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The Morality of Torturing Muslims
Posted: 17 January 2008 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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Unbeliever - 17 January 2008 03:39 PM

Unfortunately our post war society has been way too eager to shrug these people off as “evil” to actually learn something important from this tragedy. Until we acknowledge that any one of us could had been herding people into the gas chambers, had we been brought up there, and believed what they believed, we will never prevent it from happening again.

I agree with you there, 100%.  Although, as you say, we’re probably in the minority to hold this opinion. 

Before we agree to disagree on the topic of morality vis-à-vis intentions and behavior, let me ask one last question:  Do you think morality should have utility?  Is it something we should be able to apply in real life as a means to some (for now, unidentified) goal, or is it best left as a purely theoretical construct?

Unbeliever - 17 January 2008 03:39 PM

But if the day would come where we had to level the entire middle east with nukes, or see the free world leveled. It would not take me a moment of hesitation to press the red button. No matter how horrible the results and how many innocent deaths. But again, that suggests it is the only option left.

I don’t think we’re so far apart on this.  It’s just a matter of you coming to terms with the fact that we’re a lot closer to running out of options than you think.

Unbeliever - 17 January 2008 03:39 PM

Of course, that has very little to with Islam in my opinion though and very much to do with social structure.
I think its obvious, Christianity was the same once as Islam is now. Its fairly easy to be unconvinced by reasoning if you live in a place where you don’t receive any criticism for believing nonsense. Secular society has forces Christianity to where it is today. Now, ask yourself the question, from where we stand today. Would it had been a good idea to nuke Medieval Europe?

Harris adresses this exact issue in The End of Faith.  “...The world is filled with poor, uneducated, and exploited peoples who do not commit acts of terrorism of the sort that has become so commonplace among Muslims; and the Muslim world has no shortage of educated and prosperous men and women, suffering little more than their infatuation with Koranic eschatology, who are eager to murder infidels for God’s sake.” (Chapter 4, The Problem with Islam.)  Attributing the behavior of Islamic terrorists to their social structure doesn’t hold up in the face of these facts. 

If Medieval Europe had had nuclear weapons, I think it’s safe to say we would be extinct.  Now, with Islam, we’re dealing with that same, Medieval European mentality.

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Posted: 17 January 2008 05:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 17 January 2008 09:48 PM
Unbeliever - 17 January 2008 03:39 PM

But if the day would come where we had to level the entire middle east with nukes, or see the free world leveled. It would not take me a moment of hesitation to press the red button. No matter how horrible the results and how many innocent deaths. But again, that suggests it is the only option left.

I don’t think we’re so far apart on this.  It’s just a matter of you coming to terms with the fact that we’re a lot closer to running out of options than you think.

Wow, I find both of these statements to be pretty outrageous. You two simply seem to essentially side with western culture and christianity over what you are calling Islam.  I see western christianity to be devastatingly worse, mostly because how easily they justify their own culpability. In TEOF, Harris argues that we have somehow morally evolved since My Lai…...that was before he met abu ghraib, or haditha, I suppose. I think that he is completely wrong on this point.
As I see how politics goes in this country, we almost live in an open theocracy. Our american army is very much a christian army, it’s certainly not a muslim one. What we justify as “collateral death”, they feel as racist and criminal death, which it is. These days, the americans invade, rape, pillage, kill and steal just as good as any nazi. What makes us really dangerous is the ease with which we justify our own carnage. This will prove our undoing. It’s just more us and them all over again, as medieval as it gets. 911 freaked us out, we’ve certainly paid “them” back several fold now, much worse than an eye for an eye. We’re so necessarily righteous and bloodthirsty in our own right, it makes me sick.

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Posted: 17 January 2008 06:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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eucaryote - 17 January 2008 10:56 PM

Wow, I find both of these statements to be pretty outrageous. You two simply seem to essentially side with western culture and christianity over what you are calling Islam.

Not in the slightest bit, I don’t see how you could even assume I would side with Christianity on anything. It seems to me that you are making the mistake of generalization that Christians love to make, and that is to declare the west to be Christian culture. I don’t think this is true. Dogmatism in any form is dangerous and I am genuinely concerned with the prospect of an American theocracy and it needs to be fought. That said, threats must be prioritized and the politicized Christianity in the US and the Muslim theocracies of the middle east are at the top of the list. The rest is second to those.

I made a very clear theoretical point. What I said was that if Islamic theocracies acquire nuclear weapons AND intend to launch them against democratic and free civilization (note not west). And the only way to stop it were to launch nuclear weapons back. I would not hesitate to pick myself over them, to pick the democratic, scientific and secularized world over theocracies.

I will take the opportunity to reply to ASD as well on his point that the running out of options is getting close. I think that is so far from the truth as you can get. Before the situation arises that I speak of A LOT of things have to go wrong, and a lot of failures by us to act in more moderate ways must happen. There are just so many options to prevent that world to come to pass. The first one would be to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

To finish of to eucaryote, I really hope you understand what kind of scenario I am talking about when I am willing to nuke the middle east. I hope that you misconstrued what I said because if you did not that means that in that situation of imminent annihilation you would rather die, and let the entire modern world die, over principle.
I really don’t think this is your position.
I’m certainly not advocating any nuclear war, certainly not anytime soon. I think its unreasonable that we will let things go that far. I am merely saying that if faced with that situation, where there is no option but to wait and die or to kill millions, many innocent. I would choose the latter. It would be a horrible thing to live with for all of us, but we would have to do it none the less.

But before that comes diplomacy, before that comes surgical strikes, before that comes occupation, before that comes missile shields etc etc. Its only if we are dumb enough to not act at any point on the line, that we have forced ourselves into a troublesome final call.

edit: I’ve made my position on killing quite clear in the past, it is never right to take the life of another human being unless in self defense. I stand by that.I merely articulated a purely hypothetical absolute worst case scenario.

[ Edited: 17 January 2008 06:36 PM by Unbeliever]
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Posted: 17 January 2008 06:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 17 January 2008 09:48 PM

Do you think morality should have utility?

No I think morality is an illusion, it is a bit more complex than that, but thats the essence of it.

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Posted: 17 January 2008 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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Unbeliever - 17 January 2008 11:31 PM
eucaryote - 17 January 2008 10:56 PM

Wow, I find both of these statements to be pretty outrageous. You two simply seem to essentially side with western culture and christianity over what you are calling Islam.

Not in the slightest bit, I don’t see how you could even assume I would side with Christianity on anything. It seems to me that you are making the mistake of generalization that Christians love to make, and that is to declare the west to be Christian culture. I don’t think this is true. Dogmatism in any form is dangerous and I am genuinely concerned with the prospect of an American theocracy and it needs to be fought. That said, threats must be prioritized and the politicized Christianity in the US and the Muslim theocracies of the middle east are at the top of the list. The rest is second to those.

Sorry I didn’t mean to misconstrue you but to express my own concern over the american christian taliban. This is is a taliban that, along with the Jewish taliban that IS armed with nuclear weapons. I disagree with you the the muslim nations represent the greatest danger. The last 6 years or so have blown me away at the depth of racism, religionism, nationalism whatever you call it in this country. When we invade and kill, we are MUCH more effective than the muslim terrorists. We call it shock and awe. We like it. Did I hear you write that you are living in Sweden? The US is out of control. I also criticize Sam Harris for not even mentioning semetic violence. I guess that what I am trying to point out is that there is a real double standard going on. As a people, americans can write off, 100,000 deaths without blinking an eye. These christians are some of the most vicious people in the world. If you think america is a secular country, think again, it certainly isn’t how muslim countries see it. After all, we are the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons, not just once, but twice. Hundreds of thousands of “innocent”, “collateral” deaths in an instant, easily justified.
[quote author=“Unbeliever”]
I made a very clear theoretical point. What I said was that if Islamic theocracies acquire nuclear weapons AND intend to launch them against democratic and free civilization (note not west). And the only way to stop it were to launch nuclear weapons back. I would not hesitate to pick myself over them, to pick the democratic, scientific and secularized world over theocracies.

I will take the opportunity to reply to ASD as well on his point that the running out of options is getting close. I think that is so far from the truth as you can get. Before the situation arises that I speak of A LOT of things have to go wrong, and a lot of failures by us to act in more moderate ways must happen. There are just so many options to prevent that world to come to pass. The first one would be to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

To finish of to eucaryote, I really hope you understand what kind of scenario I am talking about when I am willing to nuke the middle east. I hope that you misconstrued what I said because if you did not that means that in that situation of imminent annihilation you would rather die, and let the entire modern world die, over principle.
I really don’t think this is your position.
I’m certainly not advocating any nuclear war, certainly not anytime soon. I think its unreasonable that we will let things go that far. I am merely saying that if faced with that situation, where there is no option but to wait and die or to kill millions, many innocent. I would choose the latter. It would be a horrible thing to live with for all of us, but we would have to do it none the less.

But before that comes diplomacy, before that comes surgical strikes, before that comes occupation, before that comes missile shields etc etc. Its only if we are dumb enough to not act at any point on the line, that we have forced ourselves into a troublesome final call.

edit: I’ve made my position on killing quite clear in the past, it is never right to take the life of another human being unless in self defense. I stand by that.I merely articulated a purely hypothetical absolute worst case scenario.

Sorry, I knew that I was taking what you said out of context. I didn’t mean to misconstrue either you or antisocial psychedelic newt man. Nonetheless, what you both said jumped out at me. It really is us or them. You have quite a belief in “democratic and free civilization”, and a real mind set towards, “Islamic theocracies.” Again, us and them. This is just a belief system in action. It’s exactly how “they” work.

As ASD suggested, the morality is in the action. That’s why I blame individual universal soldiers, individual trigger pullers who abdicate their personal responsibility to determine the difference between right and wrong to their “superiors”. They are the ones who actually make evil manifest in the world. In order to defend yourself, you have to be attacked. It’s that simple. It’s not good enough to anticipate attack. Pre-emptive violence just makes you one of them. Your white hat instantly turns black. What is it worth to save your life and lose your individual responsibility to determine the difference between right and wrong. Once you had made your pre emptive nuclear strike…..could you live with yourself?......could we live with you?

[ Edited: 17 January 2008 08:47 PM by eucaryote]
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Posted: 17 January 2008 09:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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Unbeliever - 17 January 2008 11:37 PM
Antisocialdarwinist - 17 January 2008 09:48 PM

Do you think morality should have utility?

No I think morality is an illusion, it is a bit more complex than that, but thats the essence of it.

Fair enough.  I suspected that might be the crux of our disagreement.

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Posted: 18 January 2008 05:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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eucaryote - 18 January 2008 01:41 AM

Sorry I didn’t mean to misconstrue you but to express my own concern over the american christian taliban. This is is a taliban that, along with the Jewish taliban that IS armed with nuclear weapons. I disagree with you the the muslim nations represent the greatest danger. The last 6 years or so have blown me away at the depth of racism, religionism, nationalism whatever you call it in this country. When we invade and kill, we are MUCH more effective than the muslim terrorists. We call it shock and awe. We like it. Did I hear you write that you are living in Sweden? The US is out of control. I also criticize Sam Harris for not even mentioning semetic violence. I guess that what I am trying to point out is that there is a real double standard going on. As a people, americans can write off, 100,000 deaths without blinking an eye. These christians are some of the most vicious people in the world. If you think america is a secular country, think again, it certainly isn’t how muslim countries see it. After all, we are the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons, not just once, but twice. Hundreds of thousands of “innocent”, “collateral” deaths in an instant, easily justified.

Yes the US is out of control, I can’t wait for the current administration to be booted out, I have some serious grievances with how things have been done, Guantanamo, the complete disregard for international consensus on Iraq, and the war itself was a huge mistake since Iraq by no means were a natural target for anti terrorism. Unfortunately, I am not quite sure that my own continent will be of much more use in the foreseeable future.
Basically because political correctness reigns over Europe right now, and the endgame will most likely be that when military action is required somewhere, the US will have burned its bridges by past mis stepped, and the EU will be too stuck to principles to be able to fully commit to a military solution.
There are certainly many other threats to society than just radical Islam. But it nevertheless is a huge threat the day death cult apocalyptics get their hands on weapons to do the job.

eucaryote - 18 January 2008 01:41 AM

Nonetheless, what you both said jumped out at me. It really is us or them. You have quite a belief in “democratic and free civilization”, and a real mind set towards, “Islamic theocracies.” Again, us and them. This is just a belief system in action. It’s exactly how “they” work.

Unfortunately it is as simpe as that in the end. Even though I am talking about a worst case scenario, and I do put a certain value on democracy and freedom as superior values to their counterparts. I would never willingly kill for these values, I have no interest in spreading them abroad by force. But if the time comes when either the free world dies or a religious theocracy it will not be weighing on my conscience to take that decision.
That does not mean it would be a really tough thing to live with emotionally afterwards. Nevertheless to me it would be right. I’m not planning on seeing the end of modern civilization over a principle.

eucaryote - 18 January 2008 01:41 AM

As ASD suggested, the morality is in the action. That’s why I blame individual universal soldiers, individual trigger pullers who abdicate their personal responsibility to determine the difference between right and wrong to their “superiors”. They are the ones who actually make evil manifest in the world. In order to defend yourself, you have to be attacked. It’s that simple. It’s not good enough to anticipate attack. Preemptive violence just makes you one of them. Your white hat instantly turns black. What is it worth to save your life and lose your individual responsibility to determine the difference between right and wrong. Once you had made your pre emotive nuclear strike…..could you live with yourself?......could we live with you?

First of all, I try to not use the word evil, because its completely without meaning. There is no such thing as “evil” as far as I can tell.
Secondly there is always a justified preemptive strike. I’m not going to speculate as to when that is but its certainly conceivable that there is one. When every Iranian missile silo is opening and the missiles being fueled, when your intelligence agency infiltrates their launch sites and determine the targets to be a wide selection of free world metropolitans.
Should you at that time be unable to surgically strike at the launch sites you have only one option. The repercussions are quite disturbing but the choice itself is perfectly simple.
Either you do nothing and moments later modern civilization is over, all its science, all its knowledge, all its values gone. Whats left is a medieval religion.
The alternative is to destroy them first, knowing what will happen otherwise. A lot of innocent people will die, not close to as many as if you do nothing, all those people did not deserve to die, but their leaders killed them by forcing the rest of the world into an impossible position.
There is only one choice at that point, you die, or your survive.
My personally is irrelevant, I am not bothered with death. I won’t know when its happened.
But when it comes to all the good things and all the progress that the free world has reached, thats worth defending.
And there are many other threats, the rising evangelism in the US for example. It must be fought too, but if the northern hemisphere is in ruins that can’t be done.


However, this scenario does not ever have to happen if the EU and the US act responsibly but forcefully, and as long as people in free countries fight dogma wherever it rises.

Nuclear weapons should never ever have to be used, and I think Hiroshima and Nagasaki were essentially war crimes.

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Posted: 18 January 2008 11:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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arildno - 17 January 2008 03:44 PM

1. On the whole, confessions given “freely” aren’t the slightest more reliable than those given under torture. Ask your neighbourhood cop.

I was not aware of any studies conducted by the police into the effectiveness of torture, so I would not seek the opinion of my neighbourhood cop. On the other hand, the British military has a long history of such research. It’s from that research that I draw the distinction between physical and mental torture. For intelligence gathering, mental torture has its uses. However, there is no justification for using physical torture.

arildno - 17 January 2008 03:44 PM

2. You forget that whereas the interrogators in witchcraft cases were priests holding strong delusions about the world, the interrogators in civil cases would typically be down-to-earth military men.

Apart from the fact that if the military is in charge it’s not a civil case, I agree that the men involved would be less delusional than the priests running the witch trials. Though, does that make a difference to the possibly innocent person being tortured?

arildno - 17 January 2008 03:44 PM

They would be perfectly well aware that torture is not an end-all, but would use control questions to probe the veracity of the statements gained.
(For example, withholding crucial information only a perpetrator would know, and ask questions about this in subtle ways)

There are way too many grey areas. If the prisoner is not answering these subtle questions, is it because he doesn’t know, or because he’s withholding the information? How much torture should be inflicted to determine that? The same kind of question can be asked about giving the prisoner false information. Is he repeating it back to you because he doesn’t know anything and is just saying things to make the pain stop? Or, is he repeating the false information because he knows it’s false information and he wants to cause confusion? How does the interrogator decide which is which?  More torture?

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Posted: 19 January 2008 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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The reliability problems with testimonials given under torture, are hardly larger than those reliability problems with testimonials given without torture or threat of torture.

Rather, you have a distribution shift of personality types telling the truth and those who don’t:

1. True enough, there will be many, under the threat of torture or its execution, who will tell a lie in order to end it (for example saying they are guilty of something they haven’t done).

2. However, there will be a lot of persons who would lie unless pressured, but who will spill the beans and tell the truth the moment the torture threat comes along, or its execution.

At the ouset, there is no reason to assume that class 1 is any larger than class 2 among possible suspects upon whom torture has been sanctioned to be used.

Note that I haven’t said whether torture ought to be sanctioned or not, but I oppose your facile and naive assumption that torture “doesn’t work”.

It does, and it did.

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Posted: 19 January 2008 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 16 January 2008 09:52 PM

Shooting at someone (I’m assuming this person poses no threat to you) is an action which is morally wrong regardless of whether you hit or missed.  It’s not the intent which makes hitting and missing morally equivalent, it’s acting on that intent.  If you intend to shoot someone, but never get around to it, are you morally wrong?

Why wouldn’t intending to hurt someone be morally wrong just because you didn’t follow through on it? If intent is not critical to determining right from wrong then why is it such an important part of our justice system?

Let’s take another scenario which should illustrate this a little better.

A - I pick up a gun I believe is unloaded, point it at someone and pull the trigger intending to scare a reaction out of them.

B - I pick up a gun I believe is loaded, point it at someone and pull the trigger intending to kill them.

Assuming that all other details for these scenarios are either identical or irrelevant, are both scenarios morally equivalent?

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Posted: 19 January 2008 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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arildno - 19 January 2008 12:11 PM

The reliability problems with testimonials given under torture, are hardly larger than those reliability problems with testimonials given without torture or threat of torture.

Rather, you have a distribution shift of personality types telling the truth and those who don’t:

1. True enough, there will be many, under the threat of torture or its execution, who will tell a lie in order to end it (for example saying they are guilty of something they haven’t done).

2. However, there will be a lot of persons who would lie unless pressured, but who will spill the beans and tell the truth the moment the torture threat comes along, or its execution.

At the ouset, there is no reason to assume that class 1 is any larger than class 2 among possible suspects upon whom torture has been sanctioned to be used.

Note that I haven’t said whether torture ought to be sanctioned or not, but I oppose your facile and naive assumption that torture “doesn’t work”.

It does, and it did.


The “facile and naive assumption” you mention is misleading, as it does not describe my position.


My position on the use of torture to change a persons worldview, a point raised by the OP…

“Would it not behoove us then, to persuade Muslims to renounce their faith by any means possible—including torture?”

...I stand by my original assertion that you might get them to “renounce” their faith by using torture, but you will have little to no success in actually changing their religious beliefs. The doctrines of jihad and martyrdom will still be real to them. They would still be a threat to us. It would be an exercise in futility. If torture could change a persons worldview, the Buddhist monks of Tibet would now be communist atheists.


My position on the use of torture in intelligence gathering is that it is morally unjustifiable (not that it “does’t work”). I raised the “reliability” issue to show that it is risky to assume the information will help, and as such it is risky to try to justify the use of torture for such ends. The argument for the use of torture seems to go like this: If we torture this person, he might give us information that might help us fight this war and might save countless lives. In other words: Inflict suffering on one person (or a group of people) in the hope that it might ensure the happiness of countless others. My overuse of the word “might” is intentional. This is very shaky ground on which to set a moral standard.

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Posted: 19 January 2008 02:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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For more on this subject see ‘Taxi to the Darkside’, a feature length documentary released yesterday.  The film documents the arrest of an Afghan taxi driver by the U.S. military.  Five days after his arrest he was ‘dead from natural causes’ according to the military.  The autopsy report said his legs were both ‘only a pulp’, and would have had to be amputated if he had been alive.  The driver’s family found a small note attached to the body which they couldn’t read.  It said, ‘death by homicide.’

The director of the film interviewed soldiers who took part in the torture of the taxi driver.  In producing the film, he (the director) began including more and more graphic photos, as he and editors became inured to the horror.  Friends seeing the footage for the first time said, “Are you out of your mind?  You can’t show this!”  The scenes, much more horrible than the Abu Graib photos, had to be cut.

Review on NPR’s “All Things Considered” on January 18.

http://www.whydemocracy.net/film/4

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Posted: 19 January 2008 07:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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camanintx - 19 January 2008 02:53 PM

Why wouldn’t intending to hurt someone be morally wrong just because you didn’t follow through on it? If intent is not critical to determining right from wrong then why is it such an important part of our justice system?

Let’s take another scenario which should illustrate this a little better.

A - I pick up a gun I believe is unloaded, point it at someone and pull the trigger intending to scare a reaction out of them.

B - I pick up a gun I believe is loaded, point it at someone and pull the trigger intending to kill them.

Assuming that all other details for these scenarios are either identical or irrelevant, are both scenarios morally equivalent?

It’s a violation of basic gun safety to point a gun at someone whether you think it’s loaded or not.  (Although, being from Texas, you’re forgiven if you don’t understand this.)  I don’t know if merely pointing the gun is immoral, but pulling the trigger certainly is, regardless of whether you believe it’s loaded. 

And what’s right or wrong from a legal standpoint doesn’t necessarily coincide with right and wrong from a moral standpoint.  I understand our criminal system of justice takes intent into account.

Do you believe, as Unbeliever does, that morality is an illusion whose only utility is as fodder for mental masturbation?

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Posted: 19 January 2008 08:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 20 January 2008 12:55 AM

It’s a violation of basic gun safety to point a gun at someone whether you think it’s loaded or not.  (Although, being from Texas, you’re forgiven if you don’t understand this.)  I don’t know if merely pointing the gun is immoral, but pulling the trigger certainly is, regardless of whether you believe it’s loaded. 

And what’s right or wrong from a legal standpoint doesn’t necessarily coincide with right and wrong from a moral standpoint.  I understand our criminal system of justice takes intent into account.

I can assure you that my understanding of gun safety is quite adequate and apparently better than your comprehension skills. The question was not if each situation was moral or not but if they were morally equivalent. Two situations, same actions, different intent. Pointing a gun at someone whether you think it is loaded is certainly stupid, negligent and immoral, but does it equal the immorality of shooting to kill?

[quote author=“Antisocialdarwinist”]Do you believe, as Unbeliever does, that morality is an illusion whose only utility is as fodder for mental masturbation?

I believe morality is a useful social construct that allows us to coexist in groups of more than one. What about you? Judging from the content of this thread, I don’t think Unbeliever is the one pushing fodder.

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Posted: 20 January 2008 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 20 January 2008 12:55 AM

Do you believe, as Unbeliever does, that morality is an illusion whose only utility is as fodder for mental masturbation?

If you are going to make a point referring to my opinions, please clearly specify what is my opinion and what is your assumptions based on it. I said morality as we know it is an illusion, nothing else. I never said that the mechanics of it are not useful, thats your extrapolation.

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What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

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newrelic.loglevel = "verbosedebug" newrelic.daemon.loglevel = "verbosedebug"