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Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil 
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Post Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil


Please use this thread to discuss Chapter 6 - A Science of Good and Evil. You're also free to create and use your own threads.




Wed Mar 29, 2006 12:49 am
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
I've been shaking my head in disbelief throughout most of what I've read so far, taking notes up to about p.31. There's so many individual things that I disagree with or have problems with that I decided to drop my pencil and skim through the rest of the book to see if it gets any better. Besides, Mad and Mal4mac have been making some of my arguments better than what I've written in my notes so far.

Then I came across this little gem on p.203: "We cannot let our qualms over collateral damage paralyze us because our enemies know no such qualms."

And later: "It seems certain that collateral damage, of various sorts, will be a part of our future for many years to come."

He is telling his readers that we must accept the killings of innocent people, that we will be doing this for many years to come, (get used to it?).

What makes his statements any better than what can be selectively taken from the text of the Bible or the Quran? What makes Harris any less dangerous than Osama bin laden or Pat Robertson or Ann Coulter?




Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:15 am
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
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What makes Harris any less dangerous than Osama bin laden or Pat Robertson or Ann Coulter?
Osama bin Laden actually targets innocent people, whereas Harris is saying that sometimes innocent people will die when we are targeting the not-so-innocent.




Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:20 am
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
In civilized countries there is a difference between intentional wrong-doing and accidental wrong-doing. Both are bad, but the former is considered worse than the later.

If you're hunting with your buddy and you accidentally fire a round into his ass you're definitely guilty of a bad thing. But if you purposely aim at his backside and squeeze off a round you've now stepped up to a much more severe crime. We punish each level of crime differently, much the same as we do for manslaughter and 1st degree murder.

I agree that it is horrific when innocent people die, and I am by no means advocating we lob bombs indiscriminately and nonchalantly, but we're now facing a new type of enemy than ever before. Our enemies hide in mosques and live among the "innocents." And they do not distinguish between soldier and civilian when it comes to who they consider their enemies. We're all infidels and deserve to be slaughtered. Facing an enemy with such a vision makes for a rather messy situation. While we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard we still must pursue these terrorists before they attack again. The whole thing is messy and ugly and a direct result of their holy book instructing them to deal harshly with unbelievers. And this is what Harris is trying to get across, in my opinion.




Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:31 am
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
But I have heard some of the comments Ann Coulter has made and want it understood that most conservatives don't agree with her extreme views. I know I don't.




Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:33 am
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
p. 194 -- "... if we are willing to act in a way that guarantees the misery and death of some considerable number of innocent children, why spare the rod with suspected terrorists?"

Is Harris trying to make the case that since we're willing to accept "collateral damage," then we should accept the torture of suspected terrorists?

Note that Harris is the one who uses the word "suspected" (terrorists). So he's part of the crowd who believes that the US should torture people who aren't terrorists at all.

This guy is taking us backwards, not forwards.

He does it again on p. 197: "if we are willing to drop bombs, or even risk that pistol rounds might go astray, we should be willing to torture a certain class of criminal suspects and military prisoners; ..."

Again, the key word here is "suspected."




Tue Apr 04, 2006 11:19 am
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
I'm not even to Chapter 6 yet. ::75




Tue Apr 04, 2006 11:42 am
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
i am not up to chapter six, but given the comments you have made GOD defiles Reason, i am looking forward to getting to chapter six as these views surprise me given what i have read of harris so far. he seems to come from a humanistic perspective that violence is not a good thing, so i am surprised to learn suggestions that collateral damage and not "sparing the rod" on suspected terrorists are good things. is it possible these are sarcastic remarks? Harris has made several points through chapters one through four in which he sets up a slam dunk with slight sarcasm and juxtaposing accepted with non-accepted behaviors, ideas, etc. to make a point.




Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:15 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
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Then I came across this little gem on p.203: "We cannot let our qualms over collateral damage paralyze us because our enemies know no such qualms."

And later: "It seems certain that collateral damage, of various sorts, will be a part of our future for many years to come."

Just to clarify, Harris laid out his opinion on collateral damage in Chapter 4. You may wish to take a read through that chapter. I have also commented on the issue of collateral damage according to Harris in the Chapter 4 discussion, though since he brings it up again, by all means the discussion could conitnue here too.




Fri Apr 07, 2006 5:01 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
MadArchitect, even if you decide not to read the entire text, you may wish to jump into Chapter 6 if you borrow the book from the library. Harris is addressing moral and ethical issues. The context of this discussion may rehash some issues discussed in our previous Q1 non-fiction reading. But given the fact that secular ethics are in such dispute, I think it is a vital topic for freethinkers and those in doubt of religious originated ethics to examine.

On p170, Harris makes the concession that sets up the chapter. I suspect Harris will answer with something I will not agree with though, I fear:

"The problem is that once we abandon our belief in a rule-making God, the question of why a given action is good or bad becomes a matter of debate."

Harris proposes questions of right and wrong are really questions about happiness and suffering and "If we are in a position to affect the happiness or suffering of others, we have ethical responsibilities toward them" (p171). I like that as a starting place, but it really doesn't get us any where other than reformatting the wording slightly. The same ethical questions remain, you have just renamed "right" as "happiness" and "wrong" as "suffering." Also, sometimes doing the right thing creates suffering in the short term for the long term greater good.

Harris goes on to slam moral relativism. I have no problem with someone suggesting that moral relativism has weak points, but I do have a problem with someone making a poor arguement at it after having called relativism a "demon."::152 Harris suggests that a suicide bomber is absolutely wrong. However, could it be argued that a suicide bomber is absolutely wrong if someone gave hitler a hug and blew both of them to bits? Could we rule out a suicide mission as a possible solution to winning a deadly battle with millions of lives on the line on the ground of absolute evil? I am not so sure, especially from someone like Harris whom gives certain hints that he is all for pre-emptive acts of aggression for the greater good. I don't like where this is going, but I haven't read far enough into the passage to draw more specific conclusions. Suffice to see, Harris has not introduced his points well and has left numerous holes with bad arguements.




Fri Apr 07, 2006 5:16 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 6 - A Science of Good and Evil
Harris continues to purposefully open giant loop holes in his arguements, for what purpose I have no idea. Harris argues for the legitimacy of intuition! What a crock! I am all for giving intuition its due, a lot of great decisions are made on human intuition that can not be made based on reason and logic alone. However, a lot of bad decisions are made on intuition as well. Most notably a problem for Harris is many people intuitively feel that religion must be correct. Their intuition tells them god is with them. How can you advocate for intuition on one hand bad against faith on the other? Intuition has its place and I surely get gut feelings that I compare to my reasoning of situations, but it is often wrong, dead wrong at times, and sometimes leads us down the wrong path. Chapter Six is shaping up to be a real doozy!




Sat Apr 08, 2006 12:17 pm
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