William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Morality Of Torture

The question was put:

"Imagine a scenario where a scientist in his own private research discovers a cure for cancer. For whatever private reasons he holds, he opts not to share his results. He is offered fantastic sums of money, yet for whatever reasons, he declines all offers. The clock is ticking. For every hour the scientist refuses to share his results, there are millions of lives in danger. What do the scriptures say we should do in this situation?

Should the motivation be taken to the next level? Should he be detained and tortured in order to get the pressing bits of information other scientists would need to replicate his work? For every minute that is wasted in ethical debates, millions of women and children are facing death."

To which I responded:

I do not believe in torture generally. Assuming the scientist were the sole person who participated in the research and learned the critical information, then it is up to his or her own conscience to decide whether to divulge the life-saving information. The situation would be quite different if we changed the hypothetical, and, say, the scientist stole the information from someone else and would, in my opinion, no longer be entitled to the freedom of conscience to retain the information. Even in that scenario, I do not think physical torture would be appropriate.

The scriptures are highly ambiguous on the whole topic. However, I believe that we must be guided by the principles of compassion, love, forgiveness, and charity. Those must win out over revenge and retribution.

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