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Distinguished Science Lecture Series Archives

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people — from religious fundamentalists to nonbelieving scientists — agree on one point: science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the most common justification for religious faith. It is also the primary reason why so many secularists and religious moderates feel obligated to “respect” the hardened superstitions of their more devout neighbors. In this lecture, based on his explosive book, The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a “moral landscape.” Just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality.

This lecture was recorded on October 24, 2010 as part of the Distinguished Science Lecture Series hosted by Michael Shermer and presented by The Skeptics Society in California (1992–2015).

We offer this lecture to you freely, and greatly appreciate your support.

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