Atheism Culture

New atheist Sam Harris on healthy, drug fuelled flights from reality

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The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values
Featured today at Arts and Letters Daily:

I discuss issues of drug policy in some detail in my first book, The End of Faith (pp. 158-164), and my thinking on the subject has not changed. The “war on drugs” has been well lost, and should never have been waged. While it isn’t explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, I can think of no political right more fundamental than the right to peacefully steward the contents of one’s own consciousness. The fact that we pointlessly ruin the lives of nonviolent drug users by incarcerating them, at enormous expense, constitutes one of the great moral failures of our time. (And the fact that we make room for them in our prisons by paroling murderers and rapists makes one wonder whether civilization isn’t simply doomed.)

I have a daughter who will one day take drugs. Of course, I will do everything in my power to see that she chooses her drugs wisely, but a life without drugs is neither foreseeable, nor, I think, desirable. Someday, I hope she enjoys a morning cup of tea or coffee as much as I do. If my daughter drinks alcohol as an adult, as she probably will, I will encourage her to do it safely. If she chooses to smoke marijuana, I will urge moderation.

Tobacco should be shunned, of course, and I will do everything within the bounds of decent parenting to steer her away from it. Needless to say, if I knew my daughter would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or crack cocaine, I might never sleep again. But if she does not try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in her adult life, I will worry that she may have missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience.

Should we evaluate Harris’s The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values in light of this?

Wonder if NIH head Francis Collins, attacked here by Harris, would urge the same course on kids.

Some readers may wince, recalling friends’ and relatives’ drug-related disasters.

4 Replies to “New atheist Sam Harris on healthy, drug fuelled flights from reality

  1. 1

    Rites of Passage or Passage of Rites?

    Sam Harris is forgetting something that cultures have known for millennia. I could quote Confucius or Plato, but here’s the version appearing in the Pentateuch:

    “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Ex 34:6)

    Today we call this epigenetics, and it has been featured on this blog often enough. The point is that everything we do gets passed on to our children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

    You wanna sow wild oats? Then your grandchildren will be reaping weeds.

    Sorry Sam, but there’s no avoiding that something your grandfather should have taught your 60’s generation father–responsibility.

  2. 2
    SteveB says:

    For the sake of argument, let’s just forego the question of who decides what is fundamental and what isn’t when natural selection runs the show, and just take Harris on his own terms.

    Given his own definitions, he would doubtless support the actions of the subjects in a documentary I watched the other day. In it, a couple teenage crystal meth users were aware enough of their peril to call 911 and ask for help, but were also so disoriented and confused that they couldn’t identify where they were. 2-3 such phone calls were documented by the authorities, who were desperately trying to obtain enough coherent information to be able to find and help them.

    No violence. No compulsion. These kids were simply exercising their “fundamental right” to “peacefully steward their own consciousness” by “choosing their drugs wisely”—a “wisdom” they no doubt believed they were exercising, at least before they experienced its consequences. In short, actions completely consistent with Harris’ expressed moral framework.

    They were found by search teams frozen to death a couple days later.

    The superficiality of Harris’ moral analyses would be laughable if not for the broad support they receive in our increasingly rudderless society.

  3. 3
    CannuckianYankee says:

    News (OT),

    This just in: (The Brokeback Mountain for Atheists):

    http://www.rawstory.com/rawrep.....-atheists/

  4. 4
    Barb says:

    Wow. Harris actually believes that taking LSD is a normal human experience? His books are getting more and more stupid.

    Anyone who takes his pseudointellectual tripe seriously should be pitied.

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