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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 14, 2010 4:00pm-5:00pm EST

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[applauding] .. very much. [applause] i love the national book festival and i am happy to be here this year as an offer. , have spent most of my life surrounded by books. i was an avid reader as the child. my mother and i were regular fixtures at the midland county public library which was a magical place not only with thousands of books but because it was in a basement which was a very exotic place for west texas. going to the library was the only time i ever got to go underground. i continued my love of books through college, elementary school teaching, dallas and houston, graduate school, science and as a public library and in houston and school library in austin.
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i have made a career out of my love of books and helps spread that love i helped found the texas book festival and the national book festival. but while i love reading and never thought i would write a book. certainly not one about myself but in george's eight years in office to a close publishers began calling asking when i was going to write a mr >> i realized there was a lot i wanted to say. our first decade of the century was consequential as any time in our history. we lived through the most vicious attack in our homeland in our nation. in a minute i'm going to read you something about that. george and i cried with the grieving families, and we prayed with the nation, and we never forgot that day for the rest of his time in office, and we'll never forget it for the rest of
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our lives. i met so many of the brave men and women who volunteered to defend our country, and risked and gave their lives so the rest of us may never know trr again. -- terror again. i met the voices for freedom and the former czech president and the great intellectual in play wright who was imprisoned by the communists, but never gave up his hope for freedom. when the iron curtain fell, he stepped up to lead his country, and he's still speaking out on behalf of the oppressed. i met the dally llama from tibet. it was the first year women were granted the right to vote. i met women in afghanistan who could not leave their houses
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alone, who had their fingernails pulled off if they wore fingernail polish. their lives are changing. i wanted to give voice to the remarkable people and share these experiences with others, and i wanted to remember the many wonderful people i met here at home, the volunteers from the red cross and the men who drove all night to the storm ravaged gulf coast after katrina to cook meals for those in need and stayed for months helping the people there rebuild, or the coast guard volunteers who rescued some 30,000 people stranded after the hurricane struck. i wanted to tell the days the spent with the young men in our cities and towns, many of whom were exgang members trying to turn their lives around. i was never prouder as when part
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of my own helping america's youth initiative, i was able to welcome a group of exgang members from l.a. to the white house, the same house where we hosted the queen of england and the pope on his birthday. the more i thought about it, the more i realized that i had some great stories to tell even about the great easter egg caper at the 2006 easter egg roll where, well, if you want to know what happened in that story, i think i'll let you wait and read it in my book. [laughter] i had so many wonderful memories to share about the white house, stories about our live there and about our families, and obviously, many of my happiest and endearing memories are of the national book festival. i remember from each of the eight festivals i attended during our time in the white house.
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i remember talking with my favorite authors and hosting at the second national festival and association basketball players and the beautiful dinners and author's coffees on the white house in the saturday mornings and so many more happy memories, but i especially recall that first book festival, september 8, 2001. it was a magnificent day, sunny with a beautiful blue sky, just the kind of weather we had hoped for. friends came from around the country to stay with george and me at the white house. over 40 friends came from austin, all who worked with me on the texas book festival. i remember how patiently the festival goers waited in line to meet their favorite authors. that first festival was everything we had hoped for and
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more. three days later, our world changed. since we're here in the history tent, i thought i'd read from my book a little bit that day that changed our world. tuesday morning, september 11th was sunny and warm, the sky brilliant, serene and blue. my friends who came to visit had flown home, and even george was gone in florida on a school visit. i had what i considered a big day planned. i was set to arrive at the capitol at 9:15 to brief the senate education committee chaired by ed war m. kennedy -- edward m. kennedy on the early
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chillhood conference that i held in july. in the early african-american we were -- afternoon we were hosting the entire senate and the lawn was covered with picnic tables, and tom from buffalo gap, texas, was setting up his chuck wagons. our entertainment was great. i was very nervous about appearing before a senate committee and having news cameras trained on me. had the tv been turned on, i might have heard the first fleeting report of a plane hitting the north tower of the world trade center. instead, it was the head of my secret service detail, ron sprinkle who leaned over and whispered the news in my ear after i entered the car a few
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minutes after 9 a.m.. the domestic policy adviser and i speculated on what could have happened. a small plane maybe, running into one of those massive towers on that beautiful morning. we were driving up pennsylvania avenue that word came that the south tower had been hit. the car fell silent. we sat in disblear. one plane might be a strange accident, two planes were clearly an attack. i thought about george and wondered if the secret service had hustled him to the motorcade and began to go to air force one to return home. 10 minutes later at 9:16 a.m. we pulled up to the entrance of the building. in the time i took to drive less than two minutes between the white house and the capitol, the world as i knew it had changed.
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senator kennedy was waiting to greet me. we both knew when we met that the towers had been hit and without a word being spoken, we knew there would be no briefing that morning. together, we walked a short distance to his office. he began by presenting me with a limited edition print, a vase of bright daffodils, a copy of the painting he created for his wife victoria and given to her on her wedding day. the print was inscribed to me and dated september 11th, 2001. an old television was turned on in a corner of the room, and i glanced over to see the smoke billowing from the twin towers. senator kennedy kept his eyes averted from the screen and led me on a tour of his office pointing out various pictures, furniture, pieces of memorabilia and framed notes his brother sent to his mother as a child in
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which he wrote teddy is getting fat. [laughter] the senator who outlived all his brothers by more than 40 years laughed at the note as he showed it to me still finding it amusing. all the while i glanced over at the glowing television screen. my skin was starting to crawl. i wanted to leave to find out what was going on, to process what i was seeing, but i felt trapped in an endless cycle. it did not occur to me to say, senator kennedy, what about the towers? i simply followed his lead, and he may have feared if we actually began, i might dissolve into tears. ?asht judd greg of the new hampshire, the ranking republican on the crete and a good friend, arrived just as i
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was completing the tour. we were invited to sit on the couches as he chatted about anything other than the images on tv. i looked around the shoulder, but saw very little. i was still trying to pay attention to him and the threat of his conversation. it seemed completely unreal sitting in this elegant sun-lit office as an immense tragedy unfolded. we sat as human beings driven by smoke, flame, and searing heat jerked from the tops of the towers to end their lives, and as firemen in full gear began the climb up the tower stairs. i've wondered if the small talk that morning was ted's defense mechanism. if after so much tragedy, the combat death of his oldest brother in world war ii, the assassinations of his brothers and death of nephews including
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john jr. whose body he identified when pulled from the cold waters, if after all those things he could not look upon another grievance tragedy. about 9:45 after george made a brief statement to the nation which we watched clustered around a small television perched on the desk, ted kennedy, judd greg and i walked out to tell reporters that my briefing had been postponed. i said, you heard from the president this morning and senator kennedy and senator greg and i joined his statement. our hearts and our prayers go out to the victims of this act of terrorism, and that owrp support goes to the rescue workers, and all of our prayers are with everyone there right now. as i turned to exit, lawrence mcquillen of usa today said,
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children are struck by this, is there a message you could tell the nation? parents need to reassure their children everywhere in the country that they are safe. as we walked out of the briefing room, the advanceman rang and a friend told him cnn was reporting an airplane crashed into the pentagon. within minute, the order given to evacuate the white house would be given. the secret service decided to take me temporarily to their head quarters located in a nondisscript federal office building a few blocks from the white house. their offices were reenforced to sustain a large scale blast. outside our windows, the city streets were clogged with people
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evacuating. in the time i reached my motorcade, flight 93 crashed into a pennsylvania field on the west side of the pentagon had begun to collapse. in the intervening years, senator judd and i and others were left to con -- come template what if flight 93 wasn't forced down? what if shortly after 10 a.m. it had reached the capitol dome? walking through the hallways at the secret service building, u say a sign with the emergency number 9-1-1. had the terrorists thought about this when they picked the day and planned and emergency so overwhelming? i sat in an office area off the conference room silently watching the images on television. i watched the replay of the south tower roared with sound
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and collapsed into a silent plume offering my personal prayer to god to receive the victims with open arms. the tour had sent some 1500 souls and 110 stories of concrete buckling to the ground. inside secret service head quarters i asked my staff to call their families and i called my girls whisked away by secret service agents to secure locations. in osen, jenna was awaken by an agent pounding on her dorm door and another student was sobbing uncontrollably a few doors down at yale. i called my mother then because i want the her to know that i was safe and i wanted so much to hear the sound of her voice. late in the afternoon, we got word that the president was
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returning to washington. at 6:30 we got in the secret service caravan to drive to the white house. i gazed out the window, the city had taken on a cast of an abandoned movie set and the sun was shining but the streeting were deserted. there wasn't a person on the sidewalk or vehicles on the street. there was no sound at all except the roll of wheels over the ground. by 7:30 we were on the way up to the residence. i had no memory of having eaten dinner. george may have eaten on the plane. he tried to call the girls, but couldn't reach them. bar bra called -- barbara called back at 8 and we gave remarks to the nation. we finally climbed into the bed that night exhausted and drained. outside the doors of the resident the secret service stood at their usual post.
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i could feel george staring into the darkness beside me and then i heard a man screaming mr. president, mr. president, you got to get up, the white house is under attack. we jumped up and i grabbed a robe and stuck my feet into my slippers, but i didn't stop to put on my contacts. george grabbed barnny and i grabbed kitty. george wanted to take the elevator, but the agents didn't think it was safe. we had to di send flight after flight of stairs to the state floor, the ground floor, and below while i held george's hand because i couldn't see anything. my heart was pounding, and all i could do is count landings trying to count off in my head how many more floors we had to go. when we reached, i saw the outline of a military aid unfolding the ancient bed and
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putting on sheets. at that moment, another agent ran up p and said, mr. president, it's one of our own. the plane was one of ours. for months afterwards we heard the military jets thundering overhead traveling so fast that the ground shook. they made one pass then and two more loops. i fell asleep to the roar of the fighters in the sky hearing the words, one of our own. there was a quiet security in that in knowing that we slept between the watchful eyes of one of our own. just a little closing senate from the second book festival in 2002. many moments from that day stayed with me, but a particular note were the closing remarks by the historian david in which we described john adams quest for
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knowledge in quote, "the greatest gift of all he was certain was the gift of an inquiring mind." "i have the liberty to think for myself," and then added we have a foe with an enforced ignorance, we don't. [applause] thank you all. thank you. now we have time for questions. we have a few minutes for questions. i like your charlotte's web shirt. >> we've met. i'm the niece of who wrote that book, and two years ago when you and jenna were signing your
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books and i do eb white presentations and i bring your back and talk about where you references charlotte's web, and thank you for that book. it's wonderful, but this is always a wonderful, wonderful book, and thank you for writing it. >> thank you so much. i really appreciate that. thank you. [applause] >> what was your feeling when you found out you were attacked by one of our own. >> we were covered by one of our own. they were protecting us. this was a military cap that flew over washington, it was united states military. we were protected by them, and that gave me a great feeling of security. >> what was your favorite part of being the host at the national book festival? >> i loved seeing so many happy
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people here and people that love to read. i think there's something that book lovers all share, and no matter what our political views might be or differences might be of any kind, we all love books, and we all love reading, and we especially appreciate that we have so many tremendous american authors, that we have such a huge body of literature to choose from from our own writers, and obviously writer around the world, and especially children. we have a really wonderful huge body of children's literature in the united states, and as an old children's retired librarian, i'm really proud of that. thank you. [applause] one more i think. >> good morning, who are your favorite authors over the last five years and what are you reading now? >> now it's cutting for stone -- [applause] he was a texas book festival writer before with one of his
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books -- i don't know if he's been a national book festival writer, but it's a great book about twins and ethiopia, and then i read a book given to me by book sellers on my book tour, my name is mary sueter, historical fiction about the civil war. i recommend them. george is reading the new biography of bonhoffer. i'm reading that next. i'm usually reading the newest book by book festival authors. i'll be at the texas book festival in late october also, and so i hope any of you that have a chance can also come there for the texas book festival. thank you very much, i think my time is up. i appreciate it very, very much. thank you all. god bless you all. thanks a lot.
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[applause] [applause] >> i think you can see what we mean, and i thank you so much, mrs. bush it's wonderful to see you here in person and we thank you for being here. signed copies of her book is being offered bind this tent. please, ladies and gentlemen, one more bode of thanks for laura bush. [applause] [applause]
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> laura bush founded both the national book festival and the texas book festival, and this year in osen, same harris talks about his book, the moral landscape in that science explains morality and people don't have to turn to religion to answer moral questions. this is just over an hour. >> i've been a long time book festival supporter, and i'm glad to see you here on a sunday afternoon. i'm introducing sam harris, and everybody asks who he is, but he's the atheist; right? [laughter] jon stuart called him a professional atheist. the "new york times" says he heads the youth wing of the new atheist. his first book the end of faith
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started a worldwide debate about religion, and it won the 2005 award for nonfiction. he gained many fans, and of course detractors and wrote a second book in response to the unhappy christians, and it's called letter to the christian nation. his new book which just came out in the first part of october is called the moral landscape, and in that, he tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. he urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well being viewing that these experiences of being well and being not so well as the peaks and valleys of the moral landscape. his message is that the questions of good and evil cannot be answered by what god says or what the scripture says or what my culture says, posing
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the questions in this way allows us to be judgmental saying i'm more moral than he is because my god says so, or abandoning judgment saying i can't say whether anyone is more moral than anyone else because there are no right answers. instead, he poses that there are right answers allowing us to be judgmental, but the right answers are quantity fieble through science instead of religion, thus we have to look to science to give us the answer. as john stuart says, the subtitle of the moral landscape should be get off your rears, scientists. who is this man sam harris that qualifies him to tell us the judge should be science. he was an english major, but dropped out. 11 years later, he went back to
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stanford and completed his bachelors in philosophy and in 2009 he obtained a ph.d. in neuroscience from ucla. he's a scientist and a philosopher, and his worked has been discussed and a cofounder with his wife of the project reason, a nonprofit foundation spreading science and secular values in society. we're so pleased to have him here at the texas book festival today. [applause] >> thank you very much. thank you, well it's a pleasure being here. i apologize i'm captive to these microphones. normally astand up and walk around and sweat more than i'm about to in front of you.
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it is hot if you guys didn't notice, but it's an honor to be here. it's the first time i've spoke in texas, and thank you all for coming out. as you know, i've spent the last few years publicly criticizing religion, and when you do that, you immediately discover all the reasons why people think that's a bad idea. [laughter] there's not so many reason. the first reason is almost never that there's so much evidence for the existence of god. not even fundamentalists tend to lead off with a story about the empty tomb or the reasons that the bible is written by the greater of the universe. what you hear from people on every point of the spectrum of belief is that religion is the only way to think about morality and human values in universal terms. i used to think that was an
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entirely empty claim because obviously atheists can be as moral as any religious person, and there are many other reasons to think that morality is not best gotten from religion, and i'll talk about some of those, but i've come to discover it's not an empty claim because there's many smart people, well-educated people in the scientific community and in the academic community more generally who are quite confused about how there can be such a thing as moral truth, and i'll give you an example that's really been sered on my brain, and mote valeted my -- motivated my writing this book to some degree. i was at a conference and talking about the link between morality and human well being. i said the moment you notice that human well being is dependent on the laws of nature
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and states of the human brain, then you notice there are right and wrong ways to maximize it and understand as more as science progresses, but we know enough now to know that certain cultures are not maximizing human well being, and i cited as an example that life for women in afghanistan under the taliban. it seemed to me rather obvious that the violence and religious bamboozlement of the taliban is not the perfect recipe for human flor ition. how could you ever say that the forcing of women to live in burkas is wrong? i said it's wrong because the moment you admit the questions of right and wrong have to do with well being, than it's
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obviously to force the population to live in cloth bags and beating them or killing them when they try to get out is not a perfect way of maximizing it. she said, that's your opinion. i said, well, let's make a simple. let's say we found a culture removing the eyeballs of every third child. would you then agree we found a culture that was not perfectly maximizing human well being? she said, well, it would depend on why they were doing it. [laughter] i said, after i picked my jaw back off the floor, i said, okay, it's for religious reason, they have a screw upture that says every third should walk in darkness or some such nonsense. [laughter] she said, then you could never say they were wrong. i perceive a problem here because first of all, this is a person who has a background in philosophy and science.
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she's actually a noted bioethicist, and she is on the president's counsel, one of 13 people advising the president of all ethical ramifications could haved up by the progress of medical science. she had just delivered a talk on the ethical problems as she saw them of using neuroimaging technology as lie protection and worried we were exposing terrorists to lie detection techniques and infringing on their liberty. she had on the one hand very fine grain ethical notions applying to our possible overreach, but was quite sang gene about removing the eyeballs of children, and it seemed to me to be -- she seemed to be astonishingly detached from the real suffering of millions of women in
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afghanistan, so this, this idea which was actually -- this is especially clear example, but i get this by the hundreds and thousands by blog posts and e-mails now that many people in the society think something happened in the last 200 years of intellectual progress that made it impossible to speak of moral truth, and the purpose of my book now and the purpose of the talk is that that is not true, and that is in fact a myth. the myth is anchored to this notion that there is a radical disjunction between fact and values, that facts are the sort of thing that science can deal with, and this is physics and chemistry and biology. values are thought excel different and thought invently that these are values that capture the most pompt question
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in life, how do we raise children, what constitutes a good life, what goals should we strive for? it's thought that answers here are purely the product of culture or personal whim, and there's no framework or intellectual framework to say anyone is really right or wrong about values. now, it's long been obvious we have needed some universal framework for universal values because, for instance, in the immediate aftermath of world war ii, the u.n. struggled to put forward a universal declaration of human rights which was a sensible thing to do after what had happened in europe at that point, yet the association came forward saying this is a fool's errand. you can't do this. this is merely one culture
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boiesing his entire conception of value on the rest of human society. it's illegitimate. notice, this is really the best our social sciences could do with the crematory still smoking. this was 1947. what i argue to you is that we can understand values in terms of facts that they reduce to facts of conscious creatures, and there are many old and, i think, ultimately boring and confusing debates in philosophy that i'm going to sidestep here, but i want to invite you to a q and a session after i speak, and if anyone feels i missed the boat, i'd like to hear from you, but i will give you sort of one philosophical argument by which to make this case.
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imagine a universe in which every conscious creature suffers as much as it can for as long as it can. it's the worst possible misery for everyone. that's bad. okay. if you don't think that's bad, i don't know what you could mean by the word bad. if you think there might be something worse than the worst possible misery for everyone, i don't know what you mean, and more, i don't think you know what you mean, so from my point of view, all you have to buy is that the worst possible misery for everyone is bad, and that immediately creates a continuum with the worst possible misery for everyone over here, and every other possible state of the universe which is better by definition, and given that conscious experience is arrising how the university is somehow
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dependent on the laws of nature, then you see there must be right and wrong ways to move in this space. there will be wrong ways to avoid the worst possible misery for everyone, and right ways to have well being, and those that can be valued fall into the domain of facts, all the facts that determine the conscious experience of conscious creatures, and i think we have ethical intuitions here about our obligations to other creatures, people, and animals which track this terrain. we are concerned about fellow primates more than insects because we have every reason to believe primates can suffer a much broader range of experience. they have states of well-being
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that can be cut off by our mistreatment of them, but again, the thing to notice is this is a factual claim. i could be wrong about this. it would be we are wrong in which the way physical complexity relates to subjective complexity, and if we are wrong, maybe the inner lives of ants or something with far richer than we imagined. there's no reason to believe that, but that's a factual claim between the relationship of mind and manner, and we don't worry about our treatment of rocks because we don't think rocks can suffer, and so we are concerned about things when we think ethically, and also even if you have beliefs about morality and good and evil are anchored to religion and the real cash value of morality is what happens after death, you either experience an eternity of
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happiness with god or suffering in hell, you are still worried about consciousness and its potential changes. you are worried about, in this case, you think the most important changes in consciousness happen after death, so, again, i don't think that religion offers a different framework for thinking about it, it just offers a different timeline of thinking about changes in consciousness. now ma people worry -- now many people worry that arguing well-being is the basis of value and morality and it's somehow arbitrary and unless we can define well-being really rigorously, this an illegitimate thing to do. by analogy i ask you to consider the concept of physical health. this is a concept that changes over the years. it's very difficult to define. when this statue was carved, a life expect ten sigh of a human being was 25 or 30, and now it's
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80. it could be we'll live to have completely different expectations of normal, the normal range of human health. we may live to see a time where you could expect to be able to regrow a missing limb like a salamander, and if you couldn't do that, you can go to the hospital because there's something terribly wrong with you. the fact that health is a concept and is open ended based on our own progress in science, does not make the distinction between health and disease more clearer and the distinction between life and death is consequential, and there's a science of human health, it's medicine. it is not a problem for science, and what you never hear in the face of the concept of health is a fundamentally skeptical challenge of the sort that i get
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in talking about morality, so someone says who are you to say that well-being has anything to do with morality? what if someone wanted to torture every person on earth to the point of madness? who is to say they are not being as moral as you are? that's the kind of philosophical challenge i get. you never hear someone say, well, who are you to say that someone dying of terminal smallpox is not as healthy as you are? how could you convince someone with smallpox who thought he was healthy suspect healthy? you never hear the underpendings of the medicine challenged in this way. another way to see this distinction between facts and values makes no sense is to look at the most scientific claims in the world. we have a substance called water. 150 years ago we realized it's two parts hydrogen and one part
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oxygen. now, what do we do when someone walks into a room and says that's now how to choose to think about water. chemistry to me is whatever confirms the book of genesis. a person is free to use the word chemistry any way they want, but no one is under obligation to take them seriously. they are not talking about chemistry. when you have to convince someone that water is really two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, the most basic claim of the nature of manner, all you can do is appeal to values. you have to have the value of understanding the world or the value of evidence. if someone doesn't respect evidence, what evidence are you going to give them to prove that they should respect it? if someone doesn't value logical consistency, what logical
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argument will you give them that will demonstrate they should? there are people who based on alternate value schemes place themself outside the conversation the science, and it would be the same with any scientific understanding of human value, but it's no different. if it's not a problem in chemistry, it shouldn't be a problem with morality, and so to with any other scientific value, respect for mathematical elegance in science, these are value terms. now, another way to bridge this gap between fact and values is to look at what belief is, and how we form beliefings about the world and just what it is to try to represent the reality in our thoughts, and we form beliefs about facts, and this constitutes science and history
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and journalism and every other domain we claim to be talking about the way the world is, but we also form belief about values, and this captures all of the juicy questions in life, meaning and morality and spiritual experience, but it seems to me these two operations why many people think they are quite different are the same, and so we did neuroimaging work putting people in an mri scanner and gave them simple statements to read drawn from many different category, and some of these categories was math mat ticks and geography and ethics and religion, so very dissimilar content areas, but we found that the difference between belief and disbelief was essentially the same regardless of content. on the left, you have all of our categories together, and you get this area of signal in the
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prefrontal cortex in the front of the brain, but we were able to separate ethics and mathematics. mathematic was equations being judged true or false, and ethics was value-laiden statements like it's good to be kind to children versus it's good to torture children. in completely different content, and yet the difference between accepting a proposition as true and rejecting it as false was essentially the same, so what i would argue to you is that if the brain is doing the same thing when it accepts a proposition versus when it rejects is regardless of whether it's about jesus being born of a virgin or mathematics, we should be hesitant to describe radically different categories to those operations in our conversation with one another,
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so from my point of view, belief is really our best effort to map reality in our thoughts, and when we seem to succeed in doing this, when our claims about the way the world is seem to survive every test that the world can throw at them, we call it knowledge. there's no radical difference between belief and knowledge. knowledge is a category of beliefs that we talk seriously, and we have high confidence in. it's clearly a continuum of facts about which we can be more or less aware or more or less confused that relate to how human communities flourish. we know it's possible to live in a failed state where everything that can go wrong does go wrong and mothers can't see their children and strangers have no
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reason to cooperate with each other peacefully. look at a place like congo know where people's daily concern is avoiding getting murdered by drug soldiers and women are raped by the tens of thousands continuously. we know there's something to be known about how human beings individually and communities can move out of those conditions towards something quite a bit more io dill lick, something more like the lives we tend to live where we can value creativity, have intellectual discussions, conceive going to a book festival, i mean, all of this is taking place on the basis of some very real gains in civil society, and there's something to be understood about that, and those processes are understood on many levels at the level of biology and the genes
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that predispose people to trust each other and there's levels of the brain to understand and cognitive emotions like compassion and emple thy, and we can understand this at a collective scale and understand the influence of economics and political arrangements on human beings individually and their collective behavior, but all of these facts fall potentially within the per view of science. this is -- we're talking about genetics and neurobiology and socialology and economics. again, i'm arguing the truths that spell the difference between object human misery and the kind of flourishing that's possible for us in the world, these truths fall within our factual discussion about how the world is which is to say an
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ongoing understanding of the human mind. i think this is easier to see if you just imagine two people living on earth. just imagine adam and eve, no one else. clearly, there are right and wrong ans to the -- answer to the questions on how they maximize their well being. wrong answer number one, they could smash each other in the face with a large rock. clearly, that's not the right answer to how two human beings can thriver given an opportunity to live in this world. now, how does the situation change when you add 6.7 billion more people to the experiment? i'm arguing that it doesn't. clearly, it gettings more complicated, but the dirch between right and -- difference between right and wrong answers i think is entirely reserved there.
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what i'm asking you to visualize is a moral landscape where the peaks cor respond to the heights of human well being and the valleys correspond to the lowest misery, and the first thing that drops out of the model is it's very likely that there are many peaks, many different ways for individuals and communities to thrive that are not equivalent or compatible. there could just be many very dissimilar ways to organize human societies, so as to produce the kind of well being that's possible for us. clearly, there are many more wayses to not be on a -- ways to not be on a peak. there's worse answers to many of those. the fact there are many right answers to the produce human flourishing suspect a problem, and by analogy consider food.
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i would never argue to you there must be one right food to eat. clearly there's many right answer to the question what is food. okay, but the dirch between food and -- the difference between food and poisen is absolutely clear. there's exceptions like people are allergic to peanuts and will die if they eat them. we understand that in chemistry and science related to human nutrition, and so too with principles that seem to admit exceptions. people worry if you have an ethical principle with exception, then there's no such thing as moral truths. if it's wrong to lie, then it always has to be wrong to lie, and if you find a situation in which it's right to lie, then there's no such thing as moral
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truth, but notice we don't do this in chess. if you want to play good comes, -- chess, don't lose your queen. there are exceptions and moments where it's essential to sacrifice your queen or it's a brilliant thing to do, and yet chess is the prototypical situation of objective of right and wrong answers and not losing your queen is one of the best principles you can follow. this notion of a moral landscape allows for the prospects of what we call spirit. i think there's no question that there are insights that people can have that can be hard and require a lot of training and talent to have i think it's possible there is such a thing as moral genius. people have insight into the
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kinds of priorities they should have in the ways they should live as to really experience times of well being that very few of us are aware are even possible. i used to be in the habit of saying that undowdedly there's a -- undoubtedly there's a tiger woods of compassion out there, but now for obvious reasons that analogy doesn't run through. [laughter] positive mental states of come pages are viewed as skill. they are trainable to some degree in being aware of the emotions of others and being able to be motivated, and there's undoubtedly right and wrong ways to raise children. all of this falls within the purview of a growing scientific understanding of the human mind.
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hoim of you -- how many of you who can see this photo recognize it? this is a photo of apparently nazis, but there was a photo album recently discovered, and these were entirely unmarked. people didn't know who they were, and research revealed these were -- this was the staff in its hay day in the killing factory. these is how they were amusing themselves at a weekend off that was close to the death camp. these people are essentially enjoying music and other photos eating blueberries and sunbathing under the plume of human ash coming out the crematory. now, my notion of a moral
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landscape admits of pathological islands of relative happiness like this where i don't doubt these people are really smiling, they are not fake smiles. they are not all psychopaths, but love their kids and pets and would shed a tear, and yet they have a belief system that walled off their moral concern from the rest of humanity. clearly this is not a peak on the moral land scape, and the challenge we face as a global society is to extend the circle of our moral concern to the rest of humanity, and obviously there's ide ideologies that make that difficult or impossible. i want to talk about islam because i think it's -- and i want to talk about why religion is not the proper
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source of our moral norms at this point. the reason it shouldn't be because it becomes clear when you focus on islam, and i want to do that for a minute. i want to be very clear about the spirit in which i do this because i'm not talking about all muslims clearly or races of people or ethnicities and nationalities and arabs. i'm talking about the logical consequences of certain ideas, the doctrines, the doctrine of islam. we have this one word religion which is a suitcase term that is not very useful. religion is a word like sports. now, there are sports that are entirely safe that entail no physical risk at all, and there's sports that are synonymous with violence. there's a sport like boxing or
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bad mitten. they have nothing in common apart from breathing. [laughter] religion is a lot like that. there is a religion of peace in this world. it's called janism. they have something like 10 million at this point. the janes, their core principle is nonviolence. the more extreme you get as a jane, the less we have to worry about you. [laughter] so the problem is not -- i mean, we hear that the problem is religion extremism, but it's not. the problem is the actual ideas in specific religions because extremist janes are basically paralyzed by their passivism. they are vegetarians needless to say, but they drink every sip of water through a cheese cloth to filter off bugs and when they
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walk they look at the ground as to not tread on an insect. now, islam is not remotely a religion of peace, and that's -- it's a problem that we are taking refuge in the youth nisms about it. i want to talk honestly about the doctrine of islam, and you may recognize these men up there. whatever they may disagree about politically or personally, they really agree about the nature of reality and how to live within it. i would think these three men agree about the core values of the pee.. they -- people. they are on the same page because they are drawing the core value from a book that was dictated from the prophet in a
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cave, and i apologize for the cartoonish nature of this administration, but illustrations are difficult to come by for reasons we are familiar with. [laughter] the net result of this is that we have a book which is believed to be the perfect word of the creator of the universe, and it is a profoundly mediocre book. it is not the best book humanity has ever produced on any subject, and that is a fact that awaits the attention of anyone who wants to take the weekend to read the book, and there's many problems that visit us on the basis of this, but one is it's a relatively short book. it's not like the bible. you can't cherry pick it with the same ease that christians cherry pick the bible. they can cherry pick the new testament and have


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