Sam Harris on Real Time with Bill Maher: simple logic is too simple

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sam Harris was on Real Time recently (last night?), the first time he's ever been on the show. The interview was a tad short which was a pity, because at the very end he began to touch on one aspect that makes him a bit different from most in the so-called New Atheism, but first he talked a bit about his opposition to Barack Obama's nominating of a religious scientist (Francis Collins) to head the NIH, which is something he mentioned in an editorial in the New York Times a few weeks ago. That part starts at about 4:50 into the video.

The idea behind that is that any scientist with a religious persuasion will eventually allow him or herself to be swayed by religion and will end up with erroneous science, and if this sounds too simplistic to be true, it's because it is. Following the same logic, Sam Harris would have been opposed to one of George Lemaître's positions throughout his life (let's say his election as a member to the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Belgium). So who was George Lemaître? He was the Belgian priest that proposed the idea of the Big Bang (then called the Hypothesis of the Primeval Atom), and spent almost a decade convincing Einstein and other physicists that it was the most logical model to explain the expansion of the universe and its original creation. Would it have made any sense to oppose the work of the scientist who proposed the idea of the Big Bang, or a nomination of his to a post of influence?

Near the end of the interview Sam Harris mentions a bit about his views on mysticism and why the non-religious need their own type of mysticism, but there wasn't enough time left in the interview to go over that. Luckily I know where the video is where he is able to talk at length on the subject. When he talks on this subject he becomes much more interesting, and you should definitely have a look at the video if up till now all you've heard from him are short interviews on the news on "let's not hold back from criticizing religion" and "religion and science can't coexist". Most people are at their most interesting when they are given a certain length in their own element to talk on subjects that concern them, and Sam Harris is no exception.

If you're a bit strained for time then skip ahead to 23 minutes into the video.


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