I came across this excellent and thoughtful critique of Sam Harris (and in passing the members of the so-called ‘intellectual dark web’ that he belongs to) by someone who identifies himself as T1J. The title of the video is Why I Stopped Idolizing Sam Harris and, as the author explains, “While I don’t hate Sam Harris like some other progressives, he has stopped being the intellectual hero that he once was in my eyes.” The video explains the reasons for that disenchantment. The video is 23 minutes long but is so well done that I did not notice the time passing.
Like T1J, I too liked Harris when I first encountered him but over time I too became very disenchanted by the fact that his coherent atheist beliefs were either overwhelmed by, or being used in the service of, his quite reactionary political views. As T1J perceptively says at the very end:
“A lot of progressives have a very negative view of Sam Harris. I think this is in large part due to his unwillingness or inability to express himself in a concise way, making it very easy for people to interpret his ideas as bigoted or maniacal. I think that when you take the time to carefully process the things he’s said over the years, it becomes obvious that he is not some crazy racist. But you shouldn’t have to analyze multiple podcasts and dozens of hours of videos in order to decide whether or not someone is a bigot. Maybe it’s you, Sam. But even if he isn’t a racist, the vague and loose way he considers things like Islam and race science do more harm than good to the discourse surrounding them by providing pseudo-intellectual ammo to the weapons of actual racists… He’s a guy who seems to be driven entirely by his own personal principles and his own perspective and he seems unconcerned with how his ideas might affect others. He is a person that’s been right so often that I think somewhere down the line he lost the capacity to conceive of the possibility of him being wrong.”
Harris is notorious for reacting angrily to any criticisms, accusing detractors of dishonesty and evil intent (sentiments that are echoed by his numerous followers), something that is enabled by what I have called the ‘Harris two-step’, a style of argumentation that he unfortunately shares with Charles Murray. I have no doubt that T1J will encounter the same hostile reaction and at the very end of his video he seems resigned to it.