Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sam Harris's Fundamentalism

Sam Harris has taken up the cause of atheism, or more precisely, scientism, with such a fervor that he has clearly become as insular, narrow-minded, and fanatical as the religious extremists he often castigates.

His latest offering, Science Must Destroy Religion, is nothing more than a manifesto for scientism (science as religion). Normally I wouldn't care, but people listen to this guy. He has a platform to reach millions of people. There are a lot of people in this country who are sick and tired of fundamentalist religions that are waging wars and burning books. We have our own American Taliban in the form of Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, and Concerned Women for America. To some, Harris seems to offer a logical alternative.

But his alternative is flatland--all science, no soul. He is Orange Meme to the core, with a little Red Meme rebellion thrown in to fuel his outrage. This isn't the answer.

What Harris really hates is an unhealthy Blue Meme trying to run the world. The solution isn't to eradicate Blue, but rather to help it become healthy. We need to create conditions for Blue to feel safe enough that it can relinquish its hold on Red anger and move toward Orange reason. It need not give up its faith in a higher order, in cause and effect, and in God to make that leap. God is not eliminated by Orange Meme rationality.

Don Beck has convincingly argued that we cannot change people, we can only change the life conditions so that people may change if they are ready. I agree with this approach.

The first step is to set limits on Green Meme efforts to make the world politically correct. The whole "war on Christmas" fiasco was an attempt by Blue to get out from under its perceived dominance by Green Meme relativism. Blue's war on evolution (a war against the Orange Meme Harris represents) is another example of its sense that it is no longer safe to be Blue in this culture. Orange must become more tolerant--the Orange Meme atheists (Harris and Richard Dawkins are the best examples) are rabidly anti-religion. Scientism just makes Blue feel more persecuted.

We should not teach creationism in the classroom, nor should we marginalize those who choose to believe in divine creation. Christianity is still the majority religion in this nation, and it has political power. We are better served by creating space for their beliefs to be honored than we are in ridiculing them. Again, this does not mean that we should burn books that some Christians find offensive or do away with Darwin.

Blue is an essential developmental stage that we must go through as individuals and as a culture. The bottom line is that our culture is slowly shifting its center of gravity from Blue-orange to blue-Orange, with an increasing number of Green folk making things interesting. Blue will not go down without a fight. People like Sam Harris just make them want to fight that much harder.
Post a Comment