The Instigator
Freeman
Pro (for)
Winning
8 Points
The Contender
Realist
Con (against)
Losing
5 Points

Torture is sometimes morally permissible.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/31/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,854 times Debate No: 9374
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (13)
Votes (4)

 

Freeman

Pro

I will be outlining several arguments that defend the position that torture can be morally justified in certain situations. I would encourage everyone voting on this debate to read both sides carefully before coming to any conclusion as to who won.

Contention 1: Hypothetical situations

Imagine that a terrorist has planted a bomb in the heart of a nearby city. He now sits in your custody. As to the bombs location, he will say nothing apart from his glee of its subsequent detonation and the mass casualties it will cause. Given this state of affairs- in particular, it seems that there would be no harm in exposing this unpleasant fellow to a suasion of bygone times.

Contention 2: The false choice of pacifism

Pacifism in the face of evil is generally thought to be a viable moral option to war. However, I think that it is usually flagrantly immoral. What is pacifism after all but a willingness to die and to let others die at the pleasure of the world's thugs. It should be enough to note that a single sociopath armed with a knife could annihilate a city filled with pacifists. There is little doubt that such sociopaths exist and that they generally come better armed. [1] It should be obvious that the consequences of one mans uncooperativeness can be made so grave, and his malevolence and culpability so transparent, so as to awaken the grand inquisitor in all of us. Many readers will be tempted to dismiss torture as categorically evil but this position is impossible to square with our willingness to wage modern warfare.

Contention 3: Warfare and Collateral damage

When we as a nation choose to engage in war, for either offensive or defensive purposes "collateral damage"—the maiming and killing of innocent noncombatants—will be unavoidable. It is truly one of the great ironies of liberal discourse that the thought of waterboarding someone like Osama Bin Laden raises more ire than the unintended (though perfectly foreseeable, and therefore accepted) slaughter of children. At the eve of the war with Iraq it was superficially easy to predict that many men, women and children would be maimed and killed as result of our endeavor. After all, what is collateral damage but the inadvertent torture of innocent men, women and children. Whenever we drop bombs we do so with the foreknowledge that a number of innocent people will be disemboweled, blinded, paralyzed, orphaned and kill by them.

So we must now ask ourselves the obvious, if we are willing to act in a way that guarantees the misery and death of a considerable number of innocent children, why spare the rod with known terrorists? The deaths of the children that have been killed in Iraq were even easier to predict than the trajectories of the missiles and bullets that killed them. And yet we deem these accidents morally permissible, insofar as we regard the justification for any given war to be truthful.

Contention 4: Failures of intuition

Can our intuitions about ethics fail us? Sure they can. In fact, there is already some evidence that our ethical intuitions are driven by proximity and emotional salience. [2] The reasons for this are, I trust, every bit as neurological as those that create the illusion in Shepard's tables. [3] In this context, Liberals may be apt to say vacuous clich�s like "harming another person is always wrong" or "Life has infinite value", but are these true? Clearly they aren't because if the axiom that life has infinite value were true it would mean that we would be just as much obliged to save a single rapist from dying as we would be to save the Jews from Hitler's Germany. After all, no summation of infinities is larger than a single infinity. And if it were always wrong to harm someone else we would all be reduced to allowing ourselves to be passively slaughtered at the pleasure of criminals. Fine phrases are all that people have left when they've run out of arguments.

Contention 5: The logical incoherence of absolutist positions against torture

Here is an excerpt from a previous debate I had on torture.

"No matter the purpose, it is morally bankrupt to so greatly harm another human being. Proponents of torture attempt to justify torture by pointing to the benefits. But what are benefits compared to intentionally inflicting great suffering on a person? Even if torture regardless of all evidence turns out to save lives, it does not matter when a single life is placed in jeopardy." –MTGandP [4]

If the avoidance of harming other human beings were the sine qua non of our morality then this line of argument would be equally valid when applied to warfare- even defensive warfare. Allow me to rework the previous quote with a few minor alterations and see if you can't detect something wrong with it.

No matter the purpose, it is morally bankrupt to so greatly harm another group of people. Proponents of Warfare attempt to justify war by pointing to the benefits. But what are benefits compared to intentionally inflicting great suffering on people? Even if war regardless of all evidence turns out to save lives, it does not matter when so many lives are placed in jeopardy.

The untenability of this drivel should strike at the heart of even the most self-hating moral nihilist. Passages like those above do not demonstrate that torture is always wrong; they merely demonstrate that a juxtaposition of bad ideas can coexist within a single mind.

====================
Potential rebuttals addressed
====================

(Torture is unreliable)

Opponents of torture will be quick to assert that the confessions elicited under torture have been notoriously unreliable. Considering what can be at stake in a world where nuclear proliferation is still ongoing this argument seems to lack its usual force. The odds that our interests will be furthered in an act of torture need only equal that occasioned by a single bomb dismantling an organization like Al Qaeda. What are the odds that one of our bombing raids will kill Osama Bin Laden? They have to be pretty slim and undoubtedly many innocents will be killed and maimed in our failed attempts. Insofar as our use of torture carries with it the same amount of success as our more lethal tactics for saving lives we can deem it morally permissible. If there were even one chance in a million that someone like Osama bin Laden could tell us something under torture that could lead to the dismantling of an organization like Al Qaeda or Hamas, then it seems we should use every thing in our disposal to get him talking.

=========
Conclusion
=========

Torture need not entail that its recipient is killed or even physically harmed in any way, whereas modern warfare guarantees innocent children will be killed, blinded, orphaned and severely disfigured in the act of war. If we are willing to accept the fact that bombs and rifle rounds will eventually yield civilian casualties we should be willing to torture a certain class of suspects and military prisoners; If we are unwilling to torture then we should also be unwilling to wage modern warfare.

Definitions

Definitions (oxford dictionary):
Torture-the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone defenseless as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain.

Sources

[1] http://www.law.umkc.edu...

[2] See J.D. Greene et al., "An fMRI Investigation of Emotional Engagement in Moral Judgment," Science 293 (Sept. 14 2001): 2105-8; and J.D. Greene, "From Neural ‘Is' to moral ‘Ought': What Are the Moral Implications of Neuroscientific Moral Psychology?" Nature reviews Neuroscience 4 (2003): 846-49

[3] http://www.michaelbach.de...

[4] http://www.debate.org... (See Cons round 1 argument –Contention 3: Torture is harmful)
Realist

Con

Hello there,

Although officially it's my second, this will technically be my first debate on this site since my opponent in my initial debate forfeited both rounds following a rather vague opening. Having read through this opening statement and looking at a few of Freeman's previous debates I can see right from the outset that I indeed have a worthy opponent and a lively exchange will no doubt be taking place.

I want to start off by endorsing my opponent's encouragement of voters to read both sides carefully before coming to any conclusions. I've noticed a few debates on this site so far where the voting result doesn't seem to fairly represent the actual debate that took place and it is my hope that this exchange will be fairly judged.

Contention 1: Hypothetical situations

I don't think the proposed scenario is a realistic one and will explain why. Firstly, in reality you don't know for certain if someone you've captured is a terrorist, or even if he is a terrorist you don't know whether or not he has the information you're after. It seems to me to be a moral abomination to either assume his guilt, declare his human rights forfeit and proceed to torture him given the chance that he may in fact be innocent or not have the information he's being tortured for.

Your hypothetical situation supposes the following:
- We know there is a bomb in a city which will explode relatively soon, that is to say soon enough that other means of locating the bomb, assuming it exists, would take too long.
- We happened to have somehow captured the terrorist responsible conveniently just in time.
- The prisoner has offered an unsolicited confession which we can somehow know to be genuine.
- We know for a fact that the prisoner knows details that will lead to the diffusion of this bomb.

I don't think such a situation has occurred, nor do I think such a situation is likely to occur. It seems that to posit such an unrealistic scenario to justify an action does one's argument more harm than good. Are you saying that torture would never be acceptable in reality?

Contention 2: The false choice of pacifism

Who said anything about being absolutely pacifist? I do not see the relation between choosing not to suspend a person's human rights and allowing a sociopath to freely murder the population of an entire city with a knife. I believe you have committed here what is generally referred to as the slippery slope fallacy [1] - ie. suggesting that pacifism in the face of potentially using torture somehow invariably leads to pacifism in the face of apprehending a serial killer. If this is not what you mean, I hardly see how it is even relevant to this discussion.

Contention 3: Warfare and collateral damage

Firstly it seems by your wording that you're assuming that I (or whoever takes the debate) approves of the launching of the war on Iraq. I don't approve of it, and neither does the majority of your own country if I'm not mistaken. However, I concede that although war is a terrible thing, sometimes it is in fact unavoidable, which is true of the first and second World Wars in my opinion.

The point of collateral damage is an interesting one though. I absolutely accept that during even a justified war there will be innocent casualties which are unavoidable. The difference here is intent. Before you say that intent is irrelevant, 'intent' or 'mens rea' is the sole difference between murder and manslaughter. Both situations result in the death of a person or persons, but they are rightly recognized as clearly different from each other.

This idea of intent effecting moral judgments is well documented. As the topic of the debate is whether torture is sometimes morally permissible and not whether it is sometimes practical, I believe this is very valid point.

Marc Hauser or Peter Singer, published a study a few years ago on this very point [2]. Given that you've listed Peter Singer as one of your intellectual influences, you may indeed already know about it. I'm unfortunately rather short on time for this opening statement, so in short they found that the intent of an action had massive consequences on whether an action is considered moral or not. For example, is diverting a cart on a collision course to kill five people to a siding where it only kills one person the same as murdering a man in a waiting room in order to harvest his organs in order to save five patients in the hospital that would've otherwise surely died? 97% of people don't think so. Since morality is defined "a code of conduct put forward by a society" according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [3], I believe this invalidates your relation of the deliberate torture of a helpless prisoner to the expected collateral damage to result from a war.

Contention 4: Failures of intuition

I regret that I'm rather strapped for time so I'm unable to address this point in detail, but will pick it up more fully in later rounds. Briefly on your point about "life having infinite value" though. Clearly there is a difference between one rapist dying as opposed to 6 million Jews dying in the holocaust. There's a reason why we don't use mathematicians to define morality :P I believe I pointed out the distinction between the numbers of people effected in the previous point.

Contention 5:

I'll point out now that I don't completely agree with the statement you posted from your previous debate, but (and I apologize again) due to the cut off time of being able to post this bearing down upon me I'm unable to elaborate at this point. However, I believe my distinction between intentional harm and unintentional yet unavoidable harm has been made. I've had a busy last few days unfortunately but will be able to afford more time in the next few rounds :)

========
Conclusion
========

It seems that the bulk of your argument towards the latter part of your opening statement rests on there being no distinction, morally speaking, between collateral damage and the deliberate torture of an individual. I believe this is an invalid argument because intention is a fundamental part of moral judgments. Had the topic of the debate been "Is it practical to torture someone in certain situations" I may indeed have agreed. Is it morally permissible to torture a human being? I propose that it's not only not morally permissible, but is a moral abomination.

You said "Torture need not entail that its recipient is killed or even physically harmed in any way...". However, you yourself define torture as "the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone defenseless". That seems to be a contradiction. Even so, I'm curious what means of torture you're proposing for the purposes of this debate. Could you specify please, because I'm unaware of ANY forms of torture (as per your definition) that do not have dramatic long lasting effects on its recipients.

I look forward to your response :)
Rob.

========
References:
========

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org...

[2] M. Hauser and P. Singer, 'Morality without religion', Free Inquiry 26: 1, 2006, 18-19.

[3] http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
Freeman

Pro

Allow me to begin by thanking my opponent for his time and willingness to engage on this issue. My opponent has more than demonstrated his ability to reason and write concisely. With this in mind there is little doubt a robust intellectual exchange will be taking place.

============
Case pro- rebuttals
============

Contention 1: Hypothetical situations

My opponent rightfully asserts that the ticking time bomb situation I outlined is improbable. However, this does nothing to change what the moral imperative would be if such a scenario did arise. And insofar as the situation I outlined is physically possible and logically conceivable then it still counts as an argument for the use of torture. If you want to argue that this example shouldn't count in my favor then you will have to demonstrate why it's either physically impossible or logically inconceivable. The fact of the matter is that the ticking time bomb scenario is possible even if we were to grant that its probability of occurring is extremely low.

Contention 2: The false choice of pacifism

I didn't set up a slippery slope argument, as you seem to be suggesting. The main point of this section was to demonstrate that war, and thus collateral damage is morally permissible. You've already conceded that defensive wars are morally justified so there isn't much else for me to say in this area. If this doesn't accurately reflect your position then please let me know. This section is very relevant to a syllogism I'm going to be introducing later on in this essay.

Contention 3: Warfare and collateral damage

I don't assume that you accept that the War in Iraq was morally justified. I merely used the war in Iraq to illustrate instances of collateral damage because most people, young and old, can relate to the war in Iraq.

Your main point here was that intentions play a large role in determining whether or not an action is moral. I agree that intentions play a huge role in judging the morality of an action but I disagree with the way you draw a sharp dividing line between the intentions behind collateral damage and torture. There are really two sets of intentions behind torture and you seem to be fixating on just one of them, namely its function in harming another person. However, there is a larger issue here. The goal of torture, at least how I'm advocating for it, is not to needlessly cause harm to other humans, but to save life en masse. We can't simply look at the intentions of any action to determine its morality. In order to be thorough we must also view the context, goals and consequences of any given course of action.

Your argument about 97% of people accepting a given moral proposition is invalid because it creates what most of us call the argumentum ad populum fallacy. Majority opinion doesn't determine the moral soundness of a choice. [1]

=======
Case Pro
=======

Contention: 1 The lesser of two evils

Premise #1
It is morally acceptable to knowingly incur collateral damage to prevent 1 million people from dying in the context of a defensive war.

Premise #2
Taking a course of action that will knowingly incur collateral damage is far worse than torturing a convicted terrorist for information if the ends to these scenarios are both the same.

Conclusion
Torturing a terrorist can be morally justified as a defensive action in order to prevent 1 million people from dying.

Since my opponent has already conceded the first premise I will now focus on propping up the second premise, first by way of an analogy and then by way of a structured argument.

Contention 2: Collateral damage vs. Torture - (In defense of Premise #2)

Imagine that you are the commanding officer of the US armed forces in Iraq. Rebel fighters have smuggled a nuclear weapon into the country and are preparing to detonate it in some highly populated district within an hour. If they succeed in this diabolical mission tens of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians will be killed. However, there is good news. Not only do you have the ringleader of this operation in your custody but you also find papers on him that details the exact location of the detonation device for the nuclear weapon. These papers also outline how to remotely deactivate the bomb with a secret code that only the ringleader knows. If you bomb the building where the detonation device is being held you will disarm the bomb and thus avert catastrophe. Here is where things get tricky. The building where the bomb detonator is being held is right next to a school and a hospital. And if you decide to bomb it you will likely incur at least a dozen or so civilian casualties.

Here are two possible options.

Choice #1
You can call an air strike to bomb the enemy's base where the detonation device is being held and thus avert catastrophe. However, your choice to do this will likely incur at the minimum 12 casualties, which may include children, women, teachers etc. Take a look at the face of one of the potential casualties before you make your decision. (http://www.asiapac.org.fj...)- WARNING graphic image

Choice #2
You can torture the leader of the operation for the remote disarmament codes of the nuclear weapon. Even if the torture attempt fails and the information is not extracted you will still have time to call in the air strike at the last moment.

Contention 3: The principle of forfeiture- (In defense of Premise #2)

People that act in such a way so as to place someone's life in jeopardy forfeit their right to life. In other words if someone tries to kill you then you can justifiably kill them in defense because they have forfeited their right to life. Imagine that my ticking time bomb scenario was exactly the same but now instead of the terrorist being in your custody pretend he is in the middle of Times Square tinkering with the bomb in an attempt to detonate it. I contend that if we would be prepared to kill such an individual on the basis that he has forfeited his right to live then it logically follows that we should be willing to temporarily subject him to pain in order to achieve the same end. The fact that this terrorist is free in one situation and contained in another is simply irrelevant. The consequences and intentions of his actions are identical in both situations. – [2]

Contention 4: Methods of torture

Imagine that we were to create an ideal "torture pill"- a drug that would deliver both the instruments of torture and the instruments of their utter concealment. The action of the pill would be to produce a temporary state of transitory paralysis and transitory misery of a kind that no person would willingly submit to for a second time. Imagine that the recipients of this pill after taking what looked like a short nap woke up and confessed everything about the inner workings of their organization. In the end might we want to call this a "truth pill"?

========
Conclusion
========

I have used logic to demonstrate that there are situations conceivable when torture can be morally justified. From there I went on to express why intentions are important to questions of ethics but why they also should be marginalized or even nullified when you look at situations as a whole. Indeed, the goals and consequences of any actions must be given precedence over the singular intentions of a specific act.

======
Sources
======

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...

[2] http://www.authorsden.com...

Best,
Freeman
Realist

Con

====================
Response to Pro's Statements
====================

Firstly, hypothetical situations are fine and are often a good way to illustrate one's point. However, I feel that when they are so removed from reality, they are not a good argument to convince someone that something should be justified in reality. In addition to that you introduce new scenarios that also seem to miss the point, but this time degenerate into petty emotional appeals. You link us a graphic image of what appears to be a father holding his dead child in the hopes that it will pull on the emotional strings of readers and divert them from the main argument. In other words, resorting to red herrings. I could just as easily link some graphic pictures of innocent torture victims but at this point I don't believe I'm that desperate just yet.

Even your means of torture is a hypothetical and unrealistic method - "Imagine that we were to create an ideal "torture pill"- a drug that would deliver both the instruments of torture and the instruments of their utter concealment. The action of the pill would be to produce a temporary state of transitory paralysis and transitory misery of a kind that no person would willingly submit to for a second time."

You're trying to convince readers that torture is sometimes morally permissible. We both know full well that if your argument were adopted and applied then we wouldn't be using non-existent magic pills to torture people, we'd be using horrible and frightening techniques, such as sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, starvation, forced standing, and Waterboarding, to name a few. It is absurd to expect that we can simply submit someone to torture, get the information we're after, and then release them and they go off and live happily ever after. Torture is barbaric and painful in the extreme (as it is designed to be), and will almost certainly leave the victim with significant negative long term effects. Can we at least agree that torture is not harmless, and focus the discussion on whether or not such a practice can be justifiably used on a human being, morally speaking? If not, I'd be happy to cite studies that show the negative long term effects of torture, but I don't suspect you disagree with that point, and I'd rather save character limit.

I don't concede that quoting a study showing 97% people approving of a moral proposition is merely an argumentum ad populum fallacy. I'm sorry but the overwhelming majority concensus is what determines what is morally acceptable in a given society at a given time. A more accurate example of an argumentum ad populum fallacy would be saying that the famous quote "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" came from Voltaire himself rather than a later biographer of Voltaire [2] and your reason being that most people buy into this misapprehension. The argumentum ad populum fallacy applies to matters of fact where something is either true or it's not; Morality isn't so black and white.

I'll give you an example: Is it morally acceptable to deny blacks the right to vote or be elected to a jury? Today, absolutely not. 150 years ago though, it was considered absolutely natural. Abraham Lincoln, a man generally held up as a person of great moral character of his time and whose face is depicted on American currency, himself said - "I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people [1]. A more recent example is the hitting of students by teachers with rulers and paddles but is now generally regarded as abusive. It is indeed very likely that future generations will regard things immoral that we currently regard as acceptable.

You said: "The goal of torture, at least how I'm advocating for it, is not to needlessly cause harm to other humans, but to save life en masse." - I understand that the context in which you're advocating torture is quite specific, but it is still inhumane and morally deplorable.

===============
Refining the argument
===============

As I said previously I feel the main area of confusion here is around what it really means for something to be 'morally permissible'. If I'm wrong please correct me, but I assume we both agree at this point that torture is very unpleasant, inhumane, leads to severe long term physical and psychological problems, and is also quite ineffective at extracting valid information that you're specifically after.

Where we seem to part ways is that you contend that, while the majority of the time it is grossly immoral, sometimes certain extreme circumstances turn it into a morally permissible act. At these specific times, you believe, it doesn't matter that you may very well not be getting accurate information, or that you may in fact be violating the human rights of an innocent person; The potential benefit, however small, outweighs all other consequences. Again, correct me if this is not your position.

I also agree, as I previously stated, that torture can certainly be the most practical course of action sometimes in terms of yielding the most lives saved, but that's not to say that it's morally permissible. I'll give you some examples to demonstrate the difference between morally permissible and practical. Imagine the two following scenarios:

Scenario 1:
A train carriage is speeding uncontrollably down a hill and will kill 5 people who are trapped on the tracks near the bottom. You stand at a switch that, if pulled, will divert the carriage onto a siding, sparing the 5 people, but killing one innocent bystander who happens to be standing there.

Scenario 2:
There are 5 patients in hospital in desperate need of an organ transplant (each being the same blood type but needing a different organ). They have been waiting unsuccessfully for a long time and doctors estimate they will all be dead within the next few days if a donor is not found. You discover, as it were, that there is a healthy man sitting in the waiting room who matches all the patients as a compatible donor. He refuses to be a donor because doing so would kill him as some of the organs required are vital organs. Do you have this man killed and harvest his organs to save the 5 patients?

Note that in both scenarios there are two outcomes, either 1 person dies or 5 people die. You are essentially asked to decide which it will be. The 97% that I previously quoted was the percentage of people, across different cultures and religious backgrounds, who saw a moral distinction between the two and chose to divert the cart to the siding in scenario 1 but let the 5 patients die in scenario 2. I'm curious, what would your answer be to these two scenarios?

I'll tell you what else would be practical in terms of saving the most lives. If I were to steal your phone, sell it for a few hundred dollars, and donate that money to an organization like UNICEF who would almost certainly be able to use that money to save the life of a child overseas. Compare it to you yourself freely volunteering the same amount of money to such an organization. Both situations are the same - you're at a loss of a few hundred dollars, a child's life is saved - but clearly there's a moral distinction whereas there is no practical distinction.

Your inability to distinguish between what is practical and what is moral is the fundamental flaw in your argument thus far, in my opinion.

========
References:
========

[1] The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois" (September 18, 1858), pp. 145-146.

[2] Evelyn Beatrice Hall in The Friends of Voltaire (1906), Ch. 8: Turgot: The Statesman
Debate Round No. 2
Freeman

Pro

I want to first thank my opponent for debating with me on this issue. He has shown a level of patience and thoughtfulness in his response that is not characteristic of many other debaters on the site.

=======================
Case Pro- Response to criticism
=======================

Contention 1: I'm "resorting to red herrings"- Realist

You seem to take issue with my use of pictures in my last debate and considered it to be a sign of my desperation. It's not a matter of me being desperate somehow; it's a matter of me giving much needed perspective. I'm not at all afraid of the comparison between torture and collateral damage or having you use pictures to illustrate that difference. In fact I'm more than willing to make the direct comparison myself.

Pictures of Collateral damage:
http://la.indymedia.org... (It's a lot different when you're just looking at statistics on a piece of paper isn't it?)

Picture of Waterboarding:
http://eurthisnthat.com... (I don't have access to any actual pictures of waterboarding, for obvious reasons, but I think you get the idea at any rate.)

In my opinion it requires a fairly calloused and blinkered person to see the two pictures and conclude that torture is a "moral abomination" while acting in a way that guarantees the death and misery of children is perfectly acceptable. People like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others that are involved in organizations like Al Qaeda can more or less have their "innocence" ruled out. It should be obvious to us that the occasional misapplication of torture should be far more troubling than collateral damage: after all, there are no infants or children stationed at Guantianimo bay, just rather scrofulous young men, many of whom were caught in the direct act of trying to kill our soldiers.

Contention 2: Methods of torture

I know enough about medicine and chemistry to know that the creation of a torture pill isn't beyond the reach of our current scientific capabilities. There is nothing magical about the substances that go into anesthetics; antibiotics or any of the drugs the pharmacetical industries create for that matter. There are already chemical substances in existence that create temporary paralysis [1] and there are literally dozens of different non-lethal chemicals that produce states of transitory misery. Perhaps you were unaware that this was the case. I also know enough about bio ethics committees and international law to know that the creation of such a pill would currently be nearly impossible because virtually no government organization would willingly grant money to a company for the purpose of creating a torture pill. My point in all of this is, of course, that torture doesn't have to be needlessly barbaric or include methods that involve electric drills and blowtorches.

Contention 3: Arguementum ad populum fallacy- "I'm sorry but the overwhelming majority concensus is what determines what is morally acceptable in a given society at a given time."- Realist

It would appear that my opponent has begun to manufacture fallacious arguments in earnest with the hopes that they will earn him favor. He asserts that majority opinion determines the answer to moral conundrums. My opponent demonstrates nothing more with this claim than his obvious ability to construct fallacious arguments and then defend them once his errors have been pointed out. My opponents reasoning can be, and has been, used to defend slavery, racism, genocide, and murder not just in our modern context but also in centuries past. Even if everyone in my country decided that Australians deserved to be extirpated from the planet by means of nuclear warfare that would not make such an action morally cogent.

Contention 4: "Your inability to distinguish between what is practical and what is moral is the fundamental flaw in your argument thus far, in my opinion."- Realist

I'm very familiar with the two hypothetical situations you gave involving the train and the patients in need of transplants. If you are trying to show me why my reasoning is in error by citing these examples then I'm afraid you have failed in this project. Those situations, along with stealing my cell phone, are inapplicable because they are constructed from a false analogy. In all three situations you outlined the persons that would be killed or harmed are 100 % innocent. The man in the waiting room at the hospital didn't infect the other 5 people with a disease that would cause them to need a transplant nor did the lone man on the train tracts construct the scenario he is now apart of. If the single person sitting on the train tracks had set up this diabolical state of affairs then I think most sensible people wouldn't have a problem diverting the train to kill him to save the other five.

========
Conclusion
========

People that place millions of others in jeopardy by their malevolence or negligence cannot be said to have a right to life or many other rights that are guaranteed to free people. If we are willing to kill terrorist leaders by an appeal to this principle then we should also be willing to subject them to temporary discomfort to achieve that same end. Further, if we are willing to kill innocent children to save lives then it follows that we should also be willing to torture palpably guilty terrorists to achieve this same goal. I take it for granted that torture may have negative long-term affects. This gets factored in when I make my argument. I also factor in the long-term affects of children having limbs blown off in instances of collateral damage. We simply cannot ignore how the consequences of our action or inaction accrue as we make our decisions about ethics. To be opposed to the torture of a terrorist in certain situations is little more than being in favor of condemning millions of men, women and children to death and considering this action to be morally courageous. It's ironic that I'm posting this on the 8th anniversary of the September 11 hijackings; the day those 19 pious men decided to show our pious nation the social benefits of absolute religious certainty. Those among us that are at least 18 all know what it looks like to watch nearly 3000 people be murdered and reduced to ash by jet fuel. If it were possible, I would have had absolutely no moral qualms with torturing Osama Bin Laden on September 10 2001 if there were even one chance in a hundred we could have prevented this tragedy.

Best,
Freeman

======
Sources
======

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Realist

Con

Realist forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by PervRat 7 years ago
PervRat
I agree with Con, unequivocably, before and after the debate.

On Conduct, I had to give points to Pro because Con forfeited a round.

Spelling and grammar I found to be strong on both sides, so I voted a tie.

Convincing arguments, I had to vote Con, because I don't believe Pro made reasonable arguments and while Pro did well trying to support their claims, the did not overcome the incredulity of such claims as pacifism being an immoral choice.

Reliable sources I also gave a tie to.

In short, Con won before, after and convincing arguments; pro won conduct; grammar and sources earned a tie from me.
Posted by Freeman 7 years ago
Freeman
We can continue the debate in the comments section if you want.
Posted by Realist 7 years ago
Realist
I just read an interesting article today on sciencedaily.com regarding the unreliability of torture (http://www.sciencedaily.com...) if anyone reading this debate is interested.

Also for those in favour of torture, there's a quote that sums up my position against it quite well I think by Benjamin Franklin (who, I'm sure, needs no introduction): "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither ... and will ultimately lose both". I imagine the founding fathers of America would be turning in their graves if they knew that torture was not only being used on citizens by their own government, but that citizens themselves were in favour of it!

Apologies again for failing to post a closing statement, I miscalculated the closing time to be 3pm my time but it was in fact 12 hours earlier at 3am the same day :(
Posted by Realist 7 years ago
Realist
I apologize for missing the last round. I miscalculated when the time would expire and was about to post my argument just now :(

In any case, well argued Freeman :)
Posted by feverish 7 years ago
feverish
Nice debate so far guys.
Posted by Realist 7 years ago
Realist
Thanks for the caveat, but I'm well aware of what Times Square is :)
Posted by Freeman 7 years ago
Freeman
Realist, in case you didnt know Times Square is in New York.
Posted by Realist 7 years ago
Realist
I just want to correct something that I only noticed after posting my opening argument.

In my fourth paragraph of 'Contention 3: Warfare and collateral damage' I cited the study as being from "Marc Hauser OR Peter Singer" when in fact I meant to say "Marc Hauser AND Peter Singer".

While there were a few other minor grammatical errors due to my lack of time remaining to post this opening statement and being unable to properly proofread, I feel that's the only one that really requires correction as the meaning is directly effected.

Thanks.
Posted by Realist 7 years ago
Realist
I disagree profusely with the proposition. I'd love to take the debate but unfortunately I do not meet your specified age and/o rank criteria :(

Anyway, good luck to yourself and to whoever accepts, I'll be following this one :)
Posted by Cerebral_Narcissist 7 years ago
Cerebral_Narcissist
Wow, you love your torture!
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Xer 7 years ago
Xer
FreemanRealistTied
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Vote Placed by PervRat 7 years ago
PervRat
FreemanRealistTied
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Vote Placed by wonderwoman 7 years ago
wonderwoman
FreemanRealistTied
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Vote Placed by patsox834 7 years ago
patsox834
FreemanRealistTied
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