Death Penalty redux

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    Using your argument to break my logic, Seop, you must argue that the state has not just a lesser interest in the actions of an individual, ie. abortion vs. CP but that it has none whatsoever. (And you don’t indicate why the distinction matters?)

    But since you don’t, you get to determine your own scale of “interest” level and your argument is internally sound but requires a corollary – which is that the “good” of the state overrides the good of the individual. Again, that’s a personal position and a defensible one.

    And what of the person who requests their sentence to be carried out without objection? The state agrees and we are the state? Who’s desires override that and why?



    MM, I apologize for the snark, it was inappropriate. And I’m not trolling or at least not attempting to on a topic this serious to be sure.

    I may have misinterpreted something you posted, as I do try to read and process what you say as I respect your thinking and positions a great deal. Please let me know what notes I seemed to have skimmed and I’ll reread.

    I know of Hume and his writings, although I haven’t studied it in depth in quite a long time. I will review it. But I am familiar with the potential problems of induction.

    As for how many women I would risk, the answer can still be zero. As clearly there are women who choose to end pregnancies without medical cause and those are not distinct in the law’s eyes from those that are. Can they be? Should they be? Those are other questions currently un-adressed by law.


    Alki Warrior

    So that inmate in Oklahoma died and was executed by state law Its over with continue on…



    “Another way to look at Person A is to ask what would happen to his/her request if capital punishment were abolished. Shame, self-hatred, depression, the desire to atone for the crime, or desire to avoid life in prison would not be accepted as reasons for assisted suicide.”

    That’s an interesting thought. Which gets into the question of individual autonomy over one’s body and whether the state has the right to prevent an inmate from committing suicide? The kinds of things that are required to take away the opportunity to kill yourself get fairly extensive and could suggest that the life lived at that point is quite grim, isolated and debate-ably cruel and unusual? Just pondering…



    And Seop, you suggest that you have a greater interest in CP than self-defense, abortion or assisted suicide. Do you mean that as your individual interest or that ANY individual in society’s interest?

    I ask because I would think self-defense would be the highest of interests, as an individual, it seems more likely that one would be involved in that issue than a CP case? Maybe I’m misinterpreting that part?



    Re: post #24

    “Another way to look at Person A is to ask what would happen to his/her request if capital punishment were abolished. Shame, self-hatred, depression, the desire to atone for the crime, or desire to avoid life in prison would not be accepted as reasons for assisted suicide.”

    Does that thought not move toward the direction of making suicide a privilege, not a right? One that can be denied to an individual under some circumstances? Not sure how to get away from that particular interpretation? Hmmm…is it a privilege?



    And yes, MM, as you suggest, I’m more of a Cartesian Rationalist by nature as opposed to a Humeian Skepticist. :-)


    WF …

    1) Regarding the Problem of Induction (and if I say something which you already know here, I apologize. Eventually, I’ll connect it to my point) …

    Suppose you’re a swan researcher. Every swan that you’ve seen is white. Can you conclude (induce) that ALL swans are white?

    Hume would say no, because you cannot check every place in the universe where swans may live.

    Suppose that you at the scene of robbery at a convenience store in which the the assailant shoots and kills the clerk, a few feet away. Since you were there and close by, the set of possible explanations (other than what it was … murder) is very small. Maybe you unknowingly walked onto movie production set? (I gots nuttin’ besides that.)

    But to others, like in a court room setting, they don’t have the same experience that you have. The set of all possible explanations expands, perhaps infinitely. All they have is evidence.

    Video footage? Technology permits very realistic, fake video. And photography has been manipulated pretty much since the invention of film, including some very famous photos that many people don’t know are composites.

    Eyewitness accounts? Perhaps they aren’t credible. Maybe being paid off. They weren’t wearing their glasses right then.

    Fingerprints? Could be planted.

    Maybe the detectives were crooked.

    So all of that to answer, ‘No’ to your initial question, ‘Is it possible to have ZERO doubt about who perpetrated some crime?’ And as humans, the best that we can hope to attain is a level of knowing that is beyond REASONABLE doubt.

    And all of this dovetails into Philosophy of Science, confirmation vs. corroboration, etc. But that’s another subject.

    2) “As for how many women I would risk, the answer can still be zero. As clearly there are women who choose to end pregnancies without medical cause and those are not distinct in the law’s eyes from those that are.”

    I don’t believe it is possible to concoct a system in which the only abortions performed are those in which the woman’s life is in danger.

    Despite centuries of practice, our legal system, already overwhelmed, as it stands now, and it still screws up. Such a system might take too long and women end up dying, waiting for a verdict. This system would also necessitate attorneys fees which need to be paid. And what about privacy issues? As a dude, I’d hate to have to see a judge in order to get a prescription for my erectile dysfunction; my neighbors and coworkers might laugh at me should those legal records be made public. For women and abortion … embarrassment and giggling could turn into outright hostility and death threats.

    And so we outlaw abortion because it’s murder. Is a woman who smokes during pregnancy guilty of child endangerment or attempted murder? What if she forgot to put on her seat belt? Went boating? Skipped taking her prenatal vitamins? Opts for hamburger instead of green leafy vegetables? And how does the State coerce a woman into caring for an infant that she didn’t want in the first place? Threaten her with jail time? Is the foster care system capable of handling millions of additional children?

    (And again, will the GOP allow such an expansion of the “Welfare State?”)

    There exists certain aspects of human life in which laws can create additional problems and unintended consequences. The “War on Drugs” is often cited as the premier example. I’d argue that the Republican “War on Women” and the contained battle over abortion is another, more relevant, example.

    Any answer, other than leaving it up to a woman and her doctor, is the wrong answer, in my opinion.

    And I apologize for my snark also. But I will say this … My experience: Nothing good ever comes from Internet abortion discussions. I’ve been in more than a few, and regretted it each and every time! On the bright side, I’m savvy-enough to also know that I will not change yours or anyone else’s mind. The best that I can hope for is to convince any (unfortunate) reader that I’ve given the issue a lot of consideration.




    wake, my point is that it’s not inconsistent to believe that there is a scale/continuum of “killing”, including but not limited to war, capital punishment, murder, self defense, abortion, assisted suicide, suicide. Of course, in any one of these situations a particular individual may have a “personal” interest that is greater than someone else’s (e.g., you are related to the victim, you are the woman having the abortion, you are the soldier being sent into battle). But aside from that, I would argue that any (other) person’s interest is greater in a war waged by his/her country than in another person’s suicide. (Interest is probably not the right word; I don’t mean care or concern, I mean “standing” or “say,” the right to protest, the right to vote to abolish … the thing that you originally seemed to imply could not be greater for one type of killing than for another.)

    My comment about Person A relates to your suggestion that capital punishment might be looked at as a type of assisted suicide if the convicted person is willing. I don’t see how you leap from there to saying that suicide is a privilege …



    Hey MM, agree on all counts. (Well, save I’ve got some Cartesian counter-points to some of Humes’ thoughts but they will stay inside my little head!) :-)

    I sometimes forget that I’m working through positions as I type and they obviously come off like a kid in a debate class at times – complete with unnecessary escalation! – and that’s both unfortunate (for the reader!) and uncalled for.

    Thanks for cutting me some slack and sharing your thoughts. It IS always a good reminder that minds are rarely changed through these posts and the best one can usually do is give someone pause for further contemplation.

    Cheers back mate!


    “And yes, MM, as you suggest, I’m more of a Cartesian Rationalist by nature as opposed to a Humeian Skepticist. :-) “

    Where’s the Reddit-style downvote button?

    / I keed, I keed.




    “My comment about Person A relates to your suggestion that capital punishment might be looked at as a type of assisted suicide if the convicted person is willing. I don’t see how you leap from there to saying that suicide is a privilege”

    Sorry, I wasn’t very clear and I wasn’t exactly sure how to interpret that statement about Person A.

    What I was assuming was if you DIDN’T have CP and you had a convict who wanted to die, not only wouldn’t you “assist” them but you would actively prevent them from committing suicide. The rest of my pondering came from that idea. Are people on death row actively prevented from committing suicide? Do they have no belts or cord or things sharp enough to cut themselves?? If yes, then that would seem to function as a denial of a person’s autonomy of body. That’s where I was going…



    MM, HA! Who let Triumph in the house? And more importantly, where did he poop?!!



    “If you want to deny that connection, you get to but that just means you don’t want to recognize it. Otherwise, feel free to argue that abortion is not taking life.”

    The two issues you are conflating are not related and no matter how many different directions you head off in and how many hypothetical situations you cook up, they aren’t going to be.

    One of the fundamental issues with abortion is when life begins. I don’t know the answer to that. Neither do you. Neither do all the religous folks who think they do. I do, however, know for a fact that the woman carrying the fetus is alive, sentient, and should have the right to control her body and whatever is sharing space with it. So I consider myself to be pro-choice.

    The fact that I deny the connection between this and the death penalty does not mean “I just don’t want to recognize it.” It means I think you’re arguing from a false premise and working very hard to find some way to find an angle that makes your argument work out but I’m afraid that it’s not gonna get there.

    So, on CP I’m against it totally for reasons I’ve expressed earlier. On abortion I am pro-choice and believe women should have control of their bodies. On the issue of justifying arbitrary decisions with “logic”, I know that our system of law and justice requires some of that, but I think the CP issue is unique and a completely unneccessary part of the system. Gotta run for now.



    And you almost got me started on a disfest of Hume’s theoretical stretches of logic to make his points!

    I keed, I keed! ;-)



    Fair enough Dobro, you think life begins at birth. There ya’ go. Think we’ve beaten this one up enough. Enjoy the weather!



    I think the best form of punishment that would replace the death penalty and still serve its purpose…as an extreme and better alternative then death would be for all those who would be sentence too death instead sentence them too… salutary confinement you see know one… can’t talk to know one… you become know one until you die alone….you get three square meals a day… be in a 8×8 cell with a window access to showers doctors.. your all alone too think no tv radio just your mind……



    “Fair enough Dobro, you think life begins at birth.”

    Dang! You made me have to post one more time! You don’t need to put words in my virtual mouth. I said…

    “One of the fundamental issues with abortion is when life begins. I don’t know the answer to that.”

    That does not read “life begins at birth”!

    Other than that, back out into the sun and see you on another thread!



    Sorry man! Didn’t mean to cost you minutes in the joyful sunshine. I stand corrected. (I’m not sure I can parse the functional distinction between what you and I said but that’s my problem, not yours.)

    And it goes without saying that I respect your thoughts on this blog as well, Dobro. Seaops too. You guys make me think hard and that’s a good thing.

    Be well and have fun! :-)


    So now that we’ve solved the abortion debate, how about a little Israel v. Palestine? Keynes v. Friedman? Krieg v. Moon v. Wilson? Ford v. Chevy? ;)

    And Dobro … The CORRECT answer is that life begins at 40.



    I disagree with wakeflood’s assertion that a person “cannot philosophically eliminate [the death penalty] as an option without breaking the logic [used] to justify abortion.” The problems with the death penalty go way beyond the killing of innocent people (although that reason is certainly enough to justify abandoning capital punishment).

    A much more significant problem with capital punishment (in terms of unjust executions) is that the decision about whether to seek the death penalty is made by human beings — prosecutors — who historically have exercised their discretion in a very biased fashion. For example, the death penalty is far more likely to be sought in cases where the victim is white than in cases where the victim is non-white. And that’s true regardless of the race of the alleged perpetrator. Similarly, prosecutors are more likely to seek, and juries more likely to impose, the death penalty when the perpetrator is poor, or has mental health issues, or is defended by a public defender.

    There is no logic, fairness, or justice in a system that singles out particular groups of people for the most extreme punishment. The relatively high rate of false convictions and extraordinary rate of constitutional violations in capital trials certainly make capital punishment more reprehensible, but they don’t overshadow the problem of selective application. Thus, one can hold different views on abortion and capital punishment without existing in a state of cognitive dissonance.



    Sigh… I realize this isn’t really going to change anything but I do wish to reiterate a couple quick things for the sake of clarification about my assertion.

    WW: I’m not saying that the two concepts are equally applied and have equal weight in society, what I’m saying is the following:

    1) Society (by request of its members) is required to address the issue of when life can legally be taken either by an individual member OR by designated members with immunity.

    2) Since there is debate about when that life is extant, in the case of abortion, the state is forced to designate when a life is a life. That date happens to be the determining factor for legality of an abortion. I didn’t choose that date, neither did Dobro. We collectively did. It’s hotly debated, and given the state of modern medicine, it is even more gray than it was when RvW was made law.

    3) I make no claim that the APPLICATION of CP is fair, or consistent. That’s a reason why CP is bad. I don’t disagree but that’s not my point. I’m saying that you can’t deny that CP can logically exist within a society that also has made a judgement about (debatably) taking a life. The closest anyone has come to rebutting my argument that the two concepts hold the common thread of “society has chosen to make taking a life legal in both cases”, is Seopgal – who conceded that the thread is indeed valid but she allows that since there’s different levels of “interest” by parties – some in society have no vested interest (according to her) in the individual nature of abortion. And all of society has some interest level in CP. That’s certainly worth a hearty discussion and a valid concept. I might suggest that abortion protesters, would and DO violently disagree with that but that’s THAT discussion, not the one I’m having.

    4) Many of the rebuttals I’ve had center around the difficulty of certainty about guilt. My point on that is simply that while some will argue that it’s impossible to have 100% certainty which makes ALL judgements of guilt suspect (not just CP cases), that makes CP bad. My issue with that is simply that I believe there are cases which certainty of guilt IS possible. Why? I believe that it’s possible to determine THINGS scientifically provable beyond ANY doubt whatsoever. Not just functional certitude (reasonable doubt), but indeed certainty. You may choose to use quantum mechanics uncertainty principle (molecular scale notwithstanding) or a Humeian philosophical argument about certainty, which is a debate for the ages but practically speaking, both me and the law assume certainty is doable. (I concede it’s pretty damn rare but not impossible.)

    Again, I’m not asserting that CP is a good idea. I’m not even asserting that CP DOESN’T have fatal flaws (pun NOT intended!). I’m simply suggesting that it has a common societal judgement that is shared with abortion. And to dismiss that connection means we’re not being completely honest about the debate within our own ranks.

    OK, I’m done. Go forth and have a fine, sunny day.



    MM, you’re spot on. So without further adieu:

    Palestine – two states




    We’re done, right? Right??? ;-)


    WF: I would like to again waste your time and degrade your eyesight on another long, meandering post; this time, an alternative view of science.

    “I believe that it’s possible to determine THINGS scientifically provable beyond ANY doubt whatsoever. Not just functional certitude (reasonable doubt), but indeed certainty.”

    If we were having this discussion pre-Copernicus, the prevailing model of the universe of the day was geocentrism, and Ptolemaic Model was generally the most accepted. Wikipedia has a whole page on this (in case you’re not familiar with it … you probably are …), but if you’ve previously seen a representation, you’ll remember that the known planets were depicted orbiting the Earth, along with these crazy loop-de-loops.

    As bizarre as this model seems now, it was the product of the best minds of the day, and it had *predictive* power … the Ptolemaic Model could tell you where to find Mars in our night sky, several years out. I mean, Ptolemy was no dummy!

    Eventually, observations ceased supporting the geocentric model; Galileo peering through his telescope at the moons of Jupiter helped lead science into an acceptance of heliocentrism.

    Another example … early models of the atom, from J.J. Thompson’s “Plum Pudding” to the Rutherford–Bohr model depicting electron orbits, have given way to today’s probability clouds of quantum mechanics. Even right now, the atomic model is being tweaked as science learns more about known sub-atomic particles, and discovers new ones.

    And there are countless other historical examples: Aristotelian physics >>> Newtonian physics >>> Einstein’s relativity; genetics; germ theory; etc.

    The point: If science is capable of PROVING things beyond a shadow of a doubt, then how do we explain what appears to be science getting things wrong?

    I alluded to this yesterday, but one possible answer is to give up on the idea that anything can completely, utterly, with zero doubt whatsoever be proven … confirmed … by anything, including science.

    Rather, science is the only tool that humanity truly has for obtaining information about how the universe works. It gives us the best possible picture, but that picture might be flawed or incomplete, and it is *always* subject to change.

    And we accept that.

    Scientific theories, models and laws continue to be accepted … up to the point that models and laws cease being predictive, the observations warrant changes, etc. A new model is put forth, the evidence *corroborates* (not confirm … that’s the vile language of induction!) … rinse … repeat … wipe hands on pants.

    (Sidenote: “Theory” is the strongest word in science for describing an idea, and I cringe whenever folks misuse the word. “That’s just a theory …” ugh …)

    And this adherence for going exclusively where the evidence leads is the most the awesome thing (besides the toys) differentiating science from other human constructs such as politics, religion, etc.

    Science has a built-in mechanism for changing its mind! (Try doing THAT in politics, or in front of a congregation!) Sometimes the mind-changing occurs slowly, often messily; but given enough time, it gets it as right as it can.

    This idea (philosophy) of science is the one put forth by Carl Popper (VERY interesting guy), but there have been many others over the years. In watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ (and in numerous other sources), I get the impression that he subscribes to another view of science. He seems to freely use that “language of induction.”

    And who am I to argue with a man that awesome???

    So why is splitting philosophical hairs like this a big deal? In my opinion, it sets up false expectations of science, or makes science easier to slander and discredit. There are people out there who’ve developed a mistrust of science, and they fall on all sides of the political spectrum (anti-vaxxers, adherents of homeopathy and alternative medicine are a few examples).

    Another example: People who don’t believe that anthropogenic climate change is occurring frequently cite previous supposed-scientific proclamations as rationale for discounting climatological research. These people will bring up a time a couple of decades ago in which the danger was allegedly “global cooling,” or that models thus far have been wrong.

    Therefore, since science was (allegedly) wrong then, it’ll be wrong again. Ignore those “alarmists” who hate America. Drill baby drill!

    (insert cryingeagle.jpg)

    Anyhoo … If you’ve (anyone) made it this far and you’re still awake, thanks for your time. Quite clearly, I love talking about this stuff. And there’s a huge issue with Popper’s idea of science that could be considered a fatal flaw; so who the heck knows!



    And to all of that quite accurate and reasonable argument that science has had to change its assumptions over time, I put to you something that will seem overly reductive and probably argumentative (but why change now??)

    And that is, those elements of change are not on point. What we’re attempting to determine is whether it is possible to determine if a crime was committed by a specific individual.

    I’m positing – as would a number of philosophers/scientists over history – that it is indeed possible to determine guilt. And while that has been IMPROVED by science over time that the capacity for being certain about whether someone held a weapon and killed one/more other humans (or any other human interaction for that matter) the capacity has been around since humans have had the capacity for logical thought and the senses to feed it with input.

    Or maybe this is a better way to frame my thought: For your assumption to be true, NOTHING can be certain. For my assumption to be true, SOMETHING, ANYTHING can be certain. (Did Todd Rundgren actually record Something/Anything??)

    I’m choosing the more pragmatic and easier case to make. :-)

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