Nuclear Weapons Reprise  

Posted by BEN

I saw this video the other day and thought about the discussion on
Nuclear Weapons and Iran
a while back.


This entry was posted on February 18, 2010 at Thursday, February 18, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

18 comments

(sigh)
thou shalt not kill...except all of the women and children of the caananites and people who don't also worship your god and anyone in your house without your permission and adulterers and infidels and generally anybody who god tells you to go ahead and kill and generally anybody who isn't part of your particular culture....then it is not only okay to kill, but it is often a praiseworthy and righteous task.
So we should support the troops in their efforts to quell uprising from the palestinian natives against our puppet religious government in Israel (Palestine)...

ps
semper fi

February 19, 2010 at 8:47 AM

Dear Geoff...

God can kill and he can command to kill. There really are only a couple circumstances in which we can kill without explicit permission by God. These are when our life or our liberty is at risk. All other circumstances by which we kill have to come directly from God through revelation. Even the fact that we can defend our selves by killing others has come through revelation.

My opinion is that we put too much importance on life (this life). I do believe that this life is crucial in order to be tried and tested but whether we live or die is over rated.

Of course if you don't believe in life after death, this life automatically becomes the most important thing in the universe. I'd feel that way if I didn't believe in the gospel. Thus the justification for God killing others would be much more difficult to understand.

There are several things that are more important than life. Our obedience to God's laws (our spirituality) for example. Or take Liberty for another example.
Liberty is more important than life itself. Why else would men go to war against tyrants? Why would they give up their lives for the chance at freedom? Because freedom is more important than their lives.

God causing the wicked to die (killing them), is actually an act of mercy. If the wicked continue in sin, removing them from more chances to sin I think is a merciful act.

Case-in-point: Don't worry about life so much. It's not that big a deal. God giveth and God can take away. Again if you have issues with the "God giveth" part then naturally you'll have issues with the "God taketh" part.

February 20, 2010 at 9:37 PM

Oh and about the video...

Quick question. If the Japanese were "going to surrender" anyway, why did it take almost a month after the first bomb before they decided to officially surrender?

My understanding is that the Japanese were a very proud people who put a lot of emphasis on victory and honor. Their military leaders we known to never raise white flags and stand their ground down to the very last man.

They didn't surrender until almost a month had gone by after the first bombing. If they were so ready to surrender you would think they would have done it the second the first bomb dropped.

While some argue that the Japanese would have surrendered without the bomb and without much casualties I simply disagree. I think they would have kept fighting and it really would have taken millions of more lives in order to eliminate the Japanese threat.

That being said. It was a cold utilitarian calculation that I don't think Truman even had the right no make (whoever does have the right make utilitarian calculations that affect others?).

I still liked this video. It looks at the irony and hypocrisy of neo-cons in the definition of terrorism.

What I want to see is someone explain to me why exactly the use of these bomb's is morally not permissible.

February 20, 2010 at 10:25 PM

First of all, Taylor, I don't know where you got that it was a month between the bombings. Just look it up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

They were 3 (THREE) days apart.

Now, as far as the argument against the use of nuclear weapons, here are a few words from Murray Rothbard on the matter:

"It has often been maintained, and especially by conservatives, that the development of the horrendous modern weapons of mass murder (nuclear weapons, rockets, germ warfare, etc.) is only a difference of degree rather than kind from the simpler weapons of an earlier era. Of course, one answer to this is that when the degree is the number of human lives, the difference is a very big one. But another answer that the libertarian is particularly equipped to give is that while the bow and arrow and even the rifle can be pinpointed, if the will be there, against actual criminals, modern nuclear weapons cannot. Here is a crucial difference in kind. Of course, the bow and arrow could be used for aggressive purposes, but it could also be pinpointed to use only against aggressors. Nuclear weapons, even "conventional" aerial bombs, cannot be. These weapons are ipso facto engines of indiscriminate mass destruction. (The only exception would be the extremely rare case where a mass of people who were all criminals inhabited a vast geographical area.) We must, therefore, conclude that the use of nuclear or similar weapons, or the threat thereof, is a sin and a crime against humanity for which there can be no justification.
"This is why the old clich̩ no longer holds that it is not the arms but the will to use them that is significant in judging matters of war and peace. For it is precisely the characteristic of modern weapons that they cannot be used selectively, cannot be used in a libertarian manner. Therefore, their very existence must be condemned, and nuclear disarmament becomes a good to be pursued for its own sake. And if we will indeed use our strategic intelligence, we will see that such disarmament is not only a good, but the highest political good that we can pursue in the modern world. For just as murder is a more heinous crime against another man than larceny, so mass murder Рindeed murder so widespread as to threaten human civilization and human survival itself Рis the worst crime that any man could possibly commit. And that crime is now imminent. And the forestalling of massive annihilation is far more important, in truth, than the demunicipalization of garbage disposal, as worthwhile as that may be. Or are libertarians going to wax properly indignant about price control or the income tax, and yet shrug their shoulders at or even positively advocate the ultimate crime of mass murder?"

February 20, 2010 at 11:02 PM

Actually Ben, I don't know where you got that I said it was a month between bombings. I've read up all about it years ago, and recently. Their official surrender came a month after (sep 2) the first bomb dropped (august 6th) and a few weeks after the second bomb (august 9th).

This demonstrates an incredible amount of pride and unwillingness to surrender even after whole cities were obliterated. Most of the generals at the time warned Truman that the Japanese were so stubborn that it would take a second bomb to actually convince them to surrender and maybe a third (which they actually had plans to drop). I don't see any evidence showing this wasn't the case.

If you're going to argue the practicality of the bomb you basically need to convince me that the Japanese culture is different than what I understand, which is one that has roots in bushido.

With regards to the principle. You are probably right, using the bomb was probably the wrong thing to do. It seems as though it would have been more morally permissible to invade japan than drop those nasty bombs.

Although it makes you think why we needed to invade Japan in the first place...

February 21, 2010 at 11:51 AM

Japan announced its surrender six days after Nagasaki. It was only officially signed on September 2.
I am confused about what you are trying to say. Are you saying we HAD to drop the bombs because Japanese culture wouldn't allow them to surrender otherwise? How can you then stay consistent and say that we shouldn't have done it?
I am sure there were generals who thought we needed to kill tens of thousands of innocent people. There are always war-hardened soldiers that have less respect for human life. Still, you can't ignore the comments of MacArthur who was over the whole Pacific theater. He didn't feel it was necessary. Neither did Eisenhower, who was over the European theater.

After the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan, President J. Reuben Clark issued the following statement with the approval of the First Presidency:

Then as the crowning savagery of the war, we Americans wiped out hundreds of thousands of civilian population with the atom bomb in Japan, few if any of the ordinary civilians being any more responsible for the war than were we, and perhaps most of them no more aiding Japan in the war than we were aiding America. Military men are now saying that the atom bomb was a mistake. It was more than that: it was a world tragedy…. And the worst of this atomic bomb tragedy is not that not only did the people of the United States not rise up in protest against this savagery, not only did it not shock us to read of this wholesale destruction of men, women, and children, and cripples, but that it actually drew from the nation at large a general approval of this fiendish butchery.

(As read in General Conference, October 1946)

February 21, 2010 at 12:52 PM

That's an awesome quote from clark. I never knew. Thanks!

What I am trying to say is that dropping the bomb was effective at doing exactly what it was intended for, ending the war soon and with less overall human casualties. This doesn't mean it was the right thing to do, it's more obvious to me now that it was not morally permissible.

The reason it took so long to sign the surrender is because they (the Japanese) were STILL struggling with generals who wanted to continue fighting and didn't think the U.S. had any more bomb's up their sleeve.

We are looking at the same data from two different paradigms. You are looking at the timeline saying wow those Japanese were sure quick to surrender, they must have already been considering it! I'm looking at the same data and saying what the HECK took them so long to sign the stinking surrender after they knew hundreds of thousands of their own people were just slaughtered. What would a meeting with all the Japanese generals look like? You would think it would just take one minute! Just take our battle-hardened generals and add busido to the mix. They were very reluctant to surrender even after the bombs were dropped.

Now to their credit a lot of information coming from aerial photos was being downplayed by the military leaders at the time so it was hard for the generals to get a real idea of the damage until several days afterward but still.

Dropping the bomb was very practical, it was just wrong.

February 22, 2010 at 9:09 AM

To Taylor--

Well I obviously do not believe in god for many reasons, but one thing in particular about your stated positions here is one big reason for me to not WANT to believe in god (read: even if I did believe in a personal god, I would wish that I didn't because of your arguments).
Every time "god tells somebody to kill somebody else," it sure sounds great to the delusional murderer, but sounds evil to the people being murdered. Hmmm...let me think of an exa...oh, how about jihad and the world trade center?

What bothers me about the whole "revelations from god to kill sinners" thing is that:
a) I and many others do not believe in god
b) There are uncountable gods that people believe in and oddly enough everyone thinks that theirs is the only right one
c) Other religions always look crazy to those on the outside
d) The above clauses often lead to people killing each other for subjectively delusional reasons and performing other horrifying immoral acts with built-in justification.

I do not think you would argue that Allah, the one true God (and Mohammad is his prophet) actually told the hijackers to crash into buildings in America and they were therefore justified in doing so. It sounds insane because it is.

Can you see why myself and millions of people around the world think it is insanity when God (Jehova) tells the Israelites to murder the Caananites and enslave their daughters as concubines? Or when God tells some Baptist dude to shoot an abortion doctor in the head?

You say that God killing the wicked is merciful and I say that that sort of logic is indefensible. . . and scary. . . and exactly why I am glad we have a constitution to protect us from theocracy amongst other things.

And yes, dropping the bomb WAS very practical (for people with no regard for innocent human life) but it was wrong. I will agree with you there. Maybe, to a people who feel oppressed and righteously justified (God revealed it to them), destroying a mere 3000 innocent Americans with a few airplanes was also a practical action, although wrong as well. MUCH MUCH less wrong if you factor in the number of innocent dead in each case, but still wrong.

I just don't see why you needed someone to explain to you "why exactly the use of these bomb's is morally not permissible."
If you need that explained, then your foundation of morality is deeply removed from what I would consider "good," and you may need to look for disconnects between your spiritual LDS faith and your political beliefs, because in my understanding of LDS faith (which I have honestly experienced) it ought to lead you to a different conclusion, i.e. that dropping the bombs was NOT morally permissible.

February 22, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Geoff your last point.

I obviously don't need you to tell me it's wrong. There are lots of people out there saying it's wrong. I can get that from anywhere.

I wanted to here a philosophical explanation as to its immorality. There are lots of factors in a moral decision as such, for example:

What's the difference between those fighting (soldiers) and regular citizens who are providing for the soldiers. How would you measure that difference if taken to a logical extreme (which is one way of identifying true principles). Is one indiscriminately killed child worth 1 million soldiers lives? What is it that makes a civilian who is providing for soldiers more innocent than the soldier they are providing for?
Discriminate killing vs. indiscriminate and any moral implications of such.

All are interesting things to talk about.

It probably comes down to natural law of the individual vs the ethical code of rule utilitarianism.

I probably should discuss this with someone who would disagree with me. It's how I refine my political/philosophical beliefs.

Anyway, I was just curious.

February 23, 2010 at 4:15 PM

Once again, I am dumbstruck (but no longer surprised) at your need for a philosophical explanation of the immorality of dropping a nuclear bomb on a city. I don't think I will be able to help you find such an explanation either. It may just be a fundamental distinction between our systems of morality.
There is the old theoretical situation which might be a little more "gray" that we could use to hash this out. The one where there is a train on a track headed towards five people who cannot possibly get out of the way. You are standing at the track switch and can switch the train in time to veer onto another track where it will kill only one person. Would you do it, and become a link in the chain of events that determines who dies in order to save a net four people?
The corollary to this is a similar situation where there is, say, a large woman standing on a bridge above the train track and you are standing behind her. You could push her off the bridge which you know would stop the train and save the five people up ahead. Would you push her off the bridge in order to save the five? Note: you are, for some reason, unable to jump off the bridge yourself. These situations both have the same outcome, but require very subtle and important differences in your perceived actions. Most people are fine with the first scenario, but refuse to push the lady off the bridge even though it is generally the exact same dilemma.
To me, the A-bomb version of this would be something to the tune of: Would you be willing to indiscriminately kill hundreds of thousands of civilians you have never seen in order to potentially put an end to a war? No, I would not. That is a war crime by definition and I cannot condone it. How would your perspective be different if the japanese had dropped nuclear bombs on trenton, NJ and Flint, MI? Which reminds me that you never addressed any of the other premises of my comments... i.e. why is it that you don't seem to need a philosophical explanation as to why Sep 11th was morally wrong?
Unless, of course, you are tied to the notion that THEIR god is make believe and yours isn't, in which case, your positions would be readily explained.

February 24, 2010 at 9:17 AM

Geoff Geoff Geoff....

Your examples are of classic rule utilitarianism. I was just wanting to debate the ethical merits of utilitarianism (if there are any..).

I don't have any "need" for a philosophical explanation. I am simply curious. You of all people wouldn't recommend people taking others opinions at face value would you? Or even questioning our own? Shouldn't we question and wonder why things are or are not moral and at least try to understand other opinions? Utilitarianism is extremely common. It's part of our daily lives. It breaks though in many situations, that's all I wanted to talk about.

Please refer all anti-God comments to Ben. JK

I will attempt to address them I promise.

February 24, 2010 at 11:17 AM

I think you guys are arguing just for the sake of it. I can't tell what real disagreement you are having, besides the debate over whether God exists or not.
Taylor, there are several problems with utilitarianism. Maybe I will address them sometime, but the main issue is precisely that it cannot deal with questions such as these or the scenarios that Geoff mentioned. It is inadequate in its scope of principles.
Geoff, you bring up some common objections to the belief in a Judeo-Christian God. Since the belief in God is largely a matter of humility, it doesn't really lend itself to a discussion of philosophy or ethics.
I also seriously question any basis for a framework of morals that doesn't take God into account. I would suggest that the examples you cite from the OT are incomplete. The fact is, they do seem to be inconsistent with eternal principles, but I don't claim to fully understand those either. D&C 98 actually clarifies a lot on this matter of war and our moral responsibilities with regards to it. In short, renounce war and proclaim peace. This is the dictum that I ascribe to.

February 24, 2010 at 12:04 PM

On a side note to this thread:

As far as criticism of the OT is concerned (that God commanded the Israelites to utterly kill thousands upon thousands of supposedly 'innocent' people), the views taken here are relatively narrow (that is, from a theological perspective).

In most gnostic, pseudepigrapha, and apocryphal writings, there is a principle established that God will never destroy any people until they have been warned and forewarned of their 'wicked' ways. The problem here, with the textual analysis of "God killing innocent people" is the presupposition that the text itself is complete and takes into account every angle of the story -- this is simply not true. Furthermore, unless you want to take a dramatically Calvinistic approach to Christianity, Christian doctrine -- especially in the 'primitive Church' -- gave room for all cultures and beliefs to come to the 'one true God'.

Secondly, the criticism against theological texts concerning God's apparent contradictions throughout the text (thou shalt not kill, except here, and here, and here, and here, etc.) does not take into account the various levels and degrees of 'law'. The 'lower law' is always a positive (philosophical term) rule; however, the 'higher' or 'natural law' is always a principle where man may ascribe his own positive law. When men cannot govern themselves by principle, it appears God governs by rules. This classification of law may not sound relevant, but it is the foundation for understanding God's supposed contradictions. If we're going to criticize a particular thought/belief, we should at least make sure we take that entire thought/belief into account before we make generalized accusations.

February 24, 2010 at 12:23 PM

truly sorry. I didn't mean to make this about god
i honestly just didn't see where taylor was coming from on this point given his professed belief in christian teachings
i am inclined to accept the meat of ben's statements here about the matter

once again, I did not mean to stray so far off topic

my thesis was simply that given my rather complete understanding of current christian (LDS) teachings, they ought to lead one in a direction far away from dropping atom bombs, regardless of who it is on

February 24, 2010 at 10:08 PM

Absolutely. I agree.

February 24, 2010 at 10:19 PM

dodge ball is fun

February 25, 2010 at 10:09 AM

if a bear and a gorilla got into a fight, which one would win?

February 25, 2010 at 4:52 PM

you would talk about animals you biologist... ;)

February 25, 2010 at 5:26 PM

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