• Do we owe Cecil the Lion’s killer an apology?


    For at least two reasons.

    Enraged mobs are bad

    Walter Palmer became the target of an international rage mob.

    Here are articles about the insanity, to include many threats of violence and death against him and his family:

    Cecil the Lion, Walter Palmer and the Psychology of Online Shaming | Time 

    Hunting for Justice | US News

    For a Week, Walter Palmer Is the Worst Human Being Ever in History | Mother Jones

    Even if I thought Palmer was a terrible human being guilty of serious crimes and ethical transgressions, this is not acceptable. The Hammurabi “eye for an eye” legal concept is one of the oldest documented, and it was meant to limit the dangerous sense of vengeance people who have been wronged often feel. That sense of vengeance is dangerous because it can spiral out of control. This is an important innovation in human civilization: disempowering a person or group’s self-entitled rage. The replacement is a system of rules that (ideally) treats all parties equally and according to agreed-upon standards.

    The internet is a frontier, little regulated or controlled. So the madness of an unhinged mob again has the opportunity to get traction and destroy lives. It is a grand irony many people actively, cheerfully returning to a pre-civilization mode of social behavior call themselves progressive. This is far from the first time.

    The modern social media titan calling itself the “front page” of the internet, Reddit,  now has to use a tag on postings “no witch hunting”. This is not irony or comedy. It is a practical measure to stop large numbers of people from becoming digital vigilantes. It’s also not theoretical, as innocent people have already been harmed by such mobs.

    There’s never a time where this response could be a good idea. If you ever feel yourself reaching for a pitchfork as many others are, it’s probably wise to stop and ask yourself if this is really the best recourse; And, do you know everything relevant? Because…

    Trophy hunters are good for some endangered animals

    This might sound crazy or like conservative apologia. This isn’t true for all places, but it is in many parts of Africa. It also does not have to be true, but today, it is. The cold, hard fact is that conservation is expensive and poor countries often can’t afford it. Effective security for endangered species occupying thousands of square miles is very expensive. Some nations where such animals live still struggle with providing food, clean drinking water, and other basic necessities to its people. Regulated, controlled hunting expeditions can bring in enormous sums of money that can go to conservation efforts.

    Also, for species like Rhinos, there are sometimes very troublesome individual rhinos that actually need to be removed because they sometimes kill irreplaceable female rhinos. I learned a good deal of this listening to Radiolab’s The Rhino Hunter episode.

    I challenge you to give it a listen. It follows Corey Knowlton, who (somewhat inadvertently) paid $350,000 to hunt and kill a rhino. I don’t agree with everything Knowlton has to say, and I don’t like hunting. But I think he is right that today, right now, eco-tourism and charities just don’t generate enough money. We need hunters to save species. The reason is purely economic, which shows how much we actually care. Not enough to fund protection, but enough to get angry about extinctions.

    We could fix this by increasing aid money, we simply choose not to. Don’t believe me? Norway made an agreement with Brazil to pay it $1 billion to slow rainforest deforestation by at least 75%. Brazil has already exceeded that, which will save species and help curb CO2 emissions.

    I’d prefer we go that route. But, since it could mean a .2 % tax increase,  there is no way we would consider it. We’d ultimately rather have a few more dollars than a few more species. The other popular solution, crucifying dentists, is even less likely to work.

    Category: Critical ThinkingfeaturedFeatured Incskepticismsocial justice

  • Article by: Edward Clint

    Ed Clint is an evolutionary psychologist, co-founder of Skeptic Ink, and USAF veteran.