Can Science Determine Human Values?
Berkeley Arts & Letters Presents
Can Science Determine Human Values?
The Moral Landscape
Wednesday, November 10
"Beautifully written as they were (the elegance of his prose is a distilled blend of honesty and clarity) there was little in Sam Harris's previous books that couldn't have been written by any of his fellow 'horsemen' of the 'new atheism'. This book is different, though every bit as readable as the other two. I was one of those who had unthinkingly bought into the hectoring myth that science can say nothing about morals. To my surprise, The Moral Landscape has changed all that for me. It should change it for philosophers too. Philosophers of mind have already discovered that they can't duck the study of neuroscience, and the best of them have raised their game as a result. Sam Harris shows that the same should be true of moral philosophers, and it will turn their world exhilaratingly upside down. As for religion, and the preposterous idea that we need God to be good, nobody wields a sharper bayonet than Sam Harris."
-- Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, The God Delusion, and The Greatest Show On Earth
In this highly anticipated, explosive new book, the author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation calls for an end to religion's monopoly on morality and human values. In The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values to dismantle the most common justification for religious faith -- that a moral system cannot be based on science.
The End of Faith ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In its aftermath, Harris discovered that most people, from secular scientists to religious fundamentalists, agree on one point: Science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Even among religious fundamentalists, the defense one most often hears for belief in God is not that there is compelling evidence that God exists, but that faith in Him provides the only guidance for living a good life. Controversies about human values are controversies about which science has officially had no opinion. Until now.
Morality, Harris argues, is actually an undeveloped branch of neuroscience, and answers to questions of human value can be visualized on a 'moral landscape' -- a space of real and potential outcomes whose peaks and valleys correspond to human states of greater or lesser well-being. Different ways of thinking and behaving -- different cultural practices, ethical codes, modes of government, etc. -- translate into movements across this landscape. Such changes can be analyzed objectively on many levels, ranging from biochemistry to economics, but they have their crucial realization as experiences in the human brain.
Bringing a fresh, secular perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, Harris shows that we know enough about the human brain and its relationship to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, cultural relativism is simply false -- and comes at increasing cost to humanity. And just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality. Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of our culture wars,Sam Harris delivers a game-changing argument about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation.
Sam Harris is a neuroscientist and the author of the New York Times bestsellers The End of Faith (winner of the Pen Award for Nonfiction) and Letter to a Christian Nation. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Nature, Foreign Policy, and in many other journals. Mr. Harris holds a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. He is a co-founder and chairman of Project Reason.
$12 advance ($6 students with ID), $15 (for all) at the door, online at Brown Paper Tickets or 800-838-3006
First Congregational Church of Berkeley (2345 Channing Way at Dana, Berkeley) please enter via courtyard on Dana
âSam Harris breathes intellectual fire into an ancient debate. Reading this thrilling, audacious book, you feel the ground shifting beneath your feet. Reason has never had a more passionate advocate.â
â" Ian McEwan, author of Atonement, winner of the Man Booker Prize for Amsterdam.
âA lively, provocative, and timely new look at one of the deepest problems in the world of ideas. Harris makes a powerful case for a morality that is based on human flourishing and thoroughly enmeshed with science and rationality. It is a tremendously appealing vision, and one that no thinking person can afford to ignore.â
â" Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate.
âReading Sam Harris is like drinking water from a cool stream on a hot day. He has the rare ability to frame arguments that are not only stimulating, they are downright nourishing, even if you donât always agree with him! In this new book he argues from a philosophical and a neurobiological perspective that science can and should determine morality. As was the case with Harrisâ previous books, readers are bound to come away with previously firm convictions about the world challenged, and a vital new awareness about the nature and value of science and reason in our lives.â
â" Lawrence M. Krauss, theoretical physicist, Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, author of The Physics of Star Trek and Quantum Man: Richard Feynmanâs Life in Science.
FCCB (1st Congregational Church of Berkeley)
2345 Channing Way at Dana
Berkeley, CA 94704
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