December 9, 2010

LEVERAGING HARRIS: Making moral progress by denying free will.

Sam Harris takes the lead in denying contra-causal free will, repudiating retribution. In his latest book, The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris devotes 10 pages (pp. 102-112) to debunking contra-causal free will and drawing out the progressive implications for our beliefs, attitudes and social practices. This is a most welcome development since Harris commands a wide readership and considerable respect (although by no means universal agreement) among atheists, humanists, skeptics and freethinkers. Such readers are among those most likely to be receptive to the thesis – radical from the traditional dualistic religious perspective, but a scientific commonplace – that we aren’t causal exceptions to nature. The Center for Naturalism has long been promoting the challenge to the soul and its supernatural freedom as a science-based route to more effective and compassionate interpersonal relations and social policies, so we’re very pleased that Harris takes up this challenge so forcefully. To read the rest of this article, visit

On December 27, 2010, John Horgan writes this in Scientific American: Harris cited experiments in which magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) predicts that a subject is going to do something—on the basis of activity in the subject's brain—up to 10 seconds before the subject consciously decides to do it. "Clearly, findings of this kind are difficult to reconcile with the sense that one is the conscious source of one's actions," Harris wrote. This and other experiments, he contended, show that physiological processes of which we are unaware determine our actions; our conscious decisions are literally afterthoughts. "Our belief in free will arises from our moment to moment ignorance of specific prior causes."

1 comment:

  1. I love it. Great post.

    Well written and a powerful challenge to all particularly right now when we are having this melt down in Washington.