[extropy-chat] Books: Harris; Religion and Reason

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Tue Jan 10 01:18:56 UTC 2006

Ok, lets see if I can keep this at an elevated level.

I saw a show on CSPAN2 a couple of nights ago.  Apparently a presentation by
Sam Harris [1] author of "The End of Faith" [2,3] to the New York Society
for Ethical Culture [4].  He made ~5 arguments against the tolerance by
rational individuals of religious based perspectives (be they Christan
fundamentalism or Muslim).  One of his perspectives seemed to revolve around
the fact that all religions are *not* equal and we should stop pretending
that they are.  He asked the fundamental question of "Where are the Buddhist
suicide bombers?" (given the extent to which the Buddhists have been abused
by the Chinese), or to an even greater extent "Where are the Jain
militants?" (Jain's are an Indian religion that he suggested were extremely
non-violent in their beliefs).

His fundamental position seemed to be that the traditional position of
"tolerance" by "moderates" for religious extremism, particularly that which
is fundamentally unextropic, and particularly that which is based on the
acceptance of irrational perspectives, should be discontinued.  I.e. it is
no longer acceptable for one to reject active forms of the destruction of
information (e.g. suicide bombers) but one must extend that to passive forms
of the destruction of information (e.g. irrational religions).

I would tend to agree.

If there are those who would like to support my renomination to the ExI
Board based on the platform that all information as is feasible should be
preserved and that the execution of programs which seek to destroy
information without a substantive argument that such information is
worthless (i.e. a legitimate reason to erase information rather than simply
an unjustified assertion that one religion is right and another is wrong)
should be terminated, I would be willing to accept such a nomination.  Note
carefully, that I am *not* saying that the information potentially contained
in external programs should be erased (e.g. current forms of capital
punishment) -- I am simply saying that the execution of programs that would
intentionally erase information without a really good (proven) reason should
cease execution.

So, in some respects, I am throwing my glove down to the ExI board.  Either
you *are* or you are *not* extropic.  Harris has, in my mind, outlined the
problems with being a "tolerant" extropian.  The problem with that is that
it means transhumanism rules and extropianism falls.  In transhumansism
(using its most basic definitions) there is no moral compass.  One can
become transhuman along many vectors, some good, some bad.  With
extropianism, there is at least some guideline -- more information is good,
information destruction (entropy) is bad, allowing (or worse enabling) the
destruction of information is bad, etc..  This leads to the questions of
what paths will generate the most "good" information the soonest (perhaps
with the minimal destruction of *perceived* less useful information)  and
how does one deal with entirely unexplored paths (where the information gain
may have positive, neutral or negative consequences).


1. http://www.samharris.org/
2. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0393327655
3. End of Faith may be related to Jacoby's "Freethinkers : A History of
American Secularism", if Amazon is selecting things correctly...  See:
4. http://www.nysec.org/
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.extropy.org/pipermail/extropy-chat/attachments/20060109/4208c714/attachment.html>

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list