3 min read

Sam Harris Is the New 'Smart Asshole'

Smart assholes are a problem in today’s society. It seems like stupidity has no borders, and even people that are perfectly capable of performing in some fields (literature, brain surgery, etc) are completely hopeless in others (being a member of society). Bill Maher does a bit on this.

I’m fascinated by this. In my own experience, I’ve had brilliant discussions with people, making valid points, until we get to gun rights, or abortion, or immigration - and they unleash the crazy. Brain surgery is very, very complex and in my mind, someone capable of grasping it should be able to see religion as something with severe flaws and drawbacks.

That brings me to Sam Harris, a prominent voice of the so-called New Atheism movement. I had heard good things about him online, and I went as far as buying his book “Waking Up”, since like most Western people approaching middle-age, I thirst for meaning. The book was mostly “meh” (3 stars on Goodreads) but that was it for me. But recently Noam Chomsky reached his 87th birthday, and I found myself on a reddit thread discussing his would-be successor. Sam Harris was brought up (along with David Graeber) and people started losing their minds, pointing to stuff like certain clips from his podcast and complete works of crazy. The podcast bit is the typical justification for repeating errors of the past, but the article on guns is truly mind-boggling. Here’s an excerpt:

Like most gun owners, I understand the ethical importance of guns and cannot honestly wish for a world without them. I suspect that sentiment will shock many readers. Wouldn’t any decent person wish for a world without guns? In my view, only someone who doesn’t understand violence could wish for such a world. A world without guns is one in which the most aggressive men can do more or less anything they want. It is a world in which a man with a knife can rape and murder a woman in the presence of a dozen witnesses, and none will find the courage to intervene.

This makes so very little sense, and I won’t even bother to enumerate the reasons why. Once again, I’m fascinated by the sheer amount of stupid in someone that, on the surface, appears intelligent. Fascinated, and also a bit saddened when the other faction (the anti-rationals) has guys like Harris on their side. More and more, it seems like dialogue with individuals with nothing more than a hunger for exclusion and hate in their minds is becoming an impossibility. Intellectuals should hold themselves to a higher standard. Listen to Noam on this:

I don’t know where this will lead, but it seems that for now, hate is winning. Can we get our mojo back, as a species, anytime soon?