“I think that much of what we call “values” are, in fact, innate preferences which have developed in the course of our evolution as an intelligent, social species.”
It’s not the values themselves that have developed evolutionarily.
It’s the process by which we hold values. This process is heuristic at its core. It is in a very literal sense, made up of unprovables/unknowables.
Regardless of what unprovables/unknowables one bases one’s values on.
The factual-truthness of those unprovables is very much irrelevant to the formulation of values. And to people holding those values. And basing their actions/culture on those values, and writing dogma that reference those values.
Values, to a very significant extent, are made of non-facts.
For example, it cannot be proven in a rational manner that killing is bad. Even if it is bad, most people will hold that in some cases killing is justified. Some might actually value killing under certain value-formulations (ie. self-defense, justified war etc.) while still holding to the basic value that killing is bad. Inherently paradoxical.
Humans will hold on to that value despite being shown “scientifically” that this paradox. A paradox that proves their value is not a fact.
Values are non-rational assertions by definition. (not irrational, mind you)
Harris is advancing a system that could (according to him) prove scientifically that some values are objectively better.
Sam Harris’s entire project is based on this misguided irrational idea that values=facts. Therefore if those values are “scientifically proved” to be wrong, the people holding them will cease to do so. (and of course, if they don’t agree with your “scientifically proven” values – it is morally just to put them to the sword).
This is basically what theology attempts to do – to lend objectivity to one’s own values and definitions. Sam Harris is having a theological debate that he’s masquerading as a scientific, materialistic, atheist one.
You wrote somewhere else:
“No, clergy are religious people who are ordained to perform religious acts or to spread religious teachings. There is no such thing among atheists.”
My contention is that there IS such a thing among atheists.
Harris et al. are participating in exactly such a thing – forming a clergy – amongst atheists.
One need only look historically at how Organized Religion formed amongst existing religious teachings. What were the political motivations to organize religion and how it was subverted.
Atheist claim that Organized Religion is responsible for the most atrocious wars. Well, one may say similar things of the New Atheists.
“No atheist one considers Harris anything more than a person who is giving his opinion.”
Not true. He is considered a scholar and authority by many. It is not just an opinion. It’s an authoritative opinion.
So if we go back to the Pope having/not having real authority:
The Pope didn’t always exist. It was a long historical process with roots in the inundation of Europe with Christianity – an anarchist off-shoot of Judaism. The Pope is a counter-measure to the anti-authoritarian messages of Christianity. But he wasn’t always there. He didn’t always have authority. Only people imagining that he does.
His imagined authority is quite real for those who imagine his authority is quite real. Therefore his authority is quite real for everyone else in that sense.
“That wouldn’t surprise me, as there is a significan anti-Muslim tendency in their writings which is in keeping with the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry that is endemic among israaeli Jews.”
Sam Harris, Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins are these people’s clergy. There is a large strata of intellectual, centrist, academic atheists of Jewish descent that these people appeal to.
They tell them what to think and what to say in order to keep their Anti-Muslim rhetoric AND still be considered reasonable thinking non-religious people.
“And there has been a great deal of rejection of his ideas of late in the community, over his idea that morality can be scientifically or rationally determined and that the authorities should give special scrutiny at airports to everyone who might be Muslim.”
I’m glad to hear that. My point is that it’s not separate instances of misreadings/misunderstanding of his work on my part. Rather it is endemic to his writing. And many people are encountering this and commenting on it. Converging on a single point of ideology.
These New Atheists are, in a sense, a heretical movement within atheism.
If you’d rather think of my use of the word “heresy” as a metaphor – then by all means do.
I believe it’s an apt metaphor.