Science Can Answer Moral Questions

Sam Harris gave a talk at TED recently and it's now available. He talked about morals and how science doesn't have to stay silent when it comes to what is best for conscious beings. It was very interesting. Please share it around if you like what he has to say. I'd love to hear your opinions in the comments. I agree with him.

About the talk:
Questions of good and evil, right and wrong are commonly thought unanswerable by science. But Sam Harris argues that science can -- and should -- be an authority on moral issues, shaping human values and setting out what constitutes a good life.

Sam's project: Project Reason
His homepage:


  1. It seems to me that he's arguing against some sort of a straw man, or perhaps preaching to the choir. I should of course add the disclaimer that I grew up in an irreligious society (i.e. the Netherlands) and that I don't understand American society in that regard, despite knowing many Americans. Again I should add a disclaimer: these are mostly my Humanistic Jewish in-law family members. At least that's how I interpret their Judaism; they call it Reform, though they don't do anything with it nor do they seem to believe in God to a large extent as far as I can tell.

    Then again, Dutch and Belgian Christians, although a minority, do propagate the kind of nonsense he's arguing against. As such it's nice to have some ammunition at hand, in a manner of speaking.

  2. Hi Frans,
    Well, it's very different here in America I guess, because I think he's made excellent points that really need to be said and talked about. The christians in this country are extremely polarized and yes, they fully believe that all morals come from the bible. That's just not healthy thinking. It's crazy.
    How wonderful that you grew up in an irreligious society. I'm a bit envious, but I guess what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, lol.

  3. This post increased my knowledge... very interesting..thank you..

  4. Just finished watching this and I really like how cogent his arguments are in the context of contemporary USA. I was frequently told, while my daughter was growing up, that I let her be too sassy. (I live in central Florida.) But I had an idea that recognition of her thoughts and feelings would lead to a good relationship between us for all our lives, and contribute to her maturing into reliable, empathetic, productive person with a relatively happy life. I thought beating her would only make her fear me, not actually teach her anything else. And if you can't be safe in the arms of your family in learning to express yourself yourself, then where will you be safe. Disagreement & love don't have to be polarizing. I believe, as Sam does, that there are potential convergence points in our dialogues with one another, or at least could be. But there do need to be venues for rational, and not demagogic, discourse, such as the conference at which he was speaking.
    As always, thanks for a good post, Neece.

  5. Hi Angie, yes, Sam Harris makes some great points. I'm reading The Moral Landscape now, which is a deeper look at what he said at this talk. It makes sense to me so far. I think science can answer moral questions. I think if we work toward well-being for conscious creatures, that's a worthy goal, certainly better than the ridiculous Bronze age ranting nonsense gleaned from the bible.

    So how has your daughter turned out so far? How old is she now? I just have to say you have committed a false dichotomy in your argument. There are other ways to raise children than those two extremes. I was a nanny for a long time, and I worked with my charges to be well behaved, but to also exercise their own growing egos and personalities within the constraints of good behavior. So there's definitely a lot of middle ground between beating a child and letting them get away with everything.
    My sister opted for letting her kids get away with everything and they are both horrible young adults now. One is struggling to find himself and discover what boundaries are and how to be responsible, since he was never taught. The other is mean and vicious and cruel, a bully and horrid person all around.
    While that is anecdotal evidence, it has a bit of relevance, if not a lot.
    Anyway, yes, I agree, we need to have venues for rational discourse! I would recommend his book, The Moral Landscape.