I should go back to desecrating communion wafers. That’s less aggravating than pissing off a pack of uber-“rational” atheists. Quoting Sam Harris directly is an act of such disrespectful temerity that I’ve been flooded with messages that are mostly about how feminine I am, or how I possess a female reproductive tract, or my social status as a cuckold.
But I also get messages trying to explain how, in very polite terms, I am totally wrong on everything, and Harris is totally right, and here is the math to prove it. Here’s one example; the highlighting is all mine.
PZ, you’ve lost me on this one. I’ve always found Harris to be a voice of reason, even if he confounds your expectation of secularists having to be left wing. I’ve listened to the two hour podcast from which the quote you object to comes and I can’t find anything that doesn’t ring true or isn’t backed by the realities unfolding in world affairs.
But this is merely saying that reasonable people can disagree and remain civil. My more serious concern is that you are an emblem for the larger problem he illustrates on the intelligentsia-left; an almost craven inability to acknowledge the need to balance the West’s compassion with a realistic understanding of the consequences of that compassion.
The best example came from the podcast: imagine that for every 10,000 migrants, only 20 Muslim men are sufficiently radicalized to have the motivation and the ability to launch a Paris-scale attack. In truth the ratio is higher, but for arguments sake, this means ten Paris scale massacres per year per 100,000 migrants.
When put that way, who would want to shut down a rational conversation about whether we, in the west, are prepared to accept that? Or whether, if there is no way of screening radicals from legitimate migrants, how we can even in theory shorten our odds.
“But think of the children” I hear you reply. Well, in my own city of Sydney, the most recent attack was perpetrated by a 15 year old boy.
PZ, you’re dead wrong, and sadly I’ve seen your discourse descend over the years into demagoguery. Sam Harris is neither a bigot, nor is he off the mark in his commentary.
There’s nothing in the whole 2 hour podcast that doesn’t sound truthy or isn’t backed up by reality. Let’s examine the math.
He claims that every 10,000 Muslim migrants into a country will be accompanied by 20 radical Islamist men who will launch a Paris-type terrorist attack. He even says this is a conservative estimate.
Breitbart says the US admits 250,000 Muslim immigrants per year. That’s 25 massacres every year!
The National Review says it’s a much smaller number. 100,000 per year, but that there are 7 million Muslims in America. The country is apparently up in flames with 700 massive suicide bombing assaults.
World Net Daily says Obama has allowed 680,000 Muslims to invade the US. That makes him responsible for the 68 imaginary terror attacks that have killed thousands in the last few years. Thanks, Obama!
More credible sources do say there are about 100,000 Muslims entering the country each year…so if we accept that “realistic understanding” of the frequency of terrorists in that population, we ought to be suffering 10 serious, major terrorist events on the scale of the Paris attack every year.
We don’t. QED, my correspondent and Sam Harris are full of paranoid, racist shit.
Meanwhile, we have almost a million police officers on the street, good Americans all, and given recent events in Missouri, Chicago, and Minneapolis, they scare me far more than a desperate assortment of refugees who happen to believe in a different god than most of our trembling white citizens.
By the way, my thought as reading that fearful thought experiment wasn’t “Think of the children!” It was “Think of the human beings.” There are people suffering, and while some people’s minds leap to solving that with bombs and walls, I’d rather see something more humane and compassionate. I’d also like to see the West take some responsibility for what they’ve wrought.
Cenk Uygur nails Harris on his rhetorical deniability. Really, if you fall for his game of “here’s this evil thing I want you to think about, but I’m saying it’s evil, so don’t blame me if maybe we have to do it”, then you’re a fool.