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Humanists of Colorado Message Board › Sam Harris - Fireplace Delusion article

Sam Harris - Fireplace Delusion article

David F.
user 21042061
Aurora, CO
Post #: 6
Great read: http://www.samharris....­

Reminder of how it feels to have your beliefs questioned.
Jeanette M. N.
wickedatheist
Denver, CO
Post #: 3,930
That did challenge my beliefs; I thought that "medical marijuana" proponents were the only people who thought that breathing smoke could be good for them.
David F.
user 21042061
Aurora, CO
Post #: 7
That's why I vaporize. Perhaps I've said too much. smile

It is so easy to be called a 'militant' atheist and have your moral character criticized, all you have to do is question popular ontology in any way, even with polite humor. I often overhear christians talking among themselves berating and even violently threaten other ontology and insisting it includes atheism too. I grow more tired of the double standard every day and "if atheism is a religion then abstinence is a sex act" as Bill Maher recently said.
A former member
Post #: 84
That's very interesting... Admittedly I'd never thought of whether burning wood is bad for us, but it makes sense. I, for one, readily accept the evidence smile. Then again, I never had a great affection for it, so it's easier for me.
Barbara
user 3714281
Denver, CO
Post #: 36
I wish it had challenged my beliefs, because I would have liked to have experienced the thing Harris is trying to get us to experience, but, in this particular case, I never really imagined that breathing smoke was healthy.
Barbara
user 3714281
Denver, CO
Post #: 37
While typing my last post, I burned something on the stove, so now I'm breathing smoke. laughing cough, cough
A former member
Post #: 2
While I don't deny the science the article is based on, I do take issue with the insinuation the article makes that the data is sufficient justification for blanket bans on burning wood. What concerns me about this logic is how it may be used to impair individuals' freedom to engage in potentially harmful behaviors. (I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out)

Statistically speaking, rock climbing is one of the most harmful things you can engage in, and from a perspective of annual deaths it should be banned outright. Yet nobody is calling for such a ban because, dangerous as rock climbing may be, it is a personal choice that does not typically bring harm to those not directly engaged in the activity. You can argue that it is a poor choice of activity due to its risk, but for many the recreational value clearly outweighs the risk.

Now, I do realize smoke from wood fires is a bit different in that it is vented into the atmosphere and can affect others. However, I would argue against blanket bans in favor of more nuanced approaches. For instance, while wood smoke can be statistically linked to various health issues, I'm sure there is a curve correlating health issues with level of exposure to said smoke. The question we should be asking ourselves is not "should this behavior be allowed?" but rather "At what levels does this behavior become significantly harmful, and how can we minimize this harm and/or compensate those who are harmed by it?"

Alas, politics as it is typically practiced allows no room for such nuances. If it did, we could determine a marginal "safe" level of wood burning below which significant health problems should not occur, and we could also grant passes to anyone who installs a method of scrubbing contaminants from their chimney emissions, if they wish to go to that expense and the effectiveness of their methods can be independently verified.

As another example, I enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages. I realize that, statistically speaking, any level of drinking increases my risk for liver cirrhosis and cancers of various types, but knowing those risks I still choose to engage in the activity. You could make the claim that my drinking brings harm to others because, statistically speaking, my risk of violent behavior or harmful accidents increases with intoxication, and thus alcohol should be banned. This has proven to be a poor approach, however, so rather than a blanket ban on alcohol, we instead find ourselves with a ban on the activities most harmful or dangerous to others while intoxicated(i.e. driving) and a significant campaign to inform people of both the risks of alcohol and how to minimize said risks.

The problem is not a matter of belief, but a matter of personal desires and how they are handled in light of evidence. Try to keep people informed of the personal risks that they are engaging in, but if someone is informed of the risk and still chooses to engage in it, the focus should not be on stopping them, but on preventing any harm to others.

I know that this is not the primary focus of the article, but it seems to me that the article implicitly links scientific objectivity to this sort of political behavior. I make this point because too often I see forms of political radicalism being "justified" by the use of scientific data, such as the health professionals who claim that things like "refined sugar should be treated like a toxin" and "cupcakes are just as dangerous as antifreeze". (actual quotes from the news programs) Invariably they have plenty of statistical data to lend "scientific" weight to their claims, but fail to look beneath the surface of that data to see the myriad factors that the data reflect, instead choosing to focus on one or two things to use as scapegoats for a broad statistical trend within a highly complex system. This sort of oversimplification reinforces irrationality and lends credibility to the methods of religious organizations, and should be avoided wherever possible.
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