As an afterthought, here’s a practical perspective on the ticking time-bomb ‘problem’.
The scenario is that you have information that Mr X has planted a nuclear weapon on a timer in a major city. You’ve still got him strapped down with his ‘nads wired up so how are you going to find out where the bomb is in time to save the population? Torture him, we all chorus.
Except that it won’t work very well.
‘Where’s the bomb?’
‘It’s concreted into the foundations of the Shard, so fuck you!’
‘Yes, you’re all going to die. Fuck you!’
‘Tell me the truth!’
‘That is the truth!’
‘I want the truth, now, or you’re going to suffer even more’
‘Aaaaaaaargh! OK, it’s in the left luggage office at Paddington. There was a bear nearby, eating marmalade sandwiches’
So what can you do? A team goes off to dig up the Shard; another team goes to Paddington. The bomb goes off in Victoria Station left luggage. Everyone dies.
2 Replies to “The Ticking Time Bomb”
In no sense am I supporting or condoning torture, but your blog post merely makes the point that half-hearted torture is sort of pointless. I agree completely. To be absolutely certain you are hearing the truth, a man would have to be brought to the edge of sanity. He would have to lose an eye and a ball and the fingers on one hand – and then he would have to accept the loss of everything else. In other words, it should be all in or not at all. Effective torture as a weapon against a determined opponent is very time-consuming. One problem is that the body responds to multiple injuries with a release of endorphins. It takes time – ideally a full day – to reach agony. A strong man resists. First, he must be made weak.
I detest this as an issue. I abhor this level of brutality – but if I could save my people by torturing those who wish to kill my people, well…I wouldn’t indict and imprison the rough men standing on the walls to protect us all.
Then it’s an issue of practicality and clinical judgement. A torturer couldn’t realistically do it. A doctor most likely wouldn’t.