Imagine you hear this: “I know that you think that eating kittens is wrong, but I know for a fact that it cures cancer, so we need to allow people to do it.”
What do you think of that argument? Just to be clear, let’s allow the conversation to go further:
Person A: “Some people are very strongly against eating kittens.”
Person B: “I’m not saying you should eat kittens all the time. But, under certain circumstances, maybe overseen by professionals, it might be the only way to cure cancer.”
Person A: “Do you have proof that eating kittens cures cancer?”
Person B: “There was one time I heard about a guy who ate a kitten who didn’t have cancer.”
Person A: “Is that proof?”
Person B: “My point is, if you’re not sure, we can’t just say NEVER eat kitten, can we? What if it’s an emergency? What if it’s a last resort?”
Person A: “If you don’t know that it works, and some people are really against it…”
Person B: “Hey, sometimes it’s unavoidable! I mean, imagine it’s your grandmother, and you have tried every other way of treating the cancer, and she’s about to die! Imagine it’s your CHILD! In these extreme circumstances, where nothing else has worked and there are lives on the line, DOESN’T IT MAKE SENSE TO AT LEAST TRY EATING KITTENS???”
You’re probably familiar with this argument. Every politician makes it… about torture. It’s the stereotypical “ticking time bomb” scenario. There’s a bomb, you have a terrorist, the terrorist isn’t talking… so shouldn’t you at least try eating kittens… I mean, torture, in those dire circumstances?
There is no evidence that torture works. The only reason people like to believe it is an emotional argument: people feel that it should work. People feel that, darnit, I should be able to force things in the world to do what I want them to if I just roar loud enough at them.
It’s the animal instinct in us all. But it doesn’t work. There’s no evidence for it. The argument, “If nothing else has worked, shouldn’t you at least TRY torture as a last resort???” makes as much sense as saying, “If nothing else has worked, shouldn’t you at least TRY eating kittens???”
And maybe you should.
After all, if nothing else has worked….