Sam Harris Considers a Creator
Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction.
Mr. Harris' writing has been published in over ten languages. He and his work have been discussed in Newsweek, TIME, The New York Times, Scientific American, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Nature, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere.
Mr. Harris is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University and holds a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, where he studied the neural basis of belief with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). He is also a Co-Founder and CEO of Project Reason.
Question: Is there a possibility of a creator?
Sam Harris: Well there are many problems with this idea that . . . I mean first of all, that’s an unfalsifiable thesis. And there are infinite numbers of unfalsifiable theses that you’re not tempted to believe. And we could believe that we’re in the matrix. I mean you could go down that path. And there’s a lot that could be asserted by people who are sure we’re in the matrix, and some alien civilization is simulating us on their hard drive. One problem is that we have many holy books authored by the creator of the universe and they’re in conflict. You know, they’re not . . . The New Testament makes it perfectly clear that Jesus is the Son of God – really the Son of God – and you have to believe this. Otherwise you’re gonna spend eternity in hell. The Koran says twice that Jesus was not the Son of God. And anyone who believes he’s the Son of God will spend eternity in hell. I mean this leaves as much room or compromise as a coin toss. So let’s say we just knew that one of those claims was right. You know, we have a universe . . . Now we’ve eliminated all the other possibilities. We’re living in this challenging universe where God has given us a highly imperfect book and asked us to grapple with it. But now we have the biblical claim – the New Testament claim to the divinity of Jesus – the necessity of believing in that. And the Koranic claim that belief in Jesus’ identity leads to damnation. Now which is more likely? That one of those is right and the other is wrong? Or that we have these competing tribes that were toiling in the context of just abysmal ignorance about the world, and the birth of the cosmos, and the destiny of any individual soul after death. You know I would put my lot in with a wider view of the circumstance. But even if we granted your premise that, “No, no. There’s a good reason to believe that one of these books is perfect,” we’re still with a coin toss situation. We don’t know whether to be a Christian or a Muslim. And we’re noticing that people are . . . are choosing basically on the basis of accidents of birth. I mean you’re just accidentally born in Afghanistan and you choose to be a Muslim. And likewise with Christianity elsewhere. It is a . . . it’s a very strange sort of loving God who would have created these circumstances. By mere accident of birth, you are raised to believe that a certain book was . . . And let’s say rightly raised to believe that this book was the perfect book. But if you happen to be born in China, you know, you go for centuries without hearing about this. It’s a strange . . . a . . . for I think obvious reasons, a totally provincial and implausible scenario. And yet it’s the scenario that most people believe in the 21st century.
Recorded on: Jul 4 2007
Sam Harris refutes the notion of an intelligent creator.
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