Investigating the Moral Landscape: Knowledge systems, authority and a better way forward?

Watch the above TED Talk by Sam Harris titled, “Science can answer moral questions” and consider the following: 

  1. Summarize his thesis in 1-3 sentences
  2. What are the strengths of Harris’ argument?
  3. What are the weaknesses of Harris’ argument?
  4. Ok, so lets say you agree with all he has to say, where does that leave us? What are next steps?

The Red Scare and Fear as Control


Fear is indeed a tool of political control.  The question is the degree to which the marketing of fear and subsequent exploitation is purposeful.

There are some very famous examples of purposeful exploitation of fear for political control and personal gain.  I’m sure Hitler comes to mind, as he should. However after this learning activity, two more should come to mind.

Download and complete the learning helper below and be ready to discuss at length next class!

Red Scare and Fear as Control

What to do about ISIS?


ISIS is horrible. Evil. Terrible and Destructive. 

But no one debates this fact. What they do debate is what to do about it?  Will putting troops on the ground and initiating a massive offensive against the group and the land they hold be akin to attacking hitler after his annexation of Austria? Or, will the result be more similar to the Iraq war–creating a power vacuum that makes matters worse? 

The article below by Graham Wood of the Atlantic in incredibly thorough and comprehensive. If you’re curious about who ISIS is, what they want and what to do about them, read this article:

ISIS, ISLAM and Atheism … How to nurture tolerance in the face of Intolerable Ideas?

James Foley, beheaded by ISIS militants

ISIS is horrible. The Islamic State is horribly intolerant, violent, and oppressive. There is no doubting this unless you are a fellow Islamic extremist.

Read this EXCELLENT primer on ISIS by Graeme Wood from The Atlantic (world’s greatest magazine) below:

Further Interesting and relevant information is linked below for your intellectual development:

The question is then, what is the responsibility of non-extremist Muslims in regard to combating this ideology?  What is the responsibility of non Muslims in combating this ideology? 

Recently, a massive debate has been sparked on this very issue by comedian and political pundit Bill Maher, Actor/Director Ben Affleck, Intellectual and famous Atheist Sam Harris, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

See the links below to get up to speed:

University professor and Muslim Resa Aslan on what the “new atheists” get wrong about Islam:

Mr. Kristof’s response to the drama:

Sam Harris Response to the Drama:

This brings up innumerable ideas, questions, comments and musings…however here are a few to focus our discussion: 

  1. If a knowledge system leads to extreme violence and oppression, is that knowledge system wrong? 
  2. Was Bill Maher Wrong?  Was Bill Maher Right? 
  3. What’s the difference between belief systems and religion?
  4. Are there violent religions or just violent people? 
  5. What is the logical relationship between ideas and behavior?