?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Why torture doesn't work - Input Junkie
December 1st, 2015
12:16 pm

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Why torture doesn't work
A new book goes into the details of how memory works, and that torture makes memories less accessible and may even destroy them.

Book link.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1075971.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

(7 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:madfilkentist
Date:December 1st, 2015 11:18 pm (UTC)
(Link)
As the HUP press page says, there are no scientific studies of torture for ethical reasons, and we can't conclude that it doesn't work simply because we don't want it to. We have to look at history. There are certainly claims throughout history of having obtained information by torture; of course, they have to be examined carefully, since torturers (even repentant ones) might believe they were getting accurate information in order to justify themselves.

It's a certainty that people can be coerced into doing things, and this includes giving information. The quality of the information may be poor. and an unskilled interrogator would probably be unable to tell truth from saying what the interrogator wants. But I don't find a simple "torture doesn't work" plausible.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:December 2nd, 2015 03:08 am (UTC)
(Link)
It's possible that torture doesn't work in the same sense that astrology doesn't work. You get some truth (I have some strong Gemini traits, and I have four planets in Gemini), but it's so mixed with misinformation that it's not a worthwhile source of information.
[User Picture]
From:kalimac
Date:December 2nd, 2015 09:06 am (UTC)
(Link)
Even the blurb on the link is clear in this. Torture doesn't work because "sufferers predictably produce information that is deeply unreliable." It doesn't produce "information that we can depend on to save lives." Doesn't mean a victim never says anything true or even valuable. It means you can't tell when that is, and that it may be buried beneath a lot of crap. It also means that other methods of interrogation are far more likely to produce valuable and reliable information.
[User Picture]
From:madfilkentist
Date:December 2nd, 2015 11:33 am (UTC)
(Link)
That's still all speculation. A study of whether and how it's worked in the past, unpleasant as it may be, strikes me as the only way to get answers.

Throwing in my own speculation, I'd think a ticking bomb scenario would be one where torture would be least reliable. Anyone who'd set out to kill large numbers of people with a bomb would be particularly resistant to disclosing the information and could buy time with lies. But that's speculation too. I often don't understand human motivation. I can provide convincing arguments that certain advertising techniques (e.g., fake prize announcements) should backfire in their users' faces, yet they bring in money.

In the absence of solid evidence, I wouldn't want to lean too hard on the "it doesn't work" argument. If it turns out that it does work, are you going to say, "Oh, sorry, I was wrong, go ahead and torture prisoners"?
[User Picture]
From:kalimac
Date:December 2nd, 2015 03:25 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I doubt that it's speculation. This is a whole book on neuroscience; I expect that it has some fairly specific arguments. I don't know that for sure, but you don't know that it doesn't.

I'm not sure why you say "That's still all speculation." Your initial comment and my reply were on what the phrase "doesn't work" means. Whether there's evidence for the assertion, once we've clarified what it means, is a different question.

"If it turns out that it does work, are you going to say ..." Only if "it doesn't work" is your only argument. But it isn't. Read the blurb again: "Torture is banned because it is cruel and inhumane. But ... another reason torture should never be condoned ..."
[User Picture]
From:madfilkentist
Date:December 2nd, 2015 09:25 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I don't think neuroscience is at the point where it can make reliable predictions about human behavior without empirical corroboration.
[User Picture]
From:kalimac
Date:December 2nd, 2015 11:20 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Most of the popular neuroscience that I've read consists largely of empirical corroboration. The book covers that. Read the blurb again: "For ethical reasons, there are no scientific studies of torture. But neuroscientists know a lot about how the brain reacts to fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, and immersion in freezing water, all tools of the torturer’s trade. These stressors create problems for memory, mood, and thinking, and sufferers predictably produce information that is deeply unreliable."
nancybuttons.com Powered by LiveJournal.com