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Case Closed: The Death Penalty Is Morally Wrong

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posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:23 AM
About 8 years ago, I supported the death penalty. 5 years ago, I began studying developmental psychology, developmental neurobiology, and discovered the new science of systems theory. Because of these experiences, I can no longer logically defend the death penalty.

Here is a quick breakdown of how any human being develops; but first, let me just say that there is nothing more obnoxious than the reifying and superstitious habit that "so and so" is "evil": when you consider the past, any person who seems "evil", is no more evil than an abused dog who bites a strangers hand. What is evil are are actions: the people who commit the actions are the chemical result of pathological development, and as such, society bears the blame, and not simply the doer of the action

I'll put in numerical points to make my point more clear, especially considering that in our make-believe thinking society, some of these points are hotly contested.

1) We are animals. We are animals in the sense that i) we are made up of 50 trillion cells and are host to 100 trillion bacteria. We are animals in the sense that ii) we are organized, from within, just like other primates, with the same neurochemical pathways (such as the HPA stress axis; the HPG sex axis) and ultimately, as the science of evolution shows, our biology functions just like other bodys: we are bound by energetic needs; homeostasis, a process organized at the brain stem level, gives priority to core organic needs and as such, immune function (defense) always takes precedence to energetic "approach" behaviors. The latter statement essentially means that our "affects", emotions and moods, are "signs", sometimes indicated by past experiences, other times indicated by a stomach virus, a foreign bacteria, or something we ate; but the point is, WE ARE NOT AS MUCH IN CONTROL AS OUR "FOLK PSYCHOLOGY" would have it.

2) Neuropsychology has shown just how utterly shaped we are by seemingly irrelevant things. Basically, ANYTHING that impinges on "homeostasis" - or the energetic "stability" of our body, causes changes throughout the system. Raise the temperature and you might start feeling irritable. Eat something at the wrong time - such as a steak after 8 - and your body will preferentially focus on digesting such a heavy meal (10 hours in the stomach), which in effect will interrupt normal circadian rhythms (such as melatonin release), thus disturbing the quality of your sleep. The moral is: when something happens "here" - in the gut, with a certain energetic output, it has non-local effects elsewhere, in the brain, and in our consciousness.

3) This isn't it. The experimental psychologist Daniel Kahneman has been awarded many prizes for his research into unconscious processes that bias human cognition. His book "Thinking, Fast and Slow" documents many of these examples. However, his work deals with cognitive biases that effect decision making, whereas my primary interest is socioemotional development. But like there, the work from developmental psychology is as, or arguably, even more transformational when it comes to what human beings generally think about one another, how we attribute fault to one another - quite harshly - and how this "folk psychology" is largely the result of an instinctive, non-methodological defense mechanism against negative emotions. But we can't think this way any longer. It is unconscionable that in an age of science, that we would not take into account - and in effect, change our views - about what is REASONABLE to expect from other people.

4) The developmental psychologists Daniel Stern, Ed Tronick, Robert Emde, Colwyn Traverathen, Louis Sander, and others, have transformed our understanding of development by abandoning linear narratives (such as Paigets, Mahlers or Eriksons "stages" of developments) by analyzing just what causes people to develop the way they do. That is, by paying attention to the "system" that the infant develops within.

A "system" is basically the context. When an infant is born, they are whats called "altricial" - meaning, undeveloped. To be completely accurate, an infants sensory modalities (vision, and to a lesser extent, hearing) work fairly well (which is called "precocial"); but motorically - their ability to move themselves, and in effect, take care of themselves, is utterly undeveloped, for the simple reason that the human adult brain is too large to pass through the bipedal - and thus narrowed - cervix of an adult female. Thus, evolution has made a compromise: we are born only partly matured: we are sensitive enough to pay attention to relational/affective/emotional cues of immediate others, but too undeveloped motorically and in other areas (cognitively) to do anything for ourselves.

5) The real interesting evidence for development has come only recently, in the form of whats called "neuroplasticity" and the molecular processes of "epigenesis". The brain at birth is only 1/5th developed. The cortex (the grey matter that surrounds our brain) is only 1/3rd developed. In the first year alone, the brain grows 100% in volume; in the second year, it adds another 15% volume. In the first few months, the brain starts sprouting "synapses" - or junction points that facilitate inter-neuronal communication. By 6 months, the brain begins to selectively "prune" these synapses, and begins the process of 'myelination": the adding of glia cells (fat cells) which cover the axons (long parts of the neuron which feed to other parts of the brain) in effect "speeding up' and making more efficient communications between neurons.

In this first year, what controls this development is not some internal "maturational process", but rather, the ENVIRONMENT and the nature of the information - the affective/emotional information - being communicated to the infant through behavioral language, such as body gesture, facial expression, and vocal tone. What Ed Tronick found was that what matters most is how the infant is allowed to "repair" disruptions in connection. Breakdowns in communication are inevitable (this is what motivated Winnicott to term the ideal parent as the "good enough parent"); what matters is the SENSITIVITY that the adult brings to his interactions; for instance, is the mother or father AWARE of the infants cues? Do they know - and are they attentive to - the significance of a turned away head? Of an inquiring look? Of a laugh? Basically, HOW the parent responds in these moments (which has everything to do with her or his own development) "scaffolds" - the way scaffolding "surrounds" a building - the type of responses available to the infant.

Again, this is adaptation, the basic cardinal rule of evolution: all organisms, and indeed, all systems (the weather, the economy, the solar galaxy) RESPOND to perturbations (disruptions) to their normal "stable attractor" state. An infant that is intruded upon by an aggressive and overwhelming parent is FORCED to MAKE SENSE of these experiences. If this habit of the parent continues, the HORMONES RELEASED by these negative emotional experiences SHAPES how their genes function, through newly discovered processes like DNA methylation and acetylation of protein histones. What this means, essentially, is that the mind any human being becomes as an adult is NECESSARILY the result of the CONTEXT which shaped his/her neurobiological development.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:25 AM
The piece of s*** that shot up the church in South Carolina, Dylann Roof, he is not redeemable and should be executed.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:27 AM

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:29 AM
first we are animals.

changed from others to want more, knowledge, understanding.

By what?

This is where I lose you... because if the foremost is true, there is no answer that can be sufficient (the conundrum of how then how the how...)

if it is not true, then where does the circle begin, this cycle of repeated reality, ones becomes sixes, become fours.. on the same roll, so we never have beginning nor end.

god, or infinity. ?

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:35 AM
a reply to: AugustusMasonicus

You're response was predictable, as is the later "all paedos" should he executed etc...

While the OP is a bit of an essay, but I agree totally that the death penalty / capital punishment is morally wrong.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:40 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte

I've come to the conclusion that you have but for a different, much simpler logic.

The immovable point is that the "state" and its operatives do not have the moral authority to kill people any time or any place. If murder is wrong then following that up with a murder by the state makes it worse not better.

It might be argued that an individual has some moral standing to kill another as retribution for a criminal killing. I'm not making that judgement for anyone else. I'm saying it's off limits for me as a humanist to kill after the fact for retribution.

Self defense from clear and present danger is the moral standing I need to kill. I would have no prob putting young Dylann in the dirt if I was there and had the opportunity to stop the loss of life. Maybe that goes back to animal spirits and such.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:41 AM
Therefore, murders such as Dylann Roof are not evil and do not deserve to die; but need help. They are sick. There's a very strong probability that he (like other psychopaths) was deeply abused early in his life and likely later as well. His interest with causing a "race-war", was no-doubt put into him, if not by his own parents, then enabled by his parents lack of involvement in his life, and his apparent bigotry.

When stuff like this happens, we naturally get angry. But by getting angry - and if we allow ourselves to think stupid things like "seeking revenge" - we basically ignore the system effects that "channeled" this horrible event into actuation. The problem, fundamentally, is our lack of sensitivity to the dynamics which shape these occurrences. What we do not think about (and indeed, are trained by our brain to not think about) is that development BUILDS neurobiological structures that increase the probability of any particular action. INDEED, you're very habit to "lay the blame" and to "want the death penalty" is an ironic instance of this powerful brain process.

How we feel and how we experience ourselves from moment to moment is "biased" by the brain. The brain contains "traces' of our past moments by how neurohormonal processes 'structure' our cell activity, via epigenetic processes which turn genes "on" or "off". Because of this, the only really helpful way to change this situation is to look upon these events not with anger, but with understanding and empathy. Empathy, of course - and primarily - for those who lost their lives and their families and the community at large. But it is imperative and vital that we not "lose our heads" (literally) and not understand how inevitable these occurrences are when we don't as a society do enough to help/prevent the development of cultures that enable these events.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:46 AM
Again, it's as if you pick your own CONTEXT to fit your own agenda, beliefs that need reassurance with the backing of bits of science. From one thread to the next, your focus is different but the need to support your beliefs remains. These focuses seem exclusive.

Your overarching theme is to have empathy and evolve as a human being, but the mounds of details use science to get at that from different points, which in their selves seem to paint pictures that could not, when one takes the information from many of your topics, truly reach. If someone is to reach a highly evolved state, they should be responsible for their thoughts and actions. This doesn't mesh with your threads about not holding other people responsible for their thoughts and actions.

If you personally hold yourself to high standards, yet have a need to give people the benefit of the doubt, good on you, but I think you may play the role of the sucker for a while with this strategy.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:48 AM
Seems to me that was a very long winded way of saying that we shouldn't completely blame people for their actions because they may have had a screwed up life which caused them to get the way they are. I would agree to a certain extent, but I think the human brain is such a complex system that it's capable of predicting what will happen if it decides to commit a crime. A mass murderer cannot usually claim they didn't know what they were doing was wrong unless they are severely brain damaged and lack the ability to understand what constitutes a crime and what doesn't. A murderer may feel a strong urge to go out and kill, but they know it's wrong, and they can fight the urge if they try, just like a life time smoker can give up smoking if they try. Humans tend to have a powerful ability to transcend our biological constraints. Even the prime directive to keep ourselves alive can be bypassed by committing suicide.

Having said all of that, I do disagree with the death penalty, at least when the convict has no choice in the matter. I see nothing wrong with letting them choose between life in prison or the death penalty. I know I for one would rather the death penalty than several decades in prison, to me that seems like the easy way out, apart from the brief amount of pain I might feel upon dying. But many people will feel like that's giving them a choice they don't deserve. I think it's totally reasonable to give them that choice but I think differently to most people and I have the ability to empathize with almost anyone, including criminals.
edit on 19/6/2015 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:50 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte

Animals kill one another all the time. Even some groups of animals have a social structure that includes punishments including death. You're right. We're no different than animals except that we've perfected the art of killing. You can't cure a sociopath.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:50 AM
There is nothing morally objectionable about the death penalty...

And Paraphi...

Paedos should be executed.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:55 AM
a reply to: paraphi

It may be essay-like, but maybe other people need to "develop their minds/brains" so that they can appreciate the importance of these scientific developments.

The case is pretty much closed. You will not find a single developmental scientist, either in biology or psychology (pretty much the people who have the most to say; and who are most knowledgeable/objective about their understanding of the subject) who would favor the death penalty in light of what we now understand about development.

The problem is, not that we can't do anything (we can be more mindful and compassionate, for example). The problem is how people FEEL. Anger is the primary emotion they feel. A lesser, perhaps, even "womanly feeling" emotion, like compassion or empathy, compared to anger, when it comes to the "need to act", is generally dissociated (pushed into unconsciousness) that way the cognitive mind can operate without the "complicating' influence of another possibility of action. It's these sorts of arithmetic that influences our attentional processes. We think, naively, that because we "feel" someway, that the way we feel necessarily indicates the "truth" about something. Stephen Colbert rightly mocked this habit as "truthiness", and Jon Stewart does it even better with his "Learning Curves are for pussies".

To me, the issue is simple. If you aren't responsible for any way of being (say, you develop an anxiety disorder because your anxious mother used you as an object to deal with her OWN anxiety needs; that is, she was too distracted by her anxiety to 'pay attention' to what your cues were objectively showing her) and in doing an action, such as massacring a group of people in a church, although you SHOULD be penalized for doing something you cognitively know is wrong (growing up in a culture which demonizes murder gives you COGNITIVE direction) you SHOULDN'T be punished for feeling and eventually succumbing to a pathological mental state, such as fantasizing about killing a bunch of black people in church, because it is ultimately FEELINGS which organize what we think about - and what we feel and how we feel about other people is not our fault, but a natural and logical consequence of developmental processes.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 11:56 AM
a reply to: Astrocyte
Until such a time as we have the ability to recognize, preempt, and "cure" these problems, I don't see any other recourse but to end their life, as they did to others. They are a present danger to society, and I personally don't want my taxes going toward supporting them in prison for the next 30-40 years.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 12:05 PM
The death penalty? Oh you mean JUSTICE?

And clearly justice isn't being served if you want to pamper murderers with "rehabilitation." He's a murderer, not a drug addict.
edit on 19-6-2015 by Kromlech because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 12:05 PM
I have always thought the death penalty is too easy a way out for the worst in society.
Sure it may hurt for a while,and they may be terrified sometimes,but I think lifetime in prison gives them time to see the harm they have caused.

What I am against is tax payers paying to keep sickos alive,fed and given medical treatment while in prison.
In some parts of Asia they used to put people in prison,and if anyone on the outside wanted to provide food etc,they could donate to that prisoner.
If the prisoner was disowned by family and society-they would starve to death.

Yes its pretty nasty,but fair for mass killers/pedos/serial killers.

I do think it is morally reprehensible to have big corporations use whole prison populations as slave labour though,as happens in parts of the US and elsewhere.

edit on 19/6/2015 by Silcone Synapse because: sp

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 12:07 PM
a reply to: pl3bscheese

If emotional/affective states develop first because we our altricial at birth; and emotions/affects develop first because they are primary to our ability to survive; then it follows that what governs our mental states is not "cognitions", but feelings/emotions.

If someone is to reach a highly evolved state, they should be responsible for their thoughts and actions

That's all well and good, but that's just not the reality. Quantity affects quality. A child forced to experience the same experience 10,000 times will enter a new attractor state (avoidance, irritability etc) more strongly and more dissociatively than another forced to experience it 1000 times.

My point is, "narrative" - the stories we tell ourselves, combine with our deep affective/emotional experiences to make certain ways of being less or more probable.

My ability to "think and be responsible for my actions" is scaffolded by my education. If I didn't KNOW what I do, what exactly, pray tell, would motivate my doing it? If I didn't understand development as I do, psychologically and neurobiology, why would I be so motivated to act in ways that highlight my freedom of choice? What you aren't considering is the role knowledge plays in "widening" our conceptual window of potential action. Without the appropriate knowledge - and never mind the special contexts that make learning even possible (like right now I am currently attempting to teach people something; but how many are open to being taught? See how emotions induce dissociation?) - the person is limited by his existing knowledge (the culture he finds himself "immersed in") and so becomes probabilistically 'channeled' into certain types of behavior, no matter how "wrong" it seems from inside your head/mind/brain, his life experience makes his choice of action seem compellingly correct.


posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 12:13 PM
a reply to: Klassified

In order to gain an understanding to the extent that one day 'we have the ability to recognize, pre-empt, and "cure" these problems' would it not be wise to directly study those who have demonstrated such problems?
edit on 19/6/15 by JAK because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 12:15 PM
a reply to: Astrocyte

I seldom if ever find exception with your positions. And while I am in complete support of the make up of the human animal in it's development within specific contexts, environments, I was taken aback by your use in the title of "Case Closed"

This, for me, does not speak to the open mindedness with which you usually share your understandings. "Case Closed?:

While I also am opposed to capital punishment and have been for most of my life, I want to ask you a specific question, A simple question regards your conclusion and your very first point.

You say, and I agree, "we are animals". And to this I ask, "do we not put down rabid dogs?.

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 12:15 PM
By executing these criminals, how are we then any different?

Our blood lust brings us down to their level and we shouldn't let that happen, not if we want to be a civilized society...
edit on 19-6-2015 by Prezbo369 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 19 2015 @ 12:17 PM
a reply to: Astrocyte

Now you're coming off as elitist. I don't think that someone has to KNOW in order understand and apply in their life. You're applying what works for you to people in general.

I think people can use experiential knowledge to come up with their own understanding. They don't need to read it in a book. I call it "common sense".

To be fair, I think you bring up good points often, but end up assuming towards one extreme, when in reality the truth is in the middle. In the context of this discussion, that middle ground would be an understanding that both effects the other. The collection of individuals shape the society over time, and the individual is shaped by this society over time. Neither is to blame entirely, both are responsive. This is different levels of organization from the superorganism, to the trans-superorganism. I don't see the need to focus on one level of organization, and let off the hook the next. Ultimately, all is happening at the same time.
edit on 19-6-2015 by pl3bscheese because: (no reason given)

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