human rights

Sam Harris And Science As Human Right

Summary

To match the ideals outlined in the U.S. Constitution, we must define and measure our values.

We have already defined our values. We do not yet measure outcomes.

Science is the only tool capable of abstracting human experience over populations, allowing us to know whether we are achieving our goals.

By choosing not to measure, we violate basic human rights and empower the strong over the weak, the majority over the minority. This threatens to make meaningless our chosen values.

Therefore, Science should be a human right.


Sam Harris’ Missing Chapter: Government and The Moral Landscape

Sam Harris recently published a controversial book titled The Moral Landscape, wherein he argues that science can answer moral questions:

Questions about value—about meaning, morality, and life’s larger purpose—are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures. Values, therefore, translate into facts that can be scientifically understood.

Stephen Gould provides a common dissent:

Morality is a subject for philosophers, theologians, students of the humanities, indeed for all thinking people…The factual state of the world does not teach us how we, with our powers for good and evil, should alter or preserve it in the most ethical manner.

I side with Harris.

Most criticism of his position rests in a critique of Utilitarianism; an ethical position that holds the right course of action is the one that creates “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

Harris, by presenting his theory abstractly (“some science somewhere could do this”) and by responding to the abstract criticisms of his opponents, actually misses the strength of his argument when applied to practical use.

What else are we doing than safeguarding the well being of individuals when we form governments?

Harris’ theory can be grounded in Governance. U.S. Democracy, for example, is functionally utilitarian.

What else are we doing than safeguarding the well being of individuals when we form governments? In this light, arguments about whether we can define and measure moral positions are nonsense; we’ve been attempting to do so since the beginning of recorded history. We’ve just been doing it poorly.

If, as Harris’ opponents argue, this endeavor is impossible, then we should immediately dispense attempts to define communal values and form governments.

Continue reading