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Do Ends Justify Means?

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by God_be_with_you, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. I'm curious about this topic, and what everyone thinks. No judgements will be passed by me on anyone, I'm simply curious to see what everyone believes and why. Here are two scenarios, imagine them in context, and ask yourself what you would do and why you believe your choice is the most ethical.

    Scenario #1
    You work for a law enforcement agency. One day, your organization captures an infamous terrorist, and you are 100% certain that this terrorist has placed a nuclear bomb in one of the major surrounding cities. After exhausting all attempts to coerce him into telling you the location of the bomb, you realize that torture will be the only way to obtain the information that you need.
    Do you.........

    a). Torture him for the information? It's not how Jesus would handle this, but thousands of innocent people will be saved by your actions.

    b). Treat the terrorist with mercy and compassion? The bomb will detonate, and thousands of innocent people will die, but you will have obeyed God's instructions about how to treat your enemies.

    Scenario #2
    You have risen to power, and have become a beloved leader among your people. Soon following your coronation, a terrible famine sweeps the land. There is no way to obtain food, and the food stores that you do have will be exhausted within months, leaving your people to starve to death or resort to murder and cannabalism. Do you..........

    a). Segregate and exterminate half of the population. The other half will (hopefully) have enough food to outlast the famine, and at least some of your subjects will survive.

    b). Do your best to comfort your people, but take no further action. Your civilization will likely starve to death, but at least you won't have all that innocent blood on your hands.

    I'm interested in everyone's opinions. If you have Bible verses to back up your opinion, even better. Thanks for contributing!
  2. First, the end does not necessarily justify the means. The statement often referencing Machiavelli actually refers to the concept that "If the end is morally correct, the means to attain that end must also be morally correct". In other words, ensuring that the end justifies the means doesn't imply that any action is justifiable so long as it is toward a good end, but that every action must be weighed morally against the ends.

    As for scenario 1, torture would not be "the only way to obtain the information that you need" simply because torture has proved to be completely ineffective in gaining this type of information since the person being tortured will tell you anything to prevent the torture and the information becomes completely unreliable. Torture is for the purpose of vengeance and hatred, not for producing reliable information. In fact, it has been repeatedly proven that mercy and compassion actually results in more confessions and information from criminals and terrorists than any form of torture. By treating them with respect and gaining their trust, people tend to open up more and empathize with your cause.

    As for scenario 2, I could do nothing but reach out for help from other lands. Scenario A would simply be impossible for me. I would not be able to take that path, and most likely, if things are this dire, even taking that path would not result in a positive scenario. There isn't a good way to predict the length of a famine, so murdering half your people would simply be murdering half your people to increase the odds of the remainder surviving. By doing so, you are also declaring the some lives are vastly more valuable than others.
    God_be_with_you likes this.
  3. I'm going to answer each scenario only going by the two options, even though I believe there are probably third options. So this is only going by what you've given me...

    Scenario #1: I'm not sure what B means when you said "treat the terrorist with mercy and compassion." Does that mean basically let him go? Does that mean we continue to try and get the information from him and keep him locked up yet not torturing him? Does it mean keeping him locked up but leaving him alone and still taking care of him? This one is a little bit fuzzy to me.

    I can so far answer that option A goes against the Christian Just War principle as it teaches against torture. If option B means not attempting to do anything, then that may also go against Christian teaching as it would be a direct avoidance of saving lives...so I'll need further info to give a direct answer.

    Option A, I directly kill half of the people. Option B, I do my best to comfort the people, but I can't do anymore than that at this point--is that right? If so, then option B.

    There is a line to be drawn, and directly killing innocent people crosses that line. I would absolutely refuse to do that.
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  4. #4 ixoye_8, Dec 4, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
    wow .. tough questions .. I'm not really going to address your scenarios ..
    instead I am going to address God's stance, which is applied to any scenario ..

    Jesus said "if you want to enter life, keep the commandments" ..
    so many have asked are you breaking the commandment if you are a soldier in war ..
    the answer is NO ..
    the commandment is very clear .. it says "you shall not murder" (not you shall not kill) ..
    God Himself defines murder as "the taking of innocent blood" ..
    so if a combatant is armed and trying to kill you, it is not murder ..
    if the commandment said "kill" (which it doesn't) then God would have told His people to break His commandment .. however, the problem is, what it does to you .. it takes away your innocence, and God wants us to be innocent like a child in our hearts ..

    torture .. that is NEVER good .. prayer is good .. the power of praying as you have already received is powerful and if that was not your option first, then you do NOT trust God .. Jesus tells us, if you being evil know how to give what is good to your children ...

    now on to what Jesus tells us about our enemies ..
    vengeance is mine says the lord ..
    sooooo .. if you are kind to your enemy, then it is like heaping burning coals on their head .. meaning God's wrath will be on them .. BUT you cannot try manipulating God .. you can't be nice to them so they will get it worse, because then your heart is evil, and God will not avenge an evil heart .. the purpose of Jesus saying "you have heard an eye for an eye, bit I say love your enemies .. was said to us so we may in all things be seeking to have a heart of love .. we are NOT righteous, only He is, so that is why he says:

    the story of King David is such .. God loved him very much, and did tell him to do things .. but something in your heart changes, not your love for God, but your innocence .. and in that, God did not love him less, but told him because you have too much blood on your hands, you cannot build the Temple .. this is what King David desired .. he brought the Ark to Jerusalem .. and danced in his priestly ephod around it .. his desire was never granted him .. so unlike King David, we try our best to come to him as a child with innocence of heart ..

    God Bless All ..
  5. Deu 5:17 ‘You shall not murder.
    רָצַח ratsach h7523 = murder
    שָׁחַט shachat h7819 = kill

    God makes a distinction ..
    the shedding of "innocent blood" is what the commandment says ..

    Deu 19:10 “So innocent blood will not be shed in the midst of your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, and bloodguiltiness be on you.

    1Sa 19:5 “For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by putting David to death without a cause?

    2Ki 24:4 and also for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the LORD would not forgive.

    all whom God said to kill (not murder) God had judged first as guilty ..

    and in the NT ..

    φονεύω phoneuō g5407 = murder
    ἀποκτείνω apokteinō g615 = kill

    the difference of course, is one is the taking of innocent blood, the other is not ..
  6. Scenario # 1 = a = There is humane and inhumane means of torture. Some terrorists will simply not respond to you being nice. I would only agree with Ban if there was time to take that approach. We are not killing the terrorist! I will easily explain my actions to the terrorists kids when they see their father missing limbs.

    Scenario # 2 = Neither = Why can't we immediately implement a plan of toiling the soil and planting crops? Go to the sea and start fishing? Is my nation lazy? Are you referring more to a siege type scenario? If so b.
  7. Terrorists? well there is no sure way of dealing with a deranged mind. Torture would give the person the satisfaction of knowing that you have been dragged down to the level of terrorism yourself. Why not call in NCIS?.....turn Hetti loose :)...seriously though I wouldn't be above trying hypnosis since terrorists obviously have a very weak mind, or maybe using some medication to err ahh stimulate the terrorist's memory.
    As for the famine scenario, I think I would straight away implement severe rationing in the hope that while all would suffer equally, none would ultimately starve to death. This would include ensuring that the weak and infirm would be maintained
    ....good king calvin :)
    God_be_with_you likes this.
  8. The exercise is to decide which of the two options you would lean toward -- even if you know there is a more prudent third option.
  9. If I have provided a satisfactory resolution, does not the end justify the means?
  10. The end justifies the means, only when the end is justified by the means. Evil actions do not produce Holy results any more than apple trees produce bacon. The irony here, is that even Machiavelli recognized this, and the statement was originally used to prove that the end is only morally good, when the means are also morally correct. Each action must be weighed against the end result, so that no greater evil is accomplished through the means than results in the end.

    The question being asked of us concerns consequentialism, which is about political ethics and ultimately states that any action is only determined to be morally good or evil based on the end result of those actions. Consequentialism is about ethics, not morality. One of the best (worst?) examples of this type of rationalization is Nazism, which believed that any means was acceptable so long as it produced what was deemed as a perfect result.

    In either case, other options are always available, so long as the premise is not altered. The scenario we are presented is the same as the cliche "If both of your kids are dying, but you can only save one, which do you save?" The answer is never correct, but the exploration of how you arrive at your answer very much describes the type of person you are, and where you draw your moral lines. Some people make very tough decisions quickly and easily, choosing to cut their loses and move on. Others, always act with compassion. Others look for the loopholes, or try to find a way out of the scenario.
  11. In a word, NO. As others have stated, bad means lead to bad ends.
    Scenario 1: torture corrupts the tortured and the torturer (and rarely/never produces actionable intelliegence).
    Sceanrio 2: murdering half to save half is still murder

    The main problem with simplistic scenarios like these is that they cannot happen in the real world.
    i.e. Any terrorist worth his salt would make sure that the nuke could NOT be found or disarmed in time.
    There is always some food available, the question is quality and palatability.
  12. I don't know if I directly answered this question. I second the motion. Ends don't justify means.
    God_be_with_you likes this.
  13. A side note: The world has been quite lucky so far that the vast majority of terrorists are religious zealots
    that are not particularly bright. As an example, some Moslem terrorists in a decade or so ago had been
    stockpiling Plutonium to try to make a Dirty bomb. The morons put in under the floorboards of their hut,
    thus constantly exposing themselves to dangerous levels of radiation (which eventually killed most of them).
  14. That's why I didn't respond to the OP.
  15. I was looking for the 'kobayashi alternative'.
    God_be_with_you likes this.
  16. An option to eat a lot of hot dogs for sport?
  17. Reprogram the test so that there is a chance to win...while apparently munching on an apple and being cocky? I'm good with that.
  18. I admire your line of thought for it seeks ethical persuasions that provide the very foundation for our peace, liberty and prosperity. Shall my critical critique not imply your standings but simply seek to render ethical foundations as you requested.

    Let me first separate the ethics accepted in society from the Biblical interpreted mandates for the believer, for if the church is to rise to power again to lawfully force ambiguous hermeneutically interpreted morality upon society, then you will get the repeated old church of England that morphed into a despotic operation that killed the innocent daily. Thus the law in of itself is of none effect regarding the individual transformation to the mind of Christ, but instead it’s the power of the Spirit that will bring manifested transfiguration. Yet the law does provide our template for execution, first unto public non-aggression and second to Christian purity.

    You challenge the foundations of ethics by providing praxeological hypothetical extremes, yet if these fictitious extremes are to be plausible, then ethics must be held in a firm position, lest the immoral means will transfigure the proposed saving interventionist to also become instantly despotic. Shall it be most critical to know that despotism is inherently evil. Thus no matter how emotional, or how dire, an immoral despotic means to achieve a proposed virtuous end becomes a fallacy. For if this fallacy exists then what happens to the adherence to virtuous ethics? If trespass against sound ethics occurs then shall a steep slope coated with a slippery substance manifest under a societies feet and cause them to slip off into a deep despotic gorge.

    Yet hypothetically let us apply more details to ascertain a good answer regarding your proposals.

    In the first scenario if the despot threatens or confesses that the bomb does exist and a lawful foundation of non-aggression is firmly in place, and also the despot provides enough evidence to believe his evil, then force is easily justified to neutralize the threat that refuses to stop his sinister plan to harm. Thus violence is justified ethically for lawful violent reaction, yet shall the Christian often unpredictably yield to a higher calling where altruism is warranted and defending the innocent is not within their capability.

    Yet more importantly if ethics is to be pursued with precision with these scenarios then we must ask “who” is justified to neutralize the despot, and “in what sociological configuration” is this counter-force justified? For if compulsion gains its authority in the confines of organized political means using un-consenting force against society first and the despot second, then immoral forces act in secret or un-tethered to consent, and it transforms into illegitimate lawfully supported violence (an immoral means) even when it aims at good ends. Yet when individuals consent together for their own defenses in the absence of compulsory expropriation and ambiguous compulsory law, then the condoned counter violence for a society’s defense can be legitimate with sound ethics.

    Can we agree that your two scenarios can first be seen from a different perspective altogether? Is it possible that they both are often based upon a fallacy from the outset, where compulsion is sought to protect society with saving authority coming from illegitimate thrones and powers of men? For compulsory benevolent power is only justified in the confines of participatory consent. If one acts in defense of another using compulsion without consent then violence is immorally and ambiguously dispensed. Thus the action is despotic.

    Shall the second scenario suggest foundational compulsion as you imply power is amassed “quote -You have risen to power”. However there is an ethical escape from an illegitimate sociological configuration if you desire it, providing you assign that every single person in the proposed land consents to the “power achieved”. However even with consent for the power to exist over them they must also consent to giving up their own lives by half, for if the leader takes even one person’s life without consent for a proposed good end, then he becomes the despot that will share an abode with demonic forces.
  19. #19 Man-ofGod, Dec 5, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2013
    Answer is no, the end does not justify the means. In Jesus time, Caiaphas prophesied "Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not" (john 11:50). In the mind of the pharisees, the end, national preservation, justified the mean, crucifying the Savior. As Gods people, we are to follow His commandments at ALL times and anything beyond that we put in Gods hand. Therefore, the root of your questions are do we really trust in God or do we trust ourselves more.
  20. Great Fiction - That there is some fine writin', you musta gone to collej. :)
    Pity is, I aint got half a notion wut ya said.:confused:

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