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Science can Answer Moral Questions

Sam Harris | 23:37


I'm gonna speak today about the relationship between science and human values. Now it's, it's generally understood that that questions of moral. Questions of good and evil and right and wrong are questions about which science officially has no opinion. It's, it's, it's thought that science can, can help us get what we value, but it can never tell us what we ought to value.

And, and consequently, most people, I think most people probably hear, think that science will never answer the most important questions in human life. Questions like, what is worth living for? What is worth dying for? What, what constitutes a good. So I'm gonna argue that this is an illusion. The separation between science and human values is an illusion and actually quite a dangerous one at this point in human history.

Now, it's often said that science cannot give us a foundation for morality and human values because science deals with and facts and values seem to belong to different spheres. It's often thought that there's no description of the way the world is. . They can tell us how the world ought to be, but I think this is quite clearly untrue.

But values are a certain kind of fact. Okay? They, they are facts about the wellbeing of conscious creatures. Why is it that we don't have ethical obligations toward rocks? Why don't we feel compassion for rocks? It's because we don't think rocks can suffer. And if we're more concerned about our fellow primates than we are about insects, as indeed we.

It's because we think they're exposed to a greater range of potential happiness and suffering. Now, the crucial thing to notice here is that this is a factual claim. This is something we could be right or wrong about. I if we've misconstrued the relationship between biological complexity and the possibilities of experience, well then we could be wrong about the inner lives of insects.

Okay? And there, there is no notion, no version of human morality and, and human values that I've ever come. That is not at some point reducible to a concern about conscious experience. And its possible changes. Even if you get your values from religion, even if you think that good and evil ultimately relate to conditions after death, either to an eternity of happiness with God or an eternity of suffering in hell, you are still concerned about consciousness and its changes.

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