To be clear, I have nothing against Sam personally. In fact, I used to be a lot like Sam. When I graduated from Harvard in 2004 with a degree in Biochemistry, I believed in human reason and rationality. (So did many of us until 2016 ruined that little theory!) I worshipped facts and piled them up. And I saw it as my job to correct the errors in others thinking. This is the way many young scientists think.

This seems like a straw man. No scientist worships facts. The point of science is to correct the errors of previous science, so a scientist who spends his time trying to correct the errors in others’ thinking is either doing it wrong or not actually engaging in science. Just because you evidently got it wrong coming out of college, please don’t put that on everyone else who has studied science.

I should point out, too, that when Sam Harris is beating the drum against religion, he is also not engaging in science. He is engaging in advocacy. Some even argue he is engaging in bigotry and scaremongering. Whatever the case, he isn’t doing science.

It’s important to note here what science is and what science is not. Science is a belief system.

No. It’s a methodology, a process. You name dropped a lot of people and elite universities in this piece, but one name you may want to look into before going around making declarations about science is Karl Popper.

The Happiness Hypothesis laid me low because it revealed to me that, in the realm of human affairs, science had only rediscovered and reclarified what the wise men of the past had known. In fact, this knowledge has been creeping into the scientific community for a while. For science to admit that religion might have valuable insights into reality would be to admit that science had fallen prey to a powerful myth about its special place in the search for understanding.

Yeah, I’m sure all the women who have been subjugated because of the words of these wise men and every LGBTQ person who has been stoned to death because of the heteronormative proclamations laid down by wise men were very, very happy. I can’t begin to imagine how overjoyed they were.

Maybe some religions do have a few valuable insights, but I’d rather leave it to reason, logic, and science to separate the wheat from the chaff. Perhaps this is the very process you are witnessing, except that you suffer from confirmation bias and are ignoring all of the absolutely terrible advice and bad ideas that mysticism has brought us. For every passage you can cite from some ancient source that seems like a sparkling gem of wisdom that science is only now beginning to unpack, how many thousands have we discarded? You’ll never know.

Regarding your piece on the whole, I believe you have conflated performance and investigation. An actor may be better at eliciting an emotional reaction from someone than a neuroscientist, but that doesn’t make the actor a better scientist or suggest that the actor has a deeper understanding of human nature. Conversely, an analytics wizard may be great at predicting the outcome of a basketball game and knowing every aspect of every skill that makes a player valuable, but would you really want him or her out on the court playing for your team instead of King James?

Just the facts: Writer. Gamer. Feminist. Educated in Astrophysics. Professional Gambler. Student of Language. Satanist. Anarchist.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store