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Posted: 09 September 2008 05:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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It’s not my toaster’s fault when it stops working, nevertheless, I will throw it out. Multifunctional toasters go to garbage, multifunctional people go to prison. It might even make sense to call it a “punishment” (I used to believe differently in the past) as there is a chance that the fact that an individual was sent to a prison might stop him from committing the same crime in the future. Were there a chance that my toaster will fix itself, instead of throwing it in garbage, I would also send it to jail.

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Posted: 09 September 2008 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Some people are beyond repair.  And frankly, even if they are able to be repaired, I believe that negative reinforcement can be an effective deterent for other potential trouble makers in addition to the one that started making trouble to begin with.  Sure, I prefer positive reinforcement.  I would love for everyone to get along and not do anything that would harm someone else, but it doesn’t work that way in our world today.  I personally believe that you should strive to do the greatest good for the greatest # of people.  Sometimes, the bad apples need to be tossed out for the greater good of the community at large.  It’s not very palatable, but consider the alternatives? Say, for example, that her “rehabilitation” didn’t work and she killed another person?  I don’t like capital punishment either, but I would rather her pay for her crimes and never have to worry about her hurting another individual than worry about why she came to be the monster that she did.  Sex offenders are others that don’t seem to respond to “rehabilitation” either.  So what is better—letting them out to molest another child?  If they can’t be rehabilitated, then we have an obligation to protect the rest of society from their past and potential future misdeeds.

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Posted: 09 September 2008 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Of course, George, toasters don’t have feelings, families, aspirations, maybe a desire to function better, and they don’t suffer. Part of the problem with mechanistic analogies like this, apart from being IMO misleading, is that they are ethically vacant.

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Posted: 09 September 2008 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Yes, I am aware of that, Brennen. What I was trying to say is that we should indeed send people to jail even though we might believe that they are not responsible for their inappropriate behavior.

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Posted: 09 September 2008 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Ah, well in that case I agree, though perhaps not for the same reasons. I just posted to our other ongoing discussion, which I think is somewhat related, on the question of responsibility for behavior. I won’t repeat that post, but I do think people are somewhat responsible for behavior in that the brain activity we associate with “trying” to alter our own behavior is real, and I’m not convinced we can’t control what we do within certain limits despite the falsity of the old libertarian notions of free will. So I sometimes see “punishment” as potentially useful in changing behavior, either in the individual who commited the crime or in others by deterrance (though I grant these aren’t very successful strategies much of the time), rather than as a form of limiting the damage of someone who is fundamentally “broken” as you seem to suggest.

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Posted: 09 September 2008 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Doppelganger - 09 September 2008 05:30 AM
StephenLawrence - 08 September 2008 12:23 PM

We can’t blame anyone for being what they are can we? We just happen to be what we are and some are much less lucky than others.

Stephen

I don’t buy into that theory. 

Well it’s almost certainly true. We are like anything else in nature, we do what we do because we are what we are and in the circumstances we are in.

What other theory is there?

Stephen

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Posted: 09 September 2008 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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George - 09 September 2008 09:05 AM

Yes, I am aware of that, Brennen. What I was trying to say is that we should indeed send people to jail even though we might believe that they are not responsible for their inappropriate behavior.

I think sending someone to jail may be the best thing to do but what I believe is that if people stopped thinking the unfortunate person deserved to suffer in the ultimate sense but in fact was merely unfortunate, we would change our attitudes to this. We would see how terrible it is that we unfairly make some unlucky people suffer in order to improve our lives and would be more interested in other ways of preventing people from getting into this situation. 

So we would focus less on punishment and more on improving the environment some people grow up in, for instance.

Stephen

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Posted: 09 September 2008 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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StephenLawrence - 09 September 2008 09:58 AM
George - 09 September 2008 09:05 AM

Yes, I am aware of that, Brennen. What I was trying to say is that we should indeed send people to jail even though we might believe that they are not responsible for their inappropriate behavior.

I think sending someone to jail may be the best thing to do but what I believe is that if people stopped thinking the unfortunate person deserved to suffer in the ultimate sense but in fact was merely unfortunate, we would change our attitudes to this. We would see how terrible it is that we unfairly make some unlucky people suffer in order to improve our lives and would be more interested in other ways of preventing people from getting into this situation. 

So we would focus less on punishment and more on improving the environment some people grow up in, for instance.

Stephen

Do you really believe that she is just the product of a bad environment?  Do you think that YOU would have done the same thing that she did if you had lived as she did and grown up in her circumstances?  No way in hell could I EVER see anything less than a monster doing what she did, and no way in hell would I ever do such a thing.  I’m sure she had a million opportunities in her life to choose 1 path over another which could have turned her life around.  You don’t end up like she does by making 1 or 2 mistakes.  She is the product of a lifetime of bad choices.  Maybe she has a genetic predisposition to be a murderer—what is sending her to jail going to do?  How is she going to benefit this society?  Think of all the good the money we would be wasting on her in jail could do to help other children at risk.  She is a lost cause… 

On a similar note, I remember going to a lecture by C. Everett Koop (Past Surgeon General, as I’m sure most of you know…) and one of the things he said was that we need to take limited resources and make the most of what we have.  Does spending $20,000 (or whatever the $ is) for total hip and knee replacement for a 90 year old man so that he can have limited mobility in his 3 remaining years of life make a lot of sense when this same amount of $ could be spent giving life-saving vaccines to some of the millions or so people around the USA and the world that don’t receive them?  What is the greater good?  Let’s not shed any tears for this monster—I’d rather people spend their energy trying to help her remaining children overcome the terrible handicap they were born with by having her as a mother.

[ Edited: 09 September 2008 10:26 AM by Doppelganger ]
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Posted: 09 September 2008 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Your certainty, Doppelganger, is sadly unmatched by hard data. The degree to which people can choose or not choose to do the things they do is scientifically uncertain, though there are lots of strong philosophical opinons on the subject. The question of what to do with people who do bad things is really a separate issue. I prefer to approach from a roughly utilitarian point of view, modified by a recognition that everyone is imperfect, flawed, and prone to do bad things under the right circumstances. Send perfectly nice people to war, and they do horrible things they never imagined they could. Raise people in the right circumstances, and the same can be true. It doesn’t mean we don’t do what is necessary to protect society from them, but the whole “s/he’s a monster” line is just meaningless emotionalism. It makes us feel better to think we’re better people and not susceptible to evil like “they” are, but it’s not supported by the data of psychology or the example of history. It’s more about what you feel and want than about what is true.

Everyone’s entitled to feel whatever they like, but when we base public policy on the kind of irrational immotionalism that informs both your “Lifetime of bad choices” approach and the tarditionally opposing blank slate, “product of a broken home” approach then we make bad decisions. The truth is undoubtedly messier, less clear cut, less satisfying, and more probabilistic and statistical than either of these attitudes.

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Posted: 09 September 2008 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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mckenzievmd - 09 September 2008 10:35 AM

Your certainty, Doppelganger, is sadly unmatched by hard data. The degree to which people can choose or not choose to do the things they do is scientifically uncertain, though there are lots of strong philosophical opinons on the subject. The question of what to do with people who do bad things is really a separate issue. I prefer to approach from a roughly utilitarian point of view, modified by a recognition that everyone is imperfect, flawed, and prone to do bad things under the right circumstances. Send perfectly nice people to war, and they do horrible things they never imagined they could. Raise people in the right circumstances, and the same can be true. It doesn’t mean we don’t do what is necessary to protect society from them, but the whole “s/he’s a monster” line is just meaningless emotionalism. It makes us feel better to think we’re better people and not susceptible to evil like “they” are, but it’s not supported by the data of psychology or the example of history. It’s more about what you feel and want than about what is true.

Everyone’s entitled to feel whatever they like, but when we base public policy on the kind of irrational immotionalism that informs both your “Lifetime of bad choices” approach and the tarditionally opposing blank slate, “product of a broken home” approach then we make bad decisions. The truth is undoubtedly messier, less clear cut, less satisfying, and more probabilistic and statistical than either of these attitudes.

I disagree w/ the assertion that any given person, given the right circumstances, could do what she did.  I would bet that MOST people, living an identical life that she did, would NOT have cooked their child.  Maybe they would have had an abortion, maybe they would have lied to the sperm-donor about who they slept with that week, maybe they wouldn’t have had a 5th child in the 1st place if they couldn’t afford it, but it is a rare few that could sink to the level that she did.  I think of it like a big bell curve—maybe 5% of the people living under certain circumstances would be genetically predisposed and capable of committing the heinous crime that she did.  My point is that these people are not fit to live in this society!  It would be great if we had a lunar colony her something to jettison such misfits off to so that we wouldn’t have to feel so bad about capital punishment (Australia was great while it lasted… just a joke…), but the bottom line is that she is not fit for this society.  Maybe there’s some 50-page philosophical proof on why this is not the right thing to do, but while the jury is still out on that, society must move forward.

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Posted: 09 September 2008 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Doppelganger - 09 September 2008 10:24 AM

Do you really believe that she is just the product of a bad environment?  Do you think that YOU would have done the same thing that she did if you had lived as she did and grown up in her circumstances?

I don’t know if I would have done the same thing but if I wouldn’t then that would still only be my good fortune, as the difference in behaviour could only be due to randomness or there happening to be something different about me.

No way in hell could I EVER see anything less than a monster doing what she did, and no way in hell would I ever do such a thing.

Who knows what you are going to do? I’m sure most people who are going to do a terrible thing in five years time, would say there is no way in hell that they would do such a thing.


m sure she had a million opportunities in her life to choose 1 path over another which could have turned her life around.

When we select one path over another, it’s the path that has the highest value to us. To choose the other path, we would have to value it more highly, which would mean there’d have to be something different about the way our brain was functioning. In order for our brain to function differently there would have to be something different about our brain. We don’t get the opportunity for our brain to be different than it is!  So she had no opportunities at all!

‘t end up like she does by making 1 or 2 mistakes.  She is the product of a lifetime of bad choices.  Maybe she has a genetic predisposition to be a murderer—what is sending her to jail going to do?  How is she going to benefit this society?  Think of all the good the money we would be wasting on her in jail could do to help other children at risk.  She is a lost cause… 

On a similar note, I remember going to a lecture by C. Everett Koop (Past Surgeon General, as I’m sure most of you know…) and one of the things he said was that we need to take limited resources and make the most of what we have.  Does spending $20,000 (or whatever the $ is) for total hip and knee replacement for a 90 year old man so that he can have limited mobility in his 3 remaining years of life make a lot of sense when this same amount of $ could be spent giving life-saving vaccines to some of the millions or so people around the USA and the world that don’t receive them?  What is the greater good?  Let’s not shed any tears for this monster—I’d rather people spend their energy trying to help her remaining children overcome the terrible handicap they were born with by having her as a mother.

I really don’t know what we “should” do, I just know she is not ultimately deserving of what happens to her and that profoundly changes how I feel about her.

Stephen

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Posted: 09 September 2008 12:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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I think we have to consider the well-known psychological experiment where moral, ethical, mostly caucasian college students were split into two groups: prisoners and guards, then required to live in a closed society for a given length of time.  I’m sure none of the “guards” would have ever though they could stoop to the cruel behavior they exhibited.

Another psychological experiment, ostensibly to measure the effectiveness of varying levels of punishment on learning, consisted of one person as monitor and another as test taker.  If the test taker gave the wrong response, the monitor was to press a button to shock the person. At each subsequent wrong answer the level of shock was increased.  The dial was clearly marked showing the voltage beyond which serious damage could occur.  The test taker was really an actor who was not receiving any shock, but yelled and screamed as if he were.  What the researchers found was that almost all people would continue increasing the shocks to well above the “danger” level, if given any approval by the researcher. 

On other words, as Brennen points out, we all think we know how we would react in stressful situations, but, surprisingly, many of us are wrong.

Occam

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Posted: 09 September 2008 01:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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Doppelganger - 09 September 2008 04:39 AM


One of my better friends is a black gentleman from Jamaica.  He feels very similar to the way I feel.  I went to school for 4 years at an overwhelmingly black university and spent a LARGE part of my time w/ blacks then.  I’m tired of people putting their heads in the sand instead of telling it like it is.  Pretending race problems do not exist perpetuate the problem.

Oh, and since ‘one of your best friends is black’ this makes both of you an expert on the black experience in the USA. No, it doesn’t. I did not grow up in the USA either, came here as a teen, but even as a teen I could open my eyes and use my brain to see that there were major problems. When we moved to the US (CA), redlining was in full force. We could not purchase property outside of our proscribed boundaries—-care to guess where those boundaries stood? Your Jamaican friend did not enjoy that privilege. I recall being stopped and harassed by police on such a regular basis that it just seemed like part of a regular day, while going about my perfectly legal activities—something your Jamaican friend missed out on. I remember going to the counselors office in college to see about getting into their nursing program, just to be told that while I carried a solid 3.7 gpa on my college transcript loaded with hard science classes, she thought I should consider something a little less demanding—-oh PLEASE tell me again how many times this happened to your Jamaican friend again? And when I transferred to another college to enter their nursing program, I was closely questioned, because the department did not believe the transcripts reflected my true grades. THIS is what it means to be an American black, even when you are doing everything right. I can’t imagine how much harder it must be when you get it wrong sometimes.

A black person born and raised OUTSIDE of the the United States has not right and no reference point JUST AS YOU DO NOT, to judge the experiences of being black in the US.

BTW, here’s another generalization—there were 2 distinct categories of blacks at the university I previously mentioned—blacks that were born in the USA and blacks that came from outside of the USA.  I looked up to MANY of the blacks that came from outside the USA and they were by and large very nice, honest, intelligent, and hard working people.  But the ones that were born here in the USA…  Well, I didn’t look up to them much at all.  Of course, I’m speaking generally, and there are many noteworthy exceptions.

Yes, your remarks are incredibly offensive and ignorant.

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Posted: 09 September 2008 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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to continue (my rant)....

The High School I attended was geographically segregated and unarguably the worst in the city. I was the dumping ground for all of the unqualified teachers including one English teacher I had that was actually mentally ill (she claimed to know Lincoln and Kennedy personally, and had a non-existent twin sister), mixed in with newly minted idealist teachers, including a retired lawyer who was one of the few teachers to tell me I could accomplish whatever I wanted to do. Out of my class came at least one Internist, one Surgeon, many Registered nurses, a few lawyers, many city police officers and county sheriffs as well as gang members and drug dealers. We were all told we would not amount to much. We were taught that slavery was our salvation, converting ‘heathens’ into christians, we were told that outside of a very few people, African Americans accomplished absolutely NOTHING in the 400 years we were in this country.

My family sent me to private elementary schools where I was usually the only black student in my class including a 2nd grade teacher who would pull up my dress in front of class to spank me for no other reason I could ascertain—except that I was black. She had me brainwashed into thinking I was actually bad, so I never told my parents thinking I would get into more trouble, not realizing the real reason—I was a scapegoat. In the fourth grade I had a teacher that would slap me in front of the class on a regular basis for the same reason (I was the only one being slapped, everyone else would be rapped on the knuckles), this continued until a point came that I realized she was in the wrong and slapped (the nun) back. My father was called to the school to punish me, but he was wise enough to get the entire story and put an end to this punishment. That is what it means to be an American black.

My sons went to private school, but I had to keep going down to the school where they were one of the few black children to tell the teachers that the students could not call my son ‘Hershey bar’ ‘Webster’ or any of the other creative nicknames they came up with. The would be accosted walking to school by adults in cars yelling at them and calling them n*****, and threatening to kill them—-this while they were in elementary school. And I told them that Brazil nuts were not to be referred to as n*****toes. This was in the 1990s in the Bay Area. I shudder to think of how they would be treated in a less liberal area.

There was a young man in (I believe) New York who though African Americans complained too much, and was going to spend a summer living as a black American in Washington DC. I believe you can still google his paper. He took medication to darken his skin and shaved his hair. He lasted less than a week. He could not take the way he was treated. He told his black friends that he apologized and things were actually worse than they thought.

Black people with an accent of any sort are treated differently than blacks with American accents. And blacks known to have been born elsewhere are likewise treated differently. I see this in the Hispanic community as well. Spain born Hispanics, no mater their economic status are treated differently than American born ethnically Mexican, or Mexico born, and treated differently from Cuban or Puerto Rican born Americans. Mexicans born here or in Mexico are treated much worse, even if the Mexican Americans are 3rd or 4th generation. For that people love to claim to be Native American, they are perhaps treated worse of all.

My two cents and a dime.

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Posted: 09 September 2008 02:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Those are some chilling stories, asanta. It’s a tribute to you that you’ve been able to keep your wits about you throughout it all.

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