Waking Up With Sam Harris #41 – Faith in Reason (with Eric R. Weinstein)

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Eric Weinstein about the relationship between faith and reason and about some of the factors that make conversations on important topics so difficult.

Eric R. Weinstein is a managing director of Thiel Capital in San Francisco. He is also a research fellow at the Mathematical Institute of Oxford University. Weinstein speaks and publishes on a variety of topics including, gauge theory, immigration, the market for elite labor, management of financial risk and the incentivizing of risk taking in science.

Article mentioned in this podcast:
A. Koestler. “The Nightmare That Is a Reality.” The New York Times Magazine. January 9, 1944.

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  • Finndividualist

    Weinstein talks like Jeff Goldblum. Great discussion, though.

  • K Russell

    Shit… Sam let off the hook here. WHAT has Islam given us? And Islam has not 'fallen on hard times' – it's on a rampant ascendency. #FuckIslam

  • The Obfuscating Apologist

    I found your conversation with Eric to be excellent. You are definitely the Alex Honnold of intellectual discourse. Continue to be fearless in the face of dangerous ideas Mr. Harris.

  • Bob TheBuilder

    That was fantastic – thank you both for demonstrating a more constructive way to discuss divisive issues.

  • 9enius

    The only thing that blew me away was that Harris is 49

  • pjbrown80

    1:45:55 Eric Weinstein's great/interesting thought and explanation about things that sound crazy but turns out not to be (not referring to God or any woo woo, which sounds ironic after listening to what he have to say, but still not referring to that level of blind faith)

  • Er Di

    The best example of crazy discovering great is Joseph Smith and the Mormons. An obvious con man motivated pioneers to hunker down and demand the best from their community. That's why Mormons are so successful yet have so seemingly a bat-shit-crazy religion.

  • Ren

    LOL… This guy is a Ben Carson of reason… Did I just hear him say he cares about many other things than truth?

    This guy is so into nuanceness that he walks by what matters in a painfuly oblivious manner denying its importance and I think he is doing so willfuly out of refusal of reality… life is shit and bad things happen to good people, deal with it.

  • Kai Freeman

    He sound fun and perhaps charming in some way, but he does that "god in the gaps" thing. It looks weird seeing all these people, using all their intellectual power in building stupid religious structures so they can feel good in their life. I'm judging here, but the fact that someone need some imaginary protector and constant bonding is showing weakness in their emotional intelligence. The man can live alone and feel comfortable with his own presence.

  • ajaopify

    Very stimulating for a rehashing of an ancient argument. Sam really shines once again, it's thrilling to listen to him here. Mr. Weinstein was interesting for a bit also but how many ways can you intellectually rewrap the ol' insurance pitch.

  • HC45701

    It was great to hear a civil critique of Harris' views, to see someone who seems an intellectual equal push Harris, and to have Harris push back, and to not have the discussion become derailed by defensiveness. It seemed as if both were genuinely trying to understand the other.

    I wonder whether both Harris and Weinstein think that to have valid opinions on the issues they discuss you need to have traveled to Kashmir, kept current on developments in physics, spent years on retreat with Dzogchen masters, appreciate the poetry of Rumi or the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The conversation many times went over my head. I think only a tiny percentage of us would be able to have these experiences, have time to indulge in all of these interests, and have the intellectual capacity to put some structure around the information. Weinstein accused Harris of building a yacht (a millionaire's frame of reference to be sure) that only he could sail – given his background I think he's doing the same.

  • Yakaru1

    Seems like Eric Weinstein conflates "faith" with risk taking and then conflates that with religion.

  • Happy Bird

    Really disappointing guest.

    There's nothing "nutty" about taking the time to look into propositions that at first seem unlikely, nor does faith hold a monopoly on motivating people to take huge risks that sometimes pay off big. All of these things can and in some cases should be done. It's just that people should do these things done with eyes and mind open rather than closed. And, if a certain level of risk-taking is somehow optimal, then of course reason can in principle account for it. Faith is at best unnecessary and often a liability in this regard.
    I fail to see how believing demonstrably false things and rendering one's own mind impervious to evidence could make a person better at these tasks, or even how doing for some supposed utility would even constitute genuine belief at all.
    Pretending or imagining something to be true is not the same thing as actually believing it.