I must admit that I haven’t seen Jordan Peterson(JP) getting out worded in a debate. But in the debate with Sam Harris especially the one moderated by Douglas Murray, who in his own right is a brilliant orator and a self admitted neo-con who I have been listening for a long time, I felt that Sam Harris was more abstract and concise in his view points. Generally in any atheistic debates, the default position used to be the presupposition of the presence of God, rather than his absence. And it was the atheist’s responsibility to prove otherwise. This used to be the case with countless debates involving Richard Dawkins, the late great Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss and even the Sam Harris of 10 years ago. But lately Sam Harris has become the central kingpin of new atheism, where he attempts to ground the emergence of values to hard cold facts. There is a visible shift in the fundamental undertone of what being the default position and what has to be argued against. In any debate involving Sam Harris, now the default hypothesis is the absence of God, and it has become the burden of the theists to prove the presence of God. An unbelievable development in the span of a decade from which The Four Hourseman conversation took place, I say.
Religion and science attempts to solve two separate problems of human endeavor. Science tries to attempts answers to questions that involve mostly quantitative units of measurement. Religion attempts to answer questions relating to what’s good/bad, moral/immoral, etc which science cannot have immediate or obvious answers. The awe you experience when you look and fathom the vastness of the heavens above reminiscing of the fact that the universe is truly infinite in spatial scope, cannot be explained using hard scientific facts. The reverence you feel for the entity who might have created the Universe is simply something transcendental. You may cry at the the profound realization that the conscious brain which makes you experience the infinitely complex cosmos, maybe more complex than the cosmos itself. These feelings and emotions which generally doesn’t fall under the purview of scientific inquiry, thrusts the man to feel some kind of transcendental oneness with the universe. This is raw spirituality in action. Early clergies encapsulated this raw fundamental spirituality with a layer of dogma and added some stories to make it organized religion.
Sam Harris in most of his debates is adopting the view point that, we need to denude the religion out of its dogma,and focus on its transcendental morality alone and base one’s actions based on that morals. It seems very logical at first, but the more I think about it I tend to disagree with that proposition. A religion is a religion not only because of its central tenets alone, but on the additional and secondary narratives and walks of activities it spins out. For eg, a lot of adherents are interested in the evangelical aspects of Christianity. Some are interested in charity and feeding the poor. Some likes the organizing and community aspects. Even some are interested in its musical aspects. All of these different aspects allude to that transcendental oneness. I would say that Christianity has multiple facades which alludes to the same transcendental oneness, who might be The God.
On the other hand, the problem with overindulging in dogmatic belief is that, the believers often loose sight of that transcendental oneness. Religion is a force for good for the majority. In fact in an old debate between the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens, I was more convinced by Blair’s line of argument rather than Hitchens’, which was even surprising for me. One should carefully craft the balance between the extend of dogmatic practices vs that transcendent oneness.