Friday, 26 December 2014

Refuting Sam Harris' Free Will And The Reality Of Love

A closer inspection on "Free Will and the Reality of Love":

Many readers continue to express confusion—even outrage and anguish—over my position on free will. Some are convinced that my view is self-contradictory. Others are persuaded of its truth but find the truth upsetting. They say that if cutting through the illusion of free will undermines hatred, it must undermine love as well. They worry about a world in which we view ourselves and other people as robots. I have heard from readers struggling with clinical depression who find that reading my book Free Will, or my blog articles on the topic, has only added to their troubles. Perhaps there is more to say…"
 "Confusion", "self-contradictory","upsetting","undermine love", "people as robots" and "added to their troubles".These are the consequences of Atheist dogma and pretty much sums up Harris' position.But he rejects the inevitable conclusions drawn from the premises he so dearly clings to and aims to correct these misunderstandings...or does he?

First, I’d like to address the common charge that it is simply self-contradictory to talk about the illusoriness of free will while using words such as “choice,” “intention,” “decision,” “deliberation,” and “effort.” If free will is an illusion, it would seem, these qualities of mind must be illusory as well. In one sense, this is true. It would perhaps be more precise to speak of “apparent choices.” But the distinction isn’t generally relevant at the level of our experience. In terms of experience, there is no contradiction between truth and appearance. Even in the absence of free will, I find that I can speak of choices, intentions, and efforts without hedging"
 Okay,so far I've gathered that the contention amongst his peers and admirers lies in the apparent contradiction between Harris rejecting free will and still co-opting terms which are either synonymous with free will or implicates it,such as "choice,intention,decision,deliberation",etc. Perhaps Harris has found a miraculous way to bypass the laws of logic,namely the law of non-contradicition.Let's see how he does it.

 Consider the present moment from the point of view of my conscious mind: I have decided to write this blog post, and I am now writing it. I almost didn’t write it, however. In fact, I went back and forth about it: I feel that I’ve said more or less everything I have to say on the topic of free will and now worry about repeating myself. I started the post, and then set it aside. But after several more emails came in, I realized that I might be able to clarify a few points. Did I choose to be affected in this way? No. Some readers were urging me to comment on depressing developments in “the Arab Spring.” Others wanted me to write about the practice of meditation. At first I ignored all these voices and went back to working on my next book. Eventually, however, I returned to this blog post. Was that a choice? Well, in a conventional sense, yes. But my experience of making the choice did not include an awareness of its actual causes. Subjectively speaking, it is an absolute mystery to me why I am writing this."
 Skipping over what I can only assume are early symptoms of ADHD  - Harris rejects possible free will as a cause in favor of "mysterious" causes,that way his material beliefs are still intact.

My workflow may sound a little unconventional, but my experience of writing this article fully illustrates my view of free will. Thoughts and intentions arise; other thoughts and intentions arise in opposition. I want to sit down to write, but then I want something else—to exercise, perhaps. Which impulse will win? For the moment, I’m still writing, and there is no way for me to know why—because at other times I’ll think, “This is useless. I’m going to the gym,” and that thought will prove decisive. What finally causes the balance to swing? I cannot know subjectively—but I can be sure that electrochemical events in my brain decide the matter. I know that given the requisite stimulus (whether internal or external), I will leap up from my desk and suddenly find myself doing something else...
 Finally,I found the central thesis to Harris' article.What appears to many as "choices" are merely impulses and the strongest impulse takes center stage.That eliminates free will nicely but there are some obvious problems:
-All our behaviors have now been redefined as impulsive without proper justification.Irrational to say the least.
-What about those who choose to voluntarily abstain/refrain from instinctive activities be it food,drink,sex,etc.?Surely it's irrational to define the ability to self regulate such behaviors as also being based on an impulse or urge.
-Our ability to reason,to be cautious,to be discreet and to inhibit certain actions or processes are a few counter examples that can veto impulses or urges.
-Self-control is the ability to resist an impulse.Just because Harris lacks this ability doesn't mean everyone else does too.
-Harris needs to either provide evidence or get universal opinion on his side.Both are highly unlikely.

"As a matter of experience, therefore, I can take no credit for the fact that I got to the end of this paragraph."
Harris then ends the paragraph with a very "modest" tone.He just cannot allow himself to take credit.Humble indeed.Then upon whom shall we bestow the honor of this fine piece of work Harris?"

"But the apparent reality of choice remains intact. It isn’t wrong to say that I decided to write this post—and it certainly isn’t wrong to say that my writing it requires some conscious effort. I can’t write it by accident, or in my sleep. The writing itself is clearly the product of my unconscious mind—I cannot know, for instance, why one word or bit of syntax comes forward and another doesn’t—but the entire project requires consciousness to come into being. Certain things cannot be thought or done unless they are warmed by the light of conscious awareness. I am, after all, writing about what it is like to be me at this moment—and it would be like nothing to be me without consciousness"
 And the credit goes to... his unconscious mind but not to Harris because they are apparently two distinct and separate entities.Clearly his humility becomes suspect as it contradicts his position.

"What many people seem to be missing is the positive side of these truths. Seeing through the illusion of free will does not undercut the reality of love, for example—because loving other people is not a matter of fixating on the underlying causes of their behavior. Rather, it is a matter of caring about them as people and enjoying their company. We want those we love to be happy, and we want to feel the way we feel in their presence. The difference between happiness and suffering does not depend on free will—indeed, it has no logical relationship to it (but then, nothing does, because the very idea of free will makes no sense). In loving others, and in seeking happiness ourselves, we are primarily concerned with the character of conscious experience."
First of all,the truth of the premises has not been established,ie. they have no evidence attached,so any positive sides that may be implied are question begging.Secondly,we have to consider the full implications of living a life without the "illusion" of free will.That would remove consent,since we cannot agree to something over which we have no control over.For example,I cannot grant the weather permission to rain because I cannot influence it.All impulses an individual feel can be executed without considering the impact it has on others.To evaluate and veto any urges whether positive or negative imply I have a choice in the outcome of the matter and should be held responsible.

"Hatred, however, is powerfully governed by the illusion that those we hate could (and should) behave differently. We don’t hate storms, avalanches, mosquitoes, or flu. We might use the term “hatred” to describe our aversion to the suffering these things cause us—but we are prone to hate other human beings in a very different sense. True hatred requires that we view our enemy as the ultimate author of his thoughts and actions. Love demands only that we care about our friends and find happiness in their company. It may be hard to see this truth at first, but I encourage everyone to keep looking. It is one of the more beautiful asymmetries to be found anywhere."
What Harris is doing here is nothing short of an appeal to emotion fallacy.Instead of  demonstrating the link between love,impulses and Materialism - he simply gives assertions and not arguments,which requires justification.Also,if "True hatred requires that we view our enemy as the ultimate author of his thoughts and actions",then we could equally assert that true love requires that we view our fellow man as the ultimate author of his actions and thoughts.But either position validates free will and Harris does not seem to care about the implications of his reasoning.If the reader is confused at this point,it's because contradictions,inconsistencies,irrational reasoning and lack of evidence are common themes in Atheist articles.
Besides,Harris knows very little about love because it is not demanding and not limited to friends.Love is unconditional,it does not require recognition nor does it need to be reciprocated.
As an Atheist he is spiritually bankrupt.His pathetic attempt to explain what he deems to be mere chemical reactions or urges ,has by his own admission caused others even more despondency.


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Refuting Sam Harris' 10 Myths and 10 Truths about Atheism

Sam Harris intends to debunk some "myths" the general public holds on Atheists and Atheism.But what I noticed was that throughout the article he engages in lots of rhetorical tactics,red herring and strawmen fallacies.He does very little to defend Atheism rationally.
Let's look in:

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.
"On the contrary, religious people often worry that life is meaningless and imagine that it can only be redeemed by the promise of eternal happiness beyond the grave."
Harris believes religious people embrace meaning because they fear meaninglessness.And what sort of evidence does provide? None.So it's nothing but baseless accusations.

 "Atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious. Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived."
 As wonderful as this may sound on the surface,it also presents a few problems for Atheists:
Firstly,Atheist regimes have slaughtered 100's of millions of people,falsifying Harris' universal statement that Atheists are quite sure life is precious.And secondly,a life "fully lived" without objective moral principles leads to hedonism and excessive materialism.

"Our relationships with those we love are meaningful now; they need not last forever to be made so. Atheists tend to find this fear of meaninglessness … well … meaningless."
 Harris is engaging in a strawman.Theists don't make the argument that only relationships which lasts forever are considered meaningful.Besides the partners we choose to marry,nearly all our relationships with others are not expected to last forever.
To charge religious people who embrace meaning into their lives as fearing meaninglessness is poisoning the well since Harris has presented no evidence to back up his accusation.

2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.
"People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok".
In essence what Harris is saying is that when Atheists behave badly  then they are being religious. Is this a fair and honest assessment of Atheists when they're committing atrocities?Harris is attempting to shield Atheists from ever having to take responsibility for their criminal actions because the blame gets automatically shifted to religion,who now has to answer for crimes that the proudly godless folk have perpetrated.

 "There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable."
The presupposition here is that only Atheists are reasonable and no true Atheist behaves unreasonable.I see no reason why not to charge Harris with a No True Scotsman fallacy.Furthermore,I have news for Harris,only him and his fellow Atheists believe Atheists are reasonable - a fallacy of self-validation.

3) Atheism is dogmatic.
Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity’s needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn’t have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the programmer Stephen F. Roberts* once said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
The claim Harris is supposed to refute is "Atheism is dogmatic".Instead he engages in a red herring by redirecting the reader's attention to religious scripture.What ever problems exists in religious books does nothing to refute the accusation that Atheism is dogmatic.
For example: If a UFO believer points out the unscrupulous and unscientific practices that have plagued Psychiatry over the years - would that somehow validate UFOs and prove that aliens exist? Of course not,that's an absurd conclusion.Likewise,Atheism must be scrutinized in isolation,without the crutch of religious issues.
And yes,Atheists are dogmatic about pushing their agenda which goes way beyond mere criticism of religion.Atheists have very specific beliefs about the nature of reality which is not validated by science but simply accepted on the basis of appeal to authority.They even have Atheist churches and split into different denominations due to dogma differences.They proselytize,erect monuments and billboards,send their children to Atheist only summer camps and pimp each others unscientific godless books.

4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.
"No one knows why the universe came into being. In fact, it is not entirely clear that we can coherently speak about the “beginning” or “creation” of the universe at all, as these ideas invoke the concept of time, and here we are talking about the origin of space-time itself."
Leading cosmologists and physicists like Hawking and Penrose agree the universe and space-time itself had a beginning.Harris is very cautiously trying to avoid answering and pleads ignorance instead.As an Atheist, he is a failure because Atheists have no choice but to believe our universe arose either from nothing and by chance or to evoke the unproven multiverse hypothesis,where anything and everything is possible.

"The notion that atheists believe that everything was created by chance is also regularly thrown up as a criticism of Darwinian evolution. As Richard Dawkins explains in his marvelous book, “The God Delusion,” this represents an utter misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Although we don’t know precisely how the Earth’s early chemistry begat biology, we know that the diversity and complexity we see in the living world is not a product of mere chance. Evolution is a combination of chance mutation and natural selection. Darwin arrived at the phrase “natural selection” by analogy to the “artificial selection” performed by breeders of livestock. In both cases, selection exerts a highly non-random effect on the development of any species."
 The entire paragraph above is completely beside the point.Unless that point is to pimp Dawkins' book,then it's a job well done.The point and myth Harris is supposed to refute is that Atheists believe the universe,space-time,its mathematical laws and first-life erupted from nothing and by chance.Harris has done nothing to refute that,he merely gives a shout out to his buddy Dawkins.

5) Atheism has no connection to science.
"Although it is possible to be a scientist and still believe in God — as some scientists seem to manage it — there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith. Taking the U.S. population as an example: Most polls show that about 90% of the general public believes in a personal God; yet 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not. This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is."
 First of all, the National Academy of Science (NAS) consists of about 2000 scientists while the overall number of scientists employed in the United States is more than 2 million.Clearly this is a gross instance of hasty generalization on Harris' part.A much more recent survey from the PEW Research Centre reported that 33% of scientists believe in God while 18% believe in a Universal Spirit or Higher Power and 41% reject either notion (aka Atheists).That's a total of 51% of scientists that are Dualists as opposed to Materialists.Harris' dishonesty and dogmatism is exposed as he so desperately clings to any unreliable statistics that could make his position seem attractive and rational.

6) Atheists are arrogant.
"When scientists don’t know something — like why the universe came into being or how the first self-replicating molecules formed — they admit it. Pretending to know things one doesn’t know is a profound liability in science. And yet it is the life-blood of faith-based religion."
Harris starts with a fallacy of false association.Scientists are not tautologically equivalent to Atheists and neither is Atheism equivalent to science,as I've already shown above in myth 5.And since arrogance is claiming credit one is not entitled to - therefore the charge that Atheists are arrogant remains accurate.

"One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be found in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while claiming to know facts about cosmology, chemistry and biology that no scientist knows. When considering questions about the nature of the cosmos and our place within it, atheists tend to draw their opinions from science. This isn’t arrogance; it is intellectual honesty."
Theists make no such claims about science,in fact they insist God is non-physical and science is limited to testable predictions on physical phenomena. Harris is perpetuating the myth that science and religion are at war.

7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.
"There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly. What atheists don’t tend to do is make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about the nature of reality on the basis of such experiences."
Not even religious people make such bold claims,they freely admit the limitations of human nature that could prevent them from having spiritual experiences but Harris asserts Atheists are immune to natural human failings.You don't get more arrogant than this.

 "There is no question that some Christians have transformed their lives for the better by reading the Bible and praying to Jesus. What does this prove? It proves that certain disciplines of attention and codes of conduct can have a profound effect upon the human mind. Do the positive experiences of Christians suggest that Jesus is the sole savior of humanity? Not even remotely — because Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists regularly have similar experiences."
This is an argument against nothing.It does nothing to prove that Atheists are open to spiritual experiences.It's a strawman argument at best.Christians do not make the claim that positive experiences are reserved for Christians.

8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding.
Atheists are free to admit the limits of human understanding in a way that religious people are not. It is obvious that we do not fully understand the universe; but it is even more obvious that neither the Bible nor the Koran reflects our best understanding of it". 
I wonder if Harris has even met a religious person because accepting the limits of human understanding is a common theme in most religions.

"We do not know whether there is complex life elsewhere in the cosmos, but there might be. If there is, such beings could have developed an understanding of nature’s laws that vastly exceeds our own. Atheists can freely entertain such possibilities. They also can admit that if brilliant extraterrestrials exist, the contents of the Bible and the Koran will be even less impressive to them than they are to human atheists.From the atheist point of view, the world’s religions utterly trivialize the real beauty and immensity of the universe. One doesn’t have to accept anything on insufficient evidence to make such an observation."
I thought Atheists only draw their opinions from scientific facts and now Harris accepts the possibility of advanced intelligent life on other planets without zero empirical proof.He then further speculates from his position of no-evidence what those aliens' thoughts might be.
Here's something for Harris to ponder over:What will those aliens think when they discover Atheist regimes have slaughtered up to 259 million people?Or the fact that Atheists murdered scientists and banned Mendelian Genetics and Quantum Physics during the Soviet era?Surely those aliens will be even less impressed with human Atheists.

9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.
"Those who emphasize the good effects of religion never seem to realize that such effects fail to demonstrate the truth of any religious doctrine. This is why we have terms such as “wishful thinking” and “self-deception.” There is a profound distinction between a consoling delusion and the truth.
In any case, the good effects of religion can surely be disputed. In most cases, it seems that religion gives people bad reasons to behave well, when good reasons are actually available. Ask yourself, which is more moral, helping the poor out of concern for their suffering, or doing so because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?"
Consistent with his goal to eliminate God,Harris cannot allow himself to accept the facts that religion and Christianity in particular have been extremely beneficial to society.
Here are some of the benefits of religion that Atheists don't want you to know:
-There was no such era as the "Dark Ages".Contemporary historians have debunked the popular myths of Christianity sending Europe into 1000 years of superstition,ignorance,stagnation and continuous bloodshed.

-The Middle Ages was a prosperous and innovative era that gave birth to many inventions,scientific discoveries,charity organizations and hospitals.
-Science is in fact a product of religious people.

-The Church built Universities that were initially religious institutions.

-The Catholic Church were the main custodians of Aristotelian logic that were taught in their Universities,as well as philosophy,science and astronomy,which directly caused the birth of Newtonian (classical) physics.

-Galileo,Newton,Copernicus,William of Ockham,Roger Bacon who pioneered much of the scientific method in Europe were deeply religious scientists and often credited their faith for inspiring their work.

-Jesuit priests have a long history of scientific achievements that were sponsored by the Catholic church

-Even after the Middle Ages,Christians continued their significant contributions to mathematics,science and medicine such as Father Gregor Mendel (genetics),Physicist and priest Georges Lemaitre (Big Bang Theory),Alexander Fleming (inventor of penicillin),Michael Faraday,William Thompson Kelvin,James Clerk Maxwell,Robert Boyle and Max Planck are but a few examples.

-In conclusion: Science,technology and modern civilization are products of religion and are not essential for man's survival.Only water,food,shelter and clothing are essential for man's survival.Humans and animals are biologically adjusted towards self-preservation and adapting to environments that are best suited for reproduction and passing on their genes.Living organisms,whether unicellular or multicellular do not need logic, philosophy,astronomy,mathematics and science for their perpetuation,vitality and succession.These disciplines arose from the need to understand God and His creation.

10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.
"If a person doesn’t already understand that cruelty is wrong, he won’t discover this by reading the Bible or the Koran — as these books are bursting with celebrations of cruelty, both human and divine."
 The fact that Christians who took recourse to the Bible were the ones who pioneered our modern day human rights is proof enough that their scriptures had a positive impact on society.
 Eleanor Roosevelt,Henri Dunant and William Wilberforce are few examples of Christians who instigated our modern Human Rights,abolition of slavery,Geneva Convention and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"We do not get our morality from religion. We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness.
We have made considerable moral progress over the years, and we didn’t make this progress by reading the Bible or the Koran more closely. Both books condone the practice of slavery — and yet every civilized human being now recognizes that slavery is an abomination. Whatever is good in scripture — like the golden rule — can be valued for its ethical wisdom without our believing that it was handed down to us by the creator of the universe."
The above argument is really fatal to Atheism.If our moral intuitions are hard-wired (ie.genetically determined) then those who display immoral behavior like the criminally-inclined have no choice but to act compulsively.They also cannot be held accountable for their actions which are merely based on inclinations,self-interests and instinct.Furthermore,individuals who are in possession of genes that are hard-wired to commit evil acts, will most certainly pass them on to their progeny,resulting in an endless cycle of creating criminals..It's not such a slippery-slope to conclude that Eugenics is the only viable solution to the genetic pollution.Methods for their prevention would include forced sterilizations,forced abortions,infanticide,marriage restrictions and quarantine.This is already a reality in North Korea, an Atheist majority nation.