The Instigator
abyteofbrain
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
zmikecuber
Pro (for)
Winning
9 Points

Is the death penalty a good thing?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
zmikecuber
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/25/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,074 times Debate No: 49901
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (3)
Votes (3)

 

abyteofbrain

Con

I am starting this debate because I don't have an opinion on the death penalty, and hope this will help me develop it. I look forward to debating with my taker. I don't care who starts the debate, but we will have equal turns to debate. I would prefer if a Christian accepts my challenge, since this is a moral topic and morals are based on religion (and mine is Christianity).
zmikecuber

Pro

I accept. I shall argue that the death penalty is a good thing, since it is a means towards justice, which is a common good.

This doesn't mean that I approve of every time the death penalty is administered though. I just have to show that the death penalty is a good thing; not that every use of the death penalty is good.

I await Con's arguments.
Debate Round No. 1
abyteofbrain

Con

One essential thing you should make clear, is the situations in which you think capital punishment is good.
I'll start with the Bible. Humans are Gods most valuable property, and to kill another human is, at best, vandalism. The ten commandments also speaks against killing and it is implied in other parts of the Bible. Christians make a distinction between murder and killing which the Bible does not make, though the Bible does imply exceptions. Only in war and individual, directly commanded situations, have I seen this exception. Even when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, it was only a test, and he wasn't to follow through.
I see that it is good to keep someone from destroying society, but that can be done well in a high-security labor camp (which I think America needs, but that's another topic). You don't need to kill a person, though it certainly is the most assuring method. I believe that everyone should have as much chance as possible to correct their lives. I also believe that it is wrong for us to end a persons life unless God tells us to do so.
So far, I've been assuming that the person sentenced to death is guilty. Someone could be convicted o wrongly due to a frame job, corrupt government, or simply because investigators failed to find enough evidence. Criminals are usually convicted on little evidence, which allows for mistakes. The truth is, it's never possible to gather enough evidence to be sure of the guilty party. It is estimated that America has 4-6% wrong convictions. (1)

Thanks for accepting, I eagerly await your response.

1: http://www.jdsupra.com...
http://www.law.umich.edu...
zmikecuber

Pro

Rebuttals

The Bible
My opponent cites the Bible as evidence against capital punishment, however, I can easily cite the Bible in favor of capital punishment.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image” (Genesis 9:6)

Not to mention that Mosaic Law prescribes 36 cases of capital punishment (1)

Jesus also never explicitly denies the state's right to capital punishment. Jesus even states, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die” (Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10, referring to Exodus 2l:17; cf. Leviticus 20:9)

In addition to this, when Pilate points out, "Hey Jesus, I can let you live, and I have the right to put you to death" Jesus responds to him that he would not have this power if it had not been given to him from God (John 19:11).

Life-imprisonments
Capital punishment is a punishment. However, the main purpose of punishment is not to protect society. When we fine someone for speeding, is our main purpose to "protect society"? Obviously not. It's to punish the person who has done wrong. So my opponent claiming that capital punishment shouldn't be used when we can lock the person up is debunked. The main purpose of punishment isn't to protect people. It's to punish the person. So this point is a red-herring from my opponent.

Mis-trials
This is against capital punishment in practice, not in principle. I'm arguing that capital punishment is a good thing in principle even though it might not always be good in practice.

Now my opponent's source is about conviction rates in general. It's not about death penalty conviction rates. Only 25 people have been wrongly executed in the last century (2).

Now this is very unfortunate, but it isn't enough to rule out the death penalty completely. Once again, this is against death penalty in practice, but not in principle.

My arguments
I'll now get into my arguments.

Justice
We all probably agree that the punishment should reflect the crime. In other words, the person who speeds shouldn't be punished the same as a rapist. This is only common sense.

However, what about the case of murder? What about the case of rape or child abuse? They should receive a punishment which reflects the severity of their action done. But what other than capital punishment can do this?

Essentially, if we are to punish a murderer with life-imprisonment, or a fine of X amount of money, we are implicitly saying that the life they have taken is worth 50 years in prison, or $X. Now of course, life is invaluable. The only thing that can equal life in value is life itself.

Justice of course, is a good thing in itself. This is also one of the main purposes of government; to judge the citizens accordingly and punish them. The death penalty is a just punishment since it reflects the severity of the crime committed. It is a means towards a good end. Thus, it is a good thing.

Self-defense
Now my opponent surely would be ok with the death penalty in cases of self-defense. However, self-defense is one of the minor purposes of punishment. If we can execute someone for one of the minor purposes of punishment, why can't we execute them for the main purpose of punishment? Namely that of retribution.

Conclusion
In conclusion, I've rebutted each of my opponent's arguments. A person who is holding a gun to your wife's head has surrendered his right to life. Through his actions, he is no longer innocent. Likewise, a person who murders someone is no longer innocent, and has surrendered his right to life through his actions. He is deserving of a just punishment, and it is the state's duty to carry this out.

Simply put: A murderer no longer has a right to his life, and deserves a just punishment.

P1: Whatever is an acceptable means towards a good end is a good thing.
P2: The death penalty is an acceptable means towards a good end (justice).
C: The death penalty is a good thing.

==Sources==
(1)http://www.firstthings.com...
(2)http://www.nytimes.com...
Debate Round No. 2
abyteofbrain

Con

Nice verse, thanks. Genesis 9:6 does not say "should", it says "shall", which sounds more like a prophesy than a commandment.
Yes, punishment is the purpose of the judicial system, but there's no point in punishing someone if that's all it does. The reason for punishment is to discourage such future behavior, thus protecting society.
"Only 25 people have been wrongly executed in the last century." Correction: only 25 wrongful executions HAVE BEEN CAUGHT. With the general pride of judges, they are very unlikely to change their minds. There are a lot of other reasons these cases wouldn't be caught, like: few friends, lack of money, many of enemies, or just failure to find or interpret evidence.
I do not agree that the end justifies the means. For example, if I were to find Obama's location and nuke it, Obama's no longer the president, so it was a good thing to nuke that area, right? I could give countless similar examples. your first section marked "justice" contains no real argument. You say that someone should be executed if they commit a similar crime, but you don't say why.
Your section marked "self defense" is unclear. I really don't know what you're trying to say. It sounds like you are saying that punishment is for the protection of society/people, which you denied earlier.
zmikecuber

Pro

Rebuttals

The Bible
It seems Con drops all the other Bible verses I've quoted, except Genesis 9:6. Now we could read it as Con reads it, however it clearly makes sense when we view the rest of the Bible that murder will be punishable by death.

St. Paul states, "For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (Romans 13:4)

The sword here clearly means capital punishment. I could go on to quote the numerous early Christians who approved of capital punishment, and the Christian sects which denied capital punishment and were declared heretical, but I won't. It's very clear that in Christian tradition, capital punishment is an acceptable form of punishment.

Life imprisonments
Con does not reply to this.

Mis-trials
My opponent seems to misunderstand here. 25 people have been wrongly convicted and executed within the past century. It's not that these people were saved; they died. However, if we average 25 people out of 100 years, we get 0.25 mis-executions a year. This is throughout the entire US.

Now I think this number is too high. I think we should be extremely certain that the person is guilty before capital punishment is adminstered. But this number isn't high enough to get rid of capital punishment entirely. Eve if it were, this would only show that capital punishment isn't good in practice right now. It would not show that capital punishment is not a good thing in principle. I am arguing that capital punishment is primarily a good thing in principle.

My arguments

Justice
I am not saying that the ends justify the means. I am saying that in certain circumstances, killing is morally acceptable. Traditionally, there are three: Self-defense, a just war, and capital punishment.

The point is that a person deserves a punishment equal in severity to the crime committed. So when someone commits a crime equal to their life, they have surrendered their life. Through the person's actions, they have merited a punishment equal to their crime; when this crime is equal in severity to life, they have merited a punishment equal to life.

And what can equal life but life? Can we really say that the life of a murdered 12 year old is worth 50 years in prison with food, water, and a relatively comfortable existence?

My opponent also misunderstands what I mean by "justice" and the "justice system." The primary purpose of justice is just that; justice. It is to mete out to criminals what they deserve.

The other, less important, aspects of punishment are to protect society, help the criminal become a better person, and deter crime.

Self-defense
My point is that if my opponent is alright with killing someone who is not presently a threat to society, but may be a threat to society, then why can't we kill someone for the purpose of retributive justice? If we can kill a disarmed criminal to protect people, why can't we kill them just because they deserve it, and it is the duty of the justice system to administer justice?

Conclusion
I've argued that capital punishment is a means towards an end which is good in itself. It leads us towards justice. The justice system exists for many reasons, but most importantly it exists to make things fair. It exists to punish people accordingly with the appropriate punishment for their crimes. Capital punishment obviously satisfies the retributive aspect of punishment and justice. Thus, it is an acceptable means towards a good end and is a good thing.
Debate Round No. 3
abyteofbrain

Con

All of those other verses in KJV do not command us to kill someone as punishment. Human judgement is very fallible, and because of this, it's safest to leave judgement and punishment in the form of killing to God, which he does anyway. God does directly command people to kill others, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about capital punishment: humans killing other humans in punishment according to human judgement. We also need to take into account who God is commanding to do/not do something. You never mentioned another verse which stated that death should be the penalty for murder, yet you claim that such verses, or at least implications, are abundant.
You repetitively argue that we should punish for the sake of punishment. I say again: that is not our job, but God's, we should punish if it does good, there is no other reason. For humans, the only ways that punishment can do good are: teach the criminal (clearly no applicable to capital punishment), protect society (sometimes for the using the previous reason), and if it's what God tells us to do specifically. You say that these are "less important" reasons. This is an untrue statement. It is not our job to punish wrong, but to protect and help each-other. Humans are bad at judgement which is an excellent reason why we shouldn't be punishing for the sake of punishment. The Bible tell us that those who judge will be judged, as well as other objections to human judgement.
There are Biblical implications in favor of capital punishment, but also in favor of many other things which aren't true. An implication is not enough to go on.
I believe that prisons shouldn't cost our government a cent, because the prisoners should be earning their way at the least, which also keeps hem out of trouble, teaches them useful skills, and makes prison unpleasant.
zmikecuber

Pro

Rebuttals

The Bible
As I've stated though, St. Paul defends capital punishment. Jesus was okay with capital punishment. Mosaic Law prescribes capital punishment all the time. All these demonstrate to show that capital punishment, from a Christian standpoint, is not wrong in principle, and they definitely do not show that CP is a "bad thing."

Simply because the Bible does not explicitly indicate that something is moral, this doesn't mean it's immoral. The Bible isn't explicit on cases of contraception, or abortion, but many Christians hold this to be immoral. Likewise, we can use reason when interpreting the Bible.

Nothing else needs to be rebutted from my opponent's arguments. The only argument he is still defending is the Bible one. I'll get to this when I refute his rebuttals to my arguments.

My arguments

Justice
My opponent misunderstands what justice is. If a person were to get caught drunk driving, should he be punished? What if there's a reasonable amount of evidence to show that he won't do it again? Quite clearly, he should at least be fined, just because he plain deserves it.

If God should be the one to punish, then what of the entire justice system? What basis does my opponent have for sayingt his? Yes, the Bible says not to judge people, but this doesn't mean that we shouldn't have any court systems. It means judging the person morally, and casting judgment in regards to their salvation.

Maybe God is the only one who should give and take life? If this is the case, what about self-defense? My opponent has set up a double standards. He's ok with killing to protect people, but he's not ok with killing for the sake of punishment.

But it's also the case CP protects society. A dead criminal is infinitely less dangerous than one who is alive and imprisoned. While it's always possible for a dangerous criminal to break out of prison, it's literally impossible for a dead criminal to break out of death.

My opponent also misunderstands what I mean by "justice." Punishment and justice are good for a person. They are good for society, since they produce order, and they give to the one punished what they deserve.

If I go around and kill people, it is good for me to be punished in some way. As I've shown, the death penalty is an acceptable form of punishment.

Self-defense
Once again: If we can kill a person who is presently disarmed, but may be a threat in the future, why can't we kill someone as a form of punishment? Why is it "ok" in one case, but not the other?

My opponent needs to answer this question. Also note that it would be immoral to kill an innocent person who will be a threat to society. Would it be moral to kill Hitler when he was a baby? Probably not. But it is moral to kill a serial killer who might break out again. Why? Well obviously because one person deserves it, and the other doesn't.

So punishment clearly has something to do with the person deserving it.

Conclusion
My opponent hasn't given any good arguments to believe that capital punishment is not a good thing. He's literally just rebutted my arguments. I've shown that the death penalty is an acceptable means towards something which is good in itself. Since this is the case, the death penalty is a good thing, even if only in principle.
Debate Round No. 4
abyteofbrain

Con

By what you say, it seems that I have not made my position clear enough. I am defnding the position that capital punishment should usually be avoided, not always. Exceptions are when God specifically says to kill someone.
God has indicated that killing is wrong, but I've seen no clear universal exceptions.
"He's ok with killing to protect people, but he's not ok with killing for the sake of punishment." Yes, that sums up a large part of my position. Once again, punishing just for punishment, is revenge. Humans shouldn't do that; it's Gods job. Punishment is for protection of people. You've given no reason that human punishment is ok in cases other than protection.
You say that we should kill someone who could be a threat in the future. That would be everyone, that is not exactly what I was saying. I was saying that we should be able to kill anyone for defense of others, not someone who could be a threat in the future.
One of my best arguments which you left largely untouched, is that capital punishment is dangerous because of wrongful convictions, most of which probably aren't caught even after punishment.
I get tired of people claiming that I haven't presented any issues, when I've presented some that they haven't even attempted to rebut.

Thank you for the debate. Although I'm still undecided about capital punishment, I understand the situation much better.
zmikecuber

Pro

Introduction
My opponent wasn't very specific about the resolution in the opening round. So I have shown that capital punishment is a good thing in principle.

Revenge
Yes, in a sense, justice IS revenge. However, revenge nowadays typically connotates a certain "I hate you, so I'm going to get back at you" type of un-Christian activities and vigilantism. I think that capital punishment should be carried out by the government, and should not be done out of a motive of hatred.

Thomas Aquinas has this to say...

"Vengeance consists in the infliction of a penal evil on one who has sinned. Accordingly, in thematter of vengeance, we must consider the mind of the avenger. For if his intention is directed chiefly to theevil of the person on whom he takes vengeance and rests there, then his vengeance is altogether unlawful...If, however, the avenger's intention be directed chiefly to some good, to be obtained by means of the punishment of the person who has sinned (for instance that the sinner may amend, or at least that he may be restrained and others be not disturbed, that justice may be upheld, and God honored), then vengeance may be lawful, provided other due circumstances be observed." (1)

Aquinas also responds to my opponent's objection that only God can punish for the sake of retribution...

"He who takes vengeance on the wicked in keeping with his rank and position does not usurp what belongs to God but makes use of the power granted him by God. For it is written (Romans 13:4) of the earthly prince that "he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." If, however, a man takes vengeance outside the order of divine appointment, he usurps what is God's and therefore sins." (1)

Once again, I quoted Romans above. The reason that the government can morally punish for the sake of punishment is because it is given this privelige by God. Jesus even acknowledges this to Pilate, as I showed above.

My opponent states,

"capital punishment is dangerous because of wrongful convictions, most of which probably aren't caught even after punishment."

However, I've shown (with sources) that this is very slim. What reasons do we have to think that this is the case? My opponent is making an argument from ignorance.

And this only refutes capital punishment in practice. It doesn't show that capital punishment is not a good thing in itself, which is what I have shown to be true. Capital punishment, per se, is a good thing, even if it's not realistically applicable (which is highly debatable.)

Conclusion
In conclusion, I've shown that capital punishment is entirely compatible with Christianity, and that Christianity actually endorses it. I have shown that capital punishment is an acceptable means towards a good end, that of justice, and thus is a good thing. I have also rebutted each and every one of my opponent's arguments.

Thanks for this debate

==Sources==
(1)http://www.newadvent.org...
Debate Round No. 5
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by abyteofbrain 3 years ago
abyteofbrain
If it weren't for Genesis 9:6, I'd have come to the conclusion that we should avoid killing when possible in society's best interest. That, of course, contains some human judgement of it's own. Now I'm just as undecided as before. I can't seem to figure out weather this verse is a prediction or commandment, though is context it seems more like a commandment. A look at parallel translations implies that it is a prediction.
Posted by Aleksandr 3 years ago
Aleksandr
The death penalty is factored in with the victim that he cannot be helped any more.
Posted by Aleksandr 3 years ago
Aleksandr
The death penalty is factored in with the victim that he cannot be helped any more.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by ESocialBookworm 3 years ago
ESocialBookworm
abyteofbrainzmikecuberTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Both of you were fantastic but Con used better arguments.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
abyteofbrainzmikecuberTied
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Reasons for voting decision: The resolution is posed as a moral question, asking if a person is guilty of murder, "should they be executed?" That minimizes the argument of possible wrongful executions, because at the very worst wrongful executions are rare. If wrongful executions were common,\ there might have been an argument that only correct convictions could not be argued. That makes it meaningful to ask about the morality only in the cases of correct verdicts. Con argued solely from Biblical morality, so Pro responded in that framework. If Genesis 9:6 were a prediction, it wouldn't be expressed as a generality. Moreover Pro provided other verses that established a clear context of the Bible supposing a death penalty as just punishment. Arguments to Pro. Both sides only referenced the Bible as the source of morality. S&G and conduct were both unremarkable.
Vote Placed by Geogeer 3 years ago
Geogeer
abyteofbrainzmikecuberTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Given the question, there appears to be a shared burden of proof. The question is not whether we should have the death penalty, but whether the death penalty is a good thing. Pro made the better case for the 'goodness' of the death penalty both with-in the confines of Christianity and in general. Good debate.