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Everything posted by disarray

  1. I take your point that noting that a system that uses capital punishment is not working smoothly owing to bias seems at first glance to be just a technical issue. But when weighing the scales between using the death penalty and a life imprisonment sentence from an ethical standpoint, I think that it is highly relevant that arguments given by a victim's family, some religious zealots, various legislators/judges/sheriffs, etc. in favor of the death penalty is evidently based to a large extent and/or in many cases on irrational emotions such as prejudice and bias, thereby putting their arguments into serious question. Again, as per my quote above, "in the US – where a very small number of counties, largely in the South, accounts for a majority of the executions – local officials enjoy broad powers to prosecute and execute based on groundless assumptions and bias about race. Questions of guilt and innocence are subordinated to expediency and prejudice." As for the fact that there are innocent people on death row, as well as the related observation that there innocent people are executed, I suggest that this is no minor faux pas, and not some technical obstacle that can be overcome with a little adjustment to the system. Indeed, one of the reasons that murder trials are so drawn out, e.g., in a case where the defense pleaded insanity, or in numerous cases where we are going by questionable eye witness accounts, or in cases where we are going with the amount of evidence that the prosecution can put together that is or seems to be 'beyond a reasonable doubt', etc., there is always the possibility that the jury will make mistakes, or in the cases of, for example, temporary insanity, so that the possibility of reasonable rehabilitation and early release may be an option, one that will be weighed in terms of the probability of recidivism. To remove the obstacle of executing innocent people, one would have to reduce the number of those who are executed to individuals who are found guilty not just beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond any doubt whatsoever, e.g., murders completed in broad daylight in the presence of several nearby unbiased witnesses and that were undeniably not a result of self-defense. In reality, whether murders are completed by the police or civilians, I suggest that the vast majority of cases are not so clear cut. So I agree that you have identified the technicality of ensuring that a defendant is undeniably guilty before executing him/her, but I think that it is an insurmountable bias as things stand now, and indeed, just executing those who are undeniably guilty would probably have the effect of letting quite a large percentage of actual murders go free, but also perhaps encourage people to think that they can get away with murder as long as they don't do it in full view of a large crowd in broad daylight. Note: After rereading your last post, I gather that you agree with me anyway. Dimreepr: You said, "Yet we never claim a lion is a lazy good for nothing because it finds itself in a zoo?" I think that this is a great metaphor, but I think that it does not invalidate my point...how often do we hear (too proud) people say, "I don't need your handouts, I'm not a charity case" when they should really just accept a gift (e.g., when they cannot work for a while owing to a temporary illness) and just express a desire to return the favor should the occasion ever arise in the future?" On the other hand, I would suggest that again it is again the fault of those who have wealth that they so belittle those who receive welfare that they so reduce their self-esteem that they find it slightly more difficult to motivate themselves. I once gave a presentation to a geography class at college level on the cycles of poverty, and I think that that those who are lounging on beaches drinking Margaritas this summer complaining about people who get welfare, as if they are all just leeches, don't have a clue.
  2. Not necessarily. Indeed, I suspect that the all-things-being-equal approach you describe is actually the exception rather than the rule. If it were simply a matter of choosing a black candidate, all other factors being equal, I might be a little more open to affirmative action. But even then I would suggest that it is not the business of some third party, be it university or some county administration board, to act as interlopers by manipulating the decision process. And again, there are so many minorities, that simply singling out one or two "races" as opposed to other minority races, religions, sexes, gender orientations, nationalities, ages, income groups, etc. is, in practice, not feasible. (So even in cases of the sort of tie you mention, I would opt for breaking it randomly.) But lets look at the supreme court case of Gratz vs. Bollinger where it was found that the University of Michigan used a 150-point scale to rank applicants, with 100 points needed to guarantee admission. The University gave underrepresented ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans an automatic 20-point bonus towards their score, while a perfect SAT score was worth 12 points. (But no mention of Muslims, Buddhists, transsexuals, homosexuals, octogenarians, midgets, Wiccans,….well, you get my point.) The Court found that the University's policy, which automatically distributed one-fifth of the points needed to guarantee admission to every single underrepresented minority applicant solely because of race, was not narrowly tailored to achieve the interest in educational diversity that the university claimed justified its program. http://minorityrights.org/law-and-legal-cases/gratz-v-bollinger-2/ As for Hillary, according to the NY Times, she plans to ensure that half of the cabinet is women…There is no just choosing a woman when all factors are equal, and again, one could cite a hundred other minority groups that won’t get such preferential treatment if she is elected. Indeed, the 50/50 formula is fairly common. I don’t think enforcing equality in this way is ultimately a very fair or even very effective means of reducing discrimination and prejudice. It is widely claimed that ‘blacks’ are unfairly singled out by the American judicial system, so that there is a disproportionate number of blacks in U.S. prisons and a disproportionate number of death row. Indeed, the statistics for legal executions in the U.S. since 1976 are as follows : Black 34.6%; Latino 8.3%, and White 55.5%. (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/race-death-row-inmates-executed-1976) Among those waiting on death row (2013), White 43.10% Black 41.71%!! Latino/Latina 12.63% https://death.rdsecure.org/article.php?id=86 We can put these figures into some sort of perspective by noting that, in terms of population, Non-Hispanic whites make up 63 percent of the U.S.; blacks, 12.3 percent (with Hispanics, 17 percent). We find similar misrepresentation in the number who were found to have unfairly been put on death row in the first place: “Given the over-representation of black and Hispanic prisoners on death row, it is hardly surprising that of the 139 capital convicts found innocent since 1973, 61% have been of color.” According to David A Love, writing for the Guardian, “Capital punishment has national and international implications... in the US – where a very small number of counties, largely in the South, accounts for a majority of the executions – local officials enjoy broad powers to prosecute and execute based on groundless assumptions and bias about race. Questions of guilt and innocence are subordinated to expediency and prejudice.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/jan/03/racial-bias-us-death-penalty One might conclude that the best thing to do, in keeping with affirmative action, is to ensure that people are executed in accordance with the proportion that their “race” is found in the general population. However, one might find a few on death row who might oppose that formula.
  3. I appreciate your sentiments and goals, though I don't personally agree with affirmative action approaches for a number of reasons (e.g., reverse discrimination, overriding democratic choice, etc.). For example, H. Clinton's statement that she would use affirmative action to place women in cabinet positions seems as rational as voting in a President because they are African American or female or Mormon or poor or disabled or whatever. (One can see that part of the problem is that in order to implement affirmative action, one would have to give preference to all possible minority groups, an effort that soon becomes absurdly unwieldy.) Evidently, she does not feel, as apparently many if not most women do, judging from various studies, that women are less suited for positions of leadership than men. There are those who would argue that the President is also the Commander in Chief and thus holds the fate of the world in his/her hands so that the use of affirmative action should be set aside in order to get the best person to fill that important role. But in my opinion, every job position is important and should, like the position of President, be filled by those best suited to fulfill the job requirements....Is it not the right of an employer or a voting populace to vote in whomever they think best fits the job description as long as irrational prejudice does not play a role in their selection? There are a number of matters pertaining to human rights, (e.g., euthanasia, abortion, gay marriage, riding on any seat of a bus, gender and bathrooms, capital punishment, etc. relate to the sort of things protected by the Bill of Rights), and I do agree that these should be a matter of Federal concern, with States not being allowed to defy Federal regulations, anymore than Mississippi should or could stop James Meredith from going to college. In general, there are many avenues in which one might investigate alternatives to just dismissing people as evil weeds that will never change and/or need to be punished for the evil things they do in as final and vengeful manner as possible. There may be some cases where the death penalty may be the most utilitarian choice, e.g., in a society in which escape is always a possibility and the prisoner is a psychotic serial killer who has been deemed incurable. But far too often, the death penalty is often an expression of people's revulsion and revenge against a person whom they regard as evil. Without getting too political, I would note that U.S. Presidents as well as other world leaders have often not been above labeling and writing off certain countries, races, and/or religious groups as evil, thereby galvanizing a sort of national irrational hatred towards certain 'outsiders' (or insiders for that matter) that sometimes justifies, as history illustrates, torturing and killing them, either as individuals or en mass. Perhaps such notions of evil emanate from religious doctrine, but my point is that such a label generally tends to put an end to further exploration of the causes of aggression and the various alternative methods of reducing it. Though science has often been accused of being amoral (or even immorally materialistic), I think that it has been largely successful in demonstrating that many scriptural beliefs about the physical world are in error (e.g., Creationist beliefs). But above and beyond that, I think that science can also demonstrate that many religious moral beliefs are likewise erroneous, antiquated, and/or counterproductive, e.g., the death penalty as an effective sanction, the etiology of homosexuality, the origins of racial categories, the assumption that all cases of thievery are just caused by greed, the assumption that murderers are just motivated by evil, etc. In short, it is often not just a matter of, as you point out, deciding in a vacuum whether such a thing as the death penalty is right or wrong in some absolute (deontological) sense, but rather a matter of phenomenologically looking at the reasons that people think that it is right or wrong, and then testing the validity of their assumptions.
  4. In retrospect, it seems to me that my example of a rug as being able to have wave-light properties when shook in a vacuum (i.e., without the medium of air) is not true, as the resistance of the air is needed for the rug to move in a wave-like manner. When we look at sound waves in air, for example, and waves in a fluid, we always need the resistant medium. Thus, I can see how one might assume that we always need a resistant medium (drag) in order to have waves, e.g., amplitude being a function of energy and resistance. Apparently, this does not apply to such things as light. Either one might then suggest that photons, as has been suggested with electrons, have some sort of field that spans the universe (as suggested in the case of electron entanglement), or there is some other reason that electromagnetic and gravity waves do not need the same resistant medium (e.g., of space) as many other things that we confront in everyday life need to have. Perhaps no one knows, given the, for example, notion that photons have both the properties of particles and of waves, so that there wave-like properties are still something of a mystery.
  5. Perhaps I have slightly misread your post. The extent to which the govt. is obligated, by treaties or reparation for past wrongs done against natives is a matter of opinion. Some do make an effort to be independent, contributing members to society, and others don't. Though the issue of land complicates the issue of their treatment moreso than other minority groups such as African Americans, it is undeniable that non-minority groups (e.g., European Whites) are partly responsible for the inability of members of minority to groups to succeed because of their ongoing prejudice. I am not sure what you mean by space-grabbing 'pretty roses', but if you mean those 'advantaged' groups and individuals who continue to take up prime real estate for their own purposes far beyond what is reasonable and necessary, I would agree with that as well. As for immigrants, I would certainly agree that all immigrants should follow the due process of immigration, rather than being illegal and perhaps receiving benefits equal to, or in some cases, apparently greater than those afforded to citizens. In any case, I maintain that there needs to be a continued shift away from guilt-vengeance based approaches (including the death penalty) of dealing with problematic individuals, and more emphasis on education, and engineering the sort of social conditions where the ability to pursue happiness without infringing on the efforts of others to do the same are optimized. Yes, the goal of American society should be to enable as many people as possible to not only survive, but to be contributing members of society. Where possible, welfare and unemployment benefits, etc., should be as temporary a fix as possible. (Even Herbert Spencer agreed that a 'poor' person's relatives and friends might help them, but was reluctant to agree that society should help them survive since they would merely continue to reproduce and become an even greater problem to themselves and to society as a whole. Margaret Sanger's efforts to encourage birth control seems to be in keeping with this sort of outlook. This is a problematic issue in that it has a tendency to seep into the issue of eugenics, depending upon ones political point of view.) But more to the point is that being too dependent upon society for handouts of whatever sort can lead to cynicism, lethargy, and a diminishing sense of self-worth, which is one of the reasons the poverty is a vicious, downward spiraling cycle.
  6. Mike: Again, in contrast to your assumption that everything except gravity has a medium, so why not gravity, I have mentioned (most?) electromagnetic waves (e.g., light) as not needing a medium, perhaps owing in some way to lack of mass. But I could just as well have mentioned the waves created by shaking a rug, which could theoretically be done in a vacuum, i.e., without a medium. Of course, in a practical sense, it is true that the rug makes waves in the air, thereby causing our ear drums to vibrate, etc., but the rug itself does not need the medium of air to do its own wavy thing. As for your example, one might say, then, that the granules (and whatever other ingredients) are the pigment…that is, there is no medium other than what composes the pigment itself, just as we need not even say that the waves that becomes sound in our minds need water, but rather that “making waves” is just something that the medium does. Even if you accept that light does not need anything other than space, you seem to be saying that space is some sort of physics-combo, e.g., space/time/forces/ \energy that acts as a medium for the waves of light, or rather that the space/time/force/energy is a medium that has the quality of being able to make waves. I too entertained the notion that space/time could not exist on its own without other things such as energy, gravitation, strong-weak forces or whatever. After all, they all seem to have arisen together and space seems to be expanding at the rate of light, as if they were holding hands. The problem with that concept, however, is the scientific claim that space expanded at a speed very much greater than the speed of light in the early universe. Nevertheless, the universe does not expand, it is said, into some sort of mega-space outside our own space. Indeed, space/time may be nothing more than our own mathematical measurements, and space itself just seems to be expanding because we observe and calculate the movements of distant things and use the language symbol “space/time” (with space/time fluctuations and tensors composing gravity ) to make sense of these measurements. So, space/time in the sense of which we ordinarily think of them are just illusions, as Einstein said. Thus, photons and electrons and forces and ocean swells and bird songs exist and tend to be wave-like in various ways (some requiring a "third party" medium and some not). In any case, the ultimate medium of space/time apparently is one of those that don’t require a medium that, like water, can be further broken down and analyzed, so that rather than it having any physical or material properties, we literally write it off as just a mathematical pigment of our imagination. As an aside, I would note that existentialists such as Tillich similarly seemed preoccupied with finding some ultimate Ground (level) of Being as if wanting to go to the first floor via an elevator. But things can only be broken down so far, and there is nothing beyond that, so that there is no point looking further for something that ain't there.
  7. Memammal (to Raider): "I trust that this was in good faith" ... Some sort of ironic pun? No doubt you are using the word "faith" in the 13th c. sense of faithfulness to a trust or promise, but in a related early 14c. sense of accepting religious beliefs despite a lack of evidence, "faith is neither the submission of reason, nor is it the acceptance, simply and absolutely upon testimony, of what reason cannot reach. Faith is being able to cleave to a power of goodness appealing to our higher and real self, not to our lower and apparent self." [Matthew Arnold, "Literature & Dogma," 1873]. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=faith&allowed_in_frame=0 Matthew Arnold was, I think, a bit of a hypocrite in this regard, (according to Terry Eagleton) because he had a rather skeptical, scientific worldview himself, but wrote as if he subscribed to Christian beliefs because he thought that they kept the masses in line, e.g., minimize crime. But I think that he is being quite inclusive in his definition of faith in that he seems to reject the notion that religious faith entails believing in all sorts of things peculiar to a particular religion, whether or not such beliefs are in keeping with common sense and science; rather, he defines (good) "faith" in the more generic sense that we focus on what is good in life rather than on denouncing what is or seems bad, and focus on transcending our own baser instincts by (I think he would agree) forming communities that uphold higher ideals. Personally, I have no compunction, in general, about disputing those who claim that a particular religion or dogma is in keeping with scientific "beliefs," particularly when someone also claims that one must subscribe to their particular religion (with its particular superstitions/ethnocentric historical narrative/creeds/its moral and would-be legal codes/and exclusive formulas for salvation) and denounce, as heretical and/or damned, all who don't. If only all religious groups could just focus upon their faith in goodness, rather than clinging to ancient texts and symbols, while denouncing those who don't, such as scientists who are busy pursuing knowledge in accordance with their own modern calculations and sextants. It's a shame that they keep instigating conflicts with science because we are all trying to keep afloat on whatever sea of faith we think makes life most fulfilling. Matthew Arnold laments the growing skepticism about traditional religious belief brought about by scientific progress in his mid-19th c. poem Dover Beach: The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd. But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind... -Matthew Arnold
  8. Though many Catholics and Protestants attempt to assimilate scientific advancements, 41% of Protestants hold the Bible is literally true and 46% take the Bible to be the inspired word of God. http://www.gallup.com/poll/148427/say-bible-literally.aspx I think that religion has done a lot of good in the world, though the proportion of good to bad is a matter of speculation and personal opinion. But the pillars of Christianity, for example, are like dominoes....arguably they all stand or they all fall: Bible is literally true>Creation of everything by God in 6 days>Creation of Adam and Eve in a single gesture (from his rib!) as beings superior to and separate from other animals>Temptation of Adam/Eve by satan/serpent>Fall of mankind (sic) and expulsion from the paradisaical garden of Eden>Mankind's state of fallen grace>Christ's redemptive act>Need to accept Christ's redemptive act>Personal or Group redemption>Eternal life Anything that might press on and wobble any one of these pillars, e.g., alternative religions, heretical beliefs, scientific claims, demythology, etc. is often seen as a threat. Hence, the reason that 'religious people keep trying to invent a conflict between belief and science'. Of course, one defense is that scientists themselves have their own agenda, e.g., to spread atheism, their own worldview (aka, atheistic religion), materialism, etc., as if, it is often claimed, they are on their own sort of crusade to eradicate all faith, moral values, and religion from the face of the earth. So, not surprisingly, many scientists, not wishing to be unfairly maligned, continue to point out that they have nothing to gain except their usual reward of common, ole, sensible knowledge.
  9. Being a social weed suggests that one is not well or very productive; but I did not mean to imply (as one can tell from the context of my remarks), despite the garden metaphor, that one must also therefore be unusually evil, lazy, criminally inclined, selfish, self-entitled to, or dependent upon others wealth, or any other such negative label. Indeed, anyone can be or become a sickly and penniless "weed" given unfortunate circumstances. As for mal-developed weeds, many rich and "successful" people might deserve that title as much as anyone else, e.g., Hetty Green, probably the richest (and most miserly) woman in America during the latter part of the 19th c., who decided to give her son Carter’s Little Liver Pills and wait and see if his injured leg healed rather than paying for a single doctor's visit after she was recognized trying to sneak him into a free clinic for the poor, with the result that her son’s leg worsened and had to be amputated. Though we are justifiably, I think, divagating a little off into politics here, I would stress the notion that part of the cohesive social contract binding our society together is the recognition that, just as a poor person can become rich overnight, so too can a rich person 'lose his shirt' (e.g., in the stock market), so that society provides various types of security nets to all equally (hence social security, welfare benefits, unemployment benefits, and, arguably, universal health insurance). Darwin himself, who appreciated the economic advantages of altruistic behavior and did not deprecate those who were unable to escape the cycles keeping them in poverty, noted that “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Though Herbert Spencer (often called the father of social Darwinism) did seem to think we should just let the poor die rather than to perpetuate their weaknesses and misery (coining the term "survival of the fittest," aka, survival of the strongest), even Adam Smith (laissez-faire advocate) did not deny the need for some sort of welfare: "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind." Sure, the rich and successful may have to break stride at times to assist those hobbling along (but still making an effort), but I suspect that the most egregious attitudinal problem in America is a sort of pervasive economic anxiety that those at the top (e.g., corporations and their lobbies) have no mercy when it comes to exploiting those beneath them, so that one might as well follow suit, keep ones nose to the grindstone, and forget about the Joneses if they should falter, or else face failure, disgrace, and ruin. I have never advocated for such a radical redistribution of wealth that everyone is equally well off, and all indications actually seem to be that the gap between the rich and poor has been been widening for some time now. We continue to see growing social unrest and dissatisfaction, rumblings from below foreboding continued unrest and upheaval, much like those below San Andreas, as many fear that they will be victims of a powerful elite, and either pushed or left to fall into permanent oblivion. Also, I have already acknowledged that many poor people exploit the system and rip off others (though white collar crime is arguably the worse), but we can't paint everyone with the same brush, or make the generalization that they should all just be left to their own devices, or perhaps summarily eliminated from society altogether by sending them to death row, despite that, from a scientific standpoint, we can't even say that some criminals are irretrievably beyond reform and rehabilitation. So unless you are advocating unbridled, absolute laissez-faire capitalism or some sort of racial or lower class cleansing, I am not following your point.
  10. Public health studies show that a host of individual 'illnesses' and maladaptive behaviors (depression, aggression,schizophrenia, etc.) proportionately result from a discrepancy between high and low income inhabitants of any given area, not just having a low income per se. Even a small decrease in the gap and the poor helps greatly. This seems to be particularly true of males, perhaps owing to socio-sexual expectations for them to bear the responsibility of being competitively productive. But the problem falls back on everyone: "the poor become socially marginalised and are therefore less likely to adhere to the norms of that society, resulting in greater levels of crime and personal violence. http://www.healthknowledge.org.uk/public-health-textbook/medical-sociology-policy-economics/4a-concepts-health-illness/section7 Though there are some who exploit welfare, for example, and though there is merit in the phrase that one should give a 'man' a fishing rod rather than just fish, many people need a degree of 'seed money' to help them get out of the vicious circles of poverty, e.g.,, buy clothes that enable him/her to be presentable for a job interview. I agree that "forgiveness" can be seen as the flip side of vengeance, though for many, the term vengeance can also have religious connotations, which is not entirely surprising. I prefer the notion that one should focus on the concept that no one can ultimately determine (again, unless one gets back to religious concepts of pearly gate distribution of justice) the extent to which people's criminal propensities largely developed from their exposure to an environment of poverty, prejudice, and powerlessness (not to mention genetic factors, group pressure, impulsive rage, gang ethics, etc., etc.). Thus, rather than some abstract notion of forgiveness, a society can focus on addressing the social problems that seem to foster criminal behavior, minimizing a 'blaming' approach for those who are unemployed or impoverished, encouraging public activities that increase communication and understanding, etc. etc. So yes, I agree that rather than being too concerned with the question of how best to punish people, society could focus more on preparing the soil of social conditions that would best prevent weeds from festering in the first place.
  11. Well, I was not getting into much depth here, really. I suppose science acknowledges that people reproduce sexually and have children, finds questionable that a woman in her nineties can give birth, and denies the possibility of a woman having a child on her own (at least without the intervention of modern science: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-79711/We-create-babies-men-claim-scientists.html). It would appear that the odds of a mitochondrial Eve and a Y-chromosomal Adam having teamed up is somewhat astronomical, but there are always those who will play around with the wiggle room that the complexity of the issue affords. But unlike Adam and Eve, there would have been many modern humans (homo sapiens) who did not descend from m. Eve and y-c Adam. Furthermore, science shows a whole ensemble of pre-modern homo sapien hominids, while the Bible does not. But if the goal of literalists is to show that science supports the tale of Genesis etc., I tend to cut to the chase by pointing out things that science just would not support. Indeed, they are so in contradiction to biology as we know it that it is pointless to demand that scientists provide evidence to show, as I mentioned, that Eve was not created from Adam's rib (Genesis 2:22: "Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man"). No gray areas here....just not on the cards when it comes to science. But ditto for a man parting an enormous sea with the wave of his cane (if one is to believe Cecil B DeMille's vision), or voices coming out of a continuously burning bush, or a spiritual being writing commandments into rock tablets, or talking serpents, etc. If the goal of literal Biblical apologists is to demonstrate that the events in the Bible could have happened in accordance with the precepts of modern science, they are barking up the wrong Edenic tree.
  12. So, ironically, a society that has a number of false positives when it comes to capital punishment should be put on trial itself....for perhaps, manslaughter, if nothing else.
  13. As some think life imprisonment is typically more "cruel and unusual," than capital punishment, and some think the opposite, the logical thing would be to let the convicted person make that decision. (How often he/she might be given such a choice is a technicality). Whether some judge decides to commute a prisoners life sentence with the consequence that he/she commits another murder is also a technicality. Similarly, whether capital punishment or life imprisonment costs more is also a technicality. One can discuss such tenchicalities if you like, but I think doing so at the same time that one is discussing the ethics of the issue unnecessarily complicates and obfuscates the matter. If one is constitutionally using the "cruel and unusual punishment criteria" for determining the ethics (or legality, or constitutionality, or group morality) of the issue, then one does indeed have some sort of quantitative reference that one can use to support ones arguments. As the statistics I have reviewed (some of which I posted) indicate that deterrence is not a huge factor in the 'debate', then, apart from vengeance, the remaining key issue is that of protecting society. In that respect, both the death penalty and life imprisonment serve that purpose. (The possibility that a person serving life might escape and thus kill again is another practical technicality. Similarly, whether a person is put to death and later evidence is found to absolve him/her is also, perhaps a technicality, as the best way to determine the ethics is to set aside these confounding factors, particularly when there may come a day when no one ever escapes). Bottom line, then, is that life imprisonment is the least radical and most reversible sentence, and traditionally seen as least harsh. If the prisoner (not his/her family or girlfriend/boyfriend, or guardian or whatever) is allowed the freedom to choose his fate, then we arrive at the least cruel punishment. If the prisoner does not choose to exercise his/her freedom to make such a choice, then the government would choose what is generally considered to be the least cruel punishment, which would be life imprisonment. I agree that one has to have some sort of yardstick when discussing ethics, be it scripture, a Constitution, or a principle such as Utilitarianism, though it is unreasonable to expect that measurements be as black and white as measuring the distance from King Henry I nose to the tip of his fingers when his arm is outstretched. In any case, the standard of the least cruel and unusual punishment seems to be about as universal a principle as one will get in matters such as this, and is similar to the empathetic notion of doing no harm, or doing the least amount of harm when one has to do harm, and is therefore the antithesis of a vindictive approach. Saying that there just is no quantitative ethical reference point is just leaving the nature of punishment wide open, and we have no reason to not return to the good ole days where we, often in the frenzy of some warped group mentality, stone people to death for even minor transgressions (even if such gut-level vengeance translates into voting for the electric chair for certain crimes), and indeed there are countries that we consider barbaric, in that respect, that still literally do just that.
  14. There are some things in (a literal interpretation) of scriptures that the vast majority of scientists confirm, some they put into question, and others that they flatly deny. That a female came from the rib of a male is flatly denied.....debate.
  15. Any adjectives I may have written are not veiled at all. And I am neither advocating the eye-for-an-eye justice of the OT nor the forgiving vein in the NT. Rather I am merely addressing those who use a scriptural source for supporting the death penalty. As I said, if you are not using scripture as a moral locus point, I can only wonder where, as I said, you are getting a definition of justice that calls for the death penalty. It seems to me that you are pretending that I have not given evidence when in fact I have. So, at the risk of being prolix, I will provide more evidence of various sorts: My claim that the tradition of seeking the death penalty has its roots, among other places, from atavistic sources such as the OT worldview: After this week’s botched execution in Oklahoma, Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued why Christians should support the death penalty at CNN.com. Grounding his argument in Genesis 9:6, where Noah is told that anyone guilty of intentional murder should be put to death, Mohler says, “The one who intentionally takes life by murder forfeits the right to his own life.” Scriptures also prescribe the death penalty for kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), bestiality (Exodus 22:12), rape (Deuteronomy 22:24), making a sacrifice to a false god (Exodus 22:20), adultery (Leviticus 20:10), homosexual behavior (Leviticus 20:13), and premarital sex (Deuteronomy 22:13-21), rebellious children (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), children cursing parents, (Exodus 21:15-17), working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2), lending money with a high interest rate to make a profit (Ezekiel 18:13) Indeed, arguably, the more sensible Jesus of the NT dismisses such harsh “justice: Jesus said, “You have heard that it was taught, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”In one swift and startling statement, Jesus took a hammer to the lex talionis—the basis for capital punishment in the Hebrew Scriptures—and gave those who would follow after him a new way to live. Leaving violence and vengeance and the power of death and life to the only perfect being who exists: God. http://religionnews.com/2014/05/02/capital-punishment-dont-start-old-testament/ My claim that revenge is an (often irrational) emotion that can be identified by neuroscientists: "Imaging results show that we feel disgust (as evidenced by significant activation of the anterior insula) when faced with the behavior of cheaters, and very real satisfaction (that is, activation of the caudate nucleus) , when we punish those cheaters. (from Evil Genes by Barbara Oakley, pp. 259-260) "Dan Arely [claims that] revenge experiments in which the participants' brains were scanned by positron emission tomography (PET) while they were making decisions about revenge. The results showed increased activity in the reward center of the brain (striatum). The greater the activation, the more the participants punished the offenders." https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pieces-mind/201309/revenge-will-you-feel-better My claim that the death penalty gives that extra emotional satisfaction associated with revenge, though Grant’s endorsement of such emotional vindictiveness is concerning: “For many, the death penalty holds a deep emotional appeal. It is “an expression of society's ultimate outrage”, says Bob Grant, a former prosecutor and now a professor at the University of Denver, Colorado. Some acts, he argues, are so heinous that no other punishment is appropriate.” http://www.economist.com/node/9719806 My previous claim that there is scant or no convincing evidence that the death deterrent can be justified on the basis that it is a deterrent: The chance of being executed in America is so remote that it cannot plausibly be a significant deterrent, argues Steven Levitt, of the University of Chicago. Even if you are on death row—a fate over 99% of murderers escape—the chance of being put to death in any given year is only about 2%. Members of a crack gang studied by one of Mr Levitt's colleagues had a 7%-a-year chance of being murdered. For them, death row would be safer than the street. http://www.economist.com/node/9719806 You can certainly bow out for whatever reason if you like, but if your Parthian shot is that I don't provide evidence or am surreptitiously attempting to introduce a religious viewpoint, I have the right to set you straight. But you are right, I am sometimes derogatory when it comes to the issue of the death penalty, as I have no respect for acts of vengeance...but no need to cry wolf by taking it personally.
  16. Moontanan....I thought so, but as there are a number of people, e.g., some feminists, who would adamantly agree with your comment in a literal sense, I thought it worth clarifying.
  17. I guess your post is somewhat entertaining if you are just trying to throw in a little humor here, but it may be a little misleading as well, seeing that you have posted comments about history in an academic forum. But if you are at all serious that there is some anthropological sense to the notion that religion was first used by women to control men, I would be interested in a bit of elaboration, despite the notion, I gather, that forum posts should be kept really short. As for the idea that religion being used at various times to control women, don't bother explaining, as it think that this is quite obviously often the case. When it comes to the origin and nature of religion (magic, myth, etc.), a traditional go-to book is Frazer's Golden Bough, which claims that the purpose of religion is to encourage fertility, Though I avoid quoting wiki, its description of the thrust of the book is quite apt to the discussion: "Its thesis is that old religions were fertility cults that revolved around the worship and periodic sacrifice of a sacred king. Frazer proposed that mankind progresses from magic through religious belief to scientific thought." There are theories of early matriarchal religions, but (again quoting from wiki owing to its succinctness): "Debate continues on whether ancient matriarchal religion historically existed.American scholar Camille Paglia has argued that "Not a shred of evidence supports the existence of matriarchy anywhere in the world at any time," and further that "The moral ambivalence of the great mother Goddesses has been conveniently forgotten by those American feminists who have resurrected them."In her book The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory (2000), scholar Cynthia Eller discusses the origins of the idea of matriarchal prehistory, evidence for and against its historical accuracy, and whether the idea is good for modern feminism." I have not read Eller's book, but it would seem that even if we could establish evidence for a matriarchal prehistory ( in which women controlled men), we wouldn't know much about what forms such control might have taken.
  18. Is "personal justice" a euphemism for eye-for-an-eye, atavistic vengeance? And since when did asking for the death penalty become some sort of "right." Indeed, attempting to dress up base emotions such as excessive jealousy, pride, and vengeance with terms such as "justice" only really makes sense within the framework or religious dogma, otherwise one is just pulling the definition out of a hat. Let's call a spade a spade here. In practice, it seems that individuals (be they citizens or not) who are friends and relatives of murdered victims often go that extra step of asking for the death penalty instead of life imprisonment purely because they can label it as "justice," when in fact such a request satisfies their desire (or perhaps blood lust) for revenge. Whether white collar, blue collar, or gangsta t-shirt, everyone still has dark emotions lurking in their amygdala and caudate nucleus. Punishment (despite its connotations of vindictiveness) sometimes serves a deterrent purpose when measured out in a manner that effectively reduces crime in the least invasive and offensive manner. The problem, however, is that individuals and groups often act out primitive, reptilian emotions /instincts by clamoring for the death of a perceived enemy and then rationalize their demands later as just carrying out (moral) business as usual.
  19. The insanity defense is used in only 1% of felony cases (with almost all of those found not guilty being hospitalized). and is a rather fluid and vague: McNaghten rule: Defendant did not know the act was wrong, so is insane, and whether guilty or not, should be hospitalized indefinitely for treatment, perhaps (as later codified in the Durham Rule) because of mental illness. Some states added an "irresistible impulse", codified later in the ALI test: Knew the act was wrong, but couldn’t control/stop himself. Though the percentage of people who kill could perhaps be found clinically psychotic, or who did not know that an act was “wrong,” (i.e., against the law) is minute, it is arguable that a very large percent of murderers, for example, kill on impulse, be it a jealous lover, an adulterer whose spouse who gets in the way or has a large insurance policy, a gang member getting revenge for the murder of his brother, etc. Given that insanity is, apart from pragmatic legal distinctions, a matter of opinion and degree, and not a black/white, good/evil, innocent/guilty, manner from a psychiatric point of view, one might conclude that no one can play (mind-reading) God as if there is some discernible point whereby an individual can, “beyond a reasonable doubt” be judged to be beyond some sort of metaphysical pale. In short, in cases whereby a death penalty might seem to be relevant, the court should not be in the business of determining sanity or evil (and thus of granting vengeance to victims), but rather of removing the threat the individual might pose through incarceration for a suitable period of time, and/or inconveniencing the individual through incarceration for a suitable period of time so as to deter himself or others from repeating a given act, and/or removing the individual from society through treatment in order to provide rehabilitation for a suitable period of time “Incarceration” traditionally includes, at the discretion of the courts, anything from community service to solitary confinement. In some cases, lifetime incarceration may be needed.
  20. Memmamal: Your comments re Adam/Eve provide a nice clarification. Too often religious people try to hijack science in a token effort to validate scriptures. Such a roundabout approach can often be more effective and insidious than just trying to say that science is wrong because it contradicts scriptures, or to say that science is wrong by focusing on any current gaps in a scientific worldview, e.g., that of evolution. I wonder, for example, if there is any actual scientific evidence at all that the earth or the universe is around 6 thousand years old? I suspect that one might as well pick any similar number out of a hat, e.g., 50,000 or 500,000, and then try to find scientific evidence to confirm it. Such argumentation obfuscates the fact that the worldview of the Bible (Koran, Torah, etc.) is premodern and archaic. Indeed, in terms of modern historical analysis, the belief systems that issued from the Levant were no less primitive and superstitious than those found at the time in, for example, India or China. Unfortunately, these early tribal superstitions were not only then, but in the centuries to follow, used to gain control of the masses and to justify the often violent accumulation of land, gold, and other resources. Both direct efforts to belittle and surreptitious efforts to befriend science are blatant attempts to lend credence to claims that everything found in scriptures is undeniably true (from, for example, the miraculous creation of humans in a single breath to the ascension of one back into the arms of the creator) as well as to claims that a deity has a divine plan for an elite group of followers. Obviously no group would want to relinquish its hold on the advantageous position that its divinely inspired and thus unquestionable scriptures affords them, and therefore will blindly oppose or try to assimilate any further advancements that the rest of civilization might throw at them.
  21. Mike: Yes, I can see the similarities. But I too was under the impression that the universe somehow curved back on itself so that there are no edges. Perhaps one is putting the cart before the horse. It might help to know a little more about the basis of that which is causing said waves before speculating about the medium, e.g., the elusive gravitons. I understand that it seems like every other type of wave seems to need a medium, so it seems logical that gravity would follow suit. But I wonder whether that is true: light/electromagnetic waves can travel through a vacuum, and do not require a medium. In empty space, the wave does not dissipate (grow smaller) no matter how far it travels, because the wave is not interacting with anything else. I gather that gravitational waves also not only travel at the speed of light, but can travel through a vacuum. I presume that gravitational waves (re gravitons?) per se also have no mass. One explanation for the fact that light does not need a physical medium, is that light, and electric/magnetic waves in general travel through their own all-pervasive fields, which keep oscillating and propagating themselves through space. The electric and magnetic waves don't require a medium (other than spacetime and electromagnetic fields) because they aren't transmitted via massive particles. (An massive aether is unlikely given that there is, for one thing, no detectable drag on objects through space.) Apparently one can say that there are higher probabilities of detecting photons at certain places in beams of light and that the pattern of these probabilities has a formal resemblance to physical waves. So it should be of no overwhelming surprise or significance that we find resemblances between massive physical waves (e.g., water) and those in space/time. Perhaps a key point, then,regarding the necessity of a physical medium is the issue of whether or not a wave has mass. Somebody please correct me if I am off track, but it seems that massless waves do not require a medium because they, in some sense, provide the ubiquitous field through which they travel, while massive waves do require massive fields. I agree that I need a lot more math in order to really know what I am talking about, but I can often follow the abstract paragraph in a quantum theory study, while the rest is mostly gibberish to me. So at this point I am just looking for the abstract paragraph here, and will wade into the math with less of a chill when I have it.
  22. Ten Oz: No I don't think that the Constitution is religious in nature. (Apparently the only religious allusion in it is the use of A.D. to mark the date). Perhaps I misphrased things. I meant to suggest that the Constitution was a step away from the constitutions of many a country in Europe, which were indeed religious in nature. I couldn't agree more that there is a correlation between high degree of punishment (e.g. as often found in authoritarian parenting style) and personal/social outcomes. I think that grandparent effect you mention is pretty universal. Grandparents have less responsibility in terms of discipline. I guess the dilemma for parents is that they would like to be closer to their children, but do not want to lose the authority (familiarity breeds contempt sort of thing). Often parents vacillate between the extremes of over friendliness and over strictness, often to the chagrin and cognitive dissonance of many a child. Some parents can pull it off, but, in general, I think its a matter of not being able to have ones cake and eat it too....pick a role and stick with it sort of thing. In general, just to clarify, I agree with everything you said.
  23. I read back through the thread a bit, so I thought it was the former. And yes, some people do treat words as stones....the transition is particularly noticeable when they start ignoring the logic and evidence one has presented and resort to using phrases that attack or dismiss one altogether.
  24. Um, I don't recall providing a definition that subscribe to, so I don't really have any need to provide evidence. Indeed, I am not sure what point you are trying to make. You seem to agree that punishments vary from one culture to the next regarding the same crime, which really is just a way of saying that ethics are culturally relative. In terms of the question of whether the death penalty is ethical, it would seem that both of us agree that it depends on what alleged crime one is talking about, who is the defendant, and which culture one is referring to. Bottom line, the answer as to whether the death penalty is ethical becomes yes, no, maybe, depends. Gilga: It seems to me that you are objecting to the round about condoning of the death penalty by those who appear to be saying that it is bad, but that it is nevertheless okay as long as one has tried other things such as short term jail sentences, or are you saying that for some people, we should just end their lives right away so that we aren't sending them to prison and then letting them out to see if they behave, thereby leading to repeat offenders?
  25. So you agree that what is just and fair can vary from culture to culture and perhaps individual to individual.. rather arbitrary don't you think. And which is it, the culture decides what is fair, or the individual... and what if there are mixed opinions within the culture, e.g., on the issue of abortion, with variants such as incest, rape, safety of mother. And what happens to the idea of justice if the law in a given state is changed from one year to the next, or people in a given town reject state law on abortion and pass laws of their own against the state law. So your definition is rather vague to begin with. Really, the only thing that makes sense is that we get back to the idea that justice be distributed equally and impartially within a given culture, not the severity of the punishment. Again, what evidence other than your own (say, for example, a different wiki article) supports your definition? Gilga: I see your mind is sharp..I would not be capable, or couldn't be bothered pointing out such a litany of inconsistencies.
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