1.19.2008

Torture and the Pimps of Certainty

We all want to know the answer. We want to feel safe and prepared.

Unfortunately, certainty does not exist in all situations.

Those who offer a scenario (your child's life is in danger) whereby a certain solution is available (we have the guy who can save your baby, without question) are kidding themselves and the people they talk to. Of course people will do whatever it takes to save their child. But the above scenario is not the equivalent of going into a burning car to rescue your child. A child in a burning car has a readily-identifiable source of danger whose solution is apparent.

It is all too easy to convince ourselves that certainty lives in places where we need or want to see it.

I have another scenario. Your child is captured by people who will kill him. There is a person that police believe has the information to save your child. They are 50% certain of this. There is a 10% chance he has no relevant information at all. Would you support cutting off fingers then?

1 comment:

Hugh said...

Is there any record of any such "24" scenario wherein torture saved us from an imminent threat? Is there any record of capturing someone with such timely info?

I'm surprised you haven't commented on Scalia's torture policy.

My uncle served in WWII. He told me they sometimes Rarely) had to execute captured German prisoners while on patrol because they had no way to keep them safely. While this is almost certainly against the Geneva convention. it strikes me as a real world scenario with merit.
Your thoughts?