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Schneier on Harris

I have to commend Sam Harris for featuring a guest post by security expert Bruce Schneier on profiling, especially since he backs up everything I’ve said so far. 1) Profiling people who “look Muslim” will have a high false positive rate, 2) “looking Muslim” is a hopelessly indefinable criterion, 3) terrorists will use profiling to avoid detection, and 4) it’s a strategy to alienate those who could be on our side.

I do recommend his blog, Schneier on Security, for your regular reading (also because he has Friday Squid Blogging — he’s a man of excellent taste).

I’m also going to recommend this paper that Brownian mentioned in the comments here: Strong profiling is not mathematically optimal for discovering rare malfeasors. Profiling doesn’t add up; the numbers don’t work.

Are we done now?

Comments

  1. Amphiox says

    So, who was that apologist for Harris who kept harping on “Schneier, Schneier, you must consider Schneier! Schneier supports Harris! Why won’t PZ consider Schneier?”

    Turns out Schneier supports PZ’s position 100%.

  2. jeromehaltom says

    Bruce did a good job in his reply. I don’t think it’s going to be convincing to Sam, however.

    I think one of us (with visibility) needs to answer him in terms of his Moral Landscape.

    Profiling, even if you could figure out how to do it right, would move us down a peak into a valley, with no obvious way to get back up.

    Maybe then he’d get it.

  3. Amphiox says

    Profiling, even if you could figure out how to do it right, would move us down a peak into a valley, with no obvious way to get back up.

    Indeed. As I had argued in the prior thread, even if racial profiling actually worked and made us safer, it should not be used. That kind of additional safety is not worth the moral and ethical cost that must be paid to obtain. If that were the situation (though in reality it is not, since racial profiling doesn’t work), I would happily accept a slightly increased safety risk when I fly rather than condone or allow racial profiling.

    Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

  4. jeromehaltom says

    Amphiox:

    Agreed. I think we have enough experience to make a pretty decent call that allowing other humans to profile in that way as a matter of policy doesn’t actually work, but instead leads to abuses at the hands of those humans. I’d sacrifice actual security for maintaining our upward movement on that peak.

    And I think if PZ or somebody answered Sam in those terms, which he does seems to understand, he might get it.

    Let this be an exercise in figuring out how to actually convince Harris, using terms he clearly has a decent grasp of; instead of just condemning him.

  5. Woo_Monster says

    Are we done now?

    But, but, but… We HAVE to profile Muslims (and those that “look like them”). They scare me!!!@11

    Also, Sam Harris is one of teh FOUR HORSEMAN!!, so he cannot possibly be wrong. duh. You just can’t handle the truth!!!

  6. Amphiox says

    In the end, convincing Harris depends more on how willing he is himself to be convinced than anything we might say. He is an intelligent enough person to parse arguments of varying types, after all.

    In the end I will continue to support the things he says that make sense, and criticize the ones that do not. It is not the man that matters, it is the ideas.

  7. Amphiox says

    But which horseman was Harris supposed to be? If it is War, then maybe he’s just playing the typecast!

  8. Woo_Monster says

    But which horseman was Harris supposed to be?

    The horseman of blind bigotry and stubborn refusal to process criticism.

  9. says

    Give him a chance. He’s been given several perspectives that criticize his views…maybe he’ll step back, rethink, and accept that he was wrong.

  10. Woo_Monster says

    I would be thrilled if that were to happen. My respect for him would rise considerably. His second post, replying to critics of his first, was not a good example of thoughtful reconsideration.

  11. Amphiox says

    Do not forget that even the freest of free thinkers, the most skeptical of skeptics, the empirical of scientists, have individual blind spots, because they are human.

  12. echidna says

    Getting Schneier to write the guest post was a class act. I await SH’s follow up discussions.

  13. Ichthyic says

    Do not forget that even the freest of free thinkers, the most skeptical of skeptics, the empirical of scientists, have individual blind spots, because they are human.

    speak for yourself, human.

    :P

  14. Bytor says

    Amphiox@3: While I agree that racial profiling is racist and that the results it (might) bring are not worth the moral cost, it brings up for me a question.

    Can people come up with some hypothetical situation where the fix, though unethical in some way, is worth that moral cost and that a significant majority of reasonable, every-day, non-philosopher people would agree?

  15. Brownian says

    I’m also going to recommend this paper that Brownian mentioned in the comments here

    I’m famous! Oh, this is so unexpected! Can I say hi to my cat? We did it, bud—hey, off the table! And I’d like to say thank my girlfriend, without whom I’d be nothing. Baby, I love you! Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my agen—[music swells]

  16. The Laughing Coyote (Canis Sativa) says

    Bytor: In other words, are you asking for a hypothetical scenario where the ends (whatever they may be) WOULD justify the means (whatever they may be)?

  17. The Laughing Coyote (Canis Sativa) says

    Bytor: Here’s a fairly farfetched piece of claptrap I sorta came up with on the spot (your request isn’t too easy)

    In the future there’s some epidemic wiping out large chunks of humanity and spreading rapidly. There’s a guy whose system produces a natural antibody to the disease. Scientists have the ability to isolate these antibodies and formulate a cure.

    Problem is this guy doesn’t like people very much, is a bit of a misanthrope, a bit of a hermit, maybe a bit of an asshole, and doesn’t exactly want to share.

    Would it be ethical to kidnap this guy and forcibly take blood/dna/whatever samples?

    (anyone and everyone else who can do better, please do)

  18. nesetalis says

    I love Bruce… I’ve been following him for almost a decade. And he is quite right on this subject too.

  19. The Laughing Coyote (Canis Sativa) says

    Pteryxx: Sweet!

    But obviously that guy is a humanitarian, doing the only humanitarian thing to do with such a life-saving mutation.

    I’m talking about a guy who would never voluntarily give his blood to save anyone, even his own mom. Total hate-on for society. Maybe even an understandable one, I mean, I’m not writing a whole movie here but no actual person is a one-dimensional caricature like that.

  20. says

    I like Schneier. And also very quotable (from his Beyond Security Theatre), is :

    Despite fearful rhetoric to the contrary, terrorism is not a transcendent threat. A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country’s way of life; it’s only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage. The more we undermine our own laws, the more we convert our buildings into fortresses, the more we reduce the freedoms and liberties at the foundation of our societies, the more we’re doing the terrorists’ job for them.

    That. A thousand times.

    Reiterating my own take on this:

    There are those out there, who, apparently, are prepared to die for what they believe in.

    Fine. I’m so terribly impressed, really.

    Me, I’m prepared to live for what I believe in. And prepared to live it. Day after day after day after day. Prepared to get on the planes anyway, because I have work to do, people to see, and life goes on.

    Prepared, too, to walk with what fear may come, day by day, calming it as I go.

    Prepared also to say: no, I will not condone torture. I will not fucking stand for this. I will not support any government that does. I’m not going to be rattled into such barbarism, come what may.

    It’s not just that that shit doesn’t work. Though that ought to be enough on it’s own, from where I’m standing, it’s not even the damned point, really. I’m just not going to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing me so debase myself.

    Prepared also to say: no, thank you, I’ll pass on the endless harassment of the innocent for nothing more than showmanship in the airports, this maintaining of endless Kafkaesque paranoia. Even if it did make us in some miniscule way safer (which, as Schneier points out, is doubtful), I’ll take that tiny increase in risk that would accompany dropping it.

    It’s about context, and it’s about atmosphere, and it’s about mood. A little reasonable calm–I wouldn’t presume even to use Schneier’s word: ‘indomitability’–is what is more needed, far more, here, than this endless hare-brained overreaction.

    There’s that, and the painful thought I keep having that it’s a poor service to the memory of the victims of the few terrorist acts that have actually succeeded to turn our societies into veritable police states out of endless anxiety and paranoia.

    As the man says: get the intelligence right, work on engagement, focus on good old fashioned investigation. And fuck the hell off with this endless, silly charade at the departure gates.

    More critically still: take ‘extraordinary rendition’ and ‘enhanced interrogation’ and extrajudicial detention toss them all back into the dustbin of history, where they belong.

    I mean, it’s going to take quite some time to live down ever having brought them back out in the first place. So it’s probably best we get on that now.

  21. Louis says

    Are we done? No. Why?

    1) Brown people, especially Teh Mooslims (With Their Bomz), be scary, yo.

    2) I saw 24 and it was real. All governmental policy should be based on TV shows. Trumpton is how we will be running the fire service in future, for example. All shops will also be run by Mr Benn.

    3) Racial profiling has worked so well in the past (eleventyoneandsoon)! (If by working we mean not being effective at anything other than a recruitment tool for the terrorists)

    4) Those who would trade liberty for safety deserve neither both and an ice cream for being such a good person.

    Louis

  22. Amphiox says

    Can people come up with some hypothetical situation where the fix, though unethical in some way, is worth that moral cost and that a significant majority of reasonable, every-day, non-philosopher people would agree?

    That would be difficult, since much depends on specific details of the situation, but perhaps I can give you some real-world analogies that I think may illustrate some of the issues one would have to think about.

    1. Compulsory seat belt laws
    2. Compulsory bike helmet laws
    3. Anti-smoking laws
    4. Mandatory universal vaccination laws
    5. Having a police force, and allowing police officers the privilege of carrying lethal weapons and using lethal force, on their own individual professional judgement (with oversight and guidelines, of course), on civilians
    6. Gun control laws

    Each and every one of these is an example wherein individual liberty is restricted in exchange for a benefit that pretty much boils down to increased individual safety. In each case the reasonableness of the action is determined by weighing the cost (how severe is the restriction in liberty that is envisioned, how harmful might it be to the affected individuals to have their freedom restricted in this fashion, and what are the implications ethically for a society that chooses to condone such restrictions) against the benefit (how much additional safety does it afford, how effective will it be in making us safer, how likely will it be to actually work to make us safer, etc)

    Generally, if the restriction in liberty is minor and the benefit large, it’s a no-brainer and few would object (though even here some would – some people object to seat belt laws, and bike helmet laws. Lord knows people object to mandatory vaccinations, and gun control!)

  23. Amphiox says

    Would it be ethical to kidnap this guy and forcibly take blood/dna/whatever samples?

    One should first consider (and try) rummaging through his garbage for DNA samples. If that gives you enough information to get your cure, then you’re gold….

  24. disumbrationist says

    I feel kind of like this creating an account to point this out, but it is extremely misleading to summarize the paper in the third link as “Profiling doesn’t add up; the numbers don’t work.”

    If you actually follow the link and read the paper (or just read the abstract), you’ll see that it concludes “A mathematically optimal strategy would be ‘square-root biased sampling,’ the geometric mean between strong profiling and uniform sampling, with secondary screenings distributed broadly, although not uniformly, over the population” (emphasis added).

    In other words, the paper rejects both “strong” profiling and no profiling, in favor of a weak form of profiling. This seems perfectly compatible with Harris’s position.

  25. Amphiox says

    The second thing one should consider is trying to convince the misanthrope to donate his blood willingly, or offer paying for it, or seeing if he has family that might share the same special genetic trait, who might be willing to donate.

    The problem with ethical hypotheticals and applying them to the real world is you have to consider that in the real world multiple options will always be on the table, and all choices have to be considered in relation to all the other available choices.

  26. says

    The mathematical paper was interesting.
    The immediate implication seems to be, that the ideal sampling strategy is one with “weak profiling”. Specifically, a person with _four_ times the “prior propability” of being a terrorist, should ideally be checked _twice_ as often.
    Higher sampling rates than that for higher propablity individuals, stronger profiling, is wasteful. But so is a more uniform sampling rate.
    It is not obvious to me, how the paper’s results can be translated into the real world. Or even if such a translation would be worthwhile, since the mathematics don’t address such issues as morality.
    But still a very interesting input. Thank you.

  27. echidna says

    I disagree, disumbrationist. The paper does not explicitly reject no profiling, but it does say that strong profiling is no better than no profiling – and strong profiling comes at a cost. The very title of the paper is: “Strong profiling is not mathematically optimal for discovering rare malfeasors”.

    In the abstract, before the piece you quoted, we find:

    We show here that strong profiling (defined as screening at least in proportion to prior probability) is no more efficient than uniform random sampling of the entire population, because resources are wasted on the repeated screening of higher probability, but innocent, individuals.

    This summarises PZ’s position very well. The cost to innocents of strong profiling is too high, and the numbers don’t add up. You may as well sample uniformly.

    Sam Harris’s position?

    We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.

    I don’t think the paper supports this at all.

  28. KG says

    disumbrationist,

    No, it is not compatible with Harris’s bigotidiocy:

    1) Because being mathematically optimal is entirely different from being practically possible: you would need good priors, which can be forever concealed from terrorists so they can’t use the information to reduce their chances of screening, and screeners who can accurately assign them to individuals on the spot.
    2) Because Harris’s proposal was to pick on those who “could conceivably be Muslim”, which means everyone.

  29. says

    I haven’t searched all the threads here on this topic but just in case it hasn’t been mentioned yet… There was a paper written about this very topic way back in 2002 by a couple of students from MIT titled, “Carnival Booth: An Algorithm for Defeating the Computer-Assisted Passenger Screening System” Link
    Which pretty much proves that “security theater” is not only ineffective but actually makes us less secure.

    There have been many papers and reports since that are critical of racial profiling and security theater. It is as if none of the people that are responsible how and what security is implemented in the US actually read and/or understand this.

  30. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Ho come all the profiling defenders on the other posts haven’t tunred up here?

  31. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

    Are we done now?

    I’m still interested in this ability to identify people’s religion just by looking at them. Because, as an atheist, I’m hoping I can turn invisible.

  32. Lars says

    I want to learn how to look like a [insert religious denomination here]. Imagine what a party trick!

    – What am I now?
    – Pandeist.
    – Aw, my party tricks are rusty, I actually tried to look like a polydeist.

  33. says

    Are we done now?

    Sweet Jesus, I hope so. Did you see the mess that happened last night? I do not want to wade through another one of those today.

    *wanders off to read Schneier’s reply*

    Rev:

    Ho come all the profiling defenders on the other posts haven’t tunred up here?

    Sssssssh! They’re like the Candyman– say it enough times and they’ll appear!

  34. Thomathy, Holy Trinity of Conflation: Atheist-Secularist-Darwinist says

    I patiently await Harris’s double-down. He has managed to surprise me lately in becoming someone I can actually still lose respect for.

  35. says

    I wonder: why don’t the terrorists fly as often as possible looking as stereotypically Muslim as possible, with no intent to do anything terrorizing during a flight, simply to generate a false positive? Enough of those and the TSA might change its tune. Or, be like the person with the book in Harris’s essay, but not have a bomb, a gun or anything threatening. Just mess with the TSA’s heads.

  36. says

    This is what I think all of the preceding conversations missed:

    Randomized secondary screening is more effective, especially since the goal isn’t to catch every plot but to create enough uncertainty that terrorists don’t even try.

    My emphasis.

    That’s exactly what Harris and Harris supporters have misunderstood and I don’t think I’ve seen it articulated in quite this way before now*. Security should be about preventing the threat before it even starts, not trying to stop threats after they enter the airport.

    *I could be wrong. It’s been a long few days.

  37. Lars says

    why don’t the terrorists fly as often as possible looking as stereotypically Muslim as possible

    The rational thing for a terrorist group to do, is to save that stunt for the day the Old Caucasian Baptist Lady (OCBL) brings the bomb on the plane. That will keep the TSA busy while she does the job.

    And yes, they are smart enough to do that: The fact that 9/11 had (and still has) the exact consequences that Al Quaeda wanted it to have, indicates that they not only understand middle Eastern politics much better than the USA does, it also indicates that they understand US politics much better than the USA does.

  38. simonsays says

    Are we done now?

    No, and frankly I’m not even sure I like that this is now turning into a discussion of ‘tactics’ when there are obvious human rights implications that Harris ignores and Schneier pays almost no attention to.

    As another blogger told Sam Harris here: http://starsthroughthestorm.blogspot.com/2012/04/letter-to-casual-authoritarian.html

    Even if, in some parallel universe, your proposed policies would be effective, efficiency does not trump moral right. Profiling, torture, and pre-emptive nuclear war are morally wrong regardless of their effectiveness, and for that reason alone — moral wrongness — should not be pursued. As a consequentialist, frankly, you are a moral adolescent, and you should start growing up morally and graduate to deontology and virtue morality. Doing so will give you a real sense of justice. The sooner, the better, please.

  39. Matt Penfold says

    Ho come all the profiling defenders on the other posts haven’t tunred up here?

    I was wondering where they have got to as well. Especially that idiot thpoc who was defending Harris but said he wanted to hear what Schneier had to say. Well Schneier has spoken, but thpoc has not bothered to come back and admit he was wrong.

  40. says

    Ho come all the profiling defenders on the other posts haven’t tunred up here?

    I was wondering where they have got to as well.

    Come on, guys. Reading Schneier means that they would have to challenge their assumptions about race, religion, and those relate to security. Why in the world would they want to do that, when it’s much easier just to say ArabsMuslims are the enemy!?

  41. mattandrews says

    PZ wrote:

    Give him a chance. He’s been given several perspectives that criticize his views…maybe he’ll step back, rethink, and accept that he was wrong.

    Maybe. And maybe Ken Ham will realize the book of Genesis is wrong and he’ll start teaching evolution.

    Because quite frankly, Harris appears to be as entrenched on Muslim profiling as Ham is on creationism. The more I read about Harris, the more apparent it is that his issues with Islam are more than just being opposed to religion.

  42. says

    Jerome:

    Let this be an exercise in figuring out how to actually convince Harris, using terms he clearly has a decent grasp of; instead of just condemning him.

    I leave it to others to do so. Personally, I don’t have much use for someone of high intelligence and a high public profile who can’t grasp basic science and human decency without having it spoon-fed to him in “terms he understands.” And I agree with Matt Andrews at #50.

    Matt Penfold, maybe Thpoc forgot how to use a computer last night and is awaiting a retraining session.

  43. Matt Penfold says

    Matt Penfold, maybe Thpoc forgot how to use a computer last night and is awaiting a retraining session.

    Or maybe his mum or dad caught him.

  44. Brownian says

    Come on, guys. Reading Schneier means that they would have to challenge their assumptions about race, religion, and those relate to security. Why in the world would they want to do that, when it’s much easier just to say ArabsMuslims are the enemy!?

    According to several commenters, having low-paid goons hassle families just trying to get to their destination makes us manly and brave. Toby Keith, yeah! [punches a cow that looked kinda commie]

  45. says

    Profiling, torture, and pre-emptive nuclear war are morally wrong regardless of their effectiveness, and for that reason alone — moral wrongness — should not be pursued. As a consequentialist, frankly, you are a moral adolescent, and you should start growing up morally and graduate to deontology and virtue morality. Doing so will give you a real sense of justice. The sooner, the better, please.

    Hey hey hey. Just because Harris does not embrace the utilitarian arguments against those things does mean that they don’t exist.

  46. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    The fact that 9/11 had (and still has) the exact consequences that Al Quaeda wanted it to have, indicates that they not only understand middle Eastern politics much better than the USA does, it also indicates that they understand US politics much better than the USA does.

    How very true, Lars, although I’ll go further than that and replace “US” with “Western hemisphere”.

  47. Esteleth, Who is Totally Not a Dog or Ferret says

    I may be missing something, but does Harris’ blog have a comments section? I’m not seeing it…

  48. Matt Penfold says

    I may be missing something, but does Harris’ blog have a comments section? I’m not seeing it…

    No, he does not allow comments to be left on his blog.

  49. Brownian says

    Oh hey! Cows are the salt of the earth and punching a cow would be far too unAmerican for Toby Keith’s tastes! There’s no way there’d be a commie cow!

    Pigs on the other hand…

    ;)

    Thanks, Audley. I grew up in the city, so I don’t know these things. If someone asked me to milk a chicken, I wouldn’t even know what part of the bird to put the carton against.

    No, he does not allow comments to be left on his blog.

    That’s understandable. From what I’ve seen from his defenders, his comment section would be a torrent of “Squeee! I love you Sam Harris!” and room keys jammed in USB ports.

  50. Matt Penfold says

    That’s understandable. From what I’ve seen from his defenders, his comment section would be a torrent of “Squeee! I love you Sam Harris!” and room keys jammed in USB ports.

    That, and reasoned but passionate arguments as to why he is talking out of his backside. Which of course would result in even more squeeing from the fans.

  51. Valindrius says

    Hey hey hey. Just because Harris does not embrace the utilitarian arguments against those things does mean that they don’t exist.

    I wholly concur, I don’t think Harris can be used to belittle consequential thinking. He’s not very good at taking every critical factor into account so that makes him a pretty terrible consequentialist. I believe his view on torture demonstrates that perfectly, he crafted a complete fantasy world and populated it with idealised scenarios that wholly or largely omitted ‘pragmatic arguments’ (as I think he puts it). He then tried to transpose those absurdities to reality.

    His comment section would be a torrent of “Squeee! I love you Sam Harris!” and room keys jammed in USB ports.

    Oh I see you’re familiar with his Facebook page.

    Me too, but I’ve read Animal Farm. ;)

    HarrisNapoleon is always right.”

  52. nooneinparticular says

    revbigdumbchimp @35

    Ho come all the profiling defenders on the other posts haven’t tunred up here?

    Because I just woke up?

    Seriously, though, I saw Brownian’s post yesterday, I thanked him/her and commented on it then. I think I said; “Holy craps, that pretty much blows my argument right out of the water”.

    Just to be clear, my position was that Schneier’s arguments made the best sense but that Harris is correct that the biggest threat of suicide attacks on our airplanes comes from Islamists. I thought that in addition to the other more effective techniques a secondary targeted screening (a form of profiling) would make sense too. But the paper Brownian found provides a mathematical reason why it wouldn’t make sense.

    PZ is right, we are most definitely done.

  53. nooneinparticular says

    oops. borked the blockquote. revbigdumbchip’s comment is the first paragraph. I need a coffee…..

  54. Matt Penfold says

    Seriously, though, I saw Brownian’s post yesterday, I thanked him/her and commented on it then. I think I said; “Holy craps, that pretty much blows my argument right out of the water”.

    Kudos for being willing to admit as much.

  55. nooneinparticular says

    Amphiox wrote

    That would be difficult, since much depends on specific details of the situation, but perhaps I can give you some real-world analogies that I think may illustrate some of the issues one would have to think about.

    1. Compulsory seat belt laws
    2. Compulsory bike helmet laws
    3. Anti-smoking laws
    4. Mandatory universal vaccination laws
    5. Having a police force, and allowing police officers the privilege of carrying lethal weapons and using lethal force, on their own individual professional judgement (with oversight and guidelines, of course), on civilians
    6. Gun control laws

    Each and every one of these is an example wherein individual liberty is restricted in exchange for a benefit that pretty much boils down to increased individual safety.

    1 and 2 provide no “increased safety” to anyone but the person driving the car or riding the bike. Thus it is only the person whose liberty is restricted who benefits. To me this is not a sufficient reason to have these kinds of laws. The argument that requiring seat belt or bicycle helmets use benefits society (because of health care costs, insurance, etc) is a fools game because all sorts of things we do impact these. Skiing. Drinking alcohol. Skateboards. Voting Republican.*

    FTR, anyone NOT wearing a seatbelt while driving or a helmet while riding is foolishly risking their own life. But it ought to be our right to be foolish.

    *rimshot*

  56. Matt Penfold says

    1 and 2 provide no “increased safety” to anyone but the person driving the car or riding the bike. Thus it is only the person whose liberty is restricted who benefits. To me this is not a sufficient reason to have these kinds of laws.

    This is not true.

    Someone who is a car crash at speed not wearing a seatbelt, or comes off a bike at speed not wearing a helmet is likely to be severely injured. The resources used to treat those injuries are then no available to treat other people. In quite common for a routine operation to cancelled so that the theatre and/or surgeons can be used to operate on an accident victim. If the injuries that require such surgery can be prevented by wearing a seatbelt or helmet then it is unethical of people not do so. Quite simply, they are selfish.

  57. Matt Penfold says

    Oh, and the argument that we all do things that are potentially harmful, well yes it is true, we all do. But we all also have a duty to do what we can to protect ourselves. If you go skiing, you should wear the appropriate protective equipment. If you go drinking, you should not get so drunk you require hospitalisation. And so. Wearing a seat-belt or helmet is no different, except that they are things that can be enforced.

  58. nooneinparticular says

    Matt

    You wote;

    This is not true.

    Someone who is a car crash at speed not wearing a seatbelt, or comes off a bike at speed not wearing a helmet is likely to be severely injured. The resources used to treat those injuries are then no available to treat other people. In quite common for a routine operation to cancelled so that the theatre and/or surgeons can be used to operate on an accident victim. If the injuries that require such surgery can be prevented by wearing a seatbelt or helmet then it is unethical of people not do so. Quite simply, they are selfish.

    To illustrate my position better, what if your paragraph said, instead;

    Someone who is skiing at speed, or comes off a skateboard at speed not wearing a helmet is likely to be severely injured. The resources used to treat those injuries are then no available to treat other people. In quite common for a routine operation to cancelled so that the theatre and/or surgeons can be used to operate on an accident victim. If the injuries that require such surgery can be prevented by not skiing or skateboarding without a helmet then it is unethical of people not do so. Quite simply, they are selfish.

  59. nooneinparticular says

    Matt

    oops. I was writing my last post while your next appeared. So I’m talking at cross purpose.

    I understand your argument. It makes sense. But whenever personal liberties are at stake a balance must be made. To me, that balance is that the state ought not to restrict anything I do or say so long as no-one elses rights or bodies are harmed. Adding costs to medical care does not, in my estimation, add up. And when you start restricting one activity that has no (or little) potential to harm others, where do you stop?

  60. Matt Penfold says

    Someone who is skiing at speed, or comes off a skateboard at speed not wearing a helmet is likely to be severely injured. The resources used to treat those injuries are then no available to treat other people. In quite common for a routine operation to cancelled so that the theatre and/or surgeons can be used to operate on an accident victim. If the injuries that require such surgery can be prevented by not skiing or skateboarding without a helmet then it is unethical of people not do so. Quite simply, they are selfish.

    And just what is your point ? That because we cannot legislate against all foolish and selfish behaviour that adversely impacts others we should not legislate against any such behaviour ?

  61. Matt Penfold says

    I understand your argument. It makes sense. But whenever personal liberties are at stake a balance must be made. To me, that balance is that the state ought not to restrict anything I do or say so long as no-one elses rights or bodies are harmed. Adding costs to medical care does not, in my estimation, add up. And when you start restricting one activity that has no (or little) potential to harm others, where do you stop?

    It is not simply a matter of cost, although in a universal healthcare system it is an important issue. Accident victims take precedent in treatment over those who are undergoing elective procedures. That is as it should be, but do not pretend that those who have their operations cancelled due to the need to treat emergency cases are not harmed. People having elective surgery make plans for that surgery, not to mention they may often be in pain. Cancelling their op means they will remain in pain, and have to re-arranged everything. Not to mention the distress cancelling operations causes patients. So please, cut out the no harm to others crap OK ? It is bullshit.

  62. nooneinparticular says

    Matt

    And just what is your point ? That because we cannot legislate against all foolish and selfish behaviour that adversely impacts others we should not legislate against any such behaviour ?

    I do not believe that not wearing a bike helmet (or wearing a seat belt), though foolish*, adversely impacts others anymore than a thousand other activities we do. You (and many municipalities) think that not wearing a bike helmet harms others. I don’t agree. So long as no elses rights or physical well being are impacted, no activity should be restricted by law.

    *I have commuted by bicycle for more than 20 years. I don’t even own a car. I almost always wear a helmoot. But it is my choice. I don’t do it because the law says I must.

    Sorry to derail the Harris thread. I’ve said my piece and will shut up now.

  63. Matt Penfold says

    I do not believe that not wearing a bike helmet (or wearing a seat belt), though foolish*, adversely impacts others anymore than a thousand other activities we do

    You believe wrong.

    You (and many municipalities) think that not wearing a bike helmet harms others. I don’t agree. So long as no elses rights or physical well being are impacted, no activity should be restricted by law.

    But the physical well-being of others is being impacted. That is the whole fucking point. Resources used to treat people with injuries that can be avoid impact others, and cause them harm. How fucking hard is this to understand ?

    Jesus, but you are one selfish fucker. As far as you are concerned anyone unlucky enough to have an operation cancelled because of an emergency that could have been avoided if a helmet or seatbelt had been worn can just fuck off and die. Any pain, any distress they suffer, any inconvenience is not important to you. Well fuck that attitude.

  64. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Someone who is skiing at speed, or comes off a skateboard at speed not wearing a helmet is likely to be severely injured. The resources used to treat those injuries are then no available to treat other people. In quite common for a routine operation to cancelled so that the theatre and/or surgeons can be used to operate on an accident victim. If the injuries that require such surgery can be prevented by not skiing or skateboarding without a helmet then it is unethical of people not do so. Quite simply, they are selfish.

    Well that would be a fitting analogy if the rate of skiers was in line with those who drive cars. Wearing a helmet or a seat belt are minor “restrictions” for a limiting of injury. And with car accidents at a much higher rate, larger impact to others and larger over all number and therefore impact on our emergency and healthcare systems, your skiing analogy doesn’t work.

  65. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    FTR, anyone NOT wearing a seatbelt while driving or a helmet while riding is foolishly risking their own life. But it ought to be our right to be foolish.

    If people want to be foolish, they should be fully insured for such foolishness, so that their idiocy doesn’t effect other people. Like those not wearing a motorcycle helmet should have insurance to cover them mildly scrambling their brains, and needing assistance for the rest of their life.

  66. Matt Penfold says

    Well as long as YOU’RE ok bumping me from surgery because you don’t believe its a big deal then were ok. Christ what an asshole

    I would have more sympathy with his argument if he was to insist those who do not want to wear a seatbelt or helmet are free to do so, but must accept that if they have an accident the only “treatment” they will get is to be dragged to the side of the road. After that they must help themselves.

  67. Matt Penfold says

    In fairness though, I must point one benefit of people not wearing seatbelts or helmets is more organ donors. So people waiting for a transplant will not wait as long, or be as likely to die waiting.

  68. gingerbaker says

    Harris’s blog does have a forum section, where you can discuss articles. There is a thread on this article, and I posted this there:

    Bruce Schneier makes the point in his essay “The Trouble with Profiling” that:

    “the chances any profiled flier will be a Muslim terrorist is 1 in 80 million. Add the 19 9/11 terrorists—arguably a singular event—that number drops to 1 in 8 million. Either way, because the number of actual terrorists is so low, almost everyone selected by the profile will be innocent. “

    However, what he does not do is to identify a profiling strategy that has a higher probability of success! All profile strategies will have a very low success rate when compared to the “630 million annual airplane fliers “.

    Indeed, he stresses that the number of Arab and semitic-looking passengers is likely very low – only 2.4%. This, it seems to me, indicates that this profile is likely to be a very efficient one in a relative sense, because it allows 97.6% of passengers to possibly receive expedited screening. This appears to bolster Sam’s argument, not his own.

    If, as Schneier himself estimates, one out of every eight million passengers is a Muslim terrorist, then the total number of Muslim terrorists potentially identified by Muslim-Semitic profiling would be expected to be 79 per year. This seems to me to be an extraordinarily high number, and I would challenge Mr. Schneier to identify a profile which would give significantly better results.

    The current screening system which everyone despises has certainly apprehended far fewer than 79 terrorists per year. By his own figures, Mr Schneier seems to certify that Sam Harris’s strategy should replace our current system as soon as possible.

  69. 'Tis Himself says

    Here in the US we have medical insurance. If more insurance claims are made or if the claims are for expensive treatments, then the cost of insurance goes up. So I’m effected by some asshole who might be slightly injured or uninjured in an accident if they were wearing a helmet or seatbelt but because their “liberty” was at stake, they didn’t use safety equipment and were seriously injured.

    Libertarians pretend they’re for freedom but the only freedoms they want is their own. They don’t give a shit about anyone else. The libertarian motto: “I’ve got mine, fuck you.”

  70. Matt Penfold says

    Indeed, he stresses that the number of Arab and semitic-looking passengers is likely very low – only 2.4%. This, it seems to me, indicates that this profile is likely to be a very efficient one in a relative sense, because it allows 97.6% of passengers to possibly receive expedited screening. This appears to bolster Sam’s argument, not his own.

    No, it does not since most Muslims are not Arabs. When we look at the ethnicity of those who have carried, attempted to carry out, or planned Islam terrorist attacks we find that many, if not most, are not Arabs. Why are you so keen to make things easier for non Arabic Islamic terrorists ?

  71. nooneinparticular says

    Ing. I’m an asshole because I don’t buy the argument that someone might be “bumped from surgery” because of a car or bicycle accident? Okaaay.

    Nerd; I don’t know where you live, but here in Washington State everyone is already required to have insurance when driving. Bicycle accidents are covered by health insurance policies. I know lots of people don’t have insurance. I know that accidents involving people who don’t wear seat belts or wear helmets can result in worse injuries. There is no argument from me there.

    Rev Bigdumbchimp. You are right, right righty right. In fact everyone whose come down on me is (except Ing. That was just juvenile). All of your arguments are valid. You are comfortable with the state taking some of your personal liberty away for a (marginal) public good. I am not. It comes down to that. I get your argument. And Nerd’s. And Matt’s. I am not persuaded by them.

  72. Matt Penfold says

    Here in the US we have medical insurance. If more insurance claims are made or if the claims are for expensive treatments, then the cost of insurance goes up. So I’m effected by some asshole who might be slightly injured or uninjured in an accident if they were wearing a helmet or seatbelt but because their “liberty” was at stake, they didn’t use safety equipment and were seriously injured

    The same applies in those countries that have healthcare funded through taxation, except of course it means high spending on healthcare and either less spending on something else, or higher taxes.

  73. Anri says

    gingerbaker, if I am following your point correctly, wouldn’t the correct course be to simply refuse flights to anyone “Arab and semitic-looking”, thus eliminating the possibility of one of them preforming a terrorist act completely?

    Or is there perhaps some factor in the real-world situation being missed here…?

  74. Matt Penfold says

    Ing. I’m an asshole because I don’t buy the argument that someone might be “bumped from surgery” because of a car or bicycle accident? Okaaay.

    It happens. If you refuse to believe it does, then you are simply lying to yourself.

    Still, you have made it clear that those who are bumped can go fuck themselves.

  75. Porco Dio says

    Wow! Schneier managed to set Harris straight without stoking up a lynch mob or trying to sell merchandise.

  76. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Rev Bigdumbchimp. You are right, right righty right. In fact everyone whose come down on me is (except Ing. That was just juvenile). All of your arguments are valid. You are comfortable with the state taking some of your personal liberty away for a (marginal) public good. I am not. It comes down to that. I get your argument. And Nerd’s. And Matt’s. I am not persuaded by them.

    Look at it this way. People not taking responsibility for their own safety by wearing seat belts or bike helmets and then having that accident are infringing on you in some way by taking an unnecessary risk of greater injury and therefor larger impact on our systems as a whole. Using resources that may not have needed to be used and are in some part then unavailable to you.

    While skiers or skateboarders or all manner of other participants of activities are doing this as well, the easiest target and the one likely to make the most impact are the ones that are done by the greatest number of people that also have inherently larger impacts on the system when they have accidents. Seat belts having a fairly good track record of reducing injuries and deaths in auto accidents are an easy target.

  77. jeremynel says

    To be fair, Schneider’s point (2) is probably not relevant to his debate with Harris. (It’s also not quite the same as PZ’s point (2).) Schneider claims that the fallacy is assuming all terrorists are Arab-looking, which is certainly false… but isn’t at all what Harris believes either. Indeed, he was quite explicit on this point.

    PZ’s point (2), about “looking Muslim” being hopelessly indefinable, is a better one since most Muslims are indeed non-Arab. Perhaps Harris meant his screening criteria to include “looking Arab” rather than “looking Muslim”…

    However, none of this of course detracts from the force of the other 3 points, which I find quite cogent. I’ll be interested to see what Harris’s response is to this, and if he’s prepared to concede any ground.

  78. Anri says

    nooneinparticular:

    Ing. I’m an asshole because I don’t buy the argument that someone might be “bumped from surgery” because of a car or bicycle accident? Okaaay.

    May I ask what bit of that you don’t buy?

    Other than the ‘asshole’ bit, I mean the being bumped bit.

    Healthcare is limited, as is access to heath care procedures, by a number of factors. Priority is given to trauma cases. if priority is given to one type of incident over another in a limited resource system, there will be some movement of those not given priority, that seems obvious. Reducing the number of priority cases will ease this for non-priority cases.

    What exactly are you arguing?

  79. nooneinparticular says

    RevBigDumbChimp

    I get it. You’re right, of course. I still don’t think laws forcing us to comply with seat belts and helmets are worth the infringement on our personal liberties. But if we wish to be consistent and legislate behavior that have the biggest impacts on others through costs or things like “bumping surgeries”, why is drinking alcohol allowed? Cigarette smoking? Even if no one else is directly harmed by these activities, the societal impact of these DWARFS seatbelt or helmet non wearers. Where ought this line be drawn? Some laws do exist about these (minimum age and blood alcohol levels, etc, and those are fine by me because drunk drivers kill other people and there are some decisions that children should not be making for themselves).

    Anyway. It looks like some Harris-related posts are showing up….I’m making me some popcorn.

  80. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You are comfortable with the state taking some of your personal liberty away for a (marginal) public good. I am not. It comes down to that. I get your argument. And Nerd’s. And Matt’s. I am not persuaded by them.

    Any time your actions causes the state to spend money, like for long term disability, it has a right and responsibility to expect the public not to be utterly stupid. What you refuse to see is that your alleged freedom costs others money and time. Now, you see that you don’t cost them time and money, then you can have all the freedom you want. It is called being responsible for your actions. You speak like a true liberturd. Fuck you unless I need help…

  81. nooneinparticular says

    Anri

    Last comment I’ll make on this only because I don’t want to derail the original discussion more than I have already done.

    There is a logic what you (and Matt and Ing and others) say. Resources ARE limited. I am not sure if it actually happens, getting “bumped” because of an accident, but it is certainly plausible. I do not believe it happens with any kind of significant regularity, if at all (for most medical centers ERs surgeries are conducted separately from the vast majority of surgeries and almost all electives). It is only an assertion on your part, however sensible it is.

    My argument is one of rights. If there is any inconvenience to others needing surgeries (if you have some evidence it happens that would be good to know) it does not to me overcome the impact on my personal rights. YMMV. Further, we are not consistent in applying these restrictions. Concerns about costs are not persuasive because even though individual costs can be high for people foolish enough to not use seat belts or wear helmets and unlucky enough to have an accident, they represent a tiny fraction of health care costs. There are FAR bigger fish to fry if your goal is to, by legislating away rights, reduce health care costs.

    Done with this, thanks all.

  82. jacklewis says

    >>ven if racial profiling actually worked and made us safer, it should not be used

    Once you read something like that, it is hard to take whatever follows as anything but some utopian wankings. Being profiled and getting tortured are rather well ..humm different things.
    I have no idea what in Schneier’s article is supposed to sway Harris in anyway? The lovely discussion on wolves and sheep?

    >> When people propose profiling, they are really asking for a security system that can apply judgment<> The proper reaction to screening horror stories isn’t to subject only “those people” to it; it’s to subject no one to it<<
    Interesting notion… I doubt it is a very realistic one…

    Still let's keep bashing Harris it is probably good for one's inferiority complex…

  83. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    I get it. You’re right, of course. I still don’t think laws forcing us to comply with seat belts and helmets are worth the infringement on our personal liberties. But if we wish to be consistent and legislate behavior that have the biggest impacts on others through costs or things like “bumping surgeries”, why is drinking alcohol allowed? Cigarette smoking? Even if no one else is directly harmed by these activities, the societal impact of these DWARFS seatbelt or helmet non wearers.

    That is a fair point. I think the reason for this is that wearing a seat belt or a helmet is considered a much more minor inconvenience than is restricting people’s access to alcohol and and cigs for that matter. Most people (no citation here just an assumption) probably consider wearing a seat belt less of an intrusion on personal rights than restricting access to tobacco or alcohol so they are easier to implement.

    However IIRC the higher taxation of tobacco (and I would guess alcohol) is an attempt to mitigate this.

    Look at the attempts to add taxes onto sugary sodas. Same thing.

  84. Brownian says

  85. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Being profiled and getting tortured are rather well ..humm different things.

    Being hung by a tree and being stopped for driving black are rather well ..humm different things.

  86. Brownian says

    Being hung by a tree and being stopped for driving black are rather well ..humm different things.

    Interesting notion… I doubt it is a very realistic one…

    The ellipses make it sound more thoughtful!

  87. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    Louis –

    All shops will also be run by Mr Benn.

    Fortunately you put in that linky because for a moment there I though you might be thinking of this Mr Benn. Who is someone I both dislike and admire in a rather uncomfortable mixture. Anyone interested in what left-wing politics is about would likely be interested in that wiki page, by the way.

  88. says

    I have no idea what in Schneier’s article is supposed to sway Harris in anyway? The lovely discussion on wolves and sheep?

    Really, the only thing I feel I can do for someone this fucking stupid is mock them endlessly for their complete failure to grasp a rather simple point:

    Random screenings are a superior method of deterrent than profiling.

    So, good job Jackie! You’re smart enough to know what a wolf is, but not quite bright enough to see that oh yeah, Harris is beyond wrong.

    But you keep justifying discrimination of Arabs, you crazy diamond.

  89. Woo_Monster says

    Once you read something like that, it is hard to take whatever follows as anything but some utopian rankings.

    This person is scary. Someone who thinks that any means, no matter how heinous, are justified if they get some certain result (here an almost non-existent increase in safety).

    Still let’s keep bashing Harris it is probably good for one’s inferiority complex…

    Some people sure are taking criticism of Sam’s article very personally.

  90. gingerbaker says

    Matt Penfold:

    Indeed, he stresses that the number of Arab and semitic-looking passengers is likely very low – only 2.4%. This, it seems to me, indicates that this profile is likely to be a very efficient one in a relative sense, because it allows 97.6% of passengers to possibly receive expedited screening. This appears to bolster Sam’s argument, not his own.

    No, it does not since most Muslims are not Arabs. When we look at the ethnicity of those who have carried, attempted to carry out, or planned Islam terrorist attacks we find that many, if not most, are not Arabs. Why are you so keen to make things easier for non Arabic Islamic terrorists ?

    The article Sam linked, which is an interview with an Israeli airport security expert was pretty instructive on these points. They have multiple profiles – Muslims, Arabs, country of origin, nervousness.

    I am “keen to make things easier for non Arabic Islamic terrorists…” because it is part of my required work to earn a merit badge from my local Illuminati den mother.

  91. Esteleth, Who is Totally Not a Dog or Ferret says

    Of course, the thing that Sam’s post completely doesn’t account for is that (statistically speaking) the US has a far greater problem with terrorism perpetrated by white Christians than Arab Muslims.

    Also, since it is ineffective to search every single person (due to volume), the best way to stop terrorist attacks is truly random screening – that way, the terrorists don’t try, because there’s no type to select against.

  92. Valindrius says

    @gingerbaker

    However, what he does not do is to identify a profiling strategy that has a higher probability of success! All profile strategies will have a very low success rate when compared to the “630 million annual airplane fliers “

    Higher success than what? Profiling as Harris proposes? If so, yes he does. He specifically states that “randomised secondary screening is more effective” after providing a series of links that demonstrate the futility of allocating resources to strong profiling over randomised screening. I’d highly advise reading the Carnival Booth paper Schneier links.

    Also, what has Harris actually proposed? In Bombing Our Illusions he refers to ‘ethnic profiling,’ throughout In Defence of Profiling he refers to those that ‘could conceivably be Muslim,’ and his latest response refers to pseudo-behavioural profiling. How can anyone assess the merits of Harris’ proposal when it’s completely opaque? We only have his few statements that suggest strong profiling of Muslims to act upon.

    As to the rest of your post, I’m sorry but it seems like you intentionally or accidentally overlooked every other point or citation provided by Schneier. For instance, you’re presuming incredibly high sensitivity in order to justify anything remotely approaching the hypothetical 79 true positives, it’s utterly unrealistic. In reality, adaptability and ineptitude would yield false negatives that impinge upon your sensitivity significantly. You completely neglect to explain how it’s possible to overcome the horribly low specificity given that so many ethnic groups are or can ‘conceivably be Muslim.’ This problem is highlighted by the diversity of terrorists that Schneier lists. Even if you incorporate behavioural profiling then there are many examples of horribly failures in that area too. I believe TSA’s Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique produced 0 true positives and probably produced at least 23 false negatives by May 2010.

    I really could go on for a protracted period of time but your entire post is completely detached from reality and idealistic. In particular, I cannot believe that you used a hypothetical number as a legitimate criticism of the present system. Furthermore, you don’t get to create a nebulous concept of heavy profiling then presume it’s the gold standard unless you have evidence for it. It is Harris’ duty to define his heavy profiling system in a manner that can be rigorously assessed first. Unfortunately, he resorted to the antithesis of the scientific method. He formed his conclusion first, explained that conclusion poorly, and is only seeking evidence after-the-fact.

    The article Sam linked, which is an interview with an Israeli airport security expert was pretty instructive on these points.

    It provides absolutely no specifics as to the relative contributions each aspect makes, neglects to mention the fact that the last attack in an Israeli airport was due to heavy profiling, contains excellent allusions to how discriminatory the system can be, and doesn’t explore confounding variables akin to whether other security measures largely contributed to reduced attacks (you can’t equate lack of attack with success of the airport search regime). Above all, they’re in a completely different situation. Do you not see the absurdity of this? Where’s the list of true positives? Where’s the list of false negatives? Where are the false positives rates? A single interview does not count as sufficient proof.

  93. Matt Penfold says

    The article Sam linked, which is an interview with an Israeli airport security expert was pretty instructive on these points. They have multiple profiles – Muslims, Arabs, country of origin, nervousness.

    I am “keen to make things easier for non Arabic Islamic terrorists…” because it is part of my required work to earn a merit badge from my local Illuminati den mother.

    Fine. Now you you like to answer the points I raised, because for some reason you decided not bother to do so.

    And I was serious in asking why you want to make things easier for non Arab Islamic terrorists. You want to do that, since you have said so. I will presume you are not a psychopath and so do not want to do so in order that they will have a better chance of success, so I want to know your true motivation. It is not about making people safer, since you would not do that. The most credible answer is that you want to discriminate against Arabs, which of course would make you a racist.

  94. says

    Really? The guy who is throwing a little tantrum about how he has the right to not wear a helmet and thay by forcing him into it peope are limiting his rights is calling me juvinille? Maturity you’re doing it wrong. Suck it up and do the smart thing rather than bitching about someone telling you what to do. Most of us grew out of that knee jerk rebell phase

  95. KG says

    If I were Sam Harris, I’d be worried about the huge proportion of fuckwits and vile shitbags supporting me: stevoR, humanape, frankboyd, thpoc…

    Perhaps Harris meant his screening criteria to include “looking Arab” rather than “looking Muslim”… – jeremynel

    Maybe so, but that would have rather given the game away, wouldn’t it? It would also be even more fantastically stupid if possible, since the “shoe bomber”, the “underpants bomber”, David Hirst, the London 7/7 bombers, the Madrid bombers, the Bali bombers and the Mumbai attackers would all have been waved through.

  96. Matt Penfold says

    Maybe so, but that would have rather given the game away, wouldn’t it? It would also be even more fantastically stupid if possible, since the “shoe bomber”, the “underpants bomber”, David Hirst, the London 7/7 bombers, the Madrid bombers, the Bali bombers and the Mumbai attackers would all have been waved through.

    Yes, but you miss the point KG. Harris and others would have felt safer, and that is what really matters.

  97. jacklewis says

    >>”The ellipses make it sound more thoughtful!”
    I’m supposed to take that as some refutation of sorts? I guess brownian refers to the hole from which such high brow musings come from?

  98. jacklewis says

    In what sense did the London 7/7 bombers not look muslim or arab????
    Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain, and Mohammad Sidique Khan are somehow not making Harris’ point? Fascinating… I guess confirmation bias is strong in this region. The part about guilt from supporters is also pretty lame.

  99. Amphiox says

    Once you read something like that, it is hard to take whatever follows as anything but some utopian wankings

    Once you read something like THAT, it is hard to take anything else that follows as anything other than inhuman.

  100. Amphiox says

    I wonder: why don’t the terrorists fly as often as possible looking as stereotypically Muslim as possible, with no intent to do anything terrorizing during a flight, simply to generate a false positive? Enough of those and the TSA might change its tune. Or, be like the person with the book in Harris’s essay, but not have a bomb, a gun or anything threatening. Just mess with the TSA’s heads.

    You forget, the terrorists WANT the TSA to profile muslims. They WANT the west to adopt actions and policies that alienate moderate muslims. They WANT the west to appear to the rest of the non-west, non-muslim world to be reactionary racists.

    The terrorists know that no amount of direct damage they actually do, no amount of planes they hijack, no amount buildings they crash into, none of it actually hurts the west in any meaningful way, EXCEPT in as much as it makes the west overreact in a manner to inflicts SELF-damage (including things like economic jitters).

    Profiling muslims PLAYS RIGHT INTO THE TERRORISTS’ HANDS, just as the war on Iraq did.

    So to jacklewis and the rest of the racial profiling apologists, I ask again:

    Why do you want the terrorists to win?

  101. jacklewis says

    >>Once you read something like THAT, it is hard to take anything else that follows as anything other than inhuman.<<

    Comments are not usually human… the people that write them typically are. Still you haven't refuted anything. Asking for screeners to have some judgment instead of molesting old people and kids is a pretty "inhuman" notion… in what sort of deranged mind?

  102. Brownian says

    I’m supposed to take that as some refutation of sorts?

    No, you stupid fuck, because you didn’t say anything worth refuting. You can take it as me making fun of your dumb fucking ass.

    Let’s look at your ‘refutable’ point again, shall we?

    The proper reaction to screening horror stories isn’t to subject only “those people” to it; it’s to subject no one to it

    Interesting notion… I doubt it is a very realistic one…

    Well, call the Nobel Prize committee because some fucking moron named jack thought the idea of not submitting people to screening horrors was interesting but then expressed doubt as to its realism. When put through the peer review process, other researchers expressed skepticality about jack’s conclusions. “I’m not sure how interesting he thought the notion was,” concluded a top scientist in the field of jack’s perceptions. Another criticised the conclusion of his expression of doubt, “he may or may not feel the notion is realistic, but without further research we just can’t tell.”

    Now, do you have anything worthwhile to say, fuckface, or are you going to continue to act like this is a group therapy session for your musings on people who disagree with a man you apparently think should be free from criticism?

    Because if all you’ve got is snipes about confirmation bias, then fucking awesome. You’re right. You win. Let’s have you head up national security, and we’ll all hang on every lazy, laconic thought you can scrape together.

  103. Brownian says

    Asking for screeners to have some judgment instead of molesting old people and kids is a pretty “inhuman” notion… in what sort of deranged mind?

    Why, you goal-post shifting fucking piece of shit.

  104. gryphaea says

    In defence of profiling…

    I’m new to this wall, but it seems like a good place to swear with abandon, which is new to me on forums. Since I’m going to get shouted at I might as well look forward to it with an opening fuck-ahoy. Ah, very refreshing compared to other blogs with their sly civility.

    Now, onwards…

    1) Profiling people who “look Muslim” will have a high false positive rate
    Yep. I take this as meaning lots of innocent people will be searched. It seems to me that statistically this has to be the normality anyway. I’ve been searched lots of times. I even had my underpants tested for explosives once and was a little worried because I work offshore and explosives are used for fracturing casing during well testing. None of those times, from memory, was I a terrorist.

    2) “looking Muslim” is a hopelessly indefinable criterion
    Very true, but I don’t want them to not randomly search everyone else. I’d just like them to have a better glance at all the people who look like suicide bombers tend to look at the moment.

    3) terrorists will use profiling to avoid detection
    No doubt true. Tell you what, lets keep checking everyone else as well.

    4) it’s a strategy to alienate those who could be on our side.
    A solid argument, and the only one that really appeals to me.

    It seems to me that this debate would be better focused on ensuring airport security have enough resources to act as the last line of defence that they are. If a terrorist is about to get on the plane every other defence we have has already failed. If a queue of 100 has 8 people who fit the general look of previous suicide bombers then I would want the security staff to have at least given them a glance over.
    What I would not want is for only those 8 to be checked and all the time put into them, which is often what it sounds like people are saying will happen. That if you profile and so pick out of a crowd possible terrorists that means you no longer look at the rest. Perhaps I want profiling lite.
    You should be looking at everyone – lest the 90 year old grandmother get through with all her homemade knitted bombs, but just giving a bit more of a look at those that fit the criteria (which changes as terrorists change).

    So I think this should be about ensuring there is enough staff to check the obvious people and still check enough of everyone else.

    That would be my argument for it. If the maths says purely random is better then fine – but surely that maths features a factor for available resources and as resources increase the profiling/randomness debate decreases. If a plane is blown up and the bomber is the classic fit then people are going to look pretty silly. ‘Er, we didn’t think to check the guy who looked like most suicide bombers’ or ‘sorry, we couldn’t check him because we checked a guy with a beard before him’ are poor excuses to the families of the dead.

    The last argument about pissing off people you need to help you is valid. But what a state we are in. If a fanatical group of white terrorists with mohawks wearing denim jackets starts blowing up plains then how moral are the everyday mohawk sporting denim fans who turn on you for slowing them down at airports? However, we don’t want them rioting in the streets or not helping stop the terrorists getting all the way to the airport in the first place so perhaps the charred remains of a hundred families are worth not pissing them off now and then.

    Politics hay! Its a bastard.

  105. jacklewis says

    gryphaea, yeah it is pretty depressing to see the asinine juvenile display on this site’s comment areas.
    According to some of the worst offenders this should reflect on PZ (your supporters define you apparently). But since my thoughts are not controlled by random knee movements, I can’t really entertain such a dumbass notion for very long.
    I expect your post is sufficiently well thought out to be discarded by the petulant angst ridden teens here that think “shit” makes an argument. They are however cute and loveable in the way a dog chasing it’s tail can be at times.

  106. jacklewis says

    >> Why do you want the terrorists to win?
    Why are you such a dumbass? If you can unlock this mystery a great many doors of perception will open up at once for you.

  107. says

    I would not expect Harris to backdown. I do not believe his mind has been influenced in the slightest. He has had a number of years and numerous debates to rethink his position and he is still stuck on “Get Them Moslems.”

  108. Lars says

    I’d just like them to have a better glance at all the people who look like suicide bombers tend to look at the moment.

    For the fiftieth time, what does suicide bombers tend to look like at the moment?

    And before you bleat “Like a muslim”, for the hundreth fucking time, what the fuck do muslims tend to look like at the moment?

    Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And those who refuse to read earlier comments are doomed to make themselves look like fucking idiots. Round and round we go.

  109. carbonbasedlifeform says

    I still don’t think laws forcing us to comply with seat belts and helmets are worth the infringement on our personal liberties.

    It’s very simple. If people do not use safety equipment, then when they are injured, their injuries tend to be more severe. Severe injuries cost more to treat than less severe injuries. If insurance companies have to pay out more in injury claims, insurance rates go up for everyone.

    In other words, you want to be free to ignore safety concerns, and you want me to pay for this. Libertarians claim to want to take personal responsibilities, but in this case at least, they are wanting to do the exact opposite.

  110. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    all the people who look like suicide bombers tend to look at the moment.

    Which is what?

  111. jacklewis says

    >>FOR FUCKING FUCK’S SAKE: Tell us what a fucking suicide bomber looks like or shut the fuck up. Fucking asshat.<

    There's this thing called google, there's also wikipedia, moron.