Sam Harris has improved his contest somewhat, in response to some of the reaction. He added an FAQ.
9. With you as the judge, how can we trust that the best attack on your thesis will see the light of day?
Having now fielded several accusations that this contest will be rigged—if not by design, then by my own ignorance and bias—I reached out to the philosopher Russell Blackford for help. Russell has been one of the most energetic critics of The Moral Landscape, and I am very happy to say that he has now agreed to judge the submissions, introduce the winning essay, and evaluate my response. I trust that everyone will consider this a hopeful development.
Of course, only I can judge whether I find the winning essay persuasive enough to trigger a change in my position (and the larger prize). But if I’m not persuaded, I’ll have to give an argument saying why not, and Russell will be there to see that I do this without dodging any important issues.
That’s good. That last clause is especially good – because I have never yet seen a response from Harris that fails to dodge all the important issues, apparently without his even being aware of it. Russell will be in a position to make him aware of it before he publishes. That’s good.
Mind you, I’d think it was even better if it were Patricia Churchland doing it, not least because she too has a PhD in neuroscience, and because her book Braintrust is what Harris should have written but didn’t. But still, this is good.