Jerry Coyne let me know that Sam Harris sent him a reply to my review of his book. This reply has been published over at Why Evolution is True.
As I said yesterday, I'm having a frantic week - and I'll be pretty solidly away from my computer all next week - so I don't know when or how I'm going to be able to respond to this, or even think about it. Meanwhile, in fairness to Harris you might want to see what he has to say. I'll get back to it when I can; I'll try to get to it in the next couple of days, but we'll see.
I'll still have enough computer access throughout to pop in and moderate the blog, so don't stop commenting here.
Mr. Blackford, just wanted to say thanks for actually approving my rather blunt comments. Since I am in full realization that you could not have. So anywho, thanks.
Not many people actually get banned here. It usually takes rather more than mere disagreement (e.g. a record of getting too personal; I'm not interested in comments on my allegedly bad character, narrow life experience, suspect motivations, lack of credibility, or whatever).
In fact, the last person more or less declared himself banned. He's still welcome to comment here as far as I'm concerned.
I think I already know your answer: there is no evidence that "well being is actually what people care about."
But well-being is so incredibly broadly construed- the only positive statement I see Harris taking a stand on is that it's about the change in experience of conscious creatures.
And I think there really is evidence for culture-transcendent facts that people really do care about- there is an aversion to famine, a desire for a minimally stimulative environment so as to preserve fundamental mental health. etc. etc. and variation, such as the taliban disagreeing, is still something an underlying objectivity can account for.
Just like weather, which is always different in different places, sometimes even from one hour to the next, there are still lawful rules beneath the patters- the water cycle, the atmosphere etc that account for the variation.
I think a reference to this kind of complexity does much to absorb what would be counterpoints to Harris' argument.
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