Sam Harris’ Indefensible Views on Racial Profiling

As PZ brought to my attention, Sam Harris is still arguing for racially profiling airline passengers. His argument in the video is that security is a "zero-sum game", that our screeners have limited time and resources, and so they should focus on the people whom we know are more likely to be terrorists, by which he means Islamist fundamentalists (he never considers any other kind of terrorism).The fullest expression of Harris' views is in a 2012 article on his blog, "In Defense of … [Read more...]

Is Assisted Dying Narcissism?

In a milestone, the California legislature approved an assisted-dying bill last week. Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't said if he'll sign it, but if he does, the state would become the fifth and by far the largest to allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication. Like its counterpart laws in Oregon, Washington and Vermont, the California version requires doctors to certify that the person is of sound mind and has less than six months to live.But even if Brown vetoes this version of the bill, it … [Read more...]

If Ayn Rand Wrote Shakespeare

If you're not reading the comments on my Atlas Shrugged posts, you're missing half the fun. Commenter Sneezeguard's excellent "Cobra Commander Dialogues" have brought a whole host of supervillains flocking to Galt's Gulch, including Doctor Doom (in three parts so far!) and even the ghost of Stalin.But the latest post has spawned one of my favorite memes yet. When I pointed out that Ayn Rand scorned Shakespeare as an insufficiently pro-capitalist view of life, several commenters have been … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Screw You, Shakespeare


Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IILast time, John Galt told Dagny that while she was living in the capitalists' valley, she could attend concerts or plays, just not his super-secret physics lectures. She takes him up on that suggestion:[S]he sat among rows of benches under the open sky, watching Kay Ludlow on the stage. It was an experience she had not known since childhood — the experience of being held for three hours by a play that told a story she had not seen before, in lines s … [Read more...]

Kim Davis’ Multiple Marriages Are Fair Game

Although the vast majority of American local officials are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, there are a few stubborn bigots determined to hold out. In the state of Kentucky, 3 out of 120 county clerks are still refusing to comply, including the most notorious, Rowan County clerk Kim Davis.After repeatedly losing her appeals and then defying a direct court order - claiming she answered only to "God's authority" and not the courts or the Constitution - Davis was jailed for … [Read more...]

The Post-Work Society


Laziness is a good thing.For as long as civilization has existed, people have been trying to live as well as possible with as little work as possible. That drive has created kings and kleptocrats who get rich by robbing their subjects, but it's also led to every technology that makes work easier, from horse collars to steam engines to industrial robots.Think of how few people in the industrialized world work in jobs that have a direct connection to the necessities of life: agriculture, … [Read more...]

Photo Sunday: Returning to Nature


In spite of all the damage we've done, our impact on the earth is more evanescent than you might imagine. I'm fascinated by books like Alan Weisman's The World Without Us or Jonathan Waldman's Rust: The Longest War, which describe how all the artifacts of our civilization would dissolve and disappear without human beings to maintain them. Here's a case in point: a long-abandoned pickup truck, left to peacefully rust and rejoin nature, in New York's Adirondack Mountains. Note how the wheels are … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Marketplace of Ideas

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IIAs Dagny's life in the Gulch settles into a routine, she notices that John Galt leaves the house every other night, returning at midnight or later. Notwithstanding the fact that Randian protagonists are supposed to bow out graciously when the person they love finds a better capitalist than them, she feels an unaccustomed "savage resentment" and "dread that there might be a woman in his life". Finally, one night at dinner, she asks him:"What is it … [Read more...]

The Strange Tale of Rose Marks


Last month, I wrote about whether we should pity the victims of the prosperity gospel and argued that, unlike in cases of outright fraud or coercion, their poor decisions are their own. There were several responses, such as this post by Russell Glasser, that took a more sympathetic view, arguing that most people who fall prey to this hustle can't be expected to know better.To be sure, lack of education and lifelong immersion in a religious faith that treats such claims as normal are surely … [Read more...]

A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government, Part 14

This is part 14 of my "Think! Of God and Government" debate series with Christian author Andrew Murtagh. Read my latest post and Andrew's reply.Hi Andrew -I always like it when people come to our debates and tell us afterward that neither of us was who and what they were expecting. I take pleasure in confounding expectations!I like your mention of the public school system, which is one of the best things that the government has done: a great equalizer, a stirring rod of the American … [Read more...]