Sam Harris Takes a Stance Against the Santa Lie

Sam Harris argues that parents should never lie to their own children, even about something as seemingly innocuous as the existence of Santa, because all lies can sow the seeds of distrust between parent and child. I see his point. But if any kid asks me if Jackalopes are real, I'm going to continue to tell them they are, because that's the truth.

The High Cost of Tiny Lies
Sam Harris

I don’t remember whether I ever believed in Santa, but I was never tempted to tell my daughter that he was real. Christmas must be marginally more exciting for children who are duped about Santa—but something similar could be said of many phenomena about which no one is tempted to lie. Why not insist that dragons, mermaids, fairies, and Superman actually exist? Why not present the work of Tolkien and Rowling as history?
The real truth—which everyone knows 364 days of the year—is that fiction can be both meaningful and fun. Children have fantasy lives so rich and combustible that rigging them with lies is like putting a propeller on a rocket. And is the last child in class who still believes in Santa really grateful to have his first lesson in epistemology meted out by his fellow six-year-olds? If you deceive your children about Santa, you may give them a more thrilling experience of Christmas. What you probably won’t give them, however, is the sense that you would not and could not lie to them about anything else.

Folklore/Tall Tales

Posted on Wed Nov 20, 2013


So when darling daughter asks her dear daddy: "daddy, do you really love my brother more than me?", Sam Harris is forced to answer: "yes, girl, I'm afraid I do". Ten years later, the daughter walks the streets for crack, desperately trying to find love somewhere; and when she gets hold of a gun, she ends her father's life and her own misery with two bullets.

Thus, mr. Harris will prove the true value of a small lie.
Posted by Richard Bos  on  Thu Nov 21, 2013  at  04:31 AM
"So when darling daughter asks her dear daddy:"

The mistake the above commentator is making is in thinking that just because someone asked you a question, that you are morally obligated to answer it. That is simply not true, even if the person asking the question is your kid...actually, perhaps even especially. In this respect, people lie unnecessarily. Often the correct answer to a question is the truth: "that is none of your business."

For example, when a child asks you the dreaded question "where to babies come from?", the answer is the simple truth: "I'll tell you later when you will be able to understand." In the case given above, the answer is even more in this direction, and is the truth: "I love you. But I'm not going to answer that question, because there is no way I can answer it without potentially causing you harm, and you shouldn't be asking." Now that, in fact, is the truth. Even what people think is the correct answer ("I love you both equally") could potentially be harmful, because it reinforces the idea that she should be asking those sorts of questions.
Posted by godlessmath  on  Sat Dec 20, 2014  at  05:18 PM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.