Sam Harris delivers an impressive talk in which he argues that science does have answers to questions about morality.
Most people have skepticism about science’s role in leading us to moral values. That science can tell us what is, but not what ought to be – is a widely held belief. But Harris claims that values are a certain kind of empirical facts. They are facts about the well-beings of conscious creatures. And science can help us to discover these factual values.
Thought-provoking and audacious as they might be, I don’t completely agree with Harris’ arguments about the objectivity of morality. The sufferings and well-beings of conscious creatures might very well be empirical facts, and science can be a very useful, even vital, tool to understand these facts, but that still doesn’t tell us how we should act or feel after acquiring this knowledge.
However, I do agree that we must converge regarding the answers we give to the most important questions about human life. And in order to converge, we must agree first that there are answers. But as a moral relativist, I don’t believe there are ultimate objective moral values waiting to be discovered (like scientific facts). I can comprehend the universality of morality but not its absoluteness.
While talking about Sam Harris, here’s an earlier post of mine: Religious Moderates.
Also, read his debate with Rick Warren (the pastor who gave invocation to Obama’s presidential inauguration): The God Debate. A couple of excerpts below:
Sam, is there a God in the sense that most Americans think of him?
SAM HARRIS: There’s no evidence for such a God, and it’s instructive to notice that we’re all atheists with respect to Zeus and the thousands of other dead gods whom now nobody worships.
The core problem for me is divisive dogmatism. There are many kinds of dogmatism. There’s nationalism, there’s tribalism, there’s racism, there’s chauvinism. And there’s religion. Religion is the only sphere of discourse where dogma is actually a good word, where it is considered ennobling to believe something strongly based on faith.