9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Best approach I have heard of,
This review is from: The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (Hardcover)Lets get a few things out of the way.
If you actually understand what Mr Harris is saying (which many negative reviewers clearly did not) you should understand this:
1) He does not advocate moral relativism in the sense that 'anything goes'. He clearly outlines what he means by morals and then goes on to describe a framework for identifying those moral frameworks which work better than others. He does say that there may be multiple, and equally beneficial, systems for moral reasoning. That is far from saying 'anything goes' (i.e. rape, murder, etc...). This is perhaps the strongest aspect of his argument. He does not claim to know the answer. He does not claim that the answer is 100% knowable. He describes how we have been coming ever closer in some respects (and farther in others) to a moral system that allows more people to live fulfilling lives than could be imagined 200 years ago (and i'm not talking about advances in technology or medicine).
2) He clearly argues against moral absolutism. He convincingly explains why moral absolutism is dangerous and how, despite Religions attempts to claim an unchanging moral compass, the majority of so-called religious moderates are actually shifting their moral leanings/interpretations of their holy books in response to a changing Moral landscape. It is those that do not change their morals that we call 'fundamentalists'.
3) He is not trying to 'prove' anything. He has described a reasonable way in which science, logic, observation and discourse can lead to productive and conscious choices about morality. Over time it is reasonable to hope that we could weed out bad 'moral' prescriptions and modify/replace them with others to move in a direction of increased human flourishing.
If you are the type of person who, without your holy book you would rape, steal and murder, this book will not help you. Actually "God" will not help you either (you probably need counselling and a dose of some anti-psychotics), but that's a topic for another day. On the other hand, if you are the type of person who is uncomfortable with moral prescriptions based solely on ancient texts, this book is definitely a good read. You may not agree with every point, but the book is well written, orderly and thorough. At the end of the day I would much sooner adopt a reality-based moral system than one arbitrarily constructed by ancient mystics. At least if you make a mistake that increases suffering (in the world imagined by Sam Harris) you can identify the problem and correct it. Sacred texts on the other hand shackle you to whatever barbarism is contained therein, otherwise you 'protest' the interpretations of the text and move in arbitrary (without the guidance of evidence and reason) moral directions in the hope of finding something better (a kind of moral evolution you might say, with the unfortunate consequence of mountains of needless suffering).