The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values - Sam Harris I find Sam Harris to be the most interesting and least abrasive of the so-called new atheists, a group that is comprised of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others. But in his earlier The End of Faith he was taken to task by atheists and believers alike for suggesting that what we call Spirituality may exist, although not in the sense of the supernatural, and may actually be measurable by scientific means.

Harris takes a similar stance in The Moral Landscape regarding morality. He criticizes both the religious idea that moralality comes from God but also the common scientific viewpoint that morality had no scientific basis and is culturally relative. He sees morality as a concept that is ripe for scientific exploration. That there may someday be science based guidelines that will help us know what is right and what is wrong. A few ideas...

1. Morality is the responses and actions that lead to our well-being and happiness.

1. Some ideas lead to happiness and well-being better than others and these may exist in the realm of scientific inquiry.

3. Religion is a poor arbitrator of guidelines for morality as they are based on fictitious ideas. For instance, if it is true there is a heaven full of virgins for martyrs of the faith, then suicide bombers are immensely moral people. Almost all of us would disagree with that, but it is unarguable that their erroneous belief justify the act as moral in their minds. In other words, our concept of morality may be based on myths and lies.

4. Therefore morality constitutes a landscape of behaviors and actions that can be determined by logic, reason, and the discovery of scientific evidence for how to live in a a moral way.

I've probably over-simplified Harris' basic thesis yet I believe Harris has a good idea. You are not going to find too many answers in this book. The author is mainly setting up the foundation to why scientific exploration of morality is plausible. Yet there is plenty of research information, and more footnotes I've ever seen for a layman's book..slightly under half the book is appendixes...that bolster his arguments. While Harris does remain critical of religion, you will find little sniping and rudeness in these pages. I found this book to be informative and though-provoking. It will be interesting to watch where the discussion takes us.

Three and a half stars.