Woke up with news of the bombing in Manchester. These are the first paragraphs of The End of Faith, a book by Sam Harris...
The young man boards the bus as it leaves the terminal. He wears an
overcoat. Beneath his overcoat, he is wearing a bomb. His pockets are
filled with nails, ball bearings, and rat poison. The bus is crowded and
headed for the heart of the city.
The young man takes his seat beside a middle-aged couple. He will
wait for the bus to reach its next stop. The couple at his side appears
to be shopping for a new refrigerator. The woman has decided on a model,
but her husband worries that it will be too expensive. He indicates
another one in a brochure that lies open on her lap. The next stop comes
into view. The bus doors swing. The woman observes that the model her
husband has selected will not fit in the space underneath their
cabinets. New passengers have taken the last remaining seats and begun
gathering in the aisle. The bus is now full. The young man smiles.With
the press of a button he destroys himself, the couple at his side, and
twenty others on the bus. The nails, ball bearings, and rat poison
ensure further casualties on the street and in the surrounding cars. All
has gone according to plan.
The young man’s parents soon learn of his fate. Although saddened to
have lost a son, they feel tremendous pride at his accomplishment. They
know that he has gone to heaven and prepared the way for them to follow.
He has also sent his victims to hell for eternity. It is a double
victory. The neighbors find the event a great cause for celebration and
honor the young man’s parents by giving them gifts of food and money.
These are the facts. This is all we know for certain about the young
man. Is there anything else that we can infer about him on the basis of
his behavior? Was he popular in school? Was he rich or was he poor? Was
he of low or high intelligence? His actions leave no clue at all. Did he
have a college education? Did he have a bright future as a mechanical
engineer? His behavior is simply mute on questions of this sort, and
hundreds like them. Why is it so easy, then, so trivially
easy—you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it easy—to guess the young man’s