Three Questions for Mr. Harris—Not Necessarily Well-Framed

 
lachrymose123
 
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lachrymose123
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05 August 2016 18:14
 

Question 1: You want to take Muslims at their word with regard to their intentions (by referring to their assumed religious tenets), but I recall Chomsky pointing out that Bin Laden stated or wrote that his motivation for terrorism was at least in part the Palestinian occupation. Did you take him at his word there and if not, why not?

Question 2: In arguing for your airport policies, you emphasize the optimal allocation of limited resources. But given the ratio of terrorist deaths versus, say, highway traffic fatalities, why allocate your energies on the former rather than the latter? (Granted, the nuclear bomb probably figures into the calculus…)

Question 3: My layman’s interpretation of bits of Bertrand Russell that I read is that according to him, Hume demolished any rational arguments for morality, other than sheer self-interest. Thus your quest for “moral bedrock” is antiquated and quixotic. Where’s the error…?

 
Twissel
 
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Twissel
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05 August 2016 22:14
 

@lachrymose123

Sam Harris is not in the habit of posting on this forum, so don’t expect any answers from him.

 
 
lachrymose123
 
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lachrymose123
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06 August 2016 08:14
 

Thanks for that. I figured a response from him was unlikely, but your information makes it easier.

 
Ola
 
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Ola
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06 August 2016 13:35
 

Question 2: In arguing for your airport policies, you emphasize the optimal allocation of limited resources. But given the ratio of terrorist deaths versus, say, highway traffic fatalities, why allocate your energies on the former rather than the latter?

May I intrude?

Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Sam Harris is advocating taking resources away from other services to facilitate extra airport checks, rather he is looking at the current airport checks, and the current allocation of the airport security resources (which are, of course, limited) and suggesting what he thinks would be the best use of them. His case, I think, is that profiling people is a more efficient way to run security checks than, say, random searches.

He uses the example of Betty White - is she honestly likely to be stowing a shoe bomb or other such device and is she honestly likely to be acting on behalf of, say, IS? Well, perhaps he has a point there. If you’re looking for an IS suicide bomber, you wouldn’t put your money on someone who looks like Betty White. True.

But!

What Sam misses in this argument, in my opinion, is that if security checks routinely fail to check the Betty White lookalikes, inevitably some group or other will cotton on to this free ride through security and exploit the loophole. Therefore, the only way to efficiently run security checks is to have a system that mixes profiling and random. I suspect that is the current system.

I would also point out that probably the checks are for more than one type of activity.

 

Pre 9/11, and therefore pre the current era of security concerns,  the above actually happened, at least regarding drug smuggling. The smugglers realised that genteel older ladies who looked rather posh were not being searched so that was who they started using. And security soon realised what was going on so that is who they started searching. True story.  For I, I was that drug mule! No, just kidding. I wasn’t. I could never pass as genteel. But someone in my family was in that security briefing, so I know it happened.

 

By the way, if you are merely wondering why Sam is more interested in talking about airport terrorism than traffic fatalities, personally I think his main point is not that bombs on planes are dangerous, but that we - all of us in the world interested in not being blown up in a plane or anywhere else - need to be honest with ourselves about who and what the threats really are, and profiling (or lack of profiling, or complaints about profiling) is just an example of where he sees dishonesty, or denial.  In my humble opinion. 

But that’s just my 2c, as they say.

[ Edited: 06 August 2016 14:15 by Ola]