Torchure of mulisms is okay since we bomb them says Sam.
Posted: 16 January 2007 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Sam Harris's books "The End Of Faith" and "Letter To A Christian Nation" have established him as second only to the British biologist and author Richard Dawkins in the ranks of famous 21st century atheists. The thrust of Harris's best-sellers is that with the world so crazed by religion, it's high time Americans stopped tolerating faith in the Rapture, the Resurrection and anything else not grounded in evidence. Only trouble is, our country's foremost promoter of "reason" is also supportive of ESP, reincarnation and other unscientific concepts. Not all of it is harmless yoga class hokum—he's also a proponent of waterboarding and other forms of torture.

"We know [torture] works. It has worked. It's just a lie to say that it has never worked," he says. "Accidentally torturing a few innocent people" is no big deal next to bombing them, he continues. Why sweat it?

I wanted to interview Harris to find out why a man sold to the American public as the voice of scientific reason is promoting Hindu gods and mind reading in his writing. But we spend much of our time discussing his call for torture and his Buddhist perspectives on "compassionately killing the bad guy."

In 2004, Sam Harris' award-winning first book said society should demote Christian, Muslim and Jewish belief to an embarrassment that "disgraces anyone who would claim it," in doing so catapulting himself from obscure UCLA grad student—the son of a Quaker father—to national voice of atheism.

"The End of Faith" may be the first book suitable for the Eastern Philosophy shelf at Barnes & Noble that somehow incorporates both torture and New Age piety, and offers pleas for clear scientific thinking alongside appeals to "mysticism." The old-fashioned brand of atheist, like the late Carl Sagan, argued eloquently against religion without supporting rituals and ghosts.

Harris, however, argues that not just Western gods but philosophers are "dwarfs" next to the Buddhas. And a Harris passage on psychics recommends that curious readers spend time with the study "20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation."

Asked which cases are most suggestive of reincarnation, Harris admits to being won over by accounts of "xenoglossy," in which people abruptly begin speaking languages they don't know. Remember the girl in "The Exorcist"? "When a kid starts speaking Bengali, we have no idea scientifically what's going on," Harris tells me. It's hard to believe what I'm hearing from the man the New York Times hails as atheism's "standard-bearer."

Harris writes: "There seems to be a body of data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena, much of which have been ignored by mainstream science." On the phone he backpedals away from the claim.

"I've received a little bit of grief for that," he says. "I certainly don't say that I'm confident that psychic phenomena exist. I'm open-minded. I would just like to see the data."

To see the "data" yourself, "The End of Faith" points readers to a slew of paranormal studies.

One is Dr. Ian Stevenson's "Unlearned Language: New Studies in Xenoglossy." The same author's reincarnation book presents for your consideration the past life of Ravi Shankar, the sitar player who introduced the Beatles to the Maharishi. He was born with a birthmark, it says, right where his past self was knifed to death, aged two.

Making the case for the "20 Cases researcher, Harris sounds almost like "Chronicles of Narnia" author C.S. Lewis, who said Jesus could only be a liar or the Son of God.

"Either he is a victim of truly elaborate fraud, or something interesting is going on," Harris says. "Most scientists would say this doesn't happen. Most would say that if it does happen, it's a case of fraud. ... It's hard to see why anyone would be perpetrating a fraud—everyone was made miserable by this [xenoglossy] phenomenon." Pressed, he admits that some of the details might after all be "fishy."

Another book he lists is "The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena." "These are people who have spent a fair amount of time looking at the data," Harris explains. The author, professor Dean Radin of North California's Institute of Noetic Sciences, which is not accredited for scientific peer review, proclaims: "Psi [mind power] has been shown to exist in thousands of experiments."

Harris has spent the past two years doing "full-time infidel" duty, in his words. His second book, "Letter to a Christian Nation," takes the infidel persona and runs with it, lashing back at Christians for their intolerance toward his first book.

In a versatile turn, however, Harris moonlights as inquisitor as well as heretic. Without irony, he switches hats between chapters of "The End of Faith." Chapter 3 finds him complaining that the medieval Church tortured Jews over phony "blood libel" conspiracies. Then in chapter 6, "A Science of Good & Evil," he devotes several pages to upholding the "judicial torture" of Muslims, a practice for which "reasonable men and women" have come out.

Torture then and now: The difference, he tells AlterNet, is that the Inquisition "manufactured" crimes and forced Jews to confess "fictional accomplices."

But if the Iraq War hasn't been about "fictional accomplices," what has? "There's nothing about my writing about torture that should suggest I supported what was going on in Abu Ghraib," says Harris, who supported the invasion but says it has become a "travesty." "We abused people who we know had no intelligence value."

While our soldiers are waging war on Islam in our detention centers, according to Harris, our civilians must evolve past churchgoing to "modern spiritual practice," he writes. "[M]ysticism is a rational enterprise," he writes in his book, arguing it lets spiritualists "uncover genuine facts about the world." And he tells AlterNet there are "social pressures" against research into ESP.

Society is remarkably free, however, in airing justifications for putting Muslims to the thumbscrews. Harris's case for torture is this: since "we" are OK with horrific collateral damage, "we" should have no qualms against waterboarding, the lesser evil. "It's better than death." Better, in other words, than bombing innocents.

Then again, Sam Harris is not devoting his time in the media to call for an end to bombing civilians. Attacking the sacred cow of airstrikes might have been a real heresy, true to his Quaker roots but ensuring himself exile from cable news. Instead the logic he lays out—that Islam itself is our enemy—invites the reader to feel comfort at the deaths of its believers. He writes: "Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them."

Playing his part in last year's War Over Christmas, Harris plays it safe with "Letter to a Christian Nation." The book lumbers under a title so heavy, you'd think Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote it from prison. While keeping the Christian Nation on notice that Harris remains disdainful of "wasting time" on Jesus, he now calls for something of an alliance with the Right against Muslim Arabs and the "head-in-the-sand liberals" he denounced in a recent editorial. "Nonbelievers like myself stand beside you, dumbstruck by the Muslim hordes who chant death to whole nations of the living," he writes.

Thus praising the hard Right for its "moral clarity" in the War on Terror, Harris reserves much of his wrath for nonfundamentalist Christians, whom he considers enablers of a virgin-birth sham.

Fine, but the alternative to Jesus that Harris recommends in "The End of Faith" is a menu of messiahs. There is Shankara, an avatar of the god Shiva whose water pot could stop floods. There is the first Buddha and his 8th-century successor Padmasambhava. After materializing on a lotus leaf at age 8, Padmasambhava cast a spell that changed his friend into a tiger.

"That is objectively stupider than the doctrine of the virgin birth," Harris says in the interview, however.

Like any religious moderate, he has picked and chosen what he likes from a religion. On the one hand, there's an obligatory swipe in "The End of Faith" against Pakistan and India for threatening to nuke each other over "fanciful" religious disputes. The equal-offender pose doesn't slow Harris from claiming the supremacy of Shankara and other oracles over Europe's entire secular brain trust. For thousands of years, "personal transformation [...] seems to have been thought too much to ask" of Western philosophers, he complains petulantly, as if finding the entire Enlightenment short on self-help tips.

He likes that Buddhism will make you relax. And "dial in various mental states," he says. In the classic case, he says, "you see various lights or see bliss." And like a Scientologist cleric promising you the state of Clear, evicting alien ghosts ruining your life, Harris expresses a faith that his own style of pleasurable mental exploration ushers in good deeds. Meditation, he says, will drive out whatever it is "that leads you to lie to people or be intrinsically selfish."

So it purges your sins? "You become free to notice how everyone else is suffering," he says. Well, some more than others.

We all need our illusions. But doesn't his, a mishmash of Buddhism and "Time-Life Mysteries of The Unknown," weaken his case against Christians? His answer is that Buddhism is a superior product for including the doctrine of "non-dualism," or unity. "The teachings about self-transcending love in Buddhism go on for miles," he says. "There's just a few lines in the Bible." And hundreds in Dostoyevsky and the Confessions of St. Augustine, but never mind: Harris's argument that "belief is action" rests on treating works like the Old Testament not as complex cultural fables but something akin to your TiVo instruction manual.

Though it lapses in skepticism, Harris's work has won a surprising following among nonmystics. Times science writer Natalie Angier felt "vindicated, almost personally understood" reading it, she wrote in a review. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has practically adopted Harris as the American Robin to his Batman in confronting unreason wherever it may lurk in the hearts of men. "The End of Faith" should "replace the Gideon Bible in every hotel room in the land," blurbs Dawkins.

* * *

When that happens, Muslims will check into the Best Western and find a text cheering their torture.

Legendary for his role in the Scopes Monkey Trial, American attorney Clarence Darrow wrote of his admiration for his forbearer Voltaire, the original 18th-century renegade against the church. He thanked Voltaire for dealing superstition a "mortal wound"—and for an end to torture. "Among the illustrious heroes who have banished this sort of cruelty from the Western world, no other name will stand so high and shine so bright."

And then among those who want to bring it back, there stands Sam Harris.

"They're not talking," Harris is telling me, imagining a torture scenario where the captives clam up, "quite amused at our unwillingness to make them uncomfortable."

No, it's not the sticky (and real) case of Jose Padilla, the detainee who may have been reduced by his treatment to mind mush, possibly ruining his trial. Instead he's sketching out a kind of Steven Seagal action movie scenario in which we lasso Osama or his gang, maybe on the eve of a terror plot. What to do?

"We should say we don't do it," Harris says of torture. "We should say it's reprehensible." And then do it anyway, he says.

So there it is. In Harris's vision of future America, we will pursue "personal transformation" and gaze into our personal "I-we" riddles, while the distant gurgles of Arabs, terrified by the threat of drowning, will drift into our Eastern-influenced sacred space, the government's press releases no more than soothing Zen koans.


I am at a bit of a loss to comment on Sam Harris. As much as I like some of his views, I cannot help but wonder why he likes "mysticism" and such things as he does. Why does Dawkins even like this guy, and how can you even talk about the likes of ESP and Uri Geller and reincarnation in the same sentence as atheism, which is mostly dependent(short of a person not knowing the concept of God) on a person believing in the validity of the scientific method and the information gathered by it, along with a healthy dose of scepticism for poo poo like the below quoted block:


quote:
"[M]ysticism is a rational enterprise," he writes in his book, arguing it lets spiritualists "uncover genuine facts about the world." And he tells AlterNet there are "social pressures" against research into ESP.


Someone go get me my divining rods and crystal ball, I'm about to discover scientific facts! Who would have thought Misses Cleo would be a great scientist of our time!
(borrowed from another poster)

I'm less and less likely to take anything that Sam writes seriously after implusible & ridiculous stuff like this - torchure is not 'necessary'. It doesn't WORK!  

& this at http://www.guardian.co.uk/guantanamo/story/0,,1988676,00.html Re:the US torchure camp at Guatanamo

to quote…"George Bush, his aides and the US military define what they have been doing as a special programme using special measures: their position appears to be that as long as blood is not drawn, it is not torture."

so does this mean that Sam is willing to admit that his country participates in illegal acts?
....here's more from the story "

One official investigation found an inmate had been sexually humiliated and forced to perform dog tricks on a leash. It said the conduct was "abusive and degrading" but not torture. In a UK court hearing over Guantánamo, a senior British judge, Mr Justice Collins, declared: "America's idea of what is torture is not the same as ours." A UN report has confirmed evidence of torture, and Amnesty International has declared Guantánamo "the gulag of our time". Guantánamo is not the only US torture camp. Bagram in Afghanistan has been dogged by stories of abuse, and there are secret US prisons around the world where it is widely feared new horrors are occuring.

Human rights have been traded away in Guantánamo in the hope of gaining security, and it has not worked. One of the US's founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, stated: "He who trades liberty for security deserves neither and will lose both." Adorned on the walls of the Guantánamo camp is its mission statement: "Honour-bound to defend freedom". After five years of Guantánamo, do you feel any safer?


I'm guessing his prime target audiences are college students?....or people who believe themselves to be of a higher than average intelligence. HUH! what a joke that is….the twits like to think of themselves as 'elites' as well…...but don't like to be pushed and prodded about their 'sheepish' qualities.

Sam Harris is fast becoming a kind of 'atheist' figurehead of what I see as some religously based moverment - hence my question "does this show a desparation for an 'atheist' figurehead.? I'm wondering why 'atheists' seem to need one. Isn't atheism supposed to be a NIL nadda kind of attitude. ? What happened to the 'scientific' method ?

its all very classical - 'how to be a fanatic'.......or "from the hot water into the fire"...Sam harris the Newager's Superstar. Next thing he'll be giving away 'crystal's'.with every copy of his book…and ipod recordings of 'speaking in tongues'....for his own glorification.

 


 

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Posted: 16 January 2007 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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snakechic,

It seems you disagree with Sam on issues like torture and ESP.

Fortunately, those issue have nothing to do with the Athiest view that there is no God.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“SeanK”]Ehem…

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2/

So you can’t speak for yourself?
That’s a worry….and pretty much what I’d expect from an avid ‘reader’..
I’d be interested to read what you think..not what sam writes.


Does he give any EVIDENCE that torture is effective? NO! Or what he means by his belief that there are ‘social pressure against esp research’...

I’m not impressed by his hypotheticals

[ Edited: 16 January 2007 05:18 PM by ]
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Posted: 16 January 2007 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“Joad”]snakechic,

It seems you disagree with Sam on issues like torture and ESP.

Fortunately, those issue have nothing to do with the Athiest view that there is no God.

Yep…issues like torture, esp and multiculturalism are personal values and beliefs.
I believe that the point of it…including holding an atheist position is to challenge all value laden ideas.
Harris seems to avail himself of the ‘right’ to critise all kinds of stances & religious beliefs- but for some uncanny reason, there is a fellowship of people gathered to protect him from any kind of critism.

Surely he or anyone is fair game. Why protect him as if he were your ‘guru’ or messiah.
Surely the more mature method would be to avoid taking any critism of his writings personally.
I have read post after post of replies here…that do just that - take it personally and retaliate by personally attacking the author of such critisms.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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snakechic wrote:

including holding an atheist position is to challenge all value laden ideas.

That would require an atheist to believe that ALL value laden ideas come from God.

I only challenge God, who I consider to have nothing to do with value laden ideas. I don’t see any evidence that I took anything personally.

You seem to accusing Atheists of groupthink. Perhaps you should re-read the threads on torture, etc. I see a fairly diverse range of opinions. My comments certainly condemed torture.

For the record: I hold the exact opposite opinion on torture from Sam. I also have a different opinion from him on Eastern philosophies.

BTW, this is a Sam Harris forum. Go to a Michael Jackson forum and accuse him of pedophilia.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“Joad”]snakechic wrote:

including holding an atheist position is to challenge all value laden ideas.

That would require an atheist to believe that ALL value laden ideas come from God.

Why….bias is not about a belief in god but of course it can be.

I only challenge God, who I consider to have nothing to do with value laden ideas. I don’t see any evidence that I took anything personally.

I wasn’t addressing you…sorry if you have taken that general comment personally. Not everyone does that same as you nor is that required. I challenge any belief or what I call value laden bias.

You seem to accusing Atheists of groupthink. Perhaps you should re-read the threads on torture, etc. I see a fairly diverse range of opinions. My comments certainly condemed torture.
Yes ...some of them can be very obnoxious…Nah..I’m happy to read that.
For the record: I hold the exact opposite opinion on torture from Sam. I also have a different opinion from him on Eastern philosophies. Good for you
BTW, this is a Sam Harris forum. Go to a Michael Jackson forum and accuse him of pedophilia.

Haha…that’s exactly what I’m talking about…....your invitation suggests you’d rather not have people here who like to openly disagree with sam?
is it that somehow you feel somewhat ‘territorial’ about this chatroom…?

So what ? only nice agreeable to sam harris types can post here…..that’s the only great thing about this chatroom. Little or no moderation….
guess some posters find that hard to deal with.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 07:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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snakechic,

Well, it obvious that you intentionally misread everyone’s comments.

You have obviously posted anti-Sam comments here and not been banned. Try that on a MJ forum.

Try reading what people actually say instead of twisting it to suit your agenda.

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Posted: 17 January 2007 02:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“snakechic”]So what ? only nice agreeable to sam harris types can post here…..that’s the only great thing about this chatroom. Little or no moderation….
guess some posters find that hard to deal with.

Trolls are always a pain in the ass to deal with.  In this forum, they come in two extremes: 

First and foremost, the Christians and their insufferable messianic need to convert everybody to their blind faith.  Fat chance that the people who read this forum regularly would be susceptible.

And then those on the opposite side of the spectrum, including the ultra liberal la las, who think you can reason somehow with religious fanatics (who are incapable of reason); and the Naive Realists http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naïve_realism, who unconsciously substitute their own myth of reality for the fanatics’ faith.

Sam Harris pisses off both extremes.  That’s why some of us REALLY like him.

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“Believe those who seek the truth; doubt those who find it”—Andre Gide

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Posted: 17 January 2007 02:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Snakechic,

I think you are oversimplifying his view on torture, he also says “paradoxically, this equivalence has not made the practice of torture seem any more acceptible to me, nor has it for most of my readers” when comparing torture to collateral damage.  He also states that torture is only appropriate in limited situations where the benefit is obvious and the person there is little doubt about the person’s guilt.  He also specifies non-lethal, non-physically damaging methods.  His view is that torture is only appropriate in limited instances where the lives of innocent people may be saved.

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Posted: 17 January 2007 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“SeanK”]Validate your claim that torture is ineffective for one.

Here’s one that I’ve already pasted but I won’t hold it against you LOL - I don’t assume that every single poster reads every single word on these threads ....... 

Does Sam provide ‘proof’ that torchure is effective? Not that I"ve seen.

You also immediately take the defensive

Point taken…but I don’t have any kind of grudge against anyone . Nor do I care to change anyone’s mind about anything. I don’t see posting as a ‘win’ or ‘loose’ situation.. Its virtually imposible…pardon the pun.  I don’t have an agenda but to self express in my own way. People don’t like it…then what can I say…that’s life.

Its interesting to observe how a virtual community forms and regulates itself .....

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Posted: 17 January 2007 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“Joad”]snakechic,


You have obviously posted anti-Sam comments here and not been banned. .

LOL Oh dear….I love that “anti- sam”

do you realise what you’ve implied?

cheer up…not everyone online reads every single word of this chatroom….(including me)

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Posted: 17 January 2007 08:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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=“mahahaha
Naive Realists http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naïve_realism, who unconsciously substitute their own myth of reality for the fanatics’ faith.

Sam Harris pisses off both extremes.  That’s why some of us REALLY like him.

Your link wasn’t very fruitful.  try this one….
are you projecting your own ‘fanaticism’ here lovey.?
 

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Posted: 17 January 2007 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“milanst”]

His view is that torture is only appropriate in limited instances where the lives of innocent people may be saved.

Okay…I have a few comments…..

Does he provide any substanciated “Proof” that torchure has saved innocent people - anywhere?
otherwise, its only wishful thinking on his behalf and his writings are nothing more than ‘propaganda’ or fanciful retoric at best.

Did I mention that in matters of war - it depends on which side ‘you’ are on as to what you believe is an ‘ethical’ response, not forgetting the cliche that ‘the victors get to write history’...

Here’s another ethical dilema :-
What if the Japanese ‘torchured’ American people in order to prevent their enemies annihilating two of Japan’s cities, and killing nearly a million of innocent citizens ... would that be a crime or to quote “appropriate”?

Or what about the German people saying…“but we didn’t know”...and still facing decades of finger pointing and guilt.

Okay… its never a simple exercise. Innocence is a flexible concept.

and come to think of it….something that can be manufacted easily with ‘elastic’ definitions….. that serve to blind the american public and alleviate their ‘moral’ sensitivities or self delusions.

(hopefully not all are fooled)

why rewrite when you can paste….
 
Collateral damage is a euphemism of World War II and the nuclear age, coined within the Pentagon, to conceal the deliberate killing of civilians. The military invokes this term as a way of exempting the U.S. from moral and legal culpability for such killing. [7] In short, collateral damage is all about intent, and the avoidance of responsibility for murdering the innocent. It is the military’s way of saying: judge the commander, the pilot, the combat soldier, even the U.S. mercenary and torturer not by what he did but by his subjective state of mind when he did it.

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Posted: 17 January 2007 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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snakechic,

My basic opposition to torture is : When will they come to torture me?

We know where it starts. We can’t know where it will end.

Torture is one of those arguments based on “It can’t ever happen to me”.

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