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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: AD Harris/Murray/Peterson Discussion: London

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Well, good evening, London

Two weeks ago Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson

Met in person for the first time on stage in Vancouver

Two nights ago the three of us got together for the first time in Dublin and it's a huge thrill for all of us

To now be here with you in the o2

As I said to Travis when these events were planned I'm not moderate enough to be a moderator

But I'm going to do a little bit of

fielding to begin with


Let me start by saying a little of some of the ground. We are going to be trying to cover here tonight

We're going to be dealing with the conflict between science and reason

We're going to be addressing the legitimacy did I say science and reason

We're not addressing that

We're going to be looking at the legitimacy of holding on to religion in any form and

We are also going to be addressing the fact that we need to hide in a sports stadium

to address serious issues

But I think to begin with I'm going to hand over to Sam and he's going to kick us off properly

Thank you. And first thank you all for coming out. I you really can't imagine how humbling this is

Be here with you

You really just should just take a moment to appreciate this from our side because

Justin Bieber is not coming out to sing and in the middle of this as amusing as that would be

and you know though we

Put a date like this on the calendar with apparent confidence

There's really no guarantee that you guys are going to show up and we will never take this for granted

So it's really an immense privilege to be here with you. So

I thought I could start by

first acknowledging how fun this has been to have this these series of dialogues

With Jordan now, this is the fourth event. We've done and the second with Douglas and

We clearly share a common project we are trying to figure out how to live the best lives possible

both individually and collectively and we're trying to figure out how to

build societies

that safeguard that opportunity for as many people as possible and I think we each have a sense that

Ideas are really the prime movers here

That is it's not that the world is filled with bad people doing bad things because that's what bad people do

Oh, there's some of that it it is mostly that

So much of humanity is living under the sway of bad ideas

And it's bad ideas that can cause good people or at least totally normal people like ourselves

to do bad things all the while trying to to

Live the best possible lives and that really is the tragedy of our circumstance that we can be that confused

So this is where the difference between Jordan and and me in particular opens up

Which is how do you view religion in this in this contest of between good ideas and bad ideas and for me religion?


gets placed on the side of bad and old and and

worth retiring ideas or ideas worth retiring and


Guess I but by analogy I would I would

Ask you to consider astrology right now Hannah. Maybe I can just get a sense of what I'm talking to

What percentage of you I want to know believe in astrology which is to say but who among you and you can signal this by?

by applause or howls of

Enthusiasm what what percentage of you let me just spell it out. So I know you know what you're committing to

And you know how crazy your neighbor is in fact

What percentage do you believe that human personalities and human events and the difference between good and bad luck and a human life is the

result of

What the planets are doing against the background of stars?

Let's hear it somebody out there

Okay, so then you should know that something like 25% of your your neighbors believe that

There you go, so the

I'm here. Wait, wait wait, I'm hearing I'm hearing a heckler among the astrologers is that

Is the FIR the first?

Astrological heckler I've heard haha

You must be an aries, sir

So it won't surprise you I have a related question which is


what percentage of you I want to know our

religious which is say well who among you believe in God a

Personal God a God that can hear prayers a God that can take an interest in the lives of human beings and occasionally

Enforce good outcomes versus bad outcomes

What who among you and now again, I want to hear applause or silence believe in it that sort of God

Okay, so this is my concern is my concern with with what Jordan has been saying and right in

lo these many months


Feel that you're in danger of misleading these the second group of people that the way you talk about God

has convinced and will continue to convince some percentage of humanity that

It's it's fine to hold on to this old sword of God this God that can hear prayers and they can intervene or not in

the lives of human beings

And you know as we've begun to explore that I think there are a lot of problems with that kind of belief

If nothing else there are many such gods on offer and there and and devotion to them it becomes irreconcilable among the true believers and

My concern is it you could do

Exactly what you do with religion with astrology, right? It would be it would be no more legitimate to to

Obfuscate the boundary between clear thinking and and

superstition there because


This traditional God and the and the doctrines that support him or are no firmer ground

Than astrology is now today an astrology

Almost everything you say about religion

It's the fact that his organized human thinking for thousands of years that it's a cultural Universal

that every every group of people has has given rise to some form of it that it has archetypal significance that it

has powerful stories all of that can be said about astrology and it and in fact some additional things can be said about

astrology that are would argue in its favor for instance astrology is

Profoundly egalitarian, you know, there's there's no bad zodiac sign every whoever you are. Everyone's got a great zodiac sign and

You know, it's just a inconvenient fact of the discipline that if I read you Charles Manson's horoscope

you know 95% of the audience would find it relevant and

and that's just that's how easily falsifiable stralla g is but

My concern is that we could live in a world

Where societies are shattered over things like, you know different zodiac

Interpretations and we don't live in that world for good reason because we have beaten

Astrology into submission and I would say that religion in terms of revealed religion and belief in a personal God

is over the centuries getting the same treatment by science and rationality and should be and it is a a

Preferred circumstance that we live in a world that is that is shattered by religion

So, I think what I'll do first is adopt the

Exceptionally difficult and likely counterproductive position of saying something

Not so much in defense of religion, but in defense of astrology


knowing full well that that's fundamentally a fool's errand but there's something I want to point out is that

First of all


was astronomy in its nascent form and

astrology was also science in its nascent form just like alchemy was chemistry in its nascent form and

so sometimes

You have to dream a crazy dream

with all of the error that that crazy dream entails

Because you have an intuition that there's something there

To motivate you to develop the intuition to the point where it actually becomes of genuine practical utility

now when we look back on the astrologers and

we view their contributions to the history of the world with

contempt we should also remember that the people who built Stonehenge for example, and the first people who decided

determined that our fates were in part written in the stars were people whose

Astrological beliefs were indistinguishable from their astronomical beliefs and you might think well in what sense is your fate?

written in the Stars and I would say

It's certainly the case insofar as there are such things as cosmic regularities

so it was the dream of

astrology that there was some relationship between the movement of the planetary bodies and the fixed stars and

Human destiny and that's what drove us to build the first


observatories and to also determine that there was a proper time for planting and a proper time for

Harvesting and a way of orienting yourself in the world for example by using the north

It's also the poetic

ground that enabled us to identify the notion that you could look up and orient yourself towards the heavens and that there was a

Metaphorical relationship between that and positioning yourself properly in life and at a deeper level

The the the cosmos was the place that the human imaginative drama was

Externalized and draped itself out into the world as something that was essentially observable so that we could derive great

orienting fictions from the observation of our imagination and so

Part of the problem that that Sam is pointing to is the difficulty of distinguishing

Valid poetic impulse from invalid poetic impulse and that really is a tremendous problem

You you see that arise also in people who have religious delusions attendant upon manic depressive disorder or schizophrenia

but so much of what eventually

Manifests itself is hard core pragmatic scientific belief has its origin in wild flights of poetic

Fantasy and it's also the case by the way that that's actually how your brain is organized

As far as I can tell that when you and and it isn't just me. I actually it's it's there's a very large

What would you call it research literature?

Outlining the relative functions of the right and left hemisphere and it certainly appears to be the case that when we encounter something. Absolutely

unknowable or unknown

What we do is drape that unknown thing in fantasy as a first pass

approximation to the truth and then refine that fantasy as a consequence of

Iterative critical analysis and so Sam believes that what should happen

Is that the the poetic and fictional domain should be some planted by the rational domain?

Well, let me just close the loop there

it's not quite I think we we need poetry and fiction and then there's there's more to engage in with reality than being a

Scientist in a white lab coat, but we need to be able to clearly distinguish

fact from fantasy or fact from mere merely fertile flights of the imagination and

we want to be rigorous there and rational there and it's not that it's not that there's no place or

Mere creativity. That's not well, I guess well

then the rails of rationality look fair enough then but I mean then then partly what we are disputing is the the relevant the

What the relative import and the of those two domains?

Let's say the heretic and the fictional and the rational and status of religion now in that

Well, I have a hard time reconciling that to some degree with your with your more

What would you say formal statements about the problem?

because your mechanism the mechanism that you put forth above all outside of truth is

Rationality and it isn't clear to me if you're willing to allow the utility of spiritual experience

which you do and and and if you're willing to make

What would you say allowances for the necessity of the poetic imagination?

exactly how it is that that is also

Encapsulated under the rubric of pure rationality see

Let's see and here's something you can tell me what you think about this

And I've been thinking a lot about what Sam and I have been talking about by the way, you know

So I'm making the case in my writing that the democratic institutions not only grew out of the judeo-christian substrate

but that their that that they're properly ensconced within that substrate, but I'm also perfectly aware that

not every religious or poetic system gives rise to democratic institutions first and also that there are


Sub structures may be the most obviously in the case of the Russian Orthodox Church. Where the same

metaphysical principles apply but out of which a democracy did not emerge and so it does seem to me that

what we have in the West is the consequence of the interplay between the

fantasy predicated poetic

judeo-christian tradition and the

rational critique that was aimed at that by the

Enlightenment figures and that seems to me to mirror something like the proper balance between the right hemisphere and its poetic imagination

and the left hemisphere and it's critical capacity and

Then I would say that part of the way so one of the questions you brought up was. How do we

Decide which let's say religious in

Intuitions are valid and I think we do that in part through

negotiated agreement, you know because people have

Look even even among the Catholics say in the medieval time. There was an absolute horror of heresy

So if you were some mendicant monk

And you had a profound religious vision?

the probability that you were going to be tried as a heretic and burnt at the stake was extremely high because even the

gatekeepers of the religious tradition realized that

religious revelation untrammeled by

Something like community dialogue something like that was something extraordinary

Danger and so I would agree with you that

The poetic imagination and the ground of religious revelation is something that can lead people dangerously astray

But I would say at the same time that it constitutes the grounds of our initial exploration and that it's actually in a radically necessary

Okay, well briefly address that and I want to ask a question that brings Douglas directly in here

I I think this is an instance of what's called the genetic fallacy the idea that because

Something emerged the way it did historically

As a matter of historical contingency, it is the the the the origin is in fact good and worth maintaining

or that it was in fact necessary that we couldn't get these good things like democracy any other way or were unlikely to and I

Would say that that there's no Abrahamic religion

That is the best conceivable womb of democracy or anything else

We like science that were a great place to get Douglass involved so it but but I would just add one other category of

Thinking here we have what we think is factual and

Methods by which we derive facts and I would put rationality there and an empirical engagement with with reality

then we have

other good things in life like

Fiction and and flights of fancy that are pleasing for one reason or another and could be generative

toward the first category, but then we also have

I know I would acknowledge we've spoken about this before

Useful fictions and cases I would you know, hope rare cases where where fiction is

more adaptive or more useful than the truth right that there's a

Sometimes the truth can can be not worth knowing and I would argue that they you know, there are those cases


But they're not so they're few and far between but we should focus on that but some degree of so

I wanted to point to Douglas here and focus on that because I think your fear Douglas is that

my style or you know, Richard Dawkins or style or Christopher Hitchens a style of

Anti theism, you know, just let's let's just throw the vicar's from the rooftops now because it's time to end this thing

Literally get off Twitter now. But yeah

That's a hashtag. Yeah. Yes

Your concern has been that

And I think what Jordan shares this that that so much of what is good in our Western developed societies?


The very least maintained by mayn't maintaining


Judeo-christian values or the or the remnants of our past religiosity and that you know

there is a baby in the bath water that can be difficult to discern and

We can to empty the tub all at once because and this is very much of because there's a zero-sum

Contest with the the religious enthusiasm. We see coming from the Muslim world

And of course the Muslim world is all over the world at the moment

So in that contest between a very an older style of religiosity and the theocracy

really and modernity

You are not as eager as I have been to to pull up

Western religiosity by the roots

Or chocolate vicars. Yes

Yes, I think that's fair. I think I sit

metaphorically as well as literally between the two of you I

Realized from our conversation in Dublin some of

what your concerns are about what Jordan has been saying and what he is saying and I share some of the concern I

said to you then that I used the

analogy of water

And Eric Weinstein recently described to me as Jesus smuggling

But it was a consequence of a discussion about biologists. What do you do if you're discussing?

design intelligent design

You can be okay as long as your own

Bandwidth on this on the issue as long as your own depth of knowledge on the issue is very considerable. You can be okay

discussing that biology with somebody even a fundamentalist Christian

So long as you can follow every step of the way

But the fear will always be at the moment. You're not looking they're gonna smuggle Jesus in

Or they'll wait till the moment that you're not comfortable

anymore with the argument the bit when you're at the very end of your cognitive ability, and then they'll

Trust me. There's Jesus. There's Jesus


one of the things I realized from Dublin was

Although I think you may not think that Jordan himself is going to try Jesus smuggling on you

You fear that?

Somewhere down the line from what he's saying. Somebody else will do that trick. Yes, it's worse than that

I actually know the people the people who were clapping are doing that

I hear from those people on a daily basis

right so that the segment of Jordan's audience that is that is

Very happy to be told they can stay on the riverbanks of their traditional

Christianity for the most part and they don't have to get into the stream of

totally monitor and rigorous rational thinking about everything from first principles right that there's something that that the Iron Age

Scribes got right and it's right for all time

those are

those are the applause I'm hearing and and and

However, consciously or not Jordan is telling them it's okay to stay stick right there with a with a shard of the cross

Actually tried a little conscious Jesus smuggling on Sam to see how that would in a discussion we had about

The central archetype of superheroes, but I'm gonna try something a little different tonight

I'm gonna try a little direct God smuggling we won't bother with Jesus. Let's go right to God. Why not?

So one of the things I've really tried to do when I've been analyzing

Religious texts is to take them as to take them

seriously in the sense that I don't presume that I understand them and I presume that they're a

Mystery of sorts and at least the Bible for example is a mystery because we don't really understand the processes by which it was

constructed and we don't understand the processes by which we all agreed collectively over several thousand years to

Organize the book the way it

Is organized or to edit it the way that it's edited or the and to keep what's in it and to and to discard

what's not in it and why it's

Lasted and why it's had such a huge impact why I don't want to

Derail you but we do understand that the first part of the process all too


We know that the this there was a political and all-too-human

process of voting certain texts in for inclusion and some were in for centuries and then got jettisoned and

and sure a revelation came in far later than


Generations of Christians who lived and died under the banner of the Bible and it was a different Bible at the time

They had the wrong Bible so well

But it's the same

It's the same issue that that we really don't just we really don't understand fair enough Sam and I'm not saying that political etcetera

Considerations didn't enter into it

I'm sure all human considerations entered into it

But there was some collective process of winnowing and you can attempt to reduce that to economic or political causes

Which is generally what secular?

Assessors like Freud and Marx both did and with a fair degree of success. I might add but there's still some mysterious

assessment of what it is that will be remembered that entered into it, but

It's a separate point to some degree. I'm just saying that my point my

My point of departure when looking at these texts is one of an essential radical ignorance. I don't

that I understand the mechanisms by which they were generated or edited or collected or kept or remembered or

Why they had the impact they had now

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of let's say God the Father because that's a very common archetypal

representation of God God the Father so I'm going to tell you an

Experience that I had that I've never really told any audience about I had a vision at one point

That and the vision had to do with a dialogue that I was having with my father and you know

You have a father right and when you're a little kid you

act out your father when you pretend to be a father and what you're doing when you're acting out your father isn't

imitating your father because you don't

Duplicate precisely the actions that your father ever took in his life

what you do is you you watch your father across multiple contexts and you abstract out something like a

spirit of the Father and then when you're a child you

implement that spirit of the father in your pretend play and you come to embody that

Deeply so the notion is that people can abstract out something like a spirit of the Father and that that's part of our min

Pneumatic tendency, which is a very powerful human cognitive tendency

and in this vision I

first started to talk with my father and I would say more with the spirit of my father because he wasn't actually there and

I would say it was the wisest part of him and then that sort of

transformed into a discussion that I had with a series of ancestral spirits and then that

transformed itself into a vision of God himself with whom I had a conversation and this was a visionary experience and

then that all went away and I spent months and months thinking about it and I thought

So you guys can tell me what you think about this and this sort of stretches my cognitive ability to to its utmost

Limit to contemplate such things but here's a biological argument

I already made the case that a child can extract out the spirit of the father and embody it and that's

Necessary insofar as you're going to be a father in the wise one

But we can also extract out the spirit of the father over much longer periods of time

Because my father was a father because he imitated his fall

Who imitated his father who imitated his father as far back in time as you can go and there's a cumulative

development of the Spirit of the Father across time

now then the question might be does this spirit of the father have any reality other than the

Metaphorical and I would say damn right?

It has a reality and I can describe a biological reality and and and I don't know what this says about any background metaphysics

But here's our hypothesis

We know

that human beings

Separated from chimpanzees over the course of the last 7 million years at least in large part because of human female sexual

selectivity so it was the spirit of

Femininity collectively that helped elevate us to the degree that we have been elevated above our chimpanzee Co ancestor

But here's in something interesting to contemplate

What is it precisely that makes men what makes men desirable to women and so I have a bit of a hypothesis about that

So here's what men do

They get together in productive groups and the orient themselves toward a certain task and they produce a hierarchy

around that task because whenever you implement a task you produce a hierarchy and

They vote up the most

Competent men to the top of the hierarchy and then the women select the competent men from the top of the hierarchy

But the vote that determines who the competent men are that are more likely to reproduce as a consequence of male

Evaluation of men and that's occurred over millennia

And so there's a spirit of the father that's embedded in the patriarchal hierarchy that acts as the primary selection mechanism

that offers men up to women and plays a

cardinal role in human evolution and it looks like we've we've

Personified that spirit of the father in our religious imagery and and that's that's how it looks to me

But then there's something that's even more mysterious and deep about that. That's worth considering is that

apparently the entire course of

evolutionary history has conspired to produce human beings and we could argue that it could have been different but it certainly hasn't been different and

That means that that selective spirit of the Father has been part of the process. That's

Generated our very being and it's certainly possible that that collective spirit of the Father

We fly something metaphysically fundamental about the structure of reality itself

Yes, well

Insofar as I

Agree with with virtually all of that. I should say that none of that

Should give comfort to people who want to hold on to this notion that

Certain of our books might have been revealed by the creator of the universe

Well, it depends on what you mean by the creator like well, you know

I'm just saying that that that the world we're living in now is one in which we have whole societies

Shattered over this notion that some books weren't written by human beings, right? There's a different class of book, right?

there's a different shelf in the library where the the products of

almost certainly merely human brains are

Venerated for all time and and considered uneditable and unag nora Bulai by the majority of human beings

yeah, it's it's clear clear that revelation can devolve into but

Unbelievers are real. But any

There's a risk in all this always is is it often made critique

But that when you're talking about religion you're talking about the Inquisition you're talking about the jihadists. You're not talking about

Somebody who wants to go to their local Anglican Church once a year

Maybe get the children to school and maybe when they're at some desolate moment of their lives

returns to this as the place that stores meaning

I mean the thing that I think Jordan and I are in agreement on in this is is that thing?

Quote from shop and how and the dialogue on religion when he says, you know

The truth may be like water and needs vessels to carry it and when we were talking about this the other night

You know you admitted that one of the consequences perhaps of the you know

The parents sort of going through the belief structures. They may not believe in anymore

But they keep doing it as a demonstration of what you said was the the you know

the non embarrassing options that atheists have come up with but it may also be that

That since we don't have very many vessels

that cracked and

damaged and sometimes transparent as they are what vessels you have might be worth holding on to

well, no, I think I think the challenge here is

I mean it feels that well, first of all, we should first notice that these comments very often take the form of

You and I don't need this stuff

But most other people do right and that is it can't do it. Yes

I mean that's inevitably and if it is it's sort of to took that format one moment the other night

whereas where you acknowledge that that people of low intelligence are best placed in a

Conservative paradigm like traditionally conservative paradigm because there's less to think through right now

Obviously, you don't want your your view on religion summarized by it's good for stupid people

well, I do I do want to summarize to some degree that way because for

The opportunity again to put a foot in your mouth I

Would say not not only I mean the thing is is that we're all stupid and and some of us are far stupider than others

But we're not we're not that stupid

Well, but there's another problem Sam I think and and and this is obviously a contentious one one of the things I I don't go

to church

But there is one thing I admire about the church and that is that it's managed to serve as a repository

for these

Fundamental underlying fictions for two millennia, and that's really something bloody. Unbelievable. I mean the great

What would you say is bloody? Unbelievable? Look Sam there. Everything's everything's everything's soaked in blood

We have no disagreement about that

but the secular

Alternatives that we produced in the 20th century were certainly no less blood sword and they produced nothing of any program within it whatsoever

We did not do it now, but we have to put to bed that secular canard what we are using

well, it's just it's just not so that

Stalinism was the product of secularism or atheism. And nor was that product

It wasn't an inevitable project or is our product

Well, it wasn't Bey and please anyone who has this meme in in your head

Please just allow the next sentences I speak to just push it out because it's I'm so sick of hearing this

This this idea that the greatest crimes of the 20th century were somehow the product of atheism, right?

They say when you look at what actually engineered these atrocities

It was something that looked very much like a religion

It was a religion in every way apart from an explicit commitment to other worldliness

It was based on that's a bit different dis dogmatism through and through it was based on a personality

cults that that grew up around figures like Stalin and Hitler and now

It's these were it was not the ideas of Bertrand Russell and David Hume

That brought us to the gulag or to Auschwitz, but then you say it's the thoughts of Jesus Christ. I very well know

It's true. No, I can say that I can say it was the thought of st

Augustine and I can say it was the thought of st. Thomas Aquinas

Explicitly that gave us the Inquisition. This is the fact

It can I make a suggestion? Yeah, I mean, this is a general one as well as one for tonight

but the whole discussion

I mean I said the other night in Dublin that to a great accessory

books are written about the period we're living in they'll probably be described as the

Post Holocaust period in history the post-world War two ERA in Europe. It's still going on

they were still we're still going through this try to work out what happened and


Have to say one thing that I had any rated equally tired of is the claim that this has got to be a tennis game

between the religious and the non-religious but people say

That the 20th century's crimes were committed by atheists

Sometimes true often wrong or that the 20th century's crimes were committed by people who are religious sometimes true often wrong

Why do you think nobody you're not observing a crucial distinction here because I would never be tempted to hold religion accountable

For the bad things that religious people do that have no connection to religion, right?

So if a Muslim Rob's a liquor store, I'm not gonna blame Islam for that

There's no job

Not a us

There's no doctrine that makes sense of that behavior what I blame religion for and likewise

There's no doctrine in the mere loss of religion a ie atheism that gets you the gulag, right? Oh, there is

No, there's not there's not I just let me just flesh out this point for one more a second

The only thing I blame religion for are the things that it becomes

rational to do by the light of these beliefs if you accept these doctrines a

rational and good person

can be tempted to join Isis

That's my concern a rational and good person can be tempted to support the Inquisition. But of the many things they had in common

This is the point that David Berlinski made in his book

What did the nkvd have in common with everyone who oversaw the gulag the SS

People who guarded the camps of people who put people on trains. What did they all have in common?

What are they have in common with MAO?

Among other things they had in common the fact that none of them thought that God was watching them

None of them thought that they were being observed and would be held it

You dick God is on your side

We have just as many examples where people do it because they think God is on their side, right?

Sure, cuz I think watching and clapping. I'm not denying that I'm saying that the attempt to make this at a tennis match

Over the 20th century's mistake. We we're still trying to work out what caused it religion had a role a fizz amader role

But that the perpetual tennis match of it

I think well and there is something to be said at a more sophisticated

level I would say for the idea that you have an obligation to a

Transcendent ethic now you make that claim in the moral landscape you lay out a transcendent ethic in my estimation

that's one that puts the

onus of the of

responsibility on the individual to act in a way that at


minimizes suffering and so and you think of that as a statement of fact that that's

The proper way of being and I think about it as an axiomatic statement of faith, and that's one of our differences

but I have

been very careful in my analysis of the relationship between the idea of sovereignty and the idea of

Religious belief and one of the things that I have worked out

I think partly from reading such people as le atta and Jung was that

the there is an emergent idea of sovereignty that does involve being accountable to a god and

Here's how he would justify that and I would think about this essentially from a practical and biological perspective

independent of any metaphysical reality that it might have so the ancient Mesopotamians for example believed that their

emperor was the incarnation or the representative of a god named Marduk and

That actually bestowed certain ethical responsibilities on the ruler

And so the ruler had to be a good Marduk in order to be a sovereign to be regarded as sovereign he had to be

the embodiment of these divine principles and it took the Mesopotamians a very very long period of time

perhaps several tens of thousands of years

they weren't Mesopotamian during that whole time obviously to work out what those principles of sovereignty should be and

The Mesopotamians encoded this in their fictions and their religious fictions

Making essentially the proposition that the proper ruler had to have eyes all the way around his head

because that was one of the attributes of Marduk, so he was someone who was genuinely paying attention who was capable of

Coming into voluntary contact with with the great

chaotic sub structure of being and cutting it into pieces and making the habitable world and also speaking words that were

truthful that that had the power the magic power of truth and

The the the ruler had to act that out if he was

going to be the sort of ruler that his people weren't entitled to slay and

Sacrifice and then once a year at the new year's festival

he would go outside the city the walled city and he would act out his role of Marduk and

The priests would humiliate him and ask him to confess all the ways that he hadn't been

good Marduk, so that he could remember that he had a

responsibility to undertake this this to embody this

Relationship with these divine principles and the thing that's so important about this

so absolutely crucially important is that it established the principle that even if you were at the top of a hierarchy

You weren't absolute

there was something above you that you were subordinate to and one of the extraordinarily useful ideas about the abstraction of

Even God as a personified spirit. Let's say is that it allows every leader to be subordinate to something

That's beyond him. Now. That doesn't mean it can't be misused

but it's a very very very

important idea except you can also you can get there the other way around you can realize that you

Even if you're at the top of the hierarchy

you are radically dependent on everyone else, but the

Tip of a hierarchy doesn't believe that sometimes they believe what they quote whatever the hell they want

But I'm saying if you if you're going to believe something that's compatible with with rationality

globally, and has the least conceivable downside I would put in that place not a

superstitious attachment to a notion of an invisible


or Punisher

Who's above you? I would put in its place

They totally defensible and and palpably true fact

that we that even you could be the king of the event of the world and you are dependent on

Everyone around you to eat to not be murdered by them. I mean like you are like you are

You are I mean, it's it's amazing. It's amazing how


even a a

totalitarian regime is I mean the amazing thing is that that these last at all because in many cases it would just take

50 people to act in unison to kill the tyrant

Right, but it never happens because we either so have a first mover problem

Everyone is afraid to be the first person shot

but it is it is a genuine mystery that these systems even perpetuate themselves and when they unravel when you see, you know Qaddafi being

Murdered in a crowd you realize wow. It really is just a matter of the restraint and fear of human beings

Keeping any of these things together a benign if you if you wanted a hierarchy where you had a kind of philopon. Ein philosopher-king well,

Pulling the reins of a society. I'm not saying we do but even there

You could have an ethical one. You could have one where an anon superstitious one with one where someone recognized

Hey, this is this is how we're doing it, but we are radically I at the top of the hierarchy. I'm radically dependent on

Having being surrounded by as many happy people as possible

Well, look, I mean I don't I don't in some profound sense. I disagree what we're actually late

you know, we're living this sounds like a

Fiction, but we're living with this problem and we encounter this more and more when you talk

you know in Silicon Valley as you and I occasionally do and I'm sure you do as well where you meet people who are

fantastically wealthy

who seem

Uncannily detached at the by the

detach at the fact that the there's this growing chasm between

Them and those they know and the rest of humanity and then and you one who begins to wonder what level of wealth inequality

Will everyone find alarming and some people are acting as though there is no level that is alarming that there's the kind of a law

of nature that this thing can grow

it just

Impossibly to the point where we have trillionaire is walking around

and you know in driving in their motor caves and it's kind of as sort of the libertarian religion one occasionally runs into


Clearly there's some level of inequality

That's untenable or at least would be undesirable there


It's it's a funny thing because that's a place where our thought loops and then agrees to some degree again because I do believe that

You can in some sense

rationally derive an an


So so let's let let's take the argument that you put forward and say that well

You're and this is an extension of your well-being argument to something which ever with which I've thought about a fair bit it's like well

Okay, what's the optimal solution for you?

Well, okay. Well, first of all, there isn't just you now

There's you now and you tomorrow and you next week and you in a year you in five years

So there's you and the you that propagates across time. So one of the implications

Of that is that you can't do anything

That's really good for the you now. That isn't very good for you a week from now, right?

so that means you have to imagine yourself as multiple individuals across multiple timeframes and

Then you have to figure out what's good for all those individuals across all those time frames

although you

Discount the future to some degree because of its unpredictability

but then

so that's a very tight set of constraints and

You might say well a rational person would calculate what was optimal across all those all those

Multiple timeframes then you do the same thing with other people which is the point you just made


It isn't just you because who's you there's you and your family

And most people are in a situation where they would regard damage to their family as perhaps even worse than damage to them

So whatever they are, obviously encapsulate s-- their family and then to some degree that flows off into the community

and so there is no isolated you and then that's sort of yeah point with regards to the ethic but then

so so I agree with all that but then one of the things that I would suggest is that

Because that's an incredibly in in difficult rational calculation and perhaps an impossible one. Technically speaking

But for certainly very difficult

that's what that what has happened in part as our as our great narratives havoc have emerged across time is that

We have observed ourself attempting to solve that multiple

identity multiple time frame problem and we've told stories about people who do that exceptionally well,

And then we've whittled out those stories and we've produced these powerful narratives that encapsulate the ethic that does in fact

reflect that wisdom and so so and I think you actually

Accept some of that in your in your moral propositions, which is something that we've talked about before

so for example

Although never really agreed on you certainly believe for example that the embodiment of truth

Is one of the means whereby you solve the problem of ethics and I would say that that's a deeply rooted

judeo-christian concept that that

so deeply rooted that it that it precedes any notion of


Provincialism it's deeper than judeo-christian. It's deeper than our humanity on some level at one point

we talked about the Golden Rule and I said that you think that the the

Precursor to the Golden Rule can be found even among monkeys. Right? Right Golden Rule is the ground rule even for monkeys. Yes, exactly

Exactly and sort of let me just add to the picture you sketched out

I completely agree with we have a we have an ethical obligation even to our future selves, right?

I mean we are in relationship to who we will who's going to be the person is drinking

His fourth scotch tonight will be well

it has some ethical relationship to the person who's going to wake up with a hangover tomorrow morning and

We and one thing we know for sure in which we have begun to dimly understand and describe

Scientifically is that we're bad at all of these calculations?


hyperbolic discounting of future rewards

Well, that's also why I think we have these stringent limitations on rationality Sam is that we can't solve the problem through calculation

well, no, but we

Increasingly can and and even where it's best

Summarized not by capital what one thing I'll grant you is that it's not always best conveyed or rendered

indelible and actionable by being given a nature paper or you know

a saw an abstract from from a paper in the literature and being told

This is the way you want to behave to maximize your well-being

It may best be conveyed by certain stories, right or certain books that are that are in the philosophy section of the bookstore

not the science section and

maybe where you and I were at the book signing the other night and someone came up with with a copy of the

meditations of Marcus Aurelius write a

Fantastic book there's so much wisdom in that book

Right, and there's nothing about stoning a girl to death if she's not a virgin on her wedding day now

we all recognize that Marcus Aurelius was a human being who wrote this book and

that that

Providence is no barrier to take in the book

deadly, seriously

it's an incredibly useful book and stoicism a

stoicism could be

the quote religion or the guiding philosophy of the West it could it would be a much better one than Judaism or Christianity and

and as have not virtue aliy none of the downside and and so that's my point that we're in this perverse circumstance of

Being held hostage by certain

products of literature and

We need to break the spell and if and if we're finding it this hard to break

What do we think is gonna happen in the Middle East or in the sub-saharan Africa? I mean we the

Moral progress we need to engineer is a common humanity coming together those shared values

Those are perfectly credible arguments

but but the weakness in the argument I think is the one that we started to talk about earlier, which is that

When you talked with Dave Rubin a while back and Michael Shermer said the same thing recently

He he basically said that atheism is it is a doctrine of negation

That's what I said with Rubin is that there isn't that positive a ethos? And atheism? All it says is that there's no there's nothing

Personified there's nothing personified

Transcendent, it's something like that. There is no God

And so and so the problem with the Atheist, it's not even the assertion that there is no God

It's just that it's a failure to be convinced by any of the gods on offer fuck

It's just like not believing in Zeus fine. And it's not like it's a weak. It's not like it's a weak argument

I mean I'm perfectly aware that

Making a de istic case or a case for religion in the face of the claims of the rationalist

Atheists is perhaps. Well, it's a very very difficult thing to manage but

it is also the case that

and and this is where I think we differ with regards to what happens say in the Soviet Union and perhaps to to

also in Nazi Germany is that

when when when when your doctrine demolishes the

That's called it the literary or fictional sub structure and leaves nothing behind

an F Oh an ethos needs to be provided because something will rush in to fill the void and

it's certainly the case and this is what Nietzsche warned about even though he was a strident anti-christian and it's also what

Dostoevsky first saw he said if we knock out

The logos from the substructure of Western society and we need to believe that it was

Christianity's emphasis on truth that destroyed Christianity which was an extremely an interesting criticism, you know

The Christian adhere the elevators to truth to such a degree that it was it actually

resulted in the demolition of its own dogmatic sub structure, but be that as it may Nietzsche's

prognostication was that if we allowed

God to die and perhaps there were reasons for that that the consequence would be that would we would be awash in both nihilism and

Totalitarian bloodshed and that is what happened in the 20th century. And so so and there's another there's another aspect to that

Which is if you may you may try to knock out the whole thing take out some of the substructure but not the whole thing

that's what Nietzsche also shows but his prediction I think is

Blindingly, obviously true that you might in this post Christian era have a remand of Christianity such as guilt

overbearing guilt and

no means of alleviation or redemption which is actually part of the problem of Protestantism, by the way, because it's you know,

and and and there are other things to that it seemed to be that it seemed to be fundamental religious issues that the

secularists I think have a difficult time accounting for it's like so you actually have to

grapple seriously with the problem that a

Doctrine that's essentially one of negation doesn't offer a positive ethos

And now an E and you are doing now to be perfectly fair. You said that reading a nature paper about the necessity of

Calculating your ethic across multiple

Multiple time frames and multiple persons doesn't have the motive force that's going to drive you to act ethically in life and I do believe

That's true. But I think the fact that the rationalist ethos doesn't have

Motivational push is actually a fatal flaw. They don't every week to read marcus aurelius

Yeah, and they don't

Like there's no music that goes along with it. There's no art that goes along with it

there's no architecture that goes along with it like

Weifare, but to be fair to the present most music and most art and most architecture

yes is no longer religious that it has flown the perch provided by religion traditionally and

most of what we care about



cosmopolitan at the end secular societies is not

tied to religion in any direct way and there's even whole religions like Judaism where you have to look long and hard to find

Anyone who believes much of anything that is religious. I have literally sat on stage

Debating what I thought was a religious rabbi who was a conservative rabbi

And when I asked when I said something that assumed that he believed in a God who could hear prayers

He threw up his hands and he said what makes you think I believe in a God who can hear prayers?

And I thought I was just you know, I practically lost the debate just in in my astonishment, you know

It's like wait wait, you know, what does it mean to be a conservative rabbi in this case? There are religions that have made that

transition to a an increasingly


Commitment to the truth of the doctrine and there are religions who haven't moved an inch

right and we and and it but I think we have to acknowledge that that

this this movement in this direction is progress because what it what it actually is at bottom is

Increasing sensitivity to the difference between having good reasons and bad reasons for what you believe

Right and and the fact that that this book has been around forever is not a good reason

The fact that mommy hates it so well

It's actually it's not a terrible reason though because the fact that something has lasted for that length of time at least

Makes the fact that it's lasted a mystery and you can't just attribute that to casual politicking or economic circumstances

There's through something


You can say about many of the biblical stories is that they're incredibly memorable and that means that in some sense

They're adapted to the memory structures of boys. So is the the mythology of ancient Greece?

It's incredibly memorable, but I'm but I don't know luck. All those gods are dead. The stories still can be useful

Yeah, the gods on let's say yeah, but it lives on in a way that is benign. It lives on in a way where

You learn about them in mythology class in school, right? You you don't have it. You don't have a fear of

Hades drummed into you as a child by your parent


the other thing that is lacking as far as I can tell in the in the

rationalist doctrine and this is something that I've observed in my clinical practice and

so one of the things that's happened over the last year is that I've had many people especially

Ex-soldiers come to my lectures who have post-traumatic stress disorder and they say that listening to my lectures

especially the ones on good evil and tragedy there's a

particularly sure that I suppose you might be you might think about as devoted to people at post-traumatic stress disorder and that

the language of good and evil that I lay out in those lectures is

Actually what allows them to recover from the post-traumatic stress disorder and dealing with people like that in my clinical practice

The same thing has been the case if we can't

Transcend the language of the merely rational and move into an intense conversation

About good and evil in some sense as metaphysical realities. We can't enter a realm of seriousness conceptual seriousness

That's of sufficient depth to help heal

someone who's been touched by malevolence because that actually is what happens to people with post-traumatic stress disorder is that

Inevitably the reason that there are so shattered isn't because something tragic has happened to them

Although that does happen upon occasion

it's because someone malevolent has made contact with them and sometimes that

malevolent being let's say orb level and force or spirit for lack of a better word is something that resides within them and

So there we have these limits on rational debt

And the reason I'm making this case is because we've already identified another limit of rational discourse. It's like it doesn't have the

motivating power of great fiction and great literature and great poetry, but it also doesn't have the healing power of

language that that

takes the ethical realm to its

Extreme in some sense and and then the next problem with that and this is something that Douglas has been has been

Contemplating I would say is that

What what evidence do we have that a merely secular?

representation a rational

representation of our ethic is going to provide us with a motive force that would be sufficient for us to do such things as

identify what's valuable about our culture and be motivated to

sufficiently protected assuming that we do something of protection, but we know it what a few of those things are and

They have they have nothing to do with what's on the inside of a church or a synagogue or a mosque

they have to do with things like free speech right like

the trench we are all fighting in is at least one of them is

Defense of the free exchange of ideas and that is put in peril by many kinds of orthodoxies

But some are the old orthodoxy is the blasphemy laws and the people who want, you know apostates to be killed

We're leaving in this case Islam. So it's it's a

That those are some of the sacred I would even if we were gonna list the

The sacred artifacts of art that that keeps that keep our society

worth living in

There it's I think the list is gonna be very long before we start getting to the the actual

sacred objects of any one faith, but we'll be things like freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and and

the the

The free exchange of ideas across boundaries the fact that we are no longer

religiously or

Linguistically or geographically partitioned in the ideas. We can entertain well, it seems to me though like and this may be my own my own

idiosyncratic reading of the of the of the domain but when I look at something like like I

And considered a cathedral dome

Let's say and there are very very old cathedral domes that have an image of Christ put up against the dome, right?

So as as creator of the cosmos, okay

and I'm trying to look at that from a psychological and even a biological perspective and what I see is the

elevation of a particular image that represents an ideal and so the the the Christ that's

Represented on the on the on the dome of a cathedral is something that's projected up into celestial space

So it's it's an ideal to which you are supposed to be

Subordinate or that you're supposed to embody and the ideal is the ideal of the logos

Technically speaking the logos the word made flesh, which is not only the word free speech for lack of a better term

but also the embodiment of that elevated to the highest principle and and

and that is given status as the creator of the universe and the reason for that in part and this is written into the

judeo-christian doctrine right from line one is the idea that it's through the discourse that you value so much that we actually

engender the world as such and that is a divine principle and it's it's also in my reading the divine image of God that

men and women are made in and so what I see in the underlying metaphysic where you see superstition and and

Fundamentalism and look fair enough and it's not like I would ever argue that that's not a danger

I see the imagistic and and and dramatized

Representation of exactly the idea that you hold to be paramount above all else, which is your commitment to truth expressed in speech

Okay, what's my concern? And this is this is where I started with you is that you could give the same charitable reading of

Astrology and you'd even be tempted to do it as we as we talk about astrology as you showed at the outset now

But I don't why is it a charitable reading Sam?

How else would you explain the existence of something like a cathedral with that? Hey, what the hell I'm people going when they built

I'm saying we could is it's by dint of mere historical contingency and

Questionable look that we're not living in a world where the cathedrals

Have stained-glass windows with signs of the zodiac on them


We could be in that world. What we are we?

were very close to being in our in that world to some degree because the astrological

endeavor in the judeo-christian landscape expanded to incorporate

Christianity and there's an entire astrology of Christianity including


Yes, but my point is is that we recognize that the literal claims of astrology the the mechanism by which

astrologers think it works is

intellectually bankrupt

Right and if any significant mayhem were being caused by people's commitment to astrology if we had presidents of the United States

Who couldn't get elected unless unless they paid lip-service to a literal belief in astrology

If we had presidents who were consulting their astrologers to figure out when to meet with other world leaders

right the this this would be a problem that that

Rational people would recognize me astrology can be disproven in a single hour

You simply have to go to a one hospital in one city sometime and find find two unrelated

children born in the safe within 20 feet of each other and

follow their lives

and if they have different lives than then there's then signs of the zodiac mean nothing part of your argument is and

Invalidly so is how in the world do we determine which revelatory?

Axioms are worthy of respect and of maintenance and fair enough salmon, maybe none. Well, maybe a revelatory

Maybe that's not it is just a matter of K conscious agents like ourselves having better and better conversations

Well that well, it is certainly partly that it is certainly partly that but let me again revelation

The I in my book is nothing other than the record of past conversations

so you've either got Iron Age conversations shaping your worldview or you have conversations like these shaping your or you have both

You could have both but then you have a dialogue with the past. Let's beautiful which brings me to Marcus Aurelius

I read him with great pleasure and great and and and astonishment frankly, I mean that yeah

it is such a modern and edifying take on ethics and

and one's own personal well-being and just not getting just not being encumbered by by thoughts and and

and vanities that that are that are so easy to cut through once you notice them but so

captivating and arranging of your life when you don't and he I mean

There's no wisdom in that book then then then almost any book I can name and you don't have to believe any

Bullshit to honor. Okay. Let me offer you a continued explication here

so and you didn't answer my question about what all these crazy medieval people were doing spending almost all of their excess capital building a

Representation of the sky and putting an image on that. So just hang on a sec

So so let's talk about what it would mean to embody the truth

So there's a deep idea in Christianity that this is what it would mean it would mean to confront the suffering of life

voluntarily to its fullest which would mean to accept the necessity of death and betrayal at the hands of your fellow men without

undue bitterness

to accept that

voluntarily and to still understand that your

fundamental ethical task is to work towards the redemption of the world and that's associated with that image that's cast upon the heavenly dome and

And that isn't a charitable reading Sam that's that that's an essential analysis of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity

Yes, but I could do the same thing with Buddhism and give you a slightly different story

but nonetheless inspiring and edifying and I could do the same thing with

It but we can't do it with rationality, but I can do it. I can do it with Greek. No, no

No, that's not true. I yeah, I can do it with Greek mythology

I can do with any of these domains

But the the crucial bit for me is that in order to make use of those stories? I

Don't have to believe in Revelation. I don't have to put I don't have to believe that you get everything you want after you die

No, no

But but I'm talking about the applause of conventionally religious people who think that their conventional religion is in some way

cashed out or redeemed or

Supported by the reading you're given now of the of Christ in starry heavens

it's not unless you're adding this other piece, which is

Some probabilistic claim that yes

This book probably was dictated by an omniscient Dean unlike any other book well

Or maybe the Muslims are right that our angel Gabriel did show up to Muhammad in his cave and give him the one

final revelation never to be superseded and

Just on the merits of the text. We know that's not true

We know for all it gets wrong and all it fails to get right about the nature of our circumstance

We know that book is not the best book ever written on any topic and here I'm speaking of the Quran

But it's true of the Bible. It's true

It's true of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius

But the book but but no one's claiming that about the meditations and that's a crucial difference. It's a difference that that

explains so much unnecessary suffering in our world and

again what I fear about the way you talk about religion is that

At the end of all these conversations I'm still not sure what you believe on that point frankly and

if I'm not sure no one out there is

Well, I don't know why I don't know why you would expect to be sure about what someone believes how do you think that any?

One of you are capable of fully articulating what you believe you certainly aren't you are. No I it's completely ridiculous

You're not transparent to yourself by any stretch of the imagination

You act out all sorts of things that you can't articulate butthat, but how about if how about a best-guess?


Know if you look let's go all cognitive neuroscience on this. Shall we?

Ninety-nine percent of your processing is unconscious. You're not capable of articulating yourselves if you were you'd be omniscient

Okay, but that's gonna give me any nonsense about that for that. That is a

I've never heard so many people applaud an evasion of a simple question

It was a good yeah

okay, I


Yes, everything you just said about not being fully transparent to yourself is true

And you are ruled by committee in there all the time

No doubt, but I'm at I'm asking what you actually believe

I mean, there's several things I can ask. I mean almost any one of these threads can can pull the whole tapestry, but

To take Christianity as an example

What do you believe about?

This the origin of this sacred book the Bible old a New Testament

Do you believe that just maybe it has a status?

Unlike any other book or is it?

Simply old writing of human beings just like ourselves. I think it's both

Okay, so, but but but so what does that mean that you're saying?

You're saying that there's somebody who's taking dictation that is unlike any other dictation

So it's so Homer though creators or Shakespeare is operated within

Hours of inspiration, okay

Everyone's been inspired if you talk to creative people

Yes, they say they often describe themselves as something approximating a conduit through which higher wisdom is pouring again

You're dodging shakes that Shakespeare could say that and yeah, and any writer can say that

Yeah, and it's also the case that we would or we would rank organize

we would rank order those writers, which is why you pointed to Shakespeare in terms of the

Generalizable validity of their revelations sure, and so well look so you run into the same issue, you know

You criticize the Bible and look fair enough, you know, man, but you're you're also evading a very important issue

Which is how do you how do you?

Quantitatively rank the contributions of literature without assuming that there's a hierarchy of Revelation you although this a hierarchy of wisdom. Sure

There's a heart a hierarchy of human wisdom

I will grant you that every day of the week, but this it is but we're talking about

primates like ourselves having conversations and

This is the most important game we can play

this is the best game in town and it has always been so but

People are imagining and it includes as you said at the outset

what I would call spiritual experience and spiritual experience is

Admits of a fact-based discussion about the nature of human consciousness. And why do you allow that as an

Exception like because it's not an exception as part of that the data set. So it's possible to have the e ritual

So this is spiritual experience without the possible of possibility of concretize revelation

So it's a formless spirituality that you're advocating

No, no it you can have a money

Even I'm not even discounting the possibility that there are invisible

entities out there in the universe far smarter than ourselves who we could possibly be in dialogue with I mean

There are many strange ideas that we could defend to one or another degree of you that they're people walking around

Speculating that we might be living in a computer simulation that all of this is being run on some

hard drive of the future or or some you know

Alien supercomputer now that you can actually I mean Nick Bostrom at Oxford gives a very cogent argument in defense of that thesis

Right now you can you can deal with that on its merits I'm not saying the universe isn't stranger than we suppose or even can

suppose but

one thing we know is that when you read the Bible you can turn every page of that book and

You will not find evidence of omniscience. You will not find anything in there that

Someone as smart as Shakespeare or actually a little bit dumber could have written

No, I don't think that's true Sam. They're incredibly potent. There's whatever I'd say about the biblical writings that are incredibly potent

But so it's impossible to write something virtually impossible to write something like Cain and Abel. It's a paragraph in shame

You're saying the Shakespeare the Shakespeare of the two 3,000 years ago couldn't have written Genesis

He couldn't have written to Cain and Abel not intends it so that so then it's okay enable is 10 sentences long

So then who gains more wisdom than you can then you can dig?

Okay, let's go now, but now we're getting to the nub of it

Then you think because that it was not the product of a human mind

I think it was the product of a vast collection of human minds working over millennia, okay

so we have a

city of Shakespeare's so but still which is really what we so we've just got people about this and this but this

concession if indeed

You're making it and I'm still not sure is the eradication of traditional Christianity if something is deeply wise its

reflective of a deeper reality

Otherwise, it wouldn't be what I've okay. I'm in love with deeper realities

The deeper reality that something is wise is the story of Cain and Abel reflection. It's the real

a landscape of mind that we we are

That either takes great training great luck or pharmacological

bombardment of the human brain to explore

Right there. There's a way there are ways to get there. There are ways to have the beatific vision, right? And and if and

We will we understand this to some degree but experientially and we can understand it to some degree by by this

third-person methods of science and

It's not it's not like I don't know

I've had many experiences that

If I had them in a religious context would have counted for me as evidence of the truth of my religion


but because I I

have was not brought up up in a religious context and because I spend a lot of time seeing the downside of

That form of credulity. I have never been tempted to interpret these experiences. That way try a higher dose

Yeah, I've tried believe me. Yes. Oh, I'll go I'll play that game of poker with you all day long

You know surprise. Yes. Well, maybe

Maybe maybe there's our next podcast. Yeah

Did you just see a card that I've got to ask all of you a question now, so we're an hour and

15 minutes into this discussion and

hypothetically, what we will do is stop and

and go to Q&A but our

Experience so far has been that when we asked the audience because we have done that each time

Whether we've asked the audience whether we should continue or whether we should go to Q&A

so the first thing I'm going to do and you can

Vote on this by making a certain amount of noise if you're inclined to do

So how many of you would like us to stop talking and go to Q&A?

How many of you would like us to continue this discussion for 45 more minutes

It's it seems to me that it's an objective fact, it's louder people have the floor

So it really is gonna be a rude awakening when those applause are reversed. However, yeah, we know it's timeless

Was I gonna ask something? Yeah

Something let's go back to let's go back to thee to one of the core problems that we've been trying to address which is the

the apparent

failure perhaps of the

The the rationalist atheist types to develop a an active ethos that has

Sufficient beauty and motivational power to serve as a credible replacement for the religious rituals

So there seems there must be a reason why that's that failure has occurred

right, so

Maybe a short list of reasons one is that

Traditionally the impulse to do that in a religious context has been fatal

Right. So to declare your apostasy has been the almost as reliable a way of committing suicide as jumping off a building

in most

cultures and most

societies for the longest time and still is in many places as you know in the Muslim world, so

if there's been a barrier to entry to thinking creatively about alternatives to religion and

so much of atheism and secularism is just a a

pitched battle against the the

Eroding power of religion and when religion really has its power, right?

We know what it's like, you know

they again I think what we spoke about this at one point it just yet at the moment that it makes this most salient is

You know Galileo being shown the instruments of torture by men who wouldn't look through his telescope, right?

I mean that's that was the point of contact between

untrammeled human rationality and

The womb that bore it right give the religious awe at the beauty of the heavens, right?

So the moment was a person like Galileo stepped a little too far and to connect us to astrology again

Galileo was a court astrologer, right? Mr

Doe did they were there was a cunt there was a point of contact between astronomy and astrology at that point. So

We're still under the shadow of that kind of dogmatism and oppression in much of the world

And for the longest time, I mean, it's still in the United States

You cannot run for the presidency without pretending to believe in God

It's amazing. It's amazing fact, right?

When will that change it?

Someday it will

But we have we have just had almost no time talks if it's to experiment in this base and intervals means some time

I mean some decades I suppose the thing that unites Sam it would be nice to Auden to me on this is

If if we face some of the problems some of the enemies might even say that you identify as well

And the question is whether you should face them in the midst of an experiment that may or may not work

ie a leap into pure rationality or

Whether you might decide it's worth among other things

Taking some of the versions of things that you've had that have been of worth in your past and using them where they're useful

Well, but what do you picture in there because there really is no leap. There's no global leap to pure rationality

There's just there's this incremental

erosion of

Religious answers to terrestrial questions. So there's that. Yeah, I guess at the moment

You you have a science of neurology. You begin to look at epilepsy

Not as demonic possession, but as a neurological problem before there's a science of neurology. You don't know what the hell is happening, right?

So so into them say something obviously drove Douglas. I would say in some sense


to make the assumption that one of the things that we need to do to

Defend whatever it is that we have a value in the West assuming that we have anything of value


something like the

reincorporation of this

Religious substructure, so white it's not something that I would have expected you to conclude. Oh, wait, what are you?

Why did you conclude it? Well?

Partly for the reason I just suggested

That the leap into pure rationality

There's no evidence yet that it's going to work or there's gonna be enough for enough people are gonna be able to partake

Give me the precise amount place where you're worried that it's gonna fail and what can you what are you imagining?

Well, you wake it now


Let me give you one example and we may be in the midst of the discovery that the only thing

Worse than religion is its absence?

When we're where are we discovering that look at the religions that people are making up as we speak

I mean every day there's a new dogma and you and I and Jordan have repeatedly tripped over his dogmas

some are usually survived it has to be said but

They're stampeding to create new religion all the time at the moment every every new heresy that's invented and

They're not as well thought through as past terraces

they don't always have the bloody repercussions yet, but you can easily foresee a situation in which they do a

New religion is being created as we speak by a new generation of people who think they are

non-ideological who think they're very rational who think their past myth who think their past story who think they're better than any of their

Ancestors and have never bothered to even study their answers


Can't you say that

Dogmatism is the problem

okay, the generic problem here is dogmatism a firm belief in the absence of good argument and good evidence and

Absolutely, we can agree that dogmatism of any kind has that danger or will always have that danger

but the void

Also has a danger the void that you can create if you throw out all the stories that help get you to where you are

also has this danger because people come up with these news stories and

Every day's news now is about this every hour politics is now basically about this

up, I mean well and what and what's flown in to fill the gap seems to be something like a new tribalism absolute is exactly

What you'd expect in some sense, right?

If you if you demolish the superordinate system, you know religion divides people no doubt, but it also unites people

yes, and so one of the things that

Arguably unites people above their mere tribalism is their Union and an abstract religious

superstructure and then if you demolish that well then one of the things that does seem to happen is the emergence of a

Reflexive tribalism because people need to need a group identity of sorts

And the easiest thing to do seems to be to revert to ethnicity and race and gender and sex, etc. Etc

And then we do end up and have ended up in this situation that Douglass outlines and you know

One of the things I think that distinguishes us temperamental II

possibly maybe because you're a little more on the liberal side and I'm a little more on the conservative side even temperamentally speaking is that


Fundamental terror, is that of fundamentalism?

although you also state in the moral landscape that you understand that the perils of nihilism and I would say my

fundamental terror, is that of nihilism even though I'm

Susceptance ative to the catastrophes of fundamentalism, but I don't think you do address the problem of the void sufficiently

because I don't think that you have anything to offer except an

And I'm not trying to minimize your offering you you make a case that people should work to

Alleviate suffering and that we should live in truth. But Jesus Sam you can summarize that in two sentences

it doesn't have the potency of the

Fictional literary artistic substructure that seems necessary to make that into something. That's that's a compelling story

So it's the this is where we might disagree. This could be a fundamental disagreement

because I actually I don't see the problem of nihilism the way you do or the way it's advertised like

once you rip out

the false certainties and the bad evidence and the bad arguments and the and the the mere dog was imposed on us by

prior generations

That hole

never closes

Safely with anything else you have to put something in its place that's shaped just like that some other false certainty or some other story

I simply don't think that's the case

I think there's so many things we outgrow both individually a you know, if in art your own childhoods and

Culturally that where there is. No, there is no void left

there's no Santa Claus shaped void that we have to fill with the

Experience but people certainly experienced some people you people I'm not discounting the fact that it is hard to be happy in this world

I mean we are living in a world that seems designed perfectly designed to frustrate our efforts to find

Permanent happiness, so you asked me

What my answer is I just think there's the recipe for a good life or least least a

Minimal recipe for a good life. That's not that this is all that's entailed. But this is this is this is certainly necessary

If not sufficient is to live a life that is

Increasingly motivated by love and guided by reason

Right, you can't go very far wrong if you are motivated by love and guided by reason, right? And and the problem is is that

Well, okay

Well, the first thing I would say about that is to me. That's a

recapitulation of the judeo-christian ethic which is be guarded by love and up and use logos to serve that that you gotta

Regenerate the fine print on reason. Oh, yeah clever didn't say reason I said logos cuz that's the that's something that's deeper there

There's the Jesus smuggling. Yes, exactly. Well, yes. Yes, definitely

Okay, so but but so look I've been I've been trying to part of the reason that I'm doing what I'm doing is to try

to address the void

Let's say and I suspect that many of you are actually here because you would like to have the void

addressed and so the way it looks to me is something like this and this is what I've derived in part from my studies of

Religious tradition so I could say that at the beginning of Genesis

for example

there's a proposition that it's truthful speech that generates habitable order from

chaotic potential that seems to me to be the fundamental

Narrative and I do believe there's something dead accurate and real about that because we do

generate the world as a consequence of our


Effort and then there's a second proposition

which is that the world that we generate from the the chaos of potential is

habitable to the degree that the communication that we engage in is

truthful and that's why God who uses the logos at the beginning of time to generate the world is

Able to say that his creation is good. The proposition is the world you bring into being through truthful. Speech is good

and that's the image of God that's implanted in man and woman and

There's a grandeur about that idea and you think well, you don't need the grandeur because it's just a fiction

It's like just wait a second here

It's not just a fiction

unless you don't believe that in some manner you partake in the creation of the world and that you have an

Ultimate responsibility that might well be described as divine to participate in that process properly

truthfully and with love and there's every reason to think that that's an

elevated ideal so high that it's worthy of conceptualizing as divine and also to presume that it represents some

fundamental metaphysical

And that's a lot more powerful than you need to be good. Yes, but that the problem here Jordan

It's that I could do exactly what you just did with

Buddhism or Hinduism

and it is just as grand and

just as deep and just as anchored to the the first person experience of

Contemplatives who have taken that as far as they could take it, you know, well then ask Sam

You should do that and see how people respond to it. Well, no, no because I yes seriously

No, no because I see the end of at the end of the game

it's not that doesn't arrive where I want to get to where we need to get to because it is


It would be to different effect

It's to it they're they're different claims

Ultimately about the status of truth and good and evil and about the beginning of the world and the fate of a human

Consciousness after death, it's completely they're completely irreconcilable

worldviews, you know, I also do not that we're if there are Hindus in the audience, they believe something that is totally

Irreconcilable to what Christians believe I don't think that you can offer

pardon me a watered-down version of Buddhism as a consequence of psychedelic experience as a cut as an

acceptable and credible alternative to the power of the fundamental founding myths of the Western culture and if you think you can

Try no I'm trying. Well, I'm not trying that but that's that's not

That's not what I thought. Well, first of all just to just to get my biography straight. It's not just the psychedelic experience, right?

And I'm also not making light of the psychedelic experience

Listen to take this

we're having most of this conversation on the side of

Where we're in it seems reasonable to worry about the faith of civilization

Right you we could have started at a very different point with just the nature of consciousness

Right just the just our first person encounter with being itself, right you wake we all of us wake up each morning

we are thrust from a condition of deep sleep which we've seen nothing about and

Would just have pushed through the veil of dreams into this apparently

solid reality that we call the world and we're engaging one another in this space of

just consciousness and its contents and we're trying to make sense of it and science is

The best language game we play I would argue in trying to make truly rigorous sense of it

But it's not doesn't exhaust all the language games. We play we play

others that are also fact-based we talk about what happened historically before we arrived here we talk about

Facts as we can understand them that we just didn't witness but others did and we call that journalism, right?

So we're trying to have a family

Yes we use to call that journalism

It's getting harder and harder to discern what's actually going on now, but we are we are

thrust into this condition of

Being our apparent selves moment by moment and we notice the difference between happiness and suffering

Right, and this is not merely sensory

it's not merely that you know, I don't like the feeling of a hot stove and I do like a

warm bath, it's


the ways of thinking about ourselves and the world can can

Open the door or close the door to various states of happiness and suffering and religion comes into religion

leverages that

people it that the difference between believing that your dead child is in heaven with Jesus and

Not being able to believe that is enormous right? I want to ask a specific though

You've expended a certain amount of reputational energy and much more on the jihadists

in your

battles should we say there how much allie ship to use a

Very vougish term have you found from fellow secular rational people who want to love and reason like you?

Well, that is a leading question, isn't it I've got fingers if you need more I

Know you your fingers are safe

No, unfortunately but it's but this is a problem of I wouldn't describe this too

Well, the Allies you can easily find among deeply religious Christians. Say are

well not surely not all of them

There for the wrong reasons right? I mean I can find you know them

Well know note that the reason they're there for the wrong that will they they see the problem clearly

For the wrong reasons. So for instance I so I meet


scientist types, you know

Anthropologists say who?

Are so far from knowing what it's like to believe in revelation

That they don't believe anyone else does right. So when you tell them that members of Isis really believe that

if you die in the right circumstances

You get 72 virgins and you're you're in you know surrounded by rivers of milk and honey and all the rest

If you go into the ivory tower

You meet people who don't believe that anyone believes that stuff

But if you go into a megachurch, they know people believe that's not because they believe their own dogmas, right?


That's what it's like to be to be effortlessly right for not especially good

reasons the fact that you believe a book the fact that you believe a book was written by God and

Therefore it's trivially easy for you to understand that someone else believes that but they just have the wrong book

That's not the rational basis for understanding our circumstances

We're looking for I'm not saying whether one is right and one is wrong

But one seems to have more commitment in that and in one battle, you're fighting commitment, maybe important

Yeah, there may be many reasons why the people who?

Deeply want to love and be rational

Are absolutely no damn use in that fight

because they want to

preserve their happiness a bit longer

Preserve their comfort a bit longer cannot understand people who genuinely come from a fundamentalist standpoint

Yeah, and then there's also other well there to steal man their case for a moment it is

understandable to be

sensitive to and guilty about the history of colonialism and the reality of racism and

to be so committed to

tolerance as your master

Virtue that you're tempted to tolerate intolerance and not recognize it to be cowardice

Which in fact it making tolerance your core value is much different than making truth your core value

yes, which is an interesting thing because and perhaps this is one of the places where you and the

Fundamentalist radical leftists, let's say differ

is that the core value that's emerging there is definitely one of tolerance whereas the core value that you espouse is one of truth and

Truth and tolerance are not the same thing. And so it might have been yeah


As more as the pursuit of truth and the belief that as a result truth can be found

That it's not a single thing on its own. You just pursue it as a hobby

There's just something you do but that you believe that at the end of it. There is a truth to be found

Yeah, you know, so it's over Douglas, what what do you fear is the case here if if there were more people like me

In the West right? Well, maybe I'm not maybe I'm the I'm the outlier here. I'm I'm

somehow infected by this over waning commitment to truth and

Rationality and science and yet, I'm still motivated to worry about jihad

But you're you worried that there are many people like me who are oblivious to the bomb

Are you worried about it when so many other people who are hypothetically the question you ask?

Why are you so worried about when there's so many people who are hypothetically like you that don't seem to be worried about it

I mean, maybe you're wrong you shouldn't be worried about

It's a possibility that's my worry at any rate that we may be living in an era when we are discovering that

the Enlightenment and the Enlightenment values never went very wide and didn't go terribly deep and

this is a very painful realization to make

But not only do we go all around the world and discover that we find that at home

The roots turn out not to have gone very deep in even this society and the problem it is a problem

But but hence my my commitment to making them deeper and and to reiterate the point

I'm very happy if it was entirely Sam Harris's all the way down

Ok, I'd have no problem with that. It's just that underneath Sam Harris. Its he'll

Know me too. Well, yeah, and that has to be very carefully edited on

Rationality in the service of love, like this isn't interesting. Like I'm not sure you get to get away with that because

Like is it rationality or is it love?

because well

I don't understand the place in your conceptual system for love given your emphasis on

Rationality as the ethic of as the mechanism of ethics

So I would say to the degree that I smuggle in Jesus which by the way isn't

Accidental in some sense and I'm fully conscious when I'm doing it you smuggle in love and it plays the same role. No

No the love but love is a an experience reality. I mean love love is its state of consciousness?

It's a state of and I wouldn't ultimately act. Oh, it's a it's a fact that one can experience it or not. Well, yeah

There are the fact that you can experience something but their apparent you're experiencing is

there's also the thing that you're experiencing as a fact well know that there are facts about the the

the range of human experiences

Not even just human just conscious experiences that if we can build

Computers they can feel loved and that's not inconceivable and will either succeed in doing that or not

but consciousness admits of a range of experiences and

Love is

One of the best on offer it's not the only one we care about but it's the one that anchors us to a

positive commitment to the well-being of other conscious systems and

But but the crucial thing is those are far I agree no snow do you know what it is

It is a fact that loving someone

entails a

Really of it's their their love and it's counterfeits right there. People can confuse, you know romantic

You know attachment or lust with love, right?

so I've been and the Buddhists are especially good at differentiating these various states of consciousness and and

It's a II


This this true pleasure

mental pleasure in the company of another that is colored by a

Commitment to their well-being I wanting them to be happy a wanting them wanting to have their hopes realized a nonzero-sum


Or sense of your entanglement with them and you can see your failures to love me

You can be with people who you think you love

You know

I'm with my best friend say and I just find out something fantastic has happened for him into let's say in his career and

I feel a moment of envy say well then you see well

Okay. What I just how much do you love this person if the for your first reaction?

To this something good happening to them is you feel poorer for it, right? That's the Cain and Abel story exactly

So so this is these are all kinds of defects you can witness in your own mind

and yes, you pay enough attention to the Nate to what it's like to be you the full horror show of

An almost, you know biblical unwinding of all possibility is available, you know

And it's and you add psychedelics to that cocktail and it gets even more vivid. Alright?

So are we do you think this is it but but the painting attacks of you know?

the fact these are facts about the human mind and it is also factual to say

That it is possible to navigate in this space. It is possible to design

Institutions and and social systems and ethical commitments that help us navigate in the space

It's not that we all have to get up every morning

naked and

try to

rebuild civilization and all of human wisdom for ourselves each day you we inherit we inherit the most useful tool the

tools you don't have to figure this all out for yourself and my appeal to you is that

What we should want to use all the best tools available

without hamstrung in ourselves by this notion that certain tools are

Must be the best for all time or certain books

must be read in on every page with equals to diligence because

It that this book came from the creator of the universe

when we're reading Marcus Aurelius if he gets something catastrophic ly wrong on page 17 we say well what the hell he

Lived 2,000 years ago. There's no way he knew everything right and we turned the page

okay, so we can't do that with the Bible's the


representation of that

so there's an ancient idea a

Very ancient idea that when you face the void

what you do is confront it and leap into it and

What you discover at the bottom is a beast and inside that beast you discover your father

Lying dead and then you reanimate your father and you bring him back to the surface and that's the means of dealing with the void

Right and so in his in essence in some sense, that's just what you said

you said that if we accept accept that again this

there's something

confabulate ory about that because you can do you I could change the valence of virtually every word you use there and

It would also sound profound and true

I could I could swap father for mother and I could swap void from mountaint