Be wary of the righteous rationalist: We should reject

Sam Harris's claim that science can be a moral guidepost


By John Horgan

Say what you will about Sam Harris, the man's got guts. In The End of Faith (W. W. Norton, 2005) and Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf, 2006), Harris, a neuroscientist, rejects the notion that science and religion can coexist. We can't believe in science, Harris says, and still believe in supernatural beings that part seas, resurrect dead people and keep tabs on our naughtiness and niceness.

Harris slams nonbelieving apologists for religion such as the late biologist Stephen Jay Gould. With typical rhetorical grandiosity, Gould proposed that science and religion need not conflict because they are "nonoverlapping magisteria" that address separate realms of existence. Science tells us what is, religion what should be. Given all the crimes committed in religion's name, Harris retorts, why would anyone look to it for moral guidance?


          Cross-check: Be wary of the righteous rationalist