Episode 89

Published on:

24th Dec 2023

Sam Harris: Transcending it All?

Sam Harris is the subject today and a man who needs no introduction. Although he's come up and he's come on, we've never actually (technically) decoded him. There is no Gurometer score! A glaring omission and one that needs correcting. It would have been easy for us to cherry-pick Sam being extremely good on conspiracy theories, or extremely controversial on politics, but we felt that neither would be fair. So we opted for a general and broad-ranging recent interview he did with Chris Williamson. Love him or loathe him, it's a representative piece of Sam Harris content, and therefore good material for us.

Sam talks about leaving Twitter, and how transformative that was for his life, then gets into his favourite topic: Buddhism, consciousness, and living in the moment. That's the kind of spiritual kumbaya topics that Sam reports causing him little pain online but Chris and Matt- the soulless physicalists and p-zombies that they are- seek to destroy even that refuge. On the other hand, they find themselves determined by the very forces of the universe to nod their meat puppet heads in furious agreement as Sam discusses the problems with free speech absolutism and reactionary conspiracism.

That's just a taste of what's to come in this extra-ordinarily long episode to finish off the year. What's the DTG take? You'll have to listen to find out all the details, but we do think there is some selective interpretation of religions at hand and some gut reactions to wokeness that leads to some significant blindspots.

So is Sam Harris an enlightened genius, a neo-conservative warmonger, a manipulative secular guru? Or is he, in the immortal words of Gag Halfrunt, Zaphod Beeblebrox's head specialist, "just zis guy, you know?".

Sam was DTG's white whale of 2023, but we'll let you be the judge as to whether or not we harpooned him, or whether he's swimming off contentedly, unscathed, into the open ocean.


Show artwork for Decoding the Gurus

About the Podcast

Decoding the Gurus
A psychologist and an anthropologist try to make sense of the world's greatest self-declared Gurus.
An exiled Northern Irish anthropologist and a hitchhiking Australian psychologist take a close look at the contemporary crop of 'secular gurus', iconoclasts, and other exiles from the mainstream, offering their own brands of unique takes and special insights.

Leveraging two of the most diverse accents in modern podcasting, Chris and Matt dig deep into the claims, peek behind the psychological curtains, and try to figure out once and for all... What's it all About?

Join us, as we try to puzzle our way through and talk some smart-sounding smack about the intellectual giants of our age, from Jordan Peterson to Robin DiAngelo. Are they revolutionary thinkers or just grifters with delusions of grandeur?

Join us and let's find out!
Support This Show

About your hosts

Christopher Kavanagh

Profile picture for Christopher Kavanagh
A Northern Irish cognitive anthropologist who occasionally moonlights as a social psychologist. Chris has long standing interests in the psychology of conspiracy theorists and pseudoscience. His academic research focuses on the Cognitive Science of Religion and ritual psychology. He lives happily in Japan with his family.

Matthew Browne

Profile picture for Matthew Browne
An Australian psychologist and numbers-guy. He does research on all kinds of stuff, but particularly enjoys looking into why people believe the things they do: religion, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine and stuff. He's into social media in the same way people slow down for car accidents.