Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions


Best known as an outspoken atheist and the author of The End of Faith, writer-turned-neuroscientist Sam Harris has echoed the assertion, normally associated with religious thinkers, that humans need a universal system of morality. At the 2010 TED conference held last month in Long Beach, California, Harris claimed that there are definite right and wrong answers to moral questions. “Values are a certain kind of fact,” he argued.

However, Harris quickly rejected the notion that religion would offer the answers to moral questions. Instead, he argued for a scientific approach to achieving a universal morality, one that conceptualizes human well-being as something that can be quantified and maximized in any number of equally successful ways — much like health and nutrition.

He criticized the tendency to regard moral questions as matters of opinion rather than as questions that have scientifically verifiable right and wrong answers. “How have we convinced ourselves that in the moral sphere there is no such thing as moral expertise, or moral talent, or moral genius, even?” he asked. “How have we convinced ourselves that every opinion has to count?”

“Just admitting that there are right and wrong answers to the question of how humans flourish will change the way we talk about morality,” he said.

Watch the entire talk below:

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