“Lying” By Sam Harris – A Quickie Review

Finally picked up Sam Harris’ “Kindle Single” (a short book/essay approx. 100 pages) “Lying” (not an affiliate link) and finished off the last few pages. I found the book to be unimpressive both in its main premise “Thou Shalt Not Lie”, and the reasoning for it.

A short quote: “Every lie is a direct assault upon the autonomy of those we lie to. And by lying to one person, we potentially spread falsehoods to many others – even entire societies.” Translated: “You should always tell the truth, not doing so might lead to dire consequences.”

Sort of like a butterfly effect of lies, almost; I tell a perfectly harmless white fib with the purest of intentions in Sandy Hook, CT, and a week later a textile sweatshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh comes crashing down killing hundreds.

The book is filled with silly examples and assertions that a bright 5th-grader could easily refute. Having watched a lot of Sam Harris on Youtube I had expected more. Considerably more.

Even assuming that people somehow have a reasonable expectation, or even a right, that I tell the the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth at any given time, this statement is nothing but hyperbolic dramaqueenery©. Denying me the right to lie whenever I’m in the mood is a direct assault on my autonomy (and also the 1st Amendment). Talk about a pompous bag of gas.Two thumbs down.

Hypothetical:
A German SS-Obersturmführer leads his entourage of armed soldiers, Schmeissers held tightly against their chests, from house to house in an Amsterdam neighborhood in November 1942. It’s dark, cold, and a steady drizzle of almost-freezing rain makes the cobblestone slippery under foot. The officer halts at a door and raps it with Aryan authority. A middle-aged woman eventually appears. “Entschuldigung for das inconvenience mein Frau, but hast du any illegal Juden hiding in your loft?” the officer demands.The woman, clearly afraid, stutters, but finally manages to reply in the negative: “No sir, no Jews here. No Jews at all.” The Obersturmführer bows stiffly at the waist as only SS officers do, tips his hat to the terrified woman, utters a polite “danke schön”, adjusts his eye patch, twirls around sharply on his heel and continues on to the next house in search for untermenschen to send off to the work camps in the East. Arbeit macht frei, usw., doncha know!

anne_frank

Lying, runaway Jewess. Picture credit: Bergen-Belsen work camp archives, from a production of “Glückliche Tage” (“Happy Days”) performed by the camp drama troupe.

What a fucking cunt that woman was, lying to the officer like that, knowing full well she had an entire family of Jew fugitives hiding upstairs. You just can’t trust anybody these days.

P.S. I find it much more interesting to read a review of a book, however short and incomplete and biased, thereby perhaps gaining some new insight, rather than just a statement that so-and-so has read such-and-such.

EDITED TO ADD: It appears that Anne Frank was posthumously baptized by the Mormons. Presumably this selfless act by the Latter Day Saints has led God to forgive her for lying and being a Jew, retrieved her from hell and put her in the Heavenly Witness Protection Program where she is now playing dodge ball with Jesus in an undisclosed Heavenly location (Heaven is a big place).

A Manual for Creating Atheists By Peter Boghossian: A Book Review By A Member Of The Choir

I haven’t read the book and probably won’t (mainly because whenever I read something in this genre it mostly just rehashes and affirms my own feelings and arguments on the subject that I’ve intuitively held from early childhood), but from watching  the video posted below and chatter that has reached my ears (eyes), I’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s about (as if the title of the book wasn’t enough of a clue). Maybe I should read it, in the hopes of gaining some new perspectives and convincing arguments I haven’t thought of myself.

The Manual for Creating Atheists is available in both paperback and for Kindle and I take the unusual step of recommending it unread to anyone who, like me, believes the world would be a better place if most, if not all, human decisions were based on reason, logic and evidence rather than superstition and divine edict from your deity of choice, but might not have an arsenal of good arguments to present in a discussion.

DISCLAIMER: In endorsing this book and posting the video discussion between Peter Boghossian and Stefan Molyneux I do not necessarily agree with every view these fellas hold on other topics, moral values, political philosophies, economic models etc. I specifically disagree strongly with many of Mr Molyneux’s beliefs and views, but every now and then it’s a good idea to sit down and listen to those with whom you disagree.

I Am A Cunt And So Can You

I have an Internet acquaintance that I’ve been chatting with on and off for the past few years via various forums, email, Facebook and the like. I’ve never met him in the physical realm, but he seems like a standup guy and I hold him in high regard. He recently mentioned to me that Sam Harris had written in his blog a book review, recommending it too atheists in need of arguments when debating the existence of a god with religious people. (For those of you who don’t know, Sam Harris is an author/philosopher/neuroscientist/the fourth horseman of the “neo-atheist” movement.)

I knew from previous exchanges with my friend, himself a student of philosophy (we’ve discussed various topics such as politics, philosophy, religion, atheism, guns, bodybuilding, illegal performance enhancing drugs and the widespread practice of male circumcision in America) how much he likes Sam Harris and enjoys his books. I was therefore a bit surprised when he told me that reading Harris’ blog and the book review in question specifically, had turned him against Harris, and stated quite emphatically that he didn’t know who would be the bigger cunt; the guy who wrote it, the guy who reviewed and recommended it, or those who read it.

I haven’t read the book in question nor Harris’ review of it, but any book that provides the atheist with valid ammunition in debates with theocrats and “people of faith” of any creed; creationists, intelligent designers, hardline Bible thumpers, Muslim jihadists, and even “moderate” non-literalist, cherry picking Christians and Reform Jews, is, in my opinion, a good book. The guy who wrote it, a good guy. The person who reviews and recommends it, also good. As is the person who reads it for the specific purpose of arming him/herself with arguments to debunk religious poppycock. If that makes me a cunt, then so be it. I’ll take it as a compliment.

Let me finish off by saying that the Bible is bullshit, the Koran is a lie, and the Baghavad Gita did not fall from the sky (credit Corporate Avenger), and the sooner we can rid society of the scourge of belief in ancient fairy tales, mythology and omnipotent, judgmental sky zombies, the better.

Reading Fatigue

Adapted from “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” by Pete Seeger with later additions by Joe Hickerson.

Where have all the good books gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the good books gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the good books gone?
Lars read them every one.
When will he ever learn?
When will he eeever learn?

Is it possible that I have read all the good books ever written and I’m left with the garbage?

There is also the remote chance that I’m suffering from EOD (Early Onset Dementia).

I enjoy history, both fiction and non-fiction. Favorite periods are Roman Imperial and the Middle Ages. If non-fiction I don’t like my reading material to be overly scholarly, but don’t dumb it down too much either. Assume I have a brain.

I’m also a big fan of science fiction. Favorite authors include Peter F Hamilton and Stephen Baxter.

I thought I enjoyed philosophy, but it tends to be way over my head (Wittgenstein, Kant, Kierkegaard (besides, most people seem to derive their knowledge of the “heavy” philosophers from secondary and even tertiary commentaries of their works and the opinions of their professors)) or just opinion (no finger pointing for now), or they blather on about stuff I already intuitively know or don’t care about. Still open for suggestions, though.

Examining The Meaning Of Life, Death And Existence

How lucky we are that this guy, Sam Harris, emerges at the same time my “hero” Christopher Hitchens fades away. God’s ways are mysterious, indeed. Radically different personalities, humble and soft spoken versus giant ego, arrogant and even mean at times, they both are/were shining stars in their chosen fields. America needs to listen to this guy and more like him.

Partially from this speech, but also other speeches/debates I’ve seen on YT, I can’t help but feel that he may be flirting a tiny little bit with New Age ideas, Buddhism, and even a bit of Tony Robbins and pop psychology. I haven’t quite figured him out yet, but he is undoubtedly an intellectual giant of promising stature

If you’re interested in the whos, whats, wheres, whens, hows and whys of your existence, you should absolutely check him out. As soon as I finish the rather boring, formulaic, fictional story of an English archer’s trials and tribulations in France during the Hundred Years’ War I’m currently reading, I will get some of his books and dig deeper in.

Remember, the unexplored life is not worth living.

On Religion And Theology

Philosophy is like being in a dark room looking for a black cat.

Metaphysics is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there.

Theology is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there and shouting “I found it!”.

~ Some guy on the Internet

I came across this on the Internet. I don’t know who the author is, so he shall remain uncredited, suffice to say I didn’t come up with it, but I thought it was pretty clever and approve of the message

Cogito Ergo LOL WUT?

Cogito Ergo Sum. I think, therefore I am. Or so the saying goes.

Upon being admitted to University in Norway, you must first, regardless of your chosen field of study, complete – and pass – a basic Philosophy 1-0-1 type course known as Examen Philosphicum (them academics likes their Latins). This in order to prepare the student for the basic principles of higher learning, scientific method, critical thinking and so on and so forth.

Those of you who know me may also know that I had my own run-in with Academia and that I lost, shamefully, leaving University after several changes to my major, degree-less and with precious little to my credit other than a student loan, the barest minimum of knowledge and understanding, hardly enough even to get me in trouble, but still sufficient to fool those of even lesser learning and/or wit to believe that I was more learned and/or witty than they were. In other words I knew very little about a lot and used it to be snooty and snarky to cover up my own insecurity whenever the opportunity presented itself. (I have since evolved to become a much nicer person.)

But I do remember the lecture on René Descartes and Cogito. That in order to find truth, you must first deconstruct everything until you arrive at that which cannot be doubted and build from there. And the most basic truth is “I Think, Therefore I Am”. Cogito Ergo Sum. Surely nothing can be more basic and true than the assertion that your thinking is proof positive that you exist.

At first this seemed perfectly reasonable and self-evident to me. But what if “I” myself was somebody’s creation programmed to believe (erroneously so) that I was thinking and therefore I was? This was before the breakthrough of personal computers and the Internets, and I have already admitted that I didn’t stick it out long enough to acquire a greater understanding of the subject. If I had, I might have gotten answers. I was also afraid to appear stupid, so I never asked my professors or discussed the matter with my fellow students. I just took the damn course and got on with what I thought was going to be the rest of my life.

Years pass. Moss grows on a rolling stone. Computers become as common as yeast infections in whores. I am vaguely aware of background chatter about artificial intelligences (AIs), Ray Kurzweil, the impending Singularity Event (when machine intelligence develops self-awareness and processing power skyrockets exponentially, potentially leaving flesh-humans behind in the dust), I watch and enjoy the three first Terminator movies, et cetera, et cetera, but can still not muster up enough energy or interest to go beyond passing awestruckness © (Is that a real word? If not I claim copyright.) and fascination with the subject. The possibility that I may not be an independent sentient/sapient being brings little worry to my life.

Current day. I download a short-story (novella, novelette?) from Amazon on my Kindle (search terms, search terms) by David Brin called “Stones Of Significance” and rediscover my fascination when I see that I’m not the only one who has pondered (however slightly) this existential question. Of course I’m not. I relatively firmly believe that every thought worth thinking has already been thought by someone else, someone smarter, and no matter what I think, I’m not adding anything of value to the pool of human knowledge. But I digress.

Disclaimer: I’m only through 19% of the story, but so far I gather it’s about digital simulations of people – even fictional people! – fighting for civil rights in a post-singularity Heaven where everybody is their own god. How totally awesome is that? I have said on occasion that I hope computer science advances fast enough and I live long enough to upload the contents of my mind to the Heavenly Server and live out eternity in virtual reality, digital bliss if you will, where your every whim and wish is possible at the speed of thought. I don’t know how realistic this is, but I quit smoking four years ago and try to live as healthy (or as little unhealthy) as I can. But my determination wavers, after all I am only human. Or am I? Maybe I am just someone’s really good simulation of “Me”, in which case it doesn’t really matter.

So here we are, waiting to die. Or to be saved by The Singularity. Or for someone to hit “Delete”. Just wanted to put it out there.

The Meaning Of Life

Life is from beginning to end a festering cesspool of misery and injustice, occasionally and randomly intercepted by brief moments when the misery is felt less painful and we experience what we call “happiness”.

So why keep it up? Because if we don’t we won’t get to the next instance of happiness. And then we die.