The Instigator
MyDinosaurHands
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
UchihaMadara
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points

Torture Can Be Acceptable

Do you like this debate?NoYes+2
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
UchihaMadara
Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/8/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,074 times Debate No: 64802
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
Votes (2)

 

MyDinosaurHands

Pro

Resolution:
Torture can be acceptable.

The implications this resolution has on our burdens should be obvious. I need only show that certain situations may warrant torture, whereas my opponent has the considerably more difficult task of showing that torture could never be acceptable, no matter the circumstances.

The only rule regarding round structure is that my opponent use his first round for acceptance only. Let's hope this will be a rewarding debate!
UchihaMadara

Con

Many thanks to MyDinosaurHands for agreeing to debate this topic with me!

Since Pro has not defined "torture", I propose that it be defined as "the act of causing severe physical pain as a form of punishment or as a way to force someone to do or say something" [http://www.merriam-webster.com...].

With that aside, I accept this challenge, and look forward to a great debate :)
Debate Round No. 1
MyDinosaurHands

Pro

Thanks for accepting Madara.

I will begin by establishing a scenario that I believe allows for the acceptable use of torture, and then I will explain why I believe that.


THE SCENARIO
The short way to put this is that it's the old ticking time bomb scenario.

The long way goes like this:
The CIA captures a high ranking member of ISIS, who is evidenced to have working information of a terror attack that will occur on US soil within 3 hours. They've only had the terrorist in custody for as long as they've known about the impending attack; in other words, they have only 3 hours to try to get information out of this guy that can prevent the attack. Assume that the attack will target a large population center, and will involve a nuclear weapon.

Yeah I know what you're thinking. This is hardly a fair circumstance, it's basically fantasy, you say. While I will grant you that this scenario is pretty fantastical and convenient for me, that does not make it invalid. Refer back to my undisputed statements about the burden of proof that I have in this debate:
"I need only show that certain situations may warrant torture.."
Nothing in there about me needing to prove the likelihood of said situations.

As an aside, there are examples of ticking time bomb scenarios that took place in real life, two of which I took a moment to find[1][2].


THE JUSTIFICATION
In this scenario, the interrogators have 4 hours to avert a nuclear detonation. I concede that there are means of questioning/interrogation that are far more effective than torture. However, these alternatives are things that take time; time that the interrogators do not have in this instance.
"A good interrogation is like a seduction. You sit down. You ask the person questions. You try to develop a very intense personal relationship with another human being so they'll part with information they'd rather not part with. You wheedle, cajole, trick, lie. The point is to collect usable, actionable information." --Chief Warrant Officer Marney Mason (Retired)[3]
In this situation, where the terrorist knows he only needs to wait for 3 hours, being talked into giving up information is impossible.

However, if the terrorist were to be interrogated, there is a chance that information could be gotten. Torture has worked before[1][2][4];not just in a couple instances, torture was used successfully on a large scale during World War 2[5]. I am not pretending that torture is the best way to extract information, save for this situation, where the more effective means involving knowledge of psychology mixed with questioning would take too long.

Because the more preferred methods are not available, we are left with two options. Let the terrorist go untortured and have no chance of preventing an attack that will kill thousands if not millions and affect many more, or torture the man and have a chance of avoiding such an atrocity. In the interests of the greater good, the choice is obvious. In this case, strict application of a moral absolutism opposed to torture can only lead to unnecessary amounts of suffering.


Sources:
[1] http://www.slate.com...
[2] http://www.nydailynews.com...
[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com...
[4] http://www.thedailybeast.com...
[5] http://www.thedailybeast.com...
UchihaMadara

Con

Thanks, MDH.
In this round, I will be putting forth my constructive case as well as rebuttals to Pro's case.


== AFF CASE ==

My case entirely revolves around showing that humans have certain natural rights inherent in them which cannot be violated under any circumstance. I should note that this debate is operating under the assumption that morality exists in some form, given that Pro is using a utilitarian ethical framework for his case. What follows is a brief justification of the existence of inviolable human rights:

One of the fundamental axioms of any ethical system is that every human being has ownership over his or her own person/self. This is simply a meta-ethical truth that must be assumed for the sake of continuing with any sort of ethical discourse; to deny that humans have this personal autonomy is to deny that there is anything morally significant about humans in relation to the rest of the amoral universe, which basically negates the need for morality to exist at all. In other words, the only way to rationally deny that human beings possess ownership over themselves is to take up a nihilistic framework, which is disallowed by the nature of this debate. I challenge my opponent to try coherently negating this premise of self-ownership; until he successfully does so, we can (and must) safely assume that it is true.

Once we have established that every human has complete jurisdiction over themselves as an extension of their personhood, we naturally reach the conclusion that any act of aggression towards another human being is morally unacceptable, as it represents a clear violation of that right to self-jurisdiction. By committing an act of aggression against someone, you deprive them of their autonomy, and by extension, their humanity. Torture represents the epitome of an aggressive act, as it is the purposeful infliction of severe physical harm upon a person's body against their will. For this reason, torture is a moral abomination which only serves to dehumanize its victims and can never be considered 'acceptable'.


== NEG CASE ==


The Scenario

Pro claims that his scenario does not have to be even vaguely plausible for it to affirm the resolution. However, under that logic, Pro can simply put forth any wildly outlandish fantasy as a scenario and still win, be it about alien species who can only communicate using torture devices or magical demon fairies that can change the rules of morality. The fact that we are debating this issue seriously as it relates to the 'real world' implies that Pro's situations must also be realistic to some extent; otherwise they become irrelevant and inapplicable. Here are a couple reasons why Pro's scenario is not reasonably plausible:

1. The possibility of a nuclear attack on the United States, especially by a Middle Eastern terrorist group, is virtually non-existent. This view is held by numerous experts on international affairs: "Some states have access to universities, teams of scientists, huge facilities and large state budgets all aimed at creating a nuclear weapon, and even still those countries have difficulty in producing a usable weapon... Purchasing a weapon of mass destruction would also be extremely difficult for militant groups, as the United States spends hefty sums -- around 1 billion dollars per year -- to track and buy fissile material in a bid to keep it off the market, he said," [1]. This alone makes Pro's scenario unfeasible.

2. Pro's scenario seems to imply that the person being held custody is already a well-known terrorist, yet it goes on to state that he has only just now been caught, with 3 hours left until his bomb detonates. However, it is *literally impossible* for such a notorious terrorist to have entered the United States without detection-- US border control and air transportation security is among the tightest in the entire world. It is entirely unrealistic that a'high ranking member of ISIS' could get into the US and have the degree of mobility/freedom that would be necessary to implement a plan as large-scale as a nuclear weapons attack completely under the radar.

The Justification

1. First and foremost, Pro doesn't even attempt to justify his utilitarian ethical framework, concluding that torture is warranted "in the interests of the greater good" without ever explaining *why* 'the greater good' should be valued above the protection of individuals human beings' natural rights. Since I have justified my rights-based deontological framework and he has not done so for his utilitarian framework, mine is preferable by default.

2. Pro's use of utilitarianism justifies actions far beyond merely torturing the detained terrorist. If the 'greater good' is really important enough to justify rights violations, then there is virtually no upper limit to how much torture is permissible in order to protect it. The law enforcement officials could potentially bring in the terrorist's innocent family and torture/kill them in front of him to get him to talk, and it would be justified under the presumption of utilitarianism's soundness. Yet our ethical intuitions (which Pro does make use of in his argument) would completely reject such an act as completely despicable.

3. Assuming that my second objection to Pro's scenario holds up and Pro is forced to change the detainee in the scenario to a "suspected terrorist", there is a significant possibility of the detainee turning out to be innocent, thus rendering the act of torture to be immoral even by utilitarian standards, since it would have only resulted in immense pain on the victim's part without any information being obtained (i.e. additional negative utility). Furthermore, when the government ends up violating the most basic human rights of its own citizens, it defeats the purpose of its own existence and becomes illegitimate.

4. The most critical observation to make is that torture is almost never effective, so, for the same reasons outlined in my third objection, it would be condemned even from a utilitarian outlook. Under the duress which is invoked by torture, the victim is much more likely to give false information or just be completely uncooperative in general.

"...a growing number of behavioral scientists has begun researching interrogation and lie-detection methods in an effort to scientifically determine what works, what doesn't, and why... a general consensus has emerged that supports the experience of interrogators like Soufan: torture doesn't provide reliable intelligence, the U.S. government's list of approved interrogation techniques is outdated, and detecting liars based solely on body language is barely more reliable than flipping a coin... According to Reuters, a Senate Intelligence Committee report, which will be released this summer, is also expected to find little evidence that the CIA’s enhanced-interrogation program led to any major breakthroughs in the war on terror. And in a report released in 2009, the CIA’s own inspector general found no evidence that the agency’s practices stopped any imminent attacks. Nor could it ascertain whether the enhanced-interrogation techniques obtained information that the agency couldn’t have obtained through less coercive means." [2]

And we do have empirical evidence of the disastrous consequences that can result from acting on such misinformation. False confessions which were obtained by the torturing of Libyan nationalist Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi in 2001 is what led the US Government to (falsely) conclude that the Iraqi government had ties to Al-Qaeda [3]. Moreover, psychological studies such as the Milgram Obedience experiment and one conducted by the FBI’s High Value Detainee Interrogation Group demonstrate that humans are much most likely to just do whatever is necessary to make the duress stop, whether that entails fabrications that conform to what the torturers want to hear, or complete unresponsiveness [2][4]. This is especially true given that the detainee in Pro's scenario is a radical Islamic leader-- such people have been known to value their beliefs above their own well-being [5].

Pro claims that in his scenario, there wouldn't be enough time to use more humane, alternative methods of extracting information, but that is just patently false. Research on the effects of torture done by Matthew Alexander, who has much experience conducting/overseeing numerous interrogations that occurred during the Iraq War, has conclusively demonstrated that diplomatic methods of interrogation can be used to obtain more accurate information much more efficiently, being usable *even* in high-stress situations. One of his detainees even told him so directly: "I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate." [6].


== CONCLUSION ==

Torture is *never* morally permissible, as it inevitably results in a violation of the most fundamental of human rights. Even if we give preference to a utilitarian take on ethics (which we shouldn't because I have more fully substantiated my deontological framework), torture is still not acceptable because of its abhorrent implications, the possibility of innocence, and the fact that it is almost never effective. On top of all that, the scenario which Pro's entire case hinges on is highly questionable, being non-topical at best, and abusive at worst. Thus, the resolution is negated.

Back to you, Pro!


[1] http://news.xinhuanet.com...
[2] http://www.thedailybeast.com...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://psychology.about.com...
[5] http://www.nydailynews.com...
[6] http://archive.lewrockwell.com...
Debate Round No. 2
MyDinosaurHands

Pro

MyDinosaurHands forfeited this round.
UchihaMadara

Con

Pass round :/
Debate Round No. 3
MyDinosaurHands

Pro

MyDinosaurHands forfeited this round.
UchihaMadara

Con

Please only judge based on the arguments presented.
Do not vote based on the forfeits alone. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
UchihaMadara
lol...
Posted by Envisage 2 years ago
Envisage
Damn, I was hoping for some masochism....
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
UchihaMadara
I'll wait for as long as possible...
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
UchihaMadara
waoh cool this is your 70th debate
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
UchihaMadara
Hey, Dinohands, do you mind posting your round as close to the deadline as you can? Like tomorrow evening/night?
Posted by missmedic 2 years ago
missmedic
Torture can be done with harming a person, at least physically. It is still not acceptable but it may be necessary.
Posted by Complicated_Mind 2 years ago
Complicated_Mind
What are the Elo restrictions for voting?
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
UchihaMadara
you also bet against me with TN05, TrasguTravieso, and donald.keller... >.>
Posted by 9spaceking 2 years ago
9spaceking
hmmm...interesting....my dino vs Uchi. Placing my money on Dino right now...
Posted by MyDinosaurHands 2 years ago
MyDinosaurHands
Well if it is necessary, then it is acceptable. Harming a person unnecessarily is not acceptable, at least, I will not be arguing that, and I assume my opponent won't be.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
MyDinosaurHandsUchihaMadaraTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Simple enough, really. Pro asserts quite a bit to be true, and Con attacks the numerous ethical assumptions implicit in those assertions. Con then proceeds to show that there is sufficient reason to believe that torture would cause more harm than good from a "means don't justify the ends" standpoint, and from a basic "you don't even reach those ends" standpoint. Pro probably had some responses ready for several of these arguments, but without direct response, I'm forced to buy the lines of argumentation Con is feeding me. Even in this extremely unlikely scenario, it seems that torture should not be deemed acceptable. Ergo, I vote Con.
Vote Placed by Blade-of-Truth 2 years ago
Blade-of-Truth
MyDinosaurHandsUchihaMadaraTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct - Con. Pro forfeited two rounds which is rarely acceptable conduct in any debate setting. After scanning the comment section for possible reasons for the forfeiture, I found none, and therefore award Con these points. S&G - Tie. Both had proper spelling and grammar throughout. Arguments - Con. Pro presented a scenario and justification for the actions taken in that scenario. Con was able to negate that scenario by not only attacking its plausability, but also the likelyhood that the torture would even amount to accurate information gathering. While Pro did share sources showing where torture has been successful, within this 3 hour timeline given by Pro I must side with Con that it is not likely the torture victim would give accurate information in such a short amount of time. Due to Pro's forfeits, he was unable to overcome this challenge and therefore loses arguments. Sources - Tie. Both utilized quality sources in this debate, thus balancing out.