Intellectual Gossip Girl: Has Sam Harris been Ignoring What I Said? That’s not what I heard from Bryan Callen

As of yesterday, it seemed like perhaps my strategy to #CreateTheControversy to #TeachTheControversy had stalled. Sam Harris simply wouldn’t respond. And then, I heard a juicy bit of intellectual gossip.

You may remember that in my interview with Joe Rogan he said that he would be getting a text from Sam right away about what I said about him. Well, a little bird named Bryan Callen told me that that is true. Apparently, Sam and Joe talked about what I said. And, apparently, Sam told Joe that I “just don’t get his ideas at all.”

Uh oh! It seems Sam worries about what other people think of him. He and Joe have a #Bromance and little Toto came between them. He had idea sex with Joe and Sam didn’t like it at all. Some people are so intellectually possessive.

And so now, the unfolding drama around Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, Hunter Maats, Bryan Callen, Richard Dawkins, Jon Haidt, David Sloan Wilson and Joe Henrich continues. And, at the center of that drama, there are two very different sets of ideas on human thinking and evolution. Pachacuti sent me this:

People don’t know what to make of all this. Like the upgraded apes that we are, they’re trying to suss this whole situation out. Who do I root for? I want to be on the winning side. Which side is that? That human social intelligence is working over time. But, in order to pick a winner, you have to boost your causal intelligence. You have to actually make sense of the issues.

And, people are now doing that. They’re listening to Jon Haidt’s work and deciding that Sam’s worldview is problematic.

Other people are realizing that Sam’s real trick is that smooooooooth voice that is actually just Intellectual Muzak.

And some are wondering why Sam won’t respond. Dude, this Hunter Maats dude is totally calling you out? Why won’t you respond, bro?!?

In the end, radio silence won’t work forever. People are wondering why Sam won’t step up. He can tell Rogan that I “just don’t understand his ideas at all.” He can pretend like he’s such a reigning champ that he doesn’t need to fight to remain on top. But the great thing is that the Intellectual Thunderdome doesn’t require a face-to-face meeting. I can pick his thinking apart without us ever meeting. And, in the end, the people will decide. In fact, some of them are deciding that Sam needs a #ScientificIntervention.

If Joe and Sam’s Bromance is real, then, at some point, Joe will call him out. That’s what real friends do. In the end, Desmond Tutu summed it up.

If you want religious people to believe in evolution, you need to talk and make friends. If you want to combat Fundamentalism in any community, you need to form strong relationships with that community. You can’t just be a Monday Morning Quarterback who sits in Brentwood talking shit about Islam. And if you really want an Islamic Reformation, then you have to look at the Protestant Reformation. The text didn’t change one line. The culture did. And that happened because of education, more stable governments and greater prosperity. Anyone who wants to change a text people believe is sacred is utterly clueless about how humans work. You don’t mess with other people’s sacred objects. In fact, to change their behavior, you “Yes, And…” what they already believe.

You don’t tell a Texan that Texas sucks. Why? Because they have a lot of Texan pride. Why? Because they are an honor culture. Just like my Arab brothers.

The cultures are the same. And messing with Texas is just a dumb idea. And messing with the Arabs or Islam…is a baaaaad idea. Instead, you work with them. You say Texas is awesome. The Bible is awesome. The Arabs are awesome. Islam is awesome. And then you use science to help them become better Christians and better Muslims and to provide more prosperity for their people. And, in the Information Age, that means the most powerful ideas available. You teach them that cultural evolution is the secret to their success.

It’s all high school and Sam is a mean girl. He pretends he doesn’t care what other people think of him. He pretends he’s above it all. And yet, he can’t help telling Joe that Hunter Maats “doesn’t get his ideas at all.”

And he’s kind of right. Sam’s ideas make no sense to me. I get why they make sense to him because I tutor Brentwood kids all the time and they have a very sheltered experience. But his actual ideas don’t fit at all with the science. Humans it turns out can’t help gossiping. I say something to Joe. Joe says “Well, when Sam hears what you said about him…” And then Sam says something to Joe who says something to Bryan who says something to me. And now, because I know you have to #CreateTheControversy to #TeachTheControversy, I tell the world. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is something I learned from putting a whole bunch of science together. Thanks, Joe Henrich and Robin Dunbar!

So, that’s the gossip. Now, what does everyone do? Don’t you want to find out? Humans gossip. The key is getting them gossiping about ideas.

Will Sam and Hunter be friends? What will happen between Bryan and Joe? And will Joe have Hunter back on his show? What is this rationalism vs intuitionism thing? Joe, needs to get Jon Haidt on his show. ‘Cause I kind of feel like Hunter has a point…but Sam sounds so smart. Dude, we have to get these two in a match up. In the end, people want to know how it all ends. They crave the social resolution. A bunch of MMA fans are going to want that Intellectual Thunderdome. And if Sam refuses to step into the ring, they’re going to call him an Intellectual Chicken. If Sam won’t fight, then Sam loses. If Sam fights, he loses because the evidence is all on the side of Jon Haidt, David Sloan Wilson, Joe Henrich, Bryan Callen and Toto. Sam has parked himself into a very tight spot:

So, the Intellectual Thunderdome is happening even if Sam pretends it’s not. That strategy won’t last forever:

Listen all! This is the truth of it. Fighting leads to killing, and killing gets to warring. And that was damn near the death of us all. Look at us now! Busted up, and everyone talking about hard rain! But we’ve learned, by the dust of them all… Bartertown learned. Now, when men get to fighting, it happens here! And it finishes here! Two ideas enter; one idea leaves.

Two ideas enter. One idea leaves.

Two ideas enter. One idea leaves.

Two ideas enter. One idea leaves.

Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls. Zirselves and Xirselves. I’ve got two men here with a gut full of fear. Idea dying time is here!

Right after being born in Saudi Arabia, I was taken to the Callen house. Since then, Bryan and I have travelled the world with our Citibank fathers and somehow ended up in LA together. There we'd run into each other at family gatherings and do something that no one else in LA seemed to be doing: we talked about books. Since Bryan was kind of a big deal, Hunter and Bryan hatched a scheme to use his podcast to get on their favorite authors and professors. Out of that evolved Mixed Mental Arts and this tribe. For me, the marriage of entertainment and education is a return to how things used to be before our culture split story into two separate things. It's exciting to be able to build on the work Katie O'Brien and I did for The Straight-A Conspiracy and expand it out to every area of life. While I play a series of roles in the Mixed Mental Arts community (including Shitty Dutch Uncle and Bryan's #1 fan) my favorite role is as Toto who pulls back the curtain and let's the world see that there are no wizards...only men and women who try and puff themselves up to seem important.

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