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Old 01-18-2019, 11:26 AM   #1
tame_deuces
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A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

Some of you might remember the news a few months back about a young American missionary killed by an isolated tribe living on the North Sentinel Island.

If not, the story is here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...entinel-island

The case, tragic as it may be, is interesting in the context of many debates on morals we have held on this forum where people have touted objective morals, relative morals, subjective morals, nihilism, emergent morals and whatnot as the basis for moral values and systems.

What I am asking is that if the killing of this missionary is a sin, if it is immoral, if it is justified, if a moral judgment is irrelevant and if you have an answer or opinion to that end, what is your reasoning? I'm asking what you think. Feel free to reason around it from the perspective of the tribe, but that is ultimately not what I am interested in.

Note: I sincerely hope people treat this subject respectful in tone. It involves the death of a young man and no matter what we might or might not think of what lead up to that point, it is still a tragedy. What I'm interested in is the discussion of various ways to see moral systems and how they could / should affect the judgment of what happened. I see little reason to go into personal opinions or judgments of his plan or character. For what it is worth, he did take solid precautions not to be a disease carrier.
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Old 01-18-2019, 01:36 PM   #2
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

In my opinion, no, we cannot condemn this action. It is his personal responsibility and carelessness that caused his death.

It is in human nature to be careful and sceptical of strangers, we have killed outsiders for as long as we have been human beings. Just because we are now "civilized" in most of the world it doesn't change how these people behave and act in secluded areas. We can't impose our morals on other people (or we can, but that's what caused the purges of hundreds of millions of people who disagrees with us through history, which imo is barbaric while respecting other people is the correct stance).

If I'm a woman and go to the middle east and wear a thong and go topless, I am at fault if something happens for not respecting different customs and morals - no matter if they are actually unfair or discriminative or primitive. We have responsibility.

The man went to visit them, and whether he had good intentions or not is besides the point, it is solely his own reason, he knew other people had been attacked and thst they had thrown spears etc at boats and he was warned. I'm not sure how he died, maybe one of the indigenous people killed him on own accord and as such will be judged by the group's morals, but we cannot say that what is essentially a normal human reaction to a stranger is a sin just because we ourselves don't agree.

It's like saying that because slavery is considered bad today every single person who held slaves or tolerated it when it was normal is bad, and that is clearly absurd.

Tl;dr: morals are constructed values, and the reason we consider murder immoral is that we are civilized. Nevertheless, being sceptical of and murdering intruders and strangers is human nature, we can't fault them for not adhering to our (somewhat arbitrary) moral code.
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Old 01-20-2019, 04:38 AM   #3
El Lobo Gordo
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

Its a modern day version of the the chastisement of Uzzah. Uzzah steadied the Ark of the Covenant when the oxen stumbled and was struck dead by God. Some actions, even if your intentions are the best, you undertake at your own peril.

I don't know if the islanders committed a sin. That is between them and God I suppose. I just know I don't feel any anger toward or need to pursue justice against them.

Last edited by El Lobo Gordo; 01-20-2019 at 04:45 AM.
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Old 01-20-2019, 12:43 PM   #4
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

Quote:
Originally Posted by Viggorous View Post
If I'm a woman and go to the middle east and wear a thong and go topless, I am at fault if something happens for not respecting different customs and morals - no matter if they are actually unfair or discriminative or primitive. We have responsibility.
This sounds like victim blaming tbh. It might be reckless to knowingly put yourself in danger, but flaunting immoral customs is a way to bring attention to such forms of injustice.

But as far as OP goes: is it immoral to kill an uninvited and unexpected foreign invader? I would say no.

eta: if this instead happened to someone who shipwrecked on the island, simply attempting to survive (rather than deliberately venturing into the tribes territory), then I'd say that taking lethal action against them would not be morally acceptable.

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It's like saying that because slavery is considered bad today every single person who held slaves or tolerated it when it was normal is bad, and that is clearly absurd.
Clearly?
If slavery was not considered immoral by anyone while it was "normal", no-one would have made efforts to free the slaves.
(Perhaps you could say that some of those people didn't properly appreciate how bad it was)



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Last edited by BeaucoupFish; 01-20-2019 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 01-27-2019, 04:50 AM   #5
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

If this may add anything, I was recently in the Amazon jungle for 6 days, in Peru.

The tour guide, who grew up in the jungle, explained that the locals roughly knew the whereabouts of two uncontacted tribes, numbering in 200-600 each. I say "roughly" because they move around often. Boats that pass through the rivers connecting to the Amazon river sometimes spot them, and their estimates of tribe whereabouts are based on their reports.

His view on the matter were clear cut.

He explained that uncontacted tribes have generally had negative relations with outsiders, and accordingly treat them in a hostile manner. For example, illegal logging companies and rubber manufacturing companies have been known to kidnap and enslave tribespeople. These experiences shape their general mythos and their views of outsiders.

I can't say this is the same for all uncontacted tribes in the Amazon and elsewhere, but it is likely that most of them are not completely oblivious to the outside world. It is a complicated matter to define what is meant by 'uncontacted'. There are always semi-developed communities surrounding these tribes.

The numerous national parks that are in charge of protecting the Amazon all share the view that these tribes should be left to live without any outside interference. If any members of the tribe become curious about the outside world, they are always welcome to join one of the local and developed communities within the Amazon.

Reddit can also be insightful when it comes to interpreting news stories like this. The general consensus amongst reddit users was along the lines of - play stupid games, win stupid prizes. The American missionary should have done at least a little bit of research into the history of this tribe prior to making contact. If you decide to jump off a large house into a pool 4 or 5 metres away, you're kind of doing the same thing - playing stupid games, and perhaps winning stupid prizes.

My own reasoning about the matter is that the people, such as my tour guide who grew up in the area, know more about the morality of these kinds of situations than me. I also do not think that murder is wrong in all cases. Sometimes, it is a more merciful option for people who are serial killers, for example, versus the alternative treatment they may receive in prison.

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Old 01-29-2019, 02:53 AM   #6
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

Is it moral to not rescue the children of these tribes?
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Old 01-29-2019, 03:00 AM   #7
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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Is it moral to not rescue the children of these tribes?
What do they need to be "rescued" from?
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Old 01-29-2019, 03:51 AM   #8
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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Originally Posted by David Sklansky View Post
Is it moral to not rescue the children of these tribes?
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Originally Posted by Aaron W. View Post
What do they need to be "rescued" from?
I agree that David needs to first make the case that a threat to these children exists sufficient to motivate rescuing. That being said, I would be curious as to the life expectancy and quality of life enjoyed by these people.
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Old 01-29-2019, 03:53 AM   #9
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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Originally Posted by VeeDDzz` View Post
If any members of the tribe become curious about the outside world, they are always welcome to join one of the local and developed communities within the Amazon.
I don't think the islanders who are the subject of this thread have that option.
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Old 01-29-2019, 11:43 AM   #10
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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That being said, I would be curious as to the life expectancy and quality of life enjoyed by these people.
I agree that there is an interesting moral/ethical dilemma to be considered here. How much is whatever "quality of life" measure that is chosen merely an artifact of culture? If we can increase "quality of life" by some amount (say, "a life expectancy increase of 10 years") is that a sufficient reason to destroy a culture?
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Old 01-29-2019, 05:04 PM   #11
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

The history of cultural integration is not particularly rosy. We're no good at it. For many that enter first world cultures, alcohol and drugs are much more preferable to mortgages and full time jobs.

They're probably right. We live in a kind of mass delusion about our own happiness.
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Old 01-30-2019, 06:25 AM   #12
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

Caged animals usually live longer. Not so sure they are happier.
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Old 02-20-2019, 05:32 AM   #13
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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Originally Posted by David Sklansky View Post
Is it moral to not rescue the children of these tribes?
Even if it was justifiable to intervene, I am not certain you could do it safely. Individuals from isolated groups might be at very high risk of medical complications if you brought them into our societies and our bacterial flora / diet. Such an integration would likely have to happen over time with careful contact.

I am no expert on the issue however.
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Old 02-20-2019, 05:36 AM   #14
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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Originally Posted by Viggorous View Post
In my opinion, no, we cannot condemn this action. It is his personal responsibility and carelessness that caused his death.

It is in human nature to be careful and sceptical of strangers, we have killed outsiders for as long as we have been human beings. Just because we are now "civilized" in most of the world it doesn't change how these people behave and act in secluded areas. We can't impose our morals on other people (or we can, but that's what caused the purges of hundreds of millions of people who disagrees with us through history, which imo is barbaric while respecting other people is the correct stance).

If I'm a woman and go to the middle east and wear a thong and go topless, I am at fault if something happens for not respecting different customs and morals - no matter if they are actually unfair or discriminative or primitive. We have responsibility.

The man went to visit them, and whether he had good intentions or not is besides the point, it is solely his own reason, he knew other people had been attacked and thst they had thrown spears etc at boats and he was warned. I'm not sure how he died, maybe one of the indigenous people killed him on own accord and as such will be judged by the group's morals, but we cannot say that what is essentially a normal human reaction to a stranger is a sin just because we ourselves don't agree.

It's like saying that because slavery is considered bad today every single person who held slaves or tolerated it when it was normal is bad, and that is clearly absurd.

Tl;dr: morals are constructed values, and the reason we consider murder immoral is that we are civilized. Nevertheless, being sceptical of and murdering intruders and strangers is human nature, we can't fault them for not adhering to our (somewhat arbitrary) moral code.
Thanks for the reply.

If we responded by "one of our own was killed and we need to take action versus the responsible parties", would you think that was okay?

That too would after all be a type of "moral relativity".
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Old 02-20-2019, 06:00 AM   #15
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

A while back i was reading about a lot of indigenous tribes and this was one of them. They have had their people taken and even killed by outsiders so they could respond with claims of self defense if that oral history about the danger of outsiders is passed down. They could even be fearful of mass death if disease broke out.

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Old 02-20-2019, 05:40 PM   #16
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

i see it as self defense. i don't know if any form of aggression could be classified as "moral", but most def justified.
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Old 02-22-2019, 06:55 AM   #17
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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Originally Posted by batair View Post
A while back i was reading about a lot of indigenous tribes and this was one of them. They have had their people taken and even killed by outsiders so they could respond with claims of self defense if that oral history about the danger of outsiders is passed down. They could even be fearful of mass death if disease broke out.
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i see it as self defense. i don't know if any form of aggression could be classified as "moral", but most def justified.
It is not that I think these are unfair points, but does not this line of thinking ultimately lead us to justify almost any war? My logic being that in almost any war the sides will presumably think that "something" is a threat or hindrance to their way of life?
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Old 02-22-2019, 07:09 AM   #18
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

Are you saying there should be no such thing as self defense for them? No just wars or defense of their people?

Would the Native Americans be just in killing Columbus as a baby?


I get what you are saying but i put if's in there for a reason. I dont know the mindset of them so i cant really say if i think its moral only that it could be.

Last edited by batair; 02-22-2019 at 07:17 AM.
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Old 02-22-2019, 10:24 AM   #19
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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It is not that I think these are unfair points, but does not this line of thinking ultimately lead us to justify almost any war? My logic being that in almost any war the sides will presumably think that "something" is a threat or hindrance to their way of life?
are you saying that all invasions are out of self-defense, and nothing to do with imperialist goals?
it's a simple case of invader vs defender. defender is always justified.
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Old 02-22-2019, 11:26 AM   #20
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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it's a simple case of invader vs defender. defender is always justified.
If you step on my lawn and I shoot you, is that always justified because you invaded my space?
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Old 02-22-2019, 11:41 AM   #21
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

you might wanna try reading the post i was responding to.
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Old 02-22-2019, 02:39 PM   #22
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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you might wanna try reading the post i was responding to.
I did. Did you?

The original statement was that a broad principle sounds like it could be used to justify a whole lot of things.

You responded by stating a broad principle.

I showed how the broad principle, as stated, could be used to justify a whole lot of things.

What part of that was not understandable?
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Old 02-22-2019, 03:04 PM   #23
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

walking on someone's lawn is not a threat to your life. in civilization, we are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty, in this case, have non-violent intentions until enough evidence is presented otherwise. ex: someone on your lawn with guns drawn.

in the case of an isolated tribe, they have very good reason to deem an outsider as a legitimate threat. as that is likely how other interactions with outsiders/other tribes have been. in the case that they've never been in contact with outsiders, they are forced to rely on instinct since they have no reference point.
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Old 02-22-2019, 05:10 PM   #24
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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Originally Posted by tame_deuces View Post
It is not that I think these are unfair points, but does not this line of thinking ultimately lead us to justify almost any war? My logic being that in almost any war the sides will presumably think that "something" is a threat or hindrance to their way of life?

We can add "reasonableness" as a qualifier as is done in criminal law.
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Old 02-22-2019, 08:02 PM   #25
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Re: A dead missionary, an isolated tribe and morals

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walking on someone's lawn is not a threat to your life.

...

in the case of an isolated tribe, they have very good reason to deem an outsider as a legitimate threat.
Mmmmmhmmmmm...
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