It is ironic that Sam Harris, who blasts religious dogma, would then use similar dogma to try to create an “objective morality” based upon science. As I have said in the past, I agree with his assessment of the past, present and future danger of religion. My views are fairly clear in the WAKING GOD trilogy of which was said, “It makes The DaVinci Code” read like a church hymn. But somewhere, Sam Harris has gone astray in an attempt to find a working morality in science.
The very notion of a morality is not even an objective idea. To even say there is, or there should be morality does not logically flow from science, but rather from a subjective notion that humanity should live by some form of underlying, or overriding, set of rules. Let’s face it; if we look at traditional science, the only morality you might find is the “survival of the fittest.” Where in the sciences of chemistry, medicine, physics or biology does one find a basis for morality? I guess all atoms are created equal and that they should be able to combine freely with other atoms might work. But even the idea of equal and free are not scientific terms unless you talk of balancing an equation or free radicals.
Further, objectivity in morality would certainly open the proverbial Pandora’s Box. If, for example, we look at nature, we find no rationale for caring for the elderly, sick, or genetically deviant. Nature culls such creatures for the benefit of the whole and to prevent defects from spreading in the population as a whole. Is this objective morality? Sam Harris also points out that enslavement, mutilating female genitalia, public whippings or stonings are morally and empirically wrong. According to our way of thinking, this statement makes sense. But, it is opinion, and opinion is subjective. In an article called “Toward A Science of Morality” in the Huffington Post, Sam Harris says he agrees with physicist Sean Carroll when he says, “I want to start with a hopefully non-controversial statement about what science is. Namely: science deals with empirical reality -- with what happens in the world, (I.e. what "is.").”
At this point, the entire argument must totally shift. What Sam Harris fails to realize is that discussing issues like the definition of ‘well-being’ is not at the heart of the debate. He seems to think that there is a scientific definition that can lead us out of the valley of death of religious dogma into and into the garden of scientific objectivity. This garden would be free of cultural and religious differences and would create an empirical definition that would be beyond reproach. Sam Harris, unfortunately, has fallen prey to his own outdated paradigm. There is no such thing as objectivity. If this is true, then the notion of an objective morality must be tossed out the window, both the bathwater and the baby.
Look at the following excerpt from a piece written by Robert Lanza. It is but one of many articles that clearly indicate that science is leading us away from any notion of objectivity within the universe. It is becoming increasingly clear that the observed and the observer are one. This being the case, we must discover a new paradigm outside of religion and science that can lead us to a moral high ground.
“But a series of new experiments suggest this may be all wrong, and that part of us exists outside of the physical world. The implications of these experiments have been downplayed because, until recently, quantum behavior was limited to the microscopic world. However, this 'two-world' view (that is, one set of physical laws for small objects, and another set of laws for the rest of the universe, including us) has no basis in reason, and more importantly, is being challenged in labs around the world.
We're trapped in an outdated paradigm. A few more equations, we're told, and we'll know it all -- any day now. There's no adventure left, no lost gardens in far away lands. But we all intuitively know there's more to existence than our science books grant. It's the same nostalgic yearning that gives religion its persistent power over humanity.
We assume there's a universe "out there" separate from what we are, and that we play no role in its appearance. Yet since the 1920s, experiments have shown just the opposite; results do depend on whether anyone is observing. This is most vividly illustrated by the famous two-hole experiment. When you watch a particle go through the holes, it behaves like a bullet, passing through one hole or the other. But if no one observes the particle, it exhibits the behavior of a wave and can pass through both holes at the same time.
This and other experiments tell us that unobserved particles exist only as "waves of probability" as Max Born demonstrated in 1926. They're statistical predictions -- nothing but a likely outcome. Until observed, they have no real existence; only when the mind sets the scaffolding in place can they be thought of as having duration or a position in space. Experiments make it increasingly clear that even mere knowledge in the experimenter's mind is sufficient to convert possibility to reality.
Importantly, this behavior isn't limited to the microscopic world. New experiments carried out with huge molecules called "Buckyballs" show that quantum reality extends into the macroscopic world we live in. In 2005, KHC0₃ crystals exhibited entanglement ridges one-half inch high, quantum behavior nudging into everyday levels of discernment.
Biocentrism tells us that reality is a process that involves our consciousness, and that space and time aren't the hard objects we think. Recent experiments show that separate particles can influence each other instantaneously over great distances, as if they're endowed with ESP. They're intimately linked in a manner suggesting there's no space or time influencing their behavior. In 1997 Nicolas Gisin sent pairs of particles zooming along optical fibers until they were seven miles apart. But whatever action one took, its twin performed the complementary action instantaneously. Since then, other researchers have duplicated Gisin's work.
All of these experiments make perfect sense from a biocentric perspective. Everything we perceive is a whirl of information in our head. Time can be defined as the summation of spatial states occurring inside the mind. But that doesn't mean there's an invisible matrix in which changes occur. We watch our loved ones age and die and assume that an external entity called time is responsible for the crime. There's a peculiar intangibility to space, as well. Like time, it's just a tool of our understanding.
But the solution to this mystery lies within our grasp, a solution hinted at by the frequency with which the old paradigm breaks down. This is the underlying problem: we've ignored a critical component of the universe, shunted it out of the way because we didn't know what to do with it. This component is consciousness -- us, the great observer.”
Robert Lanza, M.D., Scientist, Theoretician, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-lanza/science-spirituality-what_b_624292.html?ir=Daily%20Brief
If we cannot rely upon biased religion or science to create a universal morality, what is left? Are we to be subject to the whims of moral fads or is there something that can guide humanity to a more logical way of living? To this topic, we shall return while keeping in mind that ‘what happens’ in this world is truly up to us.