Sam Harris on racial profiling

June 19, 2012

Sam Harris is no stranger to controversy, but with his recent defense of racial profiling it seems that he has really stuck his foot on it and alienated a good deal of his former fan-base. Harris suggests that people who are (or look like they are) Muslim should receive a higher level of security screening at airport check-in counters than non-Muslims. Needless to say, this suggestion offends many secular liberals, who may approve of Harris’s spirited attack on religion in general, but not his more specific attack on Islam. 

To his credit, though, he was willing to engage in debate with a security expert, Bruce Schneier, who has written widely on the topic of security screening at airports. A transcript of the debate “To Profile or Not” can be read here.  The debate is lengthy, at times nit-picky, and focuses exclusively on the question of whether the benefits of Harris’s proposal for profiling Muslims outweigh the costs in efficiency and security. Schneier makes a pretty convincing case that they do not.

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