Should Torture Be Acceptable?
The issue of torture is one of the most complicated ethical issues in the modern social context. It is useless to reply to the question of whether torture is right or wrong because the answer would always be too subjective. However, it makes sense to define whether torture is acceptable in modern society. In her article for The Perspective, Goldring claims that “according to the Geneva Conventions, ‘torture, cruel or inhuman treatment and outrages upon personal dignity’ is legally prohibited.” The widespread practice of the past whose goal was to get information as soon as possible seems to outlive itself in the current democratic world.
However, when it comes to prison, behind the walls, the practice is still widespread because it is one of the most effective ways to make people speak. Even with this apparent benefit, torture is not acceptable in the modern world because of a variety of reasons. The strongest of them include a high probability of torturing innocent people and the return to the principles of totalitarian dictatorship, which is a significant step back in the social development of a highly civilized society.
First of all, there always exists a high chance that the information received by means of torture would not be accurate. It is mentioned on the website Human Rights First that “the application of psychological, emotional, and/or physical pressure can force a victim of torture to say anything just to end the painful experience” (“Statement of National Security”). With this evidence, torture becomes an entirely unuseful means because it does not only fail to achieve its primary purpose to receive information, but it promotes violence against violence, which contradicts both moral and legal laws of humanity. Thus, torture is not justified.
Moreover, it is not only about the moral side of the issue and the peculiarities of modern democratic order, but also about the numerous amounts of scientific data which prove that torture does not work in the way it is expected to. The neuroscientist Shane O’Mara conducted substantial research to prove that in the case of torturing a person, it is not their will which decides to speak the truth or not. It is the peculiarities of the human nervous system that might make it impossible for a person to speak the truth even if they wish. Under conditions of pain, fear, extreme cold, sleep deprivation, and other means that have a strong negative influence on the human psyche, there is a high chance of memory, mood, and cognition damage, as well as a distorted state of consciousness. Carl Elliott concludes that “torture does not persuade people to make a reasoned decision to cooperate, but produces panic, dissociation, unconsciousness, and long-term neurological damage” (“The Neuroscience of Interrogation”). This evidence proves the unreliability of the received data in these conditions and does not justify torture not only as an unacceptable means for democratic values, but also as an unuseful means in its very essence beyond ethics and morality.
In conclusion, it makes sense to say that as a means to get vital information as soon as possible, torture would always seem an attractive tool for those in power. There exists a significant probability that it would be entirely impossible to avoid this phenomenon in a society entirely because there are always those who are for and against torture. However, both science, ethics, and evidence proves that torture is an ineffective means of the past that does not have a useful application in the modern world. Therefore, torture cannot be justified as a means on the legal level.
Goldring, Kira. “Can the Use of Torture Be Justified?” The Perspective, 2017, https://www.theperspective.com/debates/can-use-torture-justified/.
Elliott, Carl. “The Neuroscience of Interrogation: Why Torture Doesn’t Work.” New Scientist, 2015, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22830471-200-torture-doesnt-work-says-science-why-are-we-still-doing-it/.
“Statement of National Security, Intelligence, and Interrogation Professionals.” Human Rights First, 2014, https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/statement-national-security-intelligence-and-interrogation-professionals.
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