Sam Harris (2), The Moral Landscape
Sam Harris places the values we take to be most subjective into a new scientific system
The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values is the latest from Sam Harris, bestselling author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, as well as a New Atheist and ardent critic of religion. He sets out to describe human experience as a topographical map, with peaks of well-being and valleys of suffering. Harris argues that though we all seek happiness, it’s still possible to qualify the ways in which certain groups and individuals go about fulfilling their chosen lots. Well-being, Harris states explicitly, is not arbitrary, but rather notions of good and evil are based in empirical facts. Laws, taboos, and rituals transcend culture; they are, in fact, to a large degree, neurobiologically programmed. His thesis calls for an end to religion’s exclusive possession on human values, maintaining that there are scientific principles determining our morality and that our historical failure to convincingly defend basic goodness with science has been the very reason for the existence religion — its sole justification. Broken into five chapters (“Moral Truth,” “Good and Evil,” “Belief,” “Religion,” and “The Future of Happiness”), The Moral Landscape places the values we take to be most subjective and societal (honor, conceptions of the afterlife, family planning) to a new scientific system. “Goodness” promotes the “flourishing of conscious creatures,” and morality, according to Harris, is just as much at the mercy of natural selection as phenotypic traits in organisms.