Sam Harris & Jordan Peterson – Vancouver – 2 (CC: Arabic & Spanish)

Sam Harris & Jordan Peterson – Vancouver – 2 (CC: Arabic & Spanish)

together for Brett Weinstein Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson [Applause] hello Vancouver thank you all right so we have an interesting situation here obviously this is part two and a few of you were here for what took place last night we are going to find a way to catch you all up pretty quick on what took place but before we do that I thought it might make sense to talk to you about where we are in this discussion and why it matters and it matters not just for those of us on stage but it matters very much for you all in the audience the point is basically this we’ve arrived at a place in history where the sense making apparatus that usually helps us figure out what to think about things has obviously begun to come apart the political parties the the universities journalism all of these things have stopped making sense an alternative sense making networks have begun to rise and the one that we end up being a part of seems to be beating the odds with respect to staying alive and being a vibrant part of the conversation but that depends on something it depends on our ability to upgrade what we can discuss and navigate and Sam and Jordan have run afoul of each other in the past as you all know and so our ability to upgrade the conversations such that they’re able to to find common ground and for us to move forward together is potentially very important a very important upgrade now that upgrade in the modern era includes you all because our conversation and your conversations are all now linked through the internet so the ground rules for tonight involve you not filming what takes place on stage tonight and the reason for that is because what takes place on stage tonight has consequences and the freer that Sam and Jordan feel to use new tools to try out positions that maybe they haven’t explored before the more likely we are to succeed so please don’t film but that does not mean that we don’t want you talking about what was discussed here tonight in fact we’re very excited to see what you all make of this conversation and where it heads so in an effort to to get you up to speed on where we got yesterday and I think the evidence is strong we all felt and the discussion online suggests that we actually accomplished quite a bit yesterday that we made headway in an effort to attempt to keep that momentum going but we’re going to do is we are going to have Sam and Jordan Steelman each other’s points from last night so that you can hear what that sounds like now [Applause] for those of you who have ever tried steel Manning somebody’s point with whom you have a severe disagreement you know just how hard this is so let’s give them some leeway Sam would you be willing to start sure sure well first let me just make the the obvious point that that probably isn’t so obvious unless you take the time to put yourself in our shoes but just imagine how surreal it is for us to be who we are simply having a conversation about ideas and to be able to put a date on the calendar and have all of you show up for this it’s just an amazing privilege and thank you for coming out so so here is what I think Jordan things I’m getting wrong I think that was grammatically correct maybe there’s another node in there but clearly I don’t understand how valuable stories are how deep they go the degree to which stories encode not only the wisdom of our ancestors but quite possibly the wisdom born of the hard knocks of evolution of the species right so there’s no telling how deep the significance of the information encoded in stories goes and there’s a class of stories that are religious stories and they’re religious for a reason because they’re dealing with the the deepest questions in human life their questions about what constitutes a good life what’s worth living for what’s worth dying for these are things that if each individual just thrust from on to the stage of his own life not knowing where he is and tasked with figuring out how to live all on his own or even in a in a collection of others who are similarly unguided by ancient wisdom that this is not knowledge we can we can recapitulate for ourselves easily and so we we edit or ignore the these ancient stories at our peril at some at minimum at some considerable risk because we don’t know how much we don’t really know what baby is in the bath water and so we should have immense respect for these traditions and the this is what we have to be discovered tonight I’m still not quite clear about how this links up with with more metaphysical propositions about the origins of these of certain of these stories but at minimum my criticism of religion because it tends to focus on the the most obvious case of zero-sum contest between religious dogmatism and you know scientific open-ended discussion is doesn’t address this core issue of the significance of religious thinking and religious narrative because I am for the most part just shooting fishing in a barrel criticizing fundamentalists and the kind of God that the fundamentalists believe in the God who’s an invisible person who hates homosexuals obviously that’s not the the deep the deepest version of these religious this or this what is a narrative technology for orient in human lives in the cosmos so maybe I’ll leave it there but that’s I think what Jordan things Jordan before you steal man Sam’s point how did you feel about his encapsulation of yours no I mean well I got a couple of things to say about its like first of all I think it was accurate concise fair I also think that this is a more technical note in some sense is that if if you ever want to think about something that’s exactly what you have to do right you want to take arguments that are against your perspective and you want to make them as strong as you possibly can so that you can fortify your arguments against them you don’t want to make them weak because that just makes you weak and so you know Sam and I are both scientists and it really is the case that what scientists are trying to do and I think what we’re actually trying to do in this conversation genuinely is to try to find out if there’s something that we’re thinking that’s stupid you know because when I’m laying out the arguments that Sam just summarized so well I’ve tried to generate a bunch of opposition to them in my own imagination and their arguments I put forward are ones I can’t undermine but that doesn’t mean they’re right it doesn’t mean that at all and so if someone comes along who’s and this is certainly the case if you’re a scientist who’s worth his or her salt if someone comes along and says hey look you’ve made a mistake in this fundamental proposition it’s like yes great that means I can make progress towards a more solid theory of being so and that’s what we’re trying to do and I do think it’s working and so I thought that was just fine exactly dead-on and I hope I can do justice to your position as well so okay so I’m gonna summarize Sam’s argument briefly and then I’m gonna tell them lately let you guys know why he thinks I’m things of what things I’m not taking into account so Sam believes that there are two fundamental dangers to psychological and social stability religious fundamentalism essentially on the right and moral relativism and nihilism on the left and so the danger of the right wing position is that it enables people to arbitrarily establish certain revealed axioms as indisputable truths and then to tyrannize themselves and other people with the claims that those are divine revelations and he sees that as part of the danger of religious fundamentalism and maybe religious thinking in general but also as something that characterizes secular totalitarian states that also has a religious aspect so that’s on the right and then on the left well the problem with the with the moral relativism nihilism position is that it leaves us with no orientation and it also flies in the face of common sense observations that there are ways to live that are bad and that there are ways to live that are good that people can generally agree on and that statements about those general agreements about how to live can be considered factual now so and and then the next part of Sam’s argument is that we require a value system that allows us to escape these twin dangers one stultified us and the other leaves us hopeless let’s say and that value system has to be grounded in something real and the only thing that he can see that actually constitutes real in any provable sense and there’s a certain amount of historical and conceptual weight behind this claim is the domain of empirical facts as they’ve been manifested in the sciences and technologies that have made us incredibly powerful and increasingly able to flourish in the world so we need to ground our value propositions in something that we’ve been able to determine has genuine solidity to so that we can so that we can orient ourselves properly so that we can make moral claims and that we can avoid these two in dangers we can begin with some basic facts that we can identify as I mentioned breathe briefly what constitutes a bad life endless pain suffering anxiety tremendous amount of negative emotions short term lifespan all the things that no one would choose voluntarily for themselves if if we would all agree that they were thinking in a healthy manner and we can contrast that sort of domain of horror with the good life which might involve while certainly freedom from privation and want and undue threat and anxiety and hope for the future and all of that and that we can agree that those are poles good bad and good and that that’s a factual claim so he Sam also claims that we can define the good life this is an extension of it with reference to flourishing and well-being and that that can actually be measured and that we should and can inform the idea of flourishing and well-being with empirical data having said all that he also leaves what would a domain of inquiry open that would be centered on the possibility that some of the ideas that have been encapsulated in religious phenomenology if not in religious dogma might be worth pursuing as well that there might be wisdom that can practically be applied in terms of perception to to spiritual practices although those become danger when dangerous increasingly dangerous as they become ensconced in dogma and so that’s Sam’s position and then his criticism of my ideas he would say that its facts not stories that constitute the ground for the proper science of well-being and that we don’t need to be connected to stories ancient stories in particular to thrive and the reason for that are that these ancient stories are pathological in certain details especially in the specific claims they make up which which look outrageous in some sense from a modern moral perspective and he believes that it’s hand-waving to ignore those specific topics and without you know with what would you call it an optimistic overview of the entire context that that they’re they’re dangerously outdated now if they ever were useful that they’re subject to too many potential interpretations for any modern usage to be reliably derived and so he believes that attempts to interpret these stories let’s say are rife with so many potential errors of bias and interpretation and subjectivity that all the interpretations in some sense are unreliable and perhaps equally unreliable that their data that worse than that not only are they unreliable but they’re dangerous insofar as the claims they lay out are pose a threat to scientific and enlightenment values which are the true saviors of humanity as evidenced by our progress let’s say over the last two or three hundred years and that they’re also susceptible to the totalitarian interpretation which I described earlier which confer upon the interpreter a sense of and then a claim to revealed truth and so I would say that Sam’s argument and his and his criticisms of my position so okay so you right my next book I’ll write yours Sam how do you feel about that characterization of your position certainly close enough to get the conversation started I mean there’s a few the grounding stuff where we have yet to talk about and I’m not as I’m not as much a stickler for materialistic scientific empiricism as I heard implied there but we can I think from the point of view of the audience this is a this is a good barometer of where we got to last night and I think actually the gains are really impressive which I have to say is spooking me because of something called regression to the mean now if I catch either one of you regressing to the mean tonight I will hunt you down and I will ridicule you on Twitter tomorrow so you have been warned okay all right so do either one of you want to now talk about what was missing from the other characterization or how do you want to move I think we should touch this issue of metaphorical truth because I think it still gets that the distance between us sure and it’s a and happily yeah this is your a phrase that you have may you might want to do you want to prop up this phrase why not so the idea of metaphorical truth which I think actually is the reconciliation between at least the points that you guys each started out with is the idea that there are concepts which are literally false that we can falsify in a scientific rational sense but that if you behave as if they were true you come out ahead of where you were if you behave according to the fact that they are false and so to call these things simply false is an error in effect the universe has left them true in some sense other than a purely literal one and so religions would then according to actually what you heard from both Sam and shorten religions would fall into this class of things these are encapsulations of stories and prescriptions that if you follow them irrespective of whether they literally describe the universe you end up with certain advantages that you may not know why they are there but nonetheless you you are ahead of your you ahead of your position if you were to navigate just simply on your your perceptions that’s the concept yes I think there’s a good analogy that you and I stumbled onto after we did a podcast together you had a an analogy about a porcupine that could shoot its quills which many people balked at but a listener gave us a better one which was the idea that anyone who’s worked with guns at all must have heard this admonishment to treat every gun as if it is loaded right and you actually what I last night when I alleged that you believed in God you corrected me said no you live as if God exists right and so this seems like there’s a connection here so if you’re if you know if I had a gun here that I wanted to show bread if I know anything about guns I’m going to make damn sure that it’s unloaded right I’m gonna pull back the slide I’m going to drop the magazine pull back the slide check the chamber and do this in a redundant fashion that really looks like I’m suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder maybe it is truly redundant and then I’ll hand it to Brett and if Brett knows anything about guns he will do the same thing having just seen me do it and if he hands it back to me again I will do the same thing even though there may be no ammunition around right so it really is crazy at the level of our explicit knowledge of a situation and yet absolutely necessary to do and it’s it’s not merely its it runs very deep I mean I would have been if that whole time you you’re careful not to point the barrel of the gun at anything you would be afraid to shoot and when people fail to live this way around guns they with some unnerving frequency actually shoot themselves or people close to them by accident so it’s really the only proper hedge against just the the odds of being in proximity to loaded weapons and yet if someone in the middle of this operation came up to us and said you know actually there’s a casino that just opened across the street that will take your bets about whether or not guns are loaded would you like to bet a million dollars as to whether or not this gun is loaded well of course I would bet those million dollars every time that it’s not loaded because I know it’s not loaded so there’s there’s a there’s a literal truth and a a metaphorical truth would you know otherwise known as a very useful fiction which in this case is actually more useful than the truth right but the only way I can understand its utility is and and even utter the phrase metaphorical truth in a way that it’s comprehensible is in the context of distinguishing it from literal truth and this is fascinating Sam actually this is this is I think next Jesus I’m a little I’m worried by how excited you are about so I have a little story that might be helpful about that and so you could you could tell me what what you think about okay think about this okay so so one of the things that I’ve been reconsidering since we talked last night is is the nature of our dispute about the relationship between facts and values because I I think I can make a case that what I’ve been trying to do especially in my first book was to ground values in facts but I’m not doing it the same way that you are exactly so so I don’t want to make that a point point of contention so and I’ll get to that in a moment but with regards to this metaphor of the truth let me tell you something you tell me what you think about this so one of the things that’s been observed by anthropologists worldwide is that human beings tend to make sacrifices so I’m gonna spend two minutes three minutes laying out a sacrificial story and the reason I want to do it is because see what I think happened with regards to the origin of these profound stories is that people first started to behave in certain ways that had survival significance and that was selected for as a consequence of the standard selection practices and so that was instantiated in behavior and then because we can observe ourselves because we’re self conscious creatures that we started to make representations of those patterns and dramatize the man then encapsulate them in stories so it’s a bottom up from from me so it would be sort of like chimpanzees or wolves become aware of their dominance hierarchy structures and the strategies that they use so a wolf for example if two wolves are having a dominance dispute one the wolf that gives up first lays down and puts his neck open so the other wolf can tear it out and then the other wolf doesn’t and you could say well it’s as if a wolf is following a rule about not killing a weaker member of the pack of course wolves don’t have rules they have behavioral patterns but a self-conscious wolf would watch what the wolves were doing and then say well it’s as if we’re acting out the idea that each wolf in the pack has intrinsic value and then that starts to be any maybe the wolves would have a little story about that the heroic forbearing wolf that doesn’t tear out the neck of its opponents and that that’s a good wolf well that’s good wolf ethics and and and so but it’s grounded but it’s grounded in the actual behavior okay so let’s put that aside for a second no here’s the sacrificial story so human beings have made sacrifices it seems to be a standard practice all around the world and in the biblical narratives they would often sacrifice something of value like like a valuable animal like a child start let’s look I’m not I’m not making light of this I know that human sacrifice was a part of this but that again so just to just to give you a crib on where my mind goes here’s human human sacrifice is as old a religious precept as we know about yeah it’s a cultural Universal the the other sacrifices are derivation from it and circumcision is a surrogate for the far more barbaric act of human sacrifice and you know it answers every test you would put to it with respect to its archetypal significance it’s impelling presence in stories across all cultures but the horror is that it actually has taken place in all these cultures based on licit beliefs in the presence of just just right Arthur casts of scientific ignorance our Kessler used that as the argument for the essential insanity of humanity yes no but it’s not just the insanity of humanity it’s the the misapprehension of the causal structure of the cosmos that you don’t know what Naturals the weather you don’t know why people get sick you think your neighbours capable of casting magic spells on you you’re ignorant of everything and you’re trying to force some order on things and so when you don’t in the absence of engineers and you don’t know why build certain buildings fall down you actually can agree with your neighbour that maybe you should bury your firstborn child into every post hole of this new building which in fact has took place and it’s the consequence of ignorance and so that the problem is if you’re only going to talk about purifies notion of sacrifice very strange consequence of ignorance like we said it’s the notion that we’re in relationship to invisible others that can they can mistreat us based on or not having offered enough where we are but not precisely those others well but we’re in relationship to the invisible others who will judge us in the future okay you’re changing you’re changing the noun an important way to understand I’m not trying to argue against the horror of child sacrifice no I would never imagine I know I know but I’m also yeah but I’m also trying but my work would be much easier if you did that yes yes yes and the work of journalists as well we’ve tried that so right that would be that would even be worse than enforced monogamy hypothetically though so okay so see I’m let’s say that I’m trying to give the devil his due and I’m trying to understand from an evolutionary perspective like a cognitive behavioral evolutionary perspective let’s say why that particular set of ideas would emerge and in many many many places perhaps autonomously or once having emerged would spread like wildfire it’s like because I’m not willing to only attribute it to ignorance now we could attribute it to ignorance no problem man but but there’s more going on there because it is a human Universal and like there’s all sorts of things that happen in nature as a consequence of biological and evolutionary processes that don’t work out well for our current state of moral intuition okay so one of the things because I’ve been thinking about this sacrificial motif for a very long time you’re trying to figure out what that what what the hell’s the idea here exactly and so so here’s one way of thinking about it if you give up something of value now you can gain something of more value in the future okay so let’s think about that idea for a minute so the first thing is that’s a that’s a hell of an idea let’s delay delay that’s right that’s the discovery of the future as well and so you might say well the notion of sacrifice is exactly the same thing as the discovery of the future if we give up something we really value now we can make a pact with the structure of existence itself such that better things will happen to us in the future yes okay now what’s weird about this and it’s hard to understand is that it works so when I talk to my students for example and I say what did your parents sacrifice to send you to university many of them are children of first-generation immigrants and so it’s like man they’re on that story in a second right they know all sorts of things that their parents sacrificed and they’re delaying gratification in the present for a radically delayed return in the future now you think animals generally speaking might act out the idea of delayed gratification as a consequence of running out their instincts but they don’t conceptualize it it’s not obvious that animals give up something they value right now in order to thrive in the future there’s an old story about how to catch a monkey right so yeah you put a jar up with rocks in it then you put little candies and it’s a narrow neck jar you put little candies on top of the rocks put a few candies in front of the of the jar then the monkey comes along and picks up the candies puts his hand in the jar grabs the candies and can’t get it out I still don’t know if this actually works on monkeys or it was just a great story I don’t know I don’t know either and I’ve heard I’ve heard various claims but but but the point is you can go pick up the monkey he won’t let go of the candidates now perhaps he would but the the the issue is is that it’s not obvious that animals will forego an immediate gratification for a future gratification I don’t think I don’t think that’s right actually and actually well the question is can will they do it consciously they might act it out they act it out that’s not the issue it’s very hard to know if it’s conscious I drove onto the questionnaires but I know I know anything and the line between acting it out and becoming starting to consciously represent it is a tenuous one but what looks to me like what happened is that after we observed that people who were capable of delaying gratification sacrificed things that they valued in order to obtain a future goal and it worked that we started to codify that as a representation and then started to act it out and so so the story and and you’d say well that produced strange variants but but there’s a reason for that – as far as I can say so imagine this imagine that there’s a rule of thumb sacrificing what you find valuable now will ensure certain benefits in the future well then the question becomes how good could those future benefits be and so that might be heavenly let’s say in the archetypal extreme and what’s the ultimate sacrifice that you have to perform and then I would say well the child sacrifice it fits into that category and so it’s it’s as if those ideas were pushed to their radical extreme and you could say well that’s a pathological extreme it’s like well it is it is a powerful logic extreme but but I think we also have to understand that some of the things that we’ve learned as we’ve evolved towards our current state of wisdom such as it is is that they were learned in a very bloody and catastrophic way they were learned with incredible difficulty and delay of gratification was certainly one of those because it’s a hell of a thing to learn when you’re in conditions of privation okay yeah I think that the issue here for me is that you don’t need a conception of you don’t need any kind of positive gloss on human sacrifice as a meme or as an archetype in order to form a coherent picture of the future that can motivate you so delayed delayed gratification is fully separable from a notion that it might ever be rational or good to sacrifice a child as an offering to an invisible other that doesn’t matter how do you know it’s separable because that’s the developmental history as you said well that sacrifice even if I oh yeah I think I think it is in fact historically separable but let’s just say it’s not let’s just say as a matter of our origins they’re United they’re of a piece it’s just it is the genetic fallacy to care about that origin I mean there are two say that the that is the only path forward toward a notion of the future given where we’ve come from or that it’s somehow necessary to venerate now or that it’s good do we but we do venerate the idea of sacrifice now but I would say I would say we do it to to the detriment of our moral intuitions in the religious context so for instance I think that the notion that Christian and Christianity is actually a cult of human sacrifice a Christianity is not a religion that repudiates human sacrifice Christianity is a religion that says actually no human sacrifice is necessary and there was only one that in fact was necessary and effective and that’s the sacrifice of Jesus and I think that is when you dig into the details not only a morally uninteresting of our circumstance and how we are how we can be redeemed it’s morally abhorrent right so I think there’s a there’s better version ok let me ask you a question about that so in in in in the moral landscape you lay out this pathway there’s the bad life and there’s the good life right and you described what they were and the bad life is a variation of hellish circumstances and the good life is a variant of hypothetically the life that we would like to lead and your conception is that and correct me if I’m wrong your conception is that the proper pathway forward so that would be the moral endeavor is to move away from the bad and towards the good yeah insofar as we understand which way is up yes yes the basic claim is that we can be right or wrong with respect to we do we don’t necessarily know how to do that in an unerring manner and and we could subject that to approximation correction along the way and we should but we can outline the broad scheme you know just progress away from hell towards something that’s positive yes yes ok so I would say that there’s an implicit claim in that that you should sacrifice everything in you that isn’t serving that to that and I would say that that’s essentially the same claim that’s made in Christianity well again that is a I may I understand the impulse to uplevel these barbaric ignorance derived beliefs right to something that is morally that it’s interesting and palatable in in in the current context and I I understand you can do that my concern there is you can do that with everything I mean you could do it with witchcraft why not do the exact same thing you’re doing with religion to the history of witchcraft witchcraft is as as well water I just would do that so that’s a perfectly yeah but so it’s but it’s say that should be of concern me there’s there are reasons why we don’t want to endorse witchcraft absolutely and so so I’m not talking in modern witchcraft currently exists I mean you go to Africa they’re there you know people are hunting albinos for their body parts because they believe sympathetic magic and they and kids get killed as witches so this belief indoors in certain pockets of humanity and we’re right to about just think at a certain point you have to acknowledge that some ideas are not only wrong but they’re their effects or disastrous or have been disastrous or will likely be even if good in certain circumstances will likely be disastrous in the future and then we shouldn’t be hostage to these these ancient memes we shouldn’t have to figure out how to make the most of the worst idea that anyone’s ever had which is you should maybe you should sacrifice your firstborn child to opinion you’ve never seen hold on Sam I I want to hold your feet to the fire here look at two points one interesting observation when you presented the example so on your podcast I had argued that believing that porcupines can throw their quills might protect you from a porcupine that might wheel around even though porcupines can’t throw their quills your listener sent the better example which was all guns are loaded when you presented it you didn’t say all guns are loaded well you said treat all guns as if they are loaded which is I think the same reflex that you have faced with any metaphorical truth which is that it can always be unpacked but it’s actually that’s the way Jordan talks about believing in God as well right and actually so so this is but then if we take something like you so you say all right sacrifice of children is abhorrent let’s say it is and then you say well Christianity hasn’t forgone the sacrifice of children in fact it’s described one child who is sacrificed for everybody else but arguably that’s an upgrade of some metaphorical truth that frees those who are adhering to this tradition from ever considering sacrificing a child and what it does is it provides a motivational structure that may in fact have very positive outgrowths though not literal the idea that someone would have sacrificed their own child the benefit of everybody else not to have to that idea might engender a large amount of good work that would result as Jordans point well let me just concede that the hardest case for me I mean which I did up top just in defining when after you define metaphorical truth and I use the gun example there’s certainly cases where the useful fiction is more useful than the truth I would grant that but you know I think those cases are few and far between but handling guns is one of them it’s just not useful when when the casino opens across the street and you can place a million-dollar bet right then you want you want to have some purchase on the literal truth so you want to be able to and and again this is psychologically interesting because and I keep coming back to the gun example because the one that that is viscerally real to me like if I have a real gun that I know to be unloaded I still emotionally can’t treat it as a harmless object I can’t point it at my child just for the fun of it because you know that we’re gonna play cops and robbers now with a real gun right this this yeah I have a I have a superstitious attachment to always being safe with the gun right and it’s and it’s important it’s important that that get ingrained and yet it is not strictly right it’s not international because it has good effects but it’s it’s not actually in register with what I know to be true factually in each moment right so very low cost yes it’s very low cause it’s not divided in societies and causing people to go to war and if you were gonna teach a child gun safety you would want to encode this so that they would automatically know never to behave as if a gun is unloaded because that’s what gets you into trouble as an adult every every gun owner recognizes the distinction between the metaphorical truth and the literal truth here but I guess what I suspect is going on here is that mechanism for dealing with the world involves unpacking all of these things and I think it’s highly productive but it also means that you have a hard time understanding why anybody would do anything different and that’s the question is just because we can track fully the difference between guns actually all being loaded and behaving as if all guns are loaded right that one there’s no leftover or there’s nothing there’s no mystery there right but there may be many of these things for which there is some difficulty lining up the metaphorical truth with the literal truth and operating according to the metaphorical truth might have advantages which i think is what you’re getting it so well so here’s here’s another situation because you know we have to remember what kind of catastrophic past we emerged from and how much privation ruled the world prior to 1895 essentially and certainly the farther back you go the more bloody and horrible it was I mean how often do you think it was necessary and this is not obviously something I’m in favor of and this is also one of these situations where we get to play with ideas that we might not what otherwise play with how often do you think it was necessary for people in the past who had absolutely no access to birth control and who didn’t have enough food to sacrifice a child for the survival of their family I mean god only knows yeah that’s it well but that’s worth thinking about it’s like you know life is unbelievably cruel and difficult and one of the problems that comes when you discover the future is that you might have to make the most painful of sacrifices and lots of lots of archaic people do this sort of thing they do that with their elderly people they do that with sick people they do that with infants that they deemed too fragile to survive like so part of child sacrifice and I know the literature on child sacrifice reasonably well part of child sacrifice seemed to emerge out of the observable necessity to leave someone behind so that everyone else didn’t die and we don’t know how often that had to happen in the past it might have had to happen a lot right now obviously just just in the interest of kind of conceptual clarity here human sacrifice is a larger horror than that so you have it was very common is the sacrificing of you know captive so you take the Aztec sacrifices where you you know you now have slaves some of whom you’re going to Aztec sacrificed about twenty five thousand people a year yeah yeah I mean it’s it’s clearly a bloody mess there’s no doubt about that but you know one of the things that you see happening in the biblical narrative which is extraordinarily interesting is that you see echoes of child sacrifice at the beginning but what happens is the sacrificial notion gets increasingly psychologists as the story progresses so you know you see that transition with Abraham and Isaac where the child sacrifice is actually forbidden although previously demanded by God and then you also see it as you already laid out in the substitution of the circumcision for the idea of sacrifice itself and then what seems to happen see I’m trying to figure out how these ideas develops like psychologically from their behavioral underpinnings is that eventually it becomes psychologize completely so you can say well we can we can conceptualize a sacrifice in the abstract so my parents can sacrifice to send me to university without anything or anyone having to die it transforms itself from something that’s enacted out as a dramatic ritual into something that’s a psychological reality but all that blood and catastrophe along the way as part of the process by which the idea comes to emerge right definitely so what is the connection of all of this because yes so there is this history and I would argue we are busily trying to outgrow much of it if not most of it and whether its evolutionary history or just really might be trying to transmute it so that it becomes we can we can maintain and as you you’ve suggested we do we can maintain what’s useful in the tradition and throughout everything thats pathologic yes but I but we’re constantly discovering a lack of fit between both our what we perceive in ourselves as biological imperatives and the cultural legacies of just what mommy and daddy taught me was true right yes we have now every reason to believe might not be true and we’re trying to optimize our thoughts and institutions and and relationships with one another for our current circumstance and yet we have this legacy effect of certain books and certain ways of speaking have a completely different status and they have this status because they may in fact it’s imagined not be the products of merely previous human minds but they may be the products of omniscience and that this is where the respect accorded to religious tradition is totally unlike that the respect we would Accord to anything else but you know mythology literature past science past philosophy I mean you people can read Plato and Aristotle for their entire lives with ever without ever being fully captured by the kind of dogmatism that that every religion demands that you’d be captured but if you’re really going to be an adherent I would say that’s actually an archetypal truth you know the idea that the pathological tradition stands in the way of update that’s an archetypal truth I mean one of the reasons why in creation myths one of the variants of a creation myth is that the hero has to slay a tyrannical giant in order to make it make the world out of his pieces and it’s a metaphorical Restatement of the idea that a tradition can become hidebound and when it becomes hidebound and too rigid that it interferes with current adaptation but the problem isn’t and this is I think this is something we really need to hash out the problem is the problem that you’re describing is the problem of a priori structure now some of that’s textual but some of it isn’t textual some of it resides in us as our psyche insofar salient the problem I’m I’m describing here is that we have two categories of books in this case we have those written by people like ourselves just endlessly open for criticism and conjecture and those written by invisible omniscient and I would assume that if these religious systems weren’t codified in books if they were still just enacted or dramatized you’d have the same objection it’s not the fact that they’re in books no but it is the dogmatism it’s the factory I can’t we can’t jettison that part okay it’s the dogmatism okay so to me that’s the same as the problem of structure now here here’s the here’s the problem I think with the way that your argument is laid out I’m not saying it’s wrong it seems to me that this is a place where it needs to be developed because I see that the attempt that you make to derive the world of value from the world of facts as as justifiable given what it is that you’re attempting to do which in principle is to make the world a better place but there’s a massive gap in there it’s like how do you do it because the objection that you place on my my reasoning let’s say which is well the problem with these texts is that there’s an infinite number of interpretations in which of them can you how can you determine which of those is canonically correct is exactly and precisely the same criticism that can be levied against your attempt to extract a world of value from the domain of facts it’s the same problem it’s not an infinite number of interpretations in either case but I I allow most enough to infinite so it might be I mean that’s why the moral landscape for me is a landscape of peaks and valleys and so you know I’m totally open to the possibility in fact certainty that there are different ways for similar minds and certainly different ways for different minds to be constellated so that they have equivalent but irreconcilable peaks on the bland scape so there’s a lot of well-being over here and there’s a lot of well-being over here and there’s a valley in between and so it’s it’s a kind of moral relativism it’s kind of like oh this is this is great and this is great but these are irreconcilable rights well I’d like to see that made more concrete and I need to know how that fits in with your conception because one of the claims that you make in the moral landscape is that the distinction between the bad life and the good life is normally it’s like it’s a factual distinction yes it’s universally it’s universally apprehensible and true it’s your I think it’s your fundamental axiomatic claim and I don’t see how that’s commensurate with the position that you just put forward was it so here’s the position and you can forget about morality as a concept for this man I think the mirtha the starting point is deeper than the starting point and this is all this is our starting point all of us right now in the universe the starting point is we are conscious right we have a we have a circumstance that admits of qualitative experience and again this is true whatever however we understand consciousness whatever is actually happening we could be living in a simulation this could be a dream you could be a brain-in-a-vat consciousness could just be the product of neuro chemistry or we could have eternal souls running on so how is I’m gonna integrate it with the brain whatever is true something seems to be happening and these C means can be really really bad or really really good we know yet each one of us in our lives have experienced this range of possibility and yes there are caveats here there are hard and painful experiences that have a silver lining right that give you some other capacity where you can say well you know that really sucked but I’m a better person for it right and we can understand what it means to be a better person for it in terms again of this range of experience which I you know I’m calling to subsuming all of this the positive end of this as well-being which is to say that you know I’m a better person for it because now you know having endured that ordeal I am capable of much greater compassion or I appreciate my life more you know the cancer made me a better person now that I’ve value each moment of life more than I ever did all of these claims are intelligible within a context of an open-ended context of exploring this space of possible experience so what I’m saying forget about morality forget about right and wrong and good and evil what is undeniable is that what we have here is a navigation problem we have a space of possible experience and again this is not just a human problem this is a problem for any possible conscious mind we have a space a possible experience in which we can navigate and we and things can get excruciating and pointlessly horrible where there are no silver linings and we get this again this can happen individually in some episode of madness that never ends if there really is a Christian hell to go to well then it can it’s gonna happen to me after I die right given what I’ve said on this stage if and so it matters who’s right obviously if I knew that a an eternity of fiery torment awaited somebody who didn’t make the right noises about one or one faith or another well then it would only be rational to make those right noises right so it’s it’s my bet I’m placing a bet on certain pictures of reality being wrong but the reality is is we’re navigating in this space and morality and ethics are the terms we use for how we think about our behavior affecting one another’s experience so if you’re in a moral solitude if you’re on a desert island or if you’re you know on a alone in the universe morality is not the issue you need to worry about but well-being still is an ever-present issue it’s possible to suffer and it’s possible to to experience bliss and and something perhaps something beyond that and we the horizon in both directions is something we will never fully explore explore very likely we don’t know how good things can get and we don’t know how bad they can get but but that there’s a spectrum here is undeniable and I would say that that my moral realism simply entails that we acknowledge that it’s possible not to know what you’re missing it’s possible to be living in a way where you are less happy than you could be and not to know why right and just not have the wisdom to make the changes and that matters if anything matters that matters and and it matters to us individually and it matters to us collectively and that mattering is our is that subsumes everything we can intelligently want in this domain of value and that’s and so again it’s a kind that the the cash value of any value claim is in the the actual or potential change in consciousness for some conscious system somewhere sometimes and that’s that’s my claim and it’s can I try to get I would like you each to clarify some times so it sounds to me Sam like you are hypothesizing that a rationalist approach will always beat a traditional metaphorical approach with respect to the generation of well being well not always but another there’s so many obvious downsides to the traditional sectarian dogmatic approach that we should want to get out of the religion business as fast as possible okay so okay but as fast as possible but do you mean that it has always been true that we should always have gotten away from it as fast as possible or do you mean now we should get away from it as fast as possible but there is a point somewhere in the past where it might have been true that actually the best the most the richest path to well-being might have been encoded metaphorically oh yeah that’s certainly possible and in fact you might even say it was likely based on the fact that we have all of these systems still around in part because they’re like we still we still think in metaphor and we actually can’t help it because half of our brain is oriented towards metaphor but can I get you to clarify something now yes okay so you have argued and you’ve actually quite surprised me by doing so you’ve argued that the dogmatism is a bug and not a feature you’ve argue no it’s a bug and a feature okay it’s a bug and a feature good so yeah but what what I thought I heard you say was that the resistance to update yes was a problem that effectively it was an obstacle yes so his lack of resistant stuff right okay there’s problems everywhere man well it’s there’s attention there is attention this attendance a terrible tension right well look at this way look at it this way most new ideas are stupid and dangerous but but mostly fire as well I mean that’s some of them are vital right and so we have we’re screwed both ways it’s like well if we stay locked in our current motive apprehension oh hell it’s gonna break loose if we generate a whole bunch of new solutions most of them are going to be wrong and we’re going to and so what we need to do is well it it’s a Darwinian claim in some sense is that yep despite the fact that most new ideas are stupid and dangerous a subset of them are so vital that if we don’t coorporate them we’re all going to perish that’s the bloody existential condition and so now and part of the issue here and see and I think that this is the problem is is that let’s take the the dogma idea okay so there’s the dogma incorporated in the books but I’m gonna throw away the books because the dogma was there before the books and then the question is where was the dogma and the answer was the dogma was in the cultural practices but and in and in the agreement that people made with regards to those cultural practices but it was also part and parcel of the intrapsychic structure that enables us to perceive the world as such now the problem is and I think this is the central place where we need to flesh out these ideas is that you cannot view the world without an a priori structure and that a priori structure has a dogmatic element and so you can’t just say well let’s get rid of the dog one because you will not perceive the world without a struct that has an uninspected element this is if you’re talking about just perceiving the world yes we have it we have perceptual structure that allows for us to perceive the world and we know that there are failure states right so we know we know for instance that we are we are we’ve evolved to perceive in visual space based on a literally neurological expectation that light sources will be from above right so we know that we can produce visual illusions based on gaming that expectation right but that’s not the same thing as a a Dogma subscribe to page 7 some subset of humanity that is antithetical to another Dogma subscribed to by another set of humanity that has nothing to do with underlying biology that’s something that’s this change of so obvious well but it’s changeable in real time but based on just conversations like this you know we could have you know I get emails from people who can point to these the paragraph where they lost their faith right we’re in reading somebody and reading Richard Dawkins or we’re hearing a debate between between me and some theologian where it’s just a collision against rationality which is so useful in every other context suddenly proves its utility in this context where they think well okay clearly I know the Muslims are wrong about the status of the Quran let me let me take that that that spirit of criticism in the internal space of my own culture and what what moves well a dogmatic attachment of Christianity has to move by that same standard well and that’s and and it’s possible to do that and that’s not a matter of getting into the brain and changing your perceptual apparatus that has well the distinction between different levels of what would you call it structure related processing in the brain and the relationship to the underlying biology isn’t clear like and it isn’t clear when that’s biological and when is it when it isn’t so you know your your your comments about our a priori perceptual structures notwithstanding there’s no clear line between what constitutes an instantiated accurate biological perception and something that shades more into a cultural presupposition so it’s a it’s a gray area now here let me ask you a question so that this is one of the things I’ve been thinking about so this is this is designed to point out the differ I’m not making the claim that the idea that we should ground values in facts is wrong I’m not going to make that claim although I think it’s way more complicated than we’ve opened up so far but I would say is I can I think relatively easily demonstrate a situation in which you cannot find the value from the facts let’s say you own an antique it’s valuable and you think I’m gonna take this antique apart and I’m gonna find out where the value is good luck well it is it’s not valuable in that sense well wait a second wait a second so we need to know so that’s right it’s not valuable in that sense because the value of the antique is a social agreement about its position in a hierarchy it has nothing to do with the material substrate at the antique yeah but but not you can’t it’s not too sure is that your honor you’ve made the claim already that you can derive values from facts it’s like then what are you willing to these are facts about again so there are facts about the facts exist in the inter subjective space right so if I if I tell you well this glass this isn’t just an ordinary glass I know it looks just like that one but this is the glass that Elton John drank from his last concert here yeah right right so you know what do you want to pay me for it right right it it could be that you know you’re just the biggest Elton John fan ever and you it’s worth quite a lot to you now that is it’s a kind of evident it’s not value intrinsic to the glass but it is it is it is a where’s the value located well it’s a measure in in the change this provokes in your experience right there’s the idea I mean we value ideas as much as anything else and that’s the you know that’s hence the the mad work done by religion right I mean because it’s not these aren’t facts on the ground these are ideas that rule people’s lives people spend their whole life afraid of Hell okay it seems to me that it’s easier in some sense rather than to relate the value of that I love the Alton Jones class example that’s going to use the Elvis Presley is here I will tell with him it’s like wearing the guitar is the fact that it’s Elvis Presley’s guitar well it’s nowhere in the guitar well what is it in where is it Beth and the answer is it’s in the dominance hierarchy of values that’s been socially constructed around the guitar it’s located in interpersonal space and that that location so value is located in interpersonal space and if you want to say well that’s also a fact it’s like okay but in fact and that’s the beliefs and desires and conscious states of all the people involved okay well that’s the only place where it exists it’s only for the idea of Elvis’s guitar can show okay well I’m trying to figure out then you see because what seems to me to be happening at least in part is that the we can stretch the the domain of what constitutes a fact so that the domain of fact starts to incorporate the domain of values but we do that with some doing some damage to the domain of fact no don’t say don’t just say no it’s this is right I’ll say more this really complicated because you see part of what the post modernists have done is that they’ve pushed away the domain of facts entirely and they say well the only thing is is that the only thing that actually exists is that this domain of interest subjective agreement and you and I are on the same page with respect to post-modernism right but but but you have to give but you have to give it you have to give the devil his due as well they pointed out something and what they pointed out is that it’s not so easy to localize the structure that attributes to facts their value it’s not a simple thing now wait wait yes you would surely agree that if we had Elvis Presley’s guitar that that guitar would have a material impact on people we could tell them this is Elvis Presley’s Qatar some fraction of them would disbelieve it somebody might be able to establish it based on a picture or something like that and the point is it would have a value that would alter the behavior of people with respect to that object in a material way yes it would alter the behavior you can also manifest in physical space which part of it the be a detective we could figure out what the value of this guitar is based on some intersection sure we could take a behaviorist approach and we could see how much work people were willing to do – yes we can scan their brains and see what these well hypothetically we can do it but practically because the MRI data generally speaking is junk well we can table that well look it’s that will be found a controversial statement it’s fair enough I don’t think we need it we don’t need it but we know let’s go with brain the brain as yet incompletely understood is surely involved in the valuing of this object right and so if I say if I tell you that this is and again we can take it out of inter subjective space because it could you you could be in a value solitude with respect to any given object so it could just be you could have a sentimental attachment to your watch that’s worth exactly twenty-five dollars because what you paid for it but this is the watch that you know this is your first watch or whatever it is and you wouldn’t sell it for any amount of money right that’s a measure of your behavioral measure of how much you value it and if I told you oh well you know sorry I borrowed your watch and lost it what the cascade of negative effect that I see on your face is correlated with something that’s happening in your head and the brain is involved right so that well you have that pigment or basically state is the value I can tell this that there’d be a socio-cultural agreement as to the value of whatever this entity is and that would find its mirror in the brain and that’s that’s a non-controversial statement because all socio-cultural phenomena that are experienced find the reflection in the brain the fact that you can say that that’s reflected in the brain it’s continually run into with religion is that there you have a domain of so-called sacred values where people who are otherwise rational cease to be rational actors so the reason why Israel and the Israelis and the Palestinians can’t negotiate as though their problems could be solved by a real estate transaction it’s because they have irrational and irreconcilable claims upon land and bilging do you think the ready I don’t think there are any more irrational than the claim that that glass is worth something no it’s just no no it’s like that it’s like that but that’s not irrational by your own definition you just said that that was actually constituted of fact it’s a fact about people right say there are ok careful it’s confusing yep the there are we can make objective claims about subjective experience it’s not it’s there are we use this word objective and subjective in in different ways we use it in histological ways and ontological ways and give me just one sec to make sure I’m on the same ok what I can illustrate by way of example if I say that oh that’s just your subjective opinion right I’m saying I’m denigrating I’m saying that you know this is an expression of your bias this is this is just true for you but it’s not true out in the world right that’s one way I can use the the subject of object of distinction and that’s an epistemological way like you’re you’re ruled by bias you’re not thinking straight you know I don’t have to your opinion seriously that’s subjective I’m worried about objective facts but people get confused they think that objective facts only means the material world and what’s what’s really in this glass as a material object no we can be a much more objective than that we can we can make objective claims about the subjective experience of people like ourselves I can I can I can make an infinite number of objective claims about the experience this is the example I always use but I just happen to love it what what was JFK thinking the moment he got shot right that’s it we don’t know so we’ll never get the data right so the the the truth or false nosov of what I’m about to say can’t be predicated on actually getting access to the data because because he’s not around and his brains not around to scan so but we you and I both know an infinite number of things he wasn’t thinking about we can make a clan objective claim about his subjectivity I know he wasn’t thinking well I hope Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris work it out on stage that night right and an infinite number of things like that he was thinking something he was experiencing something but we don’t know what it is that so I so what I’m talking about this domain of value I’m saying that it exists in the this landscape of actual and possible conscious experience for human beings and and any other system like us that can experience this range of suffering and happiness well okay so and partly what I’m trying to do is to actually determine what that structure is like so in our case it’s certainly connected to the evolved structure of our brain it’s oriented by everything else we do want to go way deeper into to the idea then it’s connected with brain States because it’s yes it’s definitely connected with brain States the question is at least in part how and what does that mean and I think that the neuroscience has progressed far enough so that we can do quite a good job of this and so what I want to return to one thing and maybe I’ll outline a little bit of this and when you talked about the israeli-palestinian conflict you said that that was irrational and so look you know fair enough we people have been locked with their hands around each other’s necks there for 3,000 years but there’s a problem there and the problem is that people are looking at the landscape from a contextualized perspective right it’s not just a piece of land it’s their piece of land it’s like your house or maybe your favorite shirt it’s like what you say well I have a favorite shirt it’s like well there’s nothing inherent in this shirt that makes it your favorite no it’s a subjective judgment it’s like well then is that a fact well yes it’s a fact it’s a fact about subjective judgment it’s okay well the Israeli claim on the land that the Palestinian claim on the land is a subjective judgment that’s a fact it’s like so how is it saying it because it is the the true analogy here the complete analogy is rather like we’re about to fight over Elton John’s glass and Elton John was never here [Applause] so I’m not saying it so it so it clearly still matters to us you know in our misapprehension of our situation we still really care and these are these are objectively true claims about the level of at which we value things and and hence the impasse but it matters if that’s counterproductive ly dismissive like you can say well it’s it’s really not when you look at the specific claims it’s really not it’s look you took you took the contextual interpretation to its absolute extreme you said well there’s multiple reasons why different people who occupy the same piece of land are going to feel about it in different ways sure okay and and most of those reasons are amenable to some kind of rational compromise their studies on this I mean their studies done by people who when you say disagree right but you say the word rational in that context you’re using it as a black box that contains the concept proper way of thinking about it it’s like it’s not so obvious tin most situations what the rational approach is I have an obvious one here and and and that’s that whatever the Christians and the Muslims and the Jews think they’re getting from their attachment to their dogmatic and irreconcilable religious world views can be gotten just as well by a deeper understanding of the of our universal and non culturally bound capacity for ethical experience spiritual experience community building and we can switch that from space what’s that grounded in we can touch that space without design it’s almost like the status quo is it’s almost like you’re content to live in a world or you’re at least you’re content not to judge too harshly a world where fans of rival soccer teams or baseball teams regularly kill one another over their fandom right like what if that were the status quo so he’s been this way for thousands of years there must be a reason for it really like sports I’m not trying to justify the israeli-palestinian conflict no but I’m saying that completely too quick to judge the sanctity of their of their differences of opinion okay what wait a minute Sam there you made a claim like your claim was that if the Christians and the Jews and the Muslims would just stop their stupidity and adopt this universal ethic then everything would be okay it’s like okay what’s the basis for the universal ethic like that’s that’s not 101 in search of that the truth isn’t that’s an interesting problem for philosophers and for scientists that’s not actually where the rubber meets the road for people living their lives well I mean it’s analogous to me between I really care about all of this and I and I my job as a as a philosopher in that case is to make the best case I can for these ideas but the truth is it is analogous to when when you get into a debate with a a Christian fundamentalist in the States very often this pert this person will pretend to care about cosmology or evolution as though it’s the most important thing in the world as though you can’t get out of bed in the morning and figure out how to treat your friends and family well unless you figure out what happened before the Big Bang right no one really lives their lives that way and yet we have convinced ourselves that this is a sensible way of talking about the conflict between religion and so I think you I think you have arrived at the core of your conflict right here and I actually hear you both loud and clear your point is that if the people faced with the question were to you know start with a fresh sheet of paper look at the Middle East they could arrive at a compromise that they as individuals might find put them way ahead and it’s more profitable than the situation that they are continually finding themselves in yeah and that might be the case on the other hand the reason that they don’t is that historically those who have have been out competed by those who haven’t so the point is the universe and the fact that it refuses to solve that conflict is telling us that there is some reason that people who take that prospect seriously are not actually correct in some at least metaphorical way so in other words what is if they have a sentimental attachment to some piece of territory somewhere that sounds completely irrational on the other hand that sentimental attachment may result in you continuing four five hundred or a thousand or two thousand years whereas if you surrendered it because it was irrational you might go extinct now should you care that your lineage is gonna go extinct maybe arguably not on the other hand it’s hard to imagine that what you’re saying is so thoroughly grounded that it can justify causing people to alter their perspective on value in such a way that it might actually drive them extinct it’s not clearly secularism we’re talking about the fringe here we’re talking about that when you’re talking about in this case the Israeli settlers and the Palestinian terrorists right like that is that is there we should all breathe a sigh of relief that that doesn’t that that kind of passionate attachment to land doesn’t characterize most of humanity if you’re trying to defend your house so but that’s kind of different on Jordan because I think this is this is where this is where the the crux of it is well so if you follow the idea that this is actually some come at the seemingly sentimental and irrational attachment to the piece of land is some sort of meta rationality which sounds like your perspective then we are now confronted with the question of alright if it is an evolved kind of meta rationality that is being manifest in stories that cause people to behave in ways that Sam sees is clearly irrational then we are stuck with the naturalistic fallacy which is to say so for those who don’t know the naturalistic fallacy says that just because something is doesn’t mean it ought right the fact that selection favors something doesn’t make it good when the Aztecs sacrifice their enemies it is good for continuing Aztec nests but it may not be good in some absolute moral sense so here’s the question for you you’re arguing for I think an evolutionarily very viable explanation for religious belief and dogma but aren’t you stuck with the downside of it where much of what is encoded in that way may actually be abhorrent generally unconscious okay so what about it what do we do about well this is this is exactly the sorting algorithm yes what isn’t trying to get to it okay okay so this is actually why I asked Sam this question it wasn’t it wasn’t an attack it’s like okay so look people have these belief systems Christian Muslim Jew we’ll say for that and you’re saying abandon those let’s say – – and move towards this transcendent rationality it’s like okay two problems it’s not so easy to abandon a belief system because you end up in the moral relativist nihilist pit well it’s a problem one doesn’t have to well that’s an empirical claim that we would we’d have to find out whether that’s true there’s a lot of evidence against that yeah well there’s plenty of evidence for it – but it’s beside the point to some degree because that isn’t that isn’t something that I want to quibble about there perhaps there are trends there are transitional paths and sometimes people find a collapse of their faith actually freeing it’s certainly the case that many of the people who are happy about what you’re doing have found exactly that in what you’ve been saying and more power to you and so on I’m not willing to dispute that but what you said was okay here’s these belief systems that are ancient and complex and we can step outside of the men there’s this transcendent rationality that we could all aspire to that would solve the problems it’s like okay what is it well what is it exactly it is at a minimum to value all of the variables that conspire to make the one life we know we have okay we can’t value all those variables well no we can we were doing it right we do it every day and how we organize ourselves because I apply an a priori framework to the variables just to reduce them to a tiny subset that we can manage and it’s the nature of that a priori framework that we haven’t been able to have a discussion about we have an API a framework that narrows our perception to almost nothing it’s built into us it’s partly socially constructed it has a deep neurological substrate and we actually understand how it emerges to a large degree and the thing is is that but I don’t think I don’t think that’s actually our difference so this the a priori framework operates in many different spaces which again we can’t necessarily analyze but it makes it no less true so if you if you put your hand on a hot stove you will immediately feel a good very good reason in fact an unarguably good reason to remove it right and that’s it doesn’t require moral philosophy to get you there you don’t need it you don’t need to inspect your a priori framework you just have to feel holy shit this is the worst thing I’ve ever felt right and there’s so many moments like that in life that we dimly under that we understand some rescue your child from a fire well exactly then you have you have some other goal right cause you to brave that that suffering right yes and but again trying to rescue your child from a fire is pretty close to as the hot stove in not needing to be analyzed right the imperative to rescue your it becomes harder when you have to rescue someone else’s child from the fire and your Chand you’re worried about orphan in your child who’s standing next to you on the sidewalk right then we get into the domain of moral philosophy and then you can say well you know what do what how much do each of us owe the children of other people right how much should I risk my life and risk orphan in my child to rescue your child that’s when things get interesting in a philosophy seminar and that’s where people begin to hesitate people begin to we are biased toward protecting ourselves protecting our kin protecting our friends and only then do we begin to extend the circle and again moral but it is not a mystery where we we want to go here we want to extend the circle more and more and build institutions and societies that that that implement our best selves at our best moments more and more it makes it more effortless to be good take your example seriously here for said yeah all right so you are built to be more likely to rescue your own child than someone else’s child from a fire we in society might like for the minimum number of children to die in fires as possible which gets you to sidelines that consideration in favor of is there a child who’s faced with a fire who I’m I might rescue religions do exactly this restructuring of values because they say something like actually your goodness in risking your own life to save that other child from a fire is observed and it is it is calculated and you will be rewarded for it in some way that’s that’s one possible benefit of some religions right good and okay so you put that on the balance but I have a lot to put on the other side of the ground do I know you that’s what I’m trying to point out to Jordan here which he actually acknowledges which is that he’s got a big stack of good things that come from this heuristic but he’s also ignored this actually get this this is our core of disagreement here which is however you want to however the balance is going to swing the difference between us here is that I think we read the utility of rule of anything but in this case religious thinking as evidence of you you read it as evidence of something perhaps literally true inevitability okay so as a and I view that as a conversion of either the genetic or naturalistic fallacy that it’s just done whether whether that’s it’s useful now here for us it doesn’t doesn’t argue that it’s the best way of getting those good things I mean my argument here is that religion gives people bad reasons to be good we’re good reasons are available okay so and that’s a problem right because a good read good reason scale better than bad reasons and I think we can under you take the case where religion is clearly useful in a life-saving utterly benign way in in virtually all of those cases I think I could I can get you there by some other way without the the downside or if not that’s just one of those cases where yes the fiction was more useful than any possible to distinguish a religious system from an a priori perceptual structure well if you can convert to it or away from it in a single conversation I would say if it doesn’t go very deep well your only I would say that for much of that you’re only converting at a very superficial level well no converting at the level of conscious apprehension and most of your cognition is done through unconscious processes so it’s it’s just a fact about us that most of people’s religious attachment is born of having it drummed into them by their parents know their parents and their parents parents and their parents yes exactly but if we did the same thing with Batman and spider-man it would have the same effect right like if you relentlessly told children right I mean I’ve got you know two little girls who are you know dressed up like that girl right now they love that girl there’s nothing I don’t have to do anything to make them more enthusiastic about superheroes apart from just showing them the pictures of superheroes right if I told them in addition to how look how fun this is to dress up like Batgirl in addition you’re you’re gonna burn in hell for eternity if you lose your emotional attachment to Batgirl even for a minute right well then it’s gonna be bad girl for the rest of their lives especially if the entire culture is is doing likewise and I again this is and if that girl is the closest approximation to a divine figure that you can conjure up it beats the hell out of none at all and if bad girl didn’t partake of certain archetypal structures no one would give a damn about Batgirl wait a minute Batman I’m gonna spare you play a role in the car because look hold on accidental it’s not accidental that superhero stories have a structure and to say that well Batman and spider-man are obvious fictions and we could use them as making the wrong end you’re taking the wrong into this I’m not I’m not minimizing the power of stories right I’m saying we can understand their power without recourse to believing things we shouldn’t believe now in the 21st century I still need an answer to the question about what it is that’s this transcendent transcendental rational structure without an a priori or an a priori don’t want because I don’t see what’s nice again we touched up there’s a little bit last night in that I freely admitted that in every domain of human inquiry no matter how the most hard-headed so mathematics logic physics at some point we have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps at some point we make a move that is not self justifying and is not justified by any other move that’s more rudimentary right that’s a statement of faith that we universally an ethic that’s a callow use of this term faith is not the same precise definition of a neck see Mike’s my faith my faith that two plus two makes four that’s not faith well no I didn’t know is my intuition that this is a valid and replicable and generalizable principle right either your statement that that’s a useful claim is a statement of faith but neither of those two were statements of faith no it’s their statements intuition these are intuitions these are because and their intuitions that can run afoul of other discoveries and other intuitions as you know which mathematical facts or intuitions then what are we doing let’s take a table so we’ve arrived we have to decide is super important though ok ok we don’t lose this ok this is so we for what two thousand years people have been studying geometry and had a very well worked out set of mathematical intuitions with respect to Euclidean space you know flat geometry and then some brilliant guy you know Riemann might’ve been the first said well actually you can curve space yeah I can bend this triangle and all of a sudden it has more than 180 degrees right that’s an intuition that people tuned up pretty quickly but all of humanity was blind to it for the longest time right these are at what I mean by intuition is it’s the thing you’re using to understand something that you you are not in a position to analyze I know that’s but that’s not faith of the sort which is listen I know the Bible was dictated by the creator of the universe I know Jesus was his son I know he rose from the dead I know he’ll be coming back and a thousand other propositional claims it’s a statement it’s a highly if it’s a statement of faith and it’s in the value domain how is it derived from fact okay so I’ve we’ve arrived at the point where we have to decide whether to go to QA or to continue the discussion well you all are thinking about that I would like to level the challenge to each of you and then I will pull the audience and see what they think about QA okay okay so Jordan is arguing to you that you cannot ground the values that would undergird the modality of increasing well-being in anything factual and you are arguing in response that not without an intermediate let me just argue and hold on a second not without an intermediary struck what I’ve heard you argue is something that I agree with which is that you can ground many things in a nearly objective observation of the universe but it doesn’t say anything about the value part of the equation and in fact I think having thought about the question from an evolutionary point of view that in order to do what you’re talking about to increase well-being you are going to have to accept that that is going to leave you with an arbitrary grounding there is no absolute grounding for it you’re gonna have to just simply accept that it’s going to make you arbitrary that you are in fact going to have to do no inconsistent things like decide to honor the love of a mother for her child and dishonor the love of country that causes one population to to gasps another population that’s inconsistent and no no to embrace that in kind of inconsistency it’s just a different is it I don’t think that we even have the grounding problem I think it’s a pseudo problem I think we but you just say we have to pull your stuff in somewhere we have a navigate that the way it’s grounded is the acknowledgement that what we have is misses it’s analogous to what people do with the notion of meaning in life like what’s the meaning of life how do you find meaning in life but what’s the purpose of life these are bad questions these are questions that by when you pose them they seem to demand they suggest a space in which an answer must be put but it’s it’s just but you put an answer don’t you so people should work towards the good yes there’s a different there’s a different way of framing it which is what we have here is an opportunity it’s not about it’s not a matter of meaning it’s not a matter of purpose and it’s not a matter of grounding it’s a matter of we are in a circumstance where that where we have consciousness and its contents in every moment and all of this is is that the light the lights are on and they’re on for reasons that we dimly understand right these are their reasons that are biological in our case but perhaps at bottom they’re just based on information processing and that they’re platform-independent and then we would build machines for whom the life of the light is actually on or not right this is it remains to be seen whether we could actually build in our computers conscious Minds they can thrive or suffer right and that the difference matters but we’re in the circumstance where we are trying to understand how conscious consciousness and its States arises but one thing that is undeniable is that the lights are on and being on they reveal a spectrum of experience that which has one end that we the the worse it gets the more compelling it is to move away from it reading that’s meaning yes okay so and then and all of our meaning talk and value talk relates to navigating in this space so there’s well there’s one end of it where things get needlessly horrible without a silver lining and there’s another end where it gets better and better and nonzero-sum and all boats are rising with the same tide and the Israelis and the Palestinians the landscape evil and good yeah okay what do you do that’s why so these are compelling ways to talk about this space of navigation what do you do when you accept your space of navigation and is a conflict between well-being for the living population of Earth roses well-being over the maximum populations that could possibly live into the future when they have a big conflict between how much well-being we are gonna feel now versus how much well-being future human beings will get to feel yeah well that those are legitimate ethical problems which we I think we often live in the space where we know there’s a right answer that we are too selfish to fulfill or too short-sighted to fulfill like so I know there are things I do every day that not only will other people as yet unborn wish I hadn’t done I might wake up tomorrow wishing I hadn’t done those things right so like I’m I I’m a bad friend to my future self in some respect to say nothing of the rest of humanity so we can be so we can have failures of we get a weakness of will we can have failures that we can just be wrong about certain things but it’s nowhere written that is easy to be a good person right in that case it’s not even clear what good well no it is clubs really knows oh the answer it might be hard to be motivated by that knowledge and that because we’re not a unity right I mean part of a part of what wisdom is morally is an ability to be able to live integrated enough with your own you know better self we have the advice you would give to a friend just falls right out of your work as well it’s like little live is up but basically treat yourself the way you would treat I think this is your line so you know someone new you’re you’re responsible for or there’s some of you a friend of yours right if you can if you can do that you’re already ahead of who most people are most of the time but there’s no there’s no reason to say that because it’s difficult or because sometimes we’re looking through a glass darkly and can’t figure out what the answer is the answer doesn’t exist or there is no right one okay now let me try with you so Jordan you have argued for an evolved framework of religious belief in which there are elements that are morally defensible that will be carried through time there are elements that are morally reprehensible that will be carried through time by virtue of the fact that they are effective and you have argued that these things because they have withstood the test of time have some kind of value which is not necessarily something that we should honor but some large fraction of it must be but that would seem to suggest that the degree to which these belief structures has value is contingent on the degree to which the environment in which we attempt to deploy these structures matches the environment in which they evolve absolutely now I would argue that no population of humans has lived farther from its ancestral environment than we do you think so yes well it isn’t it isn’t and look I think that’s an absolutely valid point okay so so this gets esoteric relatively rapidly but the question is let’s say at the highest levels of adaptation were adapted to the things that lasts the longest periods of time those are the most permanent things now the question is what are those most permanent things and you know one answer would be the fundamental material substrate of the world and that’s true I’m gonna leave that be like we’re evolved to deal with gravity okay but there are other elements that are higher order abstractions in some sense that are also apparently hyper real so for example there’s there’s a problem that we have a bifurcated brain the question is well why do we have a bifurcated brain and the answer seemed and not just us animals – the answer seems to be well there’s two necessary ways of looking at the world and they have to be in conflict to some degree in order to work properly the right hemisphere mode and the left hemisphere mode the right hemisphere mode is a lot more metaphorical than the left or mode the right hemisphere is the hemisphere that seems to deal with exceptions to the rule and it seems to deal with exceptions to the rule by met by treating them by aggregating and then trying to recognize patterns that unite them as a corrective to the totalitarian system in some sense that the left hemisphere imposes you could say that the right and the left are adapted for something like explored territory for the left and unexplored territory for the right i’ve characterized that as order versus chaos and i think the religious landscape is good versus evil to Sam’s point that we should strive for a good life on a landscape of chaos first disorder and I think that landscape is permanent now I know we’ve moved from our African ancestral homeland but these this underlying abstraction this underlying on this underlying reality is so profound that it it maintains its validity across all sets of potential environmental transformations well ok ok can I just jump in here because here’s why just a seize on one piece you you put in play there here’s why good and evil can’t be permanent in the in the usual sense certainly not in the Christian or judeo-christian sense one is the the judeo-christian notion of good and evil doesn’t even map on to eastern lands oh but excited but it’s also in an Eastern context and a Buddhist or Hindu context the evil isn’t really evil it’s just ignorance now you might dispute that you might say well that’s not really that they haven’t met a sufficiently evil person to if they could think that but the reality is they’re billions of people who have a different rubric under which yeah but listen let me add another another piece here just ask them okay you guys need you guys want this conversation to continue or do you want Q&A to begin I don’t know which one you’re fearing for give them okay give them a parson our first group is the group that wants this conversation to continue now the group that would prefer Q&A what’s disturbing is that many of the same people I mean it seems to me is that you made an absolute take the evil piece because it’ll be interesting if it’s not totally on point okay the reason why evil is susceptible to total deflation is if you agree with me evil is a category of human misbehavior human intention that we don’t understand significantly at the level of the brain but if we did understand it totally at the level of the brain then every evil person we had in the dock at trial would be just like Charles Whitman with his brain tumor after he shot up everyone at the University of Texas right so like he he’s he’s the prototypical evil mass murderer but he’s complaining about this change that overcame his personality and he thinks it would be good because a good idea that after the cops kill me you autopsy my brain because I don’t know why I’m doing any of this right and lo and behold he had a glioblastoma pressing on his amygdala and all of a sudden it made sense of his behavior in a way that a full understanding of psychopathy or every other variant of human evil would make sense of it in a way that would be deflationary ethically and then and then you would look at so then you look at someone like Saddam Hussein or the the the worst evil person you could imagine and you would say well he’s actually unlucky you know there but for the grace of biology go I because if I had that brain if I had those genes if I had those influences that gave me those synapses I would be just like him now if you think there’s some other element that gives us free will and and now then you and I are disagreeing then that’s a factual claim that’s at variance with mine but but but if we are just on some level now of malfunctioning biological systems when we’re being evil then a complete understanding of evil would cancel that category can you have the claim to find evil so we know what you’re talking about well just let me take take just the worst people who have statistically victimized the most people and those are the evilest people we can name so it’s a so when you say so I think this is actually really important so I think actual evil of that kind is pretty darn rare and there’s a lot of badness that yes oh yeah well the most troubling thing are all the good people doing evil because they they’re ruled by bad ideas but that I think is more consequential than we introduced we introduced a whole set of other things here in the free will and evil but but but just I just want to make it clear why I went there so you were saying this is this is this is I forgot the word you used inevitable or in electable Lords permit the implication is that this category is permanent and I’m saying data that I don’t think okay but evil in that sense is a permanent category for it awaits more information and insight okay we’re gonna distinguish for a minute good versus evil and good versus bad just for the sake of conceptual clarity in the moral landscape you make a fundamental axiomatic claim looks like a moral claim may be its claim of fact and the claim is there are bad lives and good lives sure and the claim you make is that that’s universally true well it’s it’s true for the the requisite minds because 10 do doesn’t matter okay but evil so yes a month I’m not telling you that you should purge the word evil from your your vocabulary I use the word all the time and I think it’s useful it’s a motivating word I’m just saying that it’s okay there we can understand this continuum of good and bad or positive and negative in ways that don’t use the the certainly don’t use the judeo-christian framework for valuing these things because if you if you take the Buddhist framework and map it on to this this continuum you don’t get good and evil you get essentially wisdom and ignorance the evil is ignorance of all the well-being you would you and others would experience if you behaved another way right that’s the Buddha’s game and and or even then Hinduism Euler yeah they get this connects to you or your that your love of stories you take the the the Hindu texts the Ramayana which is just a found days you know it’s doing the work that the Bible is doing for Jews and Christians in that the worst guy in the Ramayana where the 10 headed demon Ravana the prototypically evil person is at bottom really not a bad guy he’s a great sage who was just you know in a bad mood essentially he was he was obscured by ignorance and so it is in the Buddhist can and the Buddhist media the Buddha meets a serial killer who you know is wearing a garland of human fingers around his neck named uncool uncool Amala but he was just one conversation away from being fully enlightened right he was like this is it’s a different picture of a possibility I’m not saying one is right or wrong let’s be agnostic about that I’m just I’m challenging your claim that there’s something so prescient and useful and durable about the judeo-christian I was I wasn’t making what we’re stuck with it for all time he’s making that claim I was making the claim that in the moral landscape you laid out a distinction between the bad life and the good life forget about Rutan evil the bad life of the good life hell in heaven the bad life in the good life and that that distinction was not only factual but universal and so it’s you know that actually have had a right mind so that we could imagine a mind I mean this is an example I think I give the right mind you know but we could we could create circumstances that seem perverse to us that we would recoil from you could you could create a a universe of perfectly matched sadists and masochists saying right so you have the people who are real say this who in our world would be terrible actors but in their world they’re surrounded by people who want to be mistreated now again if you’re a real sadist you never mistreat a masochist with the ass okay well I’m not sure the human categories even exist exist but in some we undoubtedly we could create something like an artificial intelligence that could be could be paired this way and that would be weird but on mine in my framework it is a conceivable space of equivalent well being and if it’s not matched at all to our space rights but it’s if if in fact we could inspect the conscious minds of all parties participating in that it is not obviously absurd but in my view to say that they are just as happy as we are in his conversation in fact some moments in this conversation I would say that they might be happier so let me let me ask you a question here about well-being because this is something I’ve wanted to ask you about but we never seem to get to is so you think that we should maximize well-being and that’s part of your proposition which which I don’t entirely disagree with by the way that we should ground our value structures in facts but but but there’s a black box problem there like I think the black box problem about the a priori structure that we use to extract the facts of the world out and the black box problem is if we could measure well-being it’s like yeah that’s a big problem Sam like we have measures of well-being and they’re terrible yes they are no no no I’m agreeing I don’t I don’t think it’s but it’s not a problem for my thesis is it we don’t have measures for anything we care about yeah but I mean if your if your thesis is that if we had the measures of well-being that were appropriate we could use them in a positive way and the responses but we don’t have those measures it’s like well okay well then what do we do oh no what we have only have measures I mean this conversation is a measure I don’t like that that’s a measure right you step on my toe and I say owl that’s a measure don’t do that if that’s not your well-being it might be a measure of your treat neurodegenerative if you look at the well-being measures that we have yeah they degenerate into measures of neuroticism no we don’t we don’t but we don’t have measures of certainty of belief of compassion of joy of any any of these conscious states we have we have neural correlates of some of them but we don’t have okay there’s no well then how helmet I could also hold all writes about them to orient ourselves in the world then because we’re doing that we’re doing this all the time you’re see if you’ve got an instantaneous measure though you’ve got an instantaneous measure of well-being we can all check with ourselves see how we feel but it’s possible to be wrong about that but it degrades as you get away from the individuals ability to check internally drug that would make you feel very good and would cause you to take apart your own life because if we mean like cocaine right it would it would destroy the the motivational structure that gets you to do stumps and stuff of value that that you’re right can’t use emotion right moment emotion as an indicator right well the in taneous is not good but you have a parallel problem it looks to me like the exact mirror image which is that you’ve got an integrative long-term measure of well-being instantiated in an evolutionary belief system but it’s coming apart because we are living in circumstances that are less well mirrored that the present does not mirror the past and therefore these games which you you believe our timeless are degrading rapidly that’s part of their that’s exactly right okay so what Sam is arguing is that the tools to pivot in order to improve our way of interacting those are not the tools of long-standing tradition those are the tools of rational engagement respect for that process is part of the long-standing tradition yes that’s true yeah but that’s a big truth that’s a major-league truth I and in fact I would say the fundamental tradition the most fundamental tradition of the West says that respect for the process that updates moral judgment is the highest of all possible values and that’s also built into the tradition strangely enough I agree it’s built into the tradition but I would argue that it is very likely to be compartmentalized in other words I was a little bit struck when you said that what did you say about scaling you said that the good reason scale and bad reasons don’t isn’t that the opposite of the truth call if you’re calling these stories that give prescriptions for how to behave bad ideas the point is those stories propagate very easily so whereas so if we want to talk about the gun and whether it is loaded the idea that the gun is definitely loaded that scales really easily right you can pass that along in one sense I’m wrong about a loaded gun also scale right so no no no well this you want to talk to people about very small possibilities of very dire things happening they trip over it it’s hard thing to get it’s almost impossible for drilling to get it so the point is the one thing does scale a story that says yeah every gun is loaded it’s a false story but that one definitely scales yeah the statistical reality of guns and the fact that they may indeed be unloaded but you don’t want to play around with the remote possibility that one day you’ll get it wrong right that doesn’t scale because it requires you to have experience with stuff that is not common right so there’s two things there one if you bring up a an ancillary but very important point which is that moral progress here is often the result of moving from our story driven protagonist driven intuitions to something far more quantified right so I mean there’s a classic you know morale study done by Paul slovic oh I’m sure you are aware of where you know you tell people about one needy little girl in Africa and you give her a name and and and show her picture and what you elicit is the maximum altruistic compassionate response from subjects you go to another group of subjects you tell them about the same little girl give her the same name but also tell them about her needy little brother right who has the same need and their response diminishes right just the addition of a single person diminishes the response and this is just this is a moral fallacy that we’re all living out every day because if you care about this one little girl you should care at least as much about the fate of her and her brother and when you as status –tx no no you shouldn’t because a foster man you’ll exhaust yourself in the attempt no because we need what are you wanting but here here why this is what this this is what this software flawed gets us it gets us people who will watch four hours a day with with with effortless and and you know tear-stained compassion the the the saga of the little girl who fell down the well but who will blindly turn the channel when they’re hearing about a genocide that is raging and hundreds of thousands have already died this is something we have to let if you have to go for this you know I’m not talking to a person open your misunder you’re misunderstanding me to create effect here did if I’m not saying that you should personally be overwhelmed by the death toll every day I’m not saying that it’s functional for you and I to each personally get up each morning and just drink deep of the full horror of all the bad luck that has spread no maybe it is but maybe we can’t help but as societies we need when you’re talking about how we aport but how we spend our money how we get a portion foreign aid the kinds of wars we fight or don’t find you kind of interpret then we have to correct for what is in fact a more illusion which is we know that if we tell one little we at least we tell one compelling story about a little girl right we could go to war over that right whereas we won’t be motivated by a genocide that’s the kind of thing that moves whole societies now and if it’s if you add to it the bogus religious sanctities if you if you if we burn the Quran on this stage tonight the rest of ours yeah the rest of our lives would be spent in hiding right because of how motivated people would be to address that pseudo problem right that’s the world we’re living in and we’re and civilization you know so far as we have a purchase on it is a matter of correcting for those errors and religion in for the most part not across the board but for the most part is standing in the way of those course corrections well okay there was a tremendous amount to an unpack in that I mean and and like in some sense a surprising amount it’s like well we have were wired to feel intense empathy for individuals who are close to us and we can be told stories in a manner that that makes that system manifest itself and everyone and their dog thinks that that’s a wonderful thing and we call that empathy right and empathy has a narrow domain of utility as it turns out because how I mean maybe if you were all who you should be you’d be weeping constantly for the catastrophic fate of sentient beings on the earth but you can’t handle it you know what I mean it’s that you can barely handle your own suffering and maybe you can handle a bit of the suffering of your family and more power to you if you could rectify that and if you were better human beings maybe you could expand that outwards but the fact that our empathy doesn’t scale up to the level of genocide with the same intensity that we treat instances of individual suffering isn’t an indication that we’re irrational it’s just an indication that were limited that’s not true I think this is an indication of exactly the problem of our evolved structures not matching the present because the point is they don’t match because we take care of our families no but they don’t match because if you encountered the starving girl that’s some sort of a it’s a crude measure of suffering in your local environment were you in the past now that you can encounter this girl on the television it’s not clear what it should mean to you right right you can’t calibrate my how many zarach to get right and so that so the point is your indifference to a genocide which is an abstraction right is altered should you see pictures of the bodies for example you shouldn’t actually feel differently about the genocide in the abstract case versus the case that you’re looking at the bodies and the fact that we have access to photo realistic representation so what is worse about this is why it’s actually irrational because I can show you the case where you care at level 10 about the little girl named Lila and you care at level 8 about a little girl named Lila and her brother named John T right and you care at level 4 if I’ve added a few more kids but the little girl named Lila who you was ostensibly care about is there in each one of these right so nurses are diminished no but you have all the vocation of the sufferer you have $10 to give away every month to help start struggling in humanity and you tell me you’ll give 10 to Lila this month and I said and and then I catch you in another moment and I say well you know it’s Lila and her brother so it’s like if you only can give 10 I understand but you know it’s it’s the problem is actually worse than I suspected and you say well that actually all of them is gonna give a right you it’s not coherent with your how much you cared about Lila in the first place we do know we do know quite well that the heuristics that we use to orient ourselves in the world can be placed into frameworks where they produce contradictory outcomes but that doesn’t mean that the heuristics themselves are deeply flawed it’s that it’s a problem with the work of people like Kahneman and Tversky they really valued retic sort of them we need it correct for them because they’re they’re producing a reliable result that we recognize you can put them in a situation where they produce a counterproductive response but that doesn’t mean that generally speaking in most situations they don’t produce a useful outcome because the question is why in the hell would have they evolved if they didn’t produce yes welcome most of the time evolve to live with 150 people with whom we’re related and to be terrified of the people in the next Valley who may want to kill and eat us yes I mean that’s our ancient circumstance which doesn’t map on to a common humanity of seven billion people trying to figure out how to get to Mars without killing each other well it it does map on to it sometimes unfortunately because there are many times when we still face the same maps on does the hierarchy you wouldn’t be concerned about that fundamentalist terror of Islam if you weren’t driven by those essentially tribal considerations no it’s not suggest it’s not wrong it doesn’t require if my a mere identification with humanity it can ground not wanting to be murdered by people who are identified with a subset of humanity right like I don’t need to be part of a smaller tribe to care that people will murder me over burning the Quran right it’s it’s just it’s clearly counterproductive that we live in a society where some objects are held with such totemic attachment for irrational reasons by many many millions of people where you know you should be sympathetic with this our free speech is actually canceled on this point right yeah literally can’t produce cartoons I have scholarly we’re not about the cartoon price we don’t show the card we have no argument whatsoever so each meanness about the lack of utility of you you don’t have to be identified as a as a Christian or a Jew to push back against that you just have to be a human being that sees the dysfunction of a smaller I have kind of provincialism well the thing that I’m struggling with is that I still can’t understand in what your ethos is is is grounded because you you claim like a transcendental rationalism but you won’t identify the structures that produce it it’s a black box and when I try to push you on the absolute nature of your ethical claim which is that the bad life is worse than the good life and that we should in fact universally work towards the good life it doesn’t seem to me that you’ll accept the proposition that that’s a universal claim it no it is it is you well I should as irrelevant here it’s just the fact that there is the possibility of moving in this space if you move in the wrong direction if you move far enough you’ll like it less and less why you sure irrelevant give given given the minds you have all right well what if you had to accept moving in the wrong direction and experiencing less and less well-being in order to get to a better place well and maybe even just to survive suppose the suppose a population has to endure a generation and a half of misery in order to persist ethically that’s a perfectly intelligible circumstance that people have had to face and it’s in my on my moral landscape it’s analogous to when we were we might be one local maximum or city or the some high point but we’re moving in a down a slope to get to yet some higher place right certain things honest some things may only be possible if we made some painful and net unpleasant sacrifice yes and so that but that’s that can be rationally apprehended there can be an argument for that it could be a wheel you know we all have to go on a diet otherwise we’re gonna you know we’re gonna die of this problem right we all have to stop eating whatever it is wheat right it’s a hard sacrifice for people have to stop it as you know if that were just true well then there’d be an argument for it there’d be evidence that would convince us we would stop we would feel the pain and we would we would get whatever benefit with it was on the other side of that sacrifice but again you don’t have to if the utility I get to come bring it back to stories which is as you know not my emphasis but it is yours the the utility of stories is not something I’m arguing against I mean there’s no question that certain stories are incredibly compelling and in our conversation with one another the moment you begin to frame something in terms of a story people become much more interested right I like it if if 90% of what we said together tonight were afraid each each point we were making as a matter of philosophy or or or science were framed in well actually you know yesterday I was walking down the street and I met this guy is a terrifying looking guy and all of a sudden people become much more interested right and that’s not an accident and that says something deep about us that we could understand in evolutionary terms and we might in fact want to creatively leverage to be better people yes have better conversations definitely yes so wait so that’s what I think there’s nothing there’s nothing that I say in opposition to religious dogmatism and religious sectarianism that discounts that reality and that’s a psychological reality it’s a cultural reality and I’m not against making the most of it my basic claim however is that we never need to believe that one of our books may not have a human origin in order to do that effectively you can you can be just as compelled by the example of somebody like Jesus or some more modern person who strikes he was a moral hero and a and deeply wise without believing anything on insufficient evidence and if and and as I as you alluded to purely fictional stories about superheroes can have immense effect on us and that’s something we could understand and also leverage but again that takes us out of the religion business and that’s that’s all I’ve been arguing for so do you really believe that that the belief in the supernatural aspect of these stories never alters the calculus of what people should do that the divine nature of a story about Jesus doesn’t motivate people to do something that they might not have the courage to do otherwise the belief that they might end up in heaven because their good work is going to be observed it doesn’t alter their behavior well yeah I know it alters their behavior but it but rather often for the bad well I mean this is why this is what worries me about and hey I think there’s something there’s a profound net negative that we are paying the price for every day by believing in paradise right a belief a belief that this life it probably doesn’t matter very much at all because we get what we really want after we die is forget about the evidentiary basis for that belief it it is it’s ruinous for prioritizing what we should be prioritizing in this life and it okay well that’s interesting yep so let me ask you this I hear from you what might be a kind of confirmation bias where I hear that you know we’ve got a mixed bag you’ve got supernatural claims these supernatural claims we all agree have effects on the way people actually behave and you’re quite focused on the negative and you tend to discount the positive which might be an artifact of the fact that we’re talking about the present and therefore maybe something that’s not well matched to these stories or it might be from the idea that you have the sense that there is actually a bias that these belief structures do and have always produced more harm than good and also my sense that the positive can be had without those structures so the if you’re talking about the contemplative experience like it is it possible to feed that wake up tomorrow morning feeling like meister eckhart right feeling like you’re just inseparable from the pure capital b beam that is consciousness right and and there’s no separate self there’s a self-transcending union with everything you can perceive right I think that can be had without any kind of religious dogma there’s a mess just a matter of pain close enough attention to the nature of conscious and so the contemplatively is the bait is one baby in the bath water we can save the ethical life is another baby we can save you don’t have to presuppose anything on insufficient evidence to argue about what is right and wrong and good and evil in in the 21st century and is it fair to call that a hypothesis that not just for some people but for everyone the level of well-being can be enhanced through rational interaction with the questions that dictate what we do that a hypothesis slowly if that’s a hypothesis that the one additional fact that we that makes that more or less moot is that on certain points even if we felt that really believe in the fiction were what was it was advantageous to people depending on which fiction you’re talking about they’re simply just there’s too much evidence against it that you can’t you can’t decide to believe something for which you have no evidence simply because of the good effects it’s a good experience it will give you or you imagine it will give you I mean that’s that’s why Pascal’s wager never made any sense you can’t say the only way you can believe something to be true really true not just metaphorically true is to believe that if it weren’t true you wouldn’t believe it they you stand at some relationship to its truth such that that is the reason why you believe it now you can’t say you can’t be telling yourself you know I have no evidence for this thing but I know life would be better if I believed it to be true and so therefore I really believe it’s true you don’t think people do that all the time I don’t think they do I think they do things much more like we’re talking the metaphorical truth we’re talking about you we act as if things are true without forming any strong propositional claim and that’s fine that’s fine that has its own utility I mean you know you don’t think this is basically I mean we all suspend disbelief when we go and watch a movie and we sort of entitled the movie maker to to set the ground rules of the space and if it’s Harry Potter then there are magic magical rings that can happen and if it’s some other story maybe there aren’t so we all have a mechanism whereby we know we can suspend disbelief and it’s interesting to me that you seem not to imagine that people are doing that with respect to metaphysical beliefs that have implications for what the right actions that they should take are why wouldn’t it be the case that that same sort of mechanism would apply well it does apply but there are people who are clearly doing much more than that so I’m not if if that’s all people were doing under the aegis of religion I wouldn’t spend much time worrying about religion that it’s some degree that’s what people do you know as you say go into caring about things that at bottom we really shouldn’t care about so the World Cup is on right now and we literally billions of people care could care down to their toes what happens to this little ball as it traverses a lawn right and if it goes into the net it really matters and if it fails to it really matters and always matters if we hit the target Sam but this is this is something we have manufactured to care about right you know it speaks to us it’s quite literally a game we this is a game that people are playing but some people take it in taking it further than you that then seems truly rational is part of the fun that’s but but the fit but the people who can’t turn that off metaphors the talkers are metaphor yeah but there but there are people who they’re you know they’re people you know the full-back who kicks a known goal and then goes back to his you know South American village and gets murdered right he’s surrounded by people who are taking the game too seriously yeah okay I agree yes and so my problem with religion is that so much of a time we’re meeting those people and what Edward yes and we’re not criticizing those people we have no place to stand to criticize those people because we’re so attached to the game why don’t you each take three minutes to sum up so I think yeah we are there we are at the end of time so why don’t you each take three minutes some up and then we’ll call it good yep okay sure okay Sam went last you want to go okay first here okay so there’s lots of things about which Sam and I agree but the Devils in the details of course no I I’m very sympathetic to his claim that we need to ground our ethical systems in something solid and demonstrable my problem is I’m not sure how to do that when I I don’t believe that you can derive a value structure from your experience of the observable facts there’s too many facts you need a structure to interpret them and there isn’t very much of you and so part of the reason part of the way that that’s addressed neurologically is that you have an inbuilt structure it’s deep it’s partly biological it’s partly an emergent consequence of of your socialization and you view the world of facts through that structure and it’s a structure of value now that structure of value may be derived from the world of facts over the evolutionary timeframe but it’s not derived from the world of facts over the timeframe that you inhabit and it can’t be so the problem I have in with our discussion so far isn’t really any of Sam’s fundamental ethical claims because I do believe there’s a distinction between the hellish life and the heavenly life say the life that everyone would agree was absolutely not worth living and the life we could imagine as good and I do believe that we should be moving from one to the other the question is exactly how is it that we make the decisions that will guide us along that way and I don’t believe we can make them without that a priori structure in fact I think the evidence is absolutely overwhelming that we can’t and I mean also the scientific evidence and I would like to go further into the devil that’s in those details and so that’s my situation [Applause] well part of these conversations and now we’ve you and I’ve had I think for car moved unto podcast miss or a second live event and thank you for doing this by the way this is hey [Applause] it’s an honor to do this and it’s it comes with risks for both of us to do this I think you can sense we don’t have precisely the same audiences all of you are sort of rooting for one or the other of us to some degree yes and but clearly the conversation is the point right this is not and this conversation had the character at many moments of a debate I don’t think either of us view it as a debate in the trivial sense it’s not about point scoring it’s about making sense in a way that’s consequential because we’re talking about issues of great consequence and you obviously care about these things and it matters whether we converge on the most important questions in human life and as you know I’m worried that religion doesn’t give us the tools we need to converge what does give us the tools is a truly open-ended conversation and what then you simply have to look honestly at the obstacles toward any conversation being open-ended and religion presents those first and and most readily it’s it is a the idea that certain things have been decided for all time and there’s no future evidence or argument that is admissible on those points now that is clearly bad everywhere in science it’s bad everywhere in in how we renegotiate our proximity to one another in society in new laws and new ideas are born all the time about how to structure institutions and social relationships because new things happen to me we didn’t have an internet and then we did so our old laws and our old expectations of human communication simply don’t work in the presence of this new thing right so we have to figure out we again it’s a navigation problem and what I’m perpetually in contests with even in conversations like this is the sense that the rules need to change just a little bit for this class of books that literally this sign of the bookstore right there’s like any other part of the bookstore well then there’s no barrier to honest conversation but you move over here they got this shelf of books there you you have to hold your tongue right there we can’t pick and choose we can’t say that while we can say that Shakespeare wrote some fantastic plays the best players ever written and some are actually not that good right we can’t say that about God right we have to find some tortured way to make the most of his diabolical utterances okay that’s the thing we have to outgrow and so what I’m continually in tension with you is the degree to which your style of talking about religion and nary the power of narrative and and the meaning derived from it Alive’s that point and seems to let people off the hook on that very point and that’s the that’s where we need to hold the line in my view we need to we need to that that it has to be clear to us at this moment in history that no one has the right to their religious sectarianism really I mean it up to the point clearly that there’s a there’s a soccer there’s a World Cup version of it that is benign but once it gets taken past that point we we have to figure out how to pull the brakes and that becomes a real problem if you’re if you were going to dignify the foundational claims of these faiths claims like revelation and Paradise and blasphemy and apostasy these are the things that you will you come up against and I think converse conversations like this are incredibly important because we we need to convince the better part of humanity that it’s possible to live the best life possible without recourse to divisive nonsense and where we draw the line between divisive nonsense and reasoned and necessary discourse is what we’re we were dickering over and i think i think it’s important that we we continue [Applause] so in closing let me say first of all I’m tremendously honored that you asked me to moderate these debates it was a truly remarkable experience as for what was accomplished I think it was a tremendous amount I saw both of you move I saw both of you exhibit tremendous generosity of spirit towards the other and I think this has exceeded my expectations of what might have been possible in these discussions by quite a bit and that also I will say has a lot to do with the fact that for reasons I think none of us can explain a huge amount of people a huge population seems to care about these issues because they matter a great deal so anyway I think this has been a very successful exercise and I think you can both justly be quite proud of what you’ve done alright let’s give a huge round of applause for our speakers tonight [Applause] thank you very much [Applause]

100 thoughts on “Sam Harris & Jordan Peterson – Vancouver – 2 (CC: Arabic & Spanish)

  1. When he says, it does if you are trying to defend your house. Good god, if you built your house on the side off a volcano, do you have a right to be angry it got burnt down?

  2. 40:47 Jordan, natural behaviours arbitrarily maintain out of survival. Example – Birds make nests in high trees reducing predatory animals from effecting that species of birds survival and reproduction. But other birds that arbitrarily chose to make nests closer to the ground, inevitably had their nests and eggs destroyed by a predator, effectively making that percentage of that species of bird extinct, hence why the surviving birds lay eggs in high places and passed on those behaviours, precisely Darwinian natural selection. Come on Jordan, it doesn’t take a genius to work that out.

    Behaviours are arbitrary (an absolute DNA mutation; physics), then they’re tested by the rest of the complexities of nature (which have their own arbitrary evolving behaviours), then you stand back and see which versions of species survive. Jordan, you’re trying to invent a agent who caused these behaviour mutations, which is asking a much bigger question and nothing to do with religious stories.

  3. Jordan is not as smart as his megalomania tells him. He represents the ethos of metaphorical substrate of quasi intellectual diarrhea. Sam destroyed his chaotic argumentation with class and precision.

  4. It's interesting, to me, to watch the difference in body language. I love both these gentlemen's minds but they approach things differently…more so than is obvious from their words alone.

  5. I’m a big fan of Jordan Peterson. However, I side with Harris on this topic. Great discussion. I used to get really upset about religion because I was forced into religious schools as a kid. I think being told my sins will send me to hell made me pessimistic to say the least. Now that I am a little older I can rationalize why someone would be religious. I still don’t believe in religion but I do respect religion and someone’s belief in it. IMO I don’t think religion is necessary for us to have a moral compass.

  6. Ohoho! The Palestine/Israeli conflict is irrational because "we're about to fight over Elton John's glass, and Elton John was never here."

  7. moderators get shit on every time they mess up, but are never shown admiration when they do a terrific job like Bret.
    With that being said, good job Bret; absolutely amazing job.

  8. 2 incredibly brilliant and honest men. What a joy it is to be able to listen to them work thru all of this.

  9. Sam Harris is a Jew and an Atheist. Smart and intelligent in many ways, but leaving out Torah, he loses the conversation talking with a God reckoning Jordan Peterson, even involving the NT Jesus.

  10. Although I really like this debate. I believe Sam Harris points doesn't make that much sense if we discard religion.

    Like how do you differentiate between blue and red? By seeing. And how do you differentiate between good and evil? By feeling. And by feeling you believe that there is a moral law giver, which religion has described as God or his law. But if we were to take away that, it would only result in not being able to differentiate between good and evil, and that would create chaos.
    So the problem with Sam Harris take on this issue is that he himself or for anyone not religious cannot differentiate between good and evil, because they serve no one, they have no one that defines what constitutes evil and good. And so believing that we would remain good in a sense in the absence of these religion is wrong, like no we won't remain good. For many people, religion is the only thing that actually stops them from being 'bad' or 'evil'.

    Oh one thing I would like to say regarding Christianity is that the Bible never say we would burn in hell forever. It says we will die, we will no longer exist. This can be proven easily as Jesus said that only those who follow him would have eternal life. It's something that Christians have gotten wrong for so long.

  11. The thing is that we now have a world where a Sam Harris's brain, speech, and essence can exist. I think this is enough evidence that something was done well. It surely can be better, that's why he exists. Let's not be so pessimistic about our situation and our pathway. Great discussion!

  12. Scientific facts and even laws held to be truth have been reviewed, revised, and overturned as new viewpoint, new discovery, and proofs are revealed overtime. The moral extrapolation from facts by its fundamental features of rigorous review keeps it within timely relevant bounds.
    Religious dogma in proclaimed divinity dictates morality as timeless and changes to it at the risk of immoral damnation to the revisionist. The choice to reviewed, revised, and overturned under threat of violence, extradition, and external damnation. Therefore, rigidity and tyranny remains a permanent feature of a divine proclamation of religious dogma.

  13. Peterson's knowing endeavour to surrender to a fraudulent supposition of truth (the bible as word of God) and using divinity to enforce adherence, and using the possible byproduct of well being derived from dogma as rationale to maintain that fallacy while ignoring the substantial harm to the human and human historically that same dogma. At the same time acquiesce to the fallacy and fraudulent supposition pointing to long historic functionality of dogma compare to the lack of coherent replacement from a factual based morality is sacrificing the rationale to pursuit a valid coherent replacement from a factual based morality out of convenience.

  14. The things the dialogers divide up are not divided or reduceable (neither of them even begin to understand metaphor). Among those countless things, try 'free will,' which is free and unfree, both at once. ` “A person’s decisions are not at the mercy of unconscious and early brain waves,” the lead researcher, Dr. John-Dylan Haynes of Charité – Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, said in the study’s press release. “They are able to actively intervene in the decision-making process and interrupt a movement. Previously people have used the preparatory brain signals to argue against free will. Our study now shows that the freedom is much less limited than previously thought.” `

  15. Harris is a Fundamentalist who has a problem with religious Fundamentalism. I'll have neither them nor him. He doesn't even understand something as simple as paradise: Heaven-Earth. It's both. Always was, bridged via a triad-linked working reality. Peterson doesn't get this either. He's abandoned the mystery and sophistication of pre-Protestant Christianity for his own psyche-dependent myopia of story and mythology. They're both reductionists, both non-virtuist utilitarians, both afraid of and ignorant of the Past, and bad scholars of the Past as well.

  16. SH: Dogma, specifically religious dogma is a threat to the wellbeing of humanity
    JP: But science doesn't answer my metaphorical questions, so its necessary to pick an imaginary friend, preferably a Christian one, and believe it has the non- evident answers I seek.

  17. This debate was phenomenal! Fantastic. And it should be followed up by another discussion. You both finished with powerful statements that stir an eagerness to dig further into these subjects.

  18. I might be late for this discussion but something that gets crystal clear to me is that, despite being a very intelligent and rational person with also good intentions and a fair bit of I would say fear behind his reasoning, Sam Harris has a very narrow and ignorant (and I'm not saying that in a peyorative way) not only view but also knowledge and understanding of religion in and of itself, specially Islam (it seems the case, for example, that he has no idea nor has studied about what constitutes the Aqeedah or creed of the muslims and how it deals with the problem of multiple interpreations of the Quran, how faith must be grounded in reason and right understanding of the material world and not in compulsion or a blind, dogmatic and fundamentalist approach and some others "barbaric" practices and thinking that we can find in the christian Bible and the Torah of the jews, which he surely loves to point out) and despite Jordan Peterson's great understanding and arguments from the evolutionary, behaviorist and psychological arena he's no philosopher of religion, he's no well formed theologean specialized on the field and, also despite his interest on the subject his field of expertise is not the psychology of religion per se, so therefore he can't fully challenge Sam's view, who implies in his thinking that the world could be a much better place if only the atheist utopia came to be and an approximate of 5 billion people in the world just stop believing in their "invisible man in the sky who hates gays" as he calls it and the rest of gods or divine entities (with a fair bit of spirituality around, to be fair with him).

    Interesting conversation nonetheless.

  19. I do really like this format and especially Sam and Jordan. I can't agree though that the principle "act as if the gun is loaded" is really a metaphorical truth. We do understand why "acting as if the gun is loaded" is beneficial, it causes a conditioning of the mind which leads to a habit which is way more reliable than the simple gun safety rule itself. And therefore "acting as if the gun is loaded" is a real truth in a bigger context.

  20. Easiest Summary is this:
    Jordan: there is something to be learned from the centuries-long teachings of religion
    Sam: doing so is dangerous because it feeds into the dogma of religious nutjobs.

    All other points they make are extra. Enjoyable to listen to them rationalizing, but very very extra, nonetheless. Sam constantly speaks to dangerous literal parts of the bible while Jordan defends the proverbial benefits you gain from the bible. You can have your cake and eat too, guys. Accept that there is something to learn from the stories of the bible as it came from great philosophers and thinkers of their time with the understanding certain things they got were wrong or are now outdated. Morons exist in religion and atheism, you can't allow their misguided views to hold back the enlightenment. Intellectual gain should be accepted wherever it comes from…as long as it is, in fact, a gain.

  21. Man Sam and his gun example is like boy get prepared because Jordan is going to shred you to pieces. If atheists put their Sam as a front man they are a sorry bunch.

  22. At 46 minutes Sam Harris says his fundamental axiomatic claim is "we are conscious".
    OK. Now try deducing truth, logic and morality from that LOL

  23. Jordan Peterson: let me listen to Sam so that I can eloquently argue my case
    Sam Harris: let me interrupt Jordan before he can start making his own point and argue over an unimportant point to get the crowds response

  24. I thought I would add this observation about how to resolve the JBP nad SH debate: This a follow up to a series of posts I posted about JBP and SH, but, because of being guilded (i.e. I was booted off reddit for posting stuff like this below) I have been censored from posting any more observations on JBP and/or SH. I do assure you however, that the observations are no more damning than the one below. So, I thought I would let JBP and SH know that this is the solution they are looking for.

    If the emergent biological ethic that evolved alongside our evolution evidently became the highest ideals humans determined to be divine, then doesn't that suggest that JBP and SH are discussing the same thing i.e if the emergent biological ethic ultimately become what humans considered our divine ideals, then JBP and SH are only divided by their differing finalities i.e. Rationality and Religion, then isn't the disagreement one of consensus regarding their individual dissection of the whole? Moreover, given that the emergent biological ethic and the divine ideals exist on the same continuum, or more specifically, Rationality and Religion are borne of the same emergent ethic.

    To better describe what the I mean by separate components of a continuum and how uniting both leads to comprehension, I offer you this thought experiment from Artificial Intelligence (AI) Theory i.e. “Mary in the black and white room":

    “Mary’s a scientist, and her specialist subject is colour. She knows everything there is to know about it, the wave lengths, the neurological affects, every possible property that colour can have. But she lives in a black and white room. She was born there and raised there, and she can only observe the outside world on a black and white monitor. Then one day someone opens the door and Mary walks out and she sees a blue sky, and at that moment, she learns something that all her studies couldn’t tell her: She learns what it feels like to see colour.”

    Moreover, when the continuum of a “thing” i.e. Rationality and Religion are studied in isolation, each conclusion is denied knowledge of the other, ergo, each is barred from comprehension. So, the continuum is not to be studied in isolation, and, differing theories are only separate components of a dissected whole e.g. decompartmentalization versus compartmentalization and it is not until [we] experience both that [we] comprehend the “thing”. This is how I know anyone can resolve the divide between rationality and religion, well that is if you are willing to accept that rationality and religion are borne of the same emergent ethic.

    Therefore, having intellectual ownership over the preferred information you have accumulated are only separate components of the whole that exist on the same continuum, with each contributing to each, and none mattering without the other. For example, if you think about the dividing of the ovum during fertilisation, 1 divide’s in to 2, 2 in to 4 and so on until it reaches the threshold of the required capacity for that system. Hence, the first division is the start of indiscriminate determinism which defines the differing finalities within that system.

    I do so love Quantum Theory…it explains so much more than individuals that are stuck in a never ending cycle of internal dialogue that goes nowhere, when the answer is staring them in the face, as documented above.

  25. Great mistake taking the Bible as real historical events. Even wrost, if you take it literally. This has been the business of all judeo-Christians religions.

  26. Now Peterson is just trying to not get ridicule, and we can go easy on him for the "40hs answer" shit, but this is different. He´s trying to justify the irrational pattern of thinking of religious dogma just because he believe (or want´s to believe) that there is no other possible base for moral issues, wich leads him to accepting dogmatic aberrations (a lot of historical events listed by Sam among other things) and to repeat "well, if your right, what do you propose?" wich is something Harris expose to him multiple times. Wake up people. Harris all day, such a strong coherent and organize speech. Hitchens would be proud

  27. The insecure gain strength from instantly clapping and hollering whenever Peterson manages a pithy reply to a difficult question, even if it's not a very good answer; they gain strength from hearing each other – we are many and we are noisy – we can't be wrong, and neither is our hero. Dr. P should have been a pianist.

  28. Sam has a very naive view of humanity, and while I understand where he's coming from, he just seems incapable of comprehending the realistic depiction of mankind that Jordan was putting forward. The stance of "Mankind should just…." or "Why don't people do this instead…" is very wishful and childlike, and after 200,000 years, it's pretty clear that that's not how real people function.
    One dogma must be replaced with another, otherwise chaos ensues.

  29. 1:09:34 – Sam is wrong, this is the crux of the disagreement and the issue at hand. The fact that Sam dismisses that is an issue, people are driven by what they believe, not by an arbitrary goal of improving human well being. People need belief to move outside of selfishness and short-sightedness.

  30. It’s so awesome (and I mean that in the awe-inspiring sense) that we can all access this discourse taking place among three of the most prominent public intellectuals in the West.

  31. What irrational beliefs Mr. Peterson has about religion. Goes to show how intelligent people can still be poisoned by religion

  32. Morality is inherently subjective. It has always been and will always be debated for this very reason. No matter how many people agree with one point of morality and no matter how deeply this super majority feels about the truth of that morality, it is subjective. Arguments that approach morality as objective will always have holes that can't be filled.

  33. I watched Rush Limbaugh right after this debate, now I'm starting to hear a small squeeky fart in the back of my head every few days..

    Don't ever try this at home folks.

  34. Great discussion however it seems the longer they speak the more they end up where they originally started. It is like a circular argument going back to subjective morality vs absolute morality

  35. This is the third time I watched it. I feel like I'm getting smarter every time I watch it. I can't even imagine watching this on acid.
    Esta es la tercera vez que lo veo. Siento que me estoy volviendo más inteligente cada vez que lo veo. Ni siquiera puedo imaginar ver esto en ácido.
    هذه هي المرة الثالثة التي أشاهدها. أشعر أنني أكون أكثر ذكاءً في كل مرة أشاهدها. لا أستطيع حتى تخيل مشاهدة هذا على الحمض.

    hadhih hi almarat alththalithat alty 'ashahidaha. 'asheur 'anani 'akun 'akthar dhka'an fi kl marat 'ashahidha. la 'astatie hataa takhayl mushahadat hdha ealaa alhamd.

  36. The one thing that Harris doesn't get straight and doesn't get the fact that science has become the new religion for the new generation the fact that a lot of people have died in the name of science doesn't remove the guilt of Science of sacrificing people as well just for the heck of saying that we are in advanced civilization anything is okay in the name of science

  37. Sam breathes pure reason whereas I often feel Jordan Peterson tries to hide behind Jargon and sentences that are often convoluted and difficult to even follow. On the topic of religion Sam demonstrates possibly one of the most rational stances a clear minded human can possess, he maybe hammers on Islam a lot but it's not without justification.

  38. I think what I found often is that Jordan would make a valid justification in countering Sam claims, but Sam instead of tearing this justification apart, he unintentionally (or maybe not) would divert from arguing the point Jordan made by saying "Well let's assume it isn't the case for a moment" because that makes it easier to indulge in his beliefs without the hardship of validating them in light of the argument Peterson just made.

  39. Did Sam just say you base the fact 2+2=4 on intuition…like no you must have a mathematical background to comprehend why that is the case. It's even outrageous to call that a belief, I didn't know Math was based on belief instead of science

  40. It's ironic that for all the criticism Sam places on religious dogmatism, Sam exercises that same dogma in defending unintentional statements he clearly sees as false, for example not admitting but defending the statement that 2+2=4 is an intuition not a fact, and credit to Peterson on not letting it go when saying if math is intuition then what is left for the idea of fact.

  41. If happiness is a measure of "well being" then survey's indicate that traditional religious two parent families are the most satisfied and happy households in USA. It may be ignorance is bliss. But if so then what are the measurements of "well being"? (see &

  42. Peterson: "In the Moral Landscape … and correct me if I'm wrong …"
    Put two rational scientists in a discussion, and you'll see two people actually listening and trying to understanding each other. Seriously, I've never seen two people summarize the other person's argument and agreeing with the summaries. Most of the time, you have one party strawmanning the other side.

  43. Somewhere here that I can't find again was the intial mention by Jordan about a source of guidance that is external to ourselves that trains /teaches us to improve.(generally)
    He asked why that is there.
    But it got lost in other thought trails pursued.
    Something along those lines.
    I think that is an important bigger thought worth pursuing, as many of these other points are encapsulated within that, if it could be flushed out and understood better.

  44. Also amongts several other points of contention I have are these 2.
    An agreed definition of truth. such as (the ONE point, thought, or postulation, that is correct, to the exclusion of All opposing, contradicting, points, thoughts, and postulations.) (approximately)
    Secondly an agreed definition of religion.
    Sam uses the latter term very often.
    If religion can be defined as the efforts of humanity to free ourselves from our bondage, as I believe is fair, this then in my thinking includes every world view except Christianity.
    Christianity stands in stark contrast to every other view that requires humans to do enough to attain the goal, christainity claims that a greater being has fully done for us what we can never do for ourselves , as history demonstrates that we can't.
    This provision is not only free but attainable to all of humanity, regardless of any demographic catagory one belongs to, that's fully unique, and only comprehensible within the context of love.
    Religion is pride based, and always leads to segregation, and the concept of performance based catagorizing of better and worse personhood.
    Christainity stands starkly against that, requiring a humility of being based on the acknowledgement that we are all flawed, we are all unable of our own ability to summont this truth, and thus the distinction of being better and worse becomes mute, as we are all in the same predicament.
    All this only being only a rudementary summary of christainity, with literally almost infinite further comprehensions to be comprehended, two further points of import, first is that christainity has plenty of failures correctly atttibuted to it, secondly christainity has NEVER been even nearly lived out fully socialogically to any great extent, and only ever fully demonstrated individually in Jesus, of further import is to understand that little of that which is self ascribed with the christain label is even remotely actually christain as Jesus taught it biblically is to be, thus the aforementioned failures occurred, and even today even moreso is that truth still a reality.(in North America less then half of what is labeled Christian actuality is and that's very important to understand)
    I believe Sam has little to no understanding of these important distinctions, and Jordan maybe only has a rudementary familiarity with this exact distinction, I've yet to hear him expound on it, ( but not sure) , but it seems that he does not yet have an intamate relational understanding of the faith/ with God, as being christain is not only knowledge of biblical understandings, but also requires a personal intamate relationship with God. (but 4 not being a christain he sure has an emense knowledge of biblical concepts and he has a great respect for them)
    In summary, If it is worthy of continual mention in discussion then a comprehensive understanding of terms is in my opinion absolutely required for deeper comprehensions to come to lite. (broad brushing isn't acceptable)
    Ps. Admitatly I still need to see the other parts in this series so maybe I can find them there.

  45. Often in this discussion I found myself confused, not sure anymore of what the terms they were using meant in the context where they were used. Now, it might be because I'm not as sharp as these guys, but it would surprise me if they didn't also get confused at certain points in the discussion. But I noticed that they rarely stop each other to ask for clarification. So either they were communicating perfectly and this confusion never arose, or when they did find themselves in that state they opted not to ask for clarification. Since I can't believe they were never confused (because they don't seem to be making much progress and they ask each other similar questions over and over again) I have to ask, why do they not ask for clarification? Isn't that what's necessary to make progress? Maybe they thought that to ask for clarification would not be fruitful because they wouldn't understand anyway, or maybe they thought that it would slow down the conversation too much, for their own sake or for the audience's. Or was it perhaps to some degree because they felt that to admit that they didn't understand what the other person said would be to accept a loss – either a loss in their struggle to win the debate, or a loss to their own self-esteem, because not being able to follow what the other person said could be taken as a sign of their comparative lack of mental capacity. Whatever the cause, I think their failure to ask for clarification in these moments of confusion is the main reason why they're not making progress. When faced with this confusion they instead effectively derail the argument by answering a related but slightly different question or by responding with a question of their own. Again, it might just be that I'm too slow to follow these guys, but that's my take on why they're not getting anywhere.

  46. I get that they are really smart. But they could really do with reading a John Stott book. Their comments on Christianity are so misinformed. They argue that the problem with religion is that there are too many interpretations of the same text, but then make their own interpretations without regard for other interpretations of it. But who knows, maybe I'm just a morally degenerate religious person.

  47. Why do people even bother to debate religion? Why not just let people believe whatever they want? And if they commit crimes and atrocities due to their beliefs, then arrest, prosecute, and punish those who are guilty of said crimes, and leave the law abiding ones alone. It's really that simple. The only thing I can gauge from debates like this, is that intellectuals enjoy these sparing matches as kind of sport. Otherwise there is no practical purpose for them that I can see.

  48. I have a simple life-rule; the guy who cannot speak while holding his hands still and must gesticulate and pantomime wildly and incessantly…that guy is usually full of shit.

  49. In previous comments on this presentation, the term "truth" is expressed. I much prefer to be informed of FACTS and OPINIONS, from which I — and I, alone as an individual viewer– determine TRUTH. This policy has served me pretty well, especially given the state of Big Media news outlets' egregious BIAS. Simply put: Give me the FACTS, and I will determine what is TRUE. I don't need to agree or disagree with someone else's "truth", and I think this is what today's media have utterly abandoned!

  50. Really wish Sam would have answered the question posed by peterson as to what lies within the black box of his universal ethic. The fact that it was avoided 3 times points to the fact that Sam does not have a clear understanding of what that is. However, he did admit at the closing that this should be an open discussion, and maybe that as a culture we need to figure this out in the future

  51. Sam- "religion is stupid and we should get rid of it"
    Jordan- "I'm using hyper complex metaphors and dont believe in a singular God but rather the darwinism that presents itself in religious memes"
    Brett- "both of you are making this far harder than it needs to be"

  52. One thing that Sam misses, at least about Judeo-Christian tradition is its inability for updates. Both traditions allow for the Rabbinical binding and loosing of the text.

    I tend to fall more on Peterson's side relative to the ensconcement of story into text acting as guardrails for societal behavior.

    I do believe that we will eventually see a convergence of the religion of science with the religion of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Zero point field as Yahweh may be that Nexus.

  53. I wish sam would have gone deeper into the concept of the framework of interpretation as jordan was trying to explain. There is something really fundamentally missing from Sam's argument because he is neglecting to think about the bridge between facts and values. Where can these distinctions come from? There is some kind of structure that must exist otherwise there would be an endless numbers of ways to explain away any fact, and we know how bad that is…

  54. Religion is based on a series of 'Stories' which were created to help people deal with the fear arising from our encounter with the chaotic, uncertain, and spontaneous nature of existence, and the 'future', in whatever way we hold that particular construct! Religion can then be understood as a sense-making response. Adherence to the different series of 'Stories' of sense-making is what constitutes 'Beliefs'.

  55. Sam Harris is so smart but can't grasp the fact that basically the entire book of Exodus is about God rescuing people from slavery because it is bad. The Bible has clear rules that after 7 years you must free your "endengered servants/slaves" and it is a Jubilee. Jesus never had slaves and neither did his apostles and you can't derive anything from Jesus teachings to permit you to mistreat another human being even with hateful words without cause let alone slavery. The Bible talks about slavery because it talks about everything but that doesn't mean that it's the will of God for us to hold slaves. In the book of 1Timothy 1:9-10 "We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine."

    The law of the OT does not permit the kind of brutal slavery done by the Arab and trans Atlantic slave trades which is exactly why Christians stopped it and pressured the world too.

  56. For a long time Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris debated the likes of lane craig, haggard, etc, and these people were retards and they were liars. Peterson is one of those who we've been needing the whole time. With Peterson, it's more of a dialogue instead of a debate. Peterson has the right motivations and he's honest. Not so with the others. Peterson is an opponent who's not an opponent. He is someone who can be on the other side of the fence, yet is worthy to talk with to move things forward properly. He is a powerful and beautiful human being. I think he deserves a place at the Four Horsemen table.

  57. 45:00 its not because it has an infinite number of interpretations. Pretty much anything I can think of has an infinite way to be interpreted. Quantum physics for sure, but its a matter of the evidence its based on obviously. Playing with words a bit.

  58. What is it about the universe that would require God to sacrifice His Son to appease it?

    Or perhaps a better question is: What is it about human psychology that would require God to sacrifice His Son to appease it? To allay its fears. To allay its bloodlust.

    We obviously have a great capacity for violence towards our fellowman.

    We also have a way to transcend that.

    How do we – deeply and effectively – transmit that message to future generations? To get "Peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind" deep in our heart and from there into the world. Glib postmodernism and mere short-term "facts" and man-made "laws" are not going to cut it. The Nazis had "laws" as did the Soviets, Mao's China and Pot Pol's Cambodia. Paranoia and aggression are always ready to rear their ugly heads.

    How do we raise consciousness?

    How do we tame the beast?

    Jesus is a shining example showing the way, being the way, acting out the way. "Love thine enemies" and "Turn the other cheek" vs. "Eye for an eye" and "Tooth for a tooth". And today, now, locking up two million Palestinians in horrid inhuman conditions in the open air prison called Gaza simply because they were born into the "wrong" tribe and are "in the way" of the "right" tribe is a blight on all humanity, on all of us.

    Deeper truths – Way, Tao, Logos, Rta, Grace – transcend verbal argumentation and categorisation. The truth is in the movement, not in various systems of categorisation. The consequences arise from the way, the movement, not from argumentation.

    Life is not an argument.

    Merry Christmas.

  59. People today are sacrificing their spirit to the financial system in return for a paycheck. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." "What profits a man to gain the world and lose his soul?"

  60. A meaningful discussion with people like Peterson is practically impossible, even for people like Harris.
    Trying to justify the Bible simply takes to much mental energy… none is left to have a real philosophical discussion.
    How blind can faith make us!

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