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...]

Weekend Coffee: August 30


• Oliver Sacks has died. In his final column, "Sabbath", he talks about his humanism and his rejection of his Jewish upbringing when his mother discovered he was gay and was violently hateful towards him: "her harsh words made me hate religion's capacity for bigotry and cruelty".In his closing words, he contemplates the end with acceptance and peace:And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the … [Read more...]

The Charleston Shooting Is No Mystery

By now, you've heard about the massacre at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina where nine people were murdered, including Clementa Pinckney, the pastor and a state senator. The alleged shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, wore the patches of white-supremacist regimes, told police that he wanted to start a race war, wrote a virulently racist manifesto, and reportedly said to one of the survivors, "You rape our women, and you're taking over our country... you have to go." So of course, … [Read more...]

How We Built the Ghettos, Why We Built the Ghettos


In the wake of the protests and riots that convulsed Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, there was unexpected and welcome news: state's attorney Marilyn Mosby moved quickly to indict the police officers who let him die in their custody. I was surprised and pleased to see that she threw the book at them, including by charging one with second-degree murder.But even if the indictment sticks, even if the officers are convicted, there's a deeper problem which hasn't been touched. The tide … [Read more...]

New on the Guardian: Atheists Are Diversifying

My latest column on the Guardian is up: "Finally, atheists are no longer just old white men".The atheist community, in America at least, has long had a reputation for being dominated by geeky white men. I have no onus against geeky white men - I happen to be one myself - but the data suggests that if we stick with this strategy, we'll needlessly alienate potential allies and end up in a demographic cul-de-sac. If the atheist movement wants to succeed in the long run, it's essential that we … [Read more...]

#BlackLivesMatter in Baltimore

It's only been a few short weeks since the agony of Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter protests in New York, and here we are again. This time, the protests, marches and sporadic riots are happening in Baltimore, sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, a black teenager who was arrested after he ran from police patrolling his neighborhood - which, for the record, is not a crime - and suffered a fatal and so far unexplained spine injury while in the police van. (According to his family, he underwent … [Read more...]

The Sci-Fi Fans Who Fear Change

The Hugos, one of the most prestigious awards for sci-fi and fantasy writing, have been hijacked. After several years in which the awardees had become increasingly diverse, reflecting the broader reach and appeal of SF/F, readers discovered that this year's nominees were dominated by a ballot-stuffing campaign organized by a right-wing faction that calls itself, no joke, the Sad Puppies.The SPs' slate includes works by Vox Day, a.k.a Theodore Beale, a loathsome right-wing polycrank who … [Read more...]

The Atheist Community Is Diversifying


I was pleased to read about a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute on millennial views about sex. It confirms our generally pro-choice and non-judgmental attitude, with a few caveats:"What we see running through the answers is that where principles of fairness come up, millennials want to see equal access to health services, abortion and contraception. They think people should have individual freedom to make decisions," said [Robert] Jones [CEO of PRRI].For the most … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Bring Me a New Black Guy

Fig. 1: Eddie Willers

Atlas Shrugged Part II: The StrikeThe most noticeable and jarring change between the first and second Atlas movies is that this one has an entirely new cast. This page from the Atlas Society explains why: Part 1 was shot in a rush to keep John Aglialoro's rights from expiring, and the time pressure and limited budget meant there wasn't time to get the actors to commit to more than one film. The page doesn't say so, but the fact that the first movie bombed surely gave them no great desire to … [Read more...]

The Rebirth of Nullification in Alabama


The week after I spoke in Alabama, there was a happy milestone in this reddest of red states: a federal court ruling for marriage equality was set to take effect. Judge Callie V.S. Granade, a George W. Bush appointee, struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage, and the state's request for a stay was denied by both the appeals court and the Supreme Court.But at the eleventh hour, there was a shocker: Alabama state supreme court chief justice Roy Moore issued an order directing state probate … [Read more...]