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← Why I’d Rather Not Speak About Torture

Red Dog's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Red Dog

Mr. Harriss, I think you have a fine mind and I agree with most of the things you say I think your idea that science could determine the answer to ethical questions is correct and an important advancement for atheism and ethics.

However, the question of torture is one where we disagree and judging from this article I think we still do. What you seem to say is not that you were wrong but that you regret bringing up the issue. Here are the reasons why I as an atheist am categorically against torture:

1) Its not a reliable method of getting information. If you listen to any of the real experts in the field or take a critical look at examples of interrogation over the last few decades the evidence overwhelmingly shows that torture is not a reliable method of getting information. When you torture someone they will say whatever you want them to say. All the real experts agree on this. The way you get good information is to establish a bond with the person being interrogated. This latter method has been amazingly useful when for example the FBI has used it to get information from captured terrorists.

2) While "well being" may make sense as an overall guiding principle in reality we need more specific laws and principles to guide us. A universal declaration of human rights is essential starting point and any such declaration would include torture as something that no civilized people do. Ever. Period. No exceptions. Once we start to violate that rule we really raise the question: how are we morally superior to the terrorists we are fighting?

3) In reality well intentioned rationalizations for torture such as those presented by Mr. Harriss are used by people in power to justify torture that is not really intended to get critical information to save lives but to intimidate people and to get the information that those in power want to hear. If you look at all the (unfortunately numerous) cases of torture through modern history: from Soviet Russia, the right wing dictatorships of Central and South America, the US supported puppet government of South Vietnam, and the Bush administration, this has been the case.

Fri, 29 Apr 2011 16:34:10 UTC | #620693