Tag Archives: Neuroscience

William Lane Craig on Sam Harris’ attempt to ground morality with science

William Lane Craig is going to be debating atheist Sam Harris in April, so I thought that I would link to a couple of resources in which Craig assesses Harris’ views. Harris thinks that you can use science to discover an objective morality. Does his view make sense?

Here’s an audio clip from Youtube:

And in this MP3 file, Craig assesses Harris’ attempt to grounded morality on naturalism.


  • Harris opposes ground moral values and moral duties on a theistic worldview
  • Harris thinks that the factual statements made by science can ground moral values and moral duties
  • Harris thinks that these findings of science lead to an objective morality
  • Harris’ view is that what is “good” is what contributes to “human well-being”
  • Human happiness and flourishing is “good” and human unhappiness and decline is “evil”
  • Craig agrees that science can show what factors contribute to human flourishing
  • On atheism, there is no reason to select the fourishing of human beings as “good”
  • Craig asks: why say that human well-being and flourishing is a moral good?
  • there are non-moral uses of the word “good” and moral uses of the word “good”
  • the moral sense of “good” refers to the “good life” and what we ought to do to be good
  • Harris equivocates between different uses of the word good
  • in chess, there are good moves and bad moves with respect to winning the game – but that’s not moral good
  • similarly, someone who cleans your yard can do a good job or a bad job – but that’s not moral good
  • what is the explanation, on atheism, for human flourishing having the moral dimension of being “good”?
  • how does Harris deal with the fact-value divide? (the fallacy of deriving an ought from an is)
  • how does Harris leap from facts about brains to the moral property of “goodness”?
  • what scientific experiments does Harris propose to show that human flourishing is the “good”?
  • is Harris’ view just utilitarianism? (the view that the good is whatever makes the most number of people happy)
  • can Harris ground human rights like the right to life on his view?
  • Can human rights be overridden if it makes lots of people happy, on Harris’ view?
  • does Harris’ view lead to eugenics? how could Harris oppose the elimination of the weak or undesirables?

I think the question that Sam Harris has to answer is this: on atheism, why should a person limit their own pursuit of happiness when they can be more happy by being selfish and spurning the “flourishing of humans”? Why should any individual atheist care about the flourishing of humans when self-sacrificial actions to improve the flourishing of others diminishes his own happiness?

You can hear even more about Harris’ views from New Zealand philosopher Glenn Peoples.