I also think that Harris ultimately comes off second best in this debate with Bruce Schneier, in which they are talking about the moral and practical justification for a system of airport security that involves a degree of positive profiling (of likely Muslims) for extra attention, and “anti-profiling”, i.e. declining to take give an extra layer of attention, of people who are, supposedly, obviously not Islamic terrorists. Harris wants to introduce a profiling element, while Schneier argues that this would, contrary to any immediate intuitions, be counterproductive and morally problematic.
All that said, look at what happened on PZ Myers’ blog, Pharyngula, recently. I can’t blame Myers this time – he merely drew attention to an offer by Harris whereby you can get his little book on the evils of lying for free. I don’t see anything objectionable in the post.
But the thread is another matter. It quickly devolves into accusations that Harris is an outright racist, and at least one person makes the same accusation of a fellow commenter. Never mind the fact that there is no evidence at all that Harris is motivated by some sort of racial hatred or racial supremacism or anything of the kind. Again, I think that Schneier is pretty convincing in his response to Harris’ views about airport security, but the actual debate is interesting, and Harris has some persuasive things to say. Importantly, both of them show intelligence, civility, and mutual respect.
If you actually want to argue about airport security in your response to this post, I probably won’t take part in the debate. I’m not an expert; from the little I do know, I don’t support the profiling approach that Harris appears to advocate (so it’s no use trying to persuade me of its evils); and I even tend to think that Harris overreached in having such definite views on something where he’s not an expert either. But a racist? Come on. There’s no basis for that at all. It seems that a lot of people these days throw that word around at the drop of a hat.
And yes, this sort of thing can corrupt discussion.