Sam Harris - Idiot?

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Freedom_2018
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Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by Freedom_2018 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:08 pm

Ok..so I am not quite up to date with my internet reading, youtube and Ted talks etc.

But I had read Jordan Peterson's Maps of Meaning which I found to be quite an interesting book (much more so than 12 rules...though the 12 rules seems like more of a working manual). Saw some of his talks and they seem to make sense...leans a bit heavy on the darkness inside humans but history sure is rife with examples to back him.

Also tried to see some youtube videos of Sam Harris and to be honest I am not quite sure why he can't seem to understand the need for a religious belief or other 'non-scientific' attitudes among humans.

Then I come upon this : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcx6WNWcnNw

Someone who can't seem to comprehend how ~50% of the voters would vote for Trump, even after the fact, could not in my understanding be much of an expert on things outside of a narrow field. Also does not seem to be open minded...i.e. when reality does not follow your theory, time to examine your theory.

Not sure why he is so popular. Am I missing something big here?

Thanks
M

LookingInward
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by LookingInward » Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:47 pm

Aren't you interpreting things too literally (or maybe it's me)? I think he does understand why people cling to irrational believes and why Trump is President. He is just bewildered by it and probably means that those two situations have good reasons to not be the case because they run counter to values such as rationality and honesty

Freedom_2018
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by Freedom_2018 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:21 pm

I don't think I am interpreting literally. He obviously gets it intellectually (I guess most shocked by the election result also fall into this category) but not viscerally (most shocked by election results still continue to fundamentally not get it since it goes counter to what they perceived as rational) and that is what matters in life.

For someone who doesn't think much of free will (i.e. situations are results of initial conditions, rules of interaction and probability) he certainly seems to struggle with the same (viscerally) when the outcome is not to his liking.

Of course Monday morning quarterbacking always exists.

My own $0.02 is that there is something these days that now passes with a veneer of science that has become its own religion with its own prophets.

Freedom_2018
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by Freedom_2018 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:48 pm

I guess what I am trying to say (sorry if not very clear) is that the often implicit and underlying assumption that science and its methods are the only way to accurately understand the world and gain knowledge of it is not without huge blind spots which we ignore at our own peril.

Similar to how the present problem of millennials with useless degrees and big student loans was created by the implicit and unquestioned belief that 'everyone must go to college' for a better life. Meanwhile my mechanic wants $120/hr to even look at my car and those rates only seem to be going up.

Another example of such belief would be when say homeowners think their property is worth X when say a similar house down the block sold for X (and websites like zillow etc will show value based off this). But if all/many houses in their neighborhood were to be on sale at the same time, their value would be much lower than X (like in 2007/2008)

On that same note I think those of us who are on the ERE path/lifestyle should also mentally discount our stock portfolios etc by some factor since if the market went on sale, the value of our portfolio would be significantly lower than indicated by just today's trading price at the margin.

Seppia
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by Seppia » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:53 am

I’m a religious person but I would kinda pick “science” as the best way to describe how things actually work.
I know concepts like science and the very pillars upon which it is based (“data”, “facts” for example) are unpopular with a growing number of humans, but if I broke my leg I would prefer an actual doctor to treat it rather than someone who has the attitude of “fuck medical science I know better”

Freedom_2018
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by Freedom_2018 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:22 am

@Seppia - No doubt, if I break a leg I am going to the same person you are :-)

I'm not talking about Idiots of the type you mention. People who don't want to learn or make the effort to learn and improve their lot in life but instead hang their hat on unexamined tradition or some bigotry or just blind faith. Not talking about them.

Rather talking about those that Nassim Taleb would call Intellectual Yet Idiots - people who might have domain specific knowledge but then extrapolate from there to thinking they understand other domains equally well too. Sort of like the uber techie because he or she understands some complex coding/technology also thinks that they know what ails the company and if given half a chance could fix all the problems the firm faces. Meanwhile not realizing that fixing many of those problems require skill in areas such as interpersonal skills, dealing with and motivating people with conflicting agendas and all the political crap that goes with it....areas in which he/she has no aptitude and skill - even though he/she intellectually understands what the issues are.

vexed87
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by vexed87 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:54 am

You've just described dunning-kruger. It's human nature, the world is really complicated and we have a tendency to want to simplify it, rather than spend years of our lives constructing elaborate metal models of how the world really works. JMG did some interesting writing on this topic on his blog Ecosophia, maybe check that out.

IlliniDave
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by IlliniDave » Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:33 am

I'm impressed you read Maps of Meaning. I couldn't get through it. Maybe a sign that my mental acuity is waning.

I don't get the impression Harris is an idiot. You mentioned the reason I think he's popular in some circles--he consistently argues against religion.

I watched one of his "debates" with Jordan Peterson. In a simplified sense, I see Peterson as arguing that religions/mythologies encode collective wisdom regarding how to organize societies and how individuals can organize their lives to both find meaning and contribute to societies in a way that advances them. He makes the argument without evangelizing. Harris seems to take the position that such wisdom can be derived from reason/science alone, and should be, and is generally skeptical at best that much of value can come from having roots in the religious traditions. That one or both of them may be incorrect doesn't make either an idiot.

Regarding Trump all I can say is Harris is not alone. It seems like the tack of trying to reason/science one's way to a moral hierarchy often points the way to progressivism as a substitute for religion (or arguably as a surrogate religion), and I suspect it has blind spots analogous to the blind spots identified in traditional religious adherence. If nothing else he maybe lost sight of the fact that humans are not logic machines, himself included, so his logic may be faulty and even if it is perfectly accurate insofar as logic goes, many, maybe most, people really don't prioritize their lives based on modern philosophical logic. You hit on something else that I've seen in various places: faith invested in a theory being so strong that when contrary evidence appears the only choice is to modify the evidence (e.g., looking just at the 2016 election since it is what was mentioned, you can blame it on the Russians, disparage the contrary voters, etc.).

prognastat
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by prognastat » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:08 am

I actually like Sam Harris quite a bit and his podcast is one I regularly listen to. In large part his disbelief in Trump winning the presidency seems to be more due to him not wanting it to be true rather than actually not believing that people would vote for him. Despite having many negative interactions with the far left he still very much holds on to some remnants of the left. I can understand his position somewhat myself, although unlike him I wouldn't have been able to force myself to vote for Hillary, I also wouldn't have been able to convince myself to vote for Trump. In the end Sam is an intellectual and what probably offends him most about Trump is that he isn't an intellectual/doesn't try to be one. He can't stand the way Trump behaves, speaks and thinks. To him Trump represents all the worst stereotypes of America. He is loud, gauche and obnoxious(and it is hard to deny that Trump can be these things).

I think it's similar for him as to why he doesn't understand why people cling to myth/belief. He on one level understands why people do, but as he himself doesn't work this way can't quite empathise with this way of thinking.

I don't have to agree with Sam on everything though to realise he brings plenty of value to the discussion.

Also JP actually doesn't just rely on mythology/scripture/belief, his whole schtick is interpreting those through more of a scientific lens thus actually using science to somewhat rationalise the beliefs. The main difference being JP believes the prevailing beliefs have an underlying truth starting from there and tries to use science to uncover them SH believes the beliefs aren't necessary and we can arrive at the same truths through sheer logic/reasoning.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:42 am

prognastat wrote:The main difference being JP believes the prevailing beliefs have an underlying truth starting from there and tries to use science to uncover them SH believes the beliefs aren't necessary and we can arrive at the same truths through sheer logic/reasoning.
I think they are both wrong. It's like 1889 debating 1959.

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jennypenny
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by jennypenny » Thu Mar 14, 2019 10:28 am

:lol:

I listened to a podcast with Sam Harris recently and found myself agreeing with almost everything he said. I took that as a sign that the apocalypse draws nigh.

chenda
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by chenda » Thu Mar 14, 2019 10:41 am

This Domains of Belief theory explains a lot of this conflict. See - https://www.kdirani.com/dob.htm

Freedom_2018
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by Freedom_2018 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:29 am

@Illinidave - I wrote out about half a page of response and then when tried to post got an error...tried to recover by going back in the browser and goofed it up.

While I made a fat finger error, however I am not averse to a couple of lashes for whoever designed ^C and ^V for copy and paste...another reason why nerds should not be in charge of things that also need an understanding of how humans operate...can you tell I am pissed :-) This has happened before too...why pick keys right next to each other for such diametrically opposite tasks?

Will come back when saner and redo. I need another cup of tea.

bigato
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by bigato » Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:50 am

My impression is that your emotional response to Sam Harris tells more about you than it does about him. I have often found in my life that when someone produces this kind of reaction in me, there's usually something for me to learn related to myself.

Freedom_2018
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by Freedom_2018 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 7:55 pm

@bigato - ha ha, you are funny. I think it would be very hard for me to have an emotional reaction about Sam Harris (now if it were Christopher Hitchens.. that would be different because I kind of liked the guy ) ...not sure why you think I did...maybe it was the use of the word 'Idiot'..perhaps I should have said 'uninformed' or 'close minded' but then I was thinking of Taleb's 'Intellectual yet Idiot' when I saw that youtube video I mentioned above but my point would have been the same.

I do wonder however though if my use of the word 'nerd' or referring to them in the manner I did, didn't actually push your buttons.

Come to think of it, I have a precedent where if I recall correctly I said 'this format sucks' or something to that effect when the ERE forum was redesigned. Some people then reminded me of how much work was put into it by yourself and some others and on reflection I realized how my comment might have come across to those who worked hard on it. I think I made a post about how I shot from the hip and probably shouldn't have said what I did.

So I think there are strong emotions here but I'm fairly confident they are not on my side. I do agree with the universality of your second sentence though :-)

M

bigato
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by bigato » Fri Mar 15, 2019 8:33 pm

Why is he even relevant to you then, to the point of you wanting to discuss him on a forum where I suppose you like to post because you find like-minded peers? I mean, I can think of numerous people I think are idiots, famous and not, but I usually don't really even care about them. Let alone caring enough that I'd want to discuss them or pointing out their shortcomings. What is it that you gain from it in this specific case?

Freedom_2018
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by Freedom_2018 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:44 pm

Hi.

I asked because I was intrigued after seeing his video. I wanted to know how someone so well regarded could have a window of understanding of human affairs so narrow that the results of an election were such a surprise to him (I've also seen such 'disbelief' in almost all the well educated and credentialed people I personally know). That is why I asked if I am missing something big. To date I am still intrigued by how so many experts were caught off-guard. For me this was a bit personal also as by just by luck I happened to be touring the country during election time and saw hundreds of trump-pence signs on people's front lawns but found hardly any Hillary signs..heck I even saw some for Ben Carson (of the pyramids are grain silos fame). Yet, this was contrary to everything I was hearing from the experts on the news that Trump was a joke and basically had no serious chance. Should I believe my eyes or the experts who obviously should know what is what. Talk about having massive personal cognitive dissonance - it is not pretty, believe me.

Similarly over 10 years ago we were able to 'reverse' my partners type 2 diabetes by simply switching to a largely low carb diet, yet all our doctors and dietitians and the American Diabetes Association (experts) warned against doing so instead just preaching low fat, more whole grains and more metformin and other drugs. Prior to this she was in danger of losing her eyes and already enroute to other serious medical complications.

So you see, my personal experience might have made me a bit skeptical of 'experts' or at the very least try to understand how they are considered experts.

I don't necessarily post to find like minded peers, I'm looking for value. Stuff I can use and hone to improve my life and of those associated with me in practical and tangible ways. Some of them are physical, some to do with mental frameworks and biases/blindspots and others to do with matters of the spirit.

Thanks
M

bigato
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by bigato » Sat Mar 16, 2019 7:24 am

how someone so well regarded could have a window of understanding of human affairs so narrow that the results of an election were such a surprise to him
How is this any different from me asking: "how someone so intelligent could have a blind faith in X"?

1. Do you agree that "being well regarded" does not translate to being intelligent?
2. Do you agree that being intelligent does not guarantee you won't be biased?

Do you think point 1 or point 2 are the most relevant to this discussion? Which one is it, or is it something else?

Campitor
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by Campitor » Sat Mar 16, 2019 5:26 pm

History is replete with smart men doing or believing in stupid things:
  • Sir Isaac Newton lost 3 million in the stock market after getting caught up in the investment hysteria for South Sea stock.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a doctor and Sherlock Holmes novelist, believed psychiatric ailments were caused by spiritual possessions.
  • Mathematician Paul Erdos would take amphetamines.
  • Einstein had some prejudicial things to say about Indians and Chinese in his diary.
  • Dr. Ardnt, who was Harvard Medical graduate, walked out of a spinal surgery he was performing to cash his check.
Sam Harris has a PhD in Neuroscience but that doesn't make him infallible. I imagine he's very smart in many areas but calling elections and reading the minds of voters isn't one of them. I suspect he spends his time in the US blue zones with little exposure to red/purple zones. It's impossible to make calculations when you don't have all the data. He was a victim of unknown unknowns.

enigmaT120
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Re: Sam Harris - Idiot?

Post by enigmaT120 » Sun Mar 17, 2019 5:31 pm

IlliniDave wrote:
Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:33 am
You hit on something else that I've seen in various places: faith invested in a theory being so strong that when contrary evidence appears the only choice is to modify the evidence (e.g., looking just at the 2016 election since it is what was mentioned, you can blame it on the Russians, disparage the contrary voters, etc.).
Sorry for the distraction but what you and another have posted previously reminds me of the dark matter/dark energy ideas.

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