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."
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.