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Posts posted by dstebbins

  1. When it comes to the criminal justice system, there are two general attitudes with which we can approach the situation: The first is to favor punishment. This involves inflicting concentrated and state-sanctioned suffering onto the offender (either through imprisonment, fines, or corporeal punishment such as state-sanctioned floggings, canings, or executions). The idea, here, is that the pain will, after the punishment concludes, cause the offender to not commit the offensive conduct in the future out of fear of enduring that suffering in the future. Punishments that never conclude, such as life in prison or the death penalty, are designed to scare people into not committing the associated offenses in the first place.
    The second way to approach criminal justice is through reform, rather than retribution. Responses to the crime consist mainly of teaching the offender the error of his ways, showing him healthier ways to work through his problems, and teaching him to feel empathy towards others.
    What I find rather interesting is that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the two attitudes have almost no overlap. Governments focused on "teaching a lesson" to their criminals usually see it a waste of time to actually sit down with criminals and try to help them understand. They "understand" nothing but cause and effect. So all we really need to "teach" them is "cause: You rob a bank. Effect: You go to jail." Anything beyond that is a waste of time, energy, and taxpayer money, because even if it might work, the offender clearly doesn't deserve that benefit of the doubt! Those who constantly ask what they did wrong get repeatedly tased and pepper sprayed until they stop bothering the guards with stupid questions they already know the answer to.
    Meanwhile, the vast majority of countries that focus more on rehabilitation rather than punishment (such as Norway or Sweden) see actual infliction of suffering as counter-productive to criminal rehabilitation, and as such, tend to keep the "punishment" aspect of their criminal justice systems to a minimum.
    Now here's the thing about criminal justice: The former approach to rehabilitation of criminals is scientifically proven to not work. In fact, it is scientifically proven, not just to be wholly ineffective, but downright counter-productive to its goals of rehabilitating the offender. The latter (reform rather than punishment, like in Sweden and Norway) is overwhelmingly shown to produce consistently lower recidivism rates than the former.
    So that begs the question: Why are we, as humans, psychologically predisposed to favor the former type of treatment than the latter? Wouldn't evolution have given us a tendency to prefer the type of response to criminal behavior that is more effective?
    In the days of hunter-gatherers, it would obviously make sense, from a survival standpoint, to keep as many members of your tribe alive, and combat-capable, as possible, so you can have the best chance of fending off predators and enemy tribes, as well as perform the most communal manual labor. This would naturally compel a policy within the tribe of removing someone from the tribe (either through execution or banishment) only if it was absolutely, positively necessary. Even for punishments that don't result in the member being permanently removed from the tribe (such as a husband beating his wife without killing her), how would cavemen evolve to prefer to use the infliction of pain as a standard response to deviant activity ... if it doesn't work?!
    From an evolutionary standpoint, what survival advantage could possibly be bestowed onto our ancestors in favoring a response to a problem that is consistently counter-productive to their goals?
  2. Swansont, I appreciate you sticking up for me. Really, I do appreciate it.

    But maybe YOU can help me with this question, provided you actually understand what I'm asking. I understand that you may not be an expert in psychology or human behavior, but are you adept at finding scientific studies?

    Because as I pointed out in my first reply after the OP, I was looking for actual scientific theories, not just people speculating.

    I tried googling it, and maybe it's just because the question is poorly worded to the point where Google can't understand what I'm saying (my OP seems to be poorly phrased to the point where these sentient, human posters get confused), but I wasn't able to find a single actual theory on why this happens. The closest I was able to find was this article, which is more just some guy ranting about how frustrating the phenomenon is rather than making a serious attempt to explain it scientifically: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-we-blame/201708/why-we-hate-people-who-disagree

  3. Well, you wanted me to reduce it to a single sentence. If you want further elaboration, see my OP.

    It is obvious that there are a large number of people who are able to disagree respectfully with other people's opinions. However, there are plenty of people who have no desire to have sex or start a family, yet it is undisputed that humans are psychologically predisposed to want that (at least overall).

    It is common observance that there are plenty of people out there who see malice or incompetence in people who disagree with their opinions. There is clearly nature at work here.

  4. 11 minutes ago, iNow said:

    think about why you just lashed out here in this thread against me and zapatos. What prompted YOU to do that?

    I disagree that I lashed out, at least at first. I believe I merely pointed out how your responses were inadequate to what I actually asked. You were the ones who got all defensive against me because I didn't go along with your belief that I should just shrug and accept that it's "just human nature."


    If you don’t understand, then ask questions. 

    You mean like this ... 


  5. 1 minute ago, iNow said:

    Reread my first word. Then the sentence which follows.

    Yeah ... that doesn't tell me anything.

    Why are monkeys predisposed to behave that way on an instinctual level? If I understood that question, maybe you would be fair in expecting me to understand that humans' brains function in a similar capacity. But you make a huge assumption on my part by assuming that I should just automatically understand why monkey brains are predisposed to behave that way.

  6. 1 minute ago, iNow said:

    Tribalism. We’re basically monkeys without tales and slightly less hair. 

    Also, there are entire nation states dedicated to convincing the planet there’s no such thing as objective truth. There’s no reason to accept dissenting opinions when you can pretend instead there’s no such thing as facts.

    I haven’t yet gone this analogy, but I’ve said it this way a few times... While we’re playing chess and thinking about how best to move our knight or our rook, our opponents are instead setting the board on fire and pretending there’s no such thing as spaces or squares. They’re not thinking about how best to counter our move. They’re thinking of how best to nullify it.

    You literally did not answer my OP question, just now.

    My OP question was "Why are people predisposed to do X on an instinctual level?" You responded by saying "People do X."

  7. This is not a universal aspect of human psychology, but it is nonetheless an observable phenomenon.

    When somebody feels strongly enough about their own belief, no matter how subjective that belief is, it is not at all uncommon to see people treat their beliefs as objective fact. Not only that, but anyone who disagrees with their opinions will be subject to ridicule as if they were a flat earth theorist. At least flat earth theorists are disagreeing with us on an issue of objective fact. Those who hold hyper-passionate opinions will often treat dissenters like they (A) are being willfully obtuse just to troll others, (B) have such low levels of intelligence and/or such high levels of naivety that they can't see the cold hard facts right in front of them, (C) are themselves being actively manipulated or even outright brainwashed by external forces for said third party's own sinister ends, or (D) all of the above.

    For example, there's this video game that was released last year called Fallout 76. To say it is a heavily polarizing game would be an understatement. There are people who believe that it deserves to be considered the worst game of the decade, and that this one game is proof that Bethesda (the game company that made Fallout 76) is just in it for the money and doesn't care about the quality of their games. Others see it as just as great a game as Skyrim (which, for those who aren't gamers, was also made by Bethesda and is one of the best selling video games of the past decade).

    With that setup established, here's a youtube comment I recently read (I hope you don't mind, but I'll censor my own youtube handle to protect my privacy):


    Wow! Just ... just wow! I get that you don't like the game, but accusing Bethesda of brainwashing their customers is a very serious accusation.

    Now, if it could be objectively proven that Bethesda had indeed genuinely brainwashed the current (as opposed to past) Fallout 76 fanbase, then yes, that would indeed be a huge crossing of moral lines, and the executives at Bethesda deserve to be thrown in prison.

    But there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Bethesda ever even attempted anything of the sort of anybody, let alone got anywhere close to success on any victim.

    Before I continue, let me go off on a bit of a tangent to explain something: Whether Bethesda actually did this is an unproven, but still objective question of fact. However, if it could be proven, my aforementioned statement of "that would be a huge crossing of moral lines" and "the executives ... deserve to be thrown in prison." Those two statements were still technically opinions. However, by 21st century standards, the evilness of such behavior commands so much consensus among people of 21st century developed nations that it might as well just be objective fact. I'll label that as a "quasi-objective opinion," unless you guys know the official term for something like that, where it is technically subjective but so agreed upon that it might as well be objective.

    Anyway, despite the lack of evidence, The Protagonist says that Fallout 76 fans were "OBVIOUSLY" brainwashed. In other words, the game is such utter poo poo, and the evidence that the game is utter poo poo is so one-sided in his side's favor, that there is no possibility that anyone could ever genuinely and sincerely disagree with that opinion, at least not in good faith. As I mentioned earlier, the belief that Bethesda "brainwashing" their customers is an act of evil is also an opinion, but the opinion commands so much consensus among the people of the 21st century that there is honestly no room for argument. Apparently, The Protagonist believes that Fallout 76 being a "bad game" is likewise such a "quasi-objective opinion" that to disagree with that opinion for any reason is necessarily evidence of far more sinister behavior at work.

    And that comment got 70 upvotes!

    Now, this is only one example, but it is far from an isolated incident. Many of you no-doubt can think of at least a few dozen incidents in the past couple of years in your own personal lives where you have seen people demonstrate similar levels of self-entitlement to their own opinions.

    So the question is ... why? What aspect of human psychology actually causes us to feel so strongly in the objective righteousness of our own opinions to the extent of accusing dissenters of objectively immoral behavior like trolling or being brainwashed? This has been a part of human culture for long enough that surely at least a few scientists have set out to explain it. I'd like to know what the current most popular theory is.

  8. 2 minutes ago, Carrock said:

    I don't believe 'humane' i.e. minimally unpleasant execution has ever been tried.

    Animal and human studies have shown that being rendered unconscious by a brief high concentration of argon or nitrogen is painless, with no reason to think that lethal exposure causes pain.

    AFAIK such a method has never been tried. 

    There used to be possibly true American stories of executioners winding up and down the electric chair voltage for entertainment, and now of course lethal injections with the claim 'We're sure this time it will work as planned.' An important reason for executions is stories like those, whether or not they are true.

    In many states the sensible thing for a psychopath who has accidentally killed someone during a robbery is to kill all the witnesses, since there is no additional punishment and his chance of escaping justice is better. 

    So how does this comment on the objective effectiveness of tortuous execution as a criminal deterrent? It almost seems as if you're advocating a quick & painless execution for those who commit a single murder but ramp it up to a long and tortuous one if they commit multiple murders. But how effective would that be as a criminal deterrent?

    Also, executioners who themselves drag out the executions longer than necessary for their own sadistic pleasure is not the same thing as the method of execution itself being long and tortuous. The executioner in the former case is committing a crime himself (although whether he actually gets punished for that crime is a different story), whereas a Roman general nailing a traitor to a cross on the Emperor's orders before leaving him to hang until death is not. The electric chair isn't supposed to be long and tortuous by design, and it's not something that an aspiring criminal can think about when he's weighing the risk of committing the crime.

    That last one is essential to the discussion I'm trying to get going, because that last one is the whole point of it being a criminal deterrent.

  9. Yeah well ... can we discuss the question I asked in the OP and title thread? Pretty please!

    Also ...


    6 minutes ago, Sensei said:

    But such people are rather exception (...), invisible in statistics, rather than rule.

    "Source: Becky Pettit, Bryan Sykes, and Bruce Western, “Technical Report on Revised Population Estimates and NLSY79 Analysis Tables for the Pew Public Safety and Mobility Project” (Harvard University, 2009)." 



    Okay, but the largest percentage of criminals consist of high school dropouts, not just college dropouts. We already have free secondary education. Unless you want to advocate that college becomes mandatory, then making it free isn't going to help much.

  10. 7 minutes ago, Sensei said:

    IMHO, the best way to reduce criminal activity in society is free of charge higher degree education..


    If you think there are no criminal geniuses (e.g. those who are able to rig together MacGuiver-quality equipment out of bubble gum, a bag of rubber bands, and a roll of duck tape) who could have nearly any job they wanted, but who CHOOSE a life of crime, then you are sorely mistaken.


    EDIT: https://www.ranker.com/list/smart-serial-killers/lea-rose-emery

  11. Ok, so it's fairly common knowledge that, contrary to intuition, states in the USA that do not have the death penalty actually have lower murder rates than those that do. If that wasn't common knowledge to you ... well ... a 2-minute google search can verify it for you.

    But those studies only compare capital punishment vs. non-capital punishment. What about different forms of capital punishment? Is more humane execution more effective as a criminal deterrent than slow, painful, and (most importantly of all) public death?

    While I was able to find plenty of articles detailing the attitudes of the policy-makers of the Roman Empire regarding execution methods such as crucifixion, such as this one, I was unable to find any article based on objective fact giving any insight as to how objectively accurate these attitudes were. For example, in the article I just linked you to, he says "Do that [crucifixion] a few times for horse-theft, and see how many horse thieves you’ll find."

    However, he quickly tempers this argument by saying "Or so the Romans reasoned, in any event."

    I was able to find this article on the effectiveness of torture, but it did not even purport to be grounded in objective fact verified by unbiased and/or double-blind research. Rather, this article purports on its face to be a survey taken of regular people giving their biased and uncorroborated opinions.

    Now please understand that I am not asking for any input on whether tortuous execution is morally justified, cruel and unusual, a necessary evil, or whatever. I am asking for one thing and one thing only: Whether citizens in a country threatened with slow, painful, public execution are less likely to commit crimes than in political borders that provide for more "humane" executions (including the execution being conducted privately and only after numerous appeals), all else being equal.

    That last part about "all else being equal" is admittedly a tough criterion to meet, as you are very unlikely to find two countries - even countries that no longer exist and never existed at the same time - who are almost completely identical in their judicial and penal systems, except for the exact method by which they carry out capital punishments. The comparisons between capital and non-capital punishments in the United States that I mentioned at the top of this OP are more immediately comparable, because the U.S. Constitution guarantees a certain uniform standard of justice across the various states. It's a situation that's more-less unique to the USA.

    Even if you could find two countries that were similar enough in their judicial and penal processes, we would also have to consider what sort of technology and forensics they routinely used. If they existed at two different points in world history, that factor is out the window almost instantly. After all, it's fairly well documented that punishment certainty is generally a more effective criminal deterrent than punishment severity, and what forensics technology the government has at its disposal will undoubtedly have a monumental impact on the former factor.

    So is there anything out there that's even remotely objective and scientific, commenting on the effectiveness of torturous execution as a criminal deterrent?

  12. 2 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

    So the arrest rates are genuine (i.e. kosher). The police are not lying about the rates themselves.

    It's just that the police may be arresting inappropriately. E.g. arresting blacks for violent crimes when no such crime was committed, or arresting blacks for genuine crimes of violence disproportionately compared to other races.


    If the arrests are done out of racism, they are not "kosher."

    4 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

    So the arrest rates are genuine (i.e. kosher). The police are not lying about the rates themselves.

    It's just that the police may be arresting inappropriately. E.g. arresting blacks for violent crimes when no such crime was committed, or arresting blacks for genuine crimes of violence disproportionately compared to other races.


    Kosher - adjective - being proper, acceptable, or satisfactory.


    Arrests done out of racism are the complete opposite of that.

  13. 1 hour ago, Reg Prescott said:

    You seem to concede that the arrest rates adduced by the police are kosher.

    Uuuuuh ... no ... actually my OP implied the complete opposite, that the arrests that police use to justify their racial profiling are themselves caused by the very racism police say they don't have.

  14. 2 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:


    Since it's such a sensitive subject, I'd like to make very clear at the outset that I take no stance on the factual issues here. Only the logic interests me.

    The first problem here is that the real world example you give us -- police and blacks -- does not seem to fit your own X-Y model of the opening paragraph.

    X is the undisputed fact that blacks are the most common victims of police brutality. Y is the putative fact that "blacks are inordinately violent" adduced by the police to justify the undisputed high rate of brutality. And we'll let Z be the hypothesis "the police are racist against blacks".

    (Obviously we're simplifying just a wee bit here into mutually exclusive categories)

    Now, since you say "Y is created by the very people arguing that X is justified", taken literally, this presupposes Y is indeed the case. After all Y has been "created". In other words, applying your X-Y model to the real world, it is true that blacks are inordinately violent, though true only in virtue of the police themselves making it a reality. It's a problem of the police's own creation.

    No, police claim that blacks are inordinately violent, as evidenced by the blacks' high arrest rates. Police have near total control over the high arrest rates. So the hypothesis is that blacks are inordinately violent and therefore deserving of police brutality, but it lacks any evidence that the advocates of that hypothesis can't directly manipulate.

    7 hours ago, et pet said:

        How about :  cum hoc ergo propter hoc ?

    According to that fallacy, it is when someone assumes causality when coincidence is just as probable.


    A tenant moves into an apartment and the building's furnace goes faulty. The manager blames the tenant's arrival for the malfunction. One event merely followed the other, in the absence of causality.
    The Brazilian footballer Pelé is said to have blamed a dip in his playing performance on having given a fan a specific playing shirt; after getting the shirt back his performance recovered. The loss of the shirt was given as the reason for his dip, and its return the cause of his recovery. However, it was later discovered the shirt returned was not the original shirt.

    In those two examples, there is no causality whatsoever. In the two examples I gave in my OP, there is indeed some causality; the only thing that is in dispute is what the causality is. Is the cause of the problem racism by cops, or violence by blacks? Is the cause of the early lesson a legitimate prophecy, or the fact that the teacher sets the exam?

  15. It's a fallacy where one argues that X is justified because Y, but the problem is that Y is created by the very people arguing that X is justified so they can have a justification for it.

    At first I thought the term "self-validation" could apply, but according to this webpage ... https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201407/self-validation ... that's a different concept. After that, I thought about using the term "self-justification," but while this fallacy may be a type of self-justification, that phrase encompasses every circumstance where you justify your own actions, even when your arguments are valid.

    Here's an example of the sort of fallacy I'm thinking of: In the USA, African Americans are, bar none, the most common victims of police brutality, especially in fatal encounters. Statistically, that fact is undisputed. However, to counter this, some police and advocates of them argue that police killings of black people is not out of racism per se, but rather, because black people are statistically more likely to commit violent crimes than whites. Thus, these people argue, black people are more likely to put police in an ultimatum where they realistically feel that it's kill or be killed.

    Now, obviously, that can be considered RAF (racist as sex) in its own right, so to back up their claims, they cite the arrest rates across the USA. Although blacks make up a disproportionate amount of police shootings in the USA, they also make up a disproportionate amount of violent crime arrests, and ...

    ... and this next part is very important ...

    ... the rate at which blacks are arrested for violent crimes is on par with the rate at which they get shot by police!


    Well, that all sounds well and good, except for one problem: The police - a.k.a. the very people killing the black people in these statistics - are the same people who decide who to arrest!

    Hell, that Channel 4 article doesn't even cite conviction rates! It only cites arrest rates!


    38.5 per cent of people arrested for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault were black ... We’re talking about arrests not convictions

    Innocent until proven guilty?! Never heard of it!

    Another good example of this sort of fallacy at work comes from the novel "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Specifically, this excerpt right here:


    "I have decided to introduce the crystal ball a little earlier than I had planned," said Professor Trelawney, sitting with her back to the fire and gazing around. "The fates have informed me that your examination in June will concern the Orb, and I am anxious to give you sufficient practice."

    Hermione snorted.

    "Well, honestly... 'the fates have informed her' who sets the exam? She does! What an amazing prediction!" she said, not troubling to keep her voice low. Harry and Ron choked back laughs.

    So what exactly would this sort of logical fallacy be called? Where you argue your actions are justified based on evidence that you yourself have a lot of influence, if not total control, over.

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