Notable and Quotable

Nevertheless, Harris’s project to articulate a standard of morality, though it does not fully succeed, is especially important in light of the moral weakness that so frequently holds hands with today’s atheism. He quotes Joshua Greene, a neuroscientist, who argues that “there is sufficient uniformity in people’s underlying moral outlooks to warrant speaking as if there is a fact of the matter about what’s ”˜right’ or ”˜wrong,’ ”˜just’ or ”˜unjust.’” Greene claims that articulating a natural-law theory, even if it could be done, is pointless. Most of us, he reasons, believe in the same moral ideas, so we don’t need to articulate them so formally.

As we are locked in an open-ended battle with terrorists and leaders for whom Greene’s “sufficient uniformity” of morality is a fiction, we must not only do good but also defend good. To his credit, this is not lost on Sam Harris. He describes an encounter with a current member of President Obama’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, who lectures him on the Taliban. “You could never say that they were wrong,” she says, for they are entitled to their own valid beliefs. That Harris strains to counter such relativism with charts, graphs, and cat scans is a moral, if ineffective, undertaking in itself.

–Aaron Rothstein in a review of Sam Harris’ “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values” in the January, 2011, Commentary, p.56


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Faiths, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

2 comments on “Notable and Quotable

  1. Hakkatan says:

    “‘You could never say that they were wrong,’ she says, for they are entitled to their own valid beliefs.”

    Relativism will always end in tyranny, even if the relativists do not think so, and believe that the natural and normal state of humanity is democracy. Does no one know any history?

  2. Terry Chapman says:

    “mosto of us believe in the same moral ideas”… It is the “most” that is the problem when we are also forced to uncritically accept all ideas as valid, and prevented from articulating the distinctions.