Sam Harris vs. Scott Atran – Hate vs. Science
As I started to enter the then brand-new field of evolutionary studies of religiosity and religions, I was frequently warned about religious fundamentalists objecting to anyone exploring religious experiences and beliefs from an evolutionary perspective. And, yes, some of them pop up now and then, claiming that "evolution is bad science" and "evolutionists are atheists by necessity" etc.
But what I wasn't warned about and what I feel to be a really sad experience are those antitheists being prejudiced against religion(s) in such a strong way that they lose the very open-mindedness required from any real scientist.
As a nice tweet got it: "The deep biological roots of religion need to be understood; they can't simply be wished away."
Some serious scientists such as Susan Blackmore got it ("Why I no longer believe that religion is a Virus of the Mind"). Others such as Sam Harris don't even try.
Instead, Harris has long embarked on his personal, antitheist crusade against Islam and religious Muslims, denouncing anyone daring to speak against a black-and-white worldview. Now, renowned anthropologist Scott Atran was attacked by Harris with another islamophobic rant grossly misrepresenting Atran's scientifc work and arguments:
"I have long struggled to understand how smart, well-educated liberals can fail to perceive the unique dangers of Islam. In The End of Faith, I argued that such people don’t know what it’s like to really believe in God or Paradise—and hence imagine that no one else actually does. The symptoms of this blindness can be quite shocking. For instance, I once ran into the anthropologist Scott Atran after he had delivered one of his preening and delusional lectures on the origins of jihadist terrorism. According to Atran, people who decapitate journalists, filmmakers, and aid workers to cries of “Alahu akbar!” or blow themselves up in crowds of innocents are led to misbehave this way not because of their deeply held beliefs about jihad and martyrdom but because of their experience of male bonding in soccer clubs and barbershops."
Thankfully, though, Scott Atran answered this aggressive rant with a text I gladly approved for "Evolution: This View of Life". But as with religious creationists, there is a sad price of time and efforts to be paid thwarting those trying to intimidate science towards prejudices and hateful, pre-democratic politics.
ETVOL exclusive: Scott Atran answering Sam Harris on Islam & Suicide Attacks