Atheist activist Dan Arel posted the following on Twitter:
Classical liberals: Nazis threatening to murder people of color is just words, words can’t be violent.
Also, classical liberals: Women accusing Lawrence Krauss of sexual abuse are assaulting Krauss. pic.twitter.com/1nXMe5dg2A
— Dan Arel (@danarel) 2 March 2018
Activist Sam Harris replied:
This half-quote amounts to a defamatory lie. I have NOT defended LK—and generally believe accusers in these cases—but I think we should be slow to destroy a person’s reputation on the basis of a Buzzfeed article. I’ll say more in my next AMA. https://t.co/yqy1fcDThU
— Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) 3 March 2018
In case you can’t read the quote in the meme, here is what Harris said:
This is a very serious business. We have a friend and a colleague and a person with a much cherished scientific reputation under assault now.
Let’s analyze the claims in Harris’s tweet.
This half-quote amounts to a defamatory lie.
So quoting Harris is now considered a defamatory lie because it is supposedly a “half-quote.” If you listen to him talk immediately before and after that point, there is nothing there that should have been included. This quote has the ability to stand alone because of the highly significant choice of one word – “assault.” What Harris does in this sentence is to frame his friend and colleague as the victim and this is what the meme highlights. Look, Harris is supposed to have this reputation as being extremely logical and careful with his wording. As such, he could have said “We have a friend and a colleague and a person with a much cherished scientific reputation that is in question now.” Or, “We have a friend and a colleague and a person with a much cherished scientific reputation who is embroiled in controversy now.” But he didn’t. He chose to frame it as Krauss being “under assault.”
Sam, that comes across as “a tell.”
I have NOT defended LK
The meme itself, and even Arel’s introduction, doesn’t state that Harris has defended Krauss. Arel (who shared the meme on Twitter) simply wrote: Women accusing Lawrence Krauss of sexual abuse are assaulting Krauss.
—and generally believe accusers in these cases
Whoa. He “generally believes?” Since when does the Famous Skeptic approach a dispute with pre-conceived beliefs? Shouldn’t he have said, “I generally withhold judgment until I can survey the evidence?” That’s the skeptic’s position. Yet Sam abandons the skeptics position and has, as his default position, a general belief. How odd.
Of course, not so odd if Sam Harris is simply virtue signaling to the #metoo movement. It would help if Sam could provide examples where this “general belief” was more specific. Just when did he believe the accusers? What criteria did he use to uphold this belief?
—but I think we should be slow to destroy a person’s reputation on the basis of a Buzzfeed article. I’ll say more in my next AMA.
I would fully agree with this. But the Buzzfeed article can be read and digested in a rather short period of time. You can’t just dismiss it because it is a Buzzfeed article. Instead, Sam should use his intellectual superpowers to employ critical thinking when reading the article and see if it leads to a tentative conclusion. Then, share his enlightened insights with his fans. I’m not so sure what’s so hard about this.