Posted: May 21, 2009.
Video: The Science Network
Sam Harris speaks about the rational basis for morality at the 2008 Beyond Belief conference at the Salk Institute.
This lecture is intellectually very significant because it attacks the prevailing “non-overlapping magistera” split between science and religion. First, Harris observes that science has ceded the area of morals and values to religion. “Religious people, though they can agree on little else, agree that scientific methodology has no application whatsoever on questions of meaning and morality and values.” This has been a mistake, because it makes science seem like a “mere incubator for technology” and “divorced in principle from the most important questions in human life”.
But Harris goes on to argue that claims about morality and happiness are factually based, and therefore can be objectively analyzed. He predicts that just as religion used to be the authority on medicine, science, and physics before science pushed it aside, religion’s monopoly on ethics will also get pushed aside as science makes progress on questions of morality.