The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

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Simon and Schuster, Oct 5, 2010 - Science - 304 pages
21 Reviews

am Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people—from religious fundamentalists to nonbelieving scientists—agree on one point: science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the most common justification for religious faith. It is also the primary reason why so many secularists and religious moderates feel obligated to "respect" the hardened superstitions of their more devout neighbors.

In this explosive new book, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a "moral landscape." Because there are definite facts to be known about where we fall on this landscape, Harris foresees a time when science will no longer limit itself to merely describing what people do in the name of "morality"; in principle, science should be able to tell us what we ought to do to live the best lives possible.

Bringing a fresh perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong and good and evil, Harris demonstrates that we already know enough about the human brain and its relationship to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, moral relativism is simply false—and comes at increasing cost to humanity. And the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can be finally repelled: for just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality.

Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of our "culture wars," Harris delivers a game-changing book about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation.

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I expected to read a book about how science could help us in a moral dilemma, but it turn out to be book about his opinions. Furthermore 1/3 of is bullshit, just references

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This book is a bold jump into the field of science-based ethics. The idea that science can address morals and values is an interesting one, and deserves investigation. Harris demonstrates his wonderful geekiness with an index and notes section almost equivalent in size to the rest of the book, but perhaps to make up for a lack of thoroughness in philosophical reason. I really enjoyed the book and really--he is presenting an idea very much on its infancy, so kudos for that. The preliminary arguments are intriguing and presented in a way that are easily digestible even for non-philosophers and non-theologians, but like others have pointed out, his undergraduate studies in philosophy are not sufficient to stand up against the rigors of the PhD opponents with which he has gone toe-to-toe, nor would I expect them to. 

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About the author (2010)

Sam Harris is the author of the bestselling books The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian NationThe Moral LandscapeFree Will, and LyingThe End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His writing has been published in over fifteen languages. Dr. Harris is cofounder and CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. Please visit his website at

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