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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some reviewers seem to be missing the point of the book
Brilliant!
I am doing an Msc in neuroscience and was recommended this book and was told it would be an interesting read for someone of my outlook on things. It certainly was. I can't recommend it enough to anyone with an interest in science.

As far as I can tell the message of this books is simple. Unless i'm wrong and i might be, see what you think...
Published on 27 April 2011 by D. Condliffe

versus
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mix of weak arguments and sound debate
Among the main claims of "The Moral Landscape" is that there exists such a thing as an objective moral code, that it is more or less equivalent to a form of utilitarianism, and that science can be used to gain information about this moral code and thus about how we should structure our society. The book is divided into five chapters, and covers topics such as the...
Published 23 months ago by Alexander Sokol


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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some reviewers seem to be missing the point of the book, 27 April 2011
By 
D. Condliffe "Jazz Maverick,:explorer" (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Moral Landscape (Hardcover)
Brilliant!
I am doing an Msc in neuroscience and was recommended this book and was told it would be an interesting read for someone of my outlook on things. It certainly was. I can't recommend it enough to anyone with an interest in science.

As far as I can tell the message of this books is simple. Unless i'm wrong and i might be, see what you think.

1.Good and bad can not exist in a universe without consciousness. Simple enough.

2.If words like right and wrong or good and bad have any useful meaning they must represent increases in human happiness and well-being and decrease in human happiness and well-being respectively. People will disagree with this premise but I can't think of any definition for the words which doesn't lead to this conclusion, without being so vague as to make the words practically meaningless or a kind of theistic circular tautology where good is what god decides is good because god decides what's good because god decides what's good.

*Some may argue that if a psychopath gets their happiness increased by doing something to make another unhappy or subvert another's well-being then that has proved the above can't be the case. My issue with this is it disregards the effects to others. The pyschopath has decreased happiness and well-being of another. Similarly If someone helps another person and increases another's happiness and well-being but in the process has their own happiness and well-being diminished then that would almost certainly be called a good act. The increased happiness/well-being of the other would counter all but the most extreme negative effects to the helper. So surely the same is true for the negative effects felt by another after a psychopaths act. Any peak on the moral landscape will inevitably move closer to 0 if there is a psychopath present acting in ways which make other people worse off. The peaks are not binary representations of good/bad so its makes sense for good to be present in valleys and bad in peaks, the effect will simply be to move the peak/valleys closer to 0.

3.Our ability to feel is due to changes in the brain which can be measured, they are "facts about the universe" as Sam Harris calls them.(Neuro-chemical changes and alterations in cellular activity cause us to feel an emotion, depending what cells are doing and which neurotransmitters are being used to signal other cells) So are objectively true about the universe.

4.The changes in brain activity can be caused by our environment.

So imagine 2 scenarios
Person 1 is someone in an environment which causes that person to have relevant changes in their brain which makes them feel happy.
Person 2 is someone in an environment which causes that person to have relevant changes in their brain which makes them feel sadness and pain.

Person 1 is objectively better off and the environment he is in is objectively good where as person 2 is objectively worse off and the environment is objectively bad.

Therefore we can objectively say that certain ways of treating fellow human beings are bad and others are good.

Harris suggests that the environments which create or increase human happiness and well being can be represented by "peaks" on a graph and those that create or increase sadness and pain the "valleys" of the graph. He suggests moving society toward and along "peaks" on "the moral landscape" can demonstrate a selection of routes, there may be many routes across various peaks, which are demonstrably good for human societies. With the travelling through the valleys its antithesis.

That's it. So why all the completely off topic criticisms?

Obviously there are some grey areas, some are discussed, and this works better with more extreme examples at the moment but perhaps that will change with time as more people consider this idea.

.... and for the record, I don't think DrDee has read the book(find the review and give it a read)
I suspect DrDee listened to this frankly awful debate which is plugged in the review(i am listening to it at the moment and both debaters are doing a poor job) and he/she tried to pick up the gist of the book from it and have an rant.

To anyone that else that seeks out the debate, a warning. William Lane Craig is a amazingly skilled debater.... because he is one of the most eloquent BS merchants you will ever come across and is notorious for strawmaning any and every opposition to his ideas. Its a good job hell isn't real because his dishonesty would be cause for concern if it was.
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68 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important book of the century, 24 Jan 2011
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There is no more important debate. How do we decide what is right and wrong?

Most of the answers we hear are worthless (ranging from "just do it because my holy book says so" to the moral relativists who wont even condemn female genital mutilation).

Sam Harris makes the case for a sane alternative...

Morality is an evolved human attribute. It is universal - everyone with a normal brain has it. We all know instinctively what is good (love, kindness, compassion...) and what is evil (hatred, cruelty, violence...).

Understanding this basis for morality has a priceless reward - we can expect to arrive at a consensus. There is an objective morality because we are all human. And we can discover the details by studying the human mind. Evolutionary psychology - not a religious text - is the route to enlightenment.

If our civilisation survives this century it will be because we have learnt how to judge moral issues. This book is an excellent primer. Please read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, a different approach to ethics., 2 May 2014
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I love how Sam Harris explains that some philosophical theories just increase "the total amount of boredom" in the world. If you want to read something about ethics that is applicable to the real world, and not boring at all, this book a good option. I agree with the importance he gives to increasing human well-being, and he can write about difficult subjects without making it boring or confusing. I strongly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the most important book of the decade, 8 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Moral Landscape (Paperback)
This book will have your mind spinning long after you put it down. Read this. it will change your life. Brilliant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A case for fighting back against unquestionable authorities - of all flavours, 23 Jun 2013
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Sam makes a strong case that religious beliefs in morality must not be deemed above honest scientific investigation. The HUMAN BEINGS (Gods themselves being absent in the natural world) who enjoy power by being in the upper echelons of the religious elite dislike questioning exactly like other "unquestionable authorities" such as dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. It is clear that the improvement in ethical standards in modern times (and mainly in the West unfortunately) has little to do with godly edicts forever frozen in their time of revelation to us mortals. It has to do with honest and free discourse between peoples which has ONLY become permissible as fears of religion have weakened allowing unfettered human inquisitiveness on moral issues.

"GOD" gave us a questioning nature - big mistake on her part. So lets use it to ask her fans and representatives why they think thay have the copyright on morality.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book with a unique take on science and morality, 19 Nov 2014
This review is from: The Moral Landscape (Paperback)
This was a very enlightening book, and might be my favorite one from Sam Harris. Given that Harris is considered one of the most formidable "new atheists", people will look at this book as anti-religious (which it certainly is). But it's important not to overstate that element; Harris is just suggesting that there are other places to get your morals and values besides a holy book.

Much of Harris's argument deals with the idea of suffering. The more we know about science (in particular neuroscience and the brain), the more we are learning are the nuance of suffering. There are different types of suffering, the most obvious one related to physical pain; and we essentially know that all conscious creatures have the capacity to suffer. Harris's discussion of morals boils down the goal of minimizing suffering; as he states it, avoiding "the worst possible misery for everyone".

It's a great book that's has it's moments of difficulty, but in general is a fairly easy and enjoyable read. I think any book that examines morality in any capacity is one worth taking a look at.

After reading the book, I viewed some of Harris's public speaking engagements. He often repeats many of the ideas in his book in these lectures/debate (which can be found online) - so they are worth a watch if you want to reinforce the ideas found within.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science can have lots to say about morality!, 23 Jan 2011
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This review is from: Moral Landscape (Paperback)
The author makes an interesting argument. Science obviously has lots to say and reveal about morality - the problem is that we have not been allowed or willing to listen, or we didn't have the tools to find and then answer the questions.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It wasn't about bashing religion, rather it was about science and its role in revealing human morality and values. The approach was refreshing and while it was not a long or difficult read, it still made me think and reflect.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore the topic of morality and how it has and is developing in our societies.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mix of weak arguments and sound debate, 20 Jan 2013
By 
Alexander Sokol (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Moral Landscape (Paperback)
Among the main claims of "The Moral Landscape" is that there exists such a thing as an objective moral code, that it is more or less equivalent to a form of utilitarianism, and that science can be used to gain information about this moral code and thus about how we should structure our society. The book is divided into five chapters, and covers topics such as the existence of objective morality, the conflict between science and religion, the biological nature of belief and various cognitive biases.

I personally agree with Harris that science can help to promote human well-being, but I disagree that there exists an objective moral code. However, books can be well-written, interesting and enlightening even if one does not agree with the arguments put forward. In this particular case, however, I must admit that I found Harris' arguments to be somewhat muddled and meriting criticism on several accounts. This is the reason for my choosing to give the book only three stars. Apart from his ideas about morality, however, Harris also spends considerable time discussion the utilitarian value (or lack of the same) of science and religion, and these parts of the book are quite sensible and represents, in my view, a part of an important debate.

The following are two particular points where I found Harris' arguments to be lacking:

-Throughout the book, Harris criticises moral relativism, understood as the idea that "good and bad is subjective, and all such subjective moral claims are a priori equally valid". Harris points out many consequences of this moral relativism which are bad in utilitarian terms. Harris appears throughout to imply that we must choose between two alternatives: moral relativism and moral realism (that is, the existence of objective moral statemets), and as moral relativism is unacceptable, moral realism is forced upon us. This argument is incorrect, as there exists several middle grounds: for example the variant of moral relativism claiming that good and bad is subjective, but not that we must think that all moral claims are a priori equally valid. For example, I might sensibly hold the following opinions: 1. What is maximizing happiness is good. 2. That this is my subjective opinion and not an objectively true statement. 3. All the same, I am quite entitled to attempt to convince and even force others to subject to my conception of morality instead of, say, ideas about that rape victims should be stoned. Such claims imply acceptance of the subjectivity of morals while simultaneously holding that universal tolerance of moral diversity is not required.

-Harris repeatedly argues that morals must be construed in terms of well-being of conscious creatures. This is in several cases done by example, for example by arguing that nobody in their right mind would claim that a life of happiness, meaningful work, love and health is not preferable to a meaningless life filled with pain, sorrow and loneliness. Such examples demonstrate that the majority of people agree on certain parts of morality, but does not prove that morals are objective: Even if all humans held that red is prettier than blue, this would not make it an objective fact that red is prettier than blue. Furthermore, as regards the basis of morality, it is quite conceivable that someone would argue that for example freedom or equality is better than pure utility. Harris' claim that goodness equals well-being in a universal sense appears unconvincing and based on anecdote and example rather than logical argument.

Summing up, I fould that Harris touches upon some important issues of our day, but his arguments are in several cases lacking in quality.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important step forwards, 24 April 2011
This review is from: The Moral Landscape (Hardcover)
Very easy to read and clearly written, without any of the abrasivenss that come sometimes be found in books in this area.

It is important that humanity aspires to achieve higher levels of morality, and that we don't leave this field as the exclusive preserve of religion. It is becoming clearer over time that religions of all types are trying to drag humanity down to a state of gross immmorality.

Harris encourages us to work out those moral issues in a more objective way, and suggests a methodolgy to do so.

He doesn't attempt to give all the answers, and the author comes across as being humble and non dogmatic.

I hope this book will encourage further debate and progress on this important subject. The future of humankind may depend on it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars finally someone who brings clarity to the question, 6 July 2013
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After centuries of nonsense, here is finally someone who gives us an objective mean to decide the definition of good and bad.
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The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris (Hardcover - 7 April 2011)
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