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Author Topic:   Science, Religion, and Politics (Jazzns and randman)
Jazzns
Member (Idle past 1297 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


Message 1 of 10 (385202)
02-14-2007 3:51 PM


This thread is meant to be a great debate between myself and randman about the conflict or role of each of science, religion, and politics in another. In particular, we will be discussing the view of some prominent authors on this topic starting with Sam Harris' 'Letter to a Christian Nation'

Later randman may choose another book or essay that is antithetical to the position of Sam Harris, an avowed atheist and critic of religion.

I picked up my copy of LtCN yesterday and got through the introduction. I don't imagine it will take me all that long to read as it is less than 100 small pages. That being said I also want to take my time.

I want to start by quoting from the introduction a section that I feel is important to understanding this book.

Harris writes:

The primary purpose of this book is to arm secularists in our society, who believe that religion should be kept out of public policy, against their opponents on the Christian Right. Consequently, the "Christian" I address throughout is a Christian in a narrow sense of the term. Such a person believes at a minimum, that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that only those who accept the divinity of Jesus Christ will experience salvation after death.

In other words, this is meant to be an assault on the stereotypical Christian. Hopefully this will temper any complaint from randman that the book is biased or has any other purpose such as rigorous defense of secularism.

Rather than go off on tangential claims of equivalence of some of Sam’s arguments against dogma, I would like as much as possible to focus on the particular claims and whether they are true on their own. You may be able to mount an equally damning case against atheism or secularism on its own but that cannot logically negate any analogous claims against religion.

I would like to start my real analysis of Harris by first pointing out what I believe to be a fundamental flaw in one of his opening arguments.

Harris is talking about how Christians will be all too quick to denounce other religions on nothing but their base absurdities. He says:

Harris writes:

The truth is, you know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with respect to the beliefs of Muslims. Isn’t it obvious that Muslims are fooling themselves? Isn’t it obvious that anyone who thinks the Koran is the perfect word of the creator of the universe has not read the book critically? Isn’t it obvious that the doctrine of Islam represents a near perfect barrier to honest inquiry? Yes, these things are obvious. Understand that they way you view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity, And it is the way I view all religions.

The problem with this is not that it is necessarily wrong, but that it is not IMO the primary reasoning most Christians use to discredit Islam. Most Christians will turn to the Bible and their religion itself as all the evidence they need to reject Islam. Islam says that Christ is not God, therefore Islam is wrong. They reject it not because it is absurd or it is a barrier to honest inquiry. They reject it because THEIR religion tells them to.

It seems as though Sam has somewhat missed the point while trying to make this comparison. While what he says may be true for the already non-religious, it makes no sense to use this reasoning to try to convict the religious that their dogma is irrational because the reason they reject other religions is, by Harris’ own standards, equally irrational.

Great Debate forum please.

Edited by Jazzns, : No reason given.


Of course, biblical creationists are committed to belief in God's written Word, the Bible, which forbids bearing false witness; --AIG (lest they forget)
Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by randman, posted 02-15-2007 3:26 PM Jazzns has responded

  
Admin
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Message 2 of 10 (385363)
02-15-2007 10:00 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Jazzns, posted 02-15-2007 11:11 AM Admin has responded

    
Jazzns
Member (Idle past 1297 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


Message 3 of 10 (385375)
02-15-2007 11:11 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by Admin
02-15-2007 10:00 AM


Thanks. Does randman have permissions to this forum?


Of course, biblical creationists are committed to belief in God's written Word, the Bible, which forbids bearing false witness; --AIG (lest they forget)
This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by Admin, posted 02-15-2007 10:00 AM Admin has responded

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 Message 4 by Admin, posted 02-15-2007 11:31 AM Jazzns has not yet responded

  
Admin
Director
Posts: 12439
From: EvC Forum
Joined: 06-14-2002
Member Rating: 2.3


Message 4 of 10 (385381)
02-15-2007 11:31 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Jazzns
02-15-2007 11:11 AM


Natch!


--Percy
EvC Forum Director

This message is a reply to:
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randman 
Suspended Member (Idle past 2285 days)
Posts: 6367
Joined: 05-26-2005


Message 5 of 10 (385417)
02-15-2007 3:26 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jazzns
02-14-2007 3:51 PM


preliminary comments
Jazzns, I look forward to getting into this, but cannot do so this afternoon yet. However, reading your initial OP, I think a few comments might be helpful.

In other words, this is meant to be an assault on the stereotypical Christian. Hopefully this will temper any complaint from randman that the book is biased or has any other purpose such as rigorous defense of secularism.

Rather than go off on tangential claims of equivalence of some of Sam’s arguments against dogma, I would like as much as possible to focus on the particular claims and whether they are true on their own. You may be able to mount an equally damning case against atheism or secularism on its own but that cannot logically negate any analogous claims against religion.

Not having read the book yet, I cannot address if this is necessary or not, but imo, whatever the book says is fair game here. I am a little concerned about trying to limit the discussion up-front just because there is a stated purpose. For example, you mention that you quote him here to avoid the idea there is bias, but imo, the stated purpose seems rife with the potential for bias rather than cancelling it out. Keep in mind I haven't read the book, but starting out with a statement the book is about attacking Christians, and this makes the guy immune to charges of bias seems a bit off.

Maybe I am missing something?

Also, attacking religion is in itself a de facto defense of atheism or secularism, is it not? So that concept seems to be advanced in the stated purpose of the book as well. Of course, it may not be a "rigorous defense", but more of defense versus offense.

You may be able to mount an equally damning case against atheism or secularism on its own but that cannot logically negate any analogous claims against religion.

That is true, but it could make Harris or anyone hypocritical if they critique a belief systems by standards their belief system cannot uphold, and they insinuate or suggest otherwise, and that's a fair area of exploration, imo.

Btw, I appreciate your first point, and I'll take some time when I can to read this, and jump in. Thanks for the invite.

Edited by randman, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jazzns, posted 02-14-2007 3:51 PM Jazzns has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 6 by Jazzns, posted 02-15-2007 4:17 PM randman has responded

  
Jazzns
Member (Idle past 1297 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


Message 6 of 10 (385423)
02-15-2007 4:17 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by randman
02-15-2007 3:26 PM


Re: preliminary comments
About bais, I think my main point is that this book is at its face a biased position and makes not bones about it. We won't be talking about a balanced treatment of the merits of religion in soceity and science. I hope that clears that up.

Regarding my second statement about analogous claims, my only fear is getting into a discussion where a particular deficiency is brought up and rather than discuss/refute/defend that claim of deficiency on its own merits the argument becomes a mere ping-pong match of who can list more analogous deficiencies.

For example, Harris is critical of religion on the basis of dogmatism. I am sure you would argue that the current scientific community is also dogmatic, mostly because I have seen you take this position before. I think though that we can examine these claims seperatly without relevance to eachother. If dogmatism in religion leads to negative consequences, these are not negated by showing that science is ALSO dogmatic. If both are dogmatic, that just means we have a larger problem on our hands as a whole.

Does that make sense?


Of course, biblical creationists are committed to belief in God's written Word, the Bible, which forbids bearing false witness; --AIG (lest they forget)
This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by randman, posted 02-15-2007 3:26 PM randman has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by randman, posted 02-15-2007 5:29 PM Jazzns has not yet responded
 Message 8 by randman, posted 02-21-2007 4:43 PM Jazzns has responded

  
randman 
Suspended Member (Idle past 2285 days)
Posts: 6367
Joined: 05-26-2005


Message 7 of 10 (385442)
02-15-2007 5:29 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Jazzns
02-15-2007 4:17 PM


Re: preliminary comments
If dogmatism in religion leads to negative consequences, these are not negated by showing that science is ALSO dogmatic. If both are dogmatic, that just means we have a larger problem on our hands as a whole.

Does that make sense?

Sure. Let's don't sweat it too much. I haven't read the book yet, and I think we'll have a fruitful discussion.....maybe as much as discussion as debate, but we'll see. That's how I am approaching it, at least.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Jazzns, posted 02-15-2007 4:17 PM Jazzns has not yet responded

  
randman 
Suspended Member (Idle past 2285 days)
Posts: 6367
Joined: 05-26-2005


Message 8 of 10 (386427)
02-21-2007 4:43 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Jazzns
02-15-2007 4:17 PM


Re: preliminary comments
Jazzns, just wanted to let you know I haven't forgotten but some pressing business matters have taken up a lot of energy the past week and may do so for the next few days. Hopefully this weekend or before, I can jump into this.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Jazzns, posted 02-15-2007 4:17 PM Jazzns has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by Jazzns, posted 03-21-2007 5:05 PM randman has responded

  
Jazzns
Member (Idle past 1297 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


Message 9 of 10 (390722)
03-21-2007 5:05 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by randman
02-21-2007 4:43 PM


Re: preliminary comments
It has been a month since you last reply. Are you still interested in doing this? If not then can we move this over to the general forum?


Of course, biblical creationists are committed to belief in God's written Word, the Bible, which forbids bearing false witness; --AIG (lest they forget)
This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by randman, posted 02-21-2007 4:43 PM randman has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by randman, posted 03-21-2007 5:35 PM Jazzns has not yet responded

  
randman 
Suspended Member (Idle past 2285 days)
Posts: 6367
Joined: 05-26-2005


Message 10 of 10 (390727)
03-21-2007 5:35 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Jazzns
03-21-2007 5:05 PM


Re: preliminary comments
Are you still interested in doing this?

I am, believe it or not, but a ton of things have occurred necessitating my attention: business litigation which is fairly serious; my wife's sister in a very bad accident so I am Mr Mom sometimes; getting the flu; and also some positive things such as some very good business opportunities, and this time of year, watching the Heels in post-season play.

I've just got to get around to getting and reading the book, and the debate should be fairly easy to do, even with all this stuff going on.

Sorry about the delays.

Edited by randman, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Jazzns, posted 03-21-2007 5:05 PM Jazzns has not yet responded

  
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