Sam Harris on Spirituality, Minus Religion or God

This Saturday, host Matthew LaClair speaks with neuroscientist, philosopher, and author Sam Harris on his upcoming book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.  Mr. Harris is the author of books including Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, and the NY Times bestseller The End of Faith. He is also cofounder and CEO of Project Reason, “a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society.” Mr. Harris’ new book, Waking Up, is a personal, rational, and scientific exploration of the benefits of meditation, without the myths, stories, and theistic assumptions typically attached to such practices.  Throughout the book, Harris challenges the notion of “self,” arguing that such a feeling is an illusion, rather than the only state of being conscious.  It is both an attempt to better understand the nature of being, and to explore ways in which we may improve the quality of our lives.

Patricia Churchland: Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain

The human experience, and the ‘self’, is so rich it must be produced by some transcendent being, some ultimate self that goes beyond the physical body, or so it is claimed.  How else can spiritual experience and deep emotion be explained?  Can they all be products of the brain?

It turns out that by studying the brain, scientists have gained profound understandings of much of human nature.  The brain really is capable of generating the rich, varied human experiences we call ‘spirituality’.  But that fact challenges our ideas about who and what we are.  If our ‘selves’ are “just” the product of some physical mechanism, even one as complex as the brain, are we really robust human beings?

Patricia Churchland, professor emerita at the University of California, San Diego, teaches neurophilosophy.  She’s accustomed to tackling the big philosophical questions with respect to the brain, and has become comfortable with the idea that our ‘selves’ really are our brains.  She’ll discuss these questions and more on this brain-twisting episode of ETFF!