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Wayne Rossiter: No “I” in “Me” (and no sense in Sam Harris)

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From Waynesburg University (Pennsylvania) biology prof Wayne Rossiter, author of In the Shadow of Oz, on new atheist neuroscientist Sam Harris’s Spirituality without Religion:

There’s no “I” in “Me” (and no sense in Sam Harris)

As with nearly all of Harris’s work, the book can safely be discarded before exiting the first chapter. In Saganesque fashion (remember Cosmos, “the universe is all that is or was or ever will be”?), Harris gives us, “Our minds are all we have. They are all we have ever had.”(p 2) His main thesis is that the mystics of antiquity were right in denying even this. There is no self, and so there is no mind (quotes to this affect forthcoming). How does Harris know this? Well, it all started when he took drugs as a young boy (namely, MDMA, psychoactive drug). For most sane individuals, this would be a bad start to the story. If one need take a chemical that alters brain behavior in order to see the truth of reality, it would immediately mean that all of those truths you’re seeing while not high are in fact fictions. I suppose it’s well established that the folks using MDMA at rave parties are seeing reality quite clearly. Isn’t that where the last Nobel Prize-winning idea emerged? No? Well, perhaps the breeding grounds for numerous studies in the psychologically self-destructive tendencies of America’s youth.

Anyway, following Harris’s “I love you man” moment, he realized that boundless love is the base level of reality. Somewhere in his exit from that drug-induced state, he seems to have confused loving for loathing: a feeling he feeling he expresses towards many groups (Christians in particular). I’ll let pass his conflation of “spiritual” with “religious,” because it’s a moot point. What does “spiritual” mean if not feeling something transcendent to material reality?


Sounding like a pious monk, rather than a rational materialist (which he claims to be), Harris goes further down the wormhole, writing, “A true practitioner is someone who has discovered that it is possible to be at ease in the world for no reason.” (p 17) Belief without reason is supposed to be anathema to Harris. Apparently he’s practicing the “dissolve yourself as I say, not as I do” line of logic. To his credit (and at the expense of his entire thesis…which is typical form for Harris), he writes, … More.

We figured new atheism would end up this way, and the main question is how much damage it will do to non-new atheists in the meantime.

The old atheists make a lot more sense. It’s not clear what the new atheists’ interest in science is all about, if Harris’s view is typical.

See also: Are these atheists and agnostics really covert creationists? “With Nagel’s book coming out, and reading of his continued openness towards ID, it caused me to reflect more upon the increasing number of atheists and agnostics who are coming out and critiquing Darwinism and/or supporting ID.” (Joshua Gidney)

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And I suppose I'm a semi-fan of Sam Harris. When he repudiates materialism and writes a book about it and explains why he was a hooked on it in the first place maybe I can become a fan. He should be given time to evolve, similar to Anthony Flew. And David Horowitz coming out with his story of conversion from Marxism. Materialists in the psychedelic movement are virtually non-existent as I'm sure Harris has been pained about in the past. Maybe he and Thomas Nagel are in a difficult reassessment at present. groovamos
Trust me this guy Rossiter IS ignorant. There is a mushrooming (pardon the pun) movement among psychiatrists and psychologists for the use of psychedelics in psychotherapy. One of the two main clearinghouses and training centers for this movement in this country is the Center for Integral Studies, and they are averaging a half-dozen requests per day from people with terminal degress in the helping professions to get involved in the application of psilocybin as an adjuct to therapy. In Freudian style, the trainees must themselves undergo such therapy. The federal government licenses this activity. Rossiter has no clue as to the HUGE contrast between recreational use of drugs, or use from idle curiosity compared to the ceremonial or therapeutic use. The difference is the key concept of "set and setting", please look up the phrase. I have been studying this for 40 years, and there are a host of famous people who have also, Rossiter is surely not among them. The psychoactive plants in use for thousands of years have been put here for a purpose, and I would like to know what Rossiter thinks is their purpose. I'm going to link to an interesting but highly flawed video from NatGeo on the use of psychedelics. It is highly flawed because it is made by people who are unschooled in this movement, and it is laden with the usual dramatizational contrivances required for the TV series. The DEA episode is not helpful without careful consideration to the "set and setting" doctrine well-know in the field of these studies, and the episode illustrates the dangers arising when the doctrine is ignored, as it was by the hospital. But there are some interesting stories and I link it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZe7dWp9gPs groovamos
Amen! Truth Will Set You Free
Most amazing set of truths (thought of while looking at the book cover). 1. Sam Harris is a complete fool. 2. Jesus Loves Sam Harris so much that He died for his sins too. 3. If Sam Harris would use his free will to believe Jesus, God would be faithful and just to grant eternal life to Sam Harris. (News, if this comment is to blatantly about one religion and not on topic with ID feel free to delete it please) JDH
Line that needs translation from newspeak, "A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion." Translation from newspeak, "We are all Gods!" JDH
Scariest line on that cover: "New York Times Bestseller". Its a shame that utter foolishness is so popular. JDH

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