I really, really don't want this blog seeming to become a sort of anti-Sam-Harris blog. I actually have a lot of admiration for Sam, and indeed a certain amount of gratitude to him for his absolutely crucial contribution to opening up public debate on religion. He was as instrumental as anyone in creating an environment where it is now much easier for critics of religion to have their say and obtain an audience. Indeed, his efforts, along with those of Richard Dawkins and a few others, did much to make books like 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists possible.
I do think that Gnu Atheism should not be hitched to the dubious (as I see them) philosophical positions of moral realism and utilitarianism (or anything that too closely resembles it). Also, as I mentioned again recently, this blog was always meant to defend certain philosophical positions, including a form of moral scepticism, in the sense in which J.L. Mackie considered himself a moral sceptic.
Because Harris is currently defending philosophical positions in metaethics and normative theory that I don't agree with, and which run counter to my own views on these things, I guess I'll go on addressing some of his arguments. For better or worse, most of my readers are more likely to encounter these arguments in a book like The Moral Landscape than in philosophical journals or books from academic presses, so I'm more likely to criticise the formulations we see from Harris. But I don't want this to seem like some kind of vendetta or a feud between us or something (I certainly hope it doesn't look that way to him). As far I'm concerned, we're allies. When you step back, we're trying to achieve similar goals. Our agendas overlap to a very great extent.
I'm tending to think that I'll still come back to some of the arguments in the book, several of which get repeated in the recent post at Why Evolution is True, but without kind of continuing line by line through that post. The post doesn't have a lot that's new, and the book has more detailed and definitive versions of the arguments. I do want to address the idea that we are no less able to make objectively binding first-order thin moral judgments than we are able to get objectively true theoretical claims via scientific inquiry. Harris has been making this claim, or something like it, for some time now, and I didn't mention it in the JET review of the book. To be honest, I don't think it's a good argument, or even superficially plausible, and I couldn't deal with everything even in 6000+ words. Nonetheless, I think it's worth saying something about it, partly because the argument does raise interesting questions about the nature of science, and partly because Harris seems to put a lot of weight on it.
With a period of intermittent blogging coming up, I probably won't be able to get to this issue for a couple of weeks, but it seemed worthwhile signalling that I still intend to ... and to say something more general about all this.