Absolute ethics vs. Pragmatism

If postmodernists are right in saying that there are no absolutes of truth or morality, how can they function?  The answer, according to both the masses and philosophers such as Richard Rorty, is pragmatism.  Just do what “works.”  Don’t worry about what is true or what is good, just pursue your practical agenda.

Now pragmatism is a philosophy, an ideology, and a worldview that is utterly opposed to Christianity.  And yet many Christians adopt it unthinkingly, determining the way they worship and the things they teach according to the tenets of pragmatism.  (We want to get more people to join our churches, so let’s eliminate the obstacles to that, whether in practice or theology.)

It’s interesting to see how people who perceive a moral issue nevertheless appeal to pragmatism to make a better case.   For example, in the debates about torture, most of those who reject the practice do so on moral grounds but then make a pragmatic claim:  Torture doesn’t work anyway!

Conversely, many people who do hold to moral absolutes often revert to pragmatism.  Yes, torture may be wrong in principle, but if we could save a thousand lives by torturing one person, it would be worth it.  (This is actually an example of Enlightenment-era utilitarianism, which sought to evade Biblical absolutes and to justify the abuses of the Industrial Revolution by promoting “the greater good for the greater number.”)

Now it appears that torture actually DOES work.  Not by crudely getting someone to tell the truth to make the pain stop–which, of course, would encourage saying ANYTHING–but by a sophisticated process of psychological manipulation.

M. Gregg Bloche, a physician and lawyer, faces up to the fact that his fellow liberals need to be willing to oppose torture on moral grounds even though it works pragmatically.  A sample:

Torture, liberals like me often insist, isn’t just immoral, it’s ineffective. We like this proposition because it portrays us as protectors of the nation, not wusses willing to risk American lives to protect terrorists. And we love to quote seasoned interrogators’ assurances that building rapport with the bad guys will get them to talk. . . .

The idea that waterboarding and other abuses may have been effective in getting information from detainees is repellant to many, including me. It’s contrary to the meme many have embraced: that torture doesn’t work because people being abused to the breaking point will say anything to get the brutality to stop — anything they think their accusers want to hear.

But this position is at odds with some behavioral science, I’ve learned. The architects of enhanced interrogation are doctors who built on a still-classified, research-based model that suggests how abuse can indeed work.

I’ve examined the science, studied the available paper trail and interviewed key actors, including several who helped develop the enhanced interrogation program and who haven’t spoken publicly before. This inquiry has made it possible to piece together the model that undergirds enhanced interrogation.

This model holds that harsh methods can’t, by themselves, force terrorists to tell the truth. Brute force, it suggests, stiffens resistance. Rather, the role of abuse is to induce hopelessness and despair. That’s what sleep deprivation, stress positions and prolonged isolation were designed to do. Small gestures of contempt — facial slaps and frequent insults — drive home the message of futility. Even the rough stuff, such as “walling” and waterboarding, is meant to dispirit, not to coerce.

Once a sense of hopelessness is instilled, the model holds, interrogators can shape behavior through small rewards. Bathroom breaks, reprieves from foul-tasting food and even the occasional kind word can coax broken men to comply with their abusers’ expectations.

Certainly, interrogators using this approach have obtained false confessions. Chinese interrogators did so intentionally, for propaganda purposes, with American prisoners during the Korean War. McCain and other critics of “torture-lite” cite this precedent to argue that it can’t yield reliable information. But the same psychological sequence — induction of hopelessness, followed by rewards to shape compliance — can be used to get terrorism suspects to tell the truth, or so the architects of enhanced interrogation hypothesize.

Critical to this model is the ability to assess suspects’ truthfulness in real time. To this end, CIA interrogators stressed speedy integration of intelligence from all sources. The idea was to frame questions to detect falsehoods; interrogators could then reward honesty and punish deceit.

via Torture-lite: It’s wrong, and it might work – The Washington Post.

So can those of you who oppose torture AND those of you who believe it justified make your case WITHOUT referring to pragmatic arguments?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

    We have always objected – strongly – when an enemy tortures imprisoned American soldiers.

    And perhaps the Roman Catholic church apologized too soon (to Protestants and others) for the Inquisition. They should have waited for the times to come around again.

  • Tom Hering

    “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

    We have always objected – strongly – when an enemy tortures imprisoned American soldiers.

    And perhaps the Roman Catholic church apologized too soon (to Protestants and others) for the Inquisition. They should have waited for the times to come around again.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I’ve always thought that the argument “torture doesn’t work” was rather naive. Torture works, and it works to varying degrees on many different levels. At the lowest level, it works to get people to tell you what you want to hear. That is in fact one purpose of torture. This is how it has often been used in the inquisition and in Hanoi. And it worked for that purpose. In neither case did the people really care to have reliable truthful information. It was about getting people to say what you wanted them to say to serve your purposes of propoganda etc. And in these cases you quite literally tell the torture victim what you want them to say. Everyone afterwards knows it is a lie. This is what has given rise to the myth that Torture doesn’t work, that all it is good for is getting lies, and unreliable information. People falsely assuming that this could be the only possible use for torture.
    Intelligence is another matter. Here you don’t want the lie, so you don’t let the prisoner know exactly what you want to hear. It is that simple. But you let the prisoner know that more and more brutal torture is coming if the intelligence proves false. You also break down the torture victims ability to lie proficiently.
    Telling lies convincingly is not easy work. Just look at what a person goes through while trying to commit perjury without getting caught, under the stress of cross examination in court. It is quite easy to see how one could get quite reliable information in this manner, and even the dunder heads of history have been able to use torture successfully in this manner. It is the reason special forces soldiers, pilots, etc are given training meant to prepare them for the possibility of torture.
    And that training has been to do those things the U.S. has subjected terrorist detainees to, Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc.
    Of course, no one considers it torture when we do it to our own, so there is an interesting conundrum presenting itself to the whole debate, as to why it is not torture when done in training, but then is torture when done for the purpose of intelligence gathering? I suppose one might make the argument that in the one case it is voluntary, and the other not. Not so sure about the validity of that though, as the detainee, always has the option of just telling the truth up front.
    It is true that Geneva conventions and all that protects soldiers from this sort of treatment, but then the Geneva conventions also strictly defines to whom this applies and who it doesn’t. Terrorists are not given these protections.
    We can say as tom does above. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This all but falls apart rather quickly. For one, we can take the behavior of the terrorists before hand as testimony as to how they would like to be treated. I might want others to do this for me, if my life is in danger at the hands of terrorists, so it may be that those who are doing this, are doing unto others as they would have done onto them.
    I don’t myself want to be thrown in prison period. But for the sake of others, and keeping the peace. We routinely throw people in prison. We do not treat those who have broken the law with the golden rule. They have given up their right to that sort of treatment.
    So as much as I’d like the argument against torture to be that simple, it quite simply is not that simple.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I’ve always thought that the argument “torture doesn’t work” was rather naive. Torture works, and it works to varying degrees on many different levels. At the lowest level, it works to get people to tell you what you want to hear. That is in fact one purpose of torture. This is how it has often been used in the inquisition and in Hanoi. And it worked for that purpose. In neither case did the people really care to have reliable truthful information. It was about getting people to say what you wanted them to say to serve your purposes of propoganda etc. And in these cases you quite literally tell the torture victim what you want them to say. Everyone afterwards knows it is a lie. This is what has given rise to the myth that Torture doesn’t work, that all it is good for is getting lies, and unreliable information. People falsely assuming that this could be the only possible use for torture.
    Intelligence is another matter. Here you don’t want the lie, so you don’t let the prisoner know exactly what you want to hear. It is that simple. But you let the prisoner know that more and more brutal torture is coming if the intelligence proves false. You also break down the torture victims ability to lie proficiently.
    Telling lies convincingly is not easy work. Just look at what a person goes through while trying to commit perjury without getting caught, under the stress of cross examination in court. It is quite easy to see how one could get quite reliable information in this manner, and even the dunder heads of history have been able to use torture successfully in this manner. It is the reason special forces soldiers, pilots, etc are given training meant to prepare them for the possibility of torture.
    And that training has been to do those things the U.S. has subjected terrorist detainees to, Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc.
    Of course, no one considers it torture when we do it to our own, so there is an interesting conundrum presenting itself to the whole debate, as to why it is not torture when done in training, but then is torture when done for the purpose of intelligence gathering? I suppose one might make the argument that in the one case it is voluntary, and the other not. Not so sure about the validity of that though, as the detainee, always has the option of just telling the truth up front.
    It is true that Geneva conventions and all that protects soldiers from this sort of treatment, but then the Geneva conventions also strictly defines to whom this applies and who it doesn’t. Terrorists are not given these protections.
    We can say as tom does above. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This all but falls apart rather quickly. For one, we can take the behavior of the terrorists before hand as testimony as to how they would like to be treated. I might want others to do this for me, if my life is in danger at the hands of terrorists, so it may be that those who are doing this, are doing unto others as they would have done onto them.
    I don’t myself want to be thrown in prison period. But for the sake of others, and keeping the peace. We routinely throw people in prison. We do not treat those who have broken the law with the golden rule. They have given up their right to that sort of treatment.
    So as much as I’d like the argument against torture to be that simple, it quite simply is not that simple.

  • EGK

    In the novel “Warrior Monk,’ one of the conversations has Pastor Stephen Grant (ex-CIA agent) speaking in defense of the use of torture. Would any who have read it care to comment on his argument? (I have read it, but I will refrain from commenting at this time.)

  • EGK

    In the novel “Warrior Monk,’ one of the conversations has Pastor Stephen Grant (ex-CIA agent) speaking in defense of the use of torture. Would any who have read it care to comment on his argument? (I have read it, but I will refrain from commenting at this time.)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I thought this article was pretty good related to this topic recently:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/torture-apologists-stain-triumph-over-bin-laden/2011/05/05/AFl7881F_story.html

    The pragmatic argument gives you no place to stop, no place to draw the line.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I thought this article was pretty good related to this topic recently:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/torture-apologists-stain-triumph-over-bin-laden/2011/05/05/AFl7881F_story.html

    The pragmatic argument gives you no place to stop, no place to draw the line.

  • Jonathan

    “A prime example [of intrinsically evil actions] is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia… Direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life, such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos, are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.”

    (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, No. 22, 23, November 2007)

  • Jonathan

    “A prime example [of intrinsically evil actions] is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia… Direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life, such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos, are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.”

    (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, No. 22, 23, November 2007)

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Jonathan,
    Sorry, but the “catholic Bishops of the United States” make no argument by merely declaring a thing to be so. That which you paste is problematic on many levels. They do not have enough moral authority to pull it off, which is what they are trying to do.
    It is at essence a very confused statement, as is their theology and philosophy these days.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Jonathan,
    Sorry, but the “catholic Bishops of the United States” make no argument by merely declaring a thing to be so. That which you paste is problematic on many levels. They do not have enough moral authority to pull it off, which is what they are trying to do.
    It is at essence a very confused statement, as is their theology and philosophy these days.

  • Jonathan

    Bror, you missed the point.

    Veith’s challenge was make the case without resorting to pragmatism, i.e., torture ‘works’ or it does not. The bishops answer the challenge; they assert that torture is intrinsically evil because it degrades humanity, God’s creation. Their argument in full can be found at http://usccb.org/sdwp/stoptorture.

  • Jonathan

    Bror, you missed the point.

    Veith’s challenge was make the case without resorting to pragmatism, i.e., torture ‘works’ or it does not. The bishops answer the challenge; they assert that torture is intrinsically evil because it degrades humanity, God’s creation. Their argument in full can be found at http://usccb.org/sdwp/stoptorture.

  • Stephen

    I thought when John McCain said way back that it wasn’t about them, it was about us, that the moral implications of the US torturing terrorists and/or terror suspects was fairly clear. It isn’t about “what” so much as about “who” in this case. Who are we as a society and a people has to do with our convictions rather than any practical considerations of what the risks/benefits there are to employing torture.

    If art can be any kind of mirror, my favorite TV show these days is “MI-5″ and in a particularly intense scene where two agents await being tortured one says to the other “I think not torturing people is as close to a moral absolute as we can get.” I’m also reminded of Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men declaring “you can’t handle the truth!” It seems this stuff in our media saturated age post-911 is now surfacing. We don’t know what to do with the truth of what it takes to maintain the power governments have, ours especially. The fall back is to become moral pragmatists. Pragmatism is embedded in our American consciousness. It is how we get things done. Should it be any surprise it clings to our politics, morals and our religion?

    When I put a picture my 3 year old daughter has done up on the wall is it beautiful because of “what” it is or because of “who” she is? I think it isn’t about what, it is about who. The whole of the law is love. Who are we? And for that matter, who are they? We have taken away their habeas corpus rights. That seems to say something about what we think about who they are – less than people perhaps, even though they have been in some cases released without charges after many years. What does that say about who we are?

    Was John McCain right? Is it about who we are?

  • Stephen

    I thought when John McCain said way back that it wasn’t about them, it was about us, that the moral implications of the US torturing terrorists and/or terror suspects was fairly clear. It isn’t about “what” so much as about “who” in this case. Who are we as a society and a people has to do with our convictions rather than any practical considerations of what the risks/benefits there are to employing torture.

    If art can be any kind of mirror, my favorite TV show these days is “MI-5″ and in a particularly intense scene where two agents await being tortured one says to the other “I think not torturing people is as close to a moral absolute as we can get.” I’m also reminded of Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men declaring “you can’t handle the truth!” It seems this stuff in our media saturated age post-911 is now surfacing. We don’t know what to do with the truth of what it takes to maintain the power governments have, ours especially. The fall back is to become moral pragmatists. Pragmatism is embedded in our American consciousness. It is how we get things done. Should it be any surprise it clings to our politics, morals and our religion?

    When I put a picture my 3 year old daughter has done up on the wall is it beautiful because of “what” it is or because of “who” she is? I think it isn’t about what, it is about who. The whole of the law is love. Who are we? And for that matter, who are they? We have taken away their habeas corpus rights. That seems to say something about what we think about who they are – less than people perhaps, even though they have been in some cases released without charges after many years. What does that say about who we are?

    Was John McCain right? Is it about who we are?

  • Stephen

    My answer to the question would be “yes.” That’s my argument. If we want to have the moral high ground in the world as we claim, that the “west is best” and all that, especially playing world cop and storming into other countries to get justice, then we’d darn well better live by our convictions. As I see it, we aren’t doing that with torture and extraordinary rendition, as well as various things about the Patriot Act aimed at our own people.

  • Stephen

    My answer to the question would be “yes.” That’s my argument. If we want to have the moral high ground in the world as we claim, that the “west is best” and all that, especially playing world cop and storming into other countries to get justice, then we’d darn well better live by our convictions. As I see it, we aren’t doing that with torture and extraordinary rendition, as well as various things about the Patriot Act aimed at our own people.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    I’m not entirely certain I understand how the Bible could be used to argue against torture. It seems to me that any such argument would have to be circuitous as the Bible doesn’t address limitations to threats or punishment of enemies.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    I’m not entirely certain I understand how the Bible could be used to argue against torture. It seems to me that any such argument would have to be circuitous as the Bible doesn’t address limitations to threats or punishment of enemies.

  • Jonathan

    How could the Bible be used to support torture, SAL?

  • Jonathan

    How could the Bible be used to support torture, SAL?

  • Tom Hering

    “… we can take the behavior of the terrorists before hand as testimony as to how they would like to be treated … those who are doing this, are doing unto others as they would have done onto them.” – Bror @ 2.

    I’d call that turning the golden rule inside out and upside down. In order to get around its perfectly clear and universal standard for behavior.

    “We do not treat those who have broken the law with the golden rule. They have given up their right to that sort of treatment.”

    What does the golden rule have to do with rights? It’s how Jesus commanded his followers to behave toward others. So, as a nation (the Founders believing Jesus to be a great moral teacher), we embraced that ethic and decided not to impose cruel and unusual punishments. Or conduct searches and seizures without a warrant. Etc.

  • Tom Hering

    “… we can take the behavior of the terrorists before hand as testimony as to how they would like to be treated … those who are doing this, are doing unto others as they would have done onto them.” – Bror @ 2.

    I’d call that turning the golden rule inside out and upside down. In order to get around its perfectly clear and universal standard for behavior.

    “We do not treat those who have broken the law with the golden rule. They have given up their right to that sort of treatment.”

    What does the golden rule have to do with rights? It’s how Jesus commanded his followers to behave toward others. So, as a nation (the Founders believing Jesus to be a great moral teacher), we embraced that ethic and decided not to impose cruel and unusual punishments. Or conduct searches and seizures without a warrant. Etc.

  • Jonathan

    But we do treat those who have broken the law with the golden rule. We treat them (or we’re supposed to) like we’d like to be treated, had we also broken the law (or been suspected of doing so).

    Thus, we don’t torture suspected shoplifters, burglars, and murderers. We imprison them and question them, under certain rules. If we go too far, we allow courts to exclude evidence that’s obtained when those rules are violated. And we allow suspects to bring civil rights lawsuits against departments that go too far. We do this to protect ourselves, really, and because we say we respect human life. Good, effective police work does not include torture.

  • Jonathan

    But we do treat those who have broken the law with the golden rule. We treat them (or we’re supposed to) like we’d like to be treated, had we also broken the law (or been suspected of doing so).

    Thus, we don’t torture suspected shoplifters, burglars, and murderers. We imprison them and question them, under certain rules. If we go too far, we allow courts to exclude evidence that’s obtained when those rules are violated. And we allow suspects to bring civil rights lawsuits against departments that go too far. We do this to protect ourselves, really, and because we say we respect human life. Good, effective police work does not include torture.

  • Trey

    Torture is evil. However, this does not mean that governments should not torture. Sometimes they must resort to it to prevent a greater evil i.e. further loss of life. This is a slippery slope for sure, because we do not know the end result. This is all theory, but I would say that if the probability was high that the person had information then we should torture, but this should only be done in extreme circumstances.

    Side note- Bror is right regarding terrorists they are not protected under Geneva.

  • Trey

    Torture is evil. However, this does not mean that governments should not torture. Sometimes they must resort to it to prevent a greater evil i.e. further loss of life. This is a slippery slope for sure, because we do not know the end result. This is all theory, but I would say that if the probability was high that the person had information then we should torture, but this should only be done in extreme circumstances.

    Side note- Bror is right regarding terrorists they are not protected under Geneva.

  • Stephen

    Either we follow our own principles or we don’t. That is an absolute standard. If we don’t, they cease to be principles. Our principle is (ostensibly) that we do not do this sort of thing precisely because of the kind of society we are – a superior one that bases its moral calculus on individual liberties and the fundamental dignity of persons that upholds and has fought for values like inalienable rights, habeus corpus, a Bill of Rights, government of the people, for the people, by the people – ya know, the stuff we are telling everyone else they should have at the point of a gun these days.

    By torturing people, whomever they are, we set that aside for “pragmatic” reasons. They cease to be real, foundational principles at that point and become optional “ideas” we put to use as we please. This is why the rest of the world holds us in low regard, because they feel troubled by such behavior. Our recent behavior in these affairs is a huge let down and shows cracks in these principles. The shining city on the hill has lost its shine. Why should other western countries take us seriously when we choose to degrade our own standards like this?

    I wonder how torture being carried out and defended by people like Dick Cheney honors the people who died to crush Germany and Japan who were doing stuff like that in WWII? Just sayin’

  • Stephen

    Either we follow our own principles or we don’t. That is an absolute standard. If we don’t, they cease to be principles. Our principle is (ostensibly) that we do not do this sort of thing precisely because of the kind of society we are – a superior one that bases its moral calculus on individual liberties and the fundamental dignity of persons that upholds and has fought for values like inalienable rights, habeus corpus, a Bill of Rights, government of the people, for the people, by the people – ya know, the stuff we are telling everyone else they should have at the point of a gun these days.

    By torturing people, whomever they are, we set that aside for “pragmatic” reasons. They cease to be real, foundational principles at that point and become optional “ideas” we put to use as we please. This is why the rest of the world holds us in low regard, because they feel troubled by such behavior. Our recent behavior in these affairs is a huge let down and shows cracks in these principles. The shining city on the hill has lost its shine. Why should other western countries take us seriously when we choose to degrade our own standards like this?

    I wonder how torture being carried out and defended by people like Dick Cheney honors the people who died to crush Germany and Japan who were doing stuff like that in WWII? Just sayin’

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Stephen,
    Though i do in fact agree with what you say. At least the sentiment of it. Let’s not be so naive as to say that this type of behavior is wrong, because somehow it is lower than that of what other countries do, and they will hold us in low regard for it.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Stephen,
    Though i do in fact agree with what you say. At least the sentiment of it. Let’s not be so naive as to say that this type of behavior is wrong, because somehow it is lower than that of what other countries do, and they will hold us in low regard for it.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    And I’m sorry, I cannot put the value of the life of a known terrorist acting to kill innocents, on the same level as the value of the life of law abiding citizens and their potential victims. Just can’t. The Terrorist does at all times have the right to regain his dignity by giving up the information freely, and without coercion.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    And I’m sorry, I cannot put the value of the life of a known terrorist acting to kill innocents, on the same level as the value of the life of law abiding citizens and their potential victims. Just can’t. The Terrorist does at all times have the right to regain his dignity by giving up the information freely, and without coercion.

  • Tom Hering

    The value of a life can be graded on a scale? With “law-abiding citizen” at the top and “terrorist” at the bottom?

  • Tom Hering

    The value of a life can be graded on a scale? With “law-abiding citizen” at the top and “terrorist” at the bottom?

  • Stephen

    And that Bror, is essentially a pragmatic argument it seems to me. That isn’t to say if I was in the room with one of these guys and I had to protect my family I wouldn’t do some pretty vicious things. I frankly don’t know what I would do. We do have a right to protect ourselves and wage war even. I understand that is an ugly thing. But we are talking about a particular type of behavior on our part, one that goes against the grain of our stated principles.

    The fact is, the rest of the world does have a hard time trusting us because we have all these stated high ideals of liberty and freedom, ones we say we think others ought to follow, and yet we are now stooping to this stuff and even trying to say it is somehow practically just. I think it is a mistake, regardless of the perceived benefits we may get from it.

    The same argument is used to justify lots of things coming down the pike such as the many technological advancements in genetics. It no longer becomes a matter of should we, it is all a cost/benefit analysis and about managing risk. Ethics is founded purely on that and nothing else – is it feasible. In other words, can we get away with it?

    I think this all will come back to bite us in the collective ass one day, and it will be our soldiers bearing the brunt of it, if they aren’t already.

  • Stephen

    And that Bror, is essentially a pragmatic argument it seems to me. That isn’t to say if I was in the room with one of these guys and I had to protect my family I wouldn’t do some pretty vicious things. I frankly don’t know what I would do. We do have a right to protect ourselves and wage war even. I understand that is an ugly thing. But we are talking about a particular type of behavior on our part, one that goes against the grain of our stated principles.

    The fact is, the rest of the world does have a hard time trusting us because we have all these stated high ideals of liberty and freedom, ones we say we think others ought to follow, and yet we are now stooping to this stuff and even trying to say it is somehow practically just. I think it is a mistake, regardless of the perceived benefits we may get from it.

    The same argument is used to justify lots of things coming down the pike such as the many technological advancements in genetics. It no longer becomes a matter of should we, it is all a cost/benefit analysis and about managing risk. Ethics is founded purely on that and nothing else – is it feasible. In other words, can we get away with it?

    I think this all will come back to bite us in the collective ass one day, and it will be our soldiers bearing the brunt of it, if they aren’t already.

  • Stephen

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not suggesting we put them up in hotels. :)

  • Stephen

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not suggesting we put them up in hotels. :)

  • Tom Hering

    Stephen @ 19, I’d do anything to protect my loved ones. But what an individual would do in an extreme situation isn’t the standard for the conduct of a nation – or a town, or a neighborhood, or a family

    Wars aren’t extreme situations, anyways. They are, unfortunately, a pretty regular feature of a fallen world. Which is exactly why we need to stick to high standards regarding our conduct of war. Wars can shatter civilization pretty quickly, and civilization is nothing if it isn’t high standards of conduct.

  • Tom Hering

    Stephen @ 19, I’d do anything to protect my loved ones. But what an individual would do in an extreme situation isn’t the standard for the conduct of a nation – or a town, or a neighborhood, or a family

    Wars aren’t extreme situations, anyways. They are, unfortunately, a pretty regular feature of a fallen world. Which is exactly why we need to stick to high standards regarding our conduct of war. Wars can shatter civilization pretty quickly, and civilization is nothing if it isn’t high standards of conduct.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    If the Bible were opposed to government’s conducting torture it would certainly have a lot of opportunity to make that point. People are tortured throughout the Old and New Testament.

    However much like with slavery or polygamy the Bible doesn’t lay down a universal rule for society.

    I think such things are political questions and not religious ones except perhaps for the officials doing the torture.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    If the Bible were opposed to government’s conducting torture it would certainly have a lot of opportunity to make that point. People are tortured throughout the Old and New Testament.

    However much like with slavery or polygamy the Bible doesn’t lay down a universal rule for society.

    I think such things are political questions and not religious ones except perhaps for the officials doing the torture.

  • Stephen

    I completely agree Tom. I would add, as I have been stressing, that we are at least attempting to convince the rest of the world that we are a superior civilization. We have to believe that too if we are go to war for our principles, for just causes of national defense and such. That is not to say we cannot learn from others, but the core of our political system is what we tout as the apex of achievement in human civilization. Torture is a giant step backward. I think you and I agree.

  • Stephen

    I completely agree Tom. I would add, as I have been stressing, that we are at least attempting to convince the rest of the world that we are a superior civilization. We have to believe that too if we are go to war for our principles, for just causes of national defense and such. That is not to say we cannot learn from others, but the core of our political system is what we tout as the apex of achievement in human civilization. Torture is a giant step backward. I think you and I agree.

  • Jon

    SAL, I’ve wondered why I couldn’t find any condemnation of slavery, polygamy or torture on the LCMS website. I now see why – the Bible apparently doesn’t plainly condemn those acts. Fair enough.

  • Jon

    SAL, I’ve wondered why I couldn’t find any condemnation of slavery, polygamy or torture on the LCMS website. I now see why – the Bible apparently doesn’t plainly condemn those acts. Fair enough.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As far as I can tell, torture opponents have typically been the ones making moral cases for their position. It is proponents of torture who typically resort to pragmatism. It is only in response to this that I have seen torture opponents adopt pragmatism — as a counter-argument. That is, “Torture is wrong. And it doesn’t even work like you claim it does!” They adopt this posture because those favoring torture refuse to accept the proferred moral framework: “Who cares about your fancy right/wrong dichotomy, people’s lives are on the line!”

    As to Veith’s assertion that “it appears that torture actually DOES work”, the article itself (and its links) undermines such a blanket statement. Read the article it links to by Senator McCain, who calls Mukasaey’s claim that the trail to bin Laden started with waterboarding, in a word, “false”. At best, this is a he-said/he-said situation, in which we are far more likely to be influenced by our preconceived notions than by any facts at our disposal.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As far as I can tell, torture opponents have typically been the ones making moral cases for their position. It is proponents of torture who typically resort to pragmatism. It is only in response to this that I have seen torture opponents adopt pragmatism — as a counter-argument. That is, “Torture is wrong. And it doesn’t even work like you claim it does!” They adopt this posture because those favoring torture refuse to accept the proferred moral framework: “Who cares about your fancy right/wrong dichotomy, people’s lives are on the line!”

    As to Veith’s assertion that “it appears that torture actually DOES work”, the article itself (and its links) undermines such a blanket statement. Read the article it links to by Senator McCain, who calls Mukasaey’s claim that the trail to bin Laden started with waterboarding, in a word, “false”. At best, this is a he-said/he-said situation, in which we are far more likely to be influenced by our preconceived notions than by any facts at our disposal.

  • Pete

    Bror & Tom (@17 & 18)

    In terms of the “value of a human life” discussion: There’s a real sense in which every human life is of equal value. It would seem that this assertion is the basis for the pro-life position. But is there not also a sense in which we are all responsible for what we do with the life that has been given us. So take, for example, Dr. Jonas Salk, who lived a life dedicated to overcoming polio and was able to produce a vaccine which eradicated same. Society’s response to that should be (and was) to heap praise and financial reward on him. Now take a random pickpocket. Society’s response should be to punish him in an effort to get him to change his ways and incarcerate him if he doesn’t. Now take KSM. Society’s response to him, precisely in the interest of the sanctity of life, should be to use whatever means is necessary to extract useful information from him to prevent further loss of life. And I don’t buy the argument that, in using enhanced interrogation techniques, we are stooping to the level of the terrorists. Nonsense! Nobody is advocating the torture of innocent men, women and children.

  • Pete

    Bror & Tom (@17 & 18)

    In terms of the “value of a human life” discussion: There’s a real sense in which every human life is of equal value. It would seem that this assertion is the basis for the pro-life position. But is there not also a sense in which we are all responsible for what we do with the life that has been given us. So take, for example, Dr. Jonas Salk, who lived a life dedicated to overcoming polio and was able to produce a vaccine which eradicated same. Society’s response to that should be (and was) to heap praise and financial reward on him. Now take a random pickpocket. Society’s response should be to punish him in an effort to get him to change his ways and incarcerate him if he doesn’t. Now take KSM. Society’s response to him, precisely in the interest of the sanctity of life, should be to use whatever means is necessary to extract useful information from him to prevent further loss of life. And I don’t buy the argument that, in using enhanced interrogation techniques, we are stooping to the level of the terrorists. Nonsense! Nobody is advocating the torture of innocent men, women and children.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Right Pete.
    You aren’t elevating the value of the life of the terrorist when you treat him with the same respect and decency as law abiding citizens at the expense of the lives of law abiding citizens, but you are lowering the value of the life of those law abiding citizens.
    That is the twisted end of this argument.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Right Pete.
    You aren’t elevating the value of the life of the terrorist when you treat him with the same respect and decency as law abiding citizens at the expense of the lives of law abiding citizens, but you are lowering the value of the life of those law abiding citizens.
    That is the twisted end of this argument.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Where do you draw the line between harassment and torture?

    Much of what is being termed torture nowadays, I would not have been surprised to see as hazing of newbies in school maybe 50-100 years ago.

    My objection to real and true torture is that I don’t want us trying to turn our honorable servicemen into monsters, nor do I want us to actively recruit folks of a certain moral flexibility.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Where do you draw the line between harassment and torture?

    Much of what is being termed torture nowadays, I would not have been surprised to see as hazing of newbies in school maybe 50-100 years ago.

    My objection to real and true torture is that I don’t want us trying to turn our honorable servicemen into monsters, nor do I want us to actively recruit folks of a certain moral flexibility.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “the Geneva conventions also strictly defines to whom this applies and who it doesn’t. Terrorists are not given these protections.”

    This point is interesting because terrorists, it is assumed, are acting on their own agency. Whereas uniformed soldiers were likely conscripted farm boys just following orders. Torturing terrorists could plausibly render real information on plans and objectives. Torturing lowly soldiers would more likely just be a proxy victim to punish and retaliate against.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “the Geneva conventions also strictly defines to whom this applies and who it doesn’t. Terrorists are not given these protections.”

    This point is interesting because terrorists, it is assumed, are acting on their own agency. Whereas uniformed soldiers were likely conscripted farm boys just following orders. Torturing terrorists could plausibly render real information on plans and objectives. Torturing lowly soldiers would more likely just be a proxy victim to punish and retaliate against.

  • Pete

    sg (@28,29)

    Agreed. The soldier/terrorist distinction seems to be a very important one. I think this may be where John McCain gets confused a bit. He’s entirely right that an enemy soldier who is willing to identify him or herself with a uniform should not be subject to torture by the US military. Even if his military would not necessarily return the favor. But a terrorist is a whole different kettle of fish.

  • Pete

    sg (@28,29)

    Agreed. The soldier/terrorist distinction seems to be a very important one. I think this may be where John McCain gets confused a bit. He’s entirely right that an enemy soldier who is willing to identify him or herself with a uniform should not be subject to torture by the US military. Even if his military would not necessarily return the favor. But a terrorist is a whole different kettle of fish.

  • Tom Hering

    So, if everyone in al-Qaeda wore the uniform of a country, it would be wrong to torture them for information?

  • Tom Hering

    So, if everyone in al-Qaeda wore the uniform of a country, it would be wrong to torture them for information?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So, if everyone in al-Qaeda wore the uniform of a country, it would be wrong to torture them for information?”

    We shouldn’t try to oversimplify. It is very complex and we need to see the nuances among the different specific cases. It is not all black and white.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So, if everyone in al-Qaeda wore the uniform of a country, it would be wrong to torture them for information?”

    We shouldn’t try to oversimplify. It is very complex and we need to see the nuances among the different specific cases. It is not all black and white.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “As far as I can tell, torture opponents have typically been the ones making moral cases for their position. It is proponents of torture who typically resort to pragmatism. It is only in response to this that I have seen torture opponents adopt pragmatism — as a counter-argument. That is, “Torture is wrong. And it doesn’t even work like you claim it does!” They adopt this posture because those favoring torture refuse to accept the proferred moral framework: “Who cares about your fancy right/wrong dichotomy, people’s lives are on the line!”

    This sounds about right. Those who think any means are justified to protect our people are holding as the highest moral good our right to safety from enemies. Treatment of the enemy is very much secondary. In many, not all, of the conflicts of history, the people themselves were rather uninterested in the conflict, ie WW I. So, the poor soldier was a pawn in a game. It was his master who put him up to it that was despised. In the case of terrorists, this is just not the case. They raise their own funds to go kill innocent civilians. So the moral response to them is to kill them or torture them to defend the safety of our own. This is itself a place of moral confidence. We have a moral obligation to preserve and protect our families against enemies. We must maintain our sovereignty or it won’t matter what our principles are because we won’t be making the rules.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “As far as I can tell, torture opponents have typically been the ones making moral cases for their position. It is proponents of torture who typically resort to pragmatism. It is only in response to this that I have seen torture opponents adopt pragmatism — as a counter-argument. That is, “Torture is wrong. And it doesn’t even work like you claim it does!” They adopt this posture because those favoring torture refuse to accept the proferred moral framework: “Who cares about your fancy right/wrong dichotomy, people’s lives are on the line!”

    This sounds about right. Those who think any means are justified to protect our people are holding as the highest moral good our right to safety from enemies. Treatment of the enemy is very much secondary. In many, not all, of the conflicts of history, the people themselves were rather uninterested in the conflict, ie WW I. So, the poor soldier was a pawn in a game. It was his master who put him up to it that was despised. In the case of terrorists, this is just not the case. They raise their own funds to go kill innocent civilians. So the moral response to them is to kill them or torture them to defend the safety of our own. This is itself a place of moral confidence. We have a moral obligation to preserve and protect our families against enemies. We must maintain our sovereignty or it won’t matter what our principles are because we won’t be making the rules.

  • Booklover

    This is off-topic of torture, but on-topic of pragmatism, which Dr. Veith defined well in the first four paragraphs of his post:

    We have largely resorted to pragmatism in our worldview in the realm of birth control. Now instead of giving to a poor family, we look on the parents with disdain and proclaim, “Why did you choose to have so many children?” Instead of handing out food and supplies to a poor country, or developing a clean water supply for them, we hand out birth control to their citizens. Not really “true” or “good,” just “pursuing our own practical agenda.”

  • Booklover

    This is off-topic of torture, but on-topic of pragmatism, which Dr. Veith defined well in the first four paragraphs of his post:

    We have largely resorted to pragmatism in our worldview in the realm of birth control. Now instead of giving to a poor family, we look on the parents with disdain and proclaim, “Why did you choose to have so many children?” Instead of handing out food and supplies to a poor country, or developing a clean water supply for them, we hand out birth control to their citizens. Not really “true” or “good,” just “pursuing our own practical agenda.”

  • Stephen

    My argument was not that we were stooping to the level of terrorists, but that we were giving up our stated principles. It becomes increasingly difficult to claim teh moral high ground when we do that.

    Bror @ 27, I’m not sure that is what we do when we apprehend a terrorist and submit him to the punishments of the law under our system of government, which we don’t summarily toss so we can get information.

    Perhaps we have some thrid classification we are working under that needs better international clarification. Geneva – scratch that becasue they aren’t soldiers. Criminals, well, hmm, that isn’t quite it because they are attacking our entire country. Terrorists . . . what do we do with them? Come to think of it, torture does, in some way, seem to be playing by their rules and not ours. Our rules have always been that we don’t do that. Now we have new rules for a new situation, rules that, to me, seem to fly int he face of what we say about human beings.

    I admit to being in a weird spot, but I still think we are making this stuff up. Why is it that we didn’t engage in torture during other conflicts while Japan and Germany did? I guess it was because of the uniform, there’s as much as ours. Now, since they are this third kind of enemy, we don’t have good conduct requirements that fit the situation. It seems to me what some are saying is that our Constitutional understanding of ourselves has no bearing on how we see others. I still think it should.

  • Stephen

    My argument was not that we were stooping to the level of terrorists, but that we were giving up our stated principles. It becomes increasingly difficult to claim teh moral high ground when we do that.

    Bror @ 27, I’m not sure that is what we do when we apprehend a terrorist and submit him to the punishments of the law under our system of government, which we don’t summarily toss so we can get information.

    Perhaps we have some thrid classification we are working under that needs better international clarification. Geneva – scratch that becasue they aren’t soldiers. Criminals, well, hmm, that isn’t quite it because they are attacking our entire country. Terrorists . . . what do we do with them? Come to think of it, torture does, in some way, seem to be playing by their rules and not ours. Our rules have always been that we don’t do that. Now we have new rules for a new situation, rules that, to me, seem to fly int he face of what we say about human beings.

    I admit to being in a weird spot, but I still think we are making this stuff up. Why is it that we didn’t engage in torture during other conflicts while Japan and Germany did? I guess it was because of the uniform, there’s as much as ours. Now, since they are this third kind of enemy, we don’t have good conduct requirements that fit the situation. It seems to me what some are saying is that our Constitutional understanding of ourselves has no bearing on how we see others. I still think it should.

  • Stephen

    Thinking a little more, I wonder how the strangeness of the situation in Vietnam played into all the moral ambiguity that seems to be our own legacy there. Viet Cong? What were they exactly except insurgents supplied by a government with questionable claims to legitimate power?

    Maybe we do need some new rules for this shifting enemy. But then in coming up with new rules, it seems to me we are by definition being moral pragmatists. How can we be a nation of principles, ones we ask others to value and adopt, if we take them for granted and are willing to change those principles on an “as needed” basis? Or do I have that wrong?

  • Stephen

    Thinking a little more, I wonder how the strangeness of the situation in Vietnam played into all the moral ambiguity that seems to be our own legacy there. Viet Cong? What were they exactly except insurgents supplied by a government with questionable claims to legitimate power?

    Maybe we do need some new rules for this shifting enemy. But then in coming up with new rules, it seems to me we are by definition being moral pragmatists. How can we be a nation of principles, ones we ask others to value and adopt, if we take them for granted and are willing to change those principles on an “as needed” basis? Or do I have that wrong?

  • DonS

    We got all the way to comment 28 before we finally even talked about the definition of “torture”. The discussion is meaningless without a definition.

    Torture works. Otherwise, our intelligence agencies wouldn’t spend so much time training our agents to resist it.

    However, I oppose the use of torture by our country, because it is immoral. By “torture”, I do not mean “pressure”, or, as SG terms it in post 28, “harassment”. Terrorists deserve to be “harassed”, i.e. made uncomfortable, in order to extract important information, particularly if that information will save innocent life. They should not be permanently injured — that is torture. Waterboarding is not torture, though because of its psychological effects it should be used sparingly.

    Innocent American life is worth protecting.

  • DonS

    We got all the way to comment 28 before we finally even talked about the definition of “torture”. The discussion is meaningless without a definition.

    Torture works. Otherwise, our intelligence agencies wouldn’t spend so much time training our agents to resist it.

    However, I oppose the use of torture by our country, because it is immoral. By “torture”, I do not mean “pressure”, or, as SG terms it in post 28, “harassment”. Terrorists deserve to be “harassed”, i.e. made uncomfortable, in order to extract important information, particularly if that information will save innocent life. They should not be permanently injured — that is torture. Waterboarding is not torture, though because of its psychological effects it should be used sparingly.

    Innocent American life is worth protecting.

  • Stephen

    DonS and sg

    John McCain would disagree with about waterboarding. And so does the US government now it seems, as it is a mock execution and not simply “harrassment” that makes one uncomfortable:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/bin-ladens-death-and-the-debate-over-torture/2011/05/11/AFd1mdsG_story.html

    Anyway, it sounds like wanting to have our moral cake and eat it too.

    And as for them deserving death, I don’t disagree, but what does that death look like? Is it a massacre, a slaughter, some kind of genocidal affair that insures their sons and daughters do not rise up against us in ten or fifteen years? Or is it killing that arises from battle, or from tracking them down where they hide, or perhaps from a just tribunal akin to Nuremberg where they are sentenced to death?

    Saying “Innocent American life is worth protecting” is not anything I hear anyone arguing against. Do you? How do moral people behave, by in whatever way suits the situation?

  • Stephen

    DonS and sg

    John McCain would disagree with about waterboarding. And so does the US government now it seems, as it is a mock execution and not simply “harrassment” that makes one uncomfortable:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/bin-ladens-death-and-the-debate-over-torture/2011/05/11/AFd1mdsG_story.html

    Anyway, it sounds like wanting to have our moral cake and eat it too.

    And as for them deserving death, I don’t disagree, but what does that death look like? Is it a massacre, a slaughter, some kind of genocidal affair that insures their sons and daughters do not rise up against us in ten or fifteen years? Or is it killing that arises from battle, or from tracking them down where they hide, or perhaps from a just tribunal akin to Nuremberg where they are sentenced to death?

    Saying “Innocent American life is worth protecting” is not anything I hear anyone arguing against. Do you? How do moral people behave, by in whatever way suits the situation?

  • DonS

    Stephen @ 38: I have a great deal of respect for John McCain. But I don’t agree with him on every point.

  • DonS

    Stephen @ 38: I have a great deal of respect for John McCain. But I don’t agree with him on every point.

  • Booklover

    Off-topic of torture; on-topic of pragmatism again. . .

    Pragmatism has also interfered with vocation. It used to be that a person would pursue his vocation. Now, the pension/retirement package is looked at more closely than the occupation’s actual value to society, or fittedness to the individual. So in our neck of the woods, that means many people are working for the government.

    In the old days, a man would look fondly at his wife and say, “She is the mother of my children.” Now he says, “She hasn’t provided me with that many children, but, by damn, she has provided me with this great retirement package.” Pragmatism.

  • Booklover

    Off-topic of torture; on-topic of pragmatism again. . .

    Pragmatism has also interfered with vocation. It used to be that a person would pursue his vocation. Now, the pension/retirement package is looked at more closely than the occupation’s actual value to society, or fittedness to the individual. So in our neck of the woods, that means many people are working for the government.

    In the old days, a man would look fondly at his wife and say, “She is the mother of my children.” Now he says, “She hasn’t provided me with that many children, but, by damn, she has provided me with this great retirement package.” Pragmatism.

  • Jonathan

    Booklover, you’re battling straw men, I think, but you must admit that in the old days, one’s children were one’s pension/retirement package.

  • Jonathan

    Booklover, you’re battling straw men, I think, but you must admit that in the old days, one’s children were one’s pension/retirement package.

  • Stephen

    DonS

    Ah yes, who does get to define the terms? Certainly not a man who was actually tortured. Postmodern pragmatism. Whatever works in a given situation, even when it comes to defining terms. Human rights for some humans in this case.

    But then isn’t that the same arguments that abortionists make, that unborn children are somehow lesser people because they can be understood quantitatively as “potential people,” lesser relative to the interests of the mother. A terrorist is thus quantitatively lesser relative to the interests of our country, rather than bearing any qualitative distinction as a human being in themselves. If we kill them or torture them, it is because they are sub-human, not because their actions threaten us. How far do we carry this through? Shall we kill their children, torture their wives perhaps? Why don’t we nuke the Arab world and “turn it to glass” as I heard one person say at lunch one day as a solution to solve the problem?

    Let me know if you think this is absurd. I think I am trying to make an argument from the standpoint of moral absolutes. I don’t hear much of that. Pragmatism can lead just about anywhere it seems to me. Plenty of moral pragmatism in the 20th c. justified a whole lot of stuff, with good, believable reasons for wiping people out to protect the purity and safety of one’s own. Why does a country do that or not? I am still under the naive impression that we don’t do any of this kind of stuff. It’s not what we are about.

  • Stephen

    DonS

    Ah yes, who does get to define the terms? Certainly not a man who was actually tortured. Postmodern pragmatism. Whatever works in a given situation, even when it comes to defining terms. Human rights for some humans in this case.

    But then isn’t that the same arguments that abortionists make, that unborn children are somehow lesser people because they can be understood quantitatively as “potential people,” lesser relative to the interests of the mother. A terrorist is thus quantitatively lesser relative to the interests of our country, rather than bearing any qualitative distinction as a human being in themselves. If we kill them or torture them, it is because they are sub-human, not because their actions threaten us. How far do we carry this through? Shall we kill their children, torture their wives perhaps? Why don’t we nuke the Arab world and “turn it to glass” as I heard one person say at lunch one day as a solution to solve the problem?

    Let me know if you think this is absurd. I think I am trying to make an argument from the standpoint of moral absolutes. I don’t hear much of that. Pragmatism can lead just about anywhere it seems to me. Plenty of moral pragmatism in the 20th c. justified a whole lot of stuff, with good, believable reasons for wiping people out to protect the purity and safety of one’s own. Why does a country do that or not? I am still under the naive impression that we don’t do any of this kind of stuff. It’s not what we are about.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@33), you quoted me extensively and said, “This sounds about right,” but then went on to draw conclusions at best unrelated to what I had said. I guess I’m not sure why you quoted me.

    Also, it really would help everyone (certainly me) if you did a few things when replying to someone. First, tell us to whom you’re replying, by name. Preferably with a comment number, so we know what, in particular, you’re replying to. Second, I really would recommend the use of the <blockquote> tag when you’re quoting more than a sentence (or a line or two) of someone else’s words.

    Also, terrorists very much have “pawns” and “masters”. You don’t send your best bombmakers, fundraisers, and masterminds out into the field to blow themselves up or take down a plane. Most terrorism that comes to mind for me involves the “pawns” killing themselves.

    You said, “We have a moral obligation to preserve and protect our families against enemies,” but that has never been the question. The question is: can we use any and all means to do this, or is there a moral limit?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@33), you quoted me extensively and said, “This sounds about right,” but then went on to draw conclusions at best unrelated to what I had said. I guess I’m not sure why you quoted me.

    Also, it really would help everyone (certainly me) if you did a few things when replying to someone. First, tell us to whom you’re replying, by name. Preferably with a comment number, so we know what, in particular, you’re replying to. Second, I really would recommend the use of the <blockquote> tag when you’re quoting more than a sentence (or a line or two) of someone else’s words.

    Also, terrorists very much have “pawns” and “masters”. You don’t send your best bombmakers, fundraisers, and masterminds out into the field to blow themselves up or take down a plane. Most terrorism that comes to mind for me involves the “pawns” killing themselves.

    You said, “We have a moral obligation to preserve and protect our families against enemies,” but that has never been the question. The question is: can we use any and all means to do this, or is there a moral limit?

  • Jonathan

    Torture, on its own terms, does not protect anyone. Its aims are either to punish the one being tortured, so as to dissuade others from acting similarly (say, by flogging, crucifixion), or to extract information that, if true, could prevent a future event. Information produced by torture is notoriously time consuming and unreliable, simply because the tortured will say anything to make the torturers stop. Any interrogator worth his salt knows it’s counterproductive. And also knows that waterboarding is a particularly malicious form of torture, the use of which has answered with capital punishment by the US.

  • Jonathan

    Torture, on its own terms, does not protect anyone. Its aims are either to punish the one being tortured, so as to dissuade others from acting similarly (say, by flogging, crucifixion), or to extract information that, if true, could prevent a future event. Information produced by torture is notoriously time consuming and unreliable, simply because the tortured will say anything to make the torturers stop. Any interrogator worth his salt knows it’s counterproductive. And also knows that waterboarding is a particularly malicious form of torture, the use of which has answered with capital punishment by the US.

  • DonS

    Stephen @ 42: John McCain was, indeed, physically tortured, with permanent injuries to remember the experience by. No perceived need for information, however pragmatically based, justifies physical torture or death.

    Nothing that I have said or implied should have led you to think that I believe there are different levels of humanity. Abortion is murder because it involves the killing of a human being. Terrorists are also human beings, God’s creation, and their lives are to be respected as being created by Him.

    Of course, the Bible condones, and even prescribes, physical injury, administered by society, as a punishment for wrongdoing, which is why I still support capital punishment, very judiciously exercised. Short of punishment, which requires some level of due process to determine wrongdoing, inflicting a certain level of physical and mental discomfort to extract information believed necessary to save innocent human life can sometimes be appropriate. Hot lights, withholding food and water for some period of time short of causing physical injury, harsh surroundings, uncomfortable questioning and interrogation techniques — these are all sometimes appropriate. If the circumstances are sufficiently exigent, the techniques can, in my opinion, be ratcheted up to a point to include such things a waterboarding and other non-lethal, non-injurious methods. Yes, this is pragmatism. But it is within carefully circumscribed bounds which, in my opinion, falls short of torture. Ultimately, to exercise pragmatism properly, you have to abide by an absolute moral code, to define boundaries you will not cross.

  • DonS

    Stephen @ 42: John McCain was, indeed, physically tortured, with permanent injuries to remember the experience by. No perceived need for information, however pragmatically based, justifies physical torture or death.

    Nothing that I have said or implied should have led you to think that I believe there are different levels of humanity. Abortion is murder because it involves the killing of a human being. Terrorists are also human beings, God’s creation, and their lives are to be respected as being created by Him.

    Of course, the Bible condones, and even prescribes, physical injury, administered by society, as a punishment for wrongdoing, which is why I still support capital punishment, very judiciously exercised. Short of punishment, which requires some level of due process to determine wrongdoing, inflicting a certain level of physical and mental discomfort to extract information believed necessary to save innocent human life can sometimes be appropriate. Hot lights, withholding food and water for some period of time short of causing physical injury, harsh surroundings, uncomfortable questioning and interrogation techniques — these are all sometimes appropriate. If the circumstances are sufficiently exigent, the techniques can, in my opinion, be ratcheted up to a point to include such things a waterboarding and other non-lethal, non-injurious methods. Yes, this is pragmatism. But it is within carefully circumscribed bounds which, in my opinion, falls short of torture. Ultimately, to exercise pragmatism properly, you have to abide by an absolute moral code, to define boundaries you will not cross.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @45 , you still do not understand what waterboarding is. But where does the Bible “prescribe” that society punish “wrongdoing” with “physical injury”?

  • Jonathan

    DonS @45 , you still do not understand what waterboarding is. But where does the Bible “prescribe” that society punish “wrongdoing” with “physical injury”?

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 46: I understand what waterboarding is. We’ll leave it at that, since this thread is not about waterboarding. Substitute harsh lights, loud and disagreeable music, and withholding food and drink for certain interrogation durations if that helps make my primary point better, and we will agree to disagree about the specific technique of waterboarding.

    The Israelites were instructed to kill certain offenders under Judaic Old Testament law. My point was that God doesn’t draw a line prohibiting physical injury under all circumstances, depending upon the offense. I didn’t say that the Bible prescribes that we do the same, but it certainly doesn’t preclude it.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 46: I understand what waterboarding is. We’ll leave it at that, since this thread is not about waterboarding. Substitute harsh lights, loud and disagreeable music, and withholding food and drink for certain interrogation durations if that helps make my primary point better, and we will agree to disagree about the specific technique of waterboarding.

    The Israelites were instructed to kill certain offenders under Judaic Old Testament law. My point was that God doesn’t draw a line prohibiting physical injury under all circumstances, depending upon the offense. I didn’t say that the Bible prescribes that we do the same, but it certainly doesn’t preclude it.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @47. I agree that you’re ignorant of waterboarding.
    You also said “[o]f course, the Bible condones, and even prescribes, physical injury, administered by society, as a punishment for wrongdoing …” I didn’t think you could prove that statement.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @47. I agree that you’re ignorant of waterboarding.
    You also said “[o]f course, the Bible condones, and even prescribes, physical injury, administered by society, as a punishment for wrongdoing …” I didn’t think you could prove that statement.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@37), I can’t help but notice that you didn’t actually provide a definition for torture yourself, even as you said we need one. Or am I to infer from your comment that torture is defined solely as anything that “permanently injures” someone?

    Anyhow, you said:

    Torture works. Otherwise, our intelligence agencies wouldn’t spend so much time training our agents to resist it.

    Torture works … to what end? You didn’t say. To inflict pain? To get information from someone who isn’t talking? To send a message to a group of people? To demoralize?

    And your same logic here would also have me believe that terrorism works. After all, we spend a massive amount of money trying to stop to that, as well. Except, well, I don’t think terrorism always works, either. I kinda think America, India, Britain, and Spain are all keeping their agendas as before they were attacked.

    You also said, “Waterboarding is not torture, though because of its psychological effects it should be used sparingly.” But why should it be used sparingly, provided that it’s not “permanently injuring”, according to you? Do non-permanent psychological effects also factor into your rubric for the definition of torture? Should they?

    “Innocent American life is worth protecting.” Indeed, though I’m curious why several people feel the need to point that out here, almost as if they were positing (and countering) a straw-man argument held by torture opponents. Again, the question is not, “Should we protect ‘innocent’ Americans?” but rather, “Is there a limit to what we can do to defend ourselves?”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@37), I can’t help but notice that you didn’t actually provide a definition for torture yourself, even as you said we need one. Or am I to infer from your comment that torture is defined solely as anything that “permanently injures” someone?

    Anyhow, you said:

    Torture works. Otherwise, our intelligence agencies wouldn’t spend so much time training our agents to resist it.

    Torture works … to what end? You didn’t say. To inflict pain? To get information from someone who isn’t talking? To send a message to a group of people? To demoralize?

    And your same logic here would also have me believe that terrorism works. After all, we spend a massive amount of money trying to stop to that, as well. Except, well, I don’t think terrorism always works, either. I kinda think America, India, Britain, and Spain are all keeping their agendas as before they were attacked.

    You also said, “Waterboarding is not torture, though because of its psychological effects it should be used sparingly.” But why should it be used sparingly, provided that it’s not “permanently injuring”, according to you? Do non-permanent psychological effects also factor into your rubric for the definition of torture? Should they?

    “Innocent American life is worth protecting.” Indeed, though I’m curious why several people feel the need to point that out here, almost as if they were positing (and countering) a straw-man argument held by torture opponents. Again, the question is not, “Should we protect ‘innocent’ Americans?” but rather, “Is there a limit to what we can do to defend ourselves?”

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 48: You must be the same commenter who also goes by the name “Jon”, rather than the other Jonathan who sometimes thoughtfully comments here. I say that because your comment @ 48 is ignorant and stupidly personally provocative.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 48: You must be the same commenter who also goes by the name “Jon”, rather than the other Jonathan who sometimes thoughtfully comments here. I say that because your comment @ 48 is ignorant and stupidly personally provocative.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @50, you’ve been caught pretty firmly by the short hairs, haven’t you?

  • Jonathan

    DonS @50, you’ve been caught pretty firmly by the short hairs, haven’t you?

  • DonS

    tODD @ 49: My comment was not intended to be a treatise or policy statement, since that would be far beyond the purview of a blog comment. Generally, I think the definition I provided, or implied, as you say (interrogation techniques resulting in permanent physical injury are morally wrong) is adequate as a bright-line rule, for purposes of blogging. Where, exactly, that line is to be drawn, to make the definition more specific to various available techniques, is beyond my capability, as I don’t even know most of the techniques, I’m sure. The main point I was making is that pragmatism is a worthy guideline for determining appropriate interrogation techniques, but it needs to be bounded by strict predetermined limits defined by a careful consideration of moral standards and the value of human life. I think defining “torture” is a good way to determine those limits, and thought that should be injected into the thread discussion. Even if we don’t agree at present on where the line is to be drawn (i.e. the definition of “torture”), we should be able to agree on this general principle.

    Terrorism works. Innocent people are killed, and society is changed responsive to it. Similarly, torture works to extract information from the person being tortured. That is all I was saying. But, the end doesn’t justify the means, so I am not advocating that we in the civilized west use torture as an interrogation technique.

    Your question about psychological effects is a good one. It is pretty well established, for example, that waterboarding, done properly and judiciously, imposes no permanent physical injury on the subject. It is routinely done, in appropriate forms, to our own military and law enforcement personnel, for example. Its power is psychological — the feeling of helplessness and the drowning sensation it creates. For healthy, normal subjects this is not dangerous, if done judiciously. No permanent psychological damage should be done. But, using the technique repeatedly or incessantly might create a different result, just as other harsh interrogation techniques might also do. The mandate on the interrogation team should always be to avoid any reasonable chance of imposing permanent injury on the subject, whether that injury be physical or psychological.

    As for your last question, the reason I made the statement is to ensure that it is understood that these interrogations often take place in the context of risible threats to innocent human life, and efforts to extract information to respond to these threats. The pragmatism of interrogation, as long as you avoid the bright line of torture mandated by our moral code, is to use appropriate techniques, on a sliding scale, relative to the perceived danger to human life attendant to not getting the desired information.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 49: My comment was not intended to be a treatise or policy statement, since that would be far beyond the purview of a blog comment. Generally, I think the definition I provided, or implied, as you say (interrogation techniques resulting in permanent physical injury are morally wrong) is adequate as a bright-line rule, for purposes of blogging. Where, exactly, that line is to be drawn, to make the definition more specific to various available techniques, is beyond my capability, as I don’t even know most of the techniques, I’m sure. The main point I was making is that pragmatism is a worthy guideline for determining appropriate interrogation techniques, but it needs to be bounded by strict predetermined limits defined by a careful consideration of moral standards and the value of human life. I think defining “torture” is a good way to determine those limits, and thought that should be injected into the thread discussion. Even if we don’t agree at present on where the line is to be drawn (i.e. the definition of “torture”), we should be able to agree on this general principle.

    Terrorism works. Innocent people are killed, and society is changed responsive to it. Similarly, torture works to extract information from the person being tortured. That is all I was saying. But, the end doesn’t justify the means, so I am not advocating that we in the civilized west use torture as an interrogation technique.

    Your question about psychological effects is a good one. It is pretty well established, for example, that waterboarding, done properly and judiciously, imposes no permanent physical injury on the subject. It is routinely done, in appropriate forms, to our own military and law enforcement personnel, for example. Its power is psychological — the feeling of helplessness and the drowning sensation it creates. For healthy, normal subjects this is not dangerous, if done judiciously. No permanent psychological damage should be done. But, using the technique repeatedly or incessantly might create a different result, just as other harsh interrogation techniques might also do. The mandate on the interrogation team should always be to avoid any reasonable chance of imposing permanent injury on the subject, whether that injury be physical or psychological.

    As for your last question, the reason I made the statement is to ensure that it is understood that these interrogations often take place in the context of risible threats to innocent human life, and efforts to extract information to respond to these threats. The pragmatism of interrogation, as long as you avoid the bright line of torture mandated by our moral code, is to use appropriate techniques, on a sliding scale, relative to the perceived danger to human life attendant to not getting the desired information.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ tODD

    “SG (@33), you quoted me extensively and said, “This sounds about right,” but then went on to draw conclusions at best unrelated to what I had said. I guess I’m not sure why you quoted me.

    “Also, it really would help everyone (certainly me) if you did a few things when replying to someone. First, tell us to whom you’re replying, by name. Preferably with a comment number, so we know what, in particular, you’re replying to.”

    Two things.

    First, I quoted you because what you said got me to thinking and I was just using it to show what got my idea started, even though I went in a direction that you weren’t heading.

    Next, I wasn’t really replying to you. I was just using your idea as a springboard for something else. I use people’s names to reply to them.

    Sorry, I don’t know how to block quote.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ tODD

    “SG (@33), you quoted me extensively and said, “This sounds about right,” but then went on to draw conclusions at best unrelated to what I had said. I guess I’m not sure why you quoted me.

    “Also, it really would help everyone (certainly me) if you did a few things when replying to someone. First, tell us to whom you’re replying, by name. Preferably with a comment number, so we know what, in particular, you’re replying to.”

    Two things.

    First, I quoted you because what you said got me to thinking and I was just using it to show what got my idea started, even though I went in a direction that you weren’t heading.

    Next, I wasn’t really replying to you. I was just using your idea as a springboard for something else. I use people’s names to reply to them.

    Sorry, I don’t know how to block quote.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 51: You have confirmed my supposition @ 50, in spades.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 51: You have confirmed my supposition @ 50, in spades.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Is there a limit to what we can do to defend ourselves?”

    That depends on the threat.

    If we are in danger of being taken over by another power, then it comes down to doing absolutely anything to win because if we don’t win, we won’t be making any of the rules anyway. We will be living under someone else’s rules.

    What about for lesser threats? I don’t know. Have we correctly assessed the threats?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Is there a limit to what we can do to defend ourselves?”

    That depends on the threat.

    If we are in danger of being taken over by another power, then it comes down to doing absolutely anything to win because if we don’t win, we won’t be making any of the rules anyway. We will be living under someone else’s rules.

    What about for lesser threats? I don’t know. Have we correctly assessed the threats?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@53), well, I thought I’d explained it, but here’s how to block quote. You type this:

    <blockquote>A lengthy quote, usually more than one sentence, that would take up several lines.</blockquote>

    And it looks like this:

    A lengthy quote, usually more than one sentence, that would take up several lines.

    It’s that easy! Just don’t forget the “/” in the closing tag there (in HTML, a tag is anything between angle brackets).

    And even if you don’t use my name, if you quote me extensively, I’m going to assume you’re replying to me.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@53), well, I thought I’d explained it, but here’s how to block quote. You type this:

    <blockquote>A lengthy quote, usually more than one sentence, that would take up several lines.</blockquote>

    And it looks like this:

    A lengthy quote, usually more than one sentence, that would take up several lines.

    It’s that easy! Just don’t forget the “/” in the closing tag there (in HTML, a tag is anything between angle brackets).

    And even if you don’t use my name, if you quote me extensively, I’m going to assume you’re replying to me.

  • Jonathan

    DonS@54, reading your blustering posts is its own kind of peculiar torture, but your misuse of the word “risible” gave me a good laugh.

  • Jonathan

    DonS@54, reading your blustering posts is its own kind of peculiar torture, but your misuse of the word “risible” gave me a good laugh.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jonathan (@57), come on. DonS is actually making arguments here. Please try to engage them. And Don, you never answered Jonathan’s legitimate question (@46, 48).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jonathan (@57), come on. DonS is actually making arguments here. Please try to engage them. And Don, you never answered Jonathan’s legitimate question (@46, 48).

  • Jonathan

    Understood, tODD @58, but engaging DonS is like trying to nail gelatin. Consider: he announces his fiat that waterboarding is not torture. He waves away, without ever addressing, all evidence to the contrary. Then he elaborates: “Its [waterboarding's] power is psychological — the feeling of helplessness and the drowning sensation it creates. For healthy, normal subjects this is not dangerous, if done judiciously.” Whiskey, Tango ….?

    All I can do to make minimal sense of this is to conclude that DonS mistakenly equates torture with tremendous physical (not psychological) pain that causes death. That’s why the waterboard-caused “feeling of helplessness and the drowning sensation” is simply not “dangerous” for “normal” people, “if done judiciously.” Perhaps he means that a one-time waterboarding experience won’t scar a man for life. Perhaps that’s true; I can’t say and neither can DonS. But I doubt that a man, once waterboarded, will ever forget it or want it repeated. Those who have been waterboarded call it torture. So, at bottom, what has DonS really said? What do we engage? That forcing a person to feel like he’s helpless and being drowned simply can’t be called torture because the effect is purely psychological…..?

  • Jonathan

    Understood, tODD @58, but engaging DonS is like trying to nail gelatin. Consider: he announces his fiat that waterboarding is not torture. He waves away, without ever addressing, all evidence to the contrary. Then he elaborates: “Its [waterboarding's] power is psychological — the feeling of helplessness and the drowning sensation it creates. For healthy, normal subjects this is not dangerous, if done judiciously.” Whiskey, Tango ….?

    All I can do to make minimal sense of this is to conclude that DonS mistakenly equates torture with tremendous physical (not psychological) pain that causes death. That’s why the waterboard-caused “feeling of helplessness and the drowning sensation” is simply not “dangerous” for “normal” people, “if done judiciously.” Perhaps he means that a one-time waterboarding experience won’t scar a man for life. Perhaps that’s true; I can’t say and neither can DonS. But I doubt that a man, once waterboarded, will ever forget it or want it repeated. Those who have been waterboarded call it torture. So, at bottom, what has DonS really said? What do we engage? That forcing a person to feel like he’s helpless and being drowned simply can’t be called torture because the effect is purely psychological…..?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@52), I didn’t want a “treatise or policy statement”, I just wanted a definition from you — the very thing you said this discussion needed. But I had to infer one from what you wrote. And it still doesn’t match your own arguments here.

    You now explicitly define (“for purposes of blogging”) torture as “interrogation techniques resulting in permanent physical injury are morally wrong”. But then, in that same blogging context, you assert that interrogators should:

    avoid any reasonable chance of imposing permanent injury on the subject, whether that injury be physical or psychological.

    So now you’ve added psychological damage to your rubric. Or have you? I don’t know. And how do we assess psychological damage as to its permanency? Seems to me that war itself produces not a few examples of permanent psychological damage, though I doubt you would include war itself as an example of torture.

    Still, one might note that under your first definition (precluding merely “permanent physical injury”), rape would be considered appropriate. I’m not saying you think it actually would be (I certainly hope not), but I am trying to show you the deficiencies in your definition. By the way, does rape necessarily produce permanent psychological damage? What about forcing men at gunpoint to masturbate in front of other people? While being filmed? Isn’t there a point where morals kick in, even if your suggested rubric doesn’t?

    Terrorism works. Innocent people are killed, and society is changed responsive to it.

    This is silly, and appears to entirely miss the point. Is the goal of terrorism merely to kill people, or to “change society”, or is it to further some particular aim? I mean, yes, 9/11 killed people and altered our society, but from what I read, it did not achieve the stated aims of those who planned it. Nor has the terrorism in Northern Ireland achieved the clearly stated goals of those carrying it out. Same thing in Israel. I think it’s pretty clear that terrorism actually rarely works. But desperate people resort to it when they feel they have few other options.

    In the same way, the mere existence of torture does not mean that it works, which was your original claim (@37).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@52), I didn’t want a “treatise or policy statement”, I just wanted a definition from you — the very thing you said this discussion needed. But I had to infer one from what you wrote. And it still doesn’t match your own arguments here.

    You now explicitly define (“for purposes of blogging”) torture as “interrogation techniques resulting in permanent physical injury are morally wrong”. But then, in that same blogging context, you assert that interrogators should:

    avoid any reasonable chance of imposing permanent injury on the subject, whether that injury be physical or psychological.

    So now you’ve added psychological damage to your rubric. Or have you? I don’t know. And how do we assess psychological damage as to its permanency? Seems to me that war itself produces not a few examples of permanent psychological damage, though I doubt you would include war itself as an example of torture.

    Still, one might note that under your first definition (precluding merely “permanent physical injury”), rape would be considered appropriate. I’m not saying you think it actually would be (I certainly hope not), but I am trying to show you the deficiencies in your definition. By the way, does rape necessarily produce permanent psychological damage? What about forcing men at gunpoint to masturbate in front of other people? While being filmed? Isn’t there a point where morals kick in, even if your suggested rubric doesn’t?

    Terrorism works. Innocent people are killed, and society is changed responsive to it.

    This is silly, and appears to entirely miss the point. Is the goal of terrorism merely to kill people, or to “change society”, or is it to further some particular aim? I mean, yes, 9/11 killed people and altered our society, but from what I read, it did not achieve the stated aims of those who planned it. Nor has the terrorism in Northern Ireland achieved the clearly stated goals of those carrying it out. Same thing in Israel. I think it’s pretty clear that terrorism actually rarely works. But desperate people resort to it when they feel they have few other options.

    In the same way, the mere existence of torture does not mean that it works, which was your original claim (@37).

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 57: sometimes the use of an iPhone to type comments leads to risible results, namely the use of wrong words because of its overeager autocorrect feature. This was such an instance.

    Hopefully, there is an equally reasonable excuse for your general rudeness.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 57: sometimes the use of an iPhone to type comments leads to risible results, namely the use of wrong words because of its overeager autocorrect feature. This was such an instance.

    Hopefully, there is an equally reasonable excuse for your general rudeness.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 58: I’m not sure why you and Jonathan both think I didn’t answer his point. Maybe I misunderstood it.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 58: I’m not sure why you and Jonathan both think I didn’t answer his point. Maybe I misunderstood it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@55), if your “limit” “depends” on the situation, then what sort of limit is it? That’s moral relativism. Or, once again, pragmatism.

    If we are in danger of being taken over by another power, then it comes down to doing absolutely anything to win because if we don’t win, we won’t be making any of the rules anyway.

    Which means that you have no moral absolutes except that “we” must remain in power. Power is the only guiding force, everything else is subject to it. Hello, postmodernism!

    So if it looks like “they” are going to win, it’s okay for us to rape their women, or shove objects up their rectums? Or at least if we’re convinced it will help us turn the tide? Because we must win at all costs?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@55), if your “limit” “depends” on the situation, then what sort of limit is it? That’s moral relativism. Or, once again, pragmatism.

    If we are in danger of being taken over by another power, then it comes down to doing absolutely anything to win because if we don’t win, we won’t be making any of the rules anyway.

    Which means that you have no moral absolutes except that “we” must remain in power. Power is the only guiding force, everything else is subject to it. Hello, postmodernism!

    So if it looks like “they” are going to win, it’s okay for us to rape their women, or shove objects up their rectums? Or at least if we’re convinced it will help us turn the tide? Because we must win at all costs?

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 59: Thank you for finally writing an intelligible comment. I guess because it wasn’t addressed to me?

    My original blustering “announcement”, as you characterize it, was merely to make the point that the first 27 comments in the thread never acknowledged the fact that “torture” had not been defined, and seemed to assume that waterboarding was torture, even though that debate has certainly not been settled in real life. It seems odd to me that you demand so much from my comments when your comments, such as they are,largely consist of snark and insults. When someone like tODD calls me on inconsistencies he sees in what I have said, I can accept that, and I try to respond, because I know that he puts a lot of thought and care into the comments he makes. You have not yet demonstrated the same.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 59: Thank you for finally writing an intelligible comment. I guess because it wasn’t addressed to me?

    My original blustering “announcement”, as you characterize it, was merely to make the point that the first 27 comments in the thread never acknowledged the fact that “torture” had not been defined, and seemed to assume that waterboarding was torture, even though that debate has certainly not been settled in real life. It seems odd to me that you demand so much from my comments when your comments, such as they are,largely consist of snark and insults. When someone like tODD calls me on inconsistencies he sees in what I have said, I can accept that, and I try to respond, because I know that he puts a lot of thought and care into the comments he makes. You have not yet demonstrated the same.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @61, more plausibly, you hit the wrong keystroke. It’s OK to admit that; it’s easy to commit typos here. But further conversation seems pointless now, as you’ve retreated to your well known “you’re so rude to me” phase, which occurs whenever you’re caught making nonsense.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @61, more plausibly, you hit the wrong keystroke. It’s OK to admit that; it’s easy to commit typos here. But further conversation seems pointless now, as you’ve retreated to your well known “you’re so rude to me” phase, which occurs whenever you’re caught making nonsense.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@61), I’ve certainly tried typing long-form comments on an iPhone. It’s hard. In addition to the perils of questionable spelling correction, it’s really hard to keep focused on the discussion when the keyboard takes up half of an already-tiny screen. So, yeah, some slack is deserved.

    But as to your other comment (@62), come on, just look at Jonathan’s comments that I referred to (@46, 48). Where did you answer his questions? That is, where did you provide citations for where the Bible “prescribes” that society punish “wrongdoing” with “physical injury”? I’m not denying they exist, I’m just not sure what you’re thinking of. And depending on what you’re thinking of, I might have different responses.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@61), I’ve certainly tried typing long-form comments on an iPhone. It’s hard. In addition to the perils of questionable spelling correction, it’s really hard to keep focused on the discussion when the keyboard takes up half of an already-tiny screen. So, yeah, some slack is deserved.

    But as to your other comment (@62), come on, just look at Jonathan’s comments that I referred to (@46, 48). Where did you answer his questions? That is, where did you provide citations for where the Bible “prescribes” that society punish “wrongdoing” with “physical injury”? I’m not denying they exist, I’m just not sure what you’re thinking of. And depending on what you’re thinking of, I might have different responses.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 60: I think your point is well taken, and demonstrates the very issue I originally raised, which is that this discussion in the early comments had no context. What is torture? Without some kind of working definition, the discussion is meaningless, because some may be assuming that it includes any imposed discomfort and others may be assuming that it means only egregious techniques, such as the medieval rack, cutting off appendages, starvation, death.

    As a working definition, I proposed torture as comprising the imposition of permanent injury. I never said “physical”, and I meant including psychological injury. I clarified this in a later comment responsive to an earlier point you made. I also stated, for purposes of the working definition, that I believed waterboarding to fall short of torture, but acknowledged that not all will agree with where I draw the line.

    As for your other question, that also requires a definition of “works”. Clearly, successfully executed terrorist acts, such as the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, draws attention to the cause of the terrorists, causes a change of behavior among those being terrorized, kills large numbers of “infidels”, etc. That act “worked”, from the point of view of bin Laden and those he was directing. I don’t think he expected that single act, alone, to destroy America. Similarly, torture clearly works in that it often extracts information which would not be given freely.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 60: I think your point is well taken, and demonstrates the very issue I originally raised, which is that this discussion in the early comments had no context. What is torture? Without some kind of working definition, the discussion is meaningless, because some may be assuming that it includes any imposed discomfort and others may be assuming that it means only egregious techniques, such as the medieval rack, cutting off appendages, starvation, death.

    As a working definition, I proposed torture as comprising the imposition of permanent injury. I never said “physical”, and I meant including psychological injury. I clarified this in a later comment responsive to an earlier point you made. I also stated, for purposes of the working definition, that I believed waterboarding to fall short of torture, but acknowledged that not all will agree with where I draw the line.

    As for your other question, that also requires a definition of “works”. Clearly, successfully executed terrorist acts, such as the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, draws attention to the cause of the terrorists, causes a change of behavior among those being terrorized, kills large numbers of “infidels”, etc. That act “worked”, from the point of view of bin Laden and those he was directing. I don’t think he expected that single act, alone, to destroy America. Similarly, torture clearly works in that it often extracts information which would not be given freely.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 65: As have you retreated to your usual snark.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 65: As have you retreated to your usual snark.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 66: I answered Jonathan’s question, if you could call it that, in the same manner in which it was asked — briefly, by referring to the Judaic law providing for physical punishment, including death, of wrongdoers. Are cites really needed for that?

  • DonS

    tODD @ 66: I answered Jonathan’s question, if you could call it that, in the same manner in which it was asked — briefly, by referring to the Judaic law providing for physical punishment, including death, of wrongdoers. Are cites really needed for that?

  • Jonathan

    DonS @69, let me jump back in here briefly to note that you’re now misquoting yourself. The question was, where’s your proof that the Bible “prescribes” [not illustrates] society administer physical injury to wrongdoers. Your answer @47 in full: “The Israelites were instructed to kill certain offenders under Judaic Old Testament law. My point was that God doesn’t draw a line prohibiting physical injury under all circumstances, depending upon the offense. I didn’t say that the Bible prescribes that we do the same, but it certainly doesn’t preclude it.”

    You were right @47 to retract your assertion that the “Bible” “prescribes” physical pain for wrongdoers. Yet @69 you’re claiming to have provided evidence for your since-retracted assertion. I’m beginning to think that you’re just not that bright. Which actually makes me want to cut you some slack.

  • Jonathan

    DonS @69, let me jump back in here briefly to note that you’re now misquoting yourself. The question was, where’s your proof that the Bible “prescribes” [not illustrates] society administer physical injury to wrongdoers. Your answer @47 in full: “The Israelites were instructed to kill certain offenders under Judaic Old Testament law. My point was that God doesn’t draw a line prohibiting physical injury under all circumstances, depending upon the offense. I didn’t say that the Bible prescribes that we do the same, but it certainly doesn’t preclude it.”

    You were right @47 to retract your assertion that the “Bible” “prescribes” physical pain for wrongdoers. Yet @69 you’re claiming to have provided evidence for your since-retracted assertion. I’m beginning to think that you’re just not that bright. Which actually makes me want to cut you some slack.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@67), I don’t know if this is all the result of your reading and replying from an iPhone, but several times now, you have directly misrepresented your own words here.

    Here’s you from comment 67:

    I never said ‘physical’, and I meant including psychological injury.

    And here’s you, say, at comment 52:

    Generally, I think the definition I provided, or implied, as you say (interrogation techniques resulting in permanent physical injury are morally wrong) is adequate.

    So you did say “physical”, and it wasn’t at all clear at the time that you meant psychological effects, though I understand that now. Still, where does sexual humiliation, up to and including rape, fit in your view? Torture or not?

    To me, the question is not so much “what is torture?”, as, “what acts are morally reprehensible for our government to perform in our name, no matter whether we label them as torture or not?” This will certainly put an absolute bound on tactics, no matter their perceived pragmatic value.

    You also said:

    Similarly, torture clearly works in that it often extracts information which would not be given freely.

    Again, this is not obvious to me, and I’m curious what you’d like to cite as evidence for your “clear” conclusion. I have already noted (@25) that this appears to be a “he-said/he-said situation”, which is far from “clear”. As to whether terrorism “works”, I disagree with you, but don’t feel like getting sidetracked into debating a comparison.

    As to Jonathan’s question, is it so hard for you to point us to a specific Scripture passage you had in mind? I don’t understand why you’re taking umbrage at that — you usually seem to understand that people making assertions may be called upon to back them up. Are you thinking of “an eye for an eye”? I don’t really know. Don’t make me do the research for your claims.

    But that gets to the other misrepresentation of your own words. You said (@47):

    I didn’t say that the Bible prescribes that we do the same, but it certainly doesn’t preclude it.

    But, again, here are your own words from earlier (@45):

    Of course, the Bible condones, and even prescribes, physical injury, administered by society, as a punishment for wrongdoing, which is why I still support capital punishment, very judiciously exercised.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@67), I don’t know if this is all the result of your reading and replying from an iPhone, but several times now, you have directly misrepresented your own words here.

    Here’s you from comment 67:

    I never said ‘physical’, and I meant including psychological injury.

    And here’s you, say, at comment 52:

    Generally, I think the definition I provided, or implied, as you say (interrogation techniques resulting in permanent physical injury are morally wrong) is adequate.

    So you did say “physical”, and it wasn’t at all clear at the time that you meant psychological effects, though I understand that now. Still, where does sexual humiliation, up to and including rape, fit in your view? Torture or not?

    To me, the question is not so much “what is torture?”, as, “what acts are morally reprehensible for our government to perform in our name, no matter whether we label them as torture or not?” This will certainly put an absolute bound on tactics, no matter their perceived pragmatic value.

    You also said:

    Similarly, torture clearly works in that it often extracts information which would not be given freely.

    Again, this is not obvious to me, and I’m curious what you’d like to cite as evidence for your “clear” conclusion. I have already noted (@25) that this appears to be a “he-said/he-said situation”, which is far from “clear”. As to whether terrorism “works”, I disagree with you, but don’t feel like getting sidetracked into debating a comparison.

    As to Jonathan’s question, is it so hard for you to point us to a specific Scripture passage you had in mind? I don’t understand why you’re taking umbrage at that — you usually seem to understand that people making assertions may be called upon to back them up. Are you thinking of “an eye for an eye”? I don’t really know. Don’t make me do the research for your claims.

    But that gets to the other misrepresentation of your own words. You said (@47):

    I didn’t say that the Bible prescribes that we do the same, but it certainly doesn’t preclude it.

    But, again, here are your own words from earlier (@45):

    Of course, the Bible condones, and even prescribes, physical injury, administered by society, as a punishment for wrongdoing, which is why I still support capital punishment, very judiciously exercised.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 70: First, thanks for yet another gratuitous insult. I trust that calling people “not that bright” somehow makes you feel better, or more important? Do you do that in real life, or only on blogs? Do you find that such things help you to be more persuasive?

    Second, this was actually your question, in full: But where does the Bible “prescribe” that society punish “wrongdoing” with “physical injury”? I answered that question fully, by explaining that the Bible prescribed it under Judaic law. Now, finally, you are clarifying that you were distinguishing “prescribes” from “illustrates”, presumably because you thought I meant it prescribed it for us. But that is not what I meant, just as what you say you asked, now, is not what you actually asked.

    You were right @47 to retract your assertion that the “Bible” “prescribes” physical pain for wrongdoers. Yet @69 you’re claiming to have provided evidence for your since-retracted assertion. I’m beginning to think that you’re just not that bright. Which actually makes me want to cut you some slack.

    Hmm. I didn’t “retract” anything. In my original comment I was speaking historically, and you misunderstood my point. Then, rather than ask for clarification, you simply went into “snark” mode. Maybe you’re just not that bright either.

  • DonS

    Jonathan @ 70: First, thanks for yet another gratuitous insult. I trust that calling people “not that bright” somehow makes you feel better, or more important? Do you do that in real life, or only on blogs? Do you find that such things help you to be more persuasive?

    Second, this was actually your question, in full: But where does the Bible “prescribe” that society punish “wrongdoing” with “physical injury”? I answered that question fully, by explaining that the Bible prescribed it under Judaic law. Now, finally, you are clarifying that you were distinguishing “prescribes” from “illustrates”, presumably because you thought I meant it prescribed it for us. But that is not what I meant, just as what you say you asked, now, is not what you actually asked.

    You were right @47 to retract your assertion that the “Bible” “prescribes” physical pain for wrongdoers. Yet @69 you’re claiming to have provided evidence for your since-retracted assertion. I’m beginning to think that you’re just not that bright. Which actually makes me want to cut you some slack.

    Hmm. I didn’t “retract” anything. In my original comment I was speaking historically, and you misunderstood my point. Then, rather than ask for clarification, you simply went into “snark” mode. Maybe you’re just not that bright either.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 71: In my original comment, @ 37, I never said “physical”. At 52, in a different context, I used the word “physical”, but that was responsive to you, when we were already discussing distinctions between physical and psychological effects. My comment @ 67 was referring to my original point, not the entire thread.

    I don’t have Scripture handy at the moment, so I cannot provide a specific reference, though the point isn’t controversial, I don’t think. But I was thinking of Levitical law, for example, prescribing death for adulterers. That kind of thing.

    But that gets to the other misrepresentation of your own words. You said (@47):

    I didn’t say that the Bible prescribes that we do the same, but it certainly doesn’t preclude it.

    But, again, here are your own words from earlier (@45):

    Of course, the Bible condones, and even prescribes, physical injury, administered by society, as a punishment for wrongdoing, which is why I still support capital punishment, very judiciously exercised.

    If a pharmacist prescribes medication for you, it is not for me. Similarly, just because God prescribes capital punishment for the Israelites, He is not necessarily prescribing it for us. So, my words are not inconsistent, as both you and Jonathan seem to think, for some reason. However, since Scripture does not specifically abrogate capital punishment by societies other than ancient Israel, for example, I think we are free, as a society, to use it. But, we don’t have to. It is a political, not a moral, question, in my view.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 71: In my original comment, @ 37, I never said “physical”. At 52, in a different context, I used the word “physical”, but that was responsive to you, when we were already discussing distinctions between physical and psychological effects. My comment @ 67 was referring to my original point, not the entire thread.

    I don’t have Scripture handy at the moment, so I cannot provide a specific reference, though the point isn’t controversial, I don’t think. But I was thinking of Levitical law, for example, prescribing death for adulterers. That kind of thing.

    But that gets to the other misrepresentation of your own words. You said (@47):

    I didn’t say that the Bible prescribes that we do the same, but it certainly doesn’t preclude it.

    But, again, here are your own words from earlier (@45):

    Of course, the Bible condones, and even prescribes, physical injury, administered by society, as a punishment for wrongdoing, which is why I still support capital punishment, very judiciously exercised.

    If a pharmacist prescribes medication for you, it is not for me. Similarly, just because God prescribes capital punishment for the Israelites, He is not necessarily prescribing it for us. So, my words are not inconsistent, as both you and Jonathan seem to think, for some reason. However, since Scripture does not specifically abrogate capital punishment by societies other than ancient Israel, for example, I think we are free, as a society, to use it. But, we don’t have to. It is a political, not a moral, question, in my view.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    tODD @ 63, it is not just about power, although that is always an aspect of human relations. It is about survival. Do terrorists pose an existential threat? At this point it sure doesn’t appear so to me.
    I wouldn’t really call it moral relativism, but maybe it is. It is more like making the punishment fit the crime. That is not a perfect analogy, really it is making the methods fit the threat. If you have ever heard the accounts of what people experienced at Hiroshima, it is gut wrenching. It leaves a profound pain in your heart. It was a last resort. But sincere folks felt they had no other choice. It is certainly heartening that so many here in the US are very concerned about any methods that could possibly be considered torture. Still, we shouldn’t be so desperate to be perfectly consistent that we would allow ourselves to be destroyed and our reasonably ethical framework to be replaced by a regime of abject brutality.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    tODD @ 63, it is not just about power, although that is always an aspect of human relations. It is about survival. Do terrorists pose an existential threat? At this point it sure doesn’t appear so to me.
    I wouldn’t really call it moral relativism, but maybe it is. It is more like making the punishment fit the crime. That is not a perfect analogy, really it is making the methods fit the threat. If you have ever heard the accounts of what people experienced at Hiroshima, it is gut wrenching. It leaves a profound pain in your heart. It was a last resort. But sincere folks felt they had no other choice. It is certainly heartening that so many here in the US are very concerned about any methods that could possibly be considered torture. Still, we shouldn’t be so desperate to be perfectly consistent that we would allow ourselves to be destroyed and our reasonably ethical framework to be replaced by a regime of abject brutality.

  • http://Www.Toddstadler.com tODD

    SG (@74), again, your argument presupposes that our country/society/culture’s existence is the paramount concern here — more so than any moral concern. My point is, once you’ve jettisoned a solid moral basis for a relativist one, what’s so great about the culture you’re defending?

    You say, regarding Hiroshima, “It was a last resort. But sincere folks felt they had no other choice.” But that only asserts that sincerity is the metric we should use, and that it may trump any moral argument. I’m sure an argument could be made for the sincerity of al Qaeda members, if you believe that.

    You concluded:

    Still, we shouldn’t be so desperate to be perfectly consistent that we would allow ourselves to be destroyed and our reasonably ethical framework to be replaced by a regime of abject brutality.

    But if we will do anything and everything, no matter how immoral, to preserve our country, what claim do we have to an ethical framework (except one of convenience), or how are we in any way less “abjectly brutal”? Let’s be like them so that we can defeat them and show them how we’re not like them?

  • http://Www.Toddstadler.com tODD

    SG (@74), again, your argument presupposes that our country/society/culture’s existence is the paramount concern here — more so than any moral concern. My point is, once you’ve jettisoned a solid moral basis for a relativist one, what’s so great about the culture you’re defending?

    You say, regarding Hiroshima, “It was a last resort. But sincere folks felt they had no other choice.” But that only asserts that sincerity is the metric we should use, and that it may trump any moral argument. I’m sure an argument could be made for the sincerity of al Qaeda members, if you believe that.

    You concluded:

    Still, we shouldn’t be so desperate to be perfectly consistent that we would allow ourselves to be destroyed and our reasonably ethical framework to be replaced by a regime of abject brutality.

    But if we will do anything and everything, no matter how immoral, to preserve our country, what claim do we have to an ethical framework (except one of convenience), or how are we in any way less “abjectly brutal”? Let’s be like them so that we can defeat them and show them how we’re not like them?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “again, your argument presupposes that our country/society/culture’s existence is the paramount concern here”

    Again, yes, it does. Number one is survive. If we are dead, then our morality is pretty much moot. It is a hierarchy of priorities. The limits of the human condition do not afford us the option of choosing perfection.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “again, your argument presupposes that our country/society/culture’s existence is the paramount concern here”

    Again, yes, it does. Number one is survive. If we are dead, then our morality is pretty much moot. It is a hierarchy of priorities. The limits of the human condition do not afford us the option of choosing perfection.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “My point is, once you’ve jettisoned a solid moral basis for a relativist one, what’s so great about the culture you’re defending?”

    My kids.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “My point is, once you’ve jettisoned a solid moral basis for a relativist one, what’s so great about the culture you’re defending?”

    My kids.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ tODD. Look, I am talking about absolute last resorts, nothing like the foreign entanglements we are currently in. These current, um, military actions are more of a threat to our country and my kids than doing nothing. I feel terrible for all the servicemen who are sent off to these ‘wars’. I don’t know if you think I am endorsing torture or wars or what. Not that it matters. The point is there is a difference based on what is going on. A person who would never seek to kill someone under ordinary circumstances, may be willing to kill an intruder in his home to save his family. That isn’t moral relativism. It is a different situation.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ tODD. Look, I am talking about absolute last resorts, nothing like the foreign entanglements we are currently in. These current, um, military actions are more of a threat to our country and my kids than doing nothing. I feel terrible for all the servicemen who are sent off to these ‘wars’. I don’t know if you think I am endorsing torture or wars or what. Not that it matters. The point is there is a difference based on what is going on. A person who would never seek to kill someone under ordinary circumstances, may be willing to kill an intruder in his home to save his family. That isn’t moral relativism. It is a different situation.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But that only asserts that sincerity is the metric we should use, and that it may trump any moral argument.”

    Not exactly. I mean that they were acting in good faith. Further, moral arguments hold in the general case but could possibly be trumped in the face of existential threats.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But that only asserts that sincerity is the metric we should use, and that it may trump any moral argument.”

    Not exactly. I mean that they were acting in good faith. Further, moral arguments hold in the general case but could possibly be trumped in the face of existential threats.

  • Stephen

    But aren’t we talking about policy? Isn’t the issue of torture really not about what we would do in individual situations, it has to do with our countries laws, its founding principles, what our civilization is built upon, and what we are telling others they can expect from us as a nation that desires peace among other nations?

    I don’t hear much talk about it on those terms. Don’t we still believe we are the good guys? I don’t like to put it those terms. These days in the movies and TV the good guys DO torture people. The lines are getting fuzzy, and isn’t this the very thing that Christians decry about our culture? What gives? Dr. Veith’s question is still floating around out there it seems to me.

  • Stephen

    But aren’t we talking about policy? Isn’t the issue of torture really not about what we would do in individual situations, it has to do with our countries laws, its founding principles, what our civilization is built upon, and what we are telling others they can expect from us as a nation that desires peace among other nations?

    I don’t hear much talk about it on those terms. Don’t we still believe we are the good guys? I don’t like to put it those terms. These days in the movies and TV the good guys DO torture people. The lines are getting fuzzy, and isn’t this the very thing that Christians decry about our culture? What gives? Dr. Veith’s question is still floating around out there it seems to me.

  • Trey

    Some forms of torture, using Geneva Convention definition, do indeed work. However, this is a necessary evil in extreme cases, which I think the Bush administration was for. All life is valuable this is true. However, if you plot and scheme to take the life of innocent (civil realm sense) then you lose your natural rights not to be tortured. Again this is a very slippery slope, but we cannot nor should we expect those who are to punish evil with the sword to place the sword in the sheath in order to protect the evil doer. So it is immoral for the government not to torture in limited circumstances when not doing so would be harmful to the very citizens they are to protect against murders.

  • Trey

    Some forms of torture, using Geneva Convention definition, do indeed work. However, this is a necessary evil in extreme cases, which I think the Bush administration was for. All life is valuable this is true. However, if you plot and scheme to take the life of innocent (civil realm sense) then you lose your natural rights not to be tortured. Again this is a very slippery slope, but we cannot nor should we expect those who are to punish evil with the sword to place the sword in the sheath in order to protect the evil doer. So it is immoral for the government not to torture in limited circumstances when not doing so would be harmful to the very citizens they are to protect against murders.

  • Trey

    Perhaps this returns to the heart of the matter, but doesn’t intent come into play at all. Again torture is always wrong, but this does not mean we do not pick it as an option when it would be a lesser evil. Hence,the term moral dilemma.

  • Trey

    Perhaps this returns to the heart of the matter, but doesn’t intent come into play at all. Again torture is always wrong, but this does not mean we do not pick it as an option when it would be a lesser evil. Hence,the term moral dilemma.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@76), agreeing that her “country/society/culture’s existence is the paramount concern here”, said, “Number one is survive.” But this is not a Christian philosophy. The Christian considers (or at least ought to) others before himself — and does not sacrifice morals for his own survival. The early Christians — and many later Christians, following their examples, did not consider survival their “number one” priority. They valued their faith. They realized, in contrast to SG’s assertion that “If we are dead, then our morality is pretty much moot”, that their message survived their own life, precisely because they were willing to die for it. But you, SG, would apparently have us believe that the only way to have our ideals survive is to compromise them right when we need them. To prove that they are meaningless when the going gets tough. If such ideals are jettisoned when convenient, who cares if they survive? They’re already dead.

    You answer “my kids” as some sort of defense (@77) for abandoning would-be ideals, but I would posit that our culture, like most cultures, is a product of those who decided that their ideals were more important than their own lives. Our children are the beneficiaries of men who did not give up on their morals when things got difficult.

    A person who would never seek to kill someone under ordinary circumstances, may be willing to kill an intruder in his home to save his family.

    Which has little to nothing to do with torture. We’re not talking about the validity of war or self-defense. We’re talking about the presence of moral lines that we will (or ought) not cross, no matter the perceived pragmatic value.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@76), agreeing that her “country/society/culture’s existence is the paramount concern here”, said, “Number one is survive.” But this is not a Christian philosophy. The Christian considers (or at least ought to) others before himself — and does not sacrifice morals for his own survival. The early Christians — and many later Christians, following their examples, did not consider survival their “number one” priority. They valued their faith. They realized, in contrast to SG’s assertion that “If we are dead, then our morality is pretty much moot”, that their message survived their own life, precisely because they were willing to die for it. But you, SG, would apparently have us believe that the only way to have our ideals survive is to compromise them right when we need them. To prove that they are meaningless when the going gets tough. If such ideals are jettisoned when convenient, who cares if they survive? They’re already dead.

    You answer “my kids” as some sort of defense (@77) for abandoning would-be ideals, but I would posit that our culture, like most cultures, is a product of those who decided that their ideals were more important than their own lives. Our children are the beneficiaries of men who did not give up on their morals when things got difficult.

    A person who would never seek to kill someone under ordinary circumstances, may be willing to kill an intruder in his home to save his family.

    Which has little to nothing to do with torture. We’re not talking about the validity of war or self-defense. We’re talking about the presence of moral lines that we will (or ought) not cross, no matter the perceived pragmatic value.

  • Stephen

    Trey @ 81,82

    This seems inconsistent as You seem to point out:

    “Again torture is always wrong, but this does not mean we do not pick it as an option when it would be a lesser evil. Hence,the term moral dilemma.”

    If torture is always wrong, where is the dilemma? “Always” is a statement of absolute value, but then your next statement attempts to qualify what is absolute. At that point, it is no longer absolute.

    @ 81 you seem to make the killing of innocent life the measure. If innocent life is taken or otherwise at stake, then it is okay to go ahead with it. How many bombs and missiles of ours have landed on the homes and schools of innocents? For the families of Taliban or even people who are simply caught up in all this mess, as I suspect many are, at what point then is it justified for our enemies to call us terrorists and say we deserve to be tortured?

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying our military is just as bad as they are. What I am saying is that unless we come up with better reasons than political or military expediency to justify torture, we have no basis to claim any kind of absolute moral authority or purpose to our actions. We cannot claim to be holding a moral high ground it seems to me. We are making this up as we go along and our principles as a nation take a back seat. They kill us so we kill them. Whoever is the most clever at killing wins. That is our foreign policy. That is our moral rubric at base. All that stuff about nation building and democracy is just a way to shade it nicely for the masses and it is transparent. That is where I see it going. There’s your slippery slope.

    I think your sword in sheath argument could be used to justify genocide. We must kill not only the terrorists but their women and children too so that those angry kids aren’t taught to hate us in a Madrasah somewhere down the road and we have to fight this thing all over again. “We must protect innocent American lives” (do you hear the trumpets!).

    Again, we’ve tortured these people, why not just annihilate them with some nukes? Thinking it way out to the edges, I’d say that pragmatic thinking would reason that the only reason not to completely destroy Arab civilizations is that we want that territory for oil and/or a strategic advantage of some kind.

    But the of course it is not that simple when discussing the implications of actions on a global scale, and we are discussing this on a moral plane on a blog. But then what have been the repercussions of Abu Ghraib and the news about rendition and Gitmo for us in the eyes of the rest of the world? Did it help or hinder our policy toward the Muslim world?

  • Stephen

    Trey @ 81,82

    This seems inconsistent as You seem to point out:

    “Again torture is always wrong, but this does not mean we do not pick it as an option when it would be a lesser evil. Hence,the term moral dilemma.”

    If torture is always wrong, where is the dilemma? “Always” is a statement of absolute value, but then your next statement attempts to qualify what is absolute. At that point, it is no longer absolute.

    @ 81 you seem to make the killing of innocent life the measure. If innocent life is taken or otherwise at stake, then it is okay to go ahead with it. How many bombs and missiles of ours have landed on the homes and schools of innocents? For the families of Taliban or even people who are simply caught up in all this mess, as I suspect many are, at what point then is it justified for our enemies to call us terrorists and say we deserve to be tortured?

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying our military is just as bad as they are. What I am saying is that unless we come up with better reasons than political or military expediency to justify torture, we have no basis to claim any kind of absolute moral authority or purpose to our actions. We cannot claim to be holding a moral high ground it seems to me. We are making this up as we go along and our principles as a nation take a back seat. They kill us so we kill them. Whoever is the most clever at killing wins. That is our foreign policy. That is our moral rubric at base. All that stuff about nation building and democracy is just a way to shade it nicely for the masses and it is transparent. That is where I see it going. There’s your slippery slope.

    I think your sword in sheath argument could be used to justify genocide. We must kill not only the terrorists but their women and children too so that those angry kids aren’t taught to hate us in a Madrasah somewhere down the road and we have to fight this thing all over again. “We must protect innocent American lives” (do you hear the trumpets!).

    Again, we’ve tortured these people, why not just annihilate them with some nukes? Thinking it way out to the edges, I’d say that pragmatic thinking would reason that the only reason not to completely destroy Arab civilizations is that we want that territory for oil and/or a strategic advantage of some kind.

    But the of course it is not that simple when discussing the implications of actions on a global scale, and we are discussing this on a moral plane on a blog. But then what have been the repercussions of Abu Ghraib and the news about rendition and Gitmo for us in the eyes of the rest of the world? Did it help or hinder our policy toward the Muslim world?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But you, SG, would apparently have us believe that the only way to have our ideals survive is to compromise them right when we need them.”

    Actually I wouldn’t. I just throw out ideas to see if they stand the test of scrutiny that others may apply. But of course that is less important to you, tODD, than being sure you get in a personal dig at the person tossing ideas. Because after all, what is the point of a discussion if you can’t slam other commenters?

    Anyway, I am not emotionally invested in these ideas, and am looking to learn from other’s insights. I just don’t get why everything has to be so much about the commenters. It is offensive.

    “We’re not talking about the validity of war or self-defense.”

    I am.

    That is why I qualified it. Existential threats are unique.

    “If torture is always wrong, where is the dilemma? “Always” is a statement of absolute value, but then your next statement attempts to qualify what is absolute. At that point, it is no longer absolute.”

    Sounds great on paper. The problem is that “always” and “absolute” are constructs invented by the human mind. They aren’t reality. They approximate it. Just like math calculations can be used to describe and approximately model natural phenomena, but they don’t actually become the phenomena. They just allow us to understand, navigate, and control to some extent. Philosophical arguments help us understand reality, but they aren’t perfect descriptions. We don’t create our own reality. We are limited by our natural condition.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But you, SG, would apparently have us believe that the only way to have our ideals survive is to compromise them right when we need them.”

    Actually I wouldn’t. I just throw out ideas to see if they stand the test of scrutiny that others may apply. But of course that is less important to you, tODD, than being sure you get in a personal dig at the person tossing ideas. Because after all, what is the point of a discussion if you can’t slam other commenters?

    Anyway, I am not emotionally invested in these ideas, and am looking to learn from other’s insights. I just don’t get why everything has to be so much about the commenters. It is offensive.

    “We’re not talking about the validity of war or self-defense.”

    I am.

    That is why I qualified it. Existential threats are unique.

    “If torture is always wrong, where is the dilemma? “Always” is a statement of absolute value, but then your next statement attempts to qualify what is absolute. At that point, it is no longer absolute.”

    Sounds great on paper. The problem is that “always” and “absolute” are constructs invented by the human mind. They aren’t reality. They approximate it. Just like math calculations can be used to describe and approximately model natural phenomena, but they don’t actually become the phenomena. They just allow us to understand, navigate, and control to some extent. Philosophical arguments help us understand reality, but they aren’t perfect descriptions. We don’t create our own reality. We are limited by our natural condition.

  • Stephen

    sg -

    “Sounds great on paper. The problem is that “always” and “absolute” are constructs invented by the human mind. They aren’t reality. They approximate it. Just like math calculations can be used to describe and approximately model natural phenomena, but they don’t actually become the phenomena. They just allow us to understand, navigate, and control to some extent. Philosophical arguments help us understand reality, but they aren’t perfect descriptions. We don’t create our own reality. We are limited by our natural condition.”

    Okay, now I get to say it . . . “Huh?”

  • Stephen

    sg -

    “Sounds great on paper. The problem is that “always” and “absolute” are constructs invented by the human mind. They aren’t reality. They approximate it. Just like math calculations can be used to describe and approximately model natural phenomena, but they don’t actually become the phenomena. They just allow us to understand, navigate, and control to some extent. Philosophical arguments help us understand reality, but they aren’t perfect descriptions. We don’t create our own reality. We are limited by our natural condition.”

    Okay, now I get to say it . . . “Huh?”

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “They realized, in contrast to SG’s assertion that “If we are dead, then our morality is pretty much moot”, that their message survived their own life, precisely because they were willing to die for it.”

    This is a wholly different situation.

    First the early Christians were killed by government persecution. They were not in a position of responsibility for other people’s lives. They were individuals making decisions for themselves. They were willing to die for what they believed. That is different from deciding to give preference to enemies over those we are charged with defending like our children.

    Anyway, just to throw another wrench in here.

    Is it possible that getting info from terrorist X on the whereabouts of his fellow terrorists might actually save the lives of civilians in the areas where we are fighting? If we don’t know where to look, many more folks could get caught in the crossfire than if we know right to go. Does taking that into account increase the pressure to get the info from terrorist X?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “They realized, in contrast to SG’s assertion that “If we are dead, then our morality is pretty much moot”, that their message survived their own life, precisely because they were willing to die for it.”

    This is a wholly different situation.

    First the early Christians were killed by government persecution. They were not in a position of responsibility for other people’s lives. They were individuals making decisions for themselves. They were willing to die for what they believed. That is different from deciding to give preference to enemies over those we are charged with defending like our children.

    Anyway, just to throw another wrench in here.

    Is it possible that getting info from terrorist X on the whereabouts of his fellow terrorists might actually save the lives of civilians in the areas where we are fighting? If we don’t know where to look, many more folks could get caught in the crossfire than if we know right to go. Does taking that into account increase the pressure to get the info from terrorist X?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @86

    Just explaining why I think we may be operating under some false premises.

    We invent ideas and then want reality to conform. It doesn’t always cooperate.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @86

    Just explaining why I think we may be operating under some false premises.

    We invent ideas and then want reality to conform. It doesn’t always cooperate.

  • Stephen

    sg-

    “No one gets angry at a mathematician or a physicist whom he or she doesn’t understand, or at someone who speaks a foreign language, but rather at someone who tampers with your own language.” – Derrida

    I’m going to chew on #85 and the qualifier in #88 for a while. There is quite a bit going on there. Sounds like now we are into approximations and a whole universe of epistemological assumptions. Not language or even numbers are reliable descriptions. Interesting. I have to say, it doesn’t sound like you.

  • Stephen

    sg-

    “No one gets angry at a mathematician or a physicist whom he or she doesn’t understand, or at someone who speaks a foreign language, but rather at someone who tampers with your own language.” – Derrida

    I’m going to chew on #85 and the qualifier in #88 for a while. There is quite a bit going on there. Sounds like now we are into approximations and a whole universe of epistemological assumptions. Not language or even numbers are reliable descriptions. Interesting. I have to say, it doesn’t sound like you.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I have to say, it doesn’t sound like you.”

    Aaaaaaaaaahh!

    (Pulling hair out)

    It’s not about me!!!!

    “The Christian considers (or at least ought to) others before himself — and does not sacrifice morals for his own survival.”

    Okay, but is a commitment not to waterboard detainees a moral that Christians are obligated to make sure the government observes?

    “Our children are the beneficiaries of men who did not give up on their morals when things got difficult.”

    Our children are beneficiaries of a faith that was passed to them by folks who survived long enough to pass it on.

    “their message survived their own life, precisely because they were willing to die for it. ”

    Or it survived despite their deaths.

    Clearly the ones who are dead are not the ones evangelizing. The survivors are the evangelists.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I have to say, it doesn’t sound like you.”

    Aaaaaaaaaahh!

    (Pulling hair out)

    It’s not about me!!!!

    “The Christian considers (or at least ought to) others before himself — and does not sacrifice morals for his own survival.”

    Okay, but is a commitment not to waterboard detainees a moral that Christians are obligated to make sure the government observes?

    “Our children are the beneficiaries of men who did not give up on their morals when things got difficult.”

    Our children are beneficiaries of a faith that was passed to them by folks who survived long enough to pass it on.

    “their message survived their own life, precisely because they were willing to die for it. ”

    Or it survived despite their deaths.

    Clearly the ones who are dead are not the ones evangelizing. The survivors are the evangelists.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I would posit that our culture, like most cultures, is a product of those who decided that their ideals were more important than their own lives.”

    Yes, their own lives. They sacrificed to preserve their nation, aka their kids. This is wholly different from sacrificing the whole nation’s existence for some minor principle like not torturing enemies to get info.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I would posit that our culture, like most cultures, is a product of those who decided that their ideals were more important than their own lives.”

    Yes, their own lives. They sacrificed to preserve their nation, aka their kids. This is wholly different from sacrificing the whole nation’s existence for some minor principle like not torturing enemies to get info.

  • Stephen

    sg-

    “I have to say, it doesn’t sound like you.”

    Aaaaaaaaaahh!

    (Pulling hair out)

    It’s not about me!!!!

    Okay, okay . . . that’s the rule. That pronoun is off limits.

  • Stephen

    sg-

    “I have to say, it doesn’t sound like you.”

    Aaaaaaaaaahh!

    (Pulling hair out)

    It’s not about me!!!!

    Okay, okay . . . that’s the rule. That pronoun is off limits.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@85) said:

    But of course that is less important to you, tODD, than being sure you get in a personal dig at the person tossing ideas.

    Irony much, SG? You gave a quote from my comment in which I criticized your ideas, and then you took it personally (even after claiming, seemingly falsely now, “I just throw out ideas to see if they stand the test of scrutiny that others may apply”). But not only that, you then took a personal shot at me! Play by your own rules, won’t you?

    “I am not emotionally invested in these ideas”, you tell us. And yet, you also tell us you find this discussion “offensive”. You certainly sound emotionally invested! Especially when you take criticism of your ideas as criticism of you, personally.

    Oh, I’m sure you’re ready to reply with your trademark “It’s not about me” non-reply. But I’m not buying that anymore. You’re making it about you. You’re not nearly as emotionally disinterested as you’d have us believe. Your comment (@85) was very much about you. I wish it weren’t.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@85) said:

    But of course that is less important to you, tODD, than being sure you get in a personal dig at the person tossing ideas.

    Irony much, SG? You gave a quote from my comment in which I criticized your ideas, and then you took it personally (even after claiming, seemingly falsely now, “I just throw out ideas to see if they stand the test of scrutiny that others may apply”). But not only that, you then took a personal shot at me! Play by your own rules, won’t you?

    “I am not emotionally invested in these ideas”, you tell us. And yet, you also tell us you find this discussion “offensive”. You certainly sound emotionally invested! Especially when you take criticism of your ideas as criticism of you, personally.

    Oh, I’m sure you’re ready to reply with your trademark “It’s not about me” non-reply. But I’m not buying that anymore. You’re making it about you. You’re not nearly as emotionally disinterested as you’d have us believe. Your comment (@85) was very much about you. I wish it weren’t.

  • Stephen

    Ahem . . . sg,

    “What you describe is your perception of such.”

    “The problem is that you are slandering everyone for the failings of some.”

    “So, why are you willing to do it to the rest of us?”

    “However, this statement is so vague, it is hard to really know what you are referring to.”

    “I could say that about this about your statements. ”

    “Well, it sure seemed like you were talking about crime.”

    All of these impersonal quotes and more can be found on this thread:

    http://www.geneveith.com/2011/05/27/homosexuality-abusing-priests/#comment-117978

    Since we are discussing the uses (and abuses) of pragmatic explanations, is the “it’s not about me!” rant a moral absolute or is it a pragmatic one to be employed when it is useful for one’s purposes, you know, theoretically?

  • Stephen

    Ahem . . . sg,

    “What you describe is your perception of such.”

    “The problem is that you are slandering everyone for the failings of some.”

    “So, why are you willing to do it to the rest of us?”

    “However, this statement is so vague, it is hard to really know what you are referring to.”

    “I could say that about this about your statements. ”

    “Well, it sure seemed like you were talking about crime.”

    All of these impersonal quotes and more can be found on this thread:

    http://www.geneveith.com/2011/05/27/homosexuality-abusing-priests/#comment-117978

    Since we are discussing the uses (and abuses) of pragmatic explanations, is the “it’s not about me!” rant a moral absolute or is it a pragmatic one to be employed when it is useful for one’s purposes, you know, theoretically?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “That pronoun is off limits.”

    It is not the pronoun. It is the pigeon holing of people. It is the whole, “you said this, and you said that, therefore you think xyz and you are a ______” It is like demanding folks close their minds to new ideas and demanding they defend stuff that they bring up as though every notion posited is a cherished ideal and deeply held belief. I refuse to close my mind. I invite challenges and discussion. I resent insults and admonitions. It is just a discussion. Anyway, for me it is. For some it seems a shooting gallery for character assassination.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “That pronoun is off limits.”

    It is not the pronoun. It is the pigeon holing of people. It is the whole, “you said this, and you said that, therefore you think xyz and you are a ______” It is like demanding folks close their minds to new ideas and demanding they defend stuff that they bring up as though every notion posited is a cherished ideal and deeply held belief. I refuse to close my mind. I invite challenges and discussion. I resent insults and admonitions. It is just a discussion. Anyway, for me it is. For some it seems a shooting gallery for character assassination.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@95), I’m still not buying it.

    You said:

    It is the pigeon holing of people. … I resent insults and admonitions. It is just a discussion. Anyway, for me it is. For some it seems a shooting gallery for character assassination.

    And yet, all of ten comments earlier, there you were (@85), pigeonholing, dishing out insults, and assassinating character:

    I just throw out ideas to see if they stand the test of scrutiny that others may apply. But of course that is less important to you, tODD, than being sure you get in a personal dig at the person tossing ideas. Because after all, what is the point of a discussion if you can’t slam other commenters?

    Sure smells like hypocrisy to me.

    I don’t care if you personally hold to the ideas you put forward here, but I do expect you to defend those ideas (or, if you’ve found them lacking, to freely admit so), and not just go into this defensive crouch, yelling “It’s not about me”, and thereby making it all about you.

    I don’t necessarily hold all the ideas I put forth here, at least not forever. I doubt most of us do. We’re exchanging ideas.

    But to take umbrage at people trying to understand what you’re thinking, and doing so based on what you’ve said, is ridiculous. It hinders the discussion you claim to invite. If you’re going to dive into the fray, don’t whine if you get scraped. Defend your ideas or get out.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@95), I’m still not buying it.

    You said:

    It is the pigeon holing of people. … I resent insults and admonitions. It is just a discussion. Anyway, for me it is. For some it seems a shooting gallery for character assassination.

    And yet, all of ten comments earlier, there you were (@85), pigeonholing, dishing out insults, and assassinating character:

    I just throw out ideas to see if they stand the test of scrutiny that others may apply. But of course that is less important to you, tODD, than being sure you get in a personal dig at the person tossing ideas. Because after all, what is the point of a discussion if you can’t slam other commenters?

    Sure smells like hypocrisy to me.

    I don’t care if you personally hold to the ideas you put forward here, but I do expect you to defend those ideas (or, if you’ve found them lacking, to freely admit so), and not just go into this defensive crouch, yelling “It’s not about me”, and thereby making it all about you.

    I don’t necessarily hold all the ideas I put forth here, at least not forever. I doubt most of us do. We’re exchanging ideas.

    But to take umbrage at people trying to understand what you’re thinking, and doing so based on what you’ve said, is ridiculous. It hinders the discussion you claim to invite. If you’re going to dive into the fray, don’t whine if you get scraped. Defend your ideas or get out.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Since we are discussing the uses (and abuses) of pragmatic explanations, is the “it’s not about me!” rant a moral absolute or is it a pragmatic one to be employed when it is useful for one’s purposes, you know, theoretically?”

    As far as I know, it isn’t immoral to be annoying.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Since we are discussing the uses (and abuses) of pragmatic explanations, is the “it’s not about me!” rant a moral absolute or is it a pragmatic one to be employed when it is useful for one’s purposes, you know, theoretically?”

    As far as I know, it isn’t immoral to be annoying.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “And yet, all of ten comments earlier, there you were (@85), pigeonholing, dishing out insults, and assassinating character:

    “Sure smells like hypocrisy to me.”

    As if. I was just showing you exactly how you behave.

    “Defend your ideas or get out.”

    No.

    I would rather learn than insist that I am right. I am interested in what folks have to say. I want to know what they think. I am not interested in defending all of my ideas. Some may be wrong or misguided. I resent personal attacks by people who disagree with ideas I suggest for discussion or by those who just plain think I am wrong. I think it is discourteous. I don’t think it helps the discussion.

    I have learned a lot from people here and wish to learn more and understand better. I tire of the insulting tone some use with persons they think are wrong or misguided.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “And yet, all of ten comments earlier, there you were (@85), pigeonholing, dishing out insults, and assassinating character:

    “Sure smells like hypocrisy to me.”

    As if. I was just showing you exactly how you behave.

    “Defend your ideas or get out.”

    No.

    I would rather learn than insist that I am right. I am interested in what folks have to say. I want to know what they think. I am not interested in defending all of my ideas. Some may be wrong or misguided. I resent personal attacks by people who disagree with ideas I suggest for discussion or by those who just plain think I am wrong. I think it is discourteous. I don’t think it helps the discussion.

    I have learned a lot from people here and wish to learn more and understand better. I tire of the insulting tone some use with persons they think are wrong or misguided.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Back to the topic.

    Is a commitment not to waterboard detainees a moral that Christians are obligated to make sure the government observes?

    “Our children are the beneficiaries of men who did not give up on their morals when things got difficult.”

    Our children are beneficiaries of a faith that was passed to them by folks who survived long enough to pass it on.

    “their message survived their own life, precisely because they were willing to die for it. ”

    Or it survived despite their deaths.

    Clearly the ones who are dead are not the ones evangelizing. The survivors are the evangelists.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Back to the topic.

    Is a commitment not to waterboard detainees a moral that Christians are obligated to make sure the government observes?

    “Our children are the beneficiaries of men who did not give up on their morals when things got difficult.”

    Our children are beneficiaries of a faith that was passed to them by folks who survived long enough to pass it on.

    “their message survived their own life, precisely because they were willing to die for it. ”

    Or it survived despite their deaths.

    Clearly the ones who are dead are not the ones evangelizing. The survivors are the evangelists.

  • Stephen

    @ 97

    ["So, who were you vilifying? The analogy makes no sense."

    "Really, these were stunningly terrible things for you to say, Stephen."]

    http://www.geneveith.com/2011/05/27/homosexuality-abusing-priests/#comment-117876

    And now people are annoying you. I’ll try not to take that “personally.”

    I get it. Meek and mild, just here to learn, not about people, interested only in ideas, no personal investment, never a sarcastic or snarky personal swipe intended to demean, always courteous myself, don’t need to defend what I say (even if demanded from others in particular ways). Okay.

    Any other rules?

  • Stephen

    @ 97

    ["So, who were you vilifying? The analogy makes no sense."

    "Really, these were stunningly terrible things for you to say, Stephen."]

    http://www.geneveith.com/2011/05/27/homosexuality-abusing-priests/#comment-117876

    And now people are annoying you. I’ll try not to take that “personally.”

    I get it. Meek and mild, just here to learn, not about people, interested only in ideas, no personal investment, never a sarcastic or snarky personal swipe intended to demean, always courteous myself, don’t need to defend what I say (even if demanded from others in particular ways). Okay.

    Any other rules?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    What is your point, Stephen?

    Is courtesy worthless?

    I try to be courteous and not get drawn into this stuff, but sometimes still do.

    I refrain from telling people what they think. Rather I ask or limit my comments to what has actually been stated. And no I don’t impugn motives with phrases like, “Stephen would have us believe…” I figure Stephen said what he meant. That is it. I just take it at face value and discuss or criticize the statement not the person.

    And yes, I complain when people attribute motives to me. Some never even put a neutral construction on what I say, let alone the best.

    Do you think snarky comments foster thoughtful discussion and respectful interaction?

    Back to the topic.

    Is a commitment not to waterboard detainees a moral that Christians are obligated to make sure the government observes?

    “Our children are the beneficiaries of men who did not give up on their morals when things got difficult.”

    Our children are beneficiaries of a faith that was passed to them by folks who survived long enough to pass it on.

    “their message survived their own life, precisely because they were willing to die for it. ”

    Or it survived despite their deaths.

    Clearly the ones who are dead are not the ones evangelizing. The survivors are the evangelists.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    What is your point, Stephen?

    Is courtesy worthless?

    I try to be courteous and not get drawn into this stuff, but sometimes still do.

    I refrain from telling people what they think. Rather I ask or limit my comments to what has actually been stated. And no I don’t impugn motives with phrases like, “Stephen would have us believe…” I figure Stephen said what he meant. That is it. I just take it at face value and discuss or criticize the statement not the person.

    And yes, I complain when people attribute motives to me. Some never even put a neutral construction on what I say, let alone the best.

    Do you think snarky comments foster thoughtful discussion and respectful interaction?

    Back to the topic.

    Is a commitment not to waterboard detainees a moral that Christians are obligated to make sure the government observes?

    “Our children are the beneficiaries of men who did not give up on their morals when things got difficult.”

    Our children are beneficiaries of a faith that was passed to them by folks who survived long enough to pass it on.

    “their message survived their own life, precisely because they were willing to die for it. ”

    Or it survived despite their deaths.

    Clearly the ones who are dead are not the ones evangelizing. The survivors are the evangelists.

  • Stephen

    @ 101

    Got it.

  • Stephen

    @ 101

    Got it.

  • dweebus

    What a fascinating conversation. I stumbled across this quite by accident.

    It seems to me that Christians, by their very nature are an impracticle lot. After all we believe in the only Begotten Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified and resurrected. That does not sound like a pragmatic prospect to me.

    Therefore, the simple answer to the question is no. A Christian cannot make an argument supporting torture, without resorting to pragmatism, and pragmatism is un-Christian.

    I see two different strands of argument supporting torture. One is that since violence with extreme prejudice was documented in the OT, therefore torture is permitted.

    Christ tells us in MT 22:34-40 that we are to love God with all our hearts, minds and souls and love our neighbor as ourselves. On these two hang all the law and the prophets. So the law and the prophets are predicated on love of God and neighbor. IMO this blows a rather large hole in the idea of using the OT to justify torture from the Christian perspective.

    Secondly, enhanced interrogation is permissible as long as it does not fall into accepted definitions of torture or the laws of war. For example, thumbscrews are torture but waterboarding is not, or uniformed military are covered by Geneva but enemy combatants are not. This is exactly the sort of technical legalism Christ railed against (MT 12:9-12).

    The United Methodist Social Principles state that torture in incompatible with the teachings of Christianity. I am sure that most other mainstream Christian denominations concur. Torture, by whatever euphemism we want to use to sell it, is never permitted.

    In Christ,

    -D

  • dweebus

    What a fascinating conversation. I stumbled across this quite by accident.

    It seems to me that Christians, by their very nature are an impracticle lot. After all we believe in the only Begotten Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified and resurrected. That does not sound like a pragmatic prospect to me.

    Therefore, the simple answer to the question is no. A Christian cannot make an argument supporting torture, without resorting to pragmatism, and pragmatism is un-Christian.

    I see two different strands of argument supporting torture. One is that since violence with extreme prejudice was documented in the OT, therefore torture is permitted.

    Christ tells us in MT 22:34-40 that we are to love God with all our hearts, minds and souls and love our neighbor as ourselves. On these two hang all the law and the prophets. So the law and the prophets are predicated on love of God and neighbor. IMO this blows a rather large hole in the idea of using the OT to justify torture from the Christian perspective.

    Secondly, enhanced interrogation is permissible as long as it does not fall into accepted definitions of torture or the laws of war. For example, thumbscrews are torture but waterboarding is not, or uniformed military are covered by Geneva but enemy combatants are not. This is exactly the sort of technical legalism Christ railed against (MT 12:9-12).

    The United Methodist Social Principles state that torture in incompatible with the teachings of Christianity. I am sure that most other mainstream Christian denominations concur. Torture, by whatever euphemism we want to use to sell it, is never permitted.

    In Christ,

    -D

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Therefore, the simple answer to the question is no. A Christian cannot make an argument supporting torture, without resorting to pragmatism, and pragmatism is un-Christian.”

    Is shooting an intruder pragmatism? If not, why not?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Therefore, the simple answer to the question is no. A Christian cannot make an argument supporting torture, without resorting to pragmatism, and pragmatism is un-Christian.”

    Is shooting an intruder pragmatism? If not, why not?

  • dweebus

    Sg- (re 104)

    Is shooting an intruder pragmatism? I would say probably not, but rather it is a reaction born of urgency and fear. Pragmatism implies a decision making process that allows sufficient time and calculation to arrive at a practical solution, not a solution arrived at emorionally while in the heat of the moment.

    Perhaps the deeper question is whether violence is ever permissible. There are many who say no, it is not. They may be right. Turning the other cheek and Jesus’ admonishment of Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane don’t seem to leave much wiggle room.

    I believe it is acceptable as a last resort to protect hearth and home, prevent genocide, etc. Whether it is ok in a specific situation must be resolved through the process of discernment, not pragmatism.

    Regards,

    D

  • dweebus

    Sg- (re 104)

    Is shooting an intruder pragmatism? I would say probably not, but rather it is a reaction born of urgency and fear. Pragmatism implies a decision making process that allows sufficient time and calculation to arrive at a practical solution, not a solution arrived at emorionally while in the heat of the moment.

    Perhaps the deeper question is whether violence is ever permissible. There are many who say no, it is not. They may be right. Turning the other cheek and Jesus’ admonishment of Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane don’t seem to leave much wiggle room.

    I believe it is acceptable as a last resort to protect hearth and home, prevent genocide, etc. Whether it is ok in a specific situation must be resolved through the process of discernment, not pragmatism.

    Regards,

    D

  • Pete

    dweebus (@103) “So the law and the prophets are predicated on love of God and neighbor. IMO this blows a rather large hole in the idea of using the OT to justify torture from the Christian perspective.”

    Quite possibly this “love of neighbor” deal is more nuanced than a group hug. Is it not possible to view enhanced interrogation this way: “Mr. captured terrorist, God tells us to love our neighbors. In fact, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. I submit to you, Mr. captured terrorist, that if I were to some day go all homicidal (like you) and run with a homicidal crowd (like you do) and generate all manner of deadly mayhem and threaten more of it (like you do) then I would hope my captors would feel free to use whatever interrogation techniques they had at their disposal to extract any information from me that might lead to preventing future deadly mayhem.”
    Enhanced interrogation is loving your neighbor in an extreme situation. It is loving and protecting the countless and nameless neighbors who are at potential risk from the actions of the terrorist and his pals. And, in a somewhat convoluted way, it is also loving the terrorist – it shows that the interrogator cares enough about the terrorist and values him and his information so highly, that he will apply techniques to obtain that information that are actually distasteful to the interrogator and to the majority of his society/culture. And there is no meaningful sense in which this represents lowering our standards to those of the terrorists.

  • Pete

    dweebus (@103) “So the law and the prophets are predicated on love of God and neighbor. IMO this blows a rather large hole in the idea of using the OT to justify torture from the Christian perspective.”

    Quite possibly this “love of neighbor” deal is more nuanced than a group hug. Is it not possible to view enhanced interrogation this way: “Mr. captured terrorist, God tells us to love our neighbors. In fact, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. I submit to you, Mr. captured terrorist, that if I were to some day go all homicidal (like you) and run with a homicidal crowd (like you do) and generate all manner of deadly mayhem and threaten more of it (like you do) then I would hope my captors would feel free to use whatever interrogation techniques they had at their disposal to extract any information from me that might lead to preventing future deadly mayhem.”
    Enhanced interrogation is loving your neighbor in an extreme situation. It is loving and protecting the countless and nameless neighbors who are at potential risk from the actions of the terrorist and his pals. And, in a somewhat convoluted way, it is also loving the terrorist – it shows that the interrogator cares enough about the terrorist and values him and his information so highly, that he will apply techniques to obtain that information that are actually distasteful to the interrogator and to the majority of his society/culture. And there is no meaningful sense in which this represents lowering our standards to those of the terrorists.

  • dweebus

    Pete- (RE- 106)

    You make some good points. It is definately food for thought. Respectfully, I think your argument is invalid. You indicate that were our positions reversed, “love” might compel the terrorist, now interrogator, to torture. The premis is false. It is a hypothetical straw man. The fact remains that I am not a terrorist bent on murder and mayhem. If I were I would, by definition, no longer be contrained by the ethics of Christianity in my decision making. The new interrogator, were he a Christian would face the same moral dilemma.

    Secondly, there is the idea that since torture works (I think this is arguable) it is defensible, to prevent a greater evil. I think the proper question is: are other techniques equally or more effective?

    Finally, is love of neighbor more nuanced? In otherwords, we need a definition of love. Fine, St. Paul gives us one in 1 Cor. 13.
    Love is patient, kind, not envious, boastful, or arrogant. It doesn’t insist on its own way, is not irritable, resentful, and doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, endures all things, and is never ending.

    This doesn’t exactly fit with the idea of a Japanese interrogator slipping bamboo slivers under the fingernails of GIs or a CIA interrogator stringing up a detainee naked for several days in an air conditioned room.

    The law and prophets still hang on love of God and neighbor, and torture from a Christian point of view is prohibited.

    Regards,

    D

  • dweebus

    Pete- (RE- 106)

    You make some good points. It is definately food for thought. Respectfully, I think your argument is invalid. You indicate that were our positions reversed, “love” might compel the terrorist, now interrogator, to torture. The premis is false. It is a hypothetical straw man. The fact remains that I am not a terrorist bent on murder and mayhem. If I were I would, by definition, no longer be contrained by the ethics of Christianity in my decision making. The new interrogator, were he a Christian would face the same moral dilemma.

    Secondly, there is the idea that since torture works (I think this is arguable) it is defensible, to prevent a greater evil. I think the proper question is: are other techniques equally or more effective?

    Finally, is love of neighbor more nuanced? In otherwords, we need a definition of love. Fine, St. Paul gives us one in 1 Cor. 13.
    Love is patient, kind, not envious, boastful, or arrogant. It doesn’t insist on its own way, is not irritable, resentful, and doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, endures all things, and is never ending.

    This doesn’t exactly fit with the idea of a Japanese interrogator slipping bamboo slivers under the fingernails of GIs or a CIA interrogator stringing up a detainee naked for several days in an air conditioned room.

    The law and prophets still hang on love of God and neighbor, and torture from a Christian point of view is prohibited.

    Regards,

    D

  • Stephen

    Is there not a larger goal beyond protecting our citizens in the short term? What about the larger goal of peace with other people in the world? How does the cruelty of simulated drowning play into that vision? How do we come off as people who desire peace?

    If it were the case that all that ultimately mattered was power over our enemies so that our people are protected, what really is to stop us from using “any means necessary” and sending out the submarines with the warheads into the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea? If it is about preserving our civilization, why not erase the problem permanently. Don’t we all “know” who it is who is doing these terrible things and where they come from? Isn’t that why we have similar arguments and pragmatic compromises and solutions with things like profiling of Arab-ish people?

    Love as it is understood in the scriptures being “the whole of the law” is not love of expediency. It is the goal – why the law exists, to promote that ultimate value. It is not touchy-feely, we all know that (so please let’s not see it in quotation marks). It includes mercy, service to others, justice, and finally peace between people. We want our laws, principles and actions to reflect that goal it seems to me, and simulated drowning does not seem to reflect that.

    The way we treat other human beings may be secondary to short terms goals of protection, but it is of primary concern if and when it fails to promote the broader, larger, long term values we say we are fighting for, the ones upon which our civilization of law is founded. I think we are already seeing the repercussions of that in our foreign policy with allies hesitant to kick in. It’s all up for grabs. First is was the shell game with the truth to get us into a war, now this, with its attendant euphemism.

  • Stephen

    Is there not a larger goal beyond protecting our citizens in the short term? What about the larger goal of peace with other people in the world? How does the cruelty of simulated drowning play into that vision? How do we come off as people who desire peace?

    If it were the case that all that ultimately mattered was power over our enemies so that our people are protected, what really is to stop us from using “any means necessary” and sending out the submarines with the warheads into the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea? If it is about preserving our civilization, why not erase the problem permanently. Don’t we all “know” who it is who is doing these terrible things and where they come from? Isn’t that why we have similar arguments and pragmatic compromises and solutions with things like profiling of Arab-ish people?

    Love as it is understood in the scriptures being “the whole of the law” is not love of expediency. It is the goal – why the law exists, to promote that ultimate value. It is not touchy-feely, we all know that (so please let’s not see it in quotation marks). It includes mercy, service to others, justice, and finally peace between people. We want our laws, principles and actions to reflect that goal it seems to me, and simulated drowning does not seem to reflect that.

    The way we treat other human beings may be secondary to short terms goals of protection, but it is of primary concern if and when it fails to promote the broader, larger, long term values we say we are fighting for, the ones upon which our civilization of law is founded. I think we are already seeing the repercussions of that in our foreign policy with allies hesitant to kick in. It’s all up for grabs. First is was the shell game with the truth to get us into a war, now this, with its attendant euphemism.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “What about the larger goal of peace with other people in the world?”

    You got that right.

    Do we want to be loved or feared or both? Human perception is what we are dealing with in relating to these other folks. The folks who value the “no torture” policy may also be the ones who aren’t going to be attacking us. Perhaps the countries who don’t value such a policy are the ones who will.

    God offers heaven and hell. That is it. Does he understand human perception of that offer?

    Just a thought.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “What about the larger goal of peace with other people in the world?”

    You got that right.

    Do we want to be loved or feared or both? Human perception is what we are dealing with in relating to these other folks. The folks who value the “no torture” policy may also be the ones who aren’t going to be attacking us. Perhaps the countries who don’t value such a policy are the ones who will.

    God offers heaven and hell. That is it. Does he understand human perception of that offer?

    Just a thought.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I think we are already seeing the repercussions of that in our foreign policy with allies hesitant to kick in.”

    That may just be pragmatic. In most of those countries, most mothers have at most one son and now those mothers can vote.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I think we are already seeing the repercussions of that in our foreign policy with allies hesitant to kick in.”

    That may just be pragmatic. In most of those countries, most mothers have at most one son and now those mothers can vote.

  • Stephen

    “The folks who value the “no torture” policy may also be the ones who aren’t going to be attacking us. ”

    They may also become, if not already, those who won’t bother with us at all when it comes to more grave matters. Everyone backs into their own corner of pragmatic interests. No large vision of peace prevails because we have forfeited it for short term goals.

  • Stephen

    “The folks who value the “no torture” policy may also be the ones who aren’t going to be attacking us. ”

    They may also become, if not already, those who won’t bother with us at all when it comes to more grave matters. Everyone backs into their own corner of pragmatic interests. No large vision of peace prevails because we have forfeited it for short term goals.

  • Stephen

    “God offers heaven and hell. That is it. Does he understand human perception of that offer?”

    God offers Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life. Does he understand? Yes. He has mercy on us without our prayers or asking. Our perception (old Adam’s) is always a flawed and broken perception because of sin, headed for the grave. But the message of the gospel is that Christ himself redeems the heart, making us new creations, that Jesus offers himself up for us, in the flesh, to redeem all flesh. This is what God does in baptism which “works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” Small Catechism

  • Stephen

    “God offers heaven and hell. That is it. Does he understand human perception of that offer?”

    God offers Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life. Does he understand? Yes. He has mercy on us without our prayers or asking. Our perception (old Adam’s) is always a flawed and broken perception because of sin, headed for the grave. But the message of the gospel is that Christ himself redeems the heart, making us new creations, that Jesus offers himself up for us, in the flesh, to redeem all flesh. This is what God does in baptism which “works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” Small Catechism

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Right, but what do folks hear? That is what I meant about human perception.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Right, but what do folks hear? That is what I meant about human perception.

  • Stephen

    “Do we want to be loved or feared or both? Human perception is what we are dealing with in relating to these other folks.”

    We are dealing with the law, what it is and its purposes. Is it there for expediency sake, to accomplish a short term goal without consideration of how an action does not meet the measure of a stated ideal, in this case, a respect for the dignity of human persons (hypocrisy)? Or is the law there to bring peace? If so, what does that peace look like based upon our understanding (reason) of our responsibility to our neighbor (love)?

    If our ends are those of power over others, then those ends could be achieved many ways. We could flatten Iran as a warning that if other Arab countries do not pitch in and rout the terrorists out among them, more of the same is on the way. How is this any different other than in scale of simulated drowning of one person?

    This “method” is only one among a number of possibilities open to us now, perhaps a crack in the edifice of what we say are our ideals. Will it lead to peaceful objectives? For one thing, we seem to have generated a great deal of controversy and suspicion about our ideals. What should that tell us?

  • Stephen

    “Do we want to be loved or feared or both? Human perception is what we are dealing with in relating to these other folks.”

    We are dealing with the law, what it is and its purposes. Is it there for expediency sake, to accomplish a short term goal without consideration of how an action does not meet the measure of a stated ideal, in this case, a respect for the dignity of human persons (hypocrisy)? Or is the law there to bring peace? If so, what does that peace look like based upon our understanding (reason) of our responsibility to our neighbor (love)?

    If our ends are those of power over others, then those ends could be achieved many ways. We could flatten Iran as a warning that if other Arab countries do not pitch in and rout the terrorists out among them, more of the same is on the way. How is this any different other than in scale of simulated drowning of one person?

    This “method” is only one among a number of possibilities open to us now, perhaps a crack in the edifice of what we say are our ideals. Will it lead to peaceful objectives? For one thing, we seem to have generated a great deal of controversy and suspicion about our ideals. What should that tell us?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I am going to back up because I thought of something.

    If we want to be feared then we choose something that we believe is a deterrent. In order to actually be feared others have to actually be afraid.

    If we want to be loved then we in a way that we believe is a deterrent. In order to actually be loved others have to actually feel good about what we are doing.

    Will love be as motivating as fear to do what we want like trade fairly an not attack us?

    I don’t know, but both of these are pragmatic, no?

    “We are dealing with the law, what it is and its purposes. Is it there for expediency sake, to accomplish a short term goal without consideration of how an action does not meet the measure of a stated ideal, in this case, a respect for the dignity of human persons (hypocrisy)? Or is the law there to bring peace?”

    For the sake of discussion and brevity, I will play simpleton and say I don’t know but we should obey it because it is God’s law and we trust in Him.

    This doesn’t appear pragmatic to me in the sense of corrupt folks just trying to get what they want and using the law or reason or whatever to get there. There is only the means. The end is abstracted somewhat rather than just a short-medium term gain.

    Are we on the same page so far?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I am going to back up because I thought of something.

    If we want to be feared then we choose something that we believe is a deterrent. In order to actually be feared others have to actually be afraid.

    If we want to be loved then we in a way that we believe is a deterrent. In order to actually be loved others have to actually feel good about what we are doing.

    Will love be as motivating as fear to do what we want like trade fairly an not attack us?

    I don’t know, but both of these are pragmatic, no?

    “We are dealing with the law, what it is and its purposes. Is it there for expediency sake, to accomplish a short term goal without consideration of how an action does not meet the measure of a stated ideal, in this case, a respect for the dignity of human persons (hypocrisy)? Or is the law there to bring peace?”

    For the sake of discussion and brevity, I will play simpleton and say I don’t know but we should obey it because it is God’s law and we trust in Him.

    This doesn’t appear pragmatic to me in the sense of corrupt folks just trying to get what they want and using the law or reason or whatever to get there. There is only the means. The end is abstracted somewhat rather than just a short-medium term gain.

    Are we on the same page so far?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    oops,

    should be

    If we want to be loved then we behave in a way that we believe is appealing. In order to actually be loved others have to actually feel good about what we are doing.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    oops,

    should be

    If we want to be loved then we behave in a way that we believe is appealing. In order to actually be loved others have to actually feel good about what we are doing.

  • Stephen

    Biblically, we are not commanded to get people to love us. The commandments have to do with what we do so that love (good works) happen. Whether someone or set of people love us/me (now we are talking about the heart) is not anything the law addresses. The gospel does. That is another matter, something we proclaim and believe. In, with and under all of it is what God does.

    We cannot do the law on others so that they love. The law is there so that love happens. It “does us” in that it shows us our transgressions. When the law is violated we still do not do it. We do what it commands. In the case of a terrorist this could mean things like tracking them down and having a gun battle, or throwing them in jail and making life miserable for them, or a trial and execution. That is the law doing them as it should, to bring about justice, peace, and mercy – love – for all of us, even them as Luther argued, so that they do not sin any more or commit more grave ones (sort of like stopping a kid from screwing up his life by taking away his freedom – car keys – and “killing” his social life).

    The terrorists already fear us. They fear our culture and our liberty. They see it as an assault on their way of life. The measure of that fear is so great that they plotted and carried out 9/11. How we use our power in regards to the fear they already have is something else.

    sg – “For the sake of discussion and brevity, I will play simpleton and say I don’t know but we should obey it because it is God’s law and we trust in Him.

    This doesn’t appear pragmatic to me in the sense of corrupt folks just trying to get what they want and using the law or reason or whatever to get there. There is only the means. The end is abstracted somewhat rather than just a short-medium term gain.
    This was not clear to me.”

    We don’t “use the law” it uses us. We corrupt things, but the law will always accuse. We are having this discussion over torture because the law is accusing us. We must use a euphemism now because the law is accusing our consciences. We know that something about this isn’t right and we are trying to use pragmatism to get around the law. But the law is still there, always accusing. We employ our rationalizations (reasoning skills) to try and make our way around, but oops, there is the law again, accusing the conscience.

    The rest of the statement lost me a little. Their goal, as I understand it, is some kind of Islamist paradise, and they will kill us because we are infidels. Killing us is justified, or so they believe. But the law always accuses, and the US military is hammering them with law, their children continue to suffer, etc. No one can escape the accusations of the law, including us. That is why we are having trouble fighting this war, because the law accuses us when we dink around unlawfully – torture, lying about motives, killing without justice (if that is happening), whatever the case may be. War is hell because of the law.

    If we say we want peace, what does peace look like? Annihilating and/or subjugating the Arab world might give us some pax romana of sorts. Innocent Americans would be protected AND have lots of energy resources. If we managed to subjugate the Arab world with power, of which we have copious amounts militarily, they might even grow in large part to appreciate us for one reason or the other. You might call that some kind of love.

    But the love that is the whole of the law is the one that guides our own actions under that law so that God’s will may be done in us. We don’t do the law. We do what is commanded. Love your neighbor. I think this does inform our sense of goodness in the west. We guard freedom and liberty and justice because they get our neighbors and us goodness and mercy on earth – love. That is the purpose of law and good society. If we forfeit that, then what are we fighting for? What is the goal, domination? Somehow we know that isn’t it, perhaps because we area free people who do not want to be dominated ourselves. We could do that anyway and become even more like Rome. But the goal is peace, not an Islamist one or a Roman one but one like the one we have, the one many have already died for.

    I think we are giving that up.

  • Stephen

    Biblically, we are not commanded to get people to love us. The commandments have to do with what we do so that love (good works) happen. Whether someone or set of people love us/me (now we are talking about the heart) is not anything the law addresses. The gospel does. That is another matter, something we proclaim and believe. In, with and under all of it is what God does.

    We cannot do the law on others so that they love. The law is there so that love happens. It “does us” in that it shows us our transgressions. When the law is violated we still do not do it. We do what it commands. In the case of a terrorist this could mean things like tracking them down and having a gun battle, or throwing them in jail and making life miserable for them, or a trial and execution. That is the law doing them as it should, to bring about justice, peace, and mercy – love – for all of us, even them as Luther argued, so that they do not sin any more or commit more grave ones (sort of like stopping a kid from screwing up his life by taking away his freedom – car keys – and “killing” his social life).

    The terrorists already fear us. They fear our culture and our liberty. They see it as an assault on their way of life. The measure of that fear is so great that they plotted and carried out 9/11. How we use our power in regards to the fear they already have is something else.

    sg – “For the sake of discussion and brevity, I will play simpleton and say I don’t know but we should obey it because it is God’s law and we trust in Him.

    This doesn’t appear pragmatic to me in the sense of corrupt folks just trying to get what they want and using the law or reason or whatever to get there. There is only the means. The end is abstracted somewhat rather than just a short-medium term gain.
    This was not clear to me.”

    We don’t “use the law” it uses us. We corrupt things, but the law will always accuse. We are having this discussion over torture because the law is accusing us. We must use a euphemism now because the law is accusing our consciences. We know that something about this isn’t right and we are trying to use pragmatism to get around the law. But the law is still there, always accusing. We employ our rationalizations (reasoning skills) to try and make our way around, but oops, there is the law again, accusing the conscience.

    The rest of the statement lost me a little. Their goal, as I understand it, is some kind of Islamist paradise, and they will kill us because we are infidels. Killing us is justified, or so they believe. But the law always accuses, and the US military is hammering them with law, their children continue to suffer, etc. No one can escape the accusations of the law, including us. That is why we are having trouble fighting this war, because the law accuses us when we dink around unlawfully – torture, lying about motives, killing without justice (if that is happening), whatever the case may be. War is hell because of the law.

    If we say we want peace, what does peace look like? Annihilating and/or subjugating the Arab world might give us some pax romana of sorts. Innocent Americans would be protected AND have lots of energy resources. If we managed to subjugate the Arab world with power, of which we have copious amounts militarily, they might even grow in large part to appreciate us for one reason or the other. You might call that some kind of love.

    But the love that is the whole of the law is the one that guides our own actions under that law so that God’s will may be done in us. We don’t do the law. We do what is commanded. Love your neighbor. I think this does inform our sense of goodness in the west. We guard freedom and liberty and justice because they get our neighbors and us goodness and mercy on earth – love. That is the purpose of law and good society. If we forfeit that, then what are we fighting for? What is the goal, domination? Somehow we know that isn’t it, perhaps because we area free people who do not want to be dominated ourselves. We could do that anyway and become even more like Rome. But the goal is peace, not an Islamist one or a Roman one but one like the one we have, the one many have already died for.

    I think we are giving that up.

  • Stephen

    “I think we are giving that up.”

    Should be qualified perhaps with something like “when we make pragmatic arguments for the use of torture as a matter of policy.”

    This is morals as cost/benefit analysis, which is to say it is relativism and not moral in any classic sense of the world. That is different then some of the specific, contextual arguments being made about “thugs coming in my house” that attempt to then draw general moral principles from such examples. The law will accuse them and us, always.

  • Stephen

    “I think we are giving that up.”

    Should be qualified perhaps with something like “when we make pragmatic arguments for the use of torture as a matter of policy.”

    This is morals as cost/benefit analysis, which is to say it is relativism and not moral in any classic sense of the world. That is different then some of the specific, contextual arguments being made about “thugs coming in my house” that attempt to then draw general moral principles from such examples. The law will accuse them and us, always.

  • Stephen

    “I think we are giving that up.”

    Should be qualified perhaps with something like “when we make pragmatic arguments for the use of torture as a matter of policy.”

    This is morals as cost/benefit analysis, which is to say it is relativism and not moral in any classic sense of the word. That is different then some of the specific, contextual arguments being made about “thugs coming in my house” that attempt to then draw general moral principles from such examples. The law will accuse them and us, always.

  • Stephen

    “I think we are giving that up.”

    Should be qualified perhaps with something like “when we make pragmatic arguments for the use of torture as a matter of policy.”

    This is morals as cost/benefit analysis, which is to say it is relativism and not moral in any classic sense of the word. That is different then some of the specific, contextual arguments being made about “thugs coming in my house” that attempt to then draw general moral principles from such examples. The law will accuse them and us, always.

  • Stephen

    hmm. Not sure how that happened. Ah, a typo correction at the last minute. #119

  • Stephen

    hmm. Not sure how that happened. Ah, a typo correction at the last minute. #119

  • Stephen

    @116

    1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.”

  • Stephen

    @116

    1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.”

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Okay, so peace is impossible?

    Is that it?

    “law is accusing our consciences.”

    not mine, not in this case.

    “Should be qualified perhaps with something like “when we make pragmatic arguments for the use of torture as a matter of policy.””

    Hey, great point. Official policy – no torture. Actual state of affairs – ‘classified’.

    Now we can all have clear consciences. Whew.

    KIDDING!!!

    On the serious side, doesn’t it seem plausible some places actually operate that way?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Okay, so peace is impossible?

    Is that it?

    “law is accusing our consciences.”

    not mine, not in this case.

    “Should be qualified perhaps with something like “when we make pragmatic arguments for the use of torture as a matter of policy.””

    Hey, great point. Official policy – no torture. Actual state of affairs – ‘classified’.

    Now we can all have clear consciences. Whew.

    KIDDING!!!

    On the serious side, doesn’t it seem plausible some places actually operate that way?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “This is morals as cost/benefit analysis, which is to say it is relativism and not moral in any classic sense of the word.”

    wow. I am not sure I really get that.

    I definitely look at morals from a cost/benefit analysis perspective. I mean if I do what I have been taught is moral, then it is a win-win. That confidence along with fear, pride and sometimes love motivates me.

    So what is moral in the classic sense?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “This is morals as cost/benefit analysis, which is to say it is relativism and not moral in any classic sense of the word.”

    wow. I am not sure I really get that.

    I definitely look at morals from a cost/benefit analysis perspective. I mean if I do what I have been taught is moral, then it is a win-win. That confidence along with fear, pride and sometimes love motivates me.

    So what is moral in the classic sense?

  • Stephen

    “law is accusing our consciences.”

    not mine, not in this case.

    Hmmm. The law will still accuse, always. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we have set our values aside and thus opened a Pandora’s Box by allowing torture (I argue that we already have). If that is the case generally, then while this particular thing may not be bothersome, the law will still come around to bite us in the hinder. It will do so in repercussions from transgressing the law, which is to love our neighbor – that is, to seek peace with them rather than power over them. I think torture springs from the latter and is unrelated to the former.

    “On the serious side, doesn’t it seem plausible some places actually operate that way?”

    There is a difference between is and ought, remember? We have been arguing about ought. Perhaps we can’t handle the truth of what all our wealth, power, security and comfort actually means in the world. To have it, we must be willing to accept deliberate inhumanity to others in ourselves and even sanction it (sanctify it actually, make it “holy” as it were, a grounds for moral action).

    “I definitely look at morals from a cost/benefit analysis perspective. I mean if I do what I have been taught is moral, then it is a win-win. That confidence along with fear, pride and sometimes love motivates me.”

    I don’t think that this description comports with a cost benefit analysis. what is being described is morality which stems from beliefs and reasonable assumptions about what those beliefs entail. It isn’t about weighing a situation in terms of its benefits to me, and then deciding upon whatever path will help me achieve my ends with the least amount of damage to me (or my reputation, which is the same thing). What is being described in this statement sounds closer to reason and love. That may not always work out for your benefit at face value. Why? Because the law always accuses. It will set things straight. But then one starts over from the same premise – confident that what I am doing is the right thing, using my reason plus my desire to love.

    So, for the purposes of this thread, we do not change to another paradigm of “moral risk assessment” to achieve a benefit as our premise for proceeding, something which could justify any action as long as a benefit is received. That is moral relativism. Instead, we base what we do on our sense of moral purpose and certainty guided by reason and love. My use of the term “classic” would be to connote the kind of moral reasoning Dr. Veith is challenging each of us to come up with – something based on moral absolutes.

    That does not mean we cannot have disagreements about the moral absolutes. This is one of the hallmarks and perhaps THE problem of our postmodern world – we no longer share a framework of meaning such as the Christian God, or even the premise that God exists and grounds our moral thinking. Still, the law accuses so that goodness and mercy happen – love between people, God getting gifts to us all, even without prayers or asking.

    And yet our consciences cannot rest in the law because it always accuses. We can fight against its accusations, but they remain. I wouldn’t expect this ever not to have repercussions. It’s a kind of deficit spending or dealing with a pawn broker. The interest on this in the long run will eventually eat up its value in the short term. If we are going to be attached to a policy, I’d rather it not be one like that. Now I’m being pragmatic I suppose, but I don’t think I have completely left behind the basic premise – this is always wrong and always will be.

  • Stephen

    “law is accusing our consciences.”

    not mine, not in this case.

    Hmmm. The law will still accuse, always. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we have set our values aside and thus opened a Pandora’s Box by allowing torture (I argue that we already have). If that is the case generally, then while this particular thing may not be bothersome, the law will still come around to bite us in the hinder. It will do so in repercussions from transgressing the law, which is to love our neighbor – that is, to seek peace with them rather than power over them. I think torture springs from the latter and is unrelated to the former.

    “On the serious side, doesn’t it seem plausible some places actually operate that way?”

    There is a difference between is and ought, remember? We have been arguing about ought. Perhaps we can’t handle the truth of what all our wealth, power, security and comfort actually means in the world. To have it, we must be willing to accept deliberate inhumanity to others in ourselves and even sanction it (sanctify it actually, make it “holy” as it were, a grounds for moral action).

    “I definitely look at morals from a cost/benefit analysis perspective. I mean if I do what I have been taught is moral, then it is a win-win. That confidence along with fear, pride and sometimes love motivates me.”

    I don’t think that this description comports with a cost benefit analysis. what is being described is morality which stems from beliefs and reasonable assumptions about what those beliefs entail. It isn’t about weighing a situation in terms of its benefits to me, and then deciding upon whatever path will help me achieve my ends with the least amount of damage to me (or my reputation, which is the same thing). What is being described in this statement sounds closer to reason and love. That may not always work out for your benefit at face value. Why? Because the law always accuses. It will set things straight. But then one starts over from the same premise – confident that what I am doing is the right thing, using my reason plus my desire to love.

    So, for the purposes of this thread, we do not change to another paradigm of “moral risk assessment” to achieve a benefit as our premise for proceeding, something which could justify any action as long as a benefit is received. That is moral relativism. Instead, we base what we do on our sense of moral purpose and certainty guided by reason and love. My use of the term “classic” would be to connote the kind of moral reasoning Dr. Veith is challenging each of us to come up with – something based on moral absolutes.

    That does not mean we cannot have disagreements about the moral absolutes. This is one of the hallmarks and perhaps THE problem of our postmodern world – we no longer share a framework of meaning such as the Christian God, or even the premise that God exists and grounds our moral thinking. Still, the law accuses so that goodness and mercy happen – love between people, God getting gifts to us all, even without prayers or asking.

    And yet our consciences cannot rest in the law because it always accuses. We can fight against its accusations, but they remain. I wouldn’t expect this ever not to have repercussions. It’s a kind of deficit spending or dealing with a pawn broker. The interest on this in the long run will eventually eat up its value in the short term. If we are going to be attached to a policy, I’d rather it not be one like that. Now I’m being pragmatic I suppose, but I don’t think I have completely left behind the basic premise – this is always wrong and always will be.

  • Stephen

    One more thought -

    I’m not sure any of us could truly know the effect on our conscience of torturing terrorists unless we ourselves were the ones carrying it out. This is also why I give weight to what John McCain says. He knows what it is and what it does to people. I’d bet he has better sense of the effect of the torturer than anyone who has not had an experience like his other than a torturer himself.

    However, I do think we can use our reason and understand the inhumanity of it. Tom began with the Golden Rule. We can start there. The Geneva Conventions attempt to do this. I think they have been flaunted, being called “quaint” for instance by our once chief law enforcement officer in the country. The law will accuse us for that so that what God desires – goodness, mercy, love and peace – happen on earth. It will keep accusing so that this happens, even for all the wicked, which might mean their trial and execution.

  • Stephen

    One more thought -

    I’m not sure any of us could truly know the effect on our conscience of torturing terrorists unless we ourselves were the ones carrying it out. This is also why I give weight to what John McCain says. He knows what it is and what it does to people. I’d bet he has better sense of the effect of the torturer than anyone who has not had an experience like his other than a torturer himself.

    However, I do think we can use our reason and understand the inhumanity of it. Tom began with the Golden Rule. We can start there. The Geneva Conventions attempt to do this. I think they have been flaunted, being called “quaint” for instance by our once chief law enforcement officer in the country. The law will accuse us for that so that what God desires – goodness, mercy, love and peace – happen on earth. It will keep accusing so that this happens, even for all the wicked, which might mean their trial and execution.

  • Stephen

    Okay, so peace is impossible?

    Is that it?”

    I didn’t answer this one, or maybe I did. Not sure.

    Blessed (happy) are the peacemakers for they called the children of God.”

    A.J. Muste, a pacifist who wrote during the mid 20th c., when asked “what is the way to peace?” replied “Peace is the way.”

    I don’t agree with pacifism because I do not think it allows for good government which God desires. But the idea that peace is not so much a place we get to as a “way” we are willing to follow is something I like. The way is the goal perhaps, living by our convictions that peace is this way and not some other way, one of expediencies and benefits, like a world where torture is seen as justice – a distortion in my view. Beyond that, the future is God’s. We pray “Come Lord Jesus” and hopefully mean it – some to us now and at the end of all things. Until then, we do what is commanded and trust by faith that he will make his promises secure.

    “Peace I leave with you, not as the world gives . . .” said Jesus. The world believes it can do the law. That is, that we can manage things and get to where we need to go. But it is always in the short term if you look at it. Why? Death. Empires crumble, even ones of great promise and Christian morals (England maybe?). Our morals will not save us. Believing they will is to try and do the law and be saved by it.

    Faith, on the other hand, is to do what is commanded and leave the outcomes to God. We fail to do this because of sin, and yet God is ready for us with mercy. And so again, we do what is commanded, using reason and love. Well, ideally. Believing we can figure this all out finally and arrive at peace from our doing is not faith. That is to make our goals an idol, and that is THE temptation – we can do this good and evil thing ourselves, replace faith in God with our doing, and have the outcomes that suit us. God knows what outcomes suit us, we don’t because we are sinners. All our ways end in death. Man is like grass, withering away, but God is faithful. God is love eternal. And that eternal love is where we are promised to one day arrive in full.

    Go in peace. What does that mean?

  • Stephen

    Okay, so peace is impossible?

    Is that it?”

    I didn’t answer this one, or maybe I did. Not sure.

    Blessed (happy) are the peacemakers for they called the children of God.”

    A.J. Muste, a pacifist who wrote during the mid 20th c., when asked “what is the way to peace?” replied “Peace is the way.”

    I don’t agree with pacifism because I do not think it allows for good government which God desires. But the idea that peace is not so much a place we get to as a “way” we are willing to follow is something I like. The way is the goal perhaps, living by our convictions that peace is this way and not some other way, one of expediencies and benefits, like a world where torture is seen as justice – a distortion in my view. Beyond that, the future is God’s. We pray “Come Lord Jesus” and hopefully mean it – some to us now and at the end of all things. Until then, we do what is commanded and trust by faith that he will make his promises secure.

    “Peace I leave with you, not as the world gives . . .” said Jesus. The world believes it can do the law. That is, that we can manage things and get to where we need to go. But it is always in the short term if you look at it. Why? Death. Empires crumble, even ones of great promise and Christian morals (England maybe?). Our morals will not save us. Believing they will is to try and do the law and be saved by it.

    Faith, on the other hand, is to do what is commanded and leave the outcomes to God. We fail to do this because of sin, and yet God is ready for us with mercy. And so again, we do what is commanded, using reason and love. Well, ideally. Believing we can figure this all out finally and arrive at peace from our doing is not faith. That is to make our goals an idol, and that is THE temptation – we can do this good and evil thing ourselves, replace faith in God with our doing, and have the outcomes that suit us. God knows what outcomes suit us, we don’t because we are sinners. All our ways end in death. Man is like grass, withering away, but God is faithful. God is love eternal. And that eternal love is where we are promised to one day arrive in full.

    Go in peace. What does that mean?


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