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Capital Punishment Essay – Christians and the Death Penalty

Christians and the Death Penalty

Almost all societies have dispensed with the principle of “an eye for an eye,” and considered it a step toward more enlightened civilization. Christians who cite “an eye for an eye” in their defense of the death penalty are usually unaware of the strict criteria that God imposed before it could be used to take human life. The Old Testament also allowed the death penalty for crimes that today we consider less than misdemeanors — clearly, the Old Testament law is archaic. Finally, Jesus himself argued against the principle of “an eye for an eye.”

Most societies dispensed with the “eye for an eye” principle of punishment centuries ago; indeed, it is considered one of the great advances of civilization and criminal justice. We do not punish rapists by raping them, or arsonists by burning their houses down, or sadists by torturing them. Instead they are imprisoned, isolated from society where they can no longer do harm. There are three main reasons for doing so:

1. Any criminal justice system is inherently imperfect, and the human beings within it are inevitably fallible. Courts have a rich history of mistaken convictions; the Stanford Law Review has uncovered 350 cases this century where clearly innocent people were sentenced to death, 75 of them since 1970. Only God or an omniscient being would truly know what another person “deserves.” And that would apply not only to questions of guilt, but questions of justness of punishment. Imprisoning people allows us to reverse mistaken convictions with the minimum of damage. For those inmates not sentenced to life, it allows them to re-enter society without being bent on a terrible vengeance.

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…Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

What Jesus meant by this is the subject of vigorous debate. However, what is obvious is that many laws changed under the New Covenant; Christians were freed from many of the ancient Jewish laws on circumcision, Sabbath-observance and temple sacrifices. So it is not a question of whether the Talmudic laws were changed or dropped; the only question is how many were. If some Christians maintain that at least the civil and criminal laws of the Talmud are still valid in their entirety, then we should expect that they actually subscribe to all of them. This would include the commandment requiring two or three eye-witnesses for a capital conviction, and the initiation of the death penalty in all the above instances. Needless to say, no Christian would ever agree to such a legal code.

The Science Behind The Bell Curve

The Science Behind The Bell Curve

The science behind The Bell Curve has been denounced by both the American Psychological Association and the Human Genome Project. Its authors were unqualified to speak on either genetics or intelligence, since their expertise lay in other fields. Their project did not rise through the usual system of academic publishing, and in fact the authors ducked the process of peer review. The Bell Curve was ultimately funded by the wealthy, far-right Bradley Foundation, which used its media connections to launch a massive national publicity campaign. And The Bell Curve relies heavily on studies that were financed by the Pioneer Fund, a neo-Nazi organization that promotes eugenicist research.

“The scientific basis of The Bell Curve is fraudulent.” (1)

With those words, the American Psychological Association denounced The Bell Curve, the controversial book that claims that blacks generally have IQs 15 points lower than whites. The authors assert that because IQ is mostly genetic and unchangeable, programs promoting equality (affirmative action, welfare, Head Start, etc.) are a waste of money. For those unfamiliar with the American Psychological Association, it is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, and includes over 142,000 members.

The story of how a scientifically unsound book like The Bell Curve bypassed the usual checks and balances of the scientific community reveals a great deal about how wealthy conservative businessmen are trying to create their own alternate academia.

To begin with, the authors of The Bell Curve were largely unqualified to write a book about genetics and IQ. Charles Murray is a political scientist, whose specialty lies in welfare and affirmative action issues. Richard Herrnstein (who died shortly before publication) was indeed a psychologist, but he spent his career studying pigeons and rats, not genetics and IQ. In fact, Herrnstein never published anything in peer-reviewed journals about genetics and IQ during his entire 36-year career. (He did publish a few articles in popular magazines.) The most that can be said for either of them is that they were familiar with the scientific method and were experts in fields that were distantly related to the topic.

The writing of the book was shrouded in secrecy, but it was launched directly to the American public in a magnificently funded and organized media campaign, one that included cover stories in Newsweek, The New Republic and The New York Times Book Review.

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