I don’t want to beat this issue to death, but I should draw attention to Matt Steinglass’s impressive take down of Sam Harris. It’s the type of argument that should be made more often. As I stated in my first post on the matter, Sam Harris gets some basic facts wrong. I recommend you read the post in its entirety, but here’s a highlight:
[Harris: But the consequences of moral relativism have been disastrous.] They have? Name a single disaster that has resulted from “moral relativism.” Couldn’t, could you?
Harris continues in this vein later on to ask: “How many Westerners can Sam Harris find who defend female genital excision?” These type of careless assertions are scattered throughout Harris’s work. Without them, Harris wouldn’t have much to say.
Take his TED talk. Starting at 10:25, Harris has the gall to say that “our intellectual community” generally doesn’t criticize the burqa or wife-beating in the Middle East. Really, Sam? What intellectual community do you live in? At around 13:45, Harris continues to say that religion is the reason we talk about gay marriage but not poverty or genocide. Again…really, Sam? Apparently Harris hasn’t heard of the numerous religious groups doing just that.
I actually made a much longer list of the childish errors in Harris’s talk, but compiling them all would have been tedious.
In addition to Steinglass above, I recommend Chris Carr’s great, if a bit dense and long, post at The Inductive.