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  • Well, good evening, London

  • Two weeks ago Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson

  • Met in person for the first time on stage in Vancouver

  • Two nights ago the three of us got together for the first time in Dublin and it's a huge thrill for all of us

  • To now be here with you in the o2

  • As I said to Travis when these events were planned I'm not moderate enough to be a moderator

  • But I'm going to do a little bit of

  • fielding to begin with

  • so

  • Let me start by saying a little of some of the ground. We are going to be trying to cover here tonight

  • We're going to be dealing with the conflict between science and reason

  • We're going to be addressing the legitimacy did I say science and reason

  • We're not addressing that

  • We're going to be looking at the legitimacy of holding on to religion in any form and

  • We are also going to be addressing the fact that we need to hide in a sports stadium

  • to address serious issues

  • But I think to begin with I'm going to hand over to Sam and he's going to kick us off properly

  • Thank you. And first thank you all for coming out. I you really can't imagine how humbling this is

  • Be here with you

  • You really just should just take a moment to appreciate this from our side because

  • Justin Bieber is not coming out to sing and in the middle of this as amusing as that would be

  • and you know though we

  • Put a date like this on the calendar with apparent confidence

  • There's really no guarantee that you guys are going to show up and we will never take this for granted

  • So it's really an immense privilege to be here with you. So

  • I thought I could start by

  • first acknowledging how fun this has been to have this these series of dialogues

  • With Jordan now, this is the fourth event. We've done and the second with Douglas and

  • We clearly share a common project we are trying to figure out how to live the best lives possible

  • both individually and collectively and we're trying to figure out how to

  • build societies

  • that safeguard that opportunity for as many people as possible and I think we each have a sense that

  • Ideas are really the prime movers here

  • That is it's not that the world is filled with bad people doing bad things because that's what bad people do

  • Oh, there's some of that it it is mostly that

  • So much of humanity is living under the sway of bad ideas

  • And it's bad ideas that can cause good people or at least totally normal people like ourselves

  • to do bad things all the while trying to to

  • Live the best possible lives and that really is the tragedy of our circumstance that we can be that confused

  • So this is where the difference between Jordan and and me in particular opens up

  • Which is how do you view religion in this in this contest of between good ideas and bad ideas and for me religion?

  • emphatically

  • gets placed on the side of bad and old and and

  • worth retiring ideas or ideas worth retiring and

  • I

  • Guess I but by analogy I would I would

  • Ask you to consider astrology right now Hannah. Maybe I can just get a sense of what I'm talking to

  • What percentage of you I want to know believe in astrology which is to say but who among you and you can signal this by?

  • by applause or howls of

  • Enthusiasm what what percentage of you let me just spell it out. So I know you know what you're committing to

  • And you know how crazy your neighbor is in fact

  • What percentage do you believe that human personalities and human events and the difference between good and bad luck and a human life is the

  • result of

  • What the planets are doing against the background of stars?

  • Let's hear it somebody out there

  • Okay, so then you should know that something like 25% of your your neighbors believe that

  • There you go, so the

  • I'm here. Wait, wait wait, I'm hearing I'm hearing a heckler among the astrologers is that

  • Is the FIR the first?

  • Astrological heckler I've heard haha

  • You must be an aries, sir

  • So it won't surprise you I have a related question which is

  • What

  • what percentage of you I want to know our

  • religious which is say well who among you believe in God a

  • Personal God a God that can hear prayers a God that can take an interest in the lives of human beings and occasionally

  • Enforce good outcomes versus bad outcomes

  • What who among you and now again, I want to hear applause or silence believe in it that sort of God

  • Okay, so this is my concern is my concern with with what Jordan has been saying and right in

  • lo these many months

  • I

  • Feel that you're in danger of misleading these the second group of people that the way you talk about God

  • has convinced and will continue to convince some percentage of humanity that

  • It's it's fine to hold on to this old sword of God this God that can hear prayers and they can intervene or not in

  • the lives of human beings

  • And you know as we've begun to explore that I think there are a lot of problems with that kind of belief

  • If nothing else there are many such gods on offer and there and and devotion to them it becomes irreconcilable among the true believers and

  • My concern is it you could do

  • Exactly what you do with religion with astrology, right? It would be it would be no more legitimate to to

  • Obfuscate the boundary between clear thinking and and

  • superstition there because

  • the

  • This traditional God and the and the doctrines that support him or are no firmer ground

  • Than astrology is now today an astrology

  • Almost everything you say about religion

  • It's the fact that his organized human thinking for thousands of years that it's a cultural Universal

  • that every every group of people has has given rise to some form of it that it has archetypal significance that it

  • has powerful stories all of that can be said about astrology and it and in fact some additional things can be said about

  • astrology that are would argue in its favor for instance astrology is

  • Profoundly egalitarian, you know, there's there's no bad zodiac sign every whoever you are. Everyone's got a great zodiac sign and

  • You know, it's just a inconvenient fact of the discipline that if I read you Charles Manson's horoscope

  • you know 95% of the audience would find it relevant and

  • and that's just that's how easily falsifiable stralla g is but

  • My concern is that we could live in a world

  • Where societies are shattered over things like, you know different zodiac

  • Interpretations and we don't live in that world for good reason because we have beaten

  • Astrology into submission and I would say that religion in terms of revealed religion and belief in a personal God

  • is over the centuries getting the same treatment by science and rationality and should be and it is a a

  • Preferred circumstance that we live in a world that is that is shattered by religion

  • So, I think what I'll do first is adopt the

  • Exceptionally difficult and likely counterproductive position of saying something

  • Not so much in defense of religion, but in defense of astrology

  • knowing

  • knowing full well that that's fundamentally a fool's errand but there's something I want to point out is that

  • First of all

  • Astrology

  • was astronomy in its nascent form and

  • astrology was also science in its nascent form just like alchemy was chemistry in its nascent form and

  • so sometimes

  • You have to dream a crazy dream

  • with all of the error that that crazy dream entails

  • Because you have an intuition that there's something there

  • To motivate you to develop the intuition to the point where it actually becomes of genuine practical utility

  • now when we look back on the astrologers and

  • we view their contributions to the history of the world with

  • contempt we should also remember that the people who built Stonehenge for example, and the first people who decided

  • determined that our fates were in part written in the stars were people whose

  • Astrological beliefs were indistinguishable from their astronomical beliefs and you might think well in what sense is your fate?

  • written in the Stars and I would say

  • It's certainly the case insofar as there are such things as cosmic regularities

  • so it was the dream of

  • astrology that there was some relationship between the movement of the planetary bodies and the fixed stars and

  • Human destiny and that's what drove us to build the first

  • astronomical

  • observatories and to also determine that there was a proper time for planting and a proper time for

  • Harvesting and a way of orienting yourself in the world for example by using the north

  • It's also the poetic

  • ground that enabled us to identify the notion that you could look up and orient yourself towards the heavens and that there was a

  • Metaphorical relationship between that and positioning yourself properly in life and at a deeper level

  • The the the cosmos was the place that the human imaginative drama was

  • Externalized and draped itself out into the world as something that was essentially observable so that we could derive great

  • orienting fictions from the observation of our imagination and so

  • Part of the problem that that Sam is pointing to is the difficulty of distinguishing

  • Valid poetic impulse from invalid poetic impulse and that really is a tremendous problem

  • You you see that arise also in people who have religious delusions attendant upon manic depressive disorder or schizophrenia

  • but so much of what eventually

  • Manifests itself is hard core pragmatic scientific belief has its origin in wild flights of poetic

  • Fantasy and it's also the case by the way that that's actually how your brain is organized

  • As far as I can tell that when you and and it isn't just me. I actually it's it's there's a very large

  • What would you call it research literature?

  • Outlining the relative functions of the right and left hemisphere and it certainly appears to be the case that when we encounter something. Absolutely

  • unknowable or unknown

  • What we do is drape that unknown thing in fantasy as a first pass

  • approximation to the truth and then refine that fantasy as a consequence of

  • Iterative critical analysis and so Sam believes that what should happen

  • Is that the the poetic and fictional domain should be some planted by the rational domain?

  • Well, let me just close the loop there

  • it's not quite I think we we need poetry and fiction and then there's there's more to engage in with reality than being a

  • Scientist in a white lab coat, but we need to be able to clearly distinguish

  • fact from fantasy or fact from mere merely fertile flights of the imagination and

  • we want to be rigorous there and rational there and it's not that it's not that there's no place or

  • Mere creativity. That's not well, I guess well

  • then the rails of rationality look fair enough then but I mean then then partly what we are disputing is the the relevant the

  • What the relative import and the of those two domains?

  • Let's say the heretic and the fictional and the rational and status of religion now in that

  • Well, I have a hard time reconciling that to some degree with your with your more

  • What would you say formal statements about the problem?

  • because your mechanism the mechanism that you put forth above all outside of truth is

  • Rationality and it isn't clear to me if you're willing to allow the utility of spiritual experience

  • which you do and and and if you're willing to make

  • What would you say allowances for the necessity of the poetic imagination?

  • exactly how it is that that is also

  • Encapsulated under the rubric of pure rationality see

  • Let's see and here's something you can tell me what you think about this

  • And I've been thinking a lot about what Sam and I have been talking about by the way, you know

  • So I'm making the case in my writing that the democratic institutions not only grew out of the judeo-christian substrate

  • but that their that that they're properly ensconced within that substrate, but I'm also perfectly aware that

  • not every religious or poetic system gives rise to democratic institutions first and also that there are

  • Christian

  • Sub structures may be the most obviously in the case of the Russian Orthodox Church. Where the same

  • metaphysical principles apply but out of which a democracy did not emerge and so it does seem to me that

  • what we have in the West is the consequence of the interplay between the

  • fantasy predicated poetic

  • judeo-christian tradition and the

  • rational critique that was aimed at that by the

  • Enlightenment figures and that seems to me to mirror something like the proper balance between the right hemisphere and its poetic imagination

  • and the left hemisphere and it's critical capacity and

  • Then I would say that part of the way so one of the questions you brought up was. How do we

  • Decide which let's say religious in

  • Intuitions are valid and I think we do that in part through

  • negotiated agreement, you know because people have

  • Look even even among the Catholics say in the medieval time. There was an absolute horror of heresy

  • So if you were some mendicant monk

  • And you had a profound religious vision?

  • the probability that you were going to be tried as a heretic and burnt at the stake was extremely high because even the

  • gatekeepers of the religious tradition realized that

  • religious revelation untrammeled by

  • Something like community dialogue something like that was something extraordinary

  • Danger and so I would agree with you that

  • The poetic imagination and the ground of religious revelation is something that can lead people dangerously astray

  • But I would say at the same time that it constitutes the grounds of our initial exploration and that it's actually in a radically necessary

  • Okay, well briefly address that and I want to ask a question that brings Douglas directly in here

  • I I think this is an instance of what's called the genetic fallacy the idea that because

  • Something emerged the way it did historically

  • As a matter of historical contingency, it is the the the the origin is in fact good and worth maintaining

  • or that it was in fact necessary that we couldn't get these good things like democracy any other way or were unlikely to and I

  • Would say that that there's no Abrahamic religion

  • That is the best conceivable womb of democracy or anything else

  • We like science that were a great place to get Douglass involved so it but but I would just add one other category of

  • Thinking here we have what we think is factual and

  • Methods by which we derive facts and I would put rationality there and an empirical engagement with with reality

  • then we have

  • other good things in life like

  • Fiction and and flights of fancy that are pleasing for one reason or another and could be generative

  • toward the first category, but then we also have

  • I know I would acknowledge we've spoken about this before

  • Useful fictions and cases I would you know, hope rare cases where where fiction is

  • more adaptive or more useful than the truth right that there's a

  • Sometimes the truth can can be not worth knowing and I would argue that they you know, there are those cases

  • Okay

  • But they're not so they're few and far between but we should focus on that but some degree of so

  • I wanted to point to Douglas here and focus on that because I think your fear Douglas is that

  • my style or you know, Richard Dawkins or style or Christopher Hitchens a style of

  • Anti theism, you know, just let's let's just throw the vicar's from the rooftops now because it's time to end this thing

  • Literally get off Twitter now. But yeah

  • That's a hashtag. Yeah. Yes

  • Your concern has been that

  • And I think what Jordan shares this that that so much of what is good in our Western developed societies?

  • is

  • The very least maintained by mayn't maintaining

  • so-called

  • Judeo-christian values or the or the remnants of our past religiosity and that you know

  • there is a baby in the bath water that can be difficult to discern and

  • We can to empty the tub all at once because and this is very much of because there's a zero-sum

  • Contest with the the religious enthusiasm. We see coming from the Muslim world