Sam Harris wants to help non-religious people understand how it feels to be a believer confronted with scientific rationality. Toward that end, he offers the fireplace delusion. The idea is simple:
.. A better analogy than the fireplace delusion might be something derived from it. I offer, instead, love.
Love is not rational. It cannot be refuted by rationality and facts. Scientific reasoning may suggest that my entire biological purpose is to pass my genes on to my children. Yet my deep and abiding love for my wife does not enter into it. It might be argued that love evolved to increase the chances of human genetic success, but such argument neither supports nor refutes my love the way scientific research refutes the value of fire. It simply is.
.. It’s not just love and religion that work like this, that are a-rational. Art. Jazz. Hacking. That which motivates, that drives passion, dedication, and creation, that embodies culture in the Anthropological sense—including, yes,the pursuit of scientific research and reasoning—is a-rational. No, better: it’s extra-rational. That’s part of what makes it beautiful.
You cannot refute love. You cannot refute art. You cannot refute faith. Because they are not in the domain of refutation, are not subject to the facts. They are something else entirely. Often—not always, but often—they create beauty.
And beauty isn’t subject to refutation, either.