Over at Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson and Eli Massey have written the critique of Sam Harris. Robinson offers a magisterial, detailed overview of the rhetorical sleights of hand Harris uses to give relatively weak, unoriginal positions the imprimatur of “science” and “reason”. I want to add something to this discussion–something Robinson touches on but which I want to stay with for a minute. There is a core problem with the way Harris thinks which necessarily generates bad takes on Islam and the Muslim world.
Many left wing commentators writing about the tragedy unfolding in Standing Rock believe that the government erred by failing to respect Native American sovereignty. This argument claims that Native Americans are nations that have sovereign rights over the territory reserved to them and consequently the US government is wrong to take action that impacts them and their territory without their consent. This is well-intentioned, but there are few beliefs that have done more damage to the welfare of Native American citizens than the idea that Native American tribes constitute sovereign nations. Native Americans are treated very poorly in the United States and tribal sovereignty facilitates this instead of ameliorating it.