Edward Feser has written a short response to Christopher Tollefsen, who argues that capital punishment is intrinsically immoral. Feser does a good job showing that if one believes in the principle of proportionality, that capital punishment is moral at least in principle, even if we might haggle over when we should apply it. I particularly liked the first part of the article because Feser laid out a nice, succinct case for the notion of retributive punishment. In my experience, those most opposed to capital punishment are opposed because they see punishment as being primarily corrective in nature, or for the purpose of quarantining evil, not for retribution. This is a deficient view of punishment, and leads one to view capital punishment as either unnecessary or immoral.
September 29, 2011
September 27, 2011
While I appreciate many of N.T. Wright’s contributions to theology, there are some things he says that baffle me to no end. For example, on September 15 he wrote a short piece for the Washington Post titled “American Christians and the death penalty.” He claims that
you can’t reconcile being pro-life on abortion and pro-death on the death penalty. Almost all the early Christian Fathers were opposed to the death penalty, even though it was of course standard practice across the ancient world. As far as they were concerned, their stance went along with the traditional ancient Jewish and Christian belief in life as a gift from God, which is why (for instance) they refused to follow the ubiquitous pagan practice of ‘exposing’ baby girls (i.e. leaving them out for the wolves or for slave-traders to pick up).
March 19, 2010
Some people argue that if someone is pro-life with respect to the unborn, by the same logic they should also be opposed to capital punishment. If a pro-life supporter opposes abortion but not capital punishment, these detractors claim they are being hypocritical, or worse yet, that such inconsistency serves to undermine the pro-life ethic. This is often called the seamless garment argument. It is advanced by both abortion-choice and pro-life advocates alike (pro-life advocates who are opposed to both abortion and capital punishment).
A couple of things could be said in response. First, even if the pro-life ethic demanded that one be opposed to both abortion and capital punishment, the pro-life ethic would not be undermined merely because someone inconsistently applies that ethic. An individual’s logical inconsistencies do not dictate truth. Even if the pro-lifer is logically inconsistent, it could still be the case that the pro-life ethic is true, and thus abortion is wrong. The abortion-choice advocate would be committing a logical blunder himself if he thinks that the pro-lifer’s logical inconsistency in applying the pro-life ethic is itself evidence that the pro-life ethic is false. His conclusion is non-sequitar.
May 6, 2008
Radio host, Andrew Tallman, has been running a series over at Townhall on the topic of capital punishment that is absolutely superb. He makes a persuasive case for capital punishment, and does an outstanding job answering both religious and secular objections to it. I would highly recommend his articles on this subject.
February 27, 2006
Michael Morales is a convicted rapist and killer who was sentenced to death by lethal injection in the state of CA. He was supposed to be executed on Tuesday the 21st at 12:01, but U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel put a stay on his execution until he could be certain that Mr. Morales would not feel any pain in the process. The accepted solution to this requirement was to have a registered anesthesiologist present who could confirm that Mr. Morales was completely unconscious and unable to feel any pain prior to the lethal injection. Two anesthesiologists accepted the responsibility, but later backed out. Why? Because some are arguing that a doctor participating in an execution is not ethically proper. As a result Mr. Morales has yet to be executed.
The American Medical Association, the California Medical Association, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists are three of several groups that have raised ethical condemnations of the plan. The latter organization argues against the plan on the premise that “Physicians are healers, not executioners. The doctor-patient relationship depends upon the inviolate principle that a doctor uses his or her medical expertise only for the benefit of patients.”
I am glad to see some ethical awareness in the medical community, but I am baffled how selective this ethical sensitivity is. For over 30 years physicians have been the main providers of abortions in this country, and in Oregon physicians are involved in the euthanizing of the terminally ill. How is it that participating in these executions is ethically acceptable, but participating in the execution of a man guilty of gross moral crimes against humanity is not? Where is the consistency?