April 09, 2012

#SamHarris: behavioralist

John Horgan just nailed it. And just "nailed" Sam Harris. He's the modern day version of B.F. Skinner in his ardent, even strident, denials of the existence of free will:
He is a throwback to the old behaviorists, who pretended that subjective, mental phenomena—because they are more difficult to observe and measure than planets and protons—don’t exist. 
And, if that's not enough, Horgan fires both barrels, again, with perfect accuracy:
Dwelling on Harris depresses me. All that brainpower and training dedicated to promulgating such bad ideas!  He reminds me of one of the brightest students I’ve ever had, who was possessed by an adamant, unshakable belief in young-earth creationism. I did my best to change his mind, but I never succeeded. I probably won’t change the minds of Sam Harris and other hard-core determinists either, but it’s worth a shot.
Now, not all Gnu Atheists reject free will, but it's getting to be an ever-more-common stance. And, Horgan's first comment, at least, is applicable to them, too.

That said, Harris is also, per Horgan, a kind of voyeuristic thrill to watch digging ever deeper into the same holes. I'll probably engage in more of it, tho not to the point of spending money on a 96-page "book."

My own thoughts on how free will VERSUS determinism is a totally false dichotomy are here.

Now, to the degree that it seems, at least, that a fair amount of leading light Gnu Atheists have a prediliction for determinism, the question is, why? It seems to go hand in hand with scientism, in Harris' case. And, some leaning that way seems to be another "joy" of many Gnus.

Harris himself, with an undergrad degree in philosophy, theoretically has no excuse, unless, like Horgan's creationist, he slept through half his philosophy classes.

As for Gnus in general, I think scientism is the fundamental "ism" of it as a movement, or social-cultural group structure (can't call it a religion!) for many.

I'll probably have further thoughts down the road.

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