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Oh, gosh — I have cheesed off Sam Harris!

He is clearly quite peeved. It looks like the final straw was that I, as he claims, “gleefully endorsed” a post on The 5 Most Awful Atheists. Actually, what I did was challenge the author to write something positive about atheists, and agreed that the criticisms were valid, but not gleefully, and I also said that I do not consider any of those atheists irredeemable (except, of course, SE Cupp).

And I’ll stand by that.

Sam Harris has been a significant contributor to the atheist movement, and is far better known than I am. But that does not make him flawless. I disagree strongly with him on his position on torture, as do many others; I know he’s not a casual advocate of torture, but he does invent ridiculous, improbable scenarios (in which torture wouldn’t even work!) to justify some instances. I think his advocacy of profiling was repugnant, irrational and unjustifiable, and Bruce Schneier also found it problematic. To now dismiss Schneier’s informed discussion as a “long and rather tedious debate” and to characterize Schneier’s position as a failed argument from expediency is ridiculous.

For real fun, look at his complaints about blogs in general.

It is difficult to overlook the role that blog comments play in all this. Having a blog and building a large community of readers can destroy a person’s intellectual integrity—as appears to have happened in the case of PZ Myers. Many people who read his blog come away convinced that I am a racist who advocates the widespread use of torture and a nuclear first strike against the entire Muslim world. The most despicable claims about me appear in the comment thread, of course, but Myers is responsible for publishing them. And so I hold him responsible for circulating and amplifying some of the worst distortions of my views found on the Internet.

Hmmm. I think Harris’s reputation as an illiberal advocate for atrocious policies long preceded any of my criticisms of his positions, and I suspect that the commenters here could make a far better indictment of Harris than he can a defense. But what do I know? You guys have destroyed my integrity!

Let’s complete the total sellout. Since I am now a notorious and unscrupulous opponent of all that is Sam, I will turn it over to you: there is currently a competition to raise money for Camp Quest. I’m falling far behind. If you think I’m on the side of Goodness and Righteousness, donate to Team PZ’s Revenge. If you think I’m full of it and adore Sam Harris, donate to Team Awful Re-defeat PZ, that gang of 13 bloggers (we’re all evil!) who have teamed up to conquer sad, lonely, isolated me.

Sam could really teach me a lesson by making a big donation to Team Awful. A good trouncing would show everyone how pathetic my influence actually is.

Comments

  1. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Many people who read his blog come away convinced that I am a racist who advocates the widespread use of torture and a nuclear first strike against the entire Muslim world.

    Um . . . . . . what is he basing the “many people” thing on, exactly? Did he do an exit poll of Pharyngula readers?

    Someone might get the idea that he’s a testerical crybaby from this post, but not because of anything PZ wrote.

  2. raven says

    No big deal.

    Of the Four Horsemen of the atheists advance*, he is the least impressive.

    I read his book and quit halfway through. He spent a lot of time Moslem bashing. It probably was correct but that isn’t our big problem.

    The Moslems are over there ruining their society. The xians are over here, ruining mine. I live here, not there.

    *It was Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett. These days it is a huge thundering herd and I couldn’t even begin to list them all.

  3. Paul says

    Um . . . . . . what is he basing the “many people” thing on, exactly? Did he do an exit poll of Pharyngula readers?

    The funny part was that many of the participants had a strong opinion on Harris completely aside from anything PZ has posted. But since the comments are provided on Pharyngula, they of course form the cornerstone of PZ’s lack of intellectual integrity.

  4. Paul says

    Oh, my favorite part of Harris’s response (about the 5 worst atheists list):

    I read this poisonous and inane concoction written by a deeply unserious person

    I wonder what Harris considers serious. But I feel like I’ve seen the “unserious” critique before…

  5. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    The funny part was that many of the participants had a strong opinion on Harris completely aside from anything PZ has posted. But since the comments are provided on Pharyngula, they of course form the cornerstone of PZ’s lack of intellectual integrity.

    So, he’s not just behaving like a testerical crybaby here, he’s behaving like a really dishonest testercial crybaby.

    is this his normal MO? I’ve only read one of his book – the christian nation one – and that’s all I know about him.

    Until now, which isn’t exactly making a great impression.

  6. says

    Melody Hensley just hurt my feelings terribly.

    Dude, Sam Harris is giving you a lot more credit for his reputation than you deserve.

    But she’s right. I haven’t written anything strongly critical of Harris so far — I jumped on his ghastly profiling article, but I wasn’t the only one.

  7. ChasCPeterson says

    hee!
    Harris refers to “PZ Myers’s odious blog” and calls him “that shepherd of Internet trolls PZ Myers”.

    baaaaaa

  8. raven says

    But I feel like I’ve seen the “unserious” critique before…

    Sounds like concern and tone trolling.

  9. says

    I am coming away from this blog post with the impression that Sam Harris is a whiny crybaby. (PZ’s influence strikes again!)

  10. marinerachel says

    Does Harris think he’s a special snowflake with regards to having distortions of his views published as comments on Pharyngula? Because in truth that happens every single time someone expresses a distortion of anyone else’s opinion on this blog (and most others.) It’s not unique to him. This isn’t personal.

    Besides, the fact his views may have been misrepresented here by commenters, intentionally or otherwise, is hardly evidence “Many people” are convinced of anything, much less that he’s racist. This is not an issue where the overwhelming majority is expressing or agreeing with an expressed distortion.

    The things that have come for Harris’s fingertips and mouth have gone much farther to convince people he supports racist policies than anything posted by Nobodies on Pharyngula.

  11. ChasCPeterson says

    hmmm Harris also sez:

    PZ Myers continue to malign me as an advocate of “racial profiling.” I have written to Myers personally about this and answered his charges publicly. His only response has been to attack me further and to endorse the false charges of others.

    which doesn’t sound good.

    btw he claims to be mostly peeved that crap about his “work” keeps “surfacing on the internet” and thereby interrupting his precious working time…he’s writing another book, don’t you know.

  12. says

    So, you’re the Pope of atheism who ensnares your commenters and fans into sheep-like servility with your cult of personality… but WE are the ones who cause you to sell out your integrity for the sweet rush of fandom?

    Hmm. Brainwashing, how the fuck does it work?

  13. says

    I wonder… Has Harris actually read anything PZ has written about him? Has he actually read that ’5 most awful atheists’ post? Because it sure as hell looks like he didn’t.

  14. carlie says

    and calls him “that shepherd of Internet trolls PZ Myers”.

    Isn’t “The Shepherd of the Trolls” Harold Bell Wright’s epic story of love, loss, power, hardship, and the true meaning of life, shown nightly at a large outdoor theater in Branson? :)

  15. Vall says

    Sam may be suffering selection bias. I see a wide range of pretty much everything here, on just about every topic. People that actually read the comments know what horeshit the hive mind thing is.

  16. movinbutnotshakin says

    “The Moslems are over there ruining their society. The xians are over here, ruining mine. I live here, not there.”

    A hopelessly insular perspective.

  17. Paul says

    How exactly are the commentors PZ’s responsibility? Is he telling us what to think? Is he editing our comments?

    No, Harris’s complaint is that PZ allows our comments to remain here when they say such odious things about him. He references PZ as the publisher, specifically, and there is really no way to read him other than that he considers PZ to be lacking in intellectual integrity to allow such comments to be published on his blog (providing them succor and comfort, I suppose).

  18. says

    Ian Murphy is, in fact, “deeply unserious”. However, he has accomplished works of very serious journalism by his unseriousness that a lot of journalists ought to envy. Serious person? No. Serious business? Damn straight.

  19. KG says

    Many people who read his blog come away convinced that I am a racist who advocates the widespread use of torture and a nuclear first strike against the entire Muslim world. – Sam Harris

    Well, Harris, you are a racist who says that torture could be “ethically necessary”, and that a nuclear first strike against a Muslim country could be “our” only possible course of action (which is of course a lie, since the alternative of not committing genocide would always be there), which might lead to a genocidal war against the entire Muslim world. So while the characterisation you give omits some nuances, it’s not that far from the truth.

  20. says

    Many people who read his blog come away convinced that I am a racist who advocates the widespread use of torture and a nuclear first strike against the entire Muslim world.

    Wrong. I got this impression from reading Sam’s blog.

  21. says

    Harris’ response is amusing because it basically boils down to “people who don’t agree with me aren’t worth dealing with.” That couldn’t be captured better by his description of the debates surrounding his profile post as “long and rather tedious” and bemoaning the fact that somebody would DARE provide a place where people might not come to the same conclusions as him.

    Additionally, accusing the other side of lacking nuance by painting everyone who disagreed with him outside his own tightly-controlled forum is amusing because he’s doing exactly what he decried. “Some people misrepresented my views and accused me of racism. That means everyone who disagreed with me was accusing me of racism.”

    Sighing and waxing philosophical that it’s just SO HARD to talk about controversial topics because people might passionately disagree with your viewpoint isn’t some grand insight into the state of the community. It’s just insight into your colossal ego.

  22. dobbshead says

    I like how he had to misrepresent the argument against torture as a cost issue, as opposed to a signal-to-noise issue (as well as moral). Either he really didn’t get it, or he’s an asshat.

    Either way, whenever I read Harris I usually find more value in what his critics say than what he does (alternet piece aside, that was a hackjob).

  23. says

    Many people who read his blog come away convinced that I am a racist who advocates the widespread use of torture and a nuclear first strike against the entire Muslim world.

    This is probably true, since most of us already knew this from reading his book.

  24. says

    Oh, and I will gladly be counted among the people who consider Harris an amoral monster, who the atheist organizations should avoid at all costs. As I said, I came to this conclusion based upon his books, but anything PZ has written.

  25. Stevarious says

    The only thing I have to say about this is that Sam DID suggest an on-its-face unworkable plan of racial profiling (demonstrating that he did not understand how profiling would actually work in real life), he HAS stated that there are plausible scenarios in which torture would be ethically required (demonstrating that he does not does not understand how torture works in real life), and he HAS stated that he believes there is a plausible scenario in which he a nuclear first strike would be ethically required, even though it would lead to a genocidal war.

    From his writings about these claims, I believe he does not feel very strongly at all about the last one (he qualified the hell out of it to the point where I don’t think he actually thinks it WOULD be that plausible or that it would ethical).

    But to my knowledge, he’s never withdrawn the first two. He’s tried to minimize or qualify them a bit, but as far as I know he’s never admitted ‘yeah, those were bad ideas and I regret publishing them’.

  26. Russ Ingram says

    I think both PZ & Sam have thin skins.

    Lately the atheist world seems to be turning on itself and the theists sit on the sidelines totally amused.

  27. Brownian says

    The most despicable claims about me appear in the comment thread, of course, but Myers is responsible for publishing them. And so I hold him responsible for circulating and amplifying some of the worst distortions of my views found on the Internet.

    Everyone, calm down. Sam Harris isn’t really mad at PZ. You see, even Harris has tired of his fanbois’ fapping devotion and has teamed up with PZ to rid himself of them once and for all, by suggesting that PZ should somehow censor his blog thus causing the liberty-screaming neocons’ heads to asplode.

  28. gragra, something clever after the comma says

    I have to admit for the most part I liked The End of Faith, but even before anyone else pointed it out, I thought he flirted with the idea of torture in one of the later chapters of the book and it troubled me. His subsequent efforts to downplay it have seemed like back-peddling to me. Why would you even mention torture as even vaguely possible? Especially as the evidence showing its ineffectiveness demolishes even the most ruthless utilitarian argument in its favor.

    He really descends into self pity in this article. I’m afraid my opinion of him is going downhill fast.

  29. bleh says

    It’s too bad Harris feels that way. I’ve been a Pharyngula reader for 6 years now, and I read this blog BECAUSE OF Harris. While a don’t endorse his position on torture or profiling (simply on the basis that neither work) I generally find him insightful beyond criticizing religion. His essays on wealth inequality are some of the finest writing he’s done.

    PZ has been critical of Harris in the past, but it’s always been fair, and never mean-spirited. Not sure why Sam is all riled up.

    Also, that Alternet piece was crap.

  30. hinschelwood says

    PZ recently wrote an entry pointing people to a free version of Harris’s free essay. That looks to me like hat-tip and free promotion.

    The fact that most people then took it as a free ticket to diss Sam Harris should not reflect on PZ.

    My main argument with Harris is that he presents his own opinions as derived logical truth. I call it crap. He seems to be doing the same here.

  31. Brownian says

    Lately the atheist world seems to be turning on itself and the theists sit on the sidelines totally amused.

    Oh, no! Gosh, theists’ opinions mean so much to us! Fuck intellectual and ethical integrity! We’d better enforce some atheist groupthink right away!

  32. says

    Ummmm… Sam Harris has some serious issues with critical thinking, and this episode is just another data point in that. Disagreeing with him doesn’t remotely mean a loss of “intellectual integrity” and he also ignores the fact that multiple critics have come to negative conclusions about his views on certain subjects, independently and over the space of several years. There’s no sore of single catalyst for criticism of his views, that he can simply dismiss out of hand with the same lack of intellectual rigor that he applies to his more bigoted anti-Muslim screeds.

  33. says

    Russ Ingram: Yes, cause the theists are so close and peaceful to each other.

    ——-
    I just wish Harris would have taken care not to misrepresent anyone’s views (e.g.: PZ’s) in an article he is writing to complain about how people misrepresent his views…

  34. says

    Huh. His posting doesn’t accept comments. Too bad.

    I concluded that his ideas about security profiling are stupid, and his shabbily constructed arguments around torture were unconvincing. I didn’t need PZ to tell me that. Although I think it was interesting how the general discussion in this odious blog aired the issues and Harris’ arguments and they didn’t fare very well. Nor did he fare very well against my old sparring partner Bruce, who has forgotten more about security than Harris has yet to learn.

    I guess the real thing is that a skeptic can’t expect everyone to agree with them, all the time. But if something you say gets you a lot of push-back, maybe it’s a good idea to listen to them and either explain clearly why you’re right, or re-assess your views. Harris isn’t blustering as badly as thunderfoot, but it’s the same lesson there.

  35. Amphiox says

    Lately the atheist world seems to be turning on itself and the theists sit on the sidelines totally amused.

    Assuming the theists even notice or care.

  36. gregpeterson says

    Sometimes I feel two impulses at war within me, and I suspect some other liberal-leaning atheists do as well. My ideologies tell me both to seek consensus and extend the benefit of the doubt–AND to highly value accuracy and reason. I like the idea of trying to find common ground, and using that common ground to try to reach ever greater agreement, and sometimes–rarely, but sometimes–to make some accommodation for the sake of strategic gain or mitigated harm. And on the other hand, when I find out that some people that I otherwise admire and consider friends, for example, accept psychic surgery or deny global climate disruption, despite a long history of friendship, I find it hard to continue civil conversation.

    This is the point I’ve come to. I don’t see it as a contradiction to love a lot of what Sam writes and says, and disagree with some of it; or PZ, or Dawkins, or C.S. Lewis or the fricking Bible for that matter.

    I’m just trying to make an effort to value people (some of whom I know only through books or other media) and relationships, and not exactly ignore important differences, but try to set them aside at least until I can know for sure if they are irreconcilable difference, or just quirks that make no practical difference to me. I trust my own skepticism and ability to do research enough that I don’t feel the need to be wholly “pure” in my contacts–I can read or listen to or even discuss bullshit without getting any on me. And I don’t pretend to agree where I don’t. I just try hard not to either freak out or stomp off when I encounter something I think is wrong.

    There are limits. I suppose the case can be made that advocating policies however faintly redolent of racism is a whiff too far, and I get that. I guess every person has to decide where the lines must be drawn. I just wonder if we’re not drawing up battle lines more hastily than is good for our movement. The recent sense of factionalization seems to perhaps risk weakening our position. I realize that an “anything-goes” atmosphere could also jeopardize the movement. I just wonder if those of us who really, really like “being right” (something I’m uber-prone to myself) might not be able to find more constructive ways of approaching these differences (and that goes for “both sides”).

    I’m well aware that I’ve now opened myself up to the “tone troll” charge, but I think what I’m gesturing toward is a little more complex than just tone. I guess I find myself agreeing with what Hement Mehta says on his blog, Friendly Atheist:
    “Sam Harris’ The End of Faith ushered in an atheist revolution in publishing; it was the first “New Atheist” book that went viral and it made atheism sexy and ok to talk about. Even if he never wrote another word, his contribution to our movement is monumental. This is speculation, but of all the people who know who Sam Harris is, I would guess relatively few of them are even aware that he has opinions on racial profiling.”

    “None of the people on this list (except Cupp) are bad for atheism. They popularize it and get more people thinking about it. That a huge net gain, even if some of the things they say turn a few people off. Even Richard Dawkins has said things well worth criticizing and I don’t see anyone blaming him for being a bad atheist.

    “You know which atheists are the bad ones? The ones who refuse to admit they don’t believe in god even though they have no reason to hide it.”

  37. says

    MY criticism of Harris is based on things HE said in other publications. The only reason the bashing of Harris is so concentrated here, is probably that there’s (apparently) nowhere else that even mentions him as often as he’s mentioned here.

  38. devoniansplit says

    Brownian,

    Oh, no! Gosh, theists’ opinions mean so much to us! Fuck intellectual and ethical integrity! We’d better enforce some atheist groupthink right away!

    Why are you such a boring fuck? I thought you are going to leave this festering hole for a while? Woe is me and all.

  39. says

    Kyle Rybski:

    “Censorship” applies mainly to government action, and absolutely never to privately owned blogs. PZ by definition cannot engage in censorship of his blog, any more than you’re being censored because you’ve not been invited to speak at the White House.

  40. joed says

    I would like to see here,
    Why I am an atheist–by Sam Harris

    I like some of his stuff but seems he is not thoughtful in some of what he purveys.

  41. says

    Why are you such a boring fuck? I thought you are going to leave this festering hole for a while? Woe is me and all.

    devoniansplit, you seem to be unaware that there are some new rules in place for commenting at Pharyngula – you’ll find that the
    Reset rule applies to your comment.

  42. Amphiprion says

    Can’t you agree to disagree? Seems like a personal feud. This doesn’t make Harris an awful atheist though.

  43. says

    Amphiprion,

    The ‘feud’ is in Harris’ head. Sure, PZ has critisized Harris, but PZ was never mean spirited about it and PZ wasn’t the one who called Harris an awful atheist.

  44. says

    Can’t you agree to disagree? Seems like a personal feud. This doesn’t make Harris an awful atheist though.

    No, but his pro-profiling stance, his defense of torture, and his arguments for preemptive nuclear attacks certainly do.

  45. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Can’t you agree to disagree? Seems like a personal feud. This doesn’t make Harris an awful atheist though.

    Yeah that whole torture and racism thing. It’s just a differing point of view. Let it slide man.

    Groovy.

  46. passingthrough says

    Harris is generally right. It can’t even have escaped the notice of regular commenters here that most of what Myers posts nowadays are simply links to next target, perhaps dressed in a two hundred words. He doesn’t link it to spur discussion on the issues involved. Just to instigate another disgustingly self-righteous circle-jerk.

    If that doesn’t make him and his blog odious, what does?

  47. vaiyt says

    @57: Right? Let’s all sing kumbaya… well, except for those dirty sandniggers. Those, we can torture and kill.

  48. KG says

    Are these charges of racism coming entirely from the airport security profiling issue? – Kyle Rybski

    No, although that would be quite sufficient. They are also based on his uncritical support for the government and military of Israel, including the carpet bombing of Lebanon and Gaza in 2006, and his declaration that “we” are at war with Islam – which means, in practical terms, with one and a half billion black and brown people and a comparative handful of white ones. Harris, like many others, believes, or pretends to believe, that a racist is necessarily someone with beliefs like those of Wade Michael Page; rather than anyone who systematically acts, speaks or writes in ways that justify and reinforce oppression and inequalities based on ethnic identity, as he does.

  49. vaiyt says

    @58: Those two hundred words are the REASON those people suck. They’re kinda important to us.

  50. mathematics says

    “Not everything worth saying is worth saying oneself”

    I wish Sam would listen to his own advice more often. To me, it seems the distance between your thoughts on torture, profiling and nuclear first strikes is inversely proportional to how long you spend trying to understand Sam’s own position on these topics. I’m sure if you had a week to discuss all this with Sam and really explore all the nuances then the gap would vanish completely.

    Often it seems he brings up these topics just to encourage dissent. To use his own example, if you start harping on about slicing open the bellies of children being a good idea then adding further nuance regarding “only in the case of appendicitis” is going to leave some people wondering why you brought it up at all, and a lot of people still thinking you’re some sort of advocate for the torture of children.

  51. says

    Harris is generally right. It can’t even have escaped the notice of regular commenters here that most of what Myers posts nowadays are simply links to next target, perhaps dressed in a two hundred words. He doesn’t link it to spur discussion on the issues involved. Just to instigate another disgustingly self-righteous circle-jerk.

    Yeah, like his post about Sam Harris giving away his book about lies. PZ was so nasty in that one!

  52. Paul says

    Does the “Reset” rule apply to public figures not directly participating in comment threads? For instance, Sam Harris insists that his previous positions have been mis-interpreted. Are commenters supposed to take this at face value in this thread, or discuss past information and conclusions?

    I just ask because it seems like something that will come up fairly frequently, with the way things go here.

  53. passingthrough says

    vaiyt
    7 August 2012 at 5:08 pm
    @58: Those two hundred words are the REASON those people suck. They’re kinda important to us.

    Nope, with the endorsement of the alternet article he used those fleeting paragraphs to suggest that they should do a “best atheists” list. Fascinating stuff.

  54. KG says

    To me, it seems the distance between your thoughts on torture, profiling and nuclear first strikes is inversely proportional to how long you spend trying to understand Sam’s own position on these topics. I’m sure if you had a week to discuss all this with Sam and really explore all the nuances then the gap would vanish completely. – mathematics

    I fucking well resent the implication that I would find myself in agreement with an apologist for torture and genocide, and an advocate of racial profiling, if I just “explored the nuances” with him.

  55. says

    Sam Harris’ reference to “many people” accusing him of advocating a nuclear first strike against the Muslim world apparently comes from a single comment by ‘Tis Himself. (#85 of the “gleeful” thread)

    Is ‘Tis Himself around here? I’ve got to know his secret to multiplying into “many people”, and single-handedly destroying PZ’s intellectual integrity.

  56. mathematics says

    What KG posted above is a perfect example of why Harris obviously felt it necessary to make that blog post. Bottom line is if you think that is Harris’ position, you have misunderstood Harris’ position.

  57. gjoh says

    I have read all of Harris’ books and I subscribe to his blog. I have viewed his lectures and debates on YouTube. I have never come away thinking, “Hey, this guy is a racist.” Or believing, “You know, Sam Harris just advocated using torture.” I have heard these criticisms of Sam Harris and his books many times. I don’t see those critiques as valid.
    Discussing an idea is not that same as promoting it or claiming it as your world view. I find Harris’ writings thought provoking even when I disagree; and I do sometimes disagree. But this pointless name calling is ridiculous.

  58. Brownian says

    devoniansplit, you seem to be unaware that there are some new rules in place for commenting at Pharyngula – you’ll find that the Reset rule applies to your comment.

    I’m sorry: who is devoniansplit again, and why am I supposed to care?

  59. passingthrough says

    I fucking well resent the implication that I would find myself in agreement with an apologist for torture and genocide, and an advocate of racial profiling, if I just “explored the nuances” with him.

    Yes, why be open to the possibility of discussion when you can simply brand people as racists. So much easier.

  60. J Bowen says

    It’s true that if PZ is responsible for “publishing” the few silly things I say, he truly has lost all intellectual integrity.

  61. andyo says

    Now, what I want to see is Harris and PZ sitting alone in different tables at the cafeteria, and Dawkins walking in with his food tray trying to figure out where to sit.

  62. KG says

    What KG posted above is a perfect example of why Harris obviously felt it necessary to make that blog post. Bottom line is if you think that is Harris’ position, you have misunderstood Harris’ position. – mathematics

    What utterly dishonest crap.
    1) Harris has advocated singling out anyone “who looks as if they could conceivably be Muslim” for special scrutiny at airports. If this means anything, it would mean singling people out by their apparent ethnic origin. That makes him an advocate of racial profiling.
    2) Harris has said that he believes that in some circumstances, torture would be not only ethically justifiable, but ethically necessary. That makes him an apologist for torture.
    3) Harris has said that if an Islamist regime gains access to nuclear weapons, “we” might have no other option than a nuclear first strike, even though he thinks this might well lead to a genocidal war against Muslims as a whole. That makes him an apologist for genocide.

  63. mathematics says

    Yes, just like my above example would make you an apologist for cutting children’s bellies open.

  64. KG says

    mathematics,

    Don’t be so fucking stupid. If you have actual arguments against my characterisation of his positions, present them. The same applies to passingthrough, whose comments so far have been marked by a total absence of substantive content.

  65. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    Yes, just like my above example would make you an apologist for cutting children’s bellies open.

    Did KG use too many words for you to understand, mathematics?

    I will rephrase more simply for you:

    Harris advocated X, Y, and Z, therefore he is an advocate for X, Y, and Z

    X = racial profiling

    Y = torture

    Z = genocide against Muslims

  66. optikradio says

    The amount of vitriol and hatred spread throughout this post and comments lends a lot of weight to Sam’s claims. You people should be ashamed of yourselves.

  67. Oenotrian says

    I followed the link to Harris’ Facebook page. Not all of the commenters there were cheering for him. This particular comment jumped out at me:

    Bahare Sabeti
    Now, I had no idea who Myer was….but seriously, I just read his criticism on Sam’s profiling argument which was in my opinion incredibly superficial, stupid, inefficient, and just impossible that I must say, the guy Myer is right on every point. He is also quite fair. I am not sure why most of you Sam fans act like Sarah Palin fans and I can’t believe I even say this….You guys are supposed to be smarter and more scientific and not follow like SHEEP. But you are. Few if any middle eastern atheists liked the profiling article of Sam and I for one could care less about the attack I would be facing since I have been profiled ever since 911…all of my family and friends have been and I am actually used to it. But the ineffectiveness of it was what pissed me off….it was perhaps the dumbest security idea anyone has ever proposed in recent times…anyways, I understand this comes from western people who have never even visited a Muslim region or met any Muslims ( other than some cab drivers), but I expect more from Sam, as a scientist, I expect MORE from a scientist. His attacks on Islam and Muslims and the Middle East needs more depth, it should NOT continue to be based bullet points. And hate me for what I say here, I could also care less about what sheep type of people think…I hate tribal emotional impulsive fan behavior, coming from a tribal region, couldn’t hate it more if I tried.

  68. says

    Topics like torture, recreational drug use, and wealth inequality can provoke outrage and misunderstanding in many audiences. But discussing them online sets your reputation wandering like a child across a battlefield—perpetually. … The problem, however, is that there is no effective way to respond.

    This from a man who does not enable comments on his blog. He doesn’t want a dialogue; he wants a lecture audience. It galls him that his lessers out there dare judge him by his own words.

    Paul:

    I wonder what Harris considers serious. But I feel like I’ve seen the “unserious” critique before…

    The pomposity store called and said they’re running out of Harris and Dan Fincke.

    On a, dare I say, serious note, this is akin to the “If you have to say it…” rule of thumb. People who pride themselves on being ~serious~ tend to lack senses of humility, perspective, and humor. Their egotistical need to be seen as ~serious~ and to perceive themselves as such eclipses their need to be correct.

    Also:

    From reading this piece, and hundreds like it, one would never imagine that my position on torture is more or less identical to the one prescribed in that handbook of evil, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Read the entry on torture there, especially the section entitled “The Beating,” and then tell me that being categorically “against torture” is a morally uncomplicated stance to adopt.)

    Nah, I’ll pass, and I’ll stick with my original distrust of philosophers, thank you.

    Vall:

    what horeshit the hive mind thing is.

    Funny typo is funny.

    movinbutnotshakin:

    A hopelessly insular perspective.

    No, just a realistic one, in terms of which society we can influence and which society we can’t.

    Kyle:

    Are these charges of racism coming entirely from the airport security profiling issue? I have to assume not.

    Mostly, they are. His advocacy of a first nuclear strike against Muslim countries doesn’t help, however. Plus what KG says at #60.

    PZ already censors his blog.

    Uhhhh, please to be learning the difference between moderation and censorship.

    Russ:

    Lately the atheist world seems to be turning on itself and the theists sit on the sidelines totally amused.

    Concern troll is concerned…. although not about things like sexual harassment, I guess. That’s only bad when the theists do it.

    Mathematics, thank you for proving that the Courtier’s Reply has applications beyond religious apologetics.

    Gjoh, other people disagree with you and have made the case why. Simply saying, “No, he’s not a racist, you’re name-calling!” doesn’t make your case. Same goes for you, Optikradio.

  69. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    Yes, why be open to the possibility of discussion when you can simply brand people as racists.

    Are you, passingthrough, open to a discussion of if you should have the same rights as others?

  70. optikradio says

    Why do the trolls (e.g. KD) continue to misrepresent Harris’s views? Your dishonesty is disgusting. Stop it.

  71. rainmaker42 says

    KG
    In reply to your points 1-3:

    1) Harris states that in the context of airline security, the maximum threat is from group X, hence profile against people who meet the criteria of group X. As he states in an article somewhere, if group X happened to be people who resemble Ben Stiller, he would nominate himself as a possible candidate for profiling. In this case X = Muslims – hence profile against that group. Admittedly I disagree with him on how someone can profile against a set of beliefs, rather than some more definite tag – however that doesn’t make him racist – just someone who hasn’t been able to see that point yet. Look at the profiling thing in context

    2) His argument for torture (indeed it is more of an argument for why society should be ok with torture given it is ok with collateral damage, rather than him arguing personally for torture) is much more nuanced than what you portray. I would encourage you to reread it.

    3) Same for the nuclear strike thing. That passage from his book in my opinion was written, at worst, in a way that made it easy to misinterpret. Indeed just a few lines later from the nuclear strike thing he says that this would be an unconscionable act. Having read more of his work and watched more of his interviews, I am strongly disinclined to attribute to him labels like racist or advocate for genocide

  72. mathematics says

    There is nothing to respond to. If you are willing to simplify his position to “an apologist for genocide” then I don’t see why you should object to being called an apologist for cutting open children’s bellies, unless of course you disagree with appendectomies. Clearly it is dishonest to trivialise the man’s positions on these issues – that’s why Harris wrote his blog article.

  73. says

    All I know is that, since Sam Harris mentions torture without completely condemning it, I can say that he gleefully endorses it, regardless of what he actually says.

    Seems like a weird way to do things, but it’s his precedent.

  74. J Bowen says

    @ optikradio

    It should be clear from my last comment that, yes, I am ashamed of myself.

    Now, are you just going to whine, or might you address some of the arguments being made?

  75. dereksmear says

    A slightly new form of an old Harris tactic: call your online critics trolls who misrepresent your views and it saves you having to respond effectively to the criticisms. Harris has been doing this for years, he did it with Scott Atran in 2006 and he continues to do it today.

    The Mondoweiss article mentioned in Harris’ article is here
    http://mondoweiss.net/2012/06/sam-harris-uncovered.html

    it is certainly worth a read.

  76. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    The amount of vitriol and hatred spread throughout this post and comments lends a lot of weight to Sam’s claims. You people should be ashamed of yourselves.

    There is nothing wrong with being vitriolic. As far as I am concerned I haven’t see all that much vitriol directed at Harris yet anyways. If you want to see actual vitriol and anger, post one more time, optikradio (there is a 3-post rule). Don’t tell me to calm down unless you want me to do the opposite.

    And what fucking “hatred” do you see expressed in the post? PZ has been quite restrained in his response to Harris’ condescending bullshit (odious blog, lack of intellectual integrity, blah, blah).

    Quote it or it didn’t happen.

  77. hexag1 says

    PZ,

    In you earlier post about Sam Harris’ position on airport security, you called his position “racial profiling”, saying that “Sam Harris defends racial profiling in airport security screening.”

    This time around, however you say that “I think his advocacy of profiling was repugnant,”. Just profiling in general? Or have you backed off the claim that Harris advocates “racial” profiling? Because there is a difference.

  78. pacoti says

    I used to have a lot of respect for PZ. Lately, however, that has largely gone down the toilet. I wonder if he’s entering a mid-life crisis, albeit 20 years later than scheduled. Some of his blogs and comments on blog posts lately have actually made me worry for his sanity. For instance, why he thought it was a good idea to leave his comments unmoderated when at best they’re often reminiscent of a 6th formers bitch fest and at worst abusive and offensive, I can only guess.

    I also wonder, who gets to go first in the queue to suck him off at conferences. You lot REALLY love him don’t you? Kinda sweet, kinda scary. Monkey see-monkey do I suppose, PZ reaps what he sows.

  79. passingthrough says

    1) Harris has advocated singling out anyone “who looks as if they could conceivably be Muslim” for special scrutiny at airports. If this means anything, it would mean singling people out by their apparent ethnic origin. That makes him an advocate of racial profiling.

    The racial aspect here is your own. Recent converts to Islam from any ethnicity tend to be more radical, impressionable and thus prone to jihadism. A sensible profile wouldn’t take race into account. Muslims come in all colours and the idea that a jihadi profile could only be made on the grounds of skin colour is offensive in and of itself.

    The only real profile for islamic terrorism is that they tend to be disaffected men in their mid to late twenties, or early thirties (and middle class). I’d put myself in most of those categories and so would Harris.

  80. dereksmear says

    By the way, I hope everyone has seen what Harris is up to with this latest blog post: Here are people who have critcised me, now go and ‘troll’ them.

  81. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    Look at the profiling thing in context

    I would encourage you to reread it

    Stop assuming that people who disagree with Harris’ stances haven’t read him correctly, or just need to understand his position better. Maybe we just disagree with the positions he is suggesting.

  82. dereksmear says

    “The racial aspect here is your own. Recent converts to Islam from any ethnicity tend to be more radical, impressionable and thus prone to jihadism. A sensible profile wouldn’t take race into account. Muslims come in all colours and the idea that a jihadi profile could only be made on the grounds of skin colour is offensive in and of itself.”

    Wrong, Harris states:

    “It is not enough for moderate Muslims to say “not in our name.” They must now police their own communities. They must offer unreserved assistance to western governments in locating the extremists in their midst. They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.” (Bombing our Illusions, 2005)

  83. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    @hexag1 and passing through

    Sam Harris wants to profile people “who look as if they could conceivably be Muslim”. That, in effect, would result in racial profiling.

  84. passingthrough says

    “It is not enough for moderate Muslims to say “not in our name.” They must now police their own communities. They must offer unreserved assistance to western governments in locating the extremists in their midst. They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.”

    This is consistent unless you consider muslim communities to only consist of people of middle-eastern descent.

  85. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.

    Of course Harris isn’t advocating racial profiling. No siree

    /sarcastic

  86. nms says

    Lately the atheist world seems to be turning on itself and the theists sit on the sidelines totally amused.

    The amount of vitriol and hatred spread throughout this post and comments lends a lot of weight to Sam’s claims. You people should be ashamed of yourselves.

    I don’t see why you should object to being called an apologist for cutting open children’s bellies, unless of course you disagree with appendectomies.

    I also wonder, who gets to go first in the queue to suck him off at conferences. You lot REALLY love him don’t you?

    A sensible profile wouldn’t take race into account. Muslims come in all colours and the idea that a jihadi profile could only be made on the grounds of skin colour is offensive in and of itself.

    Sam Harris fans are real badposters. It’s kind of embarrassing.

  87. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    I used to have a lot of respect for PZ. Lately, however, that has largely gone down the toilet. I wonder if he’s entering a mid-life crisis… have actually made me worry for his sanity…they’re often reminiscent of a 6th formers bitch fest and at worst abusive and offensive…who gets to go first in the queue to suck him off at conferences. You lot REALLY love him don’t you? Kinda sweet, kinda scary. Monkey see-monkey do I suppose, PZ reaps what he sows.

    Lol, BINGO!

    What a pathetic attempt at trolling.

    Sam, send better trolls our way. Your fans are boring!

  88. dereksmear says

    One more time for luck

    “It is not enough for moderate Muslims to say “not in our name.” They must now police their own communities. They must offer unreserved assistance to western governments in locating the extremists in their midst. They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.” (Sam Harris, Bombing our Illusions, 2005)

  89. rainmaker42 says

    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    Maybe you also assume a little too much about his views from the limited material available? Yes he is encouraging racial profiling (which as even Bruce-something admitted is being implemented with great success by Israel).

    All I think he’s saying is that given a particular group is of interest in this context, it is worth expending effort in profiling them. He doesn’t suggest that he has deep-seated violent hatred for everyone of a certain skin color. Indeed he says that if the group of interest with respect to airport security was neo-Nazi skinheads, that is the profile we should be looking for. Context

  90. Loqi says

    Having a blog with a large community of readers destroys intellectual integrity. Having a book with a large community of readers? Totally different.

  91. rainmaker42 says

    Whether that is a useful way of doing airport security is a different matter (I dont think it is) – there’s nothing to suggest a deep-seated hatred based on skin color

  92. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    He doesn’t suggest that he has deep-seated violent hatred for everyone of a certain skin color.

    You can’t say or do a racist thing unless you have a deep-seated violent hatred for everyone of a certain skin color?

    He wants to make people who “look like they could conceivably be Muslim” jump through extra hoops to fly on a plane. Fuck that islamophobic, racist shit.

  93. passingthrough says

    dereksmear
    7 August 2012 at 6:24 pm
    One more time for luck

    “It is not enough for moderate Muslims to say “not in our name.” They must now police their own communities. They must offer unreserved assistance to western governments in locating the extremists in their midst. They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.” (Sam Harris, Bombing our Illusions, 2005)

    I realise you think this is a gotcha, but have you got an argument to how this would not be sensible? If western, (white, shock horror) converts to Islam were shown to be more susceptible to this derangement would it not behove islamic communities to pay special attention to this group.

  94. Loqi says

    @rainmaker42
    Yeah, he has no deep hatred for a particular group. He just wants them treated a little differently so he feels safer. That’s totally not a racist policy, right?

  95. saberwoodard says

    In The End of Faith, Chapter 1 Line 1 Harris opens the book by describing a horrifically detailed imaginary attack by a presumably muslim bomber. He might have just as easily opened the book with an imagined attack by a radical militant white-supremacist xtian. If race isn’t a driving factor in how we’re meant to profile muslims, then why isn’t Harris demanding profiling of home-grown terrorists?

  96. J Bowen says

    I used to have a lot of respect for PZ too, until I found out that he publishes my comments on the Internet. Damn you, PZ!

  97. KG says

    There is nothing to respond to. – mathematics

    An obvious lie, since rainmaker42 has responded to two of my three points substantively.

    rainmaker42,

    Look at the profiling thing in context

    I have – see #60. The context only makes it more obviously racist.
    I would encourage you to reread it. [Harris on torture]
    Nothing substantive in your response. I’ve read Harris on torture several times.

    Indeed just a few lines later from the nuclear strike thing he says that this would be an unconscionable act.

    Here’s Harris’s description of a nuclear first strike as an “unconscionable act” in context.

    In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns.

    Calling it an “unconscionable act” does not change the fact that Harris nevertheless advocates it, as “the only course of action available to us”. Notice that there are two lies in this short passage. Such a first strike would not be the only course of action available to us: not launching such an attack would be an available alternative. Second, this would not be an act of self-defence, but of genocidal aggression. Notice also that by Harris’s own account, this act of genocide would not be “likely to ensure our survival”. The mere use of words such as “unconscionable” does not change this wicked and irrational advocacy of genocide into anything else.

  98. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    there’s nothing to suggest a deep-seated hatred based on skin color

    Fucking Christ, what makes this stupid meme so pervasive. You don’t need a “deep-seated hatred” against a race to advocate/do/say something racist.

    I don’t have a deep-seated hatred for any race. Yet I do and say racist shit sometimes. You probably do too. It is hard not to when the culture you grow up in is steeped in it. I try not to, and am glad when people point out my mistakes. The fact that I don’t have any conscious hatred towards a group doesn’t mean I can’t fuck up and do something racist. Fuck.

  99. Loqi says

    I realise you think this is a gotcha, but have you got an argument to how this would not be sensible? If western, (white, shock horror) converts to Islam were shown to be more susceptible to this derangement would it not behove islamic communities to pay special attention to this group.

    Wait, just a few posts ago you were saying how this doesn’t single out people based on ethnicity, but now it’s that such a policy is sensible? Just when I thought I had found the goalposts…

  100. passingthrough says

    Wait, just a few posts ago you were saying how this doesn’t single out people based on ethnicity, but now it’s that such a policy is sensible? Just when I thought I had found the goalposts…

    This is it, you aren’t arguing in good faith. You’re attempting to score goals.

  101. Loqi says

    This is it, you aren’t arguing in good faith. You’re attempting to score goals.

    I’m trying to decide if this is an attempt at bad tu quoque, or just plain stupid.

  102. pacoti says

    “J Bowen
    7 August 2012 at 6:31 pm
    I used to have a lot of respect for PZ too, until I found out that he publishes my comments on the Internet. Damn you, PZ!”

    Could spell his downfall too going by the quality of some of the posts.

    Oh that’s right, he’s given up on you, he’s left you to it because even he can’t be arsed trawling through the guff you lot spew onto here.

  103. KG says

    there’s nothing to suggest a deep-seated hatred based on skin color – rainmaker

    Like Harris, you want to restrict the term “racist” to people like Ward Michael Page. No: a racist is one who systematically acts, speaks or writes in ways that justify and entrench oppression and inequality based on ethnic differences.

    They must now police their own communities. They must offer unreserved assistance to western governments in locating the extremists in their midst. They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling. – Sam Harris

    Or else what, exactly? Any Muslim who does not advocate and practice ethnic profiling is to be judged ipso facto a terrorist, and renditioned to somewhere they can conveniently be tortured, presumably. This quotation does, of course, establish beyond any possibility of honest dispute that Harris is indeed an advocate of racial profiling.

  104. says

    Other people seem to be handling this just fine and I have to get back to work, but this redefinition of racism reminds me of the tactics used by MRA, when they redefine harassment to limit it to those cases that would allow for police intervention.

  105. Loqi says

    How does one “look” Muslim?

    By being brow…wait a minute! I see what you did there! Stop misrepresenting Harris’ views!

  106. says

    I’m quite perplexed at the anger Sam displayed toward PZ in Sam’s latest article. I don’t see how he could have considered PZ’s comments on the “5 Worst Atheists” article an endorsement of it (gleeful or otherwise), and I don’t understand why Sam is so pissed at PZ’s reaction to Sam’s opinion about profiling in airports. I reread all of PZ’s posts about Sam’s profiling ideas, and I found nothing but reasoned disagreement—nothing that could be considered a personal attack on Sam at all. Note that I happen to think that Sam is more right (or less wrong, anyway) about profiling than PZ. Of course, there were no shortage of uncalled-for insults of Sam among the comments. Sam seems to be pissed off at PZ for allowing that, but with a blog this size, I’m not sure what PZ could really do about it.

  107. passingthrough says

    vaiyt
    7 August 2012 at 6:40 pm
    @96:

    How does one “look” Muslim?

    Actually the idea is that any terrorist now is more than likely to take pains to not look muslim. However it is more than likely that they’ll fit the profile of young-ish middle class male. Not old ladies in wheelchairs.

  108. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    Loqi, pretty sure your point just passed over #113′s head.

    ***
    passingthrough, you accuse us of not arguing in good faith?

    Since you obviously don’t understand what Loqi’s point was, what xe meant by saying you are moving goalposts is that first you were arguing about if Harris advocates ethnic profiling. Then, once evidence was provided that he does, you shifted the topic of argument from IF he advocates it to WHETHER it is effective.

    Very dishonest arguing tactic.

    And you have posted enough inanity and dishonest shit to warrant a few insults. So, here goes. You are stupid, and a bad arguer.

  109. Amblebury says

    pacoti

    I used to have a lot of respect for PZ…Some of his blogs and comments on blog posts lately have actually made me worry for his sanity…a 6th formers bitch fest…

    I also wonder, who gets to go first in the queue to suck him off at conferences.

    You’re a deliberately provocative, sexist creep. Did I mention asinine? Asinine.

    Good luck with that. I’m sure it serves you well.

  110. starguts says

    I find myself to be enamored of both Harris and PZ. I love you both guys!

    The only thing that I have been able to find that I disagree with Harris on is his position on profiling. Though I hardly see any cause for deeming it odious; incorrect I would say. Mostly because of Harris’ apparent ignorance of basic statistical analysis. As a student of maths, his willingness to ignore the mathematical points brought up by Mister Scheiner are particularly irksome.

    I disagree with you all the time PZ, And that makes me very happy :)

  111. georgebean says

    I for one can’t fathom why so many take Sam Harris so seriously-about anything. He’s a hack, as far as I’m concerned. The atheist’s “Ann Coulter” – but she can be funny and he rarely is. And he’s infuriatingly negligent where it counts most-with the empirical evidence (or all too often, the lack thereof) supporting his positions.

  112. passingthrough says

    And you have posted enough inanity and dishonest shit to warrant a few insults. So, here goes. You are stupid, and a bad arguer.

    Thanks i’ve noted that down dipshit.

  113. rainmaker42 says

    KG

    I highly doubt Sam’s passage that you quoted is him saying “Look these people ought to be bombed for X reason”. It might make more sense to read that passage in the sense of “Isn’t it crazy that our world is in such a place today where the hatred group X has towards us due to their religious beliefs is making them act in ways that have such terrible consequences – hence isn’t it crazy that we grant religious views such privilege yada yada”.

    I ask you, in all honesty, if you’ve seen his numerous interviews online – does Sam seem to be speaking in terms of point 1 or point 2

  114. peterhearn says

    The Harris bashing going on here is just ridiculous. The man is a hero of the skepticism movement. All you people rushing to judgement should be embarrassed.

    Hes admitted countless times he phrased his ideas poorly on the profiling issue (even publicly apologized on TV).

    PZ, you need to take note on how well Harris defends himself against this character assassination you’ve exacerbated once again. Compare that with how you usually respond to criticism.

    Remember that next time you’re getting all upset over a comedian’s joke and crying all over your keyboard and empty donut cases.

  115. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    jt512,

    uncalled-for insults

    Which ones were uncalled-for? Harris’ pro-torture, pro-racial profiling stance calls for a public shaming, IMO. Are you just a boring tone-troll who thinks insults are uncalled for, or do you think that insults are OK, but that Harris’ positions don’t merit them. If the latter, which positions specifically?
    ***
    Peterhearn,

    Remember that next time you’re getting all upset over a comedian’s joke and crying all over your keyboard and empty donut cases.

    Yawn, have you ever contributed to the substance of an OP, or is your output stuck on whine?

    Also, your attempt at fat-shaming is noted. Fuck off.

  116. otrame says

    Although I agree with the 3 post rule, I do think there should be some exceptions. After all, if we can’t call drive-by trolls a few names however will we keep our coats sniny? pacoti is, however, such a weak example even of the drive-by troll that I wouldn’t ordinarily bother, but the implied homophobia of his comment deserve some mention.

    pacoti, you are a homophobic asshole.

  117. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    pacoti,

    How was that sexist? We all have mouths. Tut tut, lazy.

    Herp a derp! Pretty sure the sexist part of your comment was,

    a 6th formers bitch fest

    Shithead.

  118. Loqi says

    The man is a hero of the skepticism movement.

    But the problem is that we worship PZ. By show of hands, commentariat, how many of you have ever called PZ a “hero?”

    All you people rushing to judgement should be embarrassed.

    He’s done good things therefore he should be immune to criticism when he does bad things?

  119. joed says

    from Sam’s blog, Wrestling The Troll
    “I have argued that Islam merits special concern—because it is currently the most militant and retrograde of the world’s major religions.”
    Sam doesn’t seem to realize that Christianity in the U S military is rampant and rabid.
    The optical sights on the rifles of american troops have/or had quotes from the bible. Quotes about God’s army doing God’s work.
    At the very least Sam has screwed up by saying Muslims are special and need to be watched. Actually, for example, the Taliban are first and foremost fighting for their families, their homes, their lives. they are freedom fighters the same as Sam would fight if his city was invaded by people with religious quotes on their rifles.
    Seems Sam is not able to overcome the hate-filled propaganda he learned as an American.
    U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret ‘Jesus’ Bible …
    [Jan 15, 2010] U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret ‘Jesus’ Bible Codes … Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus … ( 1824 Comments )
    abcnews.go.com/Blotter/us-military-weapons…bible-codes/…

  120. KG says

    I highly doubt Sam’s passage that you quoted is him saying “Look these people ought to be bombed for X reason”. – rainmaker42

    Can’t you read? He’s saying that in certain circumstances, a nuclear first strike would be “the only course of action available to us”. It’s a lie, of course, but it’s undoubtedly what he’s saying, and is undoubtedly an apologia for genocide.

    It might make more sense to read that passage in the sense of “Isn’t it crazy that our world is in such a place today where the hatred group X has towards us due to their religious beliefs is making them act in ways that have such terrible consequences – hence isn’t it crazy that we grant religious views such privilege yada yada”.

    No, that doesn’t make any sense at all, because it bears no resemblance whatever to what the passage says, quite clearly and explicitly.

  121. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    Although I agree with the 3 post rule, I do think there should be some exceptions.

    I could be wrong, and I am sorry for mis-explaining your policy if I am, PZ, but I thought the 3-post rule pertained when a commenter could conceivably be arguing in good faith. If the trolling/bigotry are clear enough, I thought the rule didn’t necessarily apply.

    Apologies again if this is not the rule.

  122. pacoti says

    Ok a) How was my comment sexist?

    b) How is my comment homophobic?

    c) How do you know I’m a man?

    You really need to read back over your threads some time. Try to do the Outsider Test on them. Does the response to Harris’ and PZ’s blog seem appropriate and well thought out? The vitriol from some of you because Harris got pissed off at your “main man” is a pathetic read. Get a bit of perspective here.

    One wonders how far you would go to defend the honour of your dear PZ.

  123. rolandschulz says

    PZ, you just lost a loyal reader. You have been turning more and more into a bully and this article puts it over the top for me. I will miss some of your excellent articles but I can’t stand the name calling and quoting out of context of people you hate anymore. Good job in alienating groups of atheist against each other! Hope you will find reason again. Bye. And thanks for your good articles.

  124. rainmaker42 says

    KG

    If you’re mind is closed to context and nuance then I think there’s nothing more to say

  125. Amblebury says

    How was that sexist?

    As if you don’t know, you deliberately provocative, sexist creep.

  126. Loqi says

    …quoting out of context…

    He did link to Harris’ blog post. How much more context can PZ provide?

  127. Gregory Greenwood says

    pacoti @ 90;

    I wonder if he’s entering a mid-life crisis, albeit 20 years later than scheduled.

    Ageist.

    Some of his blogs and comments on blog posts lately have actually made me worry for his sanity.

    Ableist.

    I also wonder, who gets to go first in the queue to suck him off at conferences. You lot REALLY love him don’t you?

    And homophobic.

    Now, tell me – given the fact that you have flown the flag of your bigotry so high on a blog known for its inclusivism – what makes you think that any of us will take you seriously?

    That was feeble even by the low, low standard of trolls. I award you nul points.

  128. passingthrough says

    Next week on this blog, the same stupid shit will happen. Nobody is as pure as PZ or his commenters and they’ll back themselves into a corner within a year. Cheers guys. Go fuck yourselves.

  129. Happiestsadist says

    peterhearn: Waaaah, poor widdle fanboy is so ANGRY! “Hero”, lolno. You don’t even realize how much you’re embarrassing yourself falling all over him. “Character assassination” is not actually the same thing as “quoting what the bigot himself said”. I’m sorry reality is so mean to your worldview.

    pacoti: “Bitch” is sexist, and has no place here. Do keep up. The rest of your commntary was just creepy. Your one-handed typing isn’t really adding much to the discourse.

  130. Gregory Greenwood says

    Oh yes, missed one…

    6th formers bitch fest

    Sexist.

    I think that this completes my bigotry bingo card.

  131. nms says

    He did link to Harris’ blog post. How much more context can PZ provide?

    Maybe Harris’s entire blog is out of context.

  132. pacoti says

    Ah jeez, I forgot the rabid feminists hang out here :(

    It wasn’t sexist, none of the comments I made were gender specific.

    It wasn’t homophobic, both males and females can perform oral sex on PZ.

    Abelist, hardly, when I have seriously doubted the stability of PZ’s state of mind of late.

    Ageist, you’re really stretching it with that one but god loves a trier.

    Oh, and I’m a woman.

    So much fail in so short a period, try again people.

  133. Loqi says

    Next week on this blog, the same stupid shit will happen.

    People like passingthrough will show up and say nothing thought-provoking or substantive, then the commenters will have some fun tearing him/her a new one, then he/she will flounce as loudly as possible, lamenting how mean everyone is. We call it a Tuesday.

    Same time tomorrow, gang?

  134. KG says

    The man is a hero of the skepticism movement. – peterhearn

    If that’s so, then the “skepticism movement” is a bunch of arselicking racist shitheads.

  135. Happiestsadist says

    rolandschulz: I’m sorry, you were…? Bye now.

    passingthrough: Well, that explains how we’ve kept on like this for some years now and seem to be growing nicely.

  136. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    Next week on this blog, the same stupid shit will happen. Nobody is as pure as PZ or his commenters and they’ll back themselves into a corner within a year. Cheers guys. Go fuck yourselves.

    It appears as if we broke Peterhearn. Bets on hir sticking the flounce?

  137. Happiestsadist says

    “Rabid feminism”: Now means “Would prefer not using the idea of being a woman as the worst insult possible”. Quite the low bar.

    Run along, pacoti, I hear some dude would love to hear about how you’re a totally Chill Girl and not like those other gross extremists.

  138. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    Sorry! wrong troll,

    It appears as if we broke Peterhearn Passingthrough. Bets on hir sticking the flounce?

  139. Paul says

    If you’re mind is closed to context and nuance then I think there’s nothing more to say

    What? KG isn’t ignoring context. He specifically addressed the context upthread in #110. Try again.

    Or better yet, just go away.

  140. Gregory Greenwood says

    passingthrough @ 144;

    Next week on this blog, the same stupid shit will happen.

    Because calling out prominent figures for their endorsement of such racist policies as ethnic profiling, not to mention the ineffectual abomination of torture (remember; 24 isn’t real, people), is a total waste of time…

    Nobody is as pure as PZ or his commenters

    Respecting the human dignity of everyone, irrespective of race, sex, gender sexual orientation or anything else, and generally not being a bigot – are these really such impossibly high standards for you?

    and they’ll back themselves into a corner within a year.

    If I had a penny for every time someone predicted the imminent collapse of Pharyngula…

    You do know that this blog has already been going for quite a few years, right?

  141. hexag1 says

    @mathematics is exactly right, Kg’s comments are just the kind of dishonesty that motivated Harris to write his piece in the first place.

    PZ should definitely delete those comments. Since, contra KG, Harris does NOT advocate nuclear strikes against the Muslim world, if PZ allows them on the blog then Harris’ charge that PZ is “responsible for circulating and amplifying some of the worst distortions of [Harris'] views found on the Internet”, will hold true.

    Sam Harris does NOT advocate nuking the Muslim world. He is clearly against it, calling it “an unthinkable crime”. The much misunderstood (or, to my eye, intentionally distorted) passage from Harris’ book “The End of Faith” lays out the danger of our current geoplitical situation in the following way. Harris imagines a scenario where an Islamist/Jihadist regime gets a hold of nuclear weapons, and the reponses of the worlds leaders to it. It goes like this (my summary):

    1) the Islamist/Jihadist political movements of the extreme right in Islam (al Qaeda etc) are strong advocates of suicide terrorism, and thus do not place much value on human life, including their own.
    2) Given their suicidally insane beliefs, Jihadists aren’t likeley to respond to nuclear deterrence (mutual assured destruction)
    3) is IS possible that a goverment could come to power with such an ideology, and to get a hold of nuclear weapons.
    4) if so, the worlds leaders may be so terrified that they may decide t strike first, before that are victims of a first strike themselves
    5) Harris then says: HOLY CRAP THIS CONCLUSION IS COMPLETELY INSANE! WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF THIS TERRIFYING TRAP!

    In short, Harris lays out a hypothetical scenario of inevitable military conflic, follows it to its awful conclusion, and then recoils in horror. The whole point of the passage is NOT to advocate nuclear strikes, but rather to draw attention to the terrify danger of our current geopolitical situation, which, if everything goes wrong, might end in nuclear warfare with lunatics who believe in djinns and Paradise.

    Dishonest people like Chris Hedges and KG have opened Harris’ book, read point #4, and then said that Harris wants to nuke the Muslim world, rather than his very different conclusion in #5.

    I’m not sure if KG just can’t read, or if he is willfully dishonest. Then again, those two aren’t mutually exclusive.

  142. KG says

    rainmaker42,

    Evidently your idea of “context” and “nuance” is to ignore the plain meaning of a text when it doesn’t suit your argument. Have you thought of going into Biblical exegesis? You’re clearly preadapted for a career as a preacher.

    With which, good night – it’s after 1a.m. here, and I’ll need to get up to take the dog out.

  143. KG says

    hexag1,

    Given the passage I’ve quoted from Harris, I have no hesitation in pointing out that you’re a shameless liar.

  144. peterhearn says

    It appears as if we broke Peterhearn. Bets on hir sticking the flounce?

    The only thing broken here is your spelling, reason, and bathroom scale.

  145. nms says

    It’s not misogynistic or homophobic if you could be referring to a sex act performed by gay man or a straight woman!

    This works for everything by the way, if you can hit two kinds of bigotry at once they negate each other. Because of quantum.

  146. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    rolandschulz: I’m sorry, you were…? Bye now.

    Xe, apparently, was a Loyal Reader, who “can’t stand the name calling”.

    You have been turning more and more into a bully and this article puts it over the top for me.

    roland, this article put you over the edge? Like all of PZ’s criticisms of Harris so far, this article was quite mild.

    Good job in alienating groups of atheist against each other! Hope you will find reason again

    Even the ass-print xe left on our door is pathetic.

  147. rainmaker42 says

    @Paul

    Yeah, pasting the quote and laying down the same notion without a second thought totally counts as looking at context.

    I ask you once again – does Sam Harris, in all his TV and debate appearances and writings, come off to you as a raving lunatic promulgating nuclear war? Can you really not entertain the notion that perhaps you’re misunderstanding him? Do you grant that contingency at all before declaring him to be a racist promoting genocide?

    He’s one of the most calm and thought provoking people in the public arena today. (I don’t agree with all his views, especially in regard to profiling (in that its not possible to profile based on belief) but I certainly stop short of declaring him as such a terrible person outright

  148. Happiestsadist says

    peterhearn: You’re a sad, sad little man, as well as dumber than a sack of hammers if you think calling someone fat A) is some grievous insult or B) means that you’re not full of shit. Or C)something that won’t get your sad ass booted. learn2rulez, hth.

  149. says

    Woo_meister wrote:

    jt512,

    uncalled-for insults

    Harris’ pro-torture, pro-racial profiling stance calls for a public shaming, IMO. Are you just a boring tone-troll who thinks insults are uncalled for, or do you think that insults are OK, but that Harris’ positions don’t merit them. If the latter, which positions specifically?

    I don’t think insulting a person is called for when the person’s arguments were rational and well-reasoned. I suspect that the insults were delivered by people who don’t have the intellectual ability to formulate rational arguments against Sam’s positions. FWIW, on profiling at airports, I think Sam’s arguments were a lot better than PZ’s.

    Jay

  150. joed says

    U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret ‘Jesus’ Bible …
    [Jan 15, 2010] U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret ‘Jesus’ Bible Codes … Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus … ( 1824 Comments )
    abcnews.go.com/Blotter/us-military-weapons…bible-codes/…
    Somebody tell Mr. Harris he is morally wrong to take Muslims as an exception.

  151. peterhearn says

    peterhearn: You’re a sad, sad little man, as well as dumber than a sack of hammers if you think calling someone fat A) is some grievous insult or B) means that you’re not full of shit. Or C)something that won’t get your sad ass booted. learn2rulez, hth.

    Heres an idea: Why don’t you feed a donkey some viagra, turn your fat ass around, and bend over?

  152. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    It appears as if we broke Peterhearn. Bets on hir sticking the flounce?

    The only thing broken here is your spelling, reason, and bathroom scale.

    “hir” is not a misspelling, it is a gender-neutral pronoun (though I am a poor speller, guilty as charged).

    And again, fat-shaming is not tolerated here. Go away.

  153. Paul says

    Sam Harris does NOT advocate nuking the Muslim world. He is clearly against it, calling it “an unthinkable crime”.

    In case anyone missed it earlier, right after “an unthinkable crime” is this:

    but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.

    This. Is. A. Lie. One used to provide plausible “endorsement” for pre-emptive genocide. Merely writing and publishing it (that should resonate with Harris, who thinks that one should be responsible for what they publish even if they didn’t write it and do not even implicitly endorse it, as with Pharyngula blog comments) demonstrates KG’s point.

  154. says

    Heres an idea: Why don’t you feed a donkey some viagra, turn your fat ass around, and bend over?

    oh, so you want to get banned? well, why didn’t you just say so?

  155. passingthrough says

    Respecting the human dignity of everyone, irrespective of race, sex, gender sexual orientation or anything else, and generally not being a bigot – are these really such impossibly high standards for you?

    This is absolutely not what this blog is about. This is about using all of the above as weapons to quiet views. Nobody here cares about gender, they care about calling people sexist. They don’t care about race, they care about calling people racist.

    You’re right in one respect. These aren’t high standards. Most people agree with them. You are not special.

  156. Gregory Greenwood says

    pacoti @ 148;

    Ah jeez, I forgot the rabid feminists hang out here :(

    One more thing you don’t understand, eh?

    What a shame.

    It wasn’t sexist, none of the comments I made were gender specific.

    ‘Bitch’ is specifically a gendered slur, whether it is applied to a man or a woman, because it uses a slang term for womanhood as an insult. Thus is is sexist by its very nature, whether or not you specify a gender.

    It wasn’t homophobic, both males and females can perform oral sex on PZ.

    Oh, I see, you just fantasise about the non gender specific perfomance of oral sex on PZ as a means of trying to denigrate the intellectual integrity of everyone here? The fact that such insults are routinely used by bigots to try to employ homosexuality as an insult is mere coincidence, and the bigotry of the rest of your comment should in no way lead us to suspect your motivations in including this particular statement?

    Yeah, right.

    Abelist, hardly, when I have seriously doubted the stability of PZ’s state of mind of late.

    So you expect us to believe that your supposed concern is genuine all of a sudden? PZ writes something you don’t agree with, and your first go-to assumption is that he suffers from some kind of mental illness?

    Oh no, using mental illness as a barb to attack someone you don’t agree with is not ableist at all

    Maybe you should look up what this stuff means before writing your comments in future, hmm?

    Ageist, you’re really stretching it with that one but god loves a trier.

    You attempt to dismiss PZ’s blog on the basis of a notional ‘midlife crisis’ – a phrase with strong negative connotations specifically associated with a certain age group – and yet you want us to believe that this statement wasn’t ageist?

    Again, words have meanings you know.

    Oh, and I’m a woman.

    OK, I believe you.

    And your point is…?

    There is nothing about being a woman that stops one from also being ageist, ableist, homophobic or sexist. Indeed, many of the social mechanisms that reinforce toxic patriarchal tropes rely on the fact that women internalise the misogynist memes of society.

    So much fail in so short a period, try again people.

    You really don’t grasp how poor your own arguments are, do you?

  157. says

    Nobody here cares about gender, they care about calling people sexist. They don’t care about race, they care about calling people racist.

    so sad when the idiots have to resort to bullshitting because they run out of arguments.

  158. Happiestsadist says

    petey-boy: Aww, you MAD!

    So, no actual arguments then? In that case, I advise you to pucker up, bucko, and kiss my shapely, firm ass. Or, alternately, eat the corn out of my shit. Whichever.

  159. passingthrough says

    so sad when the idiots have to resort to bullshitting because they run out of arguments.

    Passive agressive bullshit from another idiot.

  160. chrisdevries says

    In the six or so years that I have followed Pharyngula, I’ve gotten a pretty good sense of how things work around here. Rhetoric in the comments section has definitely become more…vehement, I suppose, but it has always been a place where in attacking ideas, the people espousing those ideas also got caught in the shrapnel. So maybe it’s from a position of complacency when I can think “Sam Harris is complaining about comments on Pharyngula? Really? I mean, come on, this is Pharyngula we’re talking about!”

    Nobody gives anybody the benefit of the doubt here, and for good reason given the number of bad faith commenters who are quite set in their views and unwilling to consider the possibility they might be wrong. So saying that “torture should be illegal all of the time, even though it may be morally permissible, even necessary for people whose system of ethics allows that the death of innocents in war can be justified as the most moral choice” turns into “torture apologist”. And saying “profiling for Muslims at airports is ethical given that recent suicide attacks and hijackings have been committed exclusively by Muslims” turns into “racist”. He may or may not be a racist. But putting the impracticality of his plan aside, he is not arguing from a perspective of racism at all, even if the plan, if implemented, would inevitably lead to racist practices. If I keep seeing an unwillingness to consider that a plan such as his can easily be gamed and result in false negatives, I will acknowledge that he’s probably a racist (even if he doesn’t realise it), but at this point, he’s just wrong (showing us that irrationality can pop up in just about anyone’s life; nobody is immune).

    But if Sam Harris thinks that PZ “gleefully endorsed” the article, he doesn’t know PZ very well. If he thinks PZ agrees with the opinions of every one of his commenters, he should really stick around and learn how freedom of speech operates here. I consider this blog as the pointy end of the democracy being spread by freethoughtblogs.com. If you want a place where all ideas are equal, go to Camels With Hammers; here, nobody is safe to say stupid things and assume they’ll be treated with respect, and I think that’s a good thing. White men are traditionally afforded immediate respect in most environments in which they engage with others; this privilege doesn’t exist here. Ideas stand and fall on their own merits. Even PZ can’t change this. Granted, this means that nuance can fall by the wayside if it smells too much like code for furthering societal inequality. But there is no place like it in our community, and I think it has an important role to play.

  161. nms says

    The only thing broken here is your spelling, reason, and bathroom scale.

    I am reminded of Plato’s great philosophical treatise Lipos, in which Socratics proves his critics to be incorrect with his famously witty observation that lípos eíste, ára láthos eíste.

    Truly, these Harrisites are an erudite bunch.

  162. says

    Passive agressive bullshit from another idiot.

    like so.

    so sad. why not just admit you’ve lost the argument and save some face, instead of bullshitting and whining?

  163. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    jt512,

    I don’t think insulting a person is called for when the person’s arguments were rational and well-reasoned.

    Meh, pro-torture and pro-racial-profiling arguments are harmful and shitty regardless of if they are argued for in a prima facia calm, dispassionate, academic, and rational manner.

    I suspect that the insults were delivered by people who don’t have the intellectual ability to formulate rational arguments against Sam’s positions.

    I suspect you are wrong about that (well, maybe some were, but you can’t cherry-pick criticisms of him to only deal with the weakest ones).
    ***
    Peterhearn,
    bye-bye
    ***
    passingthrough

    Nobody here cares about gender, they care about calling people sexist. They don’t care about race, they care about calling people racist.

    Wow, I didn’t know you were and shithead AND a mindreader. Fuck off. Go do your trolling in the Thunderdome. This thread is about Harris’ harmful viewpoints.

  164. Happiestsadist says

    nms: I know I sure am swayed by the powerful arguments, solid facts and keen rhetorical skills of Harris’ fanbrats. They really speak volumes about their noble hero.

  165. says

    PZ, you just lost a loyal reader. You have been turning more and more into a bully and this article puts it over the top for me. I will miss some of your excellent articles but I can’t stand the name calling and quoting out of context of people you hate anymore.

    It’s too bad Roland has left us, because I have some questions.

    I have just been attacked by Sam Harris. How does that make me the bully?

    I would like to see some examples of “name calling” and “quoting out of context” from this article. I looked and couldn’t find any.

    Whatever makes you think I hate Sam Harris?

  166. Loqi says

    I’m kind of amused by the peterhearn’s repeated attempts to insult everyone with fatness. I don’t think he realizes it’s just not insulting. It’s like burning a koran at me. It just isn’t offensive.

  167. says

    Oh, I’m sorry, hexag1.

    PZ should definitely delete those comments.

    I disagree with your comments. Shall I delete them? I wouldn’t want anyone to think I support you unconditionally.

  168. passingthrough says

    Jadehawk
    7 August 2012 at 7:45 pm
    Passive agressive bullshit from another idiot.

    like so.

    so sad. why not just admit you’ve lost the argument and save some face, instead of bullshitting and whining?

    What are you even talking about at this point? If you have a problem with my posts on profiling you should respond to them.

  169. Happiestsadist says

    Loqi: I know, right? “You, you, biped!” *chuckles to self* “I sure showed them!”

  170. says

    What are you even talking about at this point? If you have a problem with my posts on profiling you should respond to them.

    what for? you haven’t dealt in any way with the refutations of your points already present. I’m merely here to amuse myself at your need to make shit up because you lost an argument

  171. passingthrough says

    what for? you haven’t dealt in any way with the refutations of your points already present. I’m merely here to amuse myself at your need to make shit up because you lost an argument

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. Apart from, you think you’re great. Loud and Clear commander. Ground control got that.

  172. smef says

    KG

    No, that doesn’t make any sense at all, because it bears no resemblance whatever to what the passage says, quite clearly and explicitly.

    Except that’s exactly what the passage is saying. Rainmaker was more or less right about that, only a very uncharitable reading of the passage would lead one to think that Harris advocates nuclear first strikes. Harris is offering a hypothetical end-game scenario where governments would be forced to nuke a Muslim state before they nuked us and hey, wouldn’t it be insane if it came down to that?

    Now, you’re right in that Harris isn’t being very imaginative in thinking that such a scenario–where nuclear first strike is our last resort–is a plausible one. One would also be right in pointing out that the U.S. government is usually the aggressor in the War on Terror and not merely a victim just trying to defend themselves, so a nuclear first strike would amount to genocide (hard to imagine a nuclear first strike not being genocide, tbh).

    Extending that to “Sam Harris advocates genocide and nuclear first strikes” is intellectually dishonest because he’s offering a wacky hypothetical, not saying “this is totes what we should do like right now!”

  173. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    What are you even talking about at this point? If you have a problem with my posts on profiling you should respond to them.

    What fucking posts on profiling? You proved with your first comment here,

    Harris is generally right. It can’t even have escaped the notice of regular commenters here that most of what Myers posts nowadays are simply links to next target, perhaps dressed in a two hundred words. He doesn’t link it to spur discussion on the issues involved. Just to instigate another disgustingly self-righteous circle-jerk.

    If that doesn’t make him and his blog odious, what does?

    that you are just here to whine about Pharyngula being an odious “circle-jerk”.

    If you want to talk about profiling, do so. Fucking dolt.

  174. hexag1 says

    KG,

    You don’t seem to understand. When Harris talks about this nuclear question, he is imagining what *might* happen, in a *hypothetical* scenario where a government gets a hold of nuclear weaponry. This government, in Harris’ scenario, is run by a group of ideological fanatics that are bent on bringing on Armageddon and murdering everyone in the world. Such is the ideology of Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

    If such a government were to come into existence, bent on starting nuclear war in order to bring on Armageddon, it is quite conceivable that Western powers would feel that they need to strike that government first. What could we do to prevent nuclear war? After all, they couldn’t just invade with ground troops and try to seize the nukes, since this government doesn’t even care about its own death, and would think nothing of simply nuking enemy soldiers on its own territory. If a government, bent on bringing on the end of the world, gets a hold of doomsday weaponry, we would have to got to war, probably with areal bombing or ICBMs. What else could we do? Sit around and wait for them to nuke us first?

    We have already seen suicidally insane governments in the recent past. When it was clear that the Nazi’s were going to lose to the Soviets, Hitler started ordering his generals to destroy German industrial centers, so as to quicken the historical verdict of Slavic racial superiority over the Aryans. If the Nazis had successfully detonated a nuclear test bomb during WWII, who could doubt that FDR would have nuked them first, rather than Japan? Who would have wanted FDR to simply sit and wait for Hitler to strike Allied forces with nuclear weapons first?

    That is the kind of scenario that Harris is imagining.

  175. Loqi says

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Seems to be an ongoing theme in your life.

  176. Wowbagger, Titillated Victorian Gentleman says

    passingshitthrough wrote:

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Dude, you’ve already shown us that; there’s no need to tell us as well. But I guess there might have a been a few who had some lingering doubts.

    You may go now.

  177. Gregory Greenwood says

    passingthrough @ 172;

    This is absolutely not what this blog is about.

    The rules of conduct on the blog as they relate to Splash Damage notwithstanding? The states policy of the blog is just a blind? Tell me; have been able to read minds for long, or is it a recent development?

    This is about using all of the above as weapons to quiet views.

    How, exactly, does calling out bigotry on Pharyngula ‘quiet views’? The internet is huge, and you can comment elsewhere on it without impediment even if PZ were to ban you here. And you haven’t been banned here.

    Silencing becomes a problem when the privilege of the empowered is used in a bid to gag the disenfranchised and disadvantaged in our society:-

    When a cisexual uses cis privilege to target a transexual.

    When a heterosexual uses the heteronormative nature of a culture to take shots at homosexuals.

    When clueless doodz spout misogyny to shut up ‘uppity’ women.

    I see no evidence that any position of societal privilege has been used to silence you.

    Nobody here cares about gender, they care about calling people sexist. They don’t care about race, they care about calling people racist.

    Again with the mind reading. Has it occurred to you that the only way to deal with bigotry is to challenge it? That in order to change society, first one must raise awareness that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, and you can’t do that by giving the bigots a free ride.

    You’re right in one respect. These aren’t high standards. Most people agree with them. You are not special.

    Most peopel agree with them? Really? How do you explain the sheer ubiquity of prejudice in our society then? Where does pervasive rape culture come from? Why is it that women still get paid less than men for the same work? Why are the constant bids to deny women their bodily autonomy by limiting access to abortions services so common? How is it that homosexuals still face routine abuse, much of it endorsed by prominent religious figures who would deny them marriage equality because, allegedly, the mere fact of gay marriage ‘taints’ the marriages of heterosexuals?

    I am sorry to break it to you, but we are not living in some post-discriminatory utopia. The equality battles have not been won – what limited advances have been made have been used to sideline the broader struggle.

    As for being ‘special’ – no, we aren’t special. We are just people who try to go through life without making the lives of those already placed at a disadvantage by our society any worse. In pursuit of that, our arguments, humour and mockery punch up the social power gradient, not down it, and that is enough to make a great many people just like you very, very angry indeed.

  178. says

    Apart from, you think you’re great.

    you suck at mindreading. what I’m actually thinking is that I’m going to die from cabin fever soon :-p

  179. says

    Sam doesn’t seem to realize that Christianity in the U S military is rampant and rabid.

    Among the posts the Mondoweiss piece (linked above @ #87) links to is this one from 2006, in which Harris offers:

    Increasingly, Americans will come to believe that the only people hard-headed enough to fight the religious lunatics of the Muslim world are the religious lunatics of the West. Indeed, it is telling that the people who speak with the greatest moral clarity about the current wars in the Middle East are members of the Christian right, whose infatuation with biblical prophecy is nearly as troubling as the ideology of our enemies. Religious dogmatism is now playing both sides of the board in a very dangerous game.

    The same failure of liberalism is evident in Western Europe, where the dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants. The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.

  180. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    I’m kind of amused by the peterhearn’s repeated attempts to insult everyone with fatness. I don’t think he realizes it’s just not insulting. It’s like burning a koran at me. It just isn’t offensive.

    Peterhearns short history here is rife with some of the dumbest comments ever posted on any blog anywhere.

    This thread is no exception.

  181. hexag1 says

    ” Oh, I’m sorry, hexag1.
    I disagree with your comments. Shall I delete them? ”

    Oh, of course there should be maximal space for disagreement here, as long as the comments are honest. KG is blatantly lying about Harris’ writing, saying Harris is “an apologist for genocide”, which is clearly not.

  182. says

    jt512,

    I don’t think insulting a person is called for when the person’s arguments were rational and well-reasoned.

    Meh, pro-torture and pro-racial-profiling arguments are harmful and shitty regardless of if they are argued for in a prima facia calm, dispassionate, academic, and rational manner.

    I wasn’t talking about the “manner” of the argument; I was talking about the substance of the argument. Sam’s argument for increased screening of Muslims at airports was a pretty good argument: If Muslims are committing the vast majority of terrorist activities on airplanes, then we should tend to select Muslims for screening. The math is simple: if 90% of terrorists acts on planes are committed by Muslims, and we screen 100% of Muslim’s getting on planes, then we screen at least 90% of the terrorists. In contrast, if we randomly select passengers for screening (say 10% of them), then we’ll only screen 10% of terrorists.

    PZ’s main argument against increased screening of Muslims—that there would be too many false positives—was a poor argument. Since terrorists are a tiny minority of passengers, then the overwhelming percentage of passengers screened using any selection process will be false positives. The issue is picking a screening algorithm that maximizes the probability that a terrorist will be screened. And, if it is true that most terrorist acts on planes are perpetrated by Muslims (which PZ admitted), then the higher the percentage of Muslims you screen, the more likely you will be to screen a terrorist.

    Your opposition to this seems to be ideological, rather than rational.

  183. passingthrough says

    Most peopel agree with them? Really? How do you explain the sheer ubiquity of prejudice in our society then? Where does pervasive rape culture come from? Why is it that women still get paid less than men for the same work? Why are the constant bids to deny women their bodily autonomy by limiting access to abortions services so common? How is it that homosexuals still face routine abuse, much of it endorsed by prominent religious figures who would deny them marriage equality because, allegedly, the mere fact of gay marriage ‘taints’ the marriages of heterosexuals?`

    This is all a deliberate attempt to move the discussion off-topic.

  184. passingthrough says

    you suck at mindreading. what I’m actually thinking is that I’m going to die from cabin fever soon :-p

    We can but hope lol <—- this indicates a joke.

  185. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    This is all a deliberate attempt to move the discussion off-topic.

    And what was this?

    Nobody here cares about gender, they care about calling people sexist. They don’t care about race, they care about calling people racist.

  186. Amphiox says

    peterhearn: You’re a sad, sad little man, as well as dumber than a sack of hammers if you think calling someone fat A) is some grievous insult or B) means that you’re not full of shit. Or C)something that won’t get your sad ass booted. learn2rulez, hth.

    Heres an idea: Why don’t you feed a donkey some viagra, turn your fat ass around, and bend over?

    And here’s peterhearn outright proving exactly how sad, pathetic, petty, little and evil a sad, sad little man he actually is, with that odious example of a rape joke.

    Dumber than a sack of hammers? The comparison is an insult to decent sacks and hammers everywhere.

  187. Gregory Greenwood says

    passingthrough @ 203;

    This is all a deliberate attempt to move the discussion off-topic.

    You made the claim that most people agree with progressive social values, and thus, I assume, that the fact that Pharyngula strives to be a safe place for the less privileged groups in our society is of little value. I am simply demonstrating that this claim seems to be at variance with the society around us. You do not get to define the limits of the discussion in a fashion that papers over the cracks in your own arguments

    I also note that you did not bother to, you know, actually answer the questions…

  188. says

    KG doesn’t think he’s lying. I don’t think KG is lying. Shall we just let you play truth detector and point to the comments of liars on this thread, so I can go through and delete them?

    Oddly enough, I expect you’ll point to all the comments that find Harris’s attitudes towards Muslims repugnant.

  189. Mera says

    chrisdevries @177: (and possibly many others, sorry to use your comment as an example)

    He may or may not be a racist.

    I will acknowledge that he’s probably a racist (even if he doesn’t realize it), [...]

    (emphasis mine)

    I’ve noticed this a few times while scrolling through the comments here, so I think it warrants mentioning: branding someone “a racist” is sometimes problematic, especially when calling them (or even only their ideas if the situation is mild enough) simply “racist” is good enough. It’s way to easy to weasel out of and have plausibly deniability against the charge of being “a racist” when you are not a card-carrying stormfront member.

    Crommunist has a post titled You’re not “a racist”; you’re just racist on this subject that is well worth reading and raises a few other points why it might be better to chose the second version of the attack.

    With that being said: keep those attacks coming, this is in no way intended to be a tone troll of any sorts!

  190. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    This is all a deliberate attempt to move the discussion off-topic.

    You are one to talk about being off-topic.

    Here, I will get us back onto the topic. Sam Harris is a* racist.

    *Thanks for the link, Mera, I will try to keep it in mind.

  191. says

    No, Woo_monster, I a not committing the base rate fallacy. Try actually understanding something before you post a link to it.

  192. says

    I will never understand people who need to have “heroes,” let alone rush out to defend them at all costs when they are criticized, whether fairly or not.

    What’s next, Atheist Trading Cards?

    Heroes are the PROBLEM.

  193. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    No, Woo_monster, I a not committing the base rate fallacy.

    Why, because of this italicized argument below?

    PZ’s main argument against increased screening of Muslims—that there would be too many false positives—was a poor argument. Since terrorists are a tiny minority of passengers, then the overwhelming percentage of passengers screened using any selection process will be false positives.

  194. says

    We can but hope lol <—- this indicates a joke.

    friendly advice: if you have to say it, it’s probably not very funny. also, no, “lol” doesn’t actually indicate joking. what are you, new to the internet?

  195. says

    nms:

    I am reminded of Plato’s great philosophical treatise Lipos, in which Socratics proves his critics to be incorrect with his famously witty observation that lípos eíste, ára láthos eíste.

    Only seven days in and we have a top comment for August

    (Even if I can’t figure out láthos from context. “Stupid”? “Wrong”? “Ugly”?)

  196. observer says

    Harris’s dismissal of Schneier is laughable. Schneier destroyed Harris in that exchange.

  197. therapeusonseauton says

    @ Ms. Daisy Cutter #218

    “lípos eíste, ára láthos eíste” means “you are fat, therefore you are wrong”, the only trouble is, it is the wrong kind of Greek. I am quite certain Plato was not familiar with Modern Greek and expressed himself in the Attic Greek.

  198. says

    Therapeusonseauton: Thanks. I was able to figure out the rest of the sentence, but I was hung up on the one word.

    I’m guessing nms resorted to Modern Greek either because they’re familiar with it or because online translation software doesn’t offer translation into Attic.

  199. says

    Woo, what I said was that if 90% of airline terrorists are Muslims, then if you screen 100% of Muslim passengers, that you will screen at least 90% of airline terrorists. Think. It’s obvious. In contrast, and equally obvious, is that if you randomly screen, say 10% of all passengers, you will expect to catch 10% of all terrorists. Why? Because every passenger (including every terrorist) will have a 10% chance of being screened.

    If you disagree, then explain your mathematical reasoning using your own words.

  200. Paul says

    If you disagree, then explain your mathematical reasoning using your own words.

    Her’s a start. How can you even start to assess the validity of the system without addressing false positives? If you’re not addressing that, you’re not addressing the realities of screening in the first place, and don’t really deserve any sort of answer.

  201. Paul says

    Oh, also

    Woo, what I said was that if 90% of airline terrorists are Muslims, then if you screen 100% of Muslim passengers, that you will screen at least 90% of airline terrorists.

    This assumes that the terrorists are morons, to boot. As soon as word gets out that you’re screening 100% of Muslims, the 90% go into sleeper mode and only the other 10% are sent. Your security is overwhelmed focusing on 100% of Muslims, 0% of whom are planning airline terrorism.

    This is all, of course, ignoring the question of how you determine which ones look Muslimy enough to warrant 100% screening.

  202. nms says

    I’m guessing nms resorted to Modern Greek either because they’re familiar with it or because online translation software doesn’t offer translation into Attic.

    I love Google Translate. Anyone who actually knows Greek (Attic or otherwise) may certainly feel free to do a real translation.

  203. says

    Paul, I agree that Sam’s reasoning oversimplified, but it does not follow that we should ignore the fact that it has primarily been Muslims who have committed airline terrorism. I’m sure that there are airline security specialists who have more sophisticated models on how to take ethnicity into account in screening selection. I seriously doubt that their models say that it is optimal to just ignore it.

  204. therapeusonseauton says

    I suspect what is lost in this whole “debate” (or pie-throwing contest) on screening is that it does not really work as intended.

    “A new report issued by the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations, says that since November 2001, there have been more than 25,000 airport security breaches, ranging from minor incidents like baggage accidentally being left behind, to major breaches like travelers bypassing security lines and bringing various weapons onto airplanes”

    And that is just the incidents that were detected and reported.

    What the traveling circus aka airport security really does is it discourages amateurs. Just like locks on doors do. No lock, even a very sophisticated one can withstand the efforts of a determined and experienced criminal, but it does deter random crime.

    If we did not have any successful terrorist attacks against airlines in the last 10 years it is not because TSA is so bloody brilliant at what it does, but because no competent and determined terrorist really tried. The rank amateurs like the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber only prove the point.

  205. says

    This is all, of course, ignoring the question of how you determine which ones look Muslimy enough to warrant 100% screening.

    It’s easy: they all dress as catholic priests and nuns. Because as soon as they realize you’re profiling for people carrying little signs that say “I AM A MUSLIM, SEARCH ME!” they’ll start wearing dog collars and habits. You’ll still be able to catch them because they’ll be carrying little signs that say “I AM NOT A MUSLIM!”

  206. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    Since a minuscule portion of people “who looks as if they could conceivably be Muslim” are terrorists, you will get many false positives.

    Did you read the example in that Wikipedia article?

    Imagine that the city’s entire population of one million people pass in front of the camera. About 99 of the 100 terrorists will trigger the alarm—-and so will about 9,999 of the 999,900 non-terrorists. Therefore, about 10,098 people will trigger the alarm, among which about 99 will be terrorists. So the probability that a person triggering the alarm is actually a terrorist is only about 99 in 10,098, which is less than 1%, and very very far below our initial guess of 99%.

    As I’ve already said, I am not ok with making people who “look like they could conceivably be Muslim” jump through extra hoops to fly on a plane. Fuck. That. Islamophobic. Racist. Shit.

  207. says

    there’s nothing to suggest a deep-seated hatred based on skin color

    I am so fucking tired of this bullshit lame excuse.
    And I am not referring to Harris, as I haven’t read him and don’t have a clue about him personally.

    I’m referring to the constant cries by some, often right-wingers, but also many atheist liberals and certain “philosophers” with blogs, that calling something by its name is bad. They often even argue that it’s worse than the thing it names.

    “Bigoted.” “Sexist.” “Misogynist.” “Homophobe.” “Prejudiced.”

    All these are supposedly terrible things to call someone unless you can prove that they HATE, HATE HATE the target of their insult or cluelessness.

    Most bigots don’t feel that they hate anyone. They probably don’t hate anyone, as a matter of fact.
    Most homophobes don’t “hate” gays.

    Most people are not out burning crosses on some lawn, they’re simply sitting at home in their comfy suburb watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.

    They don’t feel any “hate.”
    They just don’t like to go into certain “unsafe” areas of town.
    They don’t hate gays but wish they would “tone it down a little.”

    EVERYONE is prejudiced. It’s built-in, and it takes active work to combat that unhelpful instinct. You cannot be passively unbigoted. It takes work. If you just assume you are not a bigot it just means you haven’t looked for the places where you are bigoted.

    I am a homophobe.
    I have gay and lesbian friends, I fight against the NO4M nitwits, and as I sometimes jokingly say “some of my best fucks are gay.”

    Yeah, I’ve had gay sex (not particularly successfully) and straight sex (not particularly successfully.)

    So why call myself a homophobe? Because I STILL find myself having knee-jerk reactions, though mild, to some things.
    For example, closeted gay people make me mildly uncomfortable.
    Totally me. I dunno why, most I can figure is that it’s because of my overactive trust issues… and I can totally see the necessity of some people being closeted.

    But still, it gives me a funny uncomfortable twinge. After that usually comes acceptance and sympathy or understanding.
    And around openly gay people, even friends, I sometimes find myself making assumptions.

    I am a homophobe because even though I’ve had gay sex (more than hetero actually,) I don’t like the idea of people finding out because I don’t want women to assume I’m not a potential partner. Even though due to my disabilities I’m NOT realistically a potential partner.

    So, homophobic, and maybe sexist too in that case.

    I am prejudiced.
    I am a person that other people cross the street to avoid. I have a certain look to me. It hurts a little. But at the same time, though not nearly as much as most everyone I know, I ALSO get nervous in a “tough” neighborhood that seems unfamiliar.

    I get a little bit of social anxiety when I’m surrounded by people who don’t speak my language.

    I sometimes make incorrect assumptions about someone based on their looks or whatever.

    I have within myself the capacity for homophobia, race-based bigotry, sexism, a bit of nationalism, you name it.

    I try to catch these things, sometimes I succeed. I worry about it.

    Using these words is not only NOT worse than using a neutral term, I see it as necessary.

    This is not a two-dimensional world. Saving the words bigot and homophobe for only the worst offenders does nothing to stop these things, and gives everyone who doesn’t fall within the tiny definition a free pass to consider themselves OK, a free pass to avoid self-reflection.

    Maybe in the future we need to start using other words to reflect differing degrees of the manifestation of these prejudices, but we can’t get to that point until we discard the either/or thinking that gives the majority of the population an excuse to ignore the issue and their own part in it.

    EVERYONE is prejudiced. Everyone can be a bigot.
    Stop complaining about the words and start examining just how they fit you – because most assuredly one or more does to at least some extent.

    That’s my rant for today.

  208. Lyn M: Humble Acolyte and Brainwashee ... of death says

    Posting this before reading the entire thread, but I am wondering.

    Didn’t the Chief Poopyhead of Cthulthu recently promote Sam Harris’ blog and books with a reference to Harris’ week long free book promotion?

    Why didn’t Harris jump all over that as a mis-use of the Poopyhead power?

  209. left0ver1under says

    I don’t know about anyone else, but Harris strikes me as smarmy and smug. The impression I get is that his anti-religious stance is like those of “ex-gay” people, that he’s in denial and will eventually go back. He’s as fervent as any preacher.

  210. hexag1 says

    PZ,

    I think that KG’s reading of Harris (in the instance I have been arguing with him about) can only be arrived at through an extremely uncharitable and narrow reading.

    Sometimes writers will follow a train of thought to an ugly place, in order to demonstrate the bad consequences that certain kinds of thinking can bring about when applied to the real world. Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is writing of this kind. Although Harris’ passage in “the End of Faith” is not Swiftian satire, it uses a rhetorically adjacent technique, and is written with a similar goal in mind: to demonstrate the liabilities of certain modes of thought by following them to their logical conclusion – in this case the poisonous combination of suicidal religious fanaticism with nuclear brinkmanship and geopolitical reality.

    All of this, is I think, perfectly clear when one reads Harris’s book in an open-minded and honest way. Harris follows a train of thought to an ugly place, and then recoils in horror at where he ends up. This, in fact, is a standard technique in moral philosophy. Look, for example at Derek Parfit’s book “Reasons and Persons”. Parfit examines various kinds of utilitarian moral philosophies and measures of moral value, and then takes them to their logical conclusions in hypothetical scenarios, ending up with hideous imagined futures.

    Does Parfit therefore endorse said utilitarianisms? No. And neither does Harris endorse nuking the Muslim world, or Swift endorse cooking up Irish babies for breakfast.

    And, yes, if someone at, say the Richard Dawkins forums promulgated a misreading of your writing to say that you advocated genocidal nuclear warfare against the Hindus of India (just to make something up), when you do not, I would expect the forum masters to delete it.

  211. chrisdevries says

    @212 Mera

    Yes, you’re absolutely right, I should be more careful to avoid making essentialist assumptions.

    When I say “he may be a racist”, I am actually saying “he may be irrationally biased against people of Middle Eastern descent”.

    But all I have evidence for right now is that he is saying that “the probability of a Muslim being an airplane terrorist is higher than that of a non-Muslim.”

  212. says

    if someone at, say the Richard Dawkins forums promulgated a misreading of your writing to say that you advocated genocidal nuclear warfare against the Hindus of India (just to make something up), when you do not, I would expect the forum masters to delete it.

    Why? The epic destruction of their silly mistake would make for entertaining light reading, as would the apology and correction they would presumably insert in it when they had it explained to them. Public mistakes are honest if they’re honest mistakes and one thing you can do is to acknowledge them and correct oneself and serve as a sort of object lesson to others.

  213. says

    Harris and PZ are coming from very different places.

    Harris believes he has a responsibility to make the world a better place by propagating an enlightened perspective. He is absolutely committed, thoroughly compassionate, disarmingly articulate, but perhaps a little naive. Above all, he wants us to understand him.

    PZ believes that much of what’s wrong with the world is down to “religion”, so he champions evidence-based public policy. He enjoys making a noise, breaking stuff, poking people in the eye – he’s basically a clown. Above all, he wants us to notice him.

    And yet, they’re both working to achieve one another’s ends: Harris has very effectively undermined “religious” interests, and PZ has been stalwart in his efforts to secure our civilization.

    Is either of them perfect? Tchaah!
    Do they disagree on some issues? So what?

    Anyone who doesn’t admire both of these people doesn’t know which side his bread is buttered…

  214. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    I would expect the forum masters to delete it.

    And I would expect the “forum masters” there to be as annoyed with you for telling them what content should or should not be allowed to remain as PZ probably is.

    Give it up, PZ already responded to you, which is more than you deserved. Do you get that? He said no. Move on.

  215. says

    Woo wrote:

    a minuscule portion of people “who looks as if they could conceivably be Muslim” are terrorists, you will get many false positives.

    Are you actually reading what I wrote? I said you’ll get lots of false positives. Obviously you will. But the reason that isn’t a valid argument against profiling vs random screening is that you’ll get an overwhelming number of false positives no matter how you screen. The point is, though, that if you profile, you’ll get more true positives.

    As I’ve already said, I am not ok with making people who “look like they could conceivably be Muslim” jump through extra hoops to fly on a plane. Fuck. That. Islamophobic. Racist. Shit.

    How can it be homophobic to increase screening of Muslims if it is Muslims who are overwhelmingly the ones perpetrating the terrorists acts?

    Obviously you are impervious to reason on this issue, so there is no point in continuing this discussion.

  216. says

    How can it be homophobic to increase screening of Muslims if it is Muslims who are overwhelmingly the ones perpetrating the terrorists acts?

    You got me there, Chester.

  217. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    I said you’ll get lots of false positives. Obviously you will. But the reason that isn’t a valid argument against profiling vs random screening is that you’ll get an overwhelming number of false positives no matter how you screen.

    Randomized screening randomizes the false positives across all groups. Racial profiling disproportionately concentrates the false positives to the group “who conceivably look like they may be Muslim”. Pretty racist effect if you ask me. All for the cause of minuscule gains in the number of terrorists screened (assuming the terrorists are dumb enough not to do anything to change their appearance in light of this new policy).

  218. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    The point is, though, that if you profile, you’ll get more true positives.

    Citation needed.

    Because, seriously. Actual security experts say exactly the opposite.

    That too.

  219. says

    The point is, though, that if you profile, you’ll get more true positives.

    Yes, but you’ll get overwhelmingly more false positives to go along with them.

    Back in the day, I worked on network intrusion detection systems, and the base rate fallacy and false positive problem were a frickin’ ass-kicker. Then one day I realized that I could make my customers happy by selling them a cinderblock with a network interface that they could hook to a span-port: it would never false positive! Ever! And then I thought I could sell them a hub with an alarm whistle attached to the blinky light that indicates packet activity: it would never fail to alarm when there was an actual attack! And all my customers would be happy because I had both sides of the problem covered absolutely reliably.

    Does that help you understand, a little?

  220. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    How can it be homophobic to increase screening of Muslims if it is Muslims who are overwhelmingly the ones perpetrating the terrorists acts?

    That right there is a very very good question.

  221. Mera says

    @239 chrisdevries

    I was not arguing against calling him racist, I was arguing against calling anyone an racist. But Jafafa Hots @234 stole all my hope to sound insightful on this topic. Basically: if you accuse someone of being a racist you are creating a binary situation where one either is a racist — and that would be the bulk of their personality — or one is not. Does “I can’t be a racist, I have many black friends” sound familiar? Calling an argument racist doesn’t give that easy way out, or at least requires more mental gymnastics of that kind the Harris defenders here seem to be so fond of. And calling a person racist gives at least a tacit acknowledgment that we all harbor racist thoughts.

  222. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    And calling a person racist gives at least a tacit acknowledgment that we all harbor racist thoughts.

    But some of us promote them.

  223. says

    jt512:

    How can it be homophobic to increase screening of Muslims if it is Muslims who are overwhelmingly the ones perpetrating the terrorists acts?

    Not sure about the homophobic bit, but are you sure Muslims are overwhelmingly the ones perpetrating the terrorist acts? We seem to have plenty of Christian-born home-grown terrorists of our own.

    So again, citations would be nice.

  224. Stacy says

    then if you screen 100% of Muslim passengers

    But the question is, how do you do this? How do you know who’s Muslim?

    IIRC Harris himself suggested paying more attention to people who “look” Middle Eastern/semitic. But all Muslims don’t fit that profile. Take a look at the would-be terrorists whose plans have been thwarted since 9/11; most of them didn’t “look” Muslim.

    Surely if terrorists know what physical characteristics are being screened for, they’ll just recruit suicide bombers from among Muslims who physically don’t fit the profile. But, leaving that aside, surely treating everyone who “looks [like they could be] Muslim” as worthy of extra scrutiny is vague and unworkable and bound to result in too many false positives to be practicable. I don’t know that I’d call it racial profiling, but it is certainly ethnic profiling. “Extremist Muslim” describes ideas, not an ethnicity. This is why people find Harris’s support of the idea “racist” as well as unhelpful.

    Kurzman has also studied the ethnicity of the people behind those plots and found that “ethnicity was a wash.”

    About half of the would-be terrorists were U.S.-born citizens. Most were young. But in terms of ethnicity, they were evenly split among Arab Americans, Caucasians, and people from Somalia and South Asia.

    No one group dominated, according to Kurzman

    http://sociology.unc.edu/features/terrorism-perception-vs.-reality

  225. says

    jt512:

    The point is, though, that if you profile, you’ll get more true positives.

    Citation needed.

    Because, seriously. Actual security experts say exactly the opposite.

    Citation needed.

  226. Mattir says

    The pomposity store called and said they’re running out of Harris and Dan Fincke.

    Ms. Daisy Cutter, this was marvelous.

    Also, the main problem with Harris’ Profile All Teh Mooslimmms™ proposal is that in the United States, it is the white male Christians who are the terrorists. I checked into a motel along an interstate this evening. I noted that there seemed to be a lot of middle-aged white men, mostly tradesmen of various types, judging by the labels on the trucks in the parking lot. I checked in anyway, but it gave me pause, and seriously, I would be a whole fuckton more comfortable in a hotel filled with dark men in turbans and women in hijab. And yes, as I drove down to collect the DaughterSpawn from Boy Scout camp, I again passed the headquarters of the National Rifle Association, with its flag at half-mast because of yet another act of terrorism committed by (you got it) a white Christian guy.

    I do note that PZ himself is a white guy of Christian descent. Next time I see him, I’m gonna profile the bejeezis outta him.

  227. The Swordfish, Ambulatory Memory Leak says

    *turns on megaphone*

    Attention, Horde! I, the Swordfish, Ambulatory Memory Leak, have in my possession PZ’s intellectual integrity! You have 24 hours to leave a suitcase containing one million dollars and a fancy hat behind a potted plant in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City… OR THE INTELLECTUAL INTEGRITY GETS IT.

    Mwahahaha!

    *throws smoke bomb, disappears*

  228. joed says

    @223 jt512
    but what if you end up screening some Mexicans too.
    Or some Greeks. Or what if a Muslim looks like a white guy and was trained to speak like a white guy.
    I mean, how do you scan for a Muslim?!
    They look like Jews too. Some of those Turks have blue eyes and light complexion. What criterion will you use to pick a Muslim. Some of them look like black Africans too! How will you ever know what a Muslim look like.
    I think Sam Harris has not been able to overcome his prejudices/stereotypes and hatreds that he learned as a young person. Sam has a real problem and a blind spot that is dragging him down. I feel sorry for him–I know how difficult it is to overcome self.
    There is no excuse no moral justification for use of nuclear weapons. Sam is way off morally on this one. It is almost like there is a partial sociopath lurking behind Sams exterior.
    He must be a thoughtful considerate person in most of his life. but he is way off on these 2 things.

  229. says

    IIRC Harris himself suggested paying more attention to people who “look” Middle Eastern/semitic. But all Muslims don’t fit that profile.

    Exactly. You’ve got Nigerians, Malaysians, as well as Middle Easterners, Afghans, Turks – not at all semitic.

    I made a trip through Jeddah airport last winter (the nearest airport to where most muslims go for the hajj) and it was like a new orleans street fair, trying to recognize all the fascinating ethnic outfits. There were Afghans in their floppy hats, loads of Africans in crazy patterned cottons, Malays and Indonesians in jeans and Tshirts, and, yes, lots of middle easterners in thawbs and what a narrow-minded person would interpret as “arab dress.” And, there I was a 6-foot tall scandinavian-american atheist wearing a thawb and keffiyeh, fitting right in. I was not subjected to additional screening. :)

  230. says

    jt512:

    Citation needed.

    Now, it’s your turn. On what basis do you state:

    The point is, though, that if you profile, you’ll get more true positives.

    Is that based on something actually established, or are you just asserting shit you believe to be true?

  231. says

    jt512,

    Citation needed.

    There is a link in PZ’s post that has a security expert that disagrees with you. It is not hard to find.

  232. arbor says

    It appears that we’ve been slimed by Sam Harris’s fanbois.

    It is insulting that it was so badly done.

    I’ve read some of Harris’s work. I was not impressed. We deserve so much better than what he is able to offer. He gets no more of my time and none of my support.

    His crudbase doesn’t seem to understand that they do him a disservice by posting here. I don’t go over to Harris’s site and write my name in his snow – why do they keep trying to do so here? (n.b. there is no Undo or spell-checking when writing in the snow, and not all pens are created equal)

    Whenever PZ writes about insultingly about someone (or simply using big words), a wave of possedudes passes through for a while, leaving litter behind that they think we’ll actually have to clean up.

    If you aren’t amusing me or keeping me interested, you are merely wasting bits.

  233. says

    Harris is actually profoundly stupid in his stance on profiling.

    The television show 24, no bastion of anti-torture liberalism itself, as already addressed Harris’s idiocy, by portraying one of the most virulent jihadists as being a woman who could be adequately described as “white” but is more accurately described as “just this side of albino” or even “so white she’s transparent!” Even all those years ago, even on a TV show celebrating authoritarianism and torture and other anti-democratic and anti-humanity principles, even that show understood that a real terrorist organization capable of posing a real threat would do everything in its power to avoid the obvious moves that profiling would prevent.

    And there’s a reason why “there’s no zealot like a convert” is an old saying, and there’s only stupidity in thinking that the converts that terrorists are looking for will “look like a Muslim” regardless of Harris’s bigoted blindness.

  234. says

    So let me make sure I understand this.

    Sam Harris was NOT advocating racial profiling, he was advocating profiling of a different sort that merely has race as the major component, so to say he supports racial profiling is wrong, especially since we can’t prove that racial profiling won’t work, so it’s a good idea anyway?

    What?

  235. Lachlan says

    Harris tackles topics that most people wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, let alone deviate from strict political correctness. Personally, I applaud him for having the courage to speak his mind on these issues, when most people are simply terrified of being branded racist, sexist or whatever else.

    P.S. I find it odd that this needs to be said to a group of self-proclaimed rationalists, but calling someone’s opinions “repugnant” or “awful” is not a valid substitute for an actual argument.

  236. says

    Lachlan:

    P.S. I find it odd that this needs to be said to a group of self-proclaimed rationalists, but calling someone’s opinions “repugnant” or “awful” is not a valid substitute for an actual argument.

    So, I’m assuming you’ve ignored the comments that have already rationally addressed his thesis? Perhaps you have some actual logic or evidence to support your position?

  237. says

    Got to feel at least somewhat sorry for Sam Harris that he has been continuously misread and those misreadings are how they take his position. That said, the part in The End Of Faith where he talked about the possibility of the use of nuclear arms really did lend itself to misreading.

    Though in terms of egregious errors, in The Moral Landscape where he tried to dissolve the IS/OUGHT distinction using Neuroscience was just terrible. It doesn’t invoke the outrage to fluff a philosophical point that the seeming defence of use of nuclear weaponry does, but it’s probably his sloppiest piece of thinking in print that I’ve come across.

  238. Randomfactor says

    Vishnu, but this is a long thread.

    the theists sit on the sidelines totally amused.

    Whatever keeps them fat and happy as they hemorrhage parishioners.

    As to Harris’ suggestions about airline screening, I am not at all interested in methods to DECREASE the amount of inconvenience that these cause the average non-muslim-looking passenger at the expense of the others.

    If there is lower cost to a strategy, there is less reason to reconsider it.

  239. Loqi says

    …strict political correctness…

    My dog’s ears suddenly perked up when this was posted. I wonder why…

  240. Lyn M: Humble Acolyte and Brainwashee ... of death says

    @jt512 223

    If you disagree, then explain your mathematical reasoning using your own words.

    Because you assume that terrorists will not notice the screening and will continue happily looking muslim. I believe Mr. Schneier said that since terrorists “looks” and their methods are both moving targets, fixating on ONE aspect will in fact reduce the chance of catching any terrorists.

    Terrorists may be be batshit insane, but they aren’t going to stand around in airports with prayer mats and decorated copies of the quran.

    And further, what does a muslim look like? Last muslim I worked with had to tell me he was muslim or I would not have had the least idea. Ordinary white dude, far as one could see.

  241. says

    Apparently, there are experts on both sides of the profiling question, so perhaps we should back off from arguments from authority and return to arguing the merits of the question itself.

  242. consciousness razor says

    Personally, I applaud him for having the courage to speak his mind on these issues, when most people are simply terrified of being branded racist, sexist or whatever else.

    I don’t want to hear people speak their minds if they’re going to say racist or sexist shit. So he’d be better of without his “courage,” if that’s what you want to call it.

  243. Lachlan says

    nigelTheBold:

    So, I’m assuming you’ve ignored the comments that have already rationally addressed his thesis? Perhaps you have some actual logic or evidence to support your position?

    If we’re talking about Harris’ assertion that profiling might help catch suicide terrorists, then the only actual attempt at rebuttal I’ve seen was Bruce Schneier’s, and a pitiful attempt it was. He was like a robot who could think only in terms of the tools and analyses he’d learned at security school. Harris mopped the floor with him.

    If there are other rebuttals, I’d very much like to read them, but I haven’t seen any. I’ve seen plenty of unsupported “look everybody, I’m not racist” dismissals though.

  244. says

    jt512:

    Apparently, there are experts on both sides of the profiling question, so perhaps we should back off from arguments from authority and return to arguing the merits of the question itself.

    Uhm, mine was only partially from authority. Bruce Schneier argues that any profiling requires a list of features to be identified, and those features are either already inherently wrong, or easily established and worked around by groups attempting perfidy.

    Profiling decreases the signal to noise. Period. You are far better off randomly searching people rather than attempting to profile, because profiling commits resources to known profiles.

    It’s really pretty damned simple.

  245. says

    Here is a glimpse of what it is like for me to sit at my desk, attempting to write my next book, while persistent and misleading attacks on my work continue to surface on the Internet.

    Is he for real?

  246. says

    #281: that bugged me too. Does he think any of us on the internet are sitting here without mobs of carping nitwits howling at us? He’s not special at all there.

  247. says

    @rorschach

    Is he for real?

    Do you mean “Is Sam Harris really as big of a ridiculously pretentious and self-involved ass-clown as he first appears”?

    Because if that’s what you mean, the answer is “yeah, it sure looks that way!”

  248. says

    No one has misread Harris, he’s just made bad/flawed arguments.

    Sam Harris seems to think that he’s misread, and what he says compared to what Chris Hedges says about his points sounds like a misreading (or squirming on Harris’ part).

    But I honestly couldn’t care less whether or not it’s actually happened. The End Of Faith is a good read either way; his other books not so much.

  249. Koshka says

    The math is simple: if 90% of terrorists acts on planes are committed by Muslims, and we screen 100% of Muslim’s getting on planes, then we screen at least 90% of the terrorists.

    If we are allowed to consider impracticle ideas, why not just screen 100% of terrorists getting on planes and leave the rest of us alone?

  250. says

    Kel:

    But I honestly couldn’t care less whether or not it’s actually happened. The End Of Faith is a good read either way; his other books not so much.

    High five. I loved The End of Faith. I even enjoyed Letter to a Christian Nation.

    The rest? Not so much.

  251. says

    If my daughter one day reads in my obituary that her father “was persistently dogged by charges of racism and bigotry,” unscrupulous people like PZ Myers will be to blame.

    All that Harris manages in this post is to come across as a narcissistic wanker with a Humpty Dumpty complex, who doesn’t know much about Pharyngula or the internet. “You may read my words and interpret them, but I’m the only one who knows what meaning they really have”.

    Sorry, not impressed.

  252. says

    #281: that bugged me too. Does he think any of us on the internet are sitting here without mobs of carping nitwits howling at us? He’s not special at all there.

    Shit, I’m an Internet nobody and even I’ve got a couple of howler monkeys attacking me at my blog, my stupid little blog that only gets 30-40 views a day.

  253. says

    Koshka, quoting jt512:

    The math is simple: if 90% of terrorists acts on planes are committed by Muslims, and we screen 100% of Muslim’s getting on planes, then we screen at least 90% of the terrorists.

    But if we catch 95% of the terrorists, and we allocation 100% of our resources to catch 90% of Muslim terrorists, we’re at a net loss.

    That’s the problem.

    I do like your idea of screening 100% of the terrorists, thought, Koshka.

  254. Mera says

    jt512 @ 276:

    Most of the “experts” on that panel (on both sides) seem to rather be shills, authors eager to toot their horns or high level administrative types. You might find some legal knowledge in that bunch, but nothing suggests to me that those folks could reasonably assess the effectiveness of profiling. You know, like behavioral psychologists, game theorists, economists, security analysts — heck, anyone with a scientific background that is not law (undeniably important, but not what we are discussing right now) and touches that subject — might be able to do.

  255. Lyn M: Humble Acolyte and Brainwashee ... of death says

    I do like your idea of screening 100% of the terrorists, thought, Koshka.

    Now that could work.

    About 276 link — which goes to NPR, btw
    The experts linked to are saying racial profiling, not muslim. So it looks like we are back to racial profiling. None of them seem to be security experts either, unless the CIA qualifies. I suppose Chertoff may be too, but he was against the idea.

  256. says

    I know this is so far down the comments it probably won’t matter but this exchange makes me pretty uncomfortable.

    When did things become so black and white? When did we start judging people on their worst idea alone?

    I have huge respect for PZ and Sam. I disagree with Sam on both torture (entirely) and profiling (to a slightly lesser extent). Up till now I don’t think I ever disagreed with PZ on anything but maybe this is it.

    I know as atheists, humanists, skeptics etc. we take pride in holding ourselves to a higher standard of honesty, logic and wisdom… but to me this feels like a lynching.

    Can you say that Sam’s opinions on torture and profiling have been completely refuted? Has he refused to budge from his position entirely? Can you honestly compare this to say, climate change denial and believe they are a similar degree of folly?

    This whole business leaves a very ugly taste in my mouth and the real bad guys out there are laughing their asses off at us all.

  257. Mattir says

    Not only are we carping at you, PZ, we’re also profiling you. White guy like you, gotta be a terrorist with a crapload of guns.

  258. says

    nigel:

    jt512:

    Apparently, there are experts on both sides of the profiling question, so perhaps we should back off from arguments from authority and return to arguing the merits of the question itself.

    Uhm, mine was only partially from authority. Bruce Schneier argues that…

    Evidently, we’re about to hear the part from authority:

    …any profiling requires a list of features to be identified, and those features are either already inherently wrong, or easily established and worked around by groups attempting perfidy.

    So, it is either true or it is not that the bulk of the risk of airline terrorism is from Muslims. This certainly seems to be the case historically. I see no evidence, nor have you presented any, that this has changed. If you can provide convincing evidence that it has changed, and that the risk is now from non-Muslims, then I’ll concede. I’m waiting.

    Profiling decreases the signal to noise. Period. You are far better off randomly searching people rather than attempting to profile, because profiling commits resources to known profiles.

    That claim flies in the face of logic, mathematics, clinical epidemiology, probability, and Bayesian inference.

    It’s really pretty damned simple.

    Just saying “it’s pretty simple” doesn’t make it so ever, and especially not when your case violates Occam’s Razor, as yours does.

  259. says

    Apparently, there are experts on both sides of the profiling question

    2 people I’ve never heard of (and I’m one of the “old school” computer security crowd) and Michael Chertoff. Chertoff is seriously compromised because he used his position in DHS to push technology (those scanners you step into?) that he had investments in. Yeah, he’s credible – he’s on the take.

    Schneier, my old sparring partner, has forgotten more about security than Harris will probably ever learn. Bruce is a good guy, which is why he schooled Harris fairly gently. I consider myself to be extremely unbaised on this particular topic, and I’ve got to say Harris really should have worn his thinking cap a bit longer.

    By the way, much of this is a moot point. Why? Because of those walk-in scanners. They are more or less profiling everybody. Think really hard and suggest an extra degree of searching that you could put someone through that would make sense. Go ahead. Take your time. Wanna test for nitrate compounds? Let’s see, I suppose you could check for radioactives and cyanides and chlorine but, since everyone is being electronically strip-searched whether they look middle eastern or not it hardly matters.

    The issue people are jumping on Harris over, rightly, is his naive assumption that you can profile people who “look muslim.” Many many people have asked “what is that algorithm, then?” and apparently Harris can’t bring himself to say “swarthy hook-nosed guys with beards” or whatever absurd racist stereotype he has in his head. It’s racist because it’s a stereotype and it’s doubly stupid because it wouldn’t work anyway.

    Security experts like Schneier (he touches on the airport stuff more than I do, though I predicted some of this crap was going to happen in my 2002 book “The Myth of Homeland Security”) have pointed out many times (as I have and did in my book) that the best thing to do is search everyone the same way and make that search as good as you plausibly can within the constraints that you’re dealing with. The body-scanners are marginally better than metal detectors (at a huge cost, part of which goes in Chertoff’s pocket) but the interesting place where leaks can happen is in the other processes surrounding airport security (think baggage handlers, taxi drivers, etc) – ignoring those while trying to racially profile is extra stupid. Wanna know what else is extra stupid? There are now HUGE CLUSTERS OF PEOPLE in the security checkpoint lines OUTSIDE of the perimeter just WAITING for someone to walk into the line with a suicide vest and take out a checkpoint with 200 people. Duh. This is the stuff security experts worry about, while Harris is trying to parse how to tell a muslim from some other random person visually.

  260. says

    That claim flies in the face of logic, mathematics, clinical epidemiology, probability, and Bayesian inference.

    Are we supposed to take your word for that, or would you care to provide something other than assertions? Also,”clinical epidemiology”?

  261. Lachlan says

    nigelTheBold:

    Still waiting for any evidence that Sam Harris is better at security assessment than Bruce Schneier.

    But then again, I do have a soft spot for folks who know what they fuck they are talking about. So I might be biased.

    Evidence that Sam Harris is better at security assessment than Bruce Schneier? I’m sorry, but what exactly are you asking for? If you’re asking for statistics of some sort, well I don’t have any, I merely can’t fault the logical argument that Harris provided. If you’re claiming that I should accept Schneier’s argument because he’s “better at security assessment”, then you’re appealing to authority, and that’s something I’m not interested in doing.

    Bruce Schneier probably knows more about airport security than Harris, but as far as I’m concerned, he lost the argument about profiling. If you’ve got a better argument somewhere, please let me know.

  262. says

    @Mera: I’m glad someone finally mentioned game theory. If it is true (and it seems reasonable that it is) that Muslim terrorists will shift their tactics toward using non-Muslim (or non-Muslim-appearing) operatives in response to increased security screening of Muslims, then, I suspect, the proportion of Muslims and non-Muslims to select for screening becomes a game theory question. This doesn’t mean that profiling would be ineffective per se, but that the algorithm would have to be tweaked to take into account the terrorists response.

  263. says

    If nothing else, profiling sets a target for what a particular threat would be, so all one would have to do to get around the profiling would be to avoid looking like such a threat.

  264. Mattir says

    I know as atheists, humanists, skeptics etc. we take pride in holding ourselves to a higher standard of honesty, logic and wisdom… but to me this feels like a lynching.

    No. Just…no. Criticizing Harris for a some poorly thought out ideas is not a lynching. Neither is mocking him for flaming out over PZ’s response to the “worst atheists” article, which one should note stated explicitly that Harris had good ideas and arguments – just not those about profiling, torture, and first-strike use of nukes.

    As a side question, did you go to the Clarence Thomas school of defensive rhetoric? Because until a crowd of atheists show up outside Harris’ home or office wearing white sheets and carrying ropes, it’s not a lynching.

    (expletive deleted in respect for PZ’s rules on charitable interpretation of comments, but I really really really wanted to put one in here…)

  265. Hurin, Midnight DJ on the Backwards Music Station says

    Harris quotation @ 80 (quoted by Daisy Cutter disapprovingly):

    From reading this piece, and hundreds like it, one would never imagine that my position on torture is more or less identical to the one prescribed in that handbook of evil, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Read the entry on torture there, especially the section entitled “The Beating,” and then tell me that being categorically “against torture” is a morally uncomplicated stance to adopt.)

    For anyone curious, here is “the beating” minus a couple abridgements I made in order to debulk it for the comment box.

    Height of the antipodean summer, Mercury at the century-mark; the noonday sun softened the bitumen beneath the tyres of her little Hyundai sedan to the consistency of putty. Her three year old son, quiet at last, snuffled in his sleep on the back seat. He had a summer cold and wailed like a banshee in the supermarket, forcing her to cut short her shopping. Her car needed petrol. Her tot was asleep on the back seat. She poured twenty litres into the tank; thumbing notes from her purse, harried and distracted, her keys dangled from the ignition.

    Whilst she was in the service station a man drove off in her car…

    [piece removed describes the police getting a security camera image of the suspect and apprehending him]

    …In the police truck on the way to the police station: “Where did you leave the Hyundai?” Denial instead of dissimulation: “It wasn’t me.” It was—property stolen from the car was found in his pockets. In the detectives’ office: “It’s been twenty minutes since you took the car—little tin box like that car—It will heat up like an oven under this sun. Another twenty minutes and the child’s dead or brain damaged. Where did you dump the car?” Again: “It wasn’t me.”…

    [they continue questioning the guy, and don't get anywhere and beat the crap out of him until he tells them where the car is]

    …The police officers’ statements in the prosecution brief made no mention of the beating; the location of the stolen vehicle and the infant inside it was portrayed as having been volunteered by the defendant. The defendant’s counsel availed himself of this falsehood in his plea in mitigation. When found, the stolen child was dehydrated, too weak to cry; there were ice packs and dehydration in the casualty ward but no long-time prognosis on brain damage.

    (Case Study provided by John Blackler, a former New South Wales police officer.)
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/torture/

    What a stupid and unconvincing story. Moral complication my ass; this is just typical “ends justify the means” bullshit.

    Its well known that torture is unreliable, and using could have just as easily ended the discussion in a lie, and a dead toddler. This was a reckless and morally contemptible approach which happened to work (assuming this story is even true) and not an argument for the moral legitimacy of torture.

  266. dobbshead says

    @jt512

    “I see no evidence, nor have you presented any, that this has changed. If you can provide convincing evidence that it has changed, and that the risk is now from non-Muslims, then I’ll concede.”

    To quote the same expert you want to dismiss, “Underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was Nigerian. Shoe bomber Richard Reid was British with a Jamaican father. One of the London subway bombers, Germaine Lindsay, was Afro-Caribbean. Dirty bomb suspect Jose Padilla was Hispanic-American. The 2002 Bali terrorists were Indonesian. Both Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber were white Americans. The Chechen terrorists who blew up two Russian planes in 2004 were female. Focusing on a profile increases the risk that TSA agents will miss those who don’t match it.” [Emphasis mine]

    Also Timothy McVeigh, Anders Breivik, and the Aurora shooter were all… white! We should profile white people!

    Profiling doesn’t work in America because of the signal to noise. You get too many false positives. That being said, it’s also screwed up from a civil perspective: the ultimate goal should be to find a way to live in peace, which is much more difficult when you broadly target a group of nearly entirely innocent people (again 2 terrorists, 2 million Muslims flying in the US. You are literally hunting for 1 ppm at the highest, worse when you include the non-muslim looking terrorists).

    Sam Harris’ profiling idea is stupid and repugnant for the above reasons, and he’s a shit thinker for sticking to it.

  267. says

    I merely can’t fault the logical argument that Harris provided

    Ah, I see. So perhaps you can briefly describe how Harris suggests that people be profiled as muslims? Because if his argument was so convincing to you, that would be a key part of it that you surely would remember.

  268. says

    jamescarlton,

    but to me this feels like a lynching

    You can fuck right off with that hyperbolic fucking nonsense. It feels like being a “nigger” strung up at your throat by racists, as your neck snaps or you suffocate to death, pissing and shitting yourself in front of a throng of smiling assholes? That’s how it feels?

    Fuck you and the dramatic horse you rode in on.

    and the real bad guys out there are laughing their asses off at us all

    As someone said upthread, who gives a fuck what the morons think?

    Can people make up their minds as to whether group think is a good thing or a bad thing please?

    After doing so, can they keep it to themselves, because frankly I don’t give a fuck.

  269. says

    Marcus Ranum said:

    So perhaps you can briefly describe how Harris suggests that people be profiled as muslims? Because if his argument was so convincing to you, that would be a key part of it that you surely would remember.

    This is what I have been wondering ever since the Harris discussion started. It has been brought up multiple times in this thread but no one seems to be answering it.

    BTW: I have seen you posting here for a very long time but I never clicked on the link to your website before. I had no idea about your work and I plan to spend a good chunk of time reading through it before getting some sleep. Very interesting.

  270. strange gods before me ॐ says

    From reading this piece, and hundreds like it, one would never imagine that my position on torture is more or less identical to the one prescribed in that handbook of evil, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    Gosh that’s stupid reasoning.

    The SEP got Rosalind Hursthouse to write the entry on virtue ethics. Because she is skilled at being a virtue ethicist. (Bleh.)

    The SEP had Larry Alexander and Michael Moore write the entry on deontological ethics. Because they are skilled at being deontologists. (Bleh.)

    They can’t all be right, by the way; virtue ethics and deontology are fundamentally incompatible. And the SEP therefore can’t coherently be “prescribing” both.

    All this tells us is that Seumas Miller is skilled at being a torture apologist, so the SEP got him to write an apologia for torture. (Bleh.)

  271. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    That claim flies in the face of logic, mathematics, clinical epidemiology, probability, and Bayesian inference.

    Did I miss something?

  272. says

    Yeah, lets profile people who “look Muslim.” Like Indian violinist L Shankar.(Who FYI is no relation to Ravi Shankar.) After all people from India and Pakistan tend to look alike. So let’s have him searched every time he flies, because he might be some Muslim pretending to be Hindu. Or Michelle Malkin. Hey, she’s Fillipino, and the Phillipines has a number of Islamic terrorist groups active, such as Abu Sayyaf. You can never be too careful, right? Or how about Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista? I sometimes think he could pass as an Arab, and if I can think that I’m sure someone else could. So let’s go after him.

  273. falstaff says

    @ joed # 135: The Taliban are “freedom fighters”? Seriously? After the West withdraws and the Taliban eventually take control of the country, just how free do you think it will be? What do you think it will be like for women? How many little girls will be educated? What will it be like for any GLBT people who attempt to live openly as GLBT?

    The Bible verses on the gun sights was fucking bullshit, but if you think the Taliban are freedom fighters, you are fucked in the head.

  274. says

    As a side question, did you go to the Clarence Thomas school of defensive rhetoric? Because until a crowd of atheists show up outside Harris’ home or office wearing white sheets and carrying ropes, it’s not a lynching.

    (expletive deleted in respect for PZ’s rules on charitable interpretation of comments, but I really really really wanted to put one in here…)

    Whoops. I didn’t go that route.

    I may not be well-suited for some of the new rules.

  275. says

    That claim flies in the face of logic, mathematics, clinical epidemiology, probability, and Bayesian inference.

    Are we supposed to take your word for that…

    No, you’re supposed to read my previous posts where I explained it.

    Also,\u201dclinical epidemiology\u201d?

    Yes. Any epidemiologist (or med student who paid attention during his or her clinical epidemiology lectures) should be able to show mathematically how increased screening of high-risk individuals increases success rate. It doesn’t matter whether success is defined as correctly diagnosing disease or correctly diagnosing terrorism.

  276. consciousness razor says

    Any epidemiologist (or med student who paid attention during his or her clinical epidemiology lectures) should be able to show mathematically how increased screening of high-risk individuals increases success rate.

    How do you determine who is a “high-risk individual” in this case? Do they need to be carrying a Terrorism For Dummies book or something?

  277. frankb says

    hexag1 @193 Don’t you know that armageddon is a Christian concept, not muslim? Conservative Christians want to bring on Armageddon by encouraging Israel to steal Palistinian land and attack Muslim neighbors. You are trying to shift the blame for racist reasons, hexag1. Way to go.

  278. says

    It has been brought up multiple times in this thread but no one seems to be answering it.

    It’s a trick question. Last time I checked Harris hadn’t suggested anything other than going based on people’s appearance – and made a sort of back-handed reference to how that might apply negatively to him. (I don’t have his exact words but I’m sure someone will stir my shit with their boots if I’m wrong) I interpreted that as Harris acknowledging that going by appearance would flag him, himself, because he’s dark haired and has a curved nose and whatnot. If Harris has a better/more reliable algorithm for doing profiling, I would have expected him to present it clearly in his debate with Bruce.

    Now I’m going to have to go back and re-read the debate. Damn it. I’ve read so much of Bruce’s stuff I can’t recall exactly what he said to whom and when. Did Bruce remember to point out the obviousness that I mentioned earlier? About the full body scans? If he did, he was intentionally offering Harris an “out” – Harris could have grasped for the straw of egalitarianism and declared victory. Like I said before, Bruce is a really nice guy. I don’t recall if he was being nice in the debate, though…

    Harris appears to be incapable of uttering the 3 simple words “I was wrong” and prefers to double down. That seriously damages his credibility with me. Especially when the last few years of his life have been one long plea for a lot of people to admit they’re wrong…

  279. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    jamescarleton,

    I know this is so far down the comments it probably won’t matter but this exchange makes me pretty uncomfortable.

    Why do people say this? Yes, the comment section is long. But guess what, anyone reading your comment is still reading.

    There should be a rule about comments that start off by saying something along the lines of “no one will probably read this far, and this comment won’t matter, but…”. They always turn out to be shite.

    I know as atheists, humanists, skeptics etc. we take pride in holding ourselves to a higher standard of honesty, logic and wisdom… but to me this feels like a lynching.

    Wow. Fuck you. Sincerely. Do not diminish the horror of the act that that term refers to.

    Can you honestly compare this to say, climate change denial and believe they are a similar degree of folly?

    No, they are not the same. Sam’s promotion of torture and racial profiling are worse than climate change denialism.

    This whole business leaves a very ugly taste in my mouth and the real bad guys out there are laughing their asses off at us all.

    Who gives a fuck? I don’t care if theists are enjoying our in-fighting. Idon’t care if you have a bad taste in your mouth as a result of us policing our own. Harmful ideas should be criticized, regardless of if “the real bad guys” enjoy our Deep Rifts. Grow a backbone.

  280. says

    How do you determine who is a “high-risk individual” in this case?

    The high risk individual is the one who sees the full body scanner and detonates h* suicide vest while they’re standing in line. That’s how you tell.

  281. Mattir says

    It’s ok, tkreacher – I was really glad you went there, because it’s exactly where I went, and you did it with significantly more emotional force, which might get through if my words didn’t. And if not for our maliciously ignorant tone troll, then for the lurkers.

  282. Lyn M: Humble Acolyte and Brainwashee ... of death says

    It doesn’t matter whether success is defined as correctly diagnosing disease or correctly diagnosing terrorism.

    And once more, what exactly are the pre-explosion symptoms that define a terrorist?

  283. Mattir says

    This whole profiling argument reminds me of when I took wilderness first aid, and a Catholic Boy Scout leader argued with the instructor about whether he needed to wear gloves to provide first aid to his kids, because, as he put it, “all our boys are clean.”

    Same guy asked whether one should provide first aid to a female because of the risk of touching her breasts. I practically leapt out of my chair to insist that I’d rather have any number of skeevy Catholic guys touch my boobs than DIE from a punctured lung or whatever. (Sadly, I did not use the phrase “skeevy Catholic guys” in my rant.)

  284. bengriffith says

    All immature name calling and taking offense aside (since I don’t think there many TRULY “awful” atheists on either side of this dispute — especially compared to the bigoted theocrats we are united in opposing), this issue basically comes down to a legitimate debate between consequentialist ethics (which justify SOME forms of torture and profiling under SOME circumstances) versus more virtue/principle oriented ethics (i.e. the contention that image / intentions / perceptions should matter as much, or sometimes even more than, results — torture leads to more terrorist recruitment and loses hearts & minds / moral high ground, profiling causes more perceived problems / excessive injustices than it solves, etc.).

    Rather than obfuscate or cheapen these sorts of debates with ad hominem attacks from either side, I think they are important to have out robustly in a free and fair marketplace of ideas. Moreover, atheists are also known as “freethinkers” for a reason, and just because one is rational, educated, and/or lucky enough not to be duped by religion certainly does NOT mean such people will automatically agree in other political and philosophical areas (indeed, it’s hard enough trying to get atheists even to agree on how much and by what tactics to oppose religion — let alone things largely unrelated to nonbelief in the supernatural). I’m not sure the exact statistics on progressive liberal atheists versus libertarian atheists, for example, but there is no doubt that there are sharp ethical and political divides within the burgeoning atheist community/movement (such as it is). This is better than dogmatism to be sure, but it can get contentious — and even ugly…

    As for my own position on the issue at hand, I can see the merit of both sides on various issues, but when pressed in extreme cases I tend to lean more towards siding with consequentialists like Sam Harris (though I support him more on torture than on profiling, and I’m not sure either is GENERALLY effective). Politically, I tend to be a very progressive liberal, but my only real beef with some of my fellow Left-wingers’ laudable but naïve versions of secular-humanism is that some humans are essentially monsters (whether by nature or nurture) — and it’s not always in humankind’s best interests or reasonable capabilities to treat every person “humanely” (i.e. there are definitely serious limitations and drawbacks to 100% pacifist ethics — even if violence or “unreasonable” limits on freedoms should almost always be off the table / used as a reluctant last resort and only when clearly warranted). And, admittedly, even purely consequentialist ethics MAY not clearly support profiling… but to his credit Harris has been willing to debate the specifics of that with Bruce Schneier and others (and that is an important debate worth having).

    Regardless, positions like some of those that Sam Harris has taken may not be very popular or squeaky clean, but they are occasionally necessary in this sometimes vile and dangerous world — and with great power comes great responsibility. Anyway, I respect Sam’s philosophical contributions for at least having the guts to take “unsafe” / controversial positions on these sorts of tough issues and — though some may vehemently disagree with certain conclusions of consequentialist ethics, as is their right — I do not think such a philosophy should be considered “awful” in either intention or results, if enacted. Sometimes it is hard to choose the lesser of two evils…
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/in-defense-of-torture_b_8993.html

  285. ChasCPeterson says

    I an going to have to remember to consult this Stanford Encyclopedia of Prescriptive Philosophy more often.

  286. Lachlan says

    Marcus Ranum:

    Ah, I see. So perhaps you can briefly describe how Harris suggests that people be profiled as muslims? Because if his argument was so convincing to you, that would be a key part of it that you surely would remember.

    Harris covered this well enough, and if you want to know what he said, you can read it yourself. I will say though, being Muslim was only one of his criteria. His main point, as far as I can tell, was that flipping a coin to decide whether or not to pay extra attention to an 80 year old wheelchair ridden Texan woman, or a 25 year old Middle Eastern male, is fucking stupid, and I agree with that.

    Besides, the backlash against Harris has nothing to do with it being OH SO obvious that his suggestion wouldn’t improve security. The backlash results from the fact that it’s politically incorrect to suggest that race, age or gender should play a role in airport security. This is about the fear of being labelled racist, and if there’s a good counterargument buried in there somewhere, it’s been lost among the gobble gobble of headless chooks scrambling to avoid being smeared by the word “racist”.

  287. Mattir says

    Lachlan – you seriously think that someone smart enough to plan 9/11 would not think of finding an elderly woman in a wheelchair to accomplish their nefarious deeds? You are seriously underestimating the intelligence and ingenuity of the people who plan terrorist attacks using airplanes.

  288. FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος's spellchecker) says

    …should be able to show mathematically how increased screening of high-risk individuals increases success rate.

    Your assertion of congruence between disease screening and terrorist screening would only be true if we can reliably identify those individuals who are at high risk of being terrorists. You have yet to support your claim by showing just how Islamic people can be successfully identified given that Islam is an ideology that can be adopted by anyone.

  289. Lyn M: Humble Acolyte and Brainwashee ... of death says

    Oh, but FossilFishy, Sam Harris did! We are just too dim to read and see where he did it. AND he trashed Mr. Schneier, too. Once again, we just missed that.

    GOSH we are dumb!

  290. says

    Reviewing the debate…

    Schneier points out:
    (TSA screeners can’t sort based on religion; they have to sort based on something they can detect. And since there’s no such thing as “looking Muslim” — it’s a belief system, not an ethnic group — they’re going to sort on something like “looking Arab,” whatever that ends up meaning.) Then, you’re going to have to analyze the resulting security system. How does it work, and how does it fail? What’s the false-positive and false-negative rate? (You’ll have to do some theoretical analysis, at the very least refuting current research.)

    And that’s it, right there. The rest of the debate is just noise. And you gotta hand it to Bruce, he included a link to “Strong Profiling is Not Mathematically Optimal for Discovering Rare Malfeasors” in Pnas ( http://tinyurl.com/cjcbc96 ) I believe he included that reference in “Liars and Outliers” – his latest book. It’s quite good; I recommend it. Though it’ll maybe make the philosophers and social scientists scream.

    Harris’ response to Bruce’s point is pathetic. First he says You have delivered a litany of concerns about profiling that are (in my view) easily answered. and then proceeds not to answer them. Instead he goes off on a tangent about how islamic terrorists have clearly stated their intent and are not shy about talking about their plans in public. Harris ignores the fact that generally terrorists don’t discuss their plans while they are waiting in the security line. Harris continues to ignore (I can’t believe he’s stupid, so I assume he’s arguing in bad faith) the point that you can’t identify a muslim visually unless they are carrying a sign. He then side-tracks about the base-rate fallacy. Ouch, this is really bad.

    Bruce isn’t a debater, BTW (though he kicked my ass at the RSA crypto commons this spring when I debated him about software liability) he’s too honest and he’s mostly concerned with educating people, not winning. I am not impressed with Harris’ honesty in this debate.

    Harris digs in deeper by arguing about the Israeli behavioral profiling process which is a false equivalence to “religious profiling” or “racial profiling” because, yes, you actually can tell if someone is sweating or clutching a detonator or holding their bag extremely gingerly or the peroxide in their coke bottle is eating a hole in their hand… Most security experts, BTW, are pretty impressed with El Al’s security screening process but will say in the next breath, “… but it doesn’t scale.” I have said that I don’t know how many times, myself.

    Schneier tries to get Harris to stick to the point:
    That’s behavioral profiling, completely different from what we’re discussing here. I want to stick with your ethnic profiling system.

    And Harris dodges it:
    Well, I disagree. And the Israelis, who are generally credited with being the masters of behavioral profiling, appear to disagree as well. A person’s behavior can only be interpreted in context. What does a man’s sweating profusely and looking agitated mean? It means one thing if he is a morbidly obese senior from Alabama traveling with his wife and their church group, who is struggling to get all the trinkets he purchased in Jerusalem into a bursting suitcase; it means another if he is a 23-year-old man traveling on a Pakistani passport who is doing his best to not make eye contact with anyone. The distinction between behavioral profiling and everything else that can be noticed about a person is a myth. However, we can table this issue for the time being.

    All the things above – passports, ticket purchases, luggage, etc, etc – are legitimate profiling techniques because they actually are something you can decide on.

    OK, I’m going to stop here. I had a few bits of respect for Harris going into reviewing the debate closely and now I see that not only is he wrong, he knows it and is dodging the topic and playing debaters’ games rather than arguing in good faith. That’s pathetic. And Bruce is too nice to slam him for it.

    As Bruce tries to point out in the debate, the whole profile process revolves around criteria that can be decided – because if they can’t be decided, they can’t be used. Then, once you’ve decided, you can look for correlations. If Harris was being honest he’d say “people with hooked noses” (or whatever the stereotype muslim he has in mind) and then security people could determine whether or not hooked noses are a decent metric. I suspect we know the answer to that. Based on 9/11, there are certain criteria that are searched for: one-way ticket, recently purchased, passport from a certain country, no frequent flier miles, etc.

    We also see funny cases where it’s hard for DHS to get their criteria right. I’ve seen a few of the criteria-lists for behavioral profiling (they leak out onto the web occasionally) and sometimes they are an out-and-out failure. Like:
    - Looks nervous
    - Looks calm
    - Has a cluttered carryon
    - Has a very neat carryon
    etc.

    I myself have had some fun experience with this. I travel a lot for conferences and used to carry a Zero briefcase. You always get searched if you’re carrying a Zero. Maybe it’s the James Bondiness of the damn thing. Now I carry a nylon backpack. Camera bags? Yes, the idea of hiding stuff in with all that weird-looking gear has occurred to the security guys. I used to travel with a miniature monolight strobe and the capacitor pack from that thing guaranteed a wipe-down. And, you know what? That’s OK!

    If someone starts to search me because I resemble Breivik, then they’re off the track and into the weeds, though. And that’s where Harris is.

    Harris, if you’re reading this, practice saying “I was wrong.” It’s quick and it’s easy and then it’s over. The first rule of holes is to stop shovelling but before you can stop shovelling you gotta admit to yourself that you made a mistake.

  291. chigau (違う) says

    I think the little-old-white-lady-in-a-wheelchair is the Godwin of profiling threads.

  292. consciousness razor says

    His main point, as far as I can tell, was that flipping a coin to decide whether or not to pay extra attention to an 80 year old wheelchair ridden Texan woman, or a 25 year old Middle Eastern male, is fucking stupid, and I agree with that.

    I agree. It would be far more efficient if the body scanners everyone has to go through didn’t also waste a lot of time and energy flipping coins. Since practically everyone falls under either the “80 year old wheelchair ridden Texan woman” stereotype or the “25 year old Middle Eastern male” stereotype, with very little gray area, the conclusion is obvious: we live on another planet.

  293. strange gods before me ॐ says

    I would just like to point out that KG is a consequentialist.

    Most consequentialists are not like bengriffith.

    And, admittedly, even purely consequentialist ethics MAY not clearly support profiling… but to his credit Harris has been willing to debate

    Why is anyone ever impressed that someone wanted to advocate their own beliefs? It isn’t inherently distinguishable from narcissism.

    Moreover, why be impressed that someone wanted to advocate their own controversial (read: attention-grabbing) beliefs in a highly visible public debate?

    What a great life Sam Harris must have. I hope one day I too can make money writing lazily researched books highlighting all my wonky idiosyncracies, and then be lauded as brave for merely doubling down and repeating myself in public debates. Heaven!

  294. says

    Harris covered this well enough, and if you want to know what he said, you can read it yourself. I will say though, being Muslim was only one of his criteria.

    I just re-read it. And he dodged the question. Go back and read it more closely.

    “Being muslim” is a criterion that Bruce asked him to explain – “how do you detect that?” and Harris goes off on tangents about other criteria that are reasonable.

    The backlash results from the fact that it’s politically incorrect to suggest that race, age or gender should play a role in airport security.

    No, the backlash results from the fact that race is not a decisive criterion that can be accurately determined. Because it cannot be accurately determined, how can you use it reliably?

    Age can be (somewhat) accurately determined and in fact it may be being factored in the screening process. Gender is also tricky because, while it’s easier to determine, it amounts to a cointoss. There are female suicide bombers, did you know that?

    It’s not “political correctness” to point out that something doesn’t work and to criticize a person who keeps making that argument even after they have resorted to evading that questions directed at that particular issue.

    I am a security guy. I once recommended that one great way to improve airline security and throughput would be to only allow people on a plane with one book or a laptop/iPad (except for infants with diapers) and require everything else to be checked or shipped ahead via FEDEX. That’d actually work, too. Damn well. But the current system works about as well as it can given the throughput that has to be maintained.

    And searching people because they’re dark-skinned or unattractive or have nappy hair or freckles isn’t going to work.

    All you have to do to make the pain stop is explain how Harris’ muslim detector works. Harris doesn’t. He insists it’s a good idea but he doesn’t describe how it works. Why not?

  295. Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff says

    Hey chigau, think “middle-aged man in wheelchair”. One of my clients at the Paraplegic Association was busted smuggling heroin from Indonesian in the tires of his chair. It’s not a Godwin, it’s a freaking real thing.

    As for the idiots comparing mild criticism of Harris a “lynching”, you must add to the terror, torture, and brutal, extended death (most who were lynched died of slow strangulation) an unanesthetized castration. Your comparison would be risible if it were not disgustingly clueless.

  296. Lyn M: Humble Acolyte and Brainwashee ... of death says

    Marcus Ranum #335, and others

    Sir, it is a pleasure to watch you work.

  297. says

    You have to seriously underestimate the intelligence of terrorists if you assume that the (hypothetical) “next attack” will use airplanes at ALL.

  298. strange gods before me ॐ says

    You know what would really count “to his credit”?

    If Sam Harris would say “a lot of what I’ve said was wrong and racist. I’m sorry.”

    Hell, David Irving has been willing to debate big controversial topics. So the fuck what?

  299. says

    Hey chigau, think “middle-aged man in wheelchair”. One of my clients at the Paraplegic Association was busted smuggling heroin from Indonesian in the tires of his chair.

    Ouch. My favorite airport security incident was when I had my digital camera’s card (they had guns, I gave them the card when they asked nicely) taken for photographing a bunch of Georgia national guard deploying to the gulf. They were putting their M-4s on the belt while the TSA guys watched carefully to, uh, I dunno, make sure there were no weapons hidden in the buttstocks of their rifles. I’d have gotten so much play with those shots, too, if only I hadn’t been giggling like an idiot the whole time.

  300. says

    dobbshead [quoting Schneier, I think]:

    “Focusing on a profile increases the risk that TSA agents will miss those who don’t match it.”

    That’s true, but it also increases the probability that TSA agents will catch those who do match the profile. The fact that your expert ignores the latter fact diminishes his credibility. Either that, or you’re selectively quoting him, which diminishes your credibility.

  301. says

    That’s true, but it also increases the probability that TSA agents will catch those who do match the profile.</blockquote.

    I lost my watch. I'm looking for it under this streetlight. I don't know where I lost it, but if it's under this streetlight, I have a better chance of finding it because this is where I'm searching. Also there's light here.

    You sir are brilliant.

  302. says

    That’s true, but it also increases the probability that TSA agents will catch those who do match the profile.

    Here’s another way to think of profiles…

    Each signature that you add has some chance of raising a flag.
    Based on how accurately each signature discriminates, the chance of a false positive or a false negative will vary.
    You’re not looking at the cumulative probability – i.e.: that all the signatures flag the passenger! You’re looing at the probability that any single signature flags the passenger.
    So the more signatures you add, your discriminator doesn’t get more precise – it generates more false positives!

    If you have a signature set like this:
    - Looks nervous
    - Looks unusually calm
    Then you’re going to have 100% false positives and 0% false negatives because you’re going to give every passenger a free colonoscopy. You’ll give every terrorist a colonoscopy too because everyone gets a colonoscopy. It’s not a super-desirable outcome because you could just cut to the chase and do like security tries to do now and body-scan everyone. Besides it helps Chertoff’s retirement.

    So if you have a lot of criteria that you’re flagging passengers on – one way tickets, zero briefcases, hooked noses, freckles, suspiciously large breasts, under the age of 80, etc. If each of those has some chance of flagging the passenger, you are not improving the discrimination of the system, you’re making it worse. Because, unfortunately, not all terrorists have suspiciously large breasts, freckles, hooked noses, and one way tickets, etc. It’s an or not an and. Eventually if you add all these criteria – especially vague ones like “looks muslim” what you’re doing becomes the equivalent of googling for every document containing the word “the”!

  303. says

    Marcus Ranum:

    Strong Profiling is Not Mathematically Optimal for Discovering Rare Malfeasors” in Pnas ( http://tinyurl.com/cjcbc96 )

    OK. This is at least the third time I’ve seen this paper cited as supporting the position that profiling is not effective for increasing the chances of catching a terrorist at an airport. People (and PZ this includes you), you should consider actually reading the papers you cite to support your position. The conclusion of this paper is exactly the opposite of what you claim. The paper shows that screening should be in proportion to the square root of the probability that a person is a terrorist. In other words, if it were true, say (I say again say), that a person with a Muslim name were 9 times as likely to be a terrorist as a person with a non-Muslim name, then it would be mathematically optimal to make it sqrt(9) = 3 times as likely that a person with a Muslim name would be screened than a non-Muslim name.

    Jay

  304. says

    That’s true, but it also increases the probability that TSA agents will catch those who do match the profile.

    But then you’re playing off false negatives versus positives as well as false positives versus negatives. If someone doesn’t match the profile yet would be a threat would more likely be caught by randomness than catching someone who would be a threat by profiling, then profiling is worse than picking at random.

  305. says

    Sorry, in my last post the overall value of what should be considered the value using randomness is the chance of False Negative + Positive, as positives would get picked up by randomness.

  306. says

    (BTW – one of many references to Chertoff’s cashing in on body scanners: http://tinyurl.com/29v6eqb Just in case any of you need to spike your blood pressure)

    I have to confess, I am trying to get someone to explain how Harris’ muslim detector algorithm works because I figure I can make a bazillion dollars selling muslim-scanners to TSA! That’s my secret motive. Urrr, well, it was secret.

  307. psanity says

    Besides, the backlash against Harris has nothing to do with it being OH SO obvious that his suggestion wouldn’t improve security. The backlash results from the fact that it’s politically incorrect to suggest that race, age or gender should play a role in airport security. This is about the fear of being labelled racist, and if there’s a good counterargument buried in there somewhere, it’s been lost among the gobble gobble of headless chooks scrambling to avoid being smeared by the word “racist”.

    No. The backlash against Harris is quite obviously, and has been clearly stated over and over, that:

    a) Harris wants to profile “Muslims” by appearance, which is not only racist, but also ridiculous.

    b) Neither Harris nor his apologists, have any explanation of how “Muslims” could be profiled by appearance, thus betraying the non-functionality of such a policy.

    c) Since such a policy is not functional, the only possible reasons for such a policy are based in racism rather than reason.

    d) There can be no ethical argument for torture, even if it worked.

    e) Torture doesn’t work. You can make someone tell you whatever you want to hear, but you can’t make them tell you the truth. And no, I will not offer you a citation for that, since your comments (which are not arguments) indicate that you need practice doing your own homework.

    f) It does not indicate courage to advocate opinions that promote racism. It indicates that one’s opinions promote racism. What one chooses to do about examining such opinions would be an indication of character.


    There doesn’t seem to be any natural selection process for clear thinking and reasoned, evidence-based arguments over at Harris’s blog, does there? Well, there’s no place like home, be it ever so rumble.

  308. Hurin, Midnight DJ on the Backwards Music Station says

    tkreacher @308, 314

    I thought your response was well written, and warranted. Lynching doesn’t have a lot in common with internet criticism, as you aptly noted.

    Just my $0.02.

  309. says

    I am trying to get someone to explain how Harris’ muslim detector algorithm works

    I assume it works much the same as the ID proponent’s design detector algorithm. It looks designed, dummy!

  310. says

    Strong Profiling is Not Mathematically Optimal for Discovering Rare Malfeasors” in Pnas ( http://tinyurl.com/cjcbc96 )

    That was Bruce’s cite, I quoted from his side of the debate (though I used tinyurl to shorten it)

    My argument against poor profiling signatures is simpler and is at comment #346. It’s less academic and is based on my experience developing intrusion detection systems for analyzing whether network traffic was generated by muslims or not.

  311. Lachlan says

    Marcus Ranum:

    All you have to do to make the pain stop is explain how Harris’ muslim detector works. Harris doesn’t. He insists it’s a good idea but he doesn’t describe how it works. Why not?

    If the crux of your beef with Harris is that it’s hard to pick Muslims, and his suggestion is therefore implausible, then you and I don’t really have much to argue about. My main issue is that Harris’ perfectly lucid argument, practicality aside, is being fervently rejected largely for reasons of political correctness alone. To dismiss Harris as a racist for the arguments he made in his defense of profiling is, in my opinion, completely unfair. If you want to argue that it’s not a practical suggestion, then that’s fine, as a “security guy” you probably know a lot more about it than I do.

    That said, I’m not convinced that picking Muslims out of a crowd of non-Muslims is such a difficult thing to do, and picking the more likely to be Muslim between two people is even less difficult. If you want me to operationalise it based on appearance alone, I can’t, though I sincerely doubt that good accuracy is a difficult thing to achieve. I suspect you’re waiting for me to mention a visual trait so you can say “AH HA, person X has those traits and is not a Muslim!” Nobody has suggested that perfect accuracy is possible, or even necessary, and pretending that it’s simply impossible to accurately identify Muslims seems like sophistry to me.

    I must again reiterate that it seems very clear to me that the rejection of Harris’ argument stems from the desire to avoid being labelled as a racist, and not the potentially misguided idea that Muslims can be accurately detected by airport security.

  312. says

    If the crux of your beef with Harris is that it’s hard to pick Muslims, and his suggestion is therefore implausible, then you and I don’t really have much to argue about. My main issue is that Harris’ perfectly lucid argument, practicality aside, is being fervently rejected largely for reasons of political correctness alone.

    “Aside from being wrong, it’s being rejected for reasons of political correctness.” Uh, yeah. It’s being rejected because it’s stupid. Or is rejecting an argument for being wrong the new political correctness? Because, I feel mighty political correct about how wrong you are, too.

    As I said elsewhere, I’m a security guy. Give me something that works and I’ll assess it and if it’s effective I’m all over it. Don’t offer me something that doesn’t work, refuse to even say what it is, and accuse me of being politically correct when I say “It doesn’t work.”

  313. Lyn M: Humble Acolyte and Brainwashee ... of death says

    jt515

    That’s true, but it also increases the probability that TSA agents will catch those who do match the profile.

    This would be strong profiling, in other words.

    If the profile suggests certain people are 10 times more likely than average to be terrorists, they would be screened only three times, or the square root of 10, more than average.

    At that level, Dr. Press said, it is fair to ask if you should be profiling at all.

    “We have been told that strong profiling will somehow find and siphon off the worst offenders and we’ll be safe,” Dr. Press said. “It’s not true. The math does not support that.”

    Dr Press is the author of the paper linked to. The quote comes from here*.

    He is not in favour of strong profiling, and suggests it be dropped.

    You also still have not come up with how you assign probablility of a given person being in the target group so that any value of searching them can be determined.

    *http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/health/03iht-03screening.19889848.html

  314. says

    pretending that it’s simply impossible to accurately identify Muslims seems like sophistry to me

    Then how do you accurately identify muslims??

    I really want to know. TELL ME. It’s that easy. What are your (or Harris’) criteria? For extra credit you can give me weightings to use across any sub-criteria you offer.

    I am not saying “it’s simply impossible to accurately identify muslims” I am saying “I don’t know how to do it and I haven’t heard of anything out of you or Sam Harris that sounds like a decent muslim-detector algorithm.”

  315. says

    Marcus, statistical models don’t work the way you describe them. The probability of a person being a terrorist given risk factors A, B, and C [P(T|A,B,C)] is not the sum of the probabilities of T given A [P(T|A)], P(T|B), and P(T|C). It is the sum of P(T|A), P(T|B,A), and P(T|C,B,A). That is, the probabilities P(T|x) are neither strictly anded nor ored.

  316. says

    Trying to pick Muslim terrorists out of a queue makes about as much sense as trying to pick out Robert Ludlum readers or Manchester United fans. The premise that terrorists or Ludlum readers have or display universally recognizable external features is just ridiculous.

  317. says

    Well I for one have learned something.

    It never for a moment occurred to me that the key factor in defining racism was mathematics.

  318. Lyn M: Humble Acolyte and Brainwashee ... of death says

    Marcus, statistical models don’t work the way you describe them. The probability of a person being a terrorist given risk factors A, B, and C [P(T|A,B,C)] is not the sum of the probabilities of T given A [P(T|A)], P(T|B), and P(T|C). It is the sum of P(T|A), P(T|B,A), and P(T|C,B,A). That is, the probabilities P(T|x) are neither strictly anded nor ored.

    Splendid! So give us the risk factors in a useable form. Saying muslim doesn’t count unless you can give criteria that will actually pick out muslims.

    Start anytime!

  319. says

    Marcus, statistical models don’t work the way you describe them.

    The TSA screeners aren’t sitting there with a computer calculating stuff. They’re told a simple set of criteria to flag, and if one or more of the criteria applies, they flag that person for extra checks.

  320. says

    If there are certain identifiable marks that make for a terrorist, then what’s to stop terrorists deliberately choosing their strategy to avoid what is being specifically looking for?

  321. says

    Where did I say anything about statistical models? I believe I used the term “signature” fairly consistently, because that’s how all my work on detection algorithms worked. In some cases, signatures were statistical at the leaves of a decision-tree, but generally they were simple matches. You can get terrific mileage out of simple matches and they’re quick to process – which probably doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with airline passengers but it’s a big deal if you’re looking at 15,000 packets/second. :)

    What a screener is doing is applying simple rules like: “wearing a turban but oops not obviously looking sikhish” and “named muhammad but not Muhammad Ali and not wearing a porkpie hat and carrying a bean pie” – those are the kind of simple rules screeners would need, unless you embedded something more complicated into a muslim-detector box and sold it to TSA for assloads of money.*

    So, what are the signatures? “muslim-sounding name” might be one – if you had a good enough list of “muslim-sounding names” You’d get a lot of pissed of NOI guys thinking they were being picked on for their skin color, but fuck ‘em right? Or maybe a head-scarf? You’ll get a lot of false positives there, too, from ultra-orthodox jewish women who donate to congressmen’s election campaigns. Maybe owning a koran? Oops – you can’t use that criterion because you’d need to decide to search them already in order to discover it, so that one’s off the table. So what if they are holding a koran and beating you over the head with it? Are you starting to get how this works?

    (* Oh, and it probably wouldn’t even have to work, since it’s TSA. Didn’t those guys actually buy some dowsing rods?)

  322. says

    The TSA screeners aren’t sitting there with a computer calculating stuff. They’re told a simple set of criteria to flag, and if one or more of the criteria applies, they flag that person for extra checks.

    I have a TSA agent in my extended family.
    In his case I’d have to say that even your modest description of his job is one he’d have trouble with.

    The TSA job is the only one he’s been able to hold down (so far.)

    Then there was the time in the Tampa airport where the security line consisted of myself and one other guy ahead of me. The TSA agent tried to be threatening to the guy, getting all red-faced and loud, telling him that if his 3.5 oz bottle of shampoo was OUTSIDE the ziplock bag instead of inside it, he might find himself taking longer to get to his destination, with a long stop in some Kansas detention center.

    I really wanted to make my flight so I had to try very hard to suppress gales of laughter.

    Cheap shots, I know, but they’re so easy.

    I’ll also mention clearing TSA barefoot in Buffalo only to watch a postal truck pull up to the plane I was about to board and load unscreened letters and parcels onto it.

    Utter sillyness.

  323. psanity says

    Lachlan:

    If the crux of your beef with Harris is that it’s hard to pick Muslims, and his suggestion is therefore implausible, then you and I don’t really have much to argue about. My main issue is that Harris’ perfectly lucid argument, practicality aside, is being fervently rejected largely for reasons of political correctness alone.

    Because it is non-functional (not merely implausible), Harris’s argument is not, in fact, lucid unless it is seen through a lens of racism.

    That said, I’m not convinced that picking Muslims out of a crowd of non-Muslims is such a difficult thing to do, and picking the more likely to be Muslim between two people is even less difficult. If you want me to operationalise it based on appearance alone, I can’t, though I sincerely doubt that good accuracy is a difficult thing to achieve. I suspect you’re waiting for me to mention a visual trait so you can say “AH HA, person X has those traits and is not a Muslim!” Nobody has suggested that perfect accuracy is possible, or even necessary, and pretending that it’s simply impossible to accurately identify Muslims seems like sophistry to me.

    This is absolute gobbledygook. You’re saying that it’s possible to pick Muslims out of a crowd, but that you can’t define how that would be done, but it just must be possible because you think so. And the fact that you are concerned about reactions to you stating possible “Muslim traits” betrays you: evidently the only distinguishing features you associate with Muslims are racial stereotypes.

    I must again reiterate that it seems very clear to me that the rejection of Harris’ argument stems from the desire to avoid being labelled as a racist, and not the potentially misguided idea that Muslims can be accurately detected by airport security.

    Well, you’re working pretty hard at avoiding being labeled as racist, but the thing is, Harris’s whole argument, and yours, is based on racism. Profiling is not functional security, and only makes sense as racism. Absent racism, there is no argument for profiling by appearance that makes sense.

  324. rainmaker42 says

    I think you people need to clarify exactly what you’re hating on Sam for:

    If its his insistence on the benefit of using a “Muslim scanner” at airport security when no such thing exists or is practical – that’s fine and that’s an argument that’s very supportable

    But to go from that to say he’s racist is, I think, a very poor argument. Once again, as he makes clear in his statements, if the criterion being searched for was a Ben Stiller lookalike, he’d think it ok to screen him. In this case, Muslims are (according to his thesis) more likely to be terrorists and hence should be screened more often – doesn’t make him racist – just makes this particular argument of his pretty poor given there is no way to scan the way he mentions. (and I can sympathize with angst against him for not recognizing this flaw in his logic)

  325. says

    If there are certain identifiable marks that make for a terrorist, then what’s to stop terrorists deliberately choosing their strategy to avoid what is being specifically looking for?

    Well, yeah. That’s the next move. :) Because as soon as the criteria are established, they need to be distributed to the TSA screeners. Which means that pretty much everyone will have them in a couple weeks. That stuff gets stuck on a DHS website and anyone with a reasonable access credential gets it and poof it’s all over the place from there. Heh.

    And, of course, there are things like the Secure Flight program. A buddy of mine just got into that – it’s based on your frequent flier mileage. Really, no kidding. And an interview. So Mike went to the interview and the guy asked him, “travel much?” “Yeah.” (stamp stamp) “OK, here you go.” Mike’s white and a lawyer. Apparently, though, if you fail the interview you go on the no-fly list, so if you decide to show up wearing your kaffiyeh they joke’ll be on you.

    But, yeah, these criteria always assume the bad-guys aren’t going to adapt. Riiiiiight.

    If you really want to understand the problem, think about spam filtering. Those guys are always coming up with a new way of getting around the detection rules, right? And we keep updating the rules and they keep updating the rules and yadda yadda. In the case of spam it’s asymmetric going one direction but in the case of terrorism it’s going the wrong direction. You’re trying to find a mutable needle in a gigantic haystack whereas with spam detection you’re trying to find an elephant perched on a blade of grass. That’s when, yes, statistical methods work. Terrorism is practically by definition a “black swan” event – or, at least, the attacker is trying really hard to produce a black swan event.

  326. Lyn M: Humble Acolyte and Brainwashee ... of death says

    rainmaker42

    I don’t believe I

    1) Hate Mr. Harris;
    2) Labelled him.

    I’m asking for the basis of his view that screening muslims will work. I’m not getting any answers. That’s the basis of my position here.

    If he will not address this issue, then he is wrong. We’re done. Have you posted in his comments …

    Sorry. Forgot myself.

  327. says

    and I can sympathize with angst against him for not recognizing this flaw in his logic

    I’ve avoided calling Harris racist. I think he has a problem establishing his criteria and has chosen to climb into a hole and enlarge it considerably. I understand why some people are calling his views racist and I don’t think they reflect very well on him.

    I am very very unhappy with his failure to address Bruce’s points in the debate; he chose to evade, and equivocate, and I do not think he was arguing in good faith. For someone whose reputation and career have been built on asking the religious to admit they’re wrong, Harris undermines himself by not admitting his own mistake. Instead he chooses to double-down.

    Color me unimpressed.

    So, now it’s 3:00am and it’s been fun but I’m going to bed. To those who made kind comments on my postings in this thread: thank you.

  328. says

    I think you people need to clarify exactly what you’re hating on Sam for:

    Disagreement is not hate.

    If its his insistence on the benefit of using a “Muslim scanner” at airport security when no such thing exists or is practical – that’s fine and that’s an argument that’s very supportable

    But to go from that to say he’s racist is, I think, a very poor argument.

    Sam Harris is not dumb. So to make such a dumb suggestion as to profile “Muslims”, there must be another reason. The one that people have suggested is that he may be buying into a, shall we say, stereotyped image of what a “Muslim” looks like.

  329. strange gods before me ॐ says

    But to go from that to say he’s racist is, I think, a very poor argument. Once again, as he makes clear in his statements, if the criterion being searched for was a Ben Stiller lookalike, he’d think it ok to screen him.

    And it’s not sexist for Mitt Romney to want to overturn Roe v Wade.

    Show him a pregnant man; he’ll say that fella shouldn’t have an abortion.

  330. Lachlan says

    Marcus Ranum:

    Then how do you accurately identify muslims??

    I really want to know. TELL ME. It’s that easy. What are your (or Harris’) criteria? For extra credit you can give me weightings to use across any sub-criteria you offer.

    I am not saying “it’s simply impossible to accurately identify muslims” I am saying “I don’t know how to do it and I haven’t heard of anything out of you or Sam Harris that sounds like a decent muslim-detector algorithm.”

    Islam is tied very strongly to certain grooming behaviors, racial attributes and dress styles. Why continue to pretend otherwise? Will targeting such attributes make for a perfect “Muslim-detector”? Of course not, but again, perfect accuracy is neither possible nor necessary. Can the system be ‘gamed’? Maybe, but again, nobody is suggesting that we pay attention to only those who fit the profile. As has been suggested, the combination of randomness and targeting seems perfectly reasonable to me, and far better than simple coin flipping. If you’ve got a choice between patting down Al Gore, or a nervous looking Middle Eastern man, would you flip a coin? Perhaps if you didn’t want to seem racist. Pure randomness as policy is quite clearly about political correctness.

    Anyway, I’m not fussed about whether Harris’ suggestion is practical or not, but I see no fault in his arguments, and I simply detest the idea that he’s a racist, or a “terrible atheist” because of them. I should also be doing my physics assignment. :) Have a good night.

  331. Lyn M: Humble Acolyte and Brainwashee ... of death says

    Lachlan,

    Behaviour is tied to certain grooming habits, etc.

    Uh huh. You know it is considered halal if a muslim disguises the fact of being muslim so as to deceive an enemy trying to harm him?

    We still don’t have a list of what those grooming habits, etc are. On my mother’s side, for example, all the guys wear beards. Not muslim, though. So one more time, be specific! Give us the list and then we can start calculating what the square root search number should be.

    Until the terrorists change over, of course.

  332. didgen says

    I think it odd that in trying to show someone that they are mistaken in their understanding of something a writer wrote, they would encourage you to listen to them speak. If they are so unable to express themselves well on paper but do so much better speaking, then maybe that is where their gift lies.
    I will say, that I just read the article on profiling he linked to and I find it hard to see where it was not racially profiling. As unhappy as I am to have been subjected to enhanced screening since 2001 every time I get on a plane because I have metal implants, I deal with it because there is no way to tell who is a terrorist. Does he really believe old people don’t hate? Does he truly think that someone that wishes to crash a plane into a building might not think it worth it to take a child along?
    It would be great if we could identify terrorists, murderers, rapists, any type of evil person by some check off list but we can’t. So we can only do our random best. FSM help us.

  333. KG says

    Extending that to “Sam Harris advocates genocide and nuclear first strikes” is intellectually dishonest because he’s offering a wacky hypothetical, not saying “this is totes what we should do like right now!” – smef,/blockquote>

    Another shameless liar – odd how many of Harris’s supporters that covers. I never said Harris does say “we” should launch a nuclear first strike now, liar. What Harris plainly does say is that “we” would have no alternative if an Islamist regime acquires nuclear weapons – by no means a far fetched possibility, since Pakistan already has nuclear weapons, a history of military coups, and powerful Islamist movements with sympathisers in the military. Harris’s statement is both a brazen lie – since the alternative to launching a nuclear first strike is not launching a nuclear first strike – and an apologia for genocide.

  334. says

    In this case, Muslims are (according to his thesis) more likely to be terrorists

    I’ve heard that Jews are pretty good at making a buck.
    But then, what do I know – I’m Irish so I’m always drunk.

    These terrorist attacks the last few years in the US, you know… the ones we don’t call that, the ones by white guys… are they figured in to the “more likely” calculation?

  335. says

    Islam is tied very strongly to certain grooming behaviors, racial attributes and dress styles. Why continue to pretend otherwise?

    I’m guessing you don’t know that many muslims.

    If you’ve got a choice between patting down Al Gore, or a nervous looking Middle Eastern man, would you flip a coin?

    First of all, stop spreading this myth of the ‘nervous terrorist’. For the most part, that’s Hollywood nonsense.
    Secondly, you do realize that if we start profiling for young men of Middle-Eastern origin, terrorist organizations will just adapt, right? Hell, they might even start sendng terrorists looking like Al Gore.
    And finally, you’re apparantly assuming that only muslim terrorism is a concern. You do realize there are plenty of non-muslim terrorists and nutjobs out there, right?

  336. echidna, acolyte of Sofia Kovalevskaya says

    Even if I allowed every shred of Harris’s argument to be true, which I don’t, the way he treated Schneier’s arguments (basically ignoring and belittling them) after inviting him onto his blog is hard to accept.

    Marcus Ranum, I’ve enjoyed your posts immensely. I don’t know a lot about security, but I know a lot about systems in general (some more than others), and it’s a pleasure to read the posts of someone who knows their onions.

  337. echidna, acolyte of Sofia Kovalevskaya says

    These terrorist attacks the last few years in the US, you know… the ones we don’t call that, the ones by white guys… are they figured in to the “more likely” calculation?

    Like the attack in the Sikh temple?

  338. KG says

    You don’t seem to understand. When Harris talks about this nuclear question, he is imagining what *might* happen, in a *hypothetical* scenario where a government gets a hold of nuclear weaponry. This government, in Harris’ scenario, is run by a group of ideological fanatics that are bent on bringing on Armageddon and murdering everyone in the world. Such is the ideology of Al Qaeda and its affiliates. – hexag1

    Actually, it’s not, vile and irrational though al Qaeda is: the claim that its ideology is as you describe, is part of the ignorant and irresponsible rhetoric of Harris and similar apologists for genocide. Here, for example, is what the British security service has to say about al Qaeda’s ideology: nothing whatever about bringing about “Armageddon” (not an Islamic concept), using nuclear weapons or otherwise. Here’s an article from volume 1 of Current Trends in Islamic Ideology: again, no mention of bringing about Armageddon. Jason Burke, in Al-Qaeda: The true Story of Radical Islam (2004), describing how al Qaeda’s ideology has developed from the writings of Sayyid and Muhammed Qutb, identifies its aim as that of acting as a vanguard, using violence to arouse the Islamic masses to establish a “true” Islamic order, initially in the Muslim world, and in the long term, globally. However, even if a regime with the ideology Harris imagines were to gain control of nuclear weapons, that would not justify pre-emptive genocide, because we could not be certain they would actually, once enjoying the fruits of power, act on it.

    We have already seen suicidally insane governments in the recent past. When it was clear that the Nazi’s were going to lose to the Soviets, Hitler started ordering his generals to destroy German industrial centers, so as to quicken the historical verdict of Slavic racial superiority over the Aryans.

    And his generals largely failed to follow these orders: even the tyrant who probably ran a more personalised dictatorship than any in history could not always make his followers enact his will.

  339. smef says

    KG

    Another shameless liar – odd how many of Harris’s supporters that covers. I never said Harris does say “we” should launch a nuclear first strike now, liar.

    I am not a “Harris supporter” nor did I come from his website to defend him. You can put that out of your mind right now.

    I admitted that Sam is wrong when he says that we may have no other alternative than to nuke some terrorist state before they nuke us. I agree with you on that, as I thought I made clear.

    My point is that his wacky hypothetical is not equivalent to advocating first strikes and genocide. He is using this thought experiment to make a point: that Islam is super scary and we must fight the terrorists with militarism and win the day lest the unthinkable happen.

    He’s wrong, of course. He’s using a very unlikely and ghastly scenario (much like his torture apologia) to make the argument that we will have to “take Islam seriously” or some such. What he’s not doing in that passage, however, is advocating genocide.

  340. smef says

    Perhaps, Jafafa. He makes it clear that such a scenario would be terrible in all the innocent lives lost, yet he didn’t spend five minutes to think of all the other alternatives. He seems pretty convinced that the “Islamic world” wants the “West” dead and obliterated when the reality of the situation is quite different, and unfortunately involves our warmongering government (which he seems ok with).

    I dunno, I see why the passage is problematic but it always seemed to me like he was indulging in a far-fetched thought experiment, not wetting his lips at the prospect of nuking the Middle-East or shrugging his shoulders at the thought of a billion lost lives.

  341. says

    I think one can easily argue that Harris is an islamophobe, and that this colors all his arguments. His argument on the possible necessity of a first strike only makes sense if one views it through the lens of an islamophobe. The same with his ideas on profiling (as several people have alluded to, terrorists in the US are actually mostly white men).

    Also, anyone who would say that fascists are the most correct people in Europe when it comes to Muslims, really should not be taken serious in rational company.

  342. says

    All immature name calling and taking offense aside (since I don’t think there many TRULY “awful” atheists on either side of this dispute — especially compared to the bigoted theocrats we are united in opposing), this issue basically comes down to a legitimate debate between consequentialist ethics (which justify SOME forms of torture and profiling under SOME circumstances) versus more virtue/principle oriented ethics (i.e. the contention that image / intentions / perceptions should matter as much, or sometimes even more than, results — torture leads to more terrorist recruitment and loses hearts & minds / moral high ground, profiling causes more perceived problems / excessive injustices than it solves, etc.).

    A consequentualist would only accept some forms of torture and profiling if they ignore the very inconvenient fact that these things don’t work. Especially not in the case of torture. Profiling could work in some situations, but not in the way Harris argues for it.

    The fact that Harris accepts these things, shows to me that he is not willing to let facts get in the way of his arguments.

  343. KG says

    smef,

    When someone lies about what I’ve said, I do tend to resent it. However, I accept your statement that you are not a supporter of Harris.

    To reiterate, what I have called Harris is an apologist for genocide, and that is fully justified by the passage I’ve quoted, claiming that in certain circumstances, a genocidal nuclear first strike would be the only course available to “us”. That he uses his expressed horror at the possibility that “we” might be left with no alternative to justify imperialist aggression, as you point out, is an aggravating circumstance.

  344. smef says

    Fair enough, KG. There are many problematic things that Harris has said and a lot of good arguments have been made in the comments of this blog, but sometimes people seem to be somewhat uncharitable in their reading of his arguments. Maybe I’m splitting hairs though, I dunno.

  345. says

    A consequentualist would only accept some forms of torture and profiling if they ignore the very inconvenient fact that these things don’t work. Especially not in the case of torture. Profiling could work in some situations, but not in the way Harris argues for it.

    It’s a very weird situation when someone’s stuck trying to make a hypothetical argument over something that’s empirically inert. “Yes, I suppose in some circumstances a harm to a relevant moral party can be justified in the pursuit of a greater good. Too bad the actual scenario you propose isn’t a relevant implementation of the hypothetical.” Arguing in a vacuum has its limits, that torture doesn’t work makes any hypothetical argument of playing the evil of torture against the good of the information that can provide irrelevant.

    I liked this article on the topic:
    http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com.au/2009/05/on-torture.html

  346. mikee says

    The one thing that makes the atheist/skeptic communities different from many others is that we question the beliefs of those who are prominent in our communities – that is one of our strengths.
    The moment we stop questioning the ideas, because we like the person, we stop being skeptical.

    Sam Harris’s comments about PZ’s blogs about hims come across as very precious. I would have expected someone like Harris to have a thicker skin and a less emotive response to what I would consider fairly light criticism.

  347. says

    Arguing in a vacuum has its limits, that torture doesn’t work makes any hypothetical argument of playing the evil of torture against the good of the information that can provide irrelevant.

    But if you make your hypothetical argument without making it clear that it is entirely irrelevant to the real world, as torture doesn’t work, then you are defending the use of torture to the many people who are unaware of this fact.

    And I would actually claim that having to base your arguments on entirely impossible hypothetical premises, makes your arguments irrelevant. Especially when you present them as they are possible hypothetical premises.

    It’s like theology. Given that God exists, there is a lot of debate to be had, but until you have proven, or even made it plausible, that God exists, there is no need to have that debate.

  348. KG says

    smef,

    I think you’re misinterpreting the “principle of charity”. It’s not about putting the “nicest” interpretation on what someone says, but about starting from the assumption that it is coherent and rational, and interpreting it in line with that assumption if possible. From the linked wikipedia article:

    The principle of charity is a methodological presumption made in seeking to understand a point of view whereby we seek to understand that view in its strongest, most persuasive form before subjecting the view to evaluation.

    In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity requires interpreting a speaker’s statements to be rational and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation. In its narrowest sense, the goal of this methodological principle is to avoid attributing irrationality, logical fallacies or falsehoods to the others’ statements, when a coherent, rational interpretation of the statements is available. According to Simon Blackburn “it constrains the interpreter to maximize the truth or rationality in the subject’s sayings.”

    To take a concrete example from Harris, he has advocated singling out anyone “who could conceivably be Muslim” for particular scrutiny at airports. Now an uncharitable interpretation, in the required sense, would be that Harris is saying that everyone should be singled out for particular scrutiny, since anyone could conceivably be Muslim. But that would not be a rational or coherent position. The principle of charity requires that we interpret him as advocating judging by appearance or name – that is, in effect, ethnic profiling.

    Similarly, when Harris says that there are circumstances in which torture would be “ethically necessary”, or in which there would be “no alternative” to a nuclear first strike, the principle of charity demands that if possible we accept that he means what he says – although in the latter case, it’s actually very difficult to interpret what he says as rational. I might, perhaps, have violated the principle in that case by saying he was lying because there would be an alternative – he’s actually saying there is no alternative worth considering – but the “no alternative” formulation is routinely used dishonestly, to justify failure to consider alternatives.

  349. smef says

    KG

    I’m aware of what the principle of charity means. I wasn’t saying that people were being mean to Harris. Most people have been charitable in their critiques of his arguments. However, I have seen people sometimes default to a sort of lazy shorthand for what Harris “advocates”: that he totally supports torturing and nuking Muslims and is pretty much racist.

    I do think the most charitable reading of his profiling argument gets you to ethnic profiling, so the racist label isn’t totally without warrant. It’s the other two that are a bit more complicated. His argument–which I disagree with–was for torture in very specific and narrow circumstances, not as a policy we should adopt (and I think most people realize this, but some things I’ve read indicated otherwise) and I’ve already said what I think about the whole genocide thing.

    I think what happened is, I was focused on what Harris was explicitly saying in that passage and you were looking at the implications of what he was saying, so maybe that led to some misrepresentation on my part. Sorry about that.

  350. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Falstaff @ 313

    @ joed # 135: The Taliban are “freedom fighters”? Seriously? After the West withdraws and the Taliban eventually take control of the country, just how free do you think it will be? What do you think it will be like for women? How many little girls will be educated? What will it be like for any GLBT people who attempt to live openly as GLBT?

    The point is that to them, and a good chunk of the population, they are exactly that. Their idea of what “freedom” actually means is different to ours. Funnily enough we used to call them precisely that term when they were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan so the old axiom “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” holds very true indeed. Personally I find the word “freedom” to be massively unhelpful most of the time because it’s such a subjective term!

    As for the whole Sam Harris thing, well, not read much of his stuff so can’t comment on exactly where he’s coming from, but:

    1) Israeli airport security is not in any way representative of the global situation. Israel has been in a low-level religious/racial/political civil war since it’s independence. Racial profiling has been a part of life, and in this case for the people on the receiving end it is not an additional intrusion as they deal with it daily. The Palestinians are already angry – and profiled. Adding this intrusion is likely to piss off the majority of innocent people who now have to take part in it. (Note: I am not making any point over whether Israeli profiling is “right” or “wrong” – the whole situation has been a fucking mess since well before 1948)

    2) Large scale profiling will always fail. Ben Goldacre explains this although for a slightly different application (data mining for terrorists). Comments are worth a read too.

    3) In the west profiling for Muslims has a racist component to it, whether deliberate or not. How do we define someone as looking “Muslim” without resorting to a stereotype?

    It does look like Sam Harris is a bit pissed off over the article, and more so by PZ agreeing with it. Mainly, though, I get this. Then again I ain’t no “public intellectual” so what do I know? :-)

  351. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I must again reiterate that it seems very clear to me that the rejection of Harris’ argument stems from the desire to avoid being labelled as a racist, and not the potentially misguided idea that Muslims can be accurately detected by airport securi

    Actually, given the lack of evidence presented by Harris’s sycophants, the idea is unworkable. Science beats philosophy every day of the week as it is grounded in reality, not mental masturbation. Harris has mental masturbation, and is absolutely refuted by reality. Show otherwise by citing the scientific literature, not just giving your OPINIONS.

  352. says

    But if you make your hypothetical argument without making it clear that it is entirely irrelevant to the real world, as torture doesn’t work, then you are defending the use of torture to the many people who are unaware of this fact.

    Agreed.

  353. joed says

    @397, Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    Hairy you are missing my point.
    At this moment in time the Taliban are Freedom Fighters just as you would be if your city was invaded and your loved ones, friends, neighbors etc were disappeared, murdered, tortured, treated like dogs.
    Certainly the way of life in that part of the world is mean, hurtful and immoral towards women. But that is another battle that will be fought. What is important at the moment is to get the occupiers/invaders out.
    Sam Harris seems to think the Muslims are exceptional when it comes to terrorism and I say the Taliban are not terrorists today, they are freedom fighters.
    There is an excellent case to be made that the governments of the US/UK/Israel are the major terrorists world wide today, with Christianity as the standard bearer.
    U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret ‘Jesus’ Bible …
    [Jan 15, 2010] U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret ‘Jesus’ Bible Codes … Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus … ( 1824 Comments )
    abcnews.go.com/Blotter/us-military-weapons…bible-codes/…

  354. minmcknight says

    I want what they have:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/01/whats_so_great_about_israeli_security.html

    TSA agents need to be better trained and use their brains when stopping people. I do not feel “safer” when I see an 88-year-old woman or a 6-year old being searched.
    I am Asian. If 95% of airline terrorism was caused by people that looked liked me, I would expect to be profiled. It would be stupid not to. If you want to see what *most* terrorists look like, just go on the FBI website. Not many old women and children.

  355. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Joed, actually I was addressing Falstaff to make the point that the Taliban are seen as freedom fighters by some, it’s just that they have very different ideas as to what that freedom may entail! I’m not quoting you, just Falstaff’s response. ;-)

  356. clydey2times says

    Reading this thread hurts my head.

    Sam is a racist who advocates profiling…of people who look like him.

    He must fucking hate himself, then.

  357. cquartly says

    It’s natural for Sam to feel frustrated by the continued misunderstanding of what he is saying.

    I’m just amazed that Sam hasn’t tried to storm into the white house and pick up that red telephone. Sam’s comment regarding a potential nuclear strike can be cleared up by the following thought experiment: If it was 100% confirmed that another nation was about to launch a nuclear warhead and your only option was to either launch one first or be hit by theirs. What would you do? The likelihood of this scenario is irrelevant.

    There were some ridiculous comments on the Lying thread, saying that some would rather die than advocate torture, well that’s easy to say, hard to know in practice. Let’s say that the method of your death was breaking on the wheel vs another person being waterboarded for a few seconds (which is torture).

    Individual ideas need to be tackled separately, regardless of who is saying them. Derailing the Lying thread by focusing on past comments had little point. It’s like disagreeing with a creationist if they say the sky is blue just because they are a creationist. It’s somewhat ironic then, that a lot of posters on a “free thought” blog show not so much free thinking, but free of thought.

  358. says

    If it was 100% confirmed that another nation was about to launch a nuclear warhead and your only option was to either launch one first or be hit by theirs. What would you do? The likelihood of this scenario is irrelevant.

    Why is it irrelevant? In my opinion, it is very much relevant. Since the likelihood is nil, I’m not going to entertain the notion.

    Also relevant is the travel time of the nuclear warhead – either choice (preemptive strike or wait for launch) would result in both places getting nuked.

  359. ChasCPeterson says

    Why does everybody who likes him refer to Harris as ‘Sam’? Nobody talks about Dennett and Dawkins as ‘Dan’ and ‘Dick’ or even ‘Daniel’ and ‘Richard’ (except for people who are signalling their personal acquaintance). Hitchens was often ‘Hitch’ to his admirers but never ‘Chris’.
    Just noticed this and made me curious.

  360. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If you want to see what *most* terrorists look like, just go on the FBI website. Not many old women and children.

    Which makes them perfect accomplises, whether knowing or not. Quit thinking about the last wave of terror, but rather what must be done to quell new terrorist tries, which will evade what you are presently searching for at airports.

  361. FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος's spellchecker) says

    The likelihood of this scenario is irrelevant.

    Oh FFS. if the likelihood is irrelevant then the question is irrelevant, it’s meaningless nonsense that contributes nothing to our understanding of reality. And why is the likelihood of your first vapid fantasy scenario irrelevant while you make a point of questioning the likelihood of people honestly reporting their beliefs about torture? Why, it’s almost as if you’re using likelihood not in any meaningful way, but as a cheap means to prop up your pathetic assertions.

    It’s somewhat ironic then, that a lot of posters on a “free thought” blog show not so much free thinking, but free of thought.

    Wow, did you think that up all by yourself? Give yourself a pat on the back you clever, clever thing you. I shall use my Monteblanc to write that down in my journal of bon mots, the one with parchment paper and silk place-marker, right next to the other thousand variations regurgitated by sad, sad trolls.

  362. FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος's spellchecker) says

    Dammit, that’d be Mont Blanc. Not to self: if you’re going to go for the fancy insult execution is everything, preview, preview, preview!

  363. vaiyt says

    Islam is tied very strongly to certain grooming behaviors, racial attributes and dress styles.

    Thanks for confirming the “Muslim scanner” is a racist and ineffective proposal.

    Muslims come in all kinds of appearances. Muslims from the Balkans probably look whiter than you. Muslims from Africa are black. Muslims from Southeast Asia look Asian. Scanning for a stupid stereotype wouldn’t even catch the 9/11 terrorists, let alone whoever is planning to attack now.

    There’s also the side-effect that it would just put all non-terrorist “middle-eastern looking guys” in a suspect group for no good reason.

    If you’ve got a choice between patting down Al Gore, or a nervous looking Middle Eastern man, would you flip a coin?

    I would. Because I’m not so stupid as to go only after the last terrorist. When you start screening for Middle Eastern men, the terrorists select for people who look like Al Gore. And soon, your 90% positive rate becomes 0%.

  364. vaiyt says

    lol, the italics tag at #411 should be a strike tag.

    nervous looking Middle Eastern man

  365. KG says

    If it was 100% confirmed that another nation was about to launch a nuclear warhead and your only option was to either launch one first or be hit by theirs. What would you do? The likelihood of this scenario is irrelevant. – cquartly

    If Mt. Etna started whistling a Bach string quartet, and your only option was to either dive into a tank full of piranhas or pull your own head off, what would you do? The likelihood of this scenario is irrelevant.

  366. Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff says

    chigau: the “profile” was “excessive nervousness” plus “being an asshole”.
    Seriously.
    The guy was in a wheelchair from a brain injury, and one of the other effects of the brain injury was a certain disinhibition in his social relations. He was a very smart guy, and he simply couldn’t help being a snarky, snarky bastard to everyone around him. I never met anyone in my life who could sink the needle in as quickly and as accurately as that guy. At one point in the class, I had to physically grab the wheelchair of another guy (former Hell’s Angel) who was wheeling around to attack him. So you may imagine what happened when he got to Customs.

    (BTW, he avoided jail time, which is VERY bad for people in wheelchairs, by ratting everybody out.)

  367. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s natural for Sam to feel frustrated by the continued misunderstanding of what he is saying.

    Then it is up to Sam to fix the misunderstanding. Say by apologizing for sloppy writing, and showing what he really meant with clear and transparent prose. It can be fixed, but the ball is in his court, not ours.

  368. Paul says

    Sam is a racist who advocates profiling…of people who look like him.

    I didn’t realize Ben Stiller looks like a Muslim. How is it that even his supporters haven’t read what he said?

  369. Paul says

    Oh, and seconding nomination of 331 for any available accolades. It reminds me that it’s been too long since I followed Schneier’s blog and associated comment threads.

  370. drbunsen, le savant fous says

    “You may read my words and interpret them, but I’m the only one who knows what meaning they really have”

    This is the very definition of failing at writing.

  371. clydey2times says

    @Nerd

    It’s up to Sam to make up for your reading comprehension problems?

    That anyone would call Sam Harris a “sloppy” writer is mind-boggling. I, and many others, got the point that he was trying to make. Therefore, did you ever consider that Sam’s writing is perhaps no the problem?

    @Paul

    I suggest you take the time to actually read Sam’s posts on profiling. He does, in fact, suggest that people who look like him should be profiled.

    I’ll gladly provide a link for you, unless you’re happy to concede your ignorance on this point.

  372. says

    On the paper “Strong Profiling is Not Mathematically Optimal for Discovering Rare Malfeasors”, cited by Bruce Schneier:

    I think it is really cool that we can apply math to profiling. However, I read the paper, and I don’t think it applies. In short, the paper’s conclusions have to do with redundant searches. This applies to certain security situations, but not to airplane hijackers. Even if a hijacker flies many times, there is only one opportunity to catch them: just before the flight they intend to hijack. Failing to find anything on them during their previous flights means nothing. (see post: http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-mathematics-of-profiling.html )

    This means that both Schneier and Harris were wrong in believing that the paper supported their own conclusion.

  373. says

    That anyone would call Sam Harris a “sloppy” writer is mind-boggling. I, and many others, got the point that he was trying to make.

    Personally, I don’t think he is a sloppy writer, and his point is crystal clear. Unfortunately, Harris claims afterwards that his meaning was something different from what many of us got from his writing. So either he is a sloppy writer, or he is distancing himself from his most repugnant views, without admitting it.

  374. says

    Islam is tied very strongly to certain grooming behaviors, racial attributes and dress styles. Why continue to pretend otherwise?

    Go on, elaborate. Like what?

    Are you seriously saying that people wearing dishdash, thawb, or kaffiyeh should be subjected to extra search? Never mind that would make DHS extremely popular with our Saudi allies, have you looked at any of the pictures of what the 9/11 terrorists looked like when they went through security on 9/11??

    You might want to run this past your muslim detector and see how it scores:
    http://tinyurl.com/ck8em32
    and you might want to take a look at the UK subway bombing suspect caught on camera:
    http://tinyurl.com/cwgocrm

    Will targeting such attributes make for a perfect “Muslim-detector”? Of course not, but again, perfect accuracy is neither possible nor necessary. Can the system be ‘gamed’? Maybe, but again, nobody is suggesting that we pay attention to only those who fit the profile.

    “Certain grooming behaviors” – I suggest you go look at the picture I linked of the 9/11 terrorists and count the number of beards that you see. Or are you saying that your muslim detector is going to contain the following rules:
    - Has a beard and is male
    - Doesn’t have a beard and is male
    because, yes, you’ll be pulling over 1/2 of the population. As I pointed out earlier, the signatures are not an “and” they are an “or”

    Now, go look at a picture of the 9/11 terrorists like this one:
    http://tinyurl.com/cqkutl7
    Count the beards: 0
    Count the mustaches: 2 and a goatee

    Then attempt your racial profiling algorithm and ask yourself, honestly, whether you could tell those guys from people from India, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Spain, Mexico, or damn near anywhere else.

    Lastly, if you consider that security is not a point-process where you can simply catch one terrorist and declare victory – you need to succeed across the board – then you’ll have to acknowledge that we’d fail if we just caught one kind of terrorist. That’s another reason Harris’ arguments fail (and make some people suspect him of racism) – there are terrorists from Ireland, Scandinavia, and since Texas is bigger than Norway can I list it by itself? A “muslim detector” is a stupid idea, which is why I introduced it as a parody, because what you really need is a “terrorist detector” which neatly begs the question. And, far from least, what additional screening makes sense, really? After you’re body scanning everyone what more are you going to do short of colonoscopies? Everyone’s bag is being scanned, liquids are being taken, body scans are performed – what practical additional screening do you think should be specially reserved for the one of two people who didn’t get the memo and who are hook nosed, bearded, with black hair and – oops, you just busted Frank Zappa, you moron:
    http://tinyurl.com/bphwran

    I’ve avoided throwing charges of racism around but you’ve really set yourself up with it. Not simply because you’re wrong wrong wrongitty wrong about security but because you are stereotyping appearance and dress and like most racist stereotypes you are wrong wrong wrongitty wrong-ong incorrectamundo. Am I getting through to you, now?

  375. says

    Quoting fail:
    Will targeting such attributes make for a perfect “Muslim-detector”? Of course not, but again, perfect accuracy is neither possible nor necessary. Can the system be ‘gamed’? Maybe, but again, nobody is suggesting that we pay attention to only those who fit the profile.

    Should have been quoted.

    Oh, and in the interest of fairness: you’d have caught Richard Reid, as well as Frank Zappa.

  376. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Therefore, did you ever consider that Sam’s writing is perhaps no the problem?

    Who should I believe, unevidenced philosphers, who can only make claims, or highly intelligent and evidenced people who have read and cite his work and disagree with your assessment, including myself. It is perfectly clear that there are problems with his work. And they aren’t with the readers (except you and your buddies), but him.

  377. says

    I guess one “muslim detector” that might work would be to have a plate of charcuterie at the security station. That, by the way, was what the charcuterie course in a formal meal was traditionally for: it was a “jew detector” … And it didn’t work, either.

    The question is not whether a “muslim detector” would work reliably. That’s a straw man you erected. The question is whether it would work at all and how horrible a human being you’re willing to reveal yourself to be, in order to implement something that would be – at best – barely effective.

  378. Mattir says

    Marcus Ranum, I just want to thank you for your wonderful performance on this thread. Comment here more, please?? Even on things that aren’t about how to build an Acme Muslim Detector Machine™.

  379. Mattir says

    @426 – when TSA starts taking explicit lessons from the Spanish Inquisition on how to root out those pesky Marranos. . . Wait, they haven’t already DONE this, right?

  380. KG says

    Sam is a racist who advocates profiling…of people who look like him. – clydey2times

    Are you really stupid enough to think that acquits him of racism?

  381. clydey2times says

    @KG

    In what sense is it racist? At no point did Sam suggest that we should profile a specific race of people. You, and others, simply inferred that.

    And yes, it does acquit him of racism. He suggests white people should be profiled, too.

  382. strange gods before me ॐ says

    smef,

    I’m aware of what the principle of charity means. I wasn’t saying that people were being mean to Harris. Most people have been charitable in their critiques of his arguments. However, I have seen people sometimes default to a sort of lazy shorthand for what Harris “advocates”: that he totally supports torturing and nuking Muslims and is pretty much racist.

    I do think the most charitable reading of his profiling argument gets you to ethnic profiling, so the racist label isn’t totally without warrant.

    Right, so he is a racist, but you’re the only person who can say this without making yourself uncomfortable to hear it — therefore other people are not applying the principle of charity when they conclude that Harris is a racist.

    Has it occurred to you that you are underestimating the amount of thought that other people have engaged in before you met them on a comment thread?

    Harris advocates torture. Harris advocates nuking Muslims. Harris advocates racism. These are true statements, and you have no evidence (only your own fundamental attribution error) that other people haven’t come to these conclusions by reading what he said and assuming that he meant what he said.

  383. strange gods before me ॐ says

    In what sense is it racist? At no point did Sam suggest that we should profile a specific race of people.

    It’s racism against group X to advocate ethnic profiling of group X, even if you’re too cowardly to clearly state who group X is.

    Harris has been absolutely crystal clear on this point:

    It is not enough for moderate Muslims to say “not in our name.” They must now police their own communities. They must offer unreserved assistance to western governments in locating the extremists in their midst. They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.

    That is racist.

  384. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    Mutatis Mutandis:

    It is not enough for moderate ‘Merkins to say “not in our name.” They must now police their own communities. They must offer unreserved assistance to Islamic governments in locating the xtian extremists in their midst. They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.

    Hell, this is easy:

    It is not enough for White ‘Merkins to say “not in our name.” They must now police their own communities. They must offer unreserved assistance to African governments in locating the white supremists in their midst. They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.

  385. clydey2times says

    @strange gods

    “Harris advocates torture. Harris advocates nuking Muslims. Harris advocates racism. These are true statements…”

    Wow, just wow. You have no concept of nuance.

  386. clydey2times says

    @strange gods

    You still haven’t quoted where Sam identifies a specific race. You seem to have inferred that he was pointing towards a particular ethnic group, perhaps as a result of your own bias.

  387. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    @ clydey2times

    Wow, just wow. You have no concept of nuance.

    You have no problem with his blinding arrogance and priveledge as per SG‘s quote of him in 432? I turn it around for you and you still don’t get it!

    (How the fuck is that shit NOT racist?)

  388. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You still haven’t quoted where Sam identifies a specific race.

    Don’t have to. The designation of bigot, of which racist is a synonym, includes discrimating against adherants of religion. Just specifying Muslims is racist.

  389. clydey2times says

    @theophontes

    That quote is taken out of context. Sam also suggests that other groups should be profiled.

    You cannot select one quote, where he mentions one ethnic group, and ignore everything else.

  390. strange gods before me ॐ says

    Wow, just wow. You have no concept of nuance.

    Nah. I’m the most nuanced ape you’ll ever meet. I can spot a single louse egg from twenty meters.

    What I don’t do is pretend that someone who advocates racism against ethnic group A, but not against ethnic group B, and thus is not advocating all possible racisms, is therefore not advocating any racism.

  391. says

    Lyn M wrote (again):

    I’m asking for the basis of his view that screening muslims will work. I’m not getting any answers.

    One reason I haven’t answered is that I think the answer is obvious, but since you and others persist, here you go:

    First of all, it is true—as PZ has admitted in another post—that 100% of airplane terrorists, or nearly so, are Muslim. Therefore, if we screen more Muslims, we will screen more terrorists. This is true no matter what degree of reliability our algorithm for detecting Muslims has. If our algorithm is 50%, 25%, or even just 10% reliable, we’ll screen more Muslims by using it than we will by not using it. So if we were to increase screening of people with Semitic features or who had Arabic names on their ticket, we would increase screening of Muslims.

    That’s how it would work.

    Yes, the false positive rate will be high, but it is even higher with random screening.

    Jay

  392. clydey2times says

    @Nerd

    “Muslim” is not a race. And calling it bigotry is no more accurate.

    He has problems with a particular ideology, not a race.

  393. clydey2times says

    @strange gods

    You don’t seem to get it. He is also advocating “racism” against his race. Is he a self-loather?

  394. says

    Uh, no. Most airplane terrorists in recent years have been Muslim, for Islamic causes, but not all. It’s also a fact that is irrelevant, because we have to prepare for the next terror act…and in the US, that’s most likely to be a right-wing white Christian male extremist, if you want to characterize them.

    Also irrelevant is the magic number of 100%. Even if 100% of all terrorists were Muslim, the other number we have to consider is the percentage of Muslims who are terrorists…why does that number always get left out of these arguments? Is it because it is hopelessly minuscule?

  395. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    @ clydey2times

    Sam also suggests that other groups should be profiled.

    You will notice I have used other groups (Islamic, African, … the list DOES go on and on) as the counterpoles of the Merkins (/Westerners). The whole pattern of thinking is wrong. That the targets of such bigotry may vary does not change this.

    (Equation/variablesWeapon/targets … ming bai? Must I spell this out and give you analogies?)

  396. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    He has problems with a particular ideology, not a race.

    Wrong again, which is typical for you. Ideology implies politics. But he has problems with a small subset of a large religion, not politics. That is bigotry, as bigotry includes religious discrimination. And you know that. So, stop lying as a sycophant for Mr. Harris. He can take care of and explain himself. You aren’t needed, and you supply nothing to the argument. Just your attitude.

  397. clydey2times says

    @theophontes

    He suggests that white people should be profiled, too. So yeah, he wants the “Merkins” to be profiled.

    I don’t care if people disagree with him on a practical level, but calling him racist is simply nonsense.

  398. clydey2times says

    @Nerd

    Uh, ideology does not imply politics. You might want to familiarise yourself with the definition of “ideology”.

    And he has a problem with the vast majority of Muslims, but not all for the same reasons.

    Islam just happens to be the most militant of the major religions at this point in time, with widespread support for suicidal terrorism (to answer one of PZ’s points).

  399. clydey2times says

    @PZ

    How are you defining “terrorist”? Do you mean those who have committed terrorist acts, or do you include those who potentially could commit such acts?

  400. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    @ 446

    He suggests that white people should be profiled, too. So yeah, he wants the “Merkins” to be profiled.

    Oh wait! So he wants EVERYONE to be profiled? Mwahahaha….

    (This is soooo fucking rediculous – I’ll leave it to you, as an exercise, to realise the vacuity of this idea.)

    [Inside joke: I want to invite Uncle Sam onto the Politburo.]

  401. clydey2times says

    @Theophontes

    No, race is not the only thing that can be profiled. You, and others like you, have made it largely an issue of race. You read the line “anyone who could conceivably be Muslim” and just assumed that he was referring to race.

  402. BeyondUnderstanding says

    What’s so hard to understand?

    You cannot profile someone based on their ideology. Advocating the profiling of Muslims is advocating the profiling of a specific stereotype of Muslims (aka Arabs), which is racial profiling. Racial profiling is racist.

    Or am I missing something?

  403. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You read the line “anyone who could conceivably be Muslim” and just assumed that he was referring to race.

    Ah, but he is a bigot, singling out a religion, and since most Muslims, particularly the ones who were the plane terrorists, were of Middle East origin, by inference ethnic origin. Making it racist by implication. You are defending a bigot, whether or not it is a true racist or not (I think it is). Which implies you agree with bigotted policies, bringing your thinking and bigotry into question too.

    Toemaytoe, Toemahtoe.

  404. clydey2times says

    @BU

    So you don’t think things like clothing and behaviour can be profiled? It’s race or nothing?

  405. strange gods before me ॐ says

    You still haven’t quoted where Sam identifies a specific race. You seem to have inferred that he was pointing towards a particular ethnic group,

    He has to be pointing to some particular ethnic groups; that’s what “ethnic profiling” — his choice of words — is.

    Again: what does it mean to look Muslim? Specifically, which ethnic signifiers should be used in this ethnic profiling of Muslims which Muslims themselves must “tolerate, advocate, and even practice”?

    perhaps as a result of your own bias.

    Perhaps because he specified they’re those groups who produce children who look like Ben Stiller.

    That quote is taken out of context

    Here’s the context. Ethnic profiling is racism.

    Sam also suggests that other groups should be profiled.

    Who else has he said should be ethnically profiled?

    (If there are other groups, then he’s advocating racism against them too.)

    You don’t seem to get it. He is also advocating “racism” against his race. Is he a self-loather?

    (The notion of self-loathing is inadequate to understand most racism. Black kids who pick the white doll in the doll test generally aren’t indicating that they loathe themselves, for instance.)

    Anyway, all he’s doing is acknowledging that it’s not trivially easy to visually distinguish various Semitic peoples. He is willing to tolerate racism that would be partially directed toward himself, in order to facilitate racism directed toward other groups.

    No, it doesn’t make him “self-loathing” (what a naive term that is).

    It just means he’s advocating racism.

    He suggests that white people should be profiled, too.

    He suggests white people should be profiled on what basis, specifically? In addition to the ethnic profiling of people who look Muslim.

    Tell me, clydey2times. What does he mean when he says Muslims “must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling”?

    I don’t care if people disagree with him on a practical level, but calling him racist is simply nonsense.

    He is racist. All the evidence indicates this.

    You read the line “anyone who could conceivably be Muslim” and just assumed that he was referring to race.

    I think we read that line in context of his previous statement that Muslims “must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.”

    He offered himself and Ben Stiller as people who look Muslim and should be profiled based on their looking Muslim.

    What visual identifiers do Sam Harris, Ben Stiller, and a lot of Muslims have in common?

    Tell me, clydey2times. What does he mean when he says Muslims “must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling”?

  406. strange gods before me ॐ says

    So you don’t think things like clothing and behaviour can be profiled? It’s race or nothing?

    In what way do Ben Stiller and Sam Harris dress and act Muslim?

  407. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    @ clydey2times

    Islam just happens to be the most militant of the major religions at this point in time

    Mwahahahaha… you are soooo funny.

    Are you trying to tell me ‘Merkins (riddled with the god-virus) have, in recent times, killed LESS people than the current crop of islamic radicals – who were practically invented by the ‘Merkins in Afghanistan and practically brought into power in Saudi Arabia.

    How are you defining “terrorist”?

    Hey, intention is not magic. Sending haphazard drones into Pakistan/Afghanistan and killing dozens of innocents for every suspected “terrorist”, may concievably be percieved as terrorism.

    Also, why claim people who are planning to commit terrorist acts are not terrorists? How many religious/racist people are not, right now, preparing to mow down people in their own communities?

  408. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    So you don’t think things like clothing and behaviour can be profiled? It’s race or nothing?

    Then why aren’t you citing those clothes/attire/etc that can be reliably profile to determine those pesky terrorists versus false positives of innocents, and the fact that the profile works with real terrorists, who do hide their identities…Put up or shut the fuck up.

  409. says

    If it’s clothing and behavior that Harris wants profiled, why does he think HE would be subject to more scrutiny? It’s not as if he wears flowing desert robes and a scimitar, and rides into the airport on a camel waving a copy of the Koran, shouting “Death to the infidel!”

  410. BeyondUnderstanding says

    So you don’t think things like clothing and behaviour can be profiled? It’s race or nothing?

    Give me your top 3 non-racial characteristics that will properly identify Muslims from non-Muslims.

  411. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    and practically brought into power in Saudi Arabia by the ‘Merkins.

    {And add:}

    In large part: The US built Saudi Arabia from the ground up, in exchange for oil and petrodollars. They thereby built up the power of the Wahabi (in their “devil’s pact” with the House of Saud), who are thus in a position to spread their radical form of islam. Americans created a large part of their own current problems with the islamists.

    It is, in no small part, a product of their own greed and shortsightedness. Bullying a few fellow ‘Merkins of Mediterranean extraction is completely missing the point and actually making the problem worse. Scapegoating is very counterproductive.

  412. says

    Marcus Ranum:

    2 people I’ve never heard of (and I’m one of the “old school” computer security crowd) and Michael Chertoff.

    One of the other two (Murdock) is a rightwing hack.

    Tkreacher:

    You can fuck right off with that hyperbolic fucking nonsense. It feels like being a “nigger” strung up at your throat by racists, as your neck snaps or you suffocate to death, pissing and shitting yourself in front of a throng of smiling assholes? That’s how it feels?

    Fuck you and the dramatic horse you rode in on.

    Deserves to be repeated, and linked every time some whiny white jerk compares vehement argument to “lynching.”

    Vaiyt:

    Thanks for confirming the “Muslim scanner” is a racist and ineffective proposal.

    Lachlan was already up there crowing about how “politically incorrect” they are, which means they want bravery medals for making bigoted comments and asserting them to be truth that nobody else wants to acknowledge.

  413. hektor says

    This whole blog is toxic.

    Though you may disagree with some of his positions, Sam Harris has been a valuable contributor to the general discourse; and he was right about at least one thing … for publishing and participating in this chain, PZ Meyers is responsible for them.

    Very unbecoming for an intellectual.

    Sincerely,

    Hektor
    Fan of both Sam Harris and PZ Meyers

  414. BeyondUnderstanding says

    Toxic? How so?

    I think it’s very becoming for an intellectual to challenge others and generate discussion. Since when has being a valuable contributor to the general discourse a qualification for being “untouchable”?

  415. says

    Harris advocates nuking Muslims.

    I’ve avoided this topic so far but let me make a point on that issue that I’ve raised elsewhere.

    The argument Harris makes is that a pre-emptive strike might be necessary, because muslims are nihilistic and suicidal and hate Israel and if they get the bomb there’s a good chance they’d immediately use it. I think that’s a fair recap of Harris’ initial scenario.

    It’s a bogus scenario because, here’s why:
    1) There are already muslims with nukes. In Pakistan. They have not nuked Israel that I am aware of. Thus we see that muslims are capable of controlling themselves around a launch button just as well as everyone else.
    2) Iran has a substantial conventional military. That includes conventional long-range missiles, multiple rocket launcher systems, and cruise missiles. They also have heavy artillery. If Harris’ premise is that the leaders of Iran are so nihilistic that they would choose national suicide in order to harm Israel – then they would also be so nihilistic that they would have attempted a conventional war! Besides, even though they’d probably lose, they’d certainly do horrific damage if they just brought their artillery into range and let fly with everything they had.
    3) Israel has nukes and is also governed by nihilistic religious whackos. Not only has Israel violated the nuclear nonproliferation treaty more thoroughly than Iran or anyone else, Israel proliferated nuclear weapons technology to South Africa – another apartheid pariah state. In case you’re a humanist who cares about human life, you should also know that Israel’s nukes are enhanced radiation warheads (“neutron bombs”) – bombs that are more likely to be used tactically than typical strategic area weapons. Israel’s capabilities are a crazed nihilist’s wet-dream and they’re ready to use them and nearly did during the 6-day war. If Iran’s government are crazed nihilists who’d welcome armageddon, so are Israel’s crazed nihilists.

    Harris’ argument amounts to one bunch of crazed nihilists calling another bunch of crazed nihilists dangerous. I’d suggest that Harris may also be a crazed nihilist, except that – as a non-crazed nihilist myself – I don’t want Harris in my club.

    Harris’ is an argument that has been popularized in the media as part of Israeli attempt to maintain a nuclear monopoly in the middle east, to justify pre-emptive strikes, trampling all over the UN charter, and continuing a policy that can only be fairly described as “ethnic cleansing.” They know that if they lose their nuclear monopoly, they will have to actually learn how to negotiate – which is anathema to Israel.

    That Harris appears to uncritically adopt the whole nuclear muslim crazed nihilist trope is a shame for someone who promotes critical thinking in others. Worse, that someone who promotes such views has the unmitigated gall to lecture others about morals! This nihilist doesn’t like being lectured about morals by Harris.

  416. smef says

    Right, so he is a racist, but you’re the only person who can say this without making yourself uncomfortable to hear it — therefore other people are not applying the principle of charity when they conclude that Harris is a racist.

    I’m not sure where you got this from. I said people’s accusations of racism are warranted given what Harris has said about ethnic profiling. So people are applying the principle of charity just fine for the most part.

    Has it occurred to you that you are underestimating the amount of thought that other people have engaged in before you met them on a comment thread?

    No, because I admitted that most people on this blog gave charitable well-reasoned critiques. My specific problem was that things like this:

    Harris advocates torture. Harris advocates nuking Muslims.

    Seem too simplistic a summary of his positions to me. That a charitable reading would get you to “Harris advocates torture in narrow circumstances that are silly and unlikely” and “Harris likes to use nuclear first strike scenarios to support his call for militarism which is weird”.

  417. Mera says

    Nerd of Redhead @453:

    Ah, but he is a bigot, singling out a religion, and since most Muslims, particularly the ones who were the plane terrorists, were of Middle East origin, by inference ethnic origin. Making it racist by implication. You are defending a bigot, whether or not it is a true racist or not.

    Care to elaborate what a true racist is, comparing it with a phony one? Harris’ arguments, or the implications thereof, are racist, plain and simple.

     

    All the others defending Harris:
    Mentioning or implying a single race as worthy of additional scrutiny and discrimination is not needed to be racists, especially if there is a cultural consensus that some initially non-ethnic attributes like religious affiliation to Islam can be used as a shorthand / dog-whistle for “of arab origin”. The reductionist rhetoric, that you have just talked about Muslims and not Arabs per se is cowardice.

    Everyone engaged in these debates for more than a few minutes should know what those signifiers entail. If you are interested to discuss such topics in good faith, the onus is on you to distance yourself from possible misrepresentation before blabbing about how all Muslims are potential terrorists.

    Communication, especially public discourse simply works that way. If you make no concessions to that, you simply are not a good communicator. And if you — after it was pointed out to you how your statements might be construed as racist — are doubling down, I will drop the benefit of doubt and just assume you are arguing in bad faith.

     

    Note to self:
    Try to think of a way to argue that race is a problematic category at best. And to convey that with your limited skills in the target language …

  418. says

    Therefore, if we screen more Muslims, we will screen more terrorists. This is true no matter what degree of reliability our algorithm for detecting Muslims has.

    So. What. IS. Your. Algorithm. For. Detecting. Muslims?

    You can hypothesize a 10% effective algorithm all day, just like you can hypothesize a flying pink unicorn. But what is that algorithm?

    Perhaps you missed the links I posted above to the pictures of the 9/11 hijackers, and the picture of Mohammed Atta and the other hijacker going through security. Please explain how you could distinguish them by their clothes or appearance. Do go ahead. I’m sure it’ll be easy for you.

  419. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Care to elaborate what a true racist is, comparing it with a phony one? Harris’ arguments, or the implications thereof, are racist, plain and simple.

    The fuckwit I was arguing with was trying to pretend that bigotry against islam was not racism. Technically, it was right, as Islam covers many ethnic groups, so one ethnic group isn’t singled out for special treatment. But it is still bigotry to single out a religion for special treatment. I was trying to go from racism to bigotry in its thinking. And if one equates bigotry with racism, one misses the nuance between the two terms, as your PS to self shows.

  420. says

    PZ:

    Uh, no. Most airplane terrorists in recent years have been Muslim, for Islamic causes, but not all.

    When I wrote “100% or nearly so,” I was referring to your own estimate: “100%, OK 90%…”.

    It’s also a fact that is irrelevant, because we have to prepare for the next terror act…and in the US, that’s most likely to be a right-wing white Christian male extremist, if you want to characterize them.

    I have no idea how you know that, but regardless, it doesn’t imply that the relative risk that the next terrorist act will be committed by a Muslim is low. Of course, if we had good reason to believe that (and perhaps we do), then we should adjust our security efforts accordingly.

    [T]he other number we have to consider is the percentage of Muslims who are terrorists…why does that number always get left out of these arguments?

    The question isn’t why that number (ie, the false positive rate) gets left out of these arguments; it is why you keep bringing it up. First of all, the false positive rate will be extremely high (nearly 1) no matter how you choose passengers for screening. Secondly, targeting screening toward higher-risk passengers would actually lower the false positive rate. And three, the false positive rate is unimportant compared to the false negative rate, which is crucial to minimize. The cost of a false positive if 10 minutes of unpleasantness for an innocent passenger. The cost of a false negative is the deaths of hundreds of innocent passengers.

    Jay

  421. says

    So he wants EVERYONE to be profiled?

    I’ve pointed out, repeatedly, before that everyone is profiled more or less. There really isn’t a whole lot of additional searching that can be usefully done. Body scans, bag scan, shoes and computers scanned, wallets and belts scanned, possible explosive wipe-down, what else could we do?

    That happens to everyone getting on a plane regardless of skin color or clothing.

    Water-boarding all the passengers would seriously delay boarding and you’d get a lot of false positives. The wipe-down for nitrate compounds could be replaced with a “sniffer” system so that everyone was sampled (which’d suck for those of us who work with silver nitrate a lot…) But what else is there!?

    One of the other reasons I don’t respect Harris for making that particular argument is because it shows profound mis-understanding of the options that are available to security. There is no extra level of “profiling” that makes any sense, anyway. Harris has gone and made a fool of himself over an argument that he didn’t even need to have.

  422. says

    So if we were to increase screening of people with Semitic features or who had Arabic names on their ticket, we would increase screening of Muslims.

    What are “semitic features” please?

  423. says

    Marcus, as I said in a previous post that you apparently didn’t read, an algorithm I can think up off the top of my head would be to screen anyone who appeared to have Semitic features or an Arabic name on their ticket. Also, as I said, even if that were only 10% reliable, 10% is greater than zero.

    And please don’t start with “jt512 thinks that this is what we should do.” I just answered your question. You asked for an example, and I gave you one (again).

    Jay

  424. 'Tis Himself says

    an algorithm I can think up off the top of my head would be to screen anyone who appeared to have Semitic features

    What are Semitic features? Be specific. Beards? ZZ Top are notorious for their beards. Hook noses? Michelle Obama has a hook nose. Olive complexion? Many Italians and Greeks have olive complexions.

  425. says

    jt512:

    Marcus, as I said in a previous post that you apparently didn’t read, an algorithm I can think up off the top of my head would be to screen anyone who appeared to have Semitic features or an Arabic name on their ticket.

    This doesn’t achieve the stated goals, as you’re selecting out a small subset of Muslims, and another set with your identified features who are not Muslim. You’re not profiling Muslims, but folks who look like they’re from a specific region.

    If that’s only 10% reliable, you have just committed a significant set of resources to a target population. Now you have a set pattern for your searches, leaving non-Middle Eastern terrorists a hole to exploit. The real terrorist only has to get in line behind a bunch of people targeted by your profiling, and their chances of being searched are greatly reduced, thereby increasing the likelihood of a successful terrorist doing something non-specific (like blowing up the plane, I guess).

    The problem is assuming Middle Eastern Muslims make up the bulk of terrorists that want to blow up our planes, and that they won’t have non-Middle Eastern accomplices, and that they’re too stupid to figure out how to game our security. (And the more you focus on one identifiable group, the easier it is to game.)

  426. says

    No, Nigel. I never said to stop screening other people. And, incidentally, as you say it’s a “game.” And guess what, there is a whole branch of mathematics that happens to be called “game theory” dedicated to dealing to providing optimal solutions to just these sorts of games. And, I suspect, our game theorists are better than the terrorists’ game theorists. We just need to get over our pathological need to be politically correct and implement screening procedures that are better than our essentially useless method of random screening.

  427. Mera says

    Nerd of Redhead @472:

    The fuckwit I was arguing with was trying to pretend that bigotry against islam was not racism. Technically, it was right, as Islam covers many ethnic groups, so one ethnic group isn’t singled out for special treatment. But it is still bigotry to single out a religion for special treatment. I was trying to go from racism to bigotry in its thinking. And if one equates bigotry with racism, one misses the nuance between the two terms, as your PS to self shows.

    What really irks me about the arguments from those who you rightfully designated fuckwits is that they seem to posses quite extraordinary selective reading skills. My best guess is that they have a fully formed image of a stormfront trooper in their head whenever anyone mentions racism. And nothing short of a public announcement that you want to kill or deport all Arabs or Slavs or whomever will be enough to deserve that designation. I have no fucking idea how you could get them to understand that when “we” are talking about racism we are talking about a distinctly different concept that what they have in mind.

    So maybe trying to dumb the discussion down and talk about bigotry instead of racism might get through to them, but I haven’t high hopes for that. As far as I am concerned they employ a slightly harder to dismantle variant of “race realists” in stating that they have nothing against Arabs, but still want to spout off their view that Muslims are more violent (i.E. prone to terrorism) then westeners. Which is in itself a racist distinction because there are tons of western Muslims. But that’s what you get when you are mixing cultural (western) and religious (Muslim) categories.

    I still don’t like to distinguish “true racism” from implied or unconscious racism. Racist is as racist does.

  428. Paul says

    And, I suspect, our game theorists are better than the terrorists’ game theorists.

    And the closest thing to game theorists that have chimed in here are our security folk, who you might note were the ones arguing against Harris.

    We just need to get over our pathological need to be politically correct and implement screening procedures that are better than our essentially useless method of random screening.

    Running everyone through body scanners is an “essentially useless method of random screening”? What additional screening do you think we should subject those with “Semitic features” to?

  429. KG says

    jt512,

    I see you can’t actually specify what you do mean by “semitic features”.

  430. KG says

    We just need to get over our pathological need to be politically correct

    Whenever I see someone trying to use an accusation of “political correctness” as an argument, I know I’m dealing with a complete shithead.

  431. says

    jt512:

    No, Nigel. I never said to stop screening other people.

    Neither did I. Where did I say that?

    But profiling necessitates the commitment of resources to the group being profiled. Notice in my scenario, the actual terrorist just lines up behind the targeted population, thereby increasing the chances that the screening resources will be committed to the profiled group.

    And yes. I’m familiar with game theory.

    We just need to get over our pathological need to be politically correct and implement screening procedures that are better than our essentially useless method of random screening.

    Where’s the pathological need to be politically correct? The fact that racial profiling doesn’t work (and can, in fact, be counter-productive) isn’t political correctness. It’s security assessment.

    Harris’s idea is deeply and irrevocably flawed in at least two ways: the conflation of Islam with those from the Middle East, and the idea that the vast majority of terrorists are Muslim. These two flaws make his argument illogical.

  432. Mera says

    jt512 @480:

    And guess what, there is a whole branch of mathematics that happens to be called “game theory” dedicated to dealing to providing optimal solutions to just these sorts of games.

    Not to piss on your parade (ok, to be honest, I enjoy pissing on your parade, fuckwit), but game theory suggests that strong profiling of changeable attributes like “looks Muslim” is a loosing strategy. Also, game theory concerns itself with optimal allocation of finite resources. If you increase the resources allocated to scrutinize a predefined set of people based on their outward characteristics you automatically lower it everywhere else.

    You might, and I am not conceding this point, have a case when you are able to demonstrate that you are able to discern religion from the information you have available about one of the assets (sorry for the misanthropy). As long as you can’t demonstrate that, you are only widening the strategies available to your enemy. If you really really want to have this argument: buckle up, show us your true colors and show us how you want to discern religion from the information you have available from a randomly picked person trying to board a plane. Or shut up, you are getting nowhere … and getting boring on top of that.

  433. KG says

    And guess what, there is a whole branch of mathematics that happens to be called “game theory” dedicated to dealing to providing optimal solutions to just these sorts of games. And, I suspect, our game theorists are better than the terrorists’ game theorists. – jt512

    It’s pretty obvious from this that you know fuck-all about game theory, which generally provides analytical solutions only in very simple situations, with two players, a small number of possible moves, and numerical payoffs.

  434. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Whenever I see someone trying to use an accusation of “political correctness” as an argument, I know I’m dealing with a complete shithead.

    Especially when the next statement is “I’m not a bigot, but” followed by a bigoted statement, like profile ****, showing a form of bigotry.

  435. says

    jt512:

    We just need to get over our pathological need to be politically correct and implement screening procedures that are better than our essentially useless method of random screening.

    Our obviously-ineffective random screening and universal screen procedures have allowed several terrorist events on planes since 9/11, very true. It’s obvious our current methodology is useless, as I’m constantly hearing about planes being blown up here in the US.

  436. KG says

    Hektor
    Fan of both Sam Harris and PZ Meyers

    Right. Such a fan of PZ Myers that you don’t even know his name.

  437. KG says

    So you don’t think things like clothing and behaviour can be profiled? – clydey2times

    Yes indeed, I’m sure all the terrorists will be sporting enough to wear the correct outfit, face Mecca at all times, and carry copies of Jihad for Dummies.

  438. says

    Mera, I’ve already explained (three times now?) that any characteristics that correlate with being Muslim would increase the number of Muslims screened. The correlation does not have to be perfect, or even large.

    Anyway, “fuckwit,” this is the last time I reply to you.

  439. says

    jt512:

    Mera, I’ve already explained (three times now?) that any characteristics that correlate with being Muslim would increase the number of Muslims screened. The correlation does not have to be perfect, or even large.

    Or effective, apparently.

    Actually, it’s not characteristics that correlate with being Muslim you advocate. It’s characteristics that correlate with being of Middle Eastern descent. What you are claiming here is that it’ll be more effective to give extra screening to a group of people who you think are more likely to be terrorists — people of Middle Eastern descent.

    However, you’ve not been able to illustrate how this is going to increase security. That is, you’ve not given an actual security evaluation.

  440. nms says

    Running everyone through body scanners is an “essentially useless method of random screening”? What additional screening do you think we should subject those with “Semitic features” to?

    iirc, you’re supposed to beat them up in the back room until they tell you where they have hidden the baby.

  441. says

    jt512:

    Nigel, Middle Eastern descent correlates with being Muslim.

    So does having facial hair.

    There are many more Muslims who are not from the Middle East than are from the Middle East.

    And you still haven’t explained how that’s supposed to make us safer.

  442. says

    screen anyone who appeared to have Semitic features or an Arabic name on their ticket.

    Ok, let’s assume that. Let’s assume that it’s 10% accurate at detecting muslims. Now, I have no idea how many travellers daily are muslims who your algorithm would accurately detect.

    A bit of googling says 1.5 million air travellers/day. Let’s use that as a working number, shall we? According to wikipedia, 1% of the us population is muslim. So that’s 15,000. So you’re going to have 1,500 people/day who match the profile of your muslim detector algorithm. (This is assuming muslims travel as often as everyone else in the US population, which may not be the case)

    So first off you’re going to “profile” 1,500 additional people/day and let the remaining 1.49whatever million people go through the checkpoint with normal screening. Uh, yeah, that’s really significantly boosted your chance of catching a terrorist.

    What you’ve done is incrementally increased the likelihood of catching a terrorist who is too stupid to legally change his name (which costs about $200 and is not tracked anywhere; you can do it online) and in return you’ve pissed off an extra 1,500 people.

    But that’s not all! What extra are you going to do with those 1,500 people you “profiled”? Are you going to waterboard them? Give them a colonoscopy? Search them extra special carefully? We already search passengers pretty thoroughly! What more do you want to do?

    So, in return for basically no gains, you have 1,500 people/day legitimately thinking you’re a racist asshole who pulled them aside and made them miss their connection for no good reason other than that the shape of their nose or their name. Good job!

  443. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s always easy to do something with vagueness. It’s when you must get to the details it becomes hard. Like what specifics to profile for that will actually give the right information, few false positives (they cost money, inconvenience, and bad press), and even fewer false negatives. Funny how jt512 refuses to go there. Do I smell cold feet???

  444. Mera says

    jt512 @480:

    Mera, I’ve already explained (three times now?) that any characteristics that correlate with being Muslim would increase the number of Muslims screened. The correlation does not have to be perfect, or even large.

    Anyway, “fuckwit,” this is the last time I reply to you.

    Bonus points for reading comprehension: this is the first time you have replied to me, apart from thanking me for bringing up game theory way above (getting praise only from the folks you are trying to criticize on my first substantial comment here shows me how much I have to learn). I am quite sure about that because this was the first time I addressed you and your arguments directly. Even more bonus points for completely ignoring my point: any characteristics that correlate with being Muslim and are discernible to any agent in this game are easily changeable and additionally you have no realistic way to keep your profiling strategy secret from your opponent. So, profiling for any characteristic I can think of, that wouldn’t also entail horrific consequences to privacy and governmental restraint, will lower your expected outcome. You are free to provide examples of characteristic that are not either easy to changes in the appearance of an asset or changeable through your acquisition strategy. Good luck with that!

  445. says

    Marcus, I presume you would subject whomever was selected for secondary screening to whatever procedures are currently being used for secondary screening on a purely random sample of passengers. If I am mistaken that there is such random secondary screening, then there is no subject here to discuss. If such random screening exists, and the procedures (searches and whatnot) are ineffective, then we should stop secondary screening altogether.