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Assume Leonardo Da Vinci invented a scientifically wondrous piece of equipment: a vaporizer gun. The gun is able to instantly vaporize any human being or animal, leaving absolutely no trace behind - all clothes, possessions, fake teeth, etc, disappear without a trace. Since the vaporization only takes 1/1000th of a second, it is also a completely painless death.

Would this mean that murder and genocide become more acceptable in the human culture?

The massacre of the Armenians would leave no evidence behind: no photos, no graves, no horrible stories. The Holocaust would lack the concentration camps as people would be vaporized in their homes, without even realizing what is about to happen. Pol Pot would use the vaporizer guns to carry out his policy rather than starving people to death and forcing them into exile.

My thinking is that without evidence it would be impossible for the modern world to realize the horrors of genocide and it would become a rather distant triviality.

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    $\begingroup$ Nazi Germany instituted conentration camps from 1933. The final solution was only started in 1942. In the interim slave labor provided a significant contribution to the German economy. $\endgroup$ – Taemyr Aug 31 '15 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ war might even be replaced by a system where a computer decides who is the next casualty and has them report to the vaporization chamber... $\endgroup$ – Michael Aug 31 '15 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Wasn't that the plot of a Star Trek episode? Or am I thinking of something else? $\endgroup$ – iamnotmaynard Aug 31 '15 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ disappear without a trace where do the ~80kg of stuff go? $\endgroup$ – njzk2 Aug 31 '15 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ @iamnotmaynard - it was the Trek TOS episode A Taste of Armageddon of course. $\endgroup$ – user6320 Aug 31 '15 at 20:03
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Genocide will be more difficult to prove, but no, it will not make it more acceptable to extinguish human life on a massive scale.

Essentially, what you’ve done here is remove the gruesomeness of death. You have not, however, removed the consequences.

When a human being is responsible for the artificial shortening of another human life, it causes a lot of problems. The dead often leave family, friends, and other loved ones behind. These people will experience a deep loss and know that someone is directly responsible. A vaporizer does not remove these issues, which means that murder, no matter how “humanely” it is done, will continue to draw deep resentment and anger from victims and others.

With that said, it will become much harder to determine whether a person disappeared (and is still alive) or if they were killed. In many cases there will continue to be signs of struggle left on the environment — overturned furniture, broken windows. This would raise suspicion. Video evidence could certainly still record the act. But for the time periods you’re talking about, it would be much harder to prove that genocide had occurred. Eye witness accounts are easily discredited and during times of upheaval, especially the kind experienced in Europe during World War II, it’s very difficult to track the fates of civilians in crossfire.

Difficulty in proving genocide does not mean it would be considered “more acceptable”, though. Unsolved disappearances lack the closure of a known conclusion, and for many people it is harder to heal that wound. Large numbers of eye witnesses increase credibility. And many of the perpetrators of genocide are reviled for multiple reasons — genocide simply tends to stand out the most. Also bear in mind that the gruesomeness of death can be an important component to genocidal actions. For many of history’s murderers, suffering was part of the message.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good answer. I would add that genocides are shocking and not "acceptable" (to say the least) mostly because of their motive. We talk about a group of persons considering themselves superior to another group, based on ethnicity, religions, origins, culture or whatever. And that superiority leads to an attempt of systematic extermination. In the end, even without any cruelty or suffering, this is a crime against humanity in its general meaning. $\endgroup$ – Majuj Aug 31 '15 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ I think the reasons in this answer would actually point to genocide being even more disgusting in the minds of the world. Faced with an evil that we cannot detect, we are usually even less forgiving to it than to an evil that we can at least monitor. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Aug 31 '15 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ Also, if vaporizer guns were known to exist, the simple fact of "where did all those thousands of people go" will point blame. (OTOH, if you have one and no-one knows, then being able to vanish people becomes a lot harder to prove, because they also have to prove you could vanish someone) $\endgroup$ – Allen Gould Aug 31 '15 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ There would be witnesses to the genocide, namely those who carried it out. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Aug 31 '15 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure the villian's logic would be "The dead often leave family, friends, and other loved ones behind. These people will experience a deep loss and know that someone is directly responsible." It's ok! Just vaporize them too! $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 31 '15 at 23:04

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