Saturday, May 14, 2011
Reactions to Bin Laden's Demise
Of all of the various posts I read on the Bin Laden assassination this one by the Maverick Philosopher comes closest to my reaction. While I don't agree with his introductory paragraph about God and mercy I lean towards his sentiment on how he feels about OBL's demise.
Anyone who doesn't see that capital punishment is precisely what justice demands in certain circumstances is morally obtuse. I agree with Prager on that. I also agree with his statement this morning that pacifism is "immoral" though I would withhold his "by definition." (I've got a nice post on the illicit use of 'by definition.') And of course I agree that terrorists need to be hunted down and killed. But there should be no joy at the killing of any human being no matter who he is. It would be better to feel sad that we live in a world in which such extreme measures are necessary.
The administration of justice ought to be a dispassionate affair.
I know Bin Laden's death carries symbolic weight because of his role as planner of the September 11 attacks. For that reason I'm pleased, even happy, that he met his just deserts. The best way I can describe how I reacted to this would be if the local animal control officer found a rabid dog in my neighborhood and put it to sleep. I can't say that I felt the need to dance in the streets as some chose to do. (And, like others, I noticed that those shown on TV cavorting in celebration were too young to even remember the 9/11 attacks. As one wag said, maybe they were celebrating that "their" President finally did something right. Related to this I've read several stories that the decision to attack came about due to intense pressure from military and intelligence experts who were urging the hit before OBL was warned of his impending doom. We'll probably never know if this truly was the case.)
For another interesting perspective check out Jonathan Haidt’s Why We Celebrate a Killing.
For the last 50 years, many evolutionary biologists have told us that we are little different from other primates — we’re selfish creatures, able to act altruistically only when it will benefit our kin or our future selves. But in the last few years there’s been a growing recognition that humans, far more than other primates, were shaped by natural selection acting at two different levels simultaneously. There’s the lower level at which individuals compete relentlessly with other individuals within their own groups. This competition rewards selfishness.
But there’s also a higher level at which groups compete with other groups. This competition favors groups that can best come together and act as one. Only a few species have found a way to do this. Bees, ants and termites are the best examples. Their brains and bodies are specialized for working as a team to accomplish nearly miraculous feats of cooperation like hive construction and group defense.