We Didn’t Start the Fire

Latest from Sam Harris – on two levels – “The Fireplace Delusion“. On one level the emotional response of rational people to a long accepted aspect of life. Second, an analogy for how those of faith respond to scientific arguments against their faith.

I do like wood fires, we actually have them in the home now. The living fire, the warm focal point, the smell of “natural” wood. Yep, I get your point Sam.

But my response is not “fist-clenching” for the reasons you assume Sam.

Rationally, as an engineer and scientist, I doubt your science – I could research your references for a deeper view – but for now: Smelling wood and wood smoke is way different to inhaling concentrated smoke – yes anyone failing to combust completely to H2O and CO2 – making smoke, needs to take care both locally and environmentally who gets to breathe what concentrations of smoke unnecessarily – whether cigarettes or wood or coal or maladjusted diesel engines, whatever. Tobacco, coal and oil are as “natural” as wood. Concentrated, and continuous smoke is bad. Dilute and fleeting less so. The WHO numbers of premature deaths, beg many questions on what a premature death is, and on the consequences of alternative deaths, through causes of cold and disease. Need to see some balance in a complex set of causes and effects – on the whole history of humanity since the discovery of fire. But anyway, let’s assume your scientific summary is right.

As an atheist, the fist-clenching aspect is the treating of humans as physical bodies, prone to biological life or death, as if there were no social goods or costs, no intellectual goods or costs involved in our interconnected life stories. The scientific arrogance is breathtaking in believing a few (hundreds, thousands of?) scientific case studies of the physical and biological explains all we need to know. Balance is relevant across not only quantifiable scientific effects and values, but across all levels of value.

I actually like Sam’s philosophy – here his something rather than nothing interview with Larry Kraus – but the scientism is fist-clenching.

Science didn’t start the fire.

What about the fireside value of story-telling for example.

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