Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sam Harris isn't making friends, fortunately

I once browsed Sam Harris' book, The End of Faith, in Waterstones' of Dawson Street. I wasn't impressed, seeing as he he advocated "conversational intolerance", which seemed to be just challenging religious claims at every opportunity. (Granted, I find challenging most views in conversation difficult, being rather introverted, but this approach seems to be just counterproductive - a good way to get a reputation as argumentative.)

One of the other things I noticed was a particular hostility to Islam in his book - "atheism for neocons" was what occurred to me.

Apparently, I missed his apologia of "limited" use of torture in the book, which he has also advocated in an article, In Defence of Torture in which he invokes the ticking time bomb scenario to justify torture. The scenario was used by some French to justify the use of torture in Algeria - it frequently featured in 24 as a plot device, but in the most recent series was cut back. Bob Cochran, co-creator of the show, admits that the ticking timebomb scenario occurs rarely if at all in real life, though it occurs regularly in the show.

In the article, he says "While many people have objected, on emotional grounds, to my defense of torture, no one has pointed out a flaw in my argument". Curiously, this comes a few paragraphs after some very emotive examples of atrocities clearly chosen to manipulate the reader into supporting his view. Apparently the victims of torture are just "collateral damage".

Rafi Aamer analyses the flaws in Harris' arguments in quite some detail - it's well worth reading.

Apart from being a neocon apologist for torture, Sam Harris has defended pseudoscience.

I agree that Harris is a dingbat, but worse, an advocate of torture.

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