrolls, text and pictures of any kind, from the beginning of time, that we know, is written and read by the human mind. If I want you to believe I’m god, how can I convince you. Well, nobody can walk on water, so ... and nobody can rise from the dead so ... (excluding the scientific method and technology). In fact, I just proved man is god, we bring the dead back to life, and are about to create life in a test tube.

It doesn’t matter if I think an afterlife is cool, or god is cool. It’s my human brain thinking it. A scientist, much less an Atheist scientist,  has no business postulating such drivel. It only lends credence to believers. To me, he’s criticizing fanatical Muslims and believers, but is doing the same thing. I suppose he’s got some Wiccan thrown in there too, Do as you will but do no harm, because it appears that he’s ok with anything, unless it leads to killing. And that’s what the antichoice people say is happening ... MURDER.

Also, I’ve said this before and gotten flack for it, but I don’t even consider scientists, physicists, etc. who are believers, to be credible scientists. Because the bottom line is they’re saying, the universe, is so complex, it must have been created by intelligent design, or a super consciousness. They’ve abandoned scientific method and filled in the blank with something totally unsupportable. The best they should say is, I don’t know and keep looking for the answer.

Sam is saying I don’t know, but does he plan a career in searching for god or the afterlife? No, he’s going to the grave with, I don’t know, unless other scientists provide the answer. And I see them unraveling the mysteries of the Brain and the Universe right before my very eyes.

Aye, this is tiring. I feel we spend so much time arguing the obvious. But, then again, what the hell do I know.

[ Edited: 13 September 2008 07:26 PM by goodgraydrab]
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Posted: 13 September 2008 07:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]  
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goodgraydrab - 13 September 2008 11:14 PM

Aye, this is tiring. I feel we spend so much time arguing the obvious. But, then again, what the hell do I know.

I agree with you. I’m not arguing one way or the other on that one. I’m just giving a possible explanation based on what he’s said in the past. The example of me wishing it was true is just to say that it’s difficult for people to drop this idea of an afterlife.

I remember when I was in high school, I was talking to a believer with a friend of mine who claimed he was an atheist. I started talking about how the idea of a soul was wishful thinking and there was no proof of it. Later on, my friend asked, “You really believe we don’t have a soul? How is that?”

The point is that there are some things that religion provides really attractive answers for. My friend rejected all the nonsense about God, but when it came to death just being death and nothing more, it was much harder to let go of. I felt and feel the same way. It’s harder to dismiss than God because it’s so much more attractive.

Again, this doesn’t make it true and I know that. But, it seems really human of Sam to be asking questions of that idea and trying to keep it alive for himself. Do I think his fear of death and hope for an afterlife are what motivates him to not dismiss the afterlife altogether? No. I think he’s approaching it like a skeptic who leaves open the possibility of something we cannot know. However, deep down, this concept resonates with me and likely many other humans.

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Posted: 13 September 2008 07:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]  
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bhbs - 13 September 2008 11:31 PM

I agree with you. I’m not arguing one way or the other on that one. I’m just giving a possible explanation based on what he’s said in the past. The example of me wishing it was true is just to say that it’s difficult for people to drop this idea of an afterlife.

Sorry bhbs, I wasn’t directing my rant to you. See, I haven’t read anything by Sam, so the info I get is from you guys, including the short videos people provide. I can see you’re very logical, perceptive and open-minded. Sometimes I get carried away. I became a Positive Atheist (Level 7) a long time ago on my own. I used to assume Atheists would think like me, but this Forum sure opened my eyes.

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Posted: 13 September 2008 07:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]  
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goodgraydrab - 13 September 2008 11:44 PM
bhbs - 13 September 2008 11:31 PM

I agree with you. I’m not arguing one way or the other on that one. I’m just giving a possible explanation based on what he’s said in the past. The example of me wishing it was true is just to say that it’s difficult for people to drop this idea of an afterlife.

Sorry bhbs, I wasn’t directing my rant to you. See, I haven’t read anything by Sam, so the info I get is from you guys, including the short videos people provide. I can see you’re very logical, perceptive and open-minded. Sometimes I get carried away. I became a Positive Atheist (Level 7) a long time ago on my own. I used to assume Atheists would think like me, but this Forum sure opened my eyes.

No need to be sorry at all. You were just clarifying your beliefs and I was just clarifying mine. That’s why I come to this forum—it’s a perpetually changing place for me to test and posit what I believe. I’m at the mercy of others who would correct what I think, and that is a positive, not a negative.

I’m definitely right in the middle of Level 6, and I suppose that would term me agnostic by some theistic reasoning which wants to halve the numbers of statistical atheists (Alister McGrath). I’m thrilled when other people try to disagree with me or force me to be more clear; it can only help when I encounter newer and more radical arguments. And, though unlikely, it may even change my opinion…

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Posted: 13 September 2008 08:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]  
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Agreed. And welcome to the forum.

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Posted: 14 September 2008 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]  
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Many of the posts in this thread try to interpret what Harris means when he discusses consciousness, spirituality, mysticism and the afterlife. Obviously he has not made his positions clear to many especially considering his statements on death and religious faith early in the book The End Of Faith.

I would suggest that it is Harris’ responsibility as a scientist to provide an explanation and a more consistent scientific outline of how it is possible to retain a conscious identity without a physical brain after death. After all he has attacked the very idea of life after death as the core of traditional belief systems. Then he has proposed eastern mysticism as some kind of antidote for traditional belief systems using language that sounds to me a lot like a belief system itself. Scientists are usually not interpreted; they are challenged to explain themselves.

Paraphrasing that great philosopher Ricky Ricardo, Sam, you got some ‘splainen to do.

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Posted: 14 September 2008 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]  
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Truthseeker - 14 September 2008 01:20 PM

Scientists are usually not interpreted; they are challenged to explain themselves.

Paraphrasing that great philosopher Ricky Ricardo, Sam, you got some ‘splainen to do.

Yes, we could use an operational definition right about now.

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