Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sam Harris vs. Andrew Sullivan

I see that Professor Oliver has a link on the Next thread about the email "debate" between Harris and Sullivan. It is phenomenal.

Sullivan is an oftentimes excellent writer, but the stunning amount of compartmentalization that he musters in defense of Catholicism is simply amazing. It's like a weird Stockholm Syndrome. He has also gotten into a few rhetorical dust-ups with Jerry Coyne, in which he shows some epic capacity for cognitive dissonance.

But seriously, the email debate with Sullivan is one of my favorite exchanges ever. Love it.


  1. Yes, Sam's quick on his keys. For instance:

    You have also made the false charge that I think religious people are “fools” or “idiots.” Needless to say, I do not think Blaise Pascal was an idiot (nor do I think you are, for that matter). But I do consider certain ideas idiotic, and idiotic ideas can occasionally be found rattling around the brains of extraordinarily intelligent people. One of the horrors of religious dogmatism is that it can produce a Pascal—a brilliant man who was irretrievably self-deceived on matters of profound importance.


    ...you admit that your notion of God is “preposterous” and then say that you never suggested I should find it otherwise. You acknowledge the absurdity of faith, only to treat this acknowledgement as a demonstration of faith’s underlying credibility. While I have yet to see you successfully pull yourself up by your bootstraps in this way, I have watched you repeatedly pull yourself down by them.
    You want to have things both ways: your faith is reasonable but not in the least bound by reason; it is a matter of utter certainty, yet leavened by humility and doubt; you are still searching for the truth, but your belief in God is immune to any conceivable challenge from the world of evidence. I trust you will ascribe these antinomies to the paradox of faith; but, to my eye, they remain mere contradictions, dressed up in velvet.