Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Problem with Atheism

I've been intrigued by Sam Harris, especially the differences between him and the other horsemen of the new atheist apocalypse - Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennett, for some time now...

image from wikimedia commons

I really enjoyed Sam Harris' first book The End of Faith, at least until he slipped away sounding like a crypto-Buddhist in the closing chapters (an issue he has since clarified to my satisfaction).  I did not read his brief Letter to a Christian Nation but have learned the gist of it from a variety of presentations Harris made during his book tour for that slim volume.  He has a new book coming out, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, which appears to expand on ideas he discussed in a recent TED talk.

In 2007 Harris gave a very interesting lecture at the Atheist Alliance conference title "The Problem with Atheism," in which he questioned the self-applied label of "atheist," equating it to the nonsensical labels "non-astrologer" or "non-racist."

"We should not call ourselves 'atheists.' We should not call ourselves 'secularists." We should not call ourselves 'humanists,' or 'secular humanists,' or 'naturalists,' or 'skeptics,' or 'rationalists,' or 'freethinkers,' or 'brights.' We should not call ourselves anything...we should be decent, responsible people who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them."

Harris has taken much abuse and suffered some disavowal from the hard core atheist community but takes advantage of such opportunities to express his views further and with greater clarity in a variety of essays.

His views impact an idea I hope to write on one of these days.  Until then there's much to read and watch at his website.

Some Wicked Quackcasts This Way Come

A review of Supplements, Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (SCAMs)...

I've mentioned Mark Crislip's Quackcast in previous posts.  His podcasts #48 and #49 posted on iTunes 24 July 2010 were refreshingly acerbic.  The first skewers Harvard medical school for sponsoring a $6,650 course on acupuncture.  In the second he takes to task the pharmaceutical industry's practice of paying for CME.

"While we are at let's have McDonald's be responsible for teaching nutrition, Nintendo teach us about fitness, lobbiests determine the congressional voting, and tobacco companies provide research into cancer, and oil companies to tell us the cause of global warming."

Funny, with a bite.