100 thoughts on “Science can answer moral questions | Sam Harris

  1. "The more intelligent is a Human being, the less they need religion. The more ignorant a Person is, the more fanatic they go". Anonymous.
    I would say, the brillant People like Harris does not need Religion, because they know What to do. But the less intelligent than him NEED someone to tell them What to do, because by their own they are lost

  2. He is an extremely smart person, equipped w the qualifying human knowledge and relative experience to offer his professional opinion on this topic. However, I did not hear anything remotely close the promised scientific answer for human morality.

    The brain? Sure, explain exactly how it works and why humans acquired societal consciousness, equipped w inherent morality.

  3. Can science genuinely answer questions specific to morality, when it has made the most significant contribution to the social/physical/economic destruction of our planet? Sam could answer the morality issue in relation to the scientific experiments of Social Darwinism responsible for more lives lost in the 20th century than all the combined wars in human history. Sam should be honest to address the scientific advances in weaponary responsible for more human misery than the 50k talibans could ever achieve!! To highlighy suicide bombers, be-headings, honor killings as a moral practice in cultures is also disingenious as it provides an extreme snapshot of less than 0.01% of that population. Its like me stating all Sciencists are raving lunatics as less than 1% of them are engaged in stem cell/animal cruelty/euthanasia/weaponary projects so we 'must tarnish all of them with the same brush'. While Mr Harris is a reputable speaker and projector of his analytical sciences, it would behove him to evaluate 'why the scientific man has reached the heights of Cern/Mars yet morally failed the human condition with poverty, deprivation and economic dependency'?

  4. SAMs argument goes off the rails when he discusses burkas. He does not stop with the burkas. He leaps to the extreme of throwing battery acid in the face of women who do not comply as a consequence. This is a dishonest leap. What if the consequence was the same as if a woman shows up to a bar naked in San Diego?. Would that not moderate the moral outrage that we in the west feel at the forced wearing of burkas? Sam is brilliant but he often leaps to slippery slope logical fallacies to advance his arguments. This employment erodes the legitimacy of many of his arguments.

  5. I don't deny or concede that science can be employed to establish universal principles of morality. It is a theory. It needs to be tested. To Sam I implore that he develop a mechanism by which science can be used to establish absolute morality, tests it, then shares the result. Come back then, then I will decide.

  6. What a speech of bigotry! Expectedly, ending at a conclusion that not all opinions are worth respect! You really stand for whom you are: morally devoid, and totally exclusive of opinions outside your empty circle of morals that are centered around marginal utility and materialistic perspective.

  7. And who are you to judge whether others have the right to believe of a concept you don’t like.
    People like you who disguise into articulated words such hatred, envy, and darkness towards religious beliefs have caused horrible wars and unthinkable injustice in the world.
    If you don’t like a culture, don’t join it. But it is not up to you, believing in no absolute truth at all, to tell others what is right and what is wrong while you do not even have a basis to what is right or wrong to measure against.

  8. How about answering the question you posed? This video does not deal with the fact that science might be capable of answering moral questions, however, it is rather about condemning monotheistic religions such as Christianity and Islam. You’ve committed several fallacies at presenting your arguments and don’t even provide any basis for them. You need to study more Theology and Philosophy before talking about things you are not ready to deal with. Saying that religious people do not ask questions is just untrue. Have you ever read Summa Contra Gentilis by Thomas Aquinas? There, you would find several questions, arguments and supporting evidence for those arguments. Have you ever heard of St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, C.S. Lewis, Georges Lemaître (a catholic priest and author of the Big Bang theory)? They all have asked questions. No one is religious because they’re stupid, (which seems to be contrary to what you believe). Stop saying religion is equal to stupidity and go study more Theology and Philosophy.

  9. Sugar is food AND poison. Also, the life expectancy at the time the Discobolus was carved was around 80 years.

  10. One has to applaud Sam's attempt here; this is a difficult ask and he admits "science couldn't answer all moral questions". For science, because it cannot define its first assumptions upon which it can ever plausible explain Origin, Meaning and Destiny, the question is Good and Evil become impossible.

    It is a dilemma, for neither can the physicist explain the energy source that sparked the Big Bang nor the evolutionary biologist how chemical molecules came about and became intelligent so as to hobble in accordance with a defined hierarchy of values to encode the genetic content from which proteins (which formation have been statistically proven to be less than 1/10E100000000); taking Darwin's 'Survival of the Fittest' to its logical conclusion, we would abandon the unhealthy and aged in society to die, but something beyond, certainly guides the human heart.

    I'm glad that morality is even spoken of in a world today where we refuse to honestly say actually "we love the dark side".

  11. But who gets to decide which opinions are worth being listened to or not? Sounds like opening the door to fascism to me.

  12. One thing Sam left out is that our so called internal moral compass was designed by evolution to help secure our prosperity So morality has that consequential out to come as the objective basis for morality

  13. Did not say how science can tell us what is worth living for (which was the question raised at the beginning of this talk).

  14. Religion is the reason for women in veils, capitalism is the reason for almost naked women on magazine covers. Both need improvement.

  15. I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. This guy got up in front of all those people showing off how stupid he is. Post a video for everyone to see and is shameless, ignorant fool. I started to laugh towards the middle of this.

  16. The most ridiculous title for a speech EVER. Why? Well, "morality" is not a natural thing. It's not made of atoms, it's not made of energy, it has no mass, and doesn't take up space. Science deals with the NATURAL world, and so has nothing to say about morality even existing. Sam Harris is literally pointing out that God exists when he claims immaterial morality is a real thing in this natural material world. You need an outside immaterial standard for morality. I thought Harris wanted to argue for atheism. 🙂

  17. The initial idea that we could be wrong that your cat's pain and happiness is more important than the cockroach you squashed in your kitchen last night is something I've pondered. Or a garden spider in the middle of the pines is less worthy of being recognized as a being with desires and disappointments than someone in prison for mass murder. Its all relative to how it moves "your tribe" forward. We are not programmed to create some perfect society where no ones feelings get hurt. The tribe of people behind this notion doesn't practice this in their own country! What we are programmed for is serving "your tribe" and that is directly related to morality. I like to watch these old Indian and Cowboy movies….in how intricate the interaction was between the "Us and the Them" is portrayed. Sometimes their is mercy between the savagery. We are not better than "animals" or "insects"…….we exist in a different "bandwith" than them. Do humans possess some "morals" given from god.????…..….if you examine history……..basically their are good times and their are bad times of "group violence" or war. All groups of humans have wared amongst each other since whenever and when we weren't at war w them it was amongst each other. When you look at someone else or a living thing……..you have an instinctual judgement of them on a genetic level. Is that the moral of science programmed in our DNA?

  18. Support for Beating kids in classroom is not entirely on religious basis. I'm an atheist and i support the principle behind this. Obviously brutal beating is inhumane but for little kids a believable threat of physical punishment is sometimes necessary. For eg, a mild slap by teacher to a kid who beats another kid and don't stop even after explaining>counseling>warnings i.e. failing to behave with civility after three fair chances.

  19. Arbitrarily deciding that morality is about the well being of humans doesn't make it objective and answerable by science. I can easily object and claim that the highest moral good is to exterminate all humans, or that it is about the well being of animals rather than just humans, which would still mean that exterminatus of humans would be the way to go.

    Generalizing and saying that humans evolved to value certain things is nothing but a generalization that you aren't allowed to make. Objective moral values can't be decided by majority vote because then they aren't objective, and clearly there are exceptions to the claims about human moral values.

  20. He is ignoring an underlying assumption that cannot be derived from science–that life and flourishing are better than death and suffering, and that we should want that for everyone, not just ourselves. Now that we value life and flourishing, we can use science to help bring those about.

  21. Brilliant but Sam gave a wrong answer to the issue. Science is secondary to the “ought.” The ought comes before the act to better our life. What science does is not to teach us why you should love and be charitable rather it is devising a means to get to those values. On issue if abortion science says it’s a baby in the womb even though some say it’s a tissue. But science doesn’t give it values and dignity and that’s why it is arguing about pain stage abortion. Still to show that science doesn’t teach ethics, hat argument no longer hold for them because they now struggle with mother’s right. However human right is not a scientific discipline.

  22. Sam Harris one question for your argument. What is the scientific stand on the morality of abortion?

  23. One of sams major miscalculations is that he sees religious people following rules just because they are written in a sacred text. but that doesn't account for people who come to religion because through experience, recognize the value of the practices. theres also people who may give a sacred text the benifit of the doubt, and yet find ways to test and verify the validity of a rule. however, dont get me wrong, I do love sam and his sense of logic.

  24. Wow… he makes quite a leap from values to facts. He doesn't go deep enough.
    Understandeable, since he also argues that there is no free will. So what does morality even matter?

  25. False. Science can help us make informed decisions consistent with our values, but science cannot tell us what our ultimate values should be.

  26. Well, at the beginning he states a false: “the science deals with facts”… it supposed to do so but now scientists decided to explain my origin, meaning and destiny. That’s not a science anymore, it’s another religion.

  27. A bunch of incoherent emotional observations which do not answer the question at all. The Islam example actually proves the anti-thesis. Why is that wrong from a materialist perspective? Why is the opposite, the hyper-sexuality in the West, wrong from a materialist perspective? The materialist cannot give a satisfactory answer.

    He consistently makes the same error throughout his talk, he confounds different categories of knowledge. Moral questions cannot be answered by a materialist framework, scientific questions cannot be answered by a moral framework. Attempting to shoehorn all categories of knowledge under materialism fails from the start.

  28. Very interesting and thought provoking topic and talk. I'd love to play devil's advocate for a moment. We saw the stark stratification present with the evocation from the values of rock, ant, ape. This suggests there is an objective hierarchy of value around conscience, and indeed Sam concentrates his focus on obtainable objective landscapes of morality in the sphere of "well-being" to some extent around the idea of sentience or consciousness, and perhaps around the awareness of being and suffering. However, consider adding a few more items to the list: a coma patient, a person under complete anesthesia, human fetus. With this new set, the moral landscape becomes much harder to partition, and we become far less certain of the wisdom in the attempt.

    Although we are tempted to use the analogy of science to see these data points as "facts" or "truth", I'm disinclined to agree. Gravity and electromagnetism simply are, and the truth of them is an inescapable reality. Does morality objectively exist and is it true? What if the well-being of the human race means the eradication of 3/4 of the world population because the Earth's biospheres cannot sustain the burden of the current human population? Does that make the extermination of billions of people a peak in the landscape of morality?

    What if we discover that the sun going to inflate to a red giant in precisely 10 days, wiping out all the planetary bodies in our solar system? Should I share my extra bread with a starving man?

  29. “Almost all the questions of interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer.” —Bertrand Russell

  30. cool TALK but as a man who works out doors wearing loose fitting clothes that cover ur skin is the best way to dress to prevent skin cancer and
    reduce chance of heat stroke if Burkas were white or tan they would be ideal wear for a desert.

  31. 1) Declarea "ought" can be derived from "is".
    2) Immediately assumes that morality rests in the fact of suffering-avoidance, an assumption for which there is no empirical evidence.

  32. Where in the world does rape rate an honor killing. Is there some kind of paternal consent being the standard over the daughters body and her decision to have relations ;and if she does defy her father's authority on the matter of sexual relations ,does that mean she was raped. If the priority is family honor and cultural integrity then threats to the contrary are constant i.e. the real possibility that the culture will collapse completely.

  33. Would we ask a super Computer if we should have a child? We already use computers to direct most of our lives so I’d say yeah tbh

  34. This guy really knows how to deceive his audience. Verily Rasul saww alluded to the fact that some speech can have the effects as sehr (crudely magic) . The deception is real when his argument is constructed on the basis of lies.
    To link honour killings to a particular religion shows his ignorance.

  35. Yeah, no it can't. Not even going to stay and watch this crap cause I know the drill. TED talks are terrible propaganda

  36. I'm not convinced that spanking children is such a bad thing. It's true that many people spank their children incorrectly and they are basically assaulting them. You should never be angry nor should you ever WANT to spank them. It's done out of necessity for the child. I've seen how effective it can be when used correctly, and how DETRIMENTAL it can be when done incorrectly. You could assign as many punishments to a child as you like but they don't have to follow though unless there is some ultimate punishment they will receive for not doing so. "Go to time out" – NO! "Go to your room" NO! See what I mean? It's not a coincidence that the children that have no discipline act naughty and aren't as successful.

  37. This is very, very American! My first thought is that he is unaware of Greek philosophy. The second is that he seems unaware of his own culture. There is a joke in Europe: What do you call someone who speaks many languages? Multilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American! It doesn't really point to languages as such but points to the total lack of understanding of even the existence of other cultures! They are just plain wrong in the American view. That's a characteristic of a culture in decline. The Greeks, The Romans, The Brittish, and now The Americans. And it is creating a divide between Europe and the USA. I am not an English speaker but I speak more than eight languages. This gives insight into cultures that are vastly different. Not having cultural experience is riding the American society as a nightmare. Whites play Egyptians, Africans (with makeup), Chinese and so forth in Hollywood movies because you don't think people from other races or cultures can do the job. Despicable!

  38. Another so-called atheist trying to impose his stupid rules on me. I'm a proper atheist. There are no rules. I don't want any rules. I don't care what happens to humanity after I die.

  39. religion says we know it is wrong to kill human beings because God says so, that foundation of "God says so" is the premise behind all religious morality. Sam says God doesnt exist and religion is not needed to explain morality…then he says we know that human suffering is wrong, and im like, im sorry What!? how do we know that human suffering is wrong

    you just cant say we know that human suffering is wrong…you have to rationally and logically explain why and how we know that human suffering is wrong. you have to show your work. You can't just assume it's objective fact that human suffering is wrong. Its like he takes God out of the equation then smuggles God back in and says we just know that human suffering is wrong…well how do we know for sure objectively factually logically speaking that human suffering is wrong and keep in mind that for that statement to be the foundation of an argument in favor of science based morality it has to be absolute. which means in every possible conceivable context human suffering is always absolutely wrong.

    This is the fundamental flaw in Sam Harris argument for science based morality.

  40. You have to laugh at many of the comments here. The man has a PHD in neuroscience and many of these people in the comments must surely posses an equivalent or superior degree or knowledge because they make a lot of claims that Sam doesn't know or understand what he is talking about. lmfao. I would love to see any of them sit down with Sam in a one on one to discuss where exactly he is mistaken and explain to him exactly why. Just like all the other "experts" we have these days, especially in politics, who think they know more than scientists who have spend their entire careers studying their individual fields of expertise.

  41. 11:30 Judeo-Christian-Islam is a foul, and dangerous religion. It is based on tribal pagan lore, and it has absolutely no monopoly on morality!

  42. Sam is talking about personal morals but the thing with personal morals is that it is subjective.
    Eg; a man is sent to prison for 1 year for a crime that he didn't commit. Throughout that year the level of resentment grows large. When he's released he goes and murders the judge who wrongfully sent him to jail. In his mind he is justified. This is where one should use the morals of his religion to stop from acting out this sin of aggression.
    Then there is societal morals. Should we allow homosexuality? Should we teach it to young kids? Should we allow beastiality? Should we allow abortion? There are people on both sides of the fence, some say yes others say no. Well then who is right? Again the choice of people depends greatly on their subjective experiences whereas these laws should be based on sustaining society. Where will society end up if most people practiced homosexuality? There will be even less child births and there will be an epidemic of STDs. Eventually that society will be taken over

  43. 17:00 says it takes people to admit that, without any overarching structure, they define their morality absolutely and enact it perfectly. Therefore science can answer moral questions? Ppfft. All you gave was proof that science can help provide us with solutions to problems. No moral or ethical justification or maxims. Nothing just trust in science they arent like ISIS… I enjoyed the talk but the intellectual aspect of empiricism dealing with pre empirical questions is rightly nonsense. Use science like we did to asylum patients? You dont ever acknowledge the separation of empiricism and ethics that has existed in ethical debates since the British empiricists.

  44. Sam Harris is a disappointment. Science has no opinion of morality for good reason. "What is" can not explain "what ought". Until he addresses that, all his complex narratives about the "moral landscape" is nonsense.

  45. 'The Divine nature and eternal power of the Creator are seen through what has been made, easily observable through the natural senses as well as formal science and biology'. Pauls letter to the Romans.

  46. The Science of embryology can tell you the unborn are whole, living and distinct human beings, but can't tell you that murdering them is wrong.


  47. You take moral truths to be self evident, but anyone can easily scientifically argue that we should put cholera in the water for any number of logical and rational reasons, if they hold different values that you.

    The fact of values doesn’t answer where the value comes from, it just acknowledges that value exists.

    (P.s.) i know he wont read any of this. Just thinking it through.

  48. There will be no progress until a medical cure for psychopathy is generated. Also, there will be no total resolution until ALL people realize we have to stop competing and collaborate.

  49. The guy at the end asked some interesting questions but also displayed some very under minding and disrespectful behavior through body language and the framing in which he asked his questions. Politically he may have had to seem that way due to the mentioning of the Middle East. Sam gave excellent responses and tried not to leave too much of anything up for interpretation through out the entire talk. In conclusion this was an excellent mind expanding talk that would benefit anyone truly searching for truth with the slight addition of a rude person at the very end.

  50. The idea of moral relativism is what measures our diversity of opinions through different cultural landscapes and we were fragmented because of this which questions or contradicts the universal/absolute conception of Morality

  51. Chris Anderson is a businessman not a deep thinker. He uses his position as Ted creator to try to discredit Sam in his way at the end. I listened to his podcast with Sam and it's just a pity to hear him trying to play the intellectual one!

  52. Question, question… Kind of reminds me of the jewish of questions.
    Might be his nose, would make sense too why some (((lies))) should be ok.

  53. I appreciate the sentiment behind the video, but that is one extremely oversimplified idea of ethics and morality. I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to these ideas or even comment about it if they weren’t dangerous, but they are. Combining a blatant dismissal of complexity with a doctrine that demoralizes the idea of tolerance and creates a ranking amongst worldview (all while having no distinct reasoning or logic aside from a few circumstantial analogies) is a recipe for bigotry and social division. There’s so many things left unaddressed or dismissed in this video about the nature of mankind that about 30 minutes on Crash Course Philosophy could more effectively address. I like the sentiment and I agree that we need to find some sort of basis for morality that we can all share if we’re going to help society function as a whole- but not by being simpleminded like that.

  54. I feel like he made some good points but at the same time said a lot of easily refutable points as well. There are a lot of holes in his speech for sure.

  55. Thank you. I can now reference this video when people disagree with me that there exist objective moral truths. Extrapolating further, there must be objective good and evil. That's a strong pointer in favor of a religious worldview being close to the objective reality in which we live.

  56. He may be right but his definition of corporal punishment is way off, raising large bruises and breaking skin on a child is not legal anywhere in America. Spanking like with a wooden spoon or a switch and pinching are legal however

  57. The fact that Sam thinks that life expectancy in Classical Greece was 30 is extremely disappointing considering how high a pedestal many put him on.

  58. Only uneducated people who do not understand the scientific method can say that science can not answer moral questions.
    Morals are the concept of right and wrong, and although right and wrong is subjective for each person, we certainly know that there is a one and only solution that will be beneficial and hence right for the majority. That is how our whole civilization is constructed, for the benefit of the majority. If that is the case, than all we have to do is find the objective right and wrong answers for the majority.

    And now answer me what tool do humans use to find an objective truth? "knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation" is definition of science, in other words the objective description of reality.

    In the example of womens rights that he talked about, those practices are directly detrimental to the majority in their population, both to women and the men that love them (fathers, brothers) etc, hence that practice is objectively wrong.

  59. It seems like what Harris has done here is to define utilitarianism again. One of the great critiques of utilitarianism has been that utility (a synonym for flourishing) is difficult to calculate and so as a practical system of ethics it is difficult to implement. With brain imaging it may become easier, but we have to remember that what looks like healthy behavior is harder to define than Harris seems to believe. Should we just maximize enjoyment? Should we maximize productivity? What exactly does human flourishing mean? Harris has a sort of hand-wavey argument here that conceals the fact that he’s just pushing value judgements into the ill-defined sphere of “human flourishing.”

  60. I don't remember in all this him ever defining what morality is and why it is what it is, or why we should accept why it is what it is other than science deals with facts…

  61. Blah blah blah. Unnecessary words.
    It’s very simple. Below are actual beliefs past and present.

    —invisible Gods —talking snakes —talking
    bushes that are on fire —gods with 4 arms and the face of an elephant—People coming back to life —people dying and turning into dust but reincarnated as a bird or a water buffalo or a duck—global flood killing millions of children and babies— a man surviving 3 days inside a whale that swallows him —a monkey face god who helps you maintain celibacy—
    a god who controls the wind speed an air temperature—a woman turning into a block of pure salt—a woman who controls all the waters of the world— a half horse half man creature—a seven headed beast who comes out of the sea with crowns on its head,
    actual dragons flying around breathing fire—god who lives in the sun , a man flying through the heavens pulled by powerful flying goats while shooting lighting down on his enemies.
    I’m tired now sorry.

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