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Can science replace religions in determining our morals?

From: Jairo M.
Sent on: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 4:14 PM
Sam Harris is at it again. Making us think and rethink our values, our faith, our beliefs, all for the betterment of our lives.
Sam Harris writes "The wisdom of the Buddha is currently trapped within the religion of Buddhism. Even in the West, where scientists and Buddhist contemplatives now collaborate in studying the effects of meditation on the brain, Buddhism remains an utterly parochial concern. While it may be true enough to say (as many Buddhist practitioners allege) that “Buddhism is not a religion,” most Buddhists worldwide practice it as such, in many of the naive, petitionary, and superstitious ways in which all religions are practiced. Needless to say, all non-Buddhists believe Buddhism to be a religion—and, what is more, they are quite certain that it is the wrong religion."
Read the whole article at[masked]
Sam Harris, in the same article referred to above, titled "Killing the Buddha", continues to pick on all religions:
Religion is also the only area of our discourse in which people are systematically protected from the demand to give evidence in defense of their strongly held beliefs. And yet, these beliefs often determine what they live for, what they will die for, and—all too often—what they will kill for. This is a problem, because when the stakes are high, human beings have a simple choice between conversation and violence. At the level of societies, the choice is between conversation and war. There is nothing apart from a fundamental willingness to be reasonable—to have one’s beliefs about the world revised by new evidence and new arguments—that can guarantee we will keep talking to one another. Certainty without evidence is necessarily divisive and dehumanizing.
Therefore, one of the greatest challenges facing civilization in the twenty-first century is for human beings to learn to speak about their deepest personal concerns—about ethics, spiritual experience, and the inevitability of human suffering—in ways that are not flagrantly irrational. Nothing stands in the way of this project more than the respect we accord religious faith. While there is no guarantee that rational people will always agree, the irrational are certain to be divided by their dogmas."
Along the same lines of removing the "religion" out of Buddhism, Sam Harris is more recently getting people to remove all religions from the determination of morality. Now imagine for a moment that science comes up with the theory of morality, and out of that, the laws of morality, the actual moral laws of cause and effect [or Karma]. And that they can be expressed in simple equations. Then technology (and Steve Jobs) can create an iPrud (short for prudent), a hand held device that tells us what we ought to do in any situation. Then we will make morally correct choices and the morally correct actions will result in well being for ourselves and those around us. Imagine that. But that is not what Sam Harris suggested, that is only what I am asking you to imagine. What Sam Harris wants us to do is to allow science to improve our moral sense by taking the power to determine morality [what's good and what's bad] away from religion and letting scientists and philosophers give us the scientific answers to our moral dilemmas. Does that make sense? Let me introduce what the Free Press has published to generate interest in Sam Harris and his book "The Moral Landscape" and perhaps we will become curious to learn more.

Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people—from religious fundamentalists to non-believing scientists—agree on one point: Science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the most common justification for religious faith. It is also the primary reason why so many secularists and religious moderates feel obligated to “respect” the hardened superstitions of their more devout neighbors.

In this explosive new book, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a “moral landscape.” Because there are definite facts to be known about where we fall on this landscape, Harris foresees a time when science will no longer limit itself to merely describing what people do in the name of “morality”; in principle, science should be able to tell us what we ought to do to live the best lives possible.

Bringing a fresh perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, Harris demonstrates that we already 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, moral relativism is simply false—and comes at increasing cost to humanity. And the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can be finally repelled: for 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,” Harris delivers a game-changing book about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation.

What do you think? Does Sam Harris have valid points? What do you foresee? Please join Buddhism for Happiness meetup group at to reply in the Message Board at the message[masked]
Check out Sam Harris talking about his book The Moral Landscape at
You will also find an excellent presentation of his at the TED talks
Start reading the thread at[masked] which includes much of this message and the full article "Killing the Buddha" by Sam Harris. And then reply at the end of the thread at[masked] but you will need to join Buddhism for Happiness to make comments.

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