Monday, April 24, 2017

Sam Harris Vs. Hunter Maats

I recently watched the following compilation video recommended by YouTube. The first part is Sam Harris on the Joe Rogan podcast complaining about people trolling him on twitter, including a prior guest of Joe's named Hunter Maats. The second part is of Hunter Maats talking about Sam during a previous episode.

Sam's complaint is something along the lines of, ...Hunter's attacks are juvenile...he sends me two tweets then sends me 400 that say you're scared to debate me...there is a level of arrogance and incivility and lack of charity in interacting with other people's views..., etc

Watching the clip of Hunter's conversation with Joe left me wondering if Sam was being overly sensitive. There was certainly a fuzziness to Hunter's criticism of Sam. He talked for quite a while but didn't seem able to convey his critique in a concise manner. In a nutshell, he essentially was saying that Sam is a rationalist, who believes that reason and emotion are separate and that reason should reign supreme.  Hunter is an intuitionist that believes our intuitions and emotions are what drives are reasoning. Hunter believes that Sam's views lead him to communicate ideas in a manner which are unpalatable to those he criticizes (at least I think this was what he was trying to get at).

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Hunter's assertions, to me he didn't come across in a way which made me dislike the guy. Perhaps he was a little arrogant at times but if so, it was fairly mild and not enough to make me think too poorly of him. This is what left me wondering if Sam, the so called rationalist, was letting his emotions get the better of him, being oversensitive to a little criticism.

That's when I checked Hunter's twitter page to see some of the "trolling" Sam was referring to. And holy shit, Sam wasn't exaggerating when he said Hunter sent or directed 400 messages to him. In all fairness, most of the tweets are responses to others people in which Hunter tagged Sam for some reason. But still, I counted over 500 tweets from Hunter from January 1st to April 16th that had something to do with Sam. Though most I'd consider mildly harassing some are downright dickish. The weird thing about this is that Hunter repeatedly points to the work of Jonathan Haidt in support of his view that Sam's rational approach is alienating to religious people.  But strangely, his messages to Sam are completely contrary to what Haidt suggests on how to communicate with people and persuade them to your way of thinking. To quote from his book, The Righteous Mind, he writes:

"If you want to change people’s minds, you’ve got to talk to their elephants. Dale Carnegie was one of the greatest elephant-whisperers of all time. In his classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie repeatedly urged readers to avoid direct confrontations. Instead he advised people to ‘begin in a friendly way,’ to ‘smile,’ to ‘be a good listener,’ and to ‘never say “you’re wrong.”’ The persuader’s goal should be to convey respect, warmth, and an openness to dialogue before stating one’s own case.

So I'm pretty sure Haidt wouldn't agree with Hunter's snide, obsessed, borderline neurotic approach. Though Hunter maybe winning points with those already in his 'tribe', to the casual observer such as myself, his twitter attacks toward Sam simply make me think he's an asshole.

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