In this episode of the Waking Up Podcast, Sam Harris discusses his views about guns and gun control in light of a recent mass shooting.
In this episode, Sam Harris speaks with Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of Fred Phelps of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.
Jerry A. Coyne is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. He received a B.S. in Biology from the College of William and Mary and a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology at Harvard University. After a postdoctoral fellowship at The University of California at Davis, he took his first academic position as assistant professor in the Department of Zoology at The University of Maryland. In 1996 he joined the faculty of The University of Chicago and has been there ever since. Coyne’s work has been largely concerned with the genetics of species differences, aimed at understanding the evolutionary processes that produce new species. He has written 115 scientific papers and more than 130 popular articles, book reviews, and columns, as well as a scholarly book about his research area—Speciation, co-authored with H. Allen Orr—and a trade book about the evidence for evolution—Why Evolution is True, which was a New York Times bestseller. His most recent book is Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. Coyne is a contributor The New York Times, The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, The Nation, USA Today, and other popular periodicals.
In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris discusses the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult and argues that we all have something important to learn from them about the power of belief.
The following videos are discussed:
Sam Harris responds to the charge that “militant” atheism is responsible for the murder of three Muslim students in North Carolina.
I once participated in a twenty-three-day wilderness program in the mountains of Colorado. If the purpose of this course was to expose students to dangerous lightning and half the world’s mosquitoes, it was fulfilled on the first day. What was in essence a forced march through hundreds of miles of backcountry culminated in a ritual known as “the solo,” where we were finally permitted to rest—alone, on the outskirts of a gorgeous alpine lake—for three days of fasting and contemplation.
I had just turned sixteen, and this was my first taste of true solitude since exiting my mother’s womb. It proved a sufficient provocation. After a long nap and a glance at the icy waters of the lake, the promising young man I imagined myself to be was quickly cut down by loneliness and boredom. I filled the pages of my journal not with the insights of a budding naturalist, philosopher, or mystic but with a list of the foods on which I intended to gorge myself the instant I returned to civilization. Judging from the state of my consciousness at the time, millions of years of hominid evolution had produced nothing more transcendent than a craving for a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake.
I found the experience of sitting undisturbed for three days amid pristine breezes and starlight, with nothing to do but contemplate the mystery of my existence, to be a source of perfect misery—for which I could see not so much as a glimmer of my own contribution. My letters home, in their plaintiveness and self-pity, rivaled any written at Shiloh or Gallipoli.
AUDIO TRANSCRIPT [Note: This is a verbatim transcript of a spoken podcast. However, I have added notes like this one to clarify controversial points.—SH]
I was going to do a podcast on a series of questions, but I got so many questions on the same topic that I think I’m just going to do a single response here, and we’ll do an #AskMeAnything podcast next time.
The question I’ve now received in many forms goes something like this: Why is it that you never criticize Israel? Why is it that you never criticize Judaism? Why is it that you always take the side of the Israelis over that of the Palestinians?
Now, this is an incredibly boring and depressing question for a variety of reasons. The first, is that I have criticized both Israel and Judaism. What seems to have upset many people is that I’ve kept some sense of proportion. There are something like 15 million Jews on earth at this moment; there are a hundred times as many Muslims. I’ve debated rabbis who, when I have assumed that they believe in a God that can hear our prayers, they stop me mid-sentence and say, “Why would you think that I believe in a God who can hear prayers?” So there are rabbis—conservative rabbis—who believe in a God so elastic as to exclude every concrete claim about Him—and therefore, nearly every concrete demand upon human behavior. And there are millions of Jews, literally millions among the few million who exist, for whom Judaism is very important, and yet they are atheists. They don’t believe in God at all. This is actually a position you can hold in Judaism, but it’s a total non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.
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