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Lions Roar : November 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 103 tive experience of thoughts, emotions, desires, and other mental processes, in- cluding consciousness, cannot be directly observed with any tools of science. Are any scientists foolish enough to deny the reality of their own subjec- tive experience simply because it can- not be objectively measured? In fact, generations of behaviorists throughout the first half of the twentieth century readily embraced this anti-empirical, ir- rational position, and this bias contin- ues to the present day among reputable neuroscientists and philosophers who marginalize subjective experience by claiming—on the basis of inconclusive evidence—either that the mind doesn’t exist or that it is nothing more than a passive epiphenomenal function of the brain. According to such philosophers and scientists, not only does religious experience not count as evidence, all subjective experience of our own men- tal processes constitutes nothing more than an illusion. Scientists who make such unproven claims appear as narrow- minded and irrational as the most big- oted religious fundamentalists. In his comparison of religion to athe- ism, Harris asks, “When was the last athe- ist riot? Is there a newspaper anywhere on this Earth that would hesitate to print cartoons about atheism for fear that its editors would be kidnapped or killed in reprisal?” In the Soviet Union under Sta- lin, millions of people were persecuted for failing to embrace atheism, and dur- ing Communist China’s Cultural Revo- lution, millions more religious believers suffered the same fate. Harris explains that such violence in the name of science and atheism is due not to the rejection of religious dogma but to the acceptance of “other life-destroying myths.” But many of those myths have been created and promoted by people waving the ban- ner of science and rationality. If Harris evaluated scientists by the same criteria by which he judges religious people, he would condemn “scientific moderates and liberals” for tacitly supporting these atrocities. But instead he blames “other life-destroying myths,” which is similar Zen Mountain Monastery Comprehensive introduction to Zen The Eight Gates of Zen training matrix Weekend and week-long retreats Study with experienced teachers A monastic and residential community Set in the beautiful Catskill Mountains (845) 688-2228 •