21 February 2012

Harris and Hitchens tag team

These two videos of Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are from a discussion organised last year by the Whizin Center for Continuing Education. The topic was about whether or not there was an afterlife (an unprovable speculation either way), with Harris and Hitchens squared off against two rabbis, David Wolpe and Bradley Artson Shavit. It seems like all four men gave a good showing, though I agree more with the atheists’ arguments.

Here’s Harris refuting the dualist idea of the mind, or soul, being somehow separate from the physical brain. We can confidently say that our increasing knowledge of the brain – and its connection to the mind – has discredited dualism. But this is a bitter pill for religious believers to swallow, because it negates one core tenet of their faith: the survival of the mind/soul after death. If human consciousness is entirely generated by the brain, then upon the brain’s destruction, that consciousness ends. Forever.

Harris makes clear the absurdity of the idea that our souls go to an afterlife when we die:

What we’re being asked to consider [by dualists] is that you damage one part of the brain and… something about the mind and subjectivity is lost, you damage another and yet more is lost, and yet if you damage the whole thing at death, we can rise off the brain, with all our faculties intact, recognising Grandma and speaking English.

And here we have Hitchens hitchslapping the creepy practice of religious believers trying to convert dying people.

This statement hits the nail on the head:

If Sam [Harris] and I were to form a corps of people to go around religious hospitals, which is what happens in reverse, and say to people who are lying in pain and say, “Did you say you were Catholic? Well look, you may only have a few days left, but you don’t have to live them as a serf, you know. Just recognise that was all bullshit, that the priests have been cheating you, and I guarantee you’ll feel better”, I don’t think that would be very ethical.

 Ah Hitch, you left us too soon.


No comments:

Post a Comment