Unlike some readers, I wouldn’t call Sam Harris a ‘racist’ (religions or ideologies aren’t races) or even a bigot. He thinks he’s actually got a good argument when he calls for profiling by the TSA. On face value, his arguments might seem sound, perhaps even nearly convincing – even though there’s a nagging feeling that what he’s saying just isn’t right. One of the problems is that it’s sometimes hard to tell if that nagging feeling is simply an emotional reaction to something due to our need to be politically correct (which I would argue is rarely a good reason to make these sorts of decisions) or if it’s because his argument is inherently flawed.
Fortunately, Bruce Schneier makes it very clear that it’s the latter, and that profiling is A Bad Idea™. Security in general (computer or otherwise), is often a more difficult problem than most people will admit. When you start to add politics, social norms, a need and desire for tolerance, good will, personal freedom and a revulsion of tyranny it becomes a more complex. I’m glad that Schneier is as good at getting his ideas across as Sam is – it would be a shame for the better idea to lose out because it’s not articulated as well as a bad one.
Despite this, I’m looking forward to hearing Sam’s counter argument. However, since I wasn’t convinced by his initial argument (and I find Bruce Schneier very convincing), I don’t expect he will change my mind on this.
As an aside: This is an example of what I really like about the skeptical/rational community. Sam was willing and did post a counter argument to his (one that was devestating to his postion in my view) on his own blog. Good ideas are allowed to win in an open dialogue.Veritas rex.