Sam Harris & Richard Dawkins talk about The Moral Landscape

A special podcast of last night’s discussion at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford between Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris on Harris’ new book The Moral Landscape. The event was co-organised between CFI UK, the BHA, the RDFSR, Project Reason and Oxford Atheists, Secularists And Humanists.

We have also interviewed Sam Harris on our regular weekly programme. You subscribe to our regular weekly podcast here or find out more and stream it here..


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Previous appearances by Richard Dawkins on the Pod Delusion: Episode 71, Episode 21, Darwin Day 2011

13 thoughts on “Sam Harris & Richard Dawkins talk about The Moral Landscape

  1. I always find the Trolly problem easily solvable. While it may be aquestionable choice to push the fatman from the bridge… you always have the choice to jump. No one ever brings up that possibility.

  2. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve heard Sam Harris run through his pitch for The Moral Landscape. I really wanted to understand where he’s coming from, and I tried (again) to see it from his perspective, but I remain unconvinced. Perhaps 10 or 20 years from now, with neurological advances, his ideas will have more relevance. If I’m missing something in SH’s argument, I’d be happy to have this explained to me :)

  3. Sam Harris & Richard Dawkins speaks the truth about religions. I myself , believes that God is man made and has no piont in this centry. The evil is allways spoken by religions, Christian, Moslem and JW about Humanism.

  4. @ThomasGC

    My take on Harris’ argument is that he’s folding two arguments together.

    Argument 1:

    If the values by which a moral claim may be evaluated relate to consequences in the natural world, then that moral claim can be evaluated scientifically.

    Argument 2: All the values by which a moral claim may be evaluated are reducible to one of two groups.

    a) Advancement of human flourishing.
    b) Pathological (and dismiss-able as such)

    Argument 1 I think is entirely straightforward and beyond reasonable dispute.

    Where Sam seems to lose people is argument 2.

    Personally I’m persuaded by Sam on argument 2. I think any claims to ethical values that are not reducible to human flourishing aren’t to be taken seriously.

    But to me this is an axiom from which I begin. I’m not sure how to even begin arguing for that starting point based on something else more basic – it’s the philosophical bedrock upon which I build. I can make arguments from consequences – but that won’t do, as it’s ultimately circular.

    Sam hasn’t (yet) given me something yet that I’m happy to use as an ironclad retort to the doubters of that core moral premise.

    Even so – as far as core moral premises go, I’m still confident that anything else would be a) worse and b) equally unfounded on deeper principles.

    Does any of that spin your wheels?

  5. Hang on.

    The questioner at 74:27 sounds familiar.

    That’s not Damien Hess (MC Frontalot) by any chance?

    Doesn’t *quite* sound like him, but it’s a little close. Definitely a similar lilt.

  6. Could you ask Sam Harris the following: why do you want science to be able to answer moral questions, if moral philosophy can undoubtedly do so?

  7. I believe, as many atheists do, that there is no absolute moral right and wrong, in the absence of a heavenly father. We humans have certain principles that almost most of us accept, but not all. The best we can do is state the basic moral ideas that most of us agree upon, and then test a moral issue to see whether it meets the rules of the majority. Sam Harris seems to think that there are “moral facts” – truths that are provable through logic. In order for that to be true, however, you have to define certain basic principles that will be used in the evaluation, and that’s where the difficulty lies. The most basic idea is that which promotes the most happiness for the greatest number is good, but the world is too complicated for that to make every moral situation subject to a logical yes or no.

  8. Matthew Byrd asks SH

    “why do you want science to be able to answer moral questions, if moral philosophy can undoubtedly do so?”

    DMcK answer

    Because philosophy is so wishy washy that it can never be put to the test.

    My question to you

    Why do you not want to make science provide you with the most evidence of moral good and the most probable direction for future moral change?

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