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57 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some reviewers seem to be missing the point of the book
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

3 of 4 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 18 months ago by Alexander Sokol

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5 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable, 21 May 2011
This review is from: The Moral Landscape (Hardcover)
I was really looking forward to getting into this book, but was sorley disappointed. It's written in such a style that I really struggled to follow the arguments.

I'm aware this is probably a reflection on my intelligence, but the author needs to tone it down, and make an effort to reach all levels.
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6 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It Doesn't Do What It Says On the Tin, 8 April 2011
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This review is from: The Moral Landscape (Hardcover)
Sam Harris sets out to show that moral values exist apart from theistic beliefs and that they can be grounded in science. This is a fascinating theory, and novel angle from which to approach the current God debate. Harris suggests that sentient beings seek to flourish and science proves that well being exists where this is allowed to happen, and the reverse when it is stymied. Harris, however, fails to prove his case. If there is no God to ground our moral values then everything is permissible. Murder, rape, theft cannot be judged "evil", "wrong" or "bad" because there is no vantage point from which to assess such deeds, apart from cultural mores which shift and change through human evolution. Tomorrow Nazism or fascism might sweep the world and it could become acceptable or fashionable once again to beat to a pulp people of different racial backgrounds. The Nazis, moreover, would have argued that they were "flourishing" under the Third Reich - so even Harris' notion of what it means to flourish as a human being is up for grabs. There is no way out of this cul-de-sac for Harris, alas. For we are merely an assemblage of random molecules. Atheism provides no higher court of appeal, only the culturally contingent values of the day. In his recent debate with William Craig Lane, at the University of Notre Dame (7th April 2011 - the full debate is available on YouTube), Harris flopped spectacularly in his attempt to defend his thesis. I think that any honest atheist who watches/listens to this debate will appreciate the flaws in Harris' reasoning, and also understand why Richard Dawkins has repeatedly refused to debate Lane in public (to date Lane has felled two of the Four Horseman in public debates).

Lane's summary of how the debate went is apposite:

"Since Harris believes that objective moral values and duties do exist and agrees that some foundation must be given for them, my task was simply to argue that theism, if true, provides such a foundation, whereas atheism does not. I defended Divine Command Theory, that our moral duties are constituted by God's commands, which are in turn reflections of His essential nature, which determines what is good. Against Harris' theory outlined in his book I lodged what I think are three knock-down (even knock-out!) objections: (1) Harris holds that goodness is identical to the well-being of conscious creatures. But he admits that it's possible that the so-called moral landscape featuring the highs and lows of moral states and the landscape of creaturely well-being could fall apart, so that the peaks of well-being would be occupied by evil people. The problem is that if it's even possible for two things to be non-identical, then they are not, in fact, identical. So it turns out that goodness is not identical to creaturely well-being after all, as Harris had claimed. So his whole theory collapses. (2) Since science is descriptive, not prescriptive, it is impossible for science to derive an "ought" statement from an "is" statement. Hence, there is no source of moral duty on Harris' view. (3) Harris is a determinist who denies that we have free will in any sense at all. But determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility ("ought" implies "can"). So on Harris' view objective moral duties are impossible."

P.S. I would also draw your attention to the video of Sam Harris in dialogue with Richard Dawkins in Oxford on the latter's website. At the outset of his talk Harris sets up a straw man definition of religion which he proceeds to knock down. He defines religion as being less concerned with the truth or validity of its beliefs or claims and as being more concerned with its "functional" uses. Having so defined religion Harris then argues that these "functional" values could obtain even if there wasn't a God. However even a GCSE RE student will know that this is a warped, reductionist definition of religion. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 15, for example, St Paul says that Christianity would be a self deceiving faith if Christ had not risen from the dead. Such sentiments at least argue against Harris' notion that religions are not concerned with truth claims. Harris' inaccurate and shoddy definition of religion gravely undermine the thesis of his book.
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1 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars less than great, 23 April 2011
Karel D'huyvetters (Werchter, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium) - See all my reviews
Disappointing. The author can not prove his point that science can determine moral values. That's a great pity, because he is of course right in his criticism of religious claims to insight in morality. We should look for our values in what wo/man is, how we came to be, how and where we live now. The way to do this is through thinking and discussion. Positive sciences may help, but I tend to rely on the humanities for the formulation of new insights.
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2 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars nice try, 25 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Moral Landscape (Kindle Edition)
Oh, the arguments you find in this book are of course very weak. Also, the people who gave the 5 stars reviews are very likely to be ignorant of philosophy of mind, ethics or neuroscience. But I leave the review to Scott Atran that has demolished Harris thesis point by point. You google it and type "Sam Harris's Guide to Nearly Everything" on the National Interest.
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