« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#10 — Faith vs. Fact

2015-05-19 | 🔗

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris interviews biologist Jerry Coyne about his new book, "Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible."

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Today I ll be speaking with Jerry COIN. Jerry is a biologist at the University of Chicago and his written over a hundred scientific papers and several books, the most recent of which is faith versus fact why? Science and religion are incompatible and I I recommend that you pick it up. Jerry's one of them frequent inarticulate commentators on the clash between scientific and religious ways of thinking and he's been a collar again comrade and friend in this area. For several years I should I apologise for the audio here. We did this interview remotely and the recording of Jerry's voice especially leaves something to be desired, but you can hear that, already of his thinking. Nonetheless, so without further ado, I bring you Jerry. Point. Hey Jerry, hey, don't find yourself, I'm good. I'm good will thank you for taking the time to do. This is it's your they first proper interview on my podcast, which
no, which makes me happy, are nice. Well, I have a friend remember where we met did we was at an in Mexico at the Ciudad De Lacey days. Conference suffers I met you. It might have been the first time that damn certainly for sound that hedge last time as well. That those good conference it was, it was a surprisingly well organised one firstly had amidst the big debate with you guys I was forcibly eyes but had to get back to catch my phone, So if you miss the debate, you missed not seem to labs performance where he gave voice to one of the most bizarre eruptions of anti science gibberish. I can ever recall here and that's on Youtube for for any interested version. That was, it will have to go back and look at it. I was amazing. He insinuated himself into this
that was already too crowded with like three or four people on each side and he insisted that he had something of compelling interest, all of humanity to say, and then he got up there and just laid down a word salad of a sort that well. I guess you used. The word says you re ass. I also remember from that conference the it was the first time I witnessed just how different human organism, Christopher Higgins, was than myself if you recall, but it was like a Three hour drive to Mexico City from where the conference was because the traffic was so brutal it at every hour. Than I s and he had to go to d C, the next day so flying in flying in the morning. A six a m flight from Mexico City, and he had no aunt that night in d c- and I met him at the bar at midnight- where he was having a scotch and at a club sandwich, and he was not planned
sleep he was just gonna get in the car get to that, get on a plane, gotta DC in and perform again that night I had a basic standard. Guys were sick. Given the way is this body, I'm gonna gets me at once before he died, Sap NEA well, I want to get into the topic of your your new book, but I just a couple questions about how you got in a position to write a first. How did you haven't you get into science and and and what is your current focus in biology, Bulgaria, the science of people of ass such clear? If I were a name, something I suppose I say it was my parents, because my dad was animal lover. So from the very first I is always was always dragon s Disease and thank said that wine the kid they bought me all kinds of science books have gone book of geology the golden book
dinosaurs that whole series- and I didn't really choose science as it gets the profession. So I went to college. I took an introductory biology course. It was stopped by an evolutionary biologist, Jack Brooks at William Mary. He was extremely charismatic and that's all it takes basically to know for the tipping point. After that point on, I was hooked on evolution yeah. I study it throughout college, then I went to graduate school. So that's how I became a scientist. My area of research has been pretty much should my career with a few digressions the origin of species. That is how one lineage can branch into two or more lenses. What are the genetic changes that accompany the origin of species that make these different lineages reproductively, separated from where other and are there any generalities irregulares in this process that we can study and which genes are
that process. So I basically taken up the question that Darwin, starting with spoke the origin of species which he, of course they collected. They answer. He didn't say anything the urgent species. He talked about how a single species where equal and that question lay pretty much. Fellow until about that, can ferries and fortys and then became fellow again, and I was interested in it. So I start working on or I went to graduate school and annual working in two soft lower. What what are you animal? Yeah fruit flies. If you are a study, active species form genetics defined in a hard way. Then that means process. I just sequencing dna, which we could do anyway, where I started. So if you want to, for example, find out where and how many chains distinguish two closely related species for a character like this Burma till it he or behaviour
basic discrimination or any of their trades like how they will differ everything. There is no way around that, even in these days of dna sequencing, it's up to cross them. Unfortunately, fruit flies. My closely related species can't be cross on her lap condition, so they have a generation of about ten days two weeks, so you can go through three generations. Abstract manipulation is a year which makes them ideal for this kind of stuff, where she can do that within a year or so, except maybe flatworm shrank something, but at least four staring flies. I've got a deal out of that year and now you also spend a lot of time, policing the boundary of science and non science, and yet you, you ve, been very vocal critic of religious dogmatism, end a real ally of mine on that front, and you have a blog
why evolution is true that you do most that writing on and now you have a couple of books, the first, why evolution is true where you you go into the details of answering like austrian and your new one faith versus fact why science and religion are incompatible deals with the collision between science and religion very directly and very useful as have book. I the recommend people read what percentage of your time now Are you Alex aiding tour, doing primary science and what percent is this more public communication of science, Slash defensive of science against Unreason? Well, I'm serve at the tail end, my scientific career. I turned sixty five and I'm actually can retire within a year,
so the amount of new research I'm doing is zero but cleaning up what I have done, which means running the final papers that I got on my last grants and everything's. So right now, I've been half time for a year and a half so right now say black from science and to you. No more public car of journalists. In writing, et Cetera. So right now, I've spent. I pray spent about eighty percent of my time during the latter it percent of doing straight science. Gazette just consists of writing up the research that I haven't finished right, riding up so right. One thing you focus on and New book is this phenomenon that we ve come to call accommodation ism. Can you explain but that is in and do know, did you did you coin? This word for word. That's word come from. Guy is a good thing.
But I'm not sure it's one of those words that I use a lot and I think people got from you, but I'm not sure I'm the original around. So since I know that I can claim credit for that. Knowledge is about. You know it is a good one. People have picked it up in terms of what it means This is a view that has held by both believers agnostics, an atheist themselves, sometimes that there is no inherent conflict or any kind of conflict, science and religion, and there are various ways that you can catch couch that compatibility thing, but that specifically the view that there is no conflict between the two and was the first clear and clearly, wrong, headed expression of this Stephen J gold not overlap in majesty area. Where do we get this notion of of fundamental compatibility? Yeah actually,
the guy that made it famous. But I think I have actually look here. I can find the first expression of it in nineteen twenty five by Alfred North Whitehead. I might have a quote from here that says that remember the widely different aspects of events which were dealt with in science and religion respectively, science is concerned with the general actions which should serve to regulate physical phenomena, whereas religion is fully wrapped up in the contemplation of moral and aesthetic values. On the one side there is the law of gravitation and, on the other, the contemplation of the beauty of hull. This one sided sees the other, MRS and vice versa, so that's it had. I see in twenty five then suspended goodbye. Seventy four year, So basically the same thing that it's the separate magisterium. You go the course made the few families because he was a famous scientists, the public leaped up his works, and he wrote a book on this work because the Noma or non overlapping magisterial happen.
This is plus everybody love the idea. Why can't we all get a law? That's a very popular idea: you can't be wrong. You say something like that, and it was famous book, but you know you see this kind of view of, moreover, magisterial scared throughout the discussion of sites religion throughout the year twentieth century, just to be clear: what not overlap in majesty area. Are it's it's the ideas that their these two domains of expertise that are separate end? One is the purview of religion, the others, the purview of science and they they dont overlap. So in principle there can be no conflict between science and religion. That's correct because it's likely event diagram with two sir
those that dark, intersects others. However, I mean I think gold was badly wrong about that, but that was his thesis. One sphere just to be clear, is the domain of investigating? What's real and the universe, and the other domain Goulds said was the bailiwick of meaning morals and values, which is the real circle in this. I just can never understand why this idea has a half life of more than like ninety seconds among the smart people, because clearly Clearly, every religion is making claims about certain invisible things and certain ultimate fates really existing for people and souls and various corners of the cosmos. There are invisible spirits. There are souls, there are God's, there's a hell. You can go to or successfully avoid
these are all claims about, the way the universe is and how someone like gold could think they dont trespass on the terrain of science. I can't even begin to see how this confusion is arising in someone like him. I think this book is disingenuous. I knew Steve. He was on my thesis committee and he was a die hard atheist. If there ever was one. I don't know if this book was like a psychological burping him or that it was a gambit to gain popularity with the public eye, but I just find it hard to believe now. Save Emily's pastime now that he would really believe it. But you know when faced with the kind of argument you made that which I agree with one hundred percent, that almost all religions there may be a few hours make statements about really universe, global claim that that's not real religion, so, for example, creationism, which is a stable of
Sierra Leone, the United States, and is accepted by about forty three percent of Americans earth. Is the tenet of Protestantism may prosthetic? that's a clear about the real world. Let me genesis talks about it. Basically, how the earth is, if he calculated back and talks about everything being formally wants it makes It's about now is for all these things are not only scientific statements by their scientifically checkable, so we know what good there were faced with a crisis,
Well, that's not real science. I mean sorry, that's not real religion. That sir, I dont room even remember because- and I talk about it in my book, but he then asked the problem by defining a way as not religious, those statements that religion makes about reality, and so, of course, you can have. Logically he was correct, but it doesn't make sense that feel origins have a long time to this evasive bent over him. Have you know in some circles it still popular to deny that religion? That does not make statements about reality. There is an article by tiny, Laura man last Sundays. They are types referring to another paper by a, I think, a belgian philosopher who clamps a religious statements of fact aren't the same as the kind of fact that we think of when we say that is a table here or of the earth is ten thousand years old. There were clear statements of religious, create centre, have the same factual or epistemic.
Attended as factual statements- there's a whole lot of so called sophisticated religious people who take a different tack from globe can't claim that religion is not about. Factual statements are all and in I would take issue with that, and I assume you were too so vague too.
Would sign with thou, but both theologians have rejected Steve statement because just on us, the religious side, because they recognise that their faith makes claims about reality to take Christianity as an example, if you think that Jesus really existed you're making a claim about a historical person, he said and if you think that he really survived his death and in some sense persists and can hear your prayers and that he may be coming back to earth to raise the dead. In turn, you may come to that biology or making claims about the huge human survival of death you're, making claims about telepathic powers of a now invisible carpenter. You make him very likely. Claims about human flight without the aid of technology is very frustrating. This is, as you think, suggested also.
Later to the idea that many people have that religious beliefs, don't actually will lead to any significant human behaviour in this world, because religious beliefs are in principle, vacuous in their only about solidly. In community in finding this nebulous meaning in life. They dont actually lead to concrete behaviors that we need to worry about. So jihadism is not the result of what any specific Muslims believe its politics is economics and so religious. Believe is not worth worrying about it's an attitude that many of our fellow atheists hold and that therefore they have. They see no reason to oppose people's religion,
certainties, even when their seeming to encroach in the public sphere in the kinds of public policies that members of our own government want to enact. They continually doubt that religion is at the bottom of those policies, whether its opposition to gay marriage, oars, embryonic stem cell research or whatever. It is and in the context of the United States- and I find it incredibly frustrating to interact with this kind of denial, ISM, which is the other side of of what you're calling accommodation ism, yet such sectors actually to clamps here the first one is religion does not make any meaningful statements, a reality and the second class which it can be said,
from that is that religious beliefs don't led to behaviour. Only. Those things are necessarily cracked the flying over, but it is being interesting exercise to see of those people who claim that religious beliefs don't have exceeded. Epistemic content are the same people who deny that, for example, belief in the Koran leads to suicide bomber. Somebody like Karen Armstrong Statute, both of those views here as April emphatic view of religion, that you can't say anything about Of course she goes around claims that everything that bad, that religious people do is not based on religion themselves. So you know, what's got a tran, they D anthropologist has linked. Those two ideas were explicitly in the way he talks about Islam that these beliefs, religious beliefs, are in principle that
Yes, they have no propositional content about the world that could motivate any body to do anything differently and therefore nobody does anything differently on their basis. I e nobody blows himself up. For that reason I was gonna save. I think we had said something like a bit of this conversation when you're her Chicago less I would like to those people. Ok, what would it take the convention that they really were motivated by religion? I mean they're like theologians in a way that there is nothing you can tell them to disabuse them are no evidence whatsoever. That would convince them that motivated by religion, because they can always think of a way that it something us. So I like that right now list of ok. What would it take you to show that? Big? I saw your with a frown. I guess it was in two thousand and six. I read that yesterday. I was simply a sooner than he could say the things he did. You have
Evan, then you show video of a muslim preacher resulting from the Koran, and you said it was very moving looked at that and it was the words for beautiful that is a quality, was grand, was talk about health and how people are weeping it's hard to believe that any kind of re emotional reaction like that could not, because I believe in the proposition that the preachers actually out at the time it wasn't music there was making cross. It was the fact that they were member of this great movement of belief. So I think to anybody who sought blinkered by some kind of accommodation desires its palpably obvious that so much behaviors maravedis by religious belief, could look at creation ass. If they don't really believe in the tenets of gases, why are they trying to force would be taught to everybody else?
girls, where are they oppose, evolution has just some kind of you. No matter for that, they see it ass. This, I don't think that's the case. I think they really do believe that the words of Genesis are true and that's borne out by pause. That show that a substantial portion Americans take the bibles literal truth behind you and you made in that conversation Chicago. The very useful observing in which I have now reached waited many times, which is? This is a double standard that people like a Tran and Armstrong and and everyone else not cop to because they never ask that we justify or that we doubt the political or economic rationale, is put forward for human behavior suffers when some like a member of the KKK, says I'm doing all this stuff, because I hate blackberry
We are really a racist, and this is my core political ideology. Nobody doubts that racist hatred of black people is really motivating this person. We would never try to look for and underline motive there. That negates the claim that he is in fact really racists, but when we have some one expressing their religious opinions or the religious speculation that idea that they're gonna get into Paradise behave in a certain way or the idea that that homosexual is anathema to God. The accommodation is insist upon finding some layer below that, which is the true reason why a person is behaving as he is
yeah. This is a good example of confirmation by a semi feel the same way. You know they'll accept evidence that substantiates their religious beliefs for anything that goes against that they, you know they reject or work it into their. You know world. He is somehow on these accommodationist in terms of politics, and religion are exactly the same way and I can't help but believe that this is just one more symptom of the unwarranted respect that people have for religion and faith. They just cannot bring themselves to climb that religion could be anybody do anything add a maid of people like us could have met their religion can sometimes make people do good. I don't see why they cats in that the same thing on their so yeah and let's put a minor point on that. Could I freely admit that religion can cause people to do extraordinary? our good and many of which could be unthinkable. But for that specific persons, religious beliefs, areas is certainly possible that there are people.
Are people who would only go to Africa to aid in a famine because of what they believe about Jesus and about the importance of spreading his word and that those same people couldn't find a truly rational, secular motive to behave that way on this, not to say that it does rational, secular motives, don't exist, but for any one person, it's quite possum all that he's not gonna get out of bed in the morning and do good, but for believing certain irrational things about God or about his fate after death, that's totally possible and at the seams north to deny that another example the double standard of, and if we can. I bet that religion is such a psychological motivator, that it will drive missionaries two places very well God forsaken in both respects and sacrifice, basically their well being and their lives to do this kind of stuff. Why do they deny that it could also motivate people to do
that we consider bad, but they consider good for their religion. I don't really understand the whole thing, except people? It usually do that show this overweening respect for faith NASA how do you make of some one like Frances Collins, because I obviously one argument that we here for the compatibility between science and religion is essentially an existence proof in the person of of someone like Frances Collins's. Here you have a scientist who, as a working scientist who is in fact in council case and evangelist Christian, so there it is proof that science and religion are compatible and he says that there not only compatible but but mutually supportive. What do you make of the vote? Your written his of his mind? Well, there's two clamps.
The first one is compatibility. The second is mutual support. I would take this cycling first and say that that's not true at all. If you look at what science does true religion, it doesn't support it because it never substantiates the claims of religion. History of sciences in Persian into religion is later will away its truth. Clamps too, there are almost nothing. So if you don't know how anybody can claim that science supports religion.
These days, except maybe for the claim that college makes I'll talk about in a minute in terms of religion, helping science, it doesn't do anything as Le Plus. We do not need that hypothesis anymore cause when he enters his laboratory to do work- or I presume supervised, is sequencers- does leaf guard at the door. You don't get anywhere and science by assuming that there's any kind of diviner numerous reality about the claim that science and religion are compatible because one person can do both or that there's a lot of religious people who are friendly to science or a lot of religious scientists, and all that is true to be that just shows the form of compartmentalization, rather than compatibility. If people can have two diversion world use in their head at the same time.
Somehow managed to live as a unified person. That were big idea with this and is, as other species claims, were compatibility and the book. But my response to cause would be well. The fathers of penal failure compatible because there's a fair number of catholic priests who repeated fastnesses and they don't think, there's any wrong with that. Well, that's Cooper. They show that site compatibility so shall I one percent that is to serve conflicting views is not for me and arguing and compatibility or if you want to be a little less invidious, he could say science and creationism are compatible, because if oh, there are some scientists, Sir craziness, not a lot, but there are some, but so to me, that's an argument for compartment illustration and compatibility with my view is not that you can hold both views at the same time as an example of compatibility, but that the two spheres approach their ways of fighting truth and completely different manners, and that's what I define as compatible
how you seek and find out what's real in the errors right was it say more about that? What really is the conflict between religion and science as methodologies and ways of arriving at truth claims? Well, I haven't all summed up in his efforts and while it is wishes that in science, faith is a vice religion, its virtue, it's basically comes out of faith, and that's why I call my book fair. First. This fact it's about religion and science, but religion is basically the most widespread instantiated faith, which is belief without evidence sufficient to convince any reasonable person at science is the most exquisite example of fact wishes. You know how to find out. What's real in the universe, let me say a few words about why we ve talked about science fiction. We don't talk about why religion and sports.
Compatible or why religion business are compatible. That's not a question. I people worry me. They worry about religion and science being compatible. My way is that it is because both of those areas, as we have just discussed, make claims about reality and anything urgent worth his or her salt is gonna, admit that you mentioned some of those realities, is this, the resurrection, the afterlife. How are things like that so in a way. Religion is a science in that it makes claims about reality and has hypotheses, but its assent, science, because, when its way of finding out what's real would sway of substantial is clamps is based on faith Authority dogma. It's not the same method that science issues when they test there. I'm so basic conflict is when you make a claim about. What's real, how do you find our claim is true or not size has its tool, kit methods, replica,
Shan Peer Review, all kinds of appeals and nature test stability, and then religion has a whole set of it. Still get wishes based on your authorities, consulting ancient scriptures, personal revelation, etc, cetera and their basically equipment way semi route, science, those find out stuff and religion doesn't, as far as I can see, the algae has not progressed in understanding the nature, the divine or even if there is a divine in the past to millennia. So that's the base again compatibility its. They are competing because they make statements about reality, but only one of those branch of science as a way to find out whether what you say is true. It also seems to me that only science really focuses on me. The problem of confirmation, buyers and wish
thinking and motivated reasoning and all of the other judgment errors we make when we are committed to certain things being true while investigating whether or not they are it's only a science. We really see the necessity of getting your agenda out of the way and testing to see whether you hoof fooled yourself. It's Richard Feynman famous line that science is the art of of not fooling yourself, and you have to remember that you're, the the easiest pursuers right, I love that's, that's they aren't capitalists and eight for the site, the regatta price, bearing the discussion. Science sites. Science is basically a set of tools that have been home by experience to find out. What's wrong, one part of it is you have brutally lemonade. Desire or any kind of manipulation which would help you find what you want speech or what you believe to be true. What you find Fortunately, satisfying religion, on the other hand, is immense precisely
Isn't it set up to help? You pull yourself to give you confirmation bias? If there's anything that goes against your religion, you somehow either turned into a metaphor, so it So there s its budgetary religions, some sense or you just reject the fact period. So that's why co religionists pseudoscience Amene. In fact, religious people are like you're, not gonna like hearing this, but they're like people who claim they were abducted by ufos or people who believe, and he s appear, Telecom, Asus or conspiracy therapists. They have this view which they fine emotionally satisfy. It is a hypothesis about reality, but when its disc and firm or do they have
tools that they use to reject that this confirmation, as the exact opposite of science. So many ways theologians behave exactly like you. I followed us if the ways that they rejects information that they like are very similar, the flip side of that as they use the consoling experience they get from believing certain things as evidence of the truth of those propositions. There's this lack of attention to the difference between believe in something, because you have good reasons to believe it and believing it because of the way it it's been true would make you feel yeah, that's the whole revelation bet, I guess that's the subject of the other rise of religious experience, way of James, this great book that, in other the religious experience as a personal experience, you ve had a revelation. It makes you feel good, it's right. What is not to say that you can have personal x
your that would be evidence of something they don't equip you to say anything about the universe at large, but you can have a personal experience of a radical change in your life, which tells you that something has happened, weather meditating or prey nor fast in Norway, whenever precipitated at you, the utility of that practice may then be easily demonstrated by just noticing. Changes in your experience was not that x France is of no value in considering what is worth paying attention to and how you want to live. It's just that The idea that, among the reasons for believing something to be true, is how that truth makes you feel that is something which science ruthlessly and quite appropriately dissects out of the truth. Gathering enter
rise. True, whereas religion makes a virtue of that very delusional mechanism where it I'm seeing the universe, the WHAM scene it because I want it to be that way. I wouldn't want to live in a universe where there was no God I wouldn't want to live in a universe where I'm not gonna be reunited with my loved ones in and after life, and that makes sense to people in terms of the public communication of science. It seems in it that that fundamental reasoning, error is something that has to be illuminated again and again. Only religion gets to play by those rules, and this then migrates into the rest of culture, where we happy, bull in opposing gay marriage? Why? Because their faith tells them that marriages between a man and a woman and that's the only argument they ever feel required to give them. This is a point I made and in the end, faith. If your neighbor setting lady at a diamond in his back yard, that was the size of a refrigerator and he spends every Sunday digging for it. You would never accept as a a sane reason for this behaviour
this, gives his life meaning or that he he wouldn't want to live in a universe where there wasn't a diamond in his back yard. The sizeable refrigerators I just saw understand that attitudes. It starts hard to see that people can go wrong when they take to be true what they want to be true, I mean we ve this every day, but it's only religion where we actually have respect for that. As of Persia thinking than its nuts. I personally don't get it. I guess a lot of people down, but there's something about religion when I dont know what it is that leads to this double standard summary levels and the last chapter output is about serve. This amount was what's the harm in things that science and religion are compatible, that faith and reason are compatible because faith leads you into alleys. Were it's not necessarily good for society, because religion is wedded to a code of conduct as well as system personal beliefs, and that code of conduct place our public sphere with laws against gay marriage? The serve invidious behaviour?
catholic Church towards AIDS. Also that call at horizontal pollution at this vertical pollution, whereby everyone thinks they have the right to a doctorate. The kids there on kids into their personal choices about the universe. So never perhaps one other problem unite run into? Is we meet people who deny that Islam raise any role in manufacturing the fund? monotony jihadism and islamic terrorism, and most frustratingly we see someone like I on her sally treated terribly by people on the political level and attacked by liberal quote feminists and not recognised to be the feminist icon. She really should be champion, and so I urge you and I both reacted to some of the derision she received when she published her new book heretic and as I wanted to get your your thoughts on that phenomenon white. Why is someone like I on not seen
to be a true champion of the emancipation of women in the development that is puzzling, promoting one would think that she would be given her horrible background or mistreatment by Muslims. The fact that she is a woman of call her the fact that she's woman that she would be that feminist, icon and yet she's vilify by left. I think it's. The ultimate reason, though, use a lot of other reasons I mean they have excuses, will go into this in the minutes, because she's going after his and as long as off limits these days to the it's ok to make fun of the Jews. What's the Institute of Amnesty International? Sorry they didn't. The biggest turned our resolution to condemn Anti semitic acts in great Britain. It was, they just said there. National meeting they vote. And every resolution up, except for the one that says we condemn Anti Semitism in great Britain. We should investigate
problem that was voted down by listing and if that have been most as that would be no problem there. Active sail through its basically is the kind of world now where it's ok to be Anti semitic is in the left, at least from any people, but not to be anti. Listen because and you know this as well. As I do said, Muslims are perceived as oppressed people. I am here silly because she is service efforts in criticising, is born and remain fully. So I think, has to be silenced I know he has any excuse to do that. I mean there's these long excuses, like the statements made in her speech, that the american Atheists comments that American Gaze, the worse it can happen in them as they can't buy a K. Whereas is long gaze get killed, but she said more than that they pick out these soundbites and use them against her on my website, she's been criticised for being there too conservative underwrite what that has to do with her Vichy
work for a conservative, think they don't think she does any more. But that was the only group there would hire sheep talks about then lose her books so once they decided to do a nice her- and I think it's because she's gone after Islam, alternately, and they can find any number of excuses why this woman should be revised and locked and stuff. But ultimately, I think is long, and you know this as well as I do serve off limits now as a subjective, racism so left in its because we have this tension between our historical hatred of oppression, and yet we see a group that is considered oppressed, trying to remove the enlightening values that the left, also since four sewed that seems to be getting resolved in favour of respect for his alone is fascinating. Which wins the tug of war there, because it is true that a respect for religion is tramping a concern
for the human rights of women and gaze and intellectuals and free thinkers throughout the world, This is true, even among irreligious people. On that. Another data point For me as a brain of Nicholas Christoph the New York Times columnist, who is this whole thing, is a concern for the rights of women or ostensibly. His whole thing is that and yet when he turns the his moral genius upon on her sally he takes the wrong side of every issue. He asked Billy denigrate Sir, is as a big it. It really is is lasserate into unfortunately there are some where I was call right thinking people that You know we're not allowed to know. If that's for sure I mean most of the people that read my website know that enlightenment values should trump respect for a religion. That damsels varies, and you can always ask these people. Will you know if you really think that Islam, as such rate system of values, would you prefer eleven
occur in Saudi Arabia, in Yemen, and especially your woman? I mean, I don't think, there's any question about which, where those people around here and I find it very puzzling few. Those conversations I have said to my interlocutor actually think what you're saying That is long and about multiculturalism, is probably true in some just wondering what you think about my current plan to send my. Six year old daughter to live with a Taliban family for a couple years together, Dana to get up good, closer appreciation of their culture and they say been no one with a straight, I can say that, as you know, responsible parenting on my side and yet its implicit in their view that there is Nothing wrong with radical diversity of attitudes towards the treaty, the women and girls and that's part of the left dilemma. Besides the oppressed, it's a respect from us, culture. Listen, I mean you're, probably guess you're alive in the sixtys. But you are old enough to remember, but none in Lahti COS.
Listen was the watchword back then everybody was be respectively, with early gain from every culture, and I think that the bad parts of that view- because I beg you multiculturalism turns amusing and food and universally in the world, but in terms of how you treat other people, especially women and minorities and how you run society. I respect and he caught her. That violates where I see is the right way to believe, and unfortunately them multiculturalism is endemic in certain quarters, of left right now, and that goes along with the air hatred of oppression, which is expressed through respecting Islam. What sort of man? What do you do with the counter arguments that one occasionally here's that suggest that religious sensitivity should trump our concern for freedom of speech, because our free exercise of our species
is causing so much pain in the minds of religious demagogues. So, and we cartoon about the prophet Mohammed, this causes real harm in the most community, even though its even though its harm that we can't understand but nevertheless you have people who feel wronged in a very deep sense in why shouldn't that perception of being wronged trump, our concern about free speech. Well, I think it shows you know in his face, fire fire fire speech gave the right response to that which is who decides? You know what's offensive or not I could be offended if somebody criticise Israel, uncommon, Anti Semites. I have a jewish background and not a believer, but you know I do get offended when I see people demonize Israel and leave Hamas alone, but I dont tell him sheriff you know once you get into the game of any his feelings, are hurt, has a right to
the other side up Ben. That leads to a situation in which everybody just then that's not good for society. I am a big fan of untrammelled free speech. I think it should go the only limits to free speech of the ones that the United States recognised, as I think, except on college campuses, which are that you know the only space that should not Allow us speech, which is meant to incite violence in riding on this, my that doesn't count making cartoons or anything like that. I am in favour of allowing the Nazis to March through Skokie, as they did this whole wave of hurt feeling stuff. If we keep catering to that's a roads, to totalitarianism and censorship of everything, because everybody, can be offended once you learn the lesson that as long as teaching is now, which is if you protest that you personally that when some racism you know like, and maybe if you ride and kill you when other
we're gonna, learn that less and do the same thing and then what kind of society we have them America is still the land of the free in terms of species concerned. I much prefer to keep where they are here is unfortunate by the way that college campuses seem to be the one place in this country. Where free speech is not greatly respected or practice, as you noticed, a change in the culture on on college This is your self guess. Yes, even here at the risk of Chicago bears some of that upper website. There was, though, the woman- I can't remember her name, who was worked with Charlie, had done survived the massacre, came here and talked in she by the virtue of her talking. She offended a number of states, this muslim students, but also their sympathisers and fairer letters to the newspaper about how she shouldn't been allowed to speak without somebody at least bouncy viewpoint, and that happens
my very own campus, I dont really write about it because there's no advantage to bucking wave of students sentiment, but I do I deplore this trend. I think she cargo is a lot better than some places like Colombia or Stanford, or even Berkeley these days, which is odd because Berkeley US where the free speech movement began. He habits skew so far. Left that you, you would expect that this political correctness and victim ology would be a pig in their how it is interesting that the left is really come. Full circle centre right. Now. You know, people like you and I league in some ways with Reilly in the Fox news. Commoners, that condemn is long. I hate that I hate it too. You know, have to voice some of the same sentiments and when we do for different reasons. I thank our hope, but it doesn't feel good to be in bed with me
whose Eddie Ology so completely opposed to yours, and that's what you know the that's. What these students are becoming basically is right, wingers very strange, I see what we're coming up on an hour or hear Jerry, and I want to respect your time, but I want to touch one other issue which I don't think arises in in the current book. But it's an issue with that. You and I off sounded off on and much to the consternation of our mutual friend Dan Dennett, the issue of free will and whether it makes sense scientifically or philosophically, to my continued surprise that the topic of free will is incredibly interesting to people, and and in some cases unnerving to them? When one do you begin to deny its existence, and it say something that really goes to the core of what they find relevant philosophically and scientifically saw you tell me what you think about the notion of free will and or its illusory nests in scientific terms,
The big question: I'm gonna give a talk about this, the first time that the image in their religion meetings in Vancouver in June, but fresh air for the fine free. Well, if you wanna talk about it in my definition, space Clay that you have free will if your decisions are reflects nothing more than the laws of physics. Depends on your mind as reflected figure, Jack Endowment and the environments you've experienced it. In other words, I consider free will as a form of dualistic for you and that I reject someone at the terminus. Believe- and I think you agree with me- cuz. I read your book that anyone point in time. It's completely the configuration molecules in the universe, in particular your brain, that mandates, what you do and that you could not
done anything other than you did. In other words, you couldn't he don't have any choices. You know you think you're doing it looks like you do what you don't really and so on a determined us in that sense, and so our people like Dan Dennin, who nevertheless retain their is free. Will they do that by a semantic track? By redefining Free will is, and you know those tricks that called compatible lists. My view is this purely a semantic game that those people do it largely because from what you said that the notion that we don't have freewill that were more or less wet robe it's as frightening as the idea that we're going to die. I'm now we have to accept death because we see it all around us, but it's harder for people to accept that your brains are reflecting the laws of physics, and so they reject it. Even Steven Weinberg at the naturalist
Since that bridge a couple years ago, his affairs is that the terminus, an atheist, would not accept the fact that he could not decided otherwise at any given moment So if somebody a smart, is that fines freely? so appealing that they'll believe it regardless vote, ever since, then you can see how seductive a notion that really is. I now notice and unhappy, and now g and really symmetry between the compatible ism versus arm. Vision of determinism on the one hand and accommodation ism which we ve been talking about for an hour, and the wreckage In that there is a zero sum contest between faith and reason are really in science right either. Isn't it They have a non overlapping magisterium Isaac. I see people like, let me say, does dad's gonna hear this. Probably it's only said, I love you and I can hug you if you were here, but I definitely agree with your views on compatibilism there. Oh, I think they compatible is to redefine free will to me.
Like. Freewill means doing something without a gun to your head or without being like. In prison on various or that humans are complex, and so we have a lot more in What's that go into our output, since that constitutes the redefinition freeware it. So I like theology first in several respects, first of all, because they redefine something which is free will in case the theologians. It's god that it is, about two people. It doesnt disturb them. Some lunch there immune to challenges its basically semantic game. They play the same game and they do it like theologians, because they think that society that doesnt leaving we were asked is gonna, run amok when people have said this explicit lay down set at any moment- yes, I'm not sure that's aprons, his name is set, and they think that if we realise that, were our behaviors really determined
we're gonna become either nihilists or criminal acts It's either dad says because he criticised belief and believe it is the belief that religion is good for other people, if not for you, for you on the same grounds. That without believing religion, people going or the bee nihilists? This is from a symmetry there. It's not true course. I mean I I don't know if you and I think what we consider ourselves abstained people to me either important issue is not how you define freewill its issue: determinism, which is the really important one in every four us for practically determinist. They know you could not be able we do at any one time, and yet some people will say work that still ok, we ever from through. I think, as you say in your book, it were that's. You could construed as it were puppets that love our stressing that there are some Aspects of this that I find surprising when I've tried to unpack,
when I think of the moral implications of believe in what we believe about determinism and therefore in a person's ability to do other than than what they and one thing is that I was considering what a person's actions says about him and that the example I use. I think this was in pushing back against Dan Tenets Review of my book. Free will the example he gave based on the work of the philosopher, Austin was they missed. Potsey have some one day of golfer, whose three from the hall and he tries to make his pipe and he misses it, and the idea that he could not do otherwise, because here the universe was in precisely the configuration it was, including every year charge in his nervous system that doesn't
tell you anything of interest about what sort of golfer he is what you want, and this is Dan's arguing against me now. What you want to know is just what he would do in general. In that circumstance, that's that's how you understand his responsibilities, the golfer and his likely future behavior. And that's fine as far as I'm concerned, it is true that you want to be able to generalise over many similar instances, but though difference in their micro structure, what I call for is capable of, but one thing I found interesting when I thought about this, was that when you take a golfer like Tiger Woods and he misses a three foot pot and given that the reality of data when as him, he would miss that part. A trillion times in a row in whatever went wrong, went wrong and it would keep going wrong every time you re wine, the universe to its exact state. It reveals that there are two things you have
seemed to have to hold in mind at the same time, one is if anyone should have made that put its tiger woods. He is he he's more responsible in the conventional sense of responsibility for in that pot than any other golfer, certainly he's more responsible than I would be, because I'm the kind of golfer who mrs pots of that length all the time. So we what we expected him to to make it. He missed it, and therefore the program attached to that error should be highest in his case, on the one hand, is a greater failure for him because he really should have made if, on the other, is missing. It says the least, about him, because he's gonna make that putting hundred times in a row it, as I had I actually have a strong conclusion based on that, but it seems kind of a paradox where the the closer you get to this notion of responsibility in the micro instance of of something happening. They are the more it seems undeserved. Yes,
so there are wondering what is the use of a programme is forty five Tiger woods anyway, criticising it, because he must have parties gonna, make him a better golfer. Her nerves are just some instinctive feeling we have all this. I mean that argument to me just finances the really important issue of moral responsibility. I mean, I don't think we have more responsibility, but I think we have responsibility in a way that has to be adjudicated in society in through a programme punishment. This is what bothers me about all of these compatible as some people who talk about well because there are the terminus, instead of concentrating on the really important issue for society, which is that we could not be able than we do and what are the implications of that forces from punishment reward they place math and game, engaging you know, if, maybe you know, engage him come for just end
debate about how these hypotheticals and examples about how we could construe free will not win? The real issue is: what do we do about the criminal justice system? How do we deal with people that transgressor gazers society. Knowing now that that rightly thing done, you know it seems to me that for us, for the real problems for society is the problem of determinism which everybody accepts but which people are compatible us ignore, and I dont understand why they prefer Platy semantic games then deal with the one thing that we all agree on, which is that we could not do. Then what we do right and industry be cleared it to say that we could not do otherwise is not to say that certain punishments don't deter certain classes of crime or that people can learn to behave better than nay than they have in the past or the or the rehabilitation of certain criminals as possible or not, or the cure of certain psychological problems.
Possible, or not with these. Are it still matters? What a person does or is done to him and people can be discouraged successfully in many cases, from misbehaving base on the kinds of laws we enact and the kinds of punishments we lay down for them, but it's not in any specific instance. A person does exactly what he in fact does based on a combination of as is that precede his agency and his agency is just an expression of everything that has made him what he is in that moment, and we we recognise that, when in in specific cases where no. You find a brain tumor and in the brain of some criminal that is in the right place to have influence. His behaviour than you think well, as in the case of Charles Whitman. This is desperate, and was unlucky, whereas you don't find a brain tumor, but you have to have the bewildering,
complexity of neural physiology as yet understood that that is as of argued elsewhere, just Eagle, a brain tumor in that case case insisted. That is just as causal in his case, but that doesn't mean that if people are responsive to certain punishments, we can't we can't use punishments to get them to respond in certain ways. If you can, if it behaviour, is voluntary that the nature of its being voluntary is that it can be discouraged by punishment? If you're gonna find me a thing one dollars every time. I stay five minutes too long. Parkin meter, I will I will change my relationship departed meters, yeah understand. This is the greatest misconception we have about. Determinism amongst the public. Is that you can't? If determinism is true, you can influence people's behaviour by your brain.
That's probably far savages example, if you a dog every time comes various gonna come near here. You know, I mean the dog learn something we can learn ice actually says anything. You do that all criminals innocence have rain to us, but you can't say even of those people more than saying destructive it Hasn'T- people have a visceral reaction to the heck because their says of agencies so great. They can't believe that they have them metzler equivalent of a brain tumor. They do something wrong. But you know anybody who knows anything about the laws of physics knows that that is true, and I mean what I like about determinism. Why think people like dad should be really talking about that, rather than the springs and again this because it puts the whole system of punishment, rewards especially criminal punishment and rewards on scientific basis, and we now we can figure out. Ok, how do we wrote rehabilitate somewhat are the actions that we
can take that will affect somebody in such weather they reserve, or how long does it do? We need to put somebody way before were referring them. Some we could. We sell, can have punishment for deterrence two sequestered people from society and for reformation, but now we can invite gate scientifically. What are the best ways to intercede? Do that and we do all that without saying these people are bad with that their moral response, but which I think they're the can we get rid of us. What we know and anyway, which is punishment outer vindictiveness for retribution and we dont nobody likes- that Illinois enlightened person like seven. That's the one automatically goes away when you start believing that free will, illusion. However, This is a very deep and interesting area
could probably merit its own, our, but damn it. I can. Finally, people have the same views as we do about this, but I think that there the correct views, because they stems directly from the laws of physics. I mean that from everything else in the rest is commentary by. In this case, I think it's it's actually helpful that the Ethical implications are, at least in my view, the nine or positive is not that you suddenly wind up in a world. You don't want to live in when you follow these. The the message of this physical truth to the to the end, its. I think it's improves. As you say, our approach to fundamental ethical questions and it is conceivable that there are certain truths that we wouldn't want to know things that are, if known, would release. I believe degrade r r I'll be in our ability to get where we were
out of life buses out of the certainly does not seem one of them in that, and that seems to be Dan's fear. At least you didn't have his moods when he, when he talks about yeah and this one other thing which has struck me the day when I was thinking about enrolling girl, front, I hadn't feeling regrets and a sudden, like you know, kicked him I do you know what happened happened. There was no choice about the matter and why should I feel any regret where Shea wish that things had turned out differently? could not have turned out differently, so there are personal, positive things too. Fact is our sense of agencies with us. I don't know how it evolve or whites there, but it's not going to turn this into a town returns to simply recognise that were governed by the laws of physics. We do have this powerful Lucian and their personal and societal benefits from at least addressing andalusian and seeing lights. Illusion, as you do in your but near we honestly, I leave it to go one epiphany further, I dont actually have the illusion when I pay attend
for me a moment of what I would call my in this meditation is synonymous with just noticing that every sing a rises on its own, including thoughts and intentions and preferences and fears. Every everything is just springing into view, whether it's a matter of just two phenomena I'll get my own mental life or things perceptual experiences, that I notice in the world or my perceptions of the world. So I just as I can't pick the next thing I hear, because a sea of the south The next sound simply impinges on my ear drum. I can't pick the next thing. I think the next thought just appears. So how is that a basis for free- well- yes, this doesn't have been met, That's not to deny that my thoughts follow a certain predictable pattern. I can tell you Some certainty that I won't start thinking in Korean. We had five minutes from now, because I dont understand a word of it and the kinds of things I think about like
my wife, my book, that's all that's predictable, but in each in the micro instance. The next thing that springs that springs simply springs into view and and that the irony for me is that close attention to mental life doesn't give us this basis fur, free well either to most people, think that there is a theirs is very strong experience of free will that we do. We just can't figure out how to square with reality. But if you look closely, I would argue the experience itself begins to break apart and again, it's breaking apart is not harmful to give us a levels virtual advanced from having a change to the consumer Just wondering if this is just a personal question, so you live on two planes at once. Then, when you were going to the restaurant you order steak. Are you thinking about you're thinking about ordering the steak when you do that You are aware that this piece of meat What's on your mind,
wondering where it came from her because she was a very different way of living than most people. Do it's not so much a it's, not a matter of thinking about the origins of impulses and intentions, it's just noticing. That would at one thing arises or doesn't in a way that that I can't account for that, I being the conscious witness of of my experience, can't account for sowing seed so on on certain occasions, a desire for stake will will arise and on others it won't, and I am motivated, precisely due to the to the degree that I am and no further to resist it, to indulge in annexes there's a fundamental mystery of. Why Anything happens as it does. In any instance, but it is not a matter of adding more thinking to the experience is just a matter of just now.
Saying that in this instance, they desire for one food opposed to another is arising, and if you asked me why that was the case. I e the honest man There is, I don't know, and in every case will now be modest. Re case rested his verses were further because you could do you could actually think about. We sat mistakenly think aware at stake, because I have a stake in three days of her. I feel didn't have brought you can view the influences on your your mind and makes them plaza? In many cases, applause, a plausible gas as to why you have been influenced the way you have so ask. I could have just seen a commercial. Mistake and when I walked into the restaurant an hour later, I can consciously recall that commercial and how much that may be want aid stake, then, and now
now. I wanted it now and so that the causality seems explicit, but what I want I still can't get behind war I understand, is your: what why commercial have that effect on me in this Is it not in another case, you know why and will end, and why did have the effect that it is precisely that degree and or why didn't it? It have the opposite effect. Where I thought I too have an eye enough stake. My ethics are more in line with the innovators, it's kind of disgust, and why would I want to eat that we get a buffet at around by the world. In ways which yes, it can cause. Count for why we do what we do in many instances, but we still can account for why those causes are active in one case and not in another, and why we fall off our diet and jumped back on it all off again in in precisely those moments we do is just again as Tiger Woods, missing a pot and making the other and not being able to for why why it
went that way in that instance, so similar vacuum Where is it a long way to go before most people are convinced that their behaviour is determined. I mean, I think, that's the proliferation, but you are illusion of agencies is so strong that, by acting An important endeavour are really do, and I wish that philosophers were turned their attention that, instead of word games, listen there has been great to talk to you and disappear at the time you ve taken with me- and I wish you the best of luck with the launch of your book, which shut all of our listeners, should read because it lays out this. Problem, which is not going away. I don't think any time in our lifetime in which every generation faces. Just how is it? you form a rational picture of the world which allow
I urge you to find a durable away of collaborating with strangers and what are the with the primary impediments to doing that, and I think you know you and I both agree- that that religious dogmatism is high on the list of things to worry about their yes. Well thanks for coming, I appreciate your endorsement yeah. Well, good luck and I will I will keep it up and in both are trenches. Ok, take care, a character if you find this podcast able there are many ways you can support it. You can review I tunes or stature. Whoever happens to listen to it. You can share social media with your friends, you can blog about it or discuss it on your own podcast or you can support it directly and you can do this by subscribing through my website as samharris dot org and there you'll find subscriber only content which includes my ask me anything episodes you also get access to advance tickets to my live events as well as streaming video of some of these events.
And he also get to hear the bonus questions from many of these interviews,
Transcript generated on 2020-03-24.