Several news sites (including the Daily Mail Online, the Sun, Sky News and the Guardian, and that's just the UK ones) heard the judge say "guilty" about slander, & posted the wrong verdict about the murder conviction.

It's not unusual to have more than one story ready to go, but the Daily Mail online was particularly detailed:

As Knox realized the enormity of what judge Hellman was saying she sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears.

A few feet away Meredith's mother Arline, her sister Stephanie and brother Lyle, who had flown in especially for the verdict remained expressionless, staring straight ahead, glancing over just once at the distraught Knox family.

Prosecutors were delighted with the verdict and said that 'justice has been done' although they said on a 'human factor it was sad two young people would be spending years in jail'

Maybe they tapped phones in another Everett branch?

It has always been suspected that they exist in a separate universe from the rest of us. I am glad to see eh hypothesis confirmed.

It annoys me that publishing such a deliberately dishonest story will almost certainly not be punished in any way.

It is good news.

According to the BBC report there were loud crowds outside protesting that she was freed. Why they trust the first court case, but not a second case with equal/better access to evidence is worrying but worth thinking about.

Could one categorise it as anchoring to the original response?

Could one categorise it as anchoring to the original response?

Every effect has multiple causes (and every cause affects multiple things). You identify a relevant bias but there is no need to stop thinking about what others are also relevant if one determines this bias is.

Ok, I'll run with that.

Most obviously there is a general trend that people become less likely to make accurate deductions once they are emotionally invested in the decision (consider their reactions to the horrifying descriptions of the murder victim's condition). Another issue is framing, previously it was a question of 'Who committed this awful crime?' now it has been reframed as 'This awful criminal might go free.' As gwern mentioned the fact that they are foreign is a factor, local media are unlikely to be kind to them, and punishing them/avenging a local feeds into our in/outgroup biases. And finally, the large publicity of the case means that enough people have heard about it that a significant percentage of them will attach to one side of the case for some arbitrarily bizarre psychological reason of their own whatever the facts of the case.

What have I missed?

avenging a local

Meredith Kercher was a British exchange student, not an Italian citizen.

You're right, sorry. Same applies regarding the other possible suspects and the Italian prosecutors and police.

Voted up for prompt admission of error. This is something I really like about this site, by the way.

In addition, it could be that people see the foreign press's interest in the case, and their support for Knox, as an unfair influence on the case, and they are protesting the court being swayed by the media.

Interesting, but surely if they were making a principled point about media interference in general they wouldn't have booed the verdict? As the media interference had already happened the result was irrelevant.

Since the media was interfering in favor of the verdict that actually happened, the verdict is evidence that the court was swayed by the media. They may be (or believe they are) protesting the court's "caving to media pressure" or some such.

Yeah, that was kinda what I meant. Also, I wouldn't assume they're thinking particularly rationally!

Why they trust the first court case, but not a second case with equal/better access to evidence is worrying but worth thinking about.

The simple answer is that it's hard to change your mind, since once a belief gets formed it tends to become entrenched in various ways. There's a sequence and an upcoming book about the specific ways in which that's true, but some which seem most relevant in this case are:

  1. Confirmation bias. Once someone forms a belief, all the new evidence that they see gets interpreted in light of that belief so that consistent evidence seems solid & important and inconsistent evidence seems dubious. Even if someone's initial belief was based on the first verdict, by the time the contrary second verdict comes in they feel like there is all of this other evidence alongside the first verdict.

  2. Thinking in narratives. Once someone forms a belief they come up with a story for why others disagree with them (e.g., they're just biased in favor of the sympathetic pretty American woman), and as long as new events can be fit into their storyline they aren't much of a challenge to the existing views embodied in that narrative.

  3. Identity. Once someone identifies with one side of an issue, they'll associate that side with all sorts of wonderful values & virtues (e.g., standing up for the integrity of the Italian justice system against the meddling foreigners) and they'll see changing their mind as abandoning their side and failing to live up to its values & virtues.

A relevant difference between the two cases is the level of foreigners and interest.

One of the most interesting and tragic things about this is how Kercher's family has reacted very negatively. See e.g. this article.

This is an understandable reaction on their part. They've become convinced that Knox killed their daughter and tried to cover it up. The amount of emotion and feelings of identity that must get wrapped up in trying to make sure that the killer of one's child is convicted and jailed must be massive. The cognitive difficulty in acknowledging that one has gone after the wrong person must be immense. If I were (Omega forbid) in a similar situation, I suspect that I'd react very similarly to the Kercher family.

One of the most interesting and tragic things about this is how Kercher's family has reacted very negatively. See e.g. this article.

Which is, I must say, disgraceful behavior. The only redeeming feature is that they are powerless to do anything about it.

Wanting to destroy the lives of people they have no evidence have done anything to harm anyone and using what social influence they have to make others also wish to destroy said lives resolves as (impotent) evil. That their daughter has died is very little excuse.

I'm curious. Have you ever lost a loved one due to someone else's actions? The closest experience I have to this is a cousin who was killed about a year ago by a speeding driver. My cousin Brandon wasn't that old. He hadn't been a great student in highschool but had really shaped up and become a lot more responsible in college. Brandon was working to become a chef, something he was clearly good at and clearly enjoyed. My cousin was on his bike and never even saw the car. He had on a helmet. It saved his life, for a few days. His grandmother, my aunt, was on an airplane flight when the accident happened. She was on her way to the funeral of another relative who had killed himself. She found out about the accident as her plane taxied to the gate.

At first, after a few days in the hospital it seemed that Brandon was going to make it. Then he took a sudden turn for the worst and his organs started to fail. The end was so sudden that some of my relatives saw in their inboxes the email update saying that Brandon wasn't like to make it right under the email saying he had died.

Then, it turned out that the driver of the car had a history of speeding problems. He received in a year in jail for vehicular homicide. A small compensation for the entire life Brandon had in front of him.

If someone came up to me, and gave me the choice of making that driver die a slow painful, agonizing death I'd probably say yes. It would be wrong. Deeply wrong. But the emotion is that strong; I don't know if I could override it.

But I can still understand that that's wrong. The driver was an aging Vietnam vet with a history of medical problems. He had little family. He was so distraught over what happened that when initially put in jail before the trial, there was worry that he might kill himself. He seems to be an old, lonely, broken man. Harming him accomplishes little. And yet, despite all that, the desire to see him suffer still burns deeply within me.

How much more would I feel if I thought that someone had killed a relative, or even my own child? And if the court had repeatedly agreed and told me that that was the guilty person. How could I ever emotionally acknowledge that I had been after the wrong person, that not only had I persecuted the wrong person, but the person who had done this terrible deed was still out there, and free? I'd like to believe that I'm a rational person so that I could make that acknowledgment. But the fact that even when it is just a cousin I still deeply desire someone to suffer in ways that help no one at all... I doubt I could do it.

To call the Kerchers evil or their desires evil is a deep failure of empathy.

If someone came up to me, and gave me the choice of making that driver die a slow painful, agonizing death I'd probably say yes. It would be wrong. Deeply wrong. But the emotion is that strong I don't know if I could override it.

You're talking about killing that driver. The actual villain in the story. I don't have any particular problem with vengeance, I often advocate it. But that's an entirely different to killing Mortimer Q. Snodgrass, who lives at 128 Ordinary Ln. just because... well... you really want to kill somebody. This isn't even a case of finding a different driver who also happens to be reckless and likely to kill people like your friend. This is choosing to kill someone with a AAA driving rating who you have no reason at all to suspect is dangerous.

To call the Kerchers evil is a deep failure of empathy.

Even leaving aside the difference between saying that a behavior resolves as evil and calling a person evil I suggest it is you who is failing at empathy here (partially as a result of the aforementioned simple comprehension error). I am empathizing here with all the victims of blatantly irrational persecution. The lives destroyed because people use their social influence to make their community destroy others because of their own willful stupidity.

If I hear a story of a father going out and killing his daughter's murderer I would shrug, have no particular moral judgement and definitely not call the act evil but still advocate a minor prison sentence purely for pragmatic reasons. But when if that same parent started publicly declaring that somebody should be punished when no evidence supports that theory and he is being entirely stupid then I would call the act evil. Because while the damage done to innocents is amortized (sometimes it outright causes them to be killed, sometimes it does nothing) it is still a massively toxic and dangerous thing on average caused by features of my species that I detest.

I think I can resolve this. JoshuaZ would almost definitely admit that they were being irrational. What he disagrees with is you going further and calling it disgraceful and evil.

So what's the difference? He seems to have pinpointed the former term as implying that they're trying to do harm, and the latter one as adding a whole slew of extra layers of incompetence or idiocy. He argued that they aren't targeting somebody they think is innocent (thus they're not "evil"), and that their failure of irrationality was understandable (therefore not "disgraceful"). That's it.

He disagreed with you by arguing that their behavior isn't intentionally bad (as "evil" seems to imply), and that it's much more excusable than what "disgraceful" seems to connote. But you on the other hand seem to be using these terms not to make them sound like they want to harm an innocent person or are stupider than they are, but simply to stress just how destructive this sort of behavior is and can be.

As often is the case, the disagreement seems to boil down to simple miscommunication. If I'm right in my (somewhat cursory) assessment, then there's no actual difference of opinion, and this is just yet another mundane example of the words getting in the way.

As often is the case, the disagreement seems to boil down to simple miscommunication. If I'm right in my (somewhat cursory) assessment, then there's no actual difference of opinion, and this is just yet another mundane example of the words getting in the way.

There is a difference in actual opinion. It is not excessively important right now given how little power we have over this scenario. It would become important if we were, for example, choosing where the law should place the boundary of 'libel' and related laws.

He argued that they aren't targeting somebody they think is innocent (thus they're not "evil"), and that their failure of irrationality was understandable (therefore not "disgraceful"). That's it.

That's a big 'it'. I understand why humans do an awful lot of the things they do and quite often empathize with them. It's understandable for people to want other people's stuff, have sex and to eliminate rivals, for example. That doesn't make the behaviours involved less disgraceful or necessary to prevent.

So what's the difference? He seems to have pinpointed the former term as implying that they're trying to do harm, and the latter one as adding a whole slew of extra layers of incompetence or idiocy.

They are trying to do harm. They are trying to destroy the lives of some scapegoats.

There is a difference in actual opinion. It is not excessively important right now given how little power we have over this scenario. It would become important if we were, for example, choosing where the law should place the boundary of 'libel' and related laws.

I don't understand how the second two sentences support the first.

That's a big 'it'. I understand why humans do an awful lot of the things they do and quite often empathize with them. It's understandable for people to want other people's stuff, have sex and to eliminate rivals, for example. That doesn't make the behaviours involved less disgraceful or necessary to prevent.

What's "disgraceful" mean to you? To JoshuaZ it meant unusually idiotic and irrational. He argued that this isn't the case; it's very usual ("understandable").

I assume you mean something else by "disgraceful" (very destructive and necessary to prevent or whatever), thus as often is the case the disagreement boils down to miscommunication by both parties.

They are trying to do harm. They are trying to destroy the lives of some scapegoats.

No, they're trying to destroy the lives of who they think murdered their daughter. That's certainly not a case of trying to harm who they think an innocent person (which is the ordinary interpretation of "evil" and how JoshuaZ seems to have interpreted it).

Notice how the perspective changes in your sentence:

They are trying to destroy the lives

This is from their perspective. It's a statement about their state of mind: they want to destroy these people's lives.

some scapegoats

But now it's from your point of view. It's a statement about your state of mind: they're innocent people being targeted for emotional reasons (or more precisely, people with no or not enough evidence against them to be criminalized).

A statement that stays on their perspective (as opposed to quietly switching to yours at the end) would read like this: "They are trying to destroy the lives of the people who they think brutally murdered their daughter." And with that it loses the "evil" flavor and picks up one much more mundane (though perhaps equally as destructive): "irrational".

Or at least that's how I use the word "evil". You're free to use it differently such that it would apply, but then your disagreement with me and JoshuaZ would evaporate into a fog of semantics (as many or most do).

There is a difference in actual opinion. It is not excessively important right now given how little power we have over this scenario. It would become important if we were, for example, choosing where the law should place the boundary of 'libel' and related laws.

I don't understand how the second two sentences support the first.

They aren't supposed to. Try reading again without that assumption.

I assume you mean something else by "disgraceful"

"Shockingly unacceptable" or "shameful".

(very destructive and necessary to prevent or whatever), thus as often is the case the disagreement boils down to miscommunication by both parties.

And the gist of my last reply was that there is actually slightly more to the (unimportant) disagreement than miscommunication even though it is nice when things work out that way.

Notice how the perspective changes in your sentence:

I am fully aware of the relevance of perspective and repeat that 'sincere' false beliefs don't carry nearly as much moral weight with me as excuses these days. Please refer to Robin Hanson and 'Homo Hypocritus' for more information.

They aren't supposed to. Try reading again without that assumption.

OK. The disagreement might be instructive in some way though. I doubt anybody involved in this thought this disagreement on this forum was relevant for the actual parties involved.

BTW, you might want to add a "though" or something to the second sentence next time you say something similar: "It is not excessively important right now though given how little power we have over this scenario". Or a "but": "But it is not excessively important right now given how little power we have over this scenario."

The reason is that my misunderstanding was not atypical. Statements directly next to each other often imply that sort of relationship. A conjunction ("but", "though", "and", or whatever) would be necessary to make sure the reader knew the second two sentences weren't supposed to support the first.

"Shockingly unacceptable" or "shameful".

In comparison to what? Normal human behavior?

And the gist of my last reply was that there is actually slightly more to the (unimportant) disagreement than miscommunication even though it is nice when things work out that way.

And the gist of my reply to your last reply was that I disagree with that. Review it if necessary.

I am fully aware of the relevance of perspective and repeat that 'sincere' false beliefs don't carry nearly as much moral weight with me as excuses these days. Please refer to Robin Hanson and 'Homo Hypocritus' for more information.

I was making a semantic point, not a moral one. Your perspective-shifting sentence made it seem like the ordinary definition of "evil" fit, but making the perspective stay on them showed that it didn't.

Saying that their actions are evil whether intentionally harmful to innocents or not isn't a moral point that requires a citation; it's merely an idiosyncratic definition.

Saying that their actions are evil whether intentionally harmful to innocents or not isn't a moral point that requires a citation; it's merely an idiosyncratic definition.

I disagree strongly with both your argument and conclusion. Self delusion is not a get-out-of-ever-being-immoral free card. (Unlike most of the rest of this whole conversation tree) this point is a hugely important one to me and does not rely on idiosyncratic definitions.

If you are considering a species which is capable of constructing sincere but false beliefs for pragmatic purposes basing a morality entirely around whether individuals 'believe' they are doing something wrong is outright absurd!

I disagree strongly with both your argument and conclusion. Self delusion is not a get-out-of-ever-being-immoral free card.

I don't see how the second sentence supports the first. I certainly wouldn't declare that self-delusion is a "get-out-of-ever-being-immoral free card" either, though the word "moral" is such a fast-moving target that I don't think I would even use it in the first place.

If you are considering a species which is capable of constructing sincere but false beliefs for pragmatic purposes basing a morality entirely around whether individuals 'believe' they are doing something wrong is outright absurd!

I'm certainly not doing that. Again the disagreement proves ephemeral. From the beginning I was simply clarifying that you and JoshuaZ were interpreting the two key terms differently ("disgraceful" and "evil"), which led to a fake disagreement.

This conversation was originally about whether their behavior was "disgraceful" and "evil" (which it was under your definitions but wasn't under JoshuaZ's), but now you've switched to arguing that self-deluded, socially destructive behavior is in fact nevertheless immoral. Well I guess I would agree with that, and I don't see why JoshuaZ wouldn't either.

So you agree their behavior is immoral but not that it is "evil"? Isn't this just a matter of degree?

I actually wasn't taking sides on which definition of "evil" to use. I usually try to avoid that word anyway because of its propensity to stir emotion.

It could be a matter of degree. Indeed, wedrifid seems to be using it that way. But JoshuaZ seemed to be interpreting it differently: to mean that the Kerchers didn't in fact sincerely believe that Knox and Sollecito murdered their daughter.

In other words, to wedrifid "evil" describes the act and its potential consequences, but to JoshuaZ it connotes their state of mind. The whole "disagreement" is nothing more than a miscommunication. Or so I have been arguing.

But now wedrifid is talking about an entirely new term: "moral". I have no pet definition for this term, and he seems to be making a good point in saying, "considering a species which is capable of constructing sincere but false beliefs for pragmatic purposes basing a morality entirely around whether individuals 'believe' they are doing something wrong is outright absurd", so I agreed.

I interpreted Wedrifid's usage of the term "evil" as roughly, "very, very immoral". I would be surprised if anyone would disagree that one has a moral duty to know as much as possible the true facts of a matter before going about destroying someone else due to those facts. So in so far as the Kerchers have failed to know what is going on (completely failed) they have (completely) failed to be moral.

It's understandable for people to want other people's stuff, have sex and to eliminate rivals, for example. That doesn't make the behaviours involved less disgraceful or necessary to prevent.

Guessing I'm misunderstanding-- but do you mean to say that having sex is disgraceful and needs to be prevented?

Guessing I'm misunderstanding-- but do you mean to say that having sex is disgraceful and needs to be prevented?

Um... imagine the syntax resolves to something like:

It's understandable for people to want {other people's stuff, have sex and to eliminate rivals}. Which is a delicate way of saying that desires to steal, rape and murder are understandable. I didn't say rape because it is dangerous to even admit to 'understanding' or 'empathizing with desires to do awful things' in the same sentence as rape even in the context of saying things are disgraceful, evil and to be prevented.

Some of the things humans do to get sex are disgraceful things. Like rape, abuse of power, status games, killing sexual rivals, that sort of thing.

They are trying to do harm. They are trying to destroy the lives of some scapegoats.

What specific behavior are you referring to?

What specific behavior are you referring to?

The model of the reaction of the Kercher family as presented by JoshuaZ and sound bites presented by linked news sources who want to say exciting things. Any relationship to the behaviour of actual Kercher's should be considered mostly coincidental.

OK, I understand you are reacting to the media's model of the reaction, provided with the sound bytes. However, there didn't seem to be anything there. Their comments were pretty bland.

Being disappointed and shocked about and disbelieving of a verdict doesn't seem harmful. What am I missing?

You're talking about killing that driver. The actual villain in the story. I don't have any particular problem with vengeance, I often advocate it. But that's an entirely different to killing Mortimer Q. Snodgrass, who lives at 128 Ordinary Ln. just because... well... you really want to kill somebody. This isn't even a case of finding a different driver who also happens to be reckless and likely to kill people like your friend. This is choosing to kill someone with a AAA driving rating who you have no reason at all to suspect is dangerous.

Not to the Kerchers. It doesn't seem that way to them at all. As far as they are concerned, Amanda Knox killed Meredith. And they have evidence and multiple court rulings that agree with them.

Even leaving aside the difference between saying that a behavior resolves as evil and calling a person evil I suggest it is you who is failing at empathy here (partially as a result of the aforementioned simple comprehension error).

There's a slight issue here in that I changed my wording slightly after I posted the comment so that I referred to the Kerchers and their desires. I think that this is a fair response since the subject of your verb is "wanting". I don't think you are appreciating the epistemological issue here. They believe, quite sincerely that Amanda Knox is guilty. They are almost certainly wrong in that belief. But they don't have a desire to harm a random person.

I am empathizing here with all the victims of blatantly irrational persecution. The lives destroyed because people use their social influence to make their community destroy others because of their own willful stupidity.

How much of that stupidity is willful and how much is just deep cognitive issues that would ensnare almost any human? This isn't akin to Joseph Priestly trying desperately to think of any hypothesis he could to defend phlogiston becuase that's his preferred hypothesis.

There may be a communication issue here in that your sentence starting "wanting" seemed to be the main jumping off point of my comment. I interpreted that as referring to the desire not any relevant act, since well, wanting is an emotional state.

Not to the Kerchers. It doesn't seem that way to them at all. As far as they are concerned, Amanda Knox killed Meredith.

I don't place as much moral weight as I once did on what people believe. This is heavily influenced by an improved model of what relationships beliefs have with behavior and instinct. In humans. There really was a time when I considered self deception a worthwhile excuse for subsequent bad behavior rather than just what it often takes for us to get away with what we are motivated to do anyway.

If we are going to have any success at things like raising the sanity waterline, we need to understand how and when human reasoning fails. And we need to appreciate how much that depends on circumstances. In the same way that almost any of us if we were born in the US in 1810 would have been in favor of slavery, and almost any of us born in 1930 would have been against interracial marriage, it is important to understand that we don't have some magic gift of rationality. If one of us were in the same situation as the Kerchers, we'd likely react the same way, and I'd go so far as to say that even someone as highly rational as most LWians with all the experience and awareness of cognitive biases would still likely react the same way.

To destroy bias we must understand it.

There really was a time when I considered self deception a worthwhile excuse for subsequent bad behavior rather than just what it often takes for us to get away with what we are motivated to do anyway.

I don't see a motivation that the Kerchers would be motivated to harm Amanda Knox other than their belief that she killed their daughter. In this context, what do you think is the underlying motive that they are engaging in self-deception to accomplish?

I don't see a motivation that the Kerchers would be motivated to harm Amanda Knox other than their belief that she killed their daughter. In this context, what do you think is the underlying motive that they are engaging in self-deception to accomplish?

They -- and their lawyer -- have a pecuniary incentive to seek a verdict against Knox and Sollecito, since it would entail the imposition of monetary damages in the millions of euros. Needless to say, Rudy Guédé's financial rescources are almost certainly not comparable to those of Knox and Sollecito (even though the latter two aren't themselves extraordinarily wealthy).

Of course, this probably doesn't directly pass into their conscious motivation; but it still likely affects their judgement.

In the same way that almost any of us if we were born in the US in 1810 would have been in favor of slavery

Did most American citizens really support slavery then? Most Northerners and many Southerners opposed it, especially from the 1830's onward.

I don't see a motivation that the Kerchers would be motivated to harm Amanda Knox other than their belief that she killed their daughter. In this context, what do you think is the underlying motive that they are engaging in self-deception to accomplish?

I can't speak for wedrifid, obviously, but the one that immediately suggests itself to me is the desire for satisfaction and closure- it's more comforting to believe Amanda Knox killed their daughter than some random stranger they know nothing about who may or may not ever be caught.

it's more comforting to believe Amanda Knox killed their daughter than some random stranger they know nothing about who may or may not ever be caught.

The random stranger was caught within a month: his name is Rudy Guédé, and he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the crime.

Oh. Oops. (Reads up on trial.) In that case, the only vaguely credible hypothesis I can see is some kind of unconscious consistency effect / sunk costs fallacy thing, where recanting a belief that has been proven to be mistaken is perceived as tremendously more costly and difficult than it actually is. Or something. Maybe wedrifid could clarify what he meant?

According to the motivation document from Guédé's appeal trial, it was reduced due to mitigating circumstances (difficult childhood, intended to turn himself in, apologized to Kercher family for "not coming to Meredith's aid").

I don't think that sentence is that far off what I'd expect in Italy. In general, prison sentences in most of Western Europe are much shorter than they are in the US.

I think it's believed that the crime had to have been committed by more than one person, so now they do have to deal with not having caught/convicted Guede's accomplice(s), whoever that is.

I think it's believed that the crime had to have been committed by more than one person

No; that theory is subscribed to almost exclusively by people who believe Knox and Sollecito are guilty. Knox and Sollecito's defense argued (almost certainly correctly) that Guédé acted alone.

There really was a time when I considered self deception a worthwhile excuse for subsequent bad behavior rather than just what it often takes for us to get away with what we are motivated to do anyway.

So...in your opinion, the Kerchers are so motivated to cause harm to an innocent young woman that they have deceived themselves into believing she is guilty of the murder of their daughter, so that they can get away with it? Why? What exactly is the point of that? I suppose if you really think their daughter's death has made them want to kill random innocent people, the whole "evil" angle is more understandable, but that hypothesis really does not make sense to me.

So...in your opinion, the Kerchers are so motivated to cause harm to an innocent young woman that they have deceived themselves into believing she is guilty of the murder of their daughter, so that they can get away with it?

No. Not even remotely.

Now is perhaps not the best time to attempt a detailed high quality discussion of all the various motivating factors behind seeking skapegoats.

No. Not even remotely.

Ok, well, bad guess on my part, then.

Now is perhaps not the best time to attempt a detailed high quality discussion of all the various motivating factors behind seeking scapegoats.

Indeed I don't see much motivation to seek out a scapegoat in a case where the real killer has been found and convicted.

I'm just saying...maybe they're just wrong? Sometimes that happens?

My interpretation of Wedrifid's point here is something along the lines of:

If you are going to advocate the kind of punishment sought against Amanda Knox, you have an obligation to hold yourself to high epistemic standards.

The evidence used to convict her fell so far short of that as to constitute dangerous negligence.

I don't know about how the word "evil" should be wired up in our minds, but I do think that callously disapproving of the negligence is an appropriate reaction to have, and if I view use of the word "evil" as a part of that, I'm okay with it.

This would make Wedrifid's position understandable to me, which is otherwise mysterious. OK... updated.

If someone came up to me, and gave me the choice of making that driver die a slow painful, agonizing death I'd probably say yes. It would be wrong. Deeply wrong. But the emotion is that strong; I don't know if I could override it.

Even if a man's life is at stake? Come on, it's not a place to express modesty before the drives of nature.

upvoted for empathy remark, but I don't know JoshuaZ, a "slow painful, agonizing death" for a mistake sounds too vengeful to me..

Of course it does. There's no way that the driver deserved that in any sane moral system, or for that matter almost any moral system post the Middle Ages. It is a terribly vengeful, horrific desire. It scares me that I can have that sort of desire in me. I'm very much not in any way advocating that this is a good thing. The argument is solely that if one feels this way over a death from negligence what it must be like to respond to a death due to deliberate action?

The argument is solely that if one feels this way over a death from negligence what it must be like to respond to a death due to deliberate action?

Perhaps incredibly difficult to be rational in such a situation. Accordingly, I'd down-grade wedrifid's assessment of their behavior from "disgraceful" and "evil" to merely irrational and incompetent.

Have you given up trying to get these kinds of emotions to fall in line with your conscious beliefs? Perhaps the Kerchers aren't evil, but are simply irrational and incompetent in this respect.

Have you given up trying to get these kinds of emotions to fall in line with your conscious beliefs? Perhaps the Kerchers aren't evil, but are simply irrational and incompetent in this respect.

No, I'd like these feelings to go away. And I tried to learn more about the life of the driver as an effort to lessen those feelings. But I have a lot of advantages over the Kerchers. I don't have any doubt that the driver had a year long prison sentence and will never have a license ever again. I have only an emotional problem. The Kerchers have a much deeper emotional problem that also distorts their epistemology. That's a much tougher situation to be in.

The Kerchers are being irrational and incompetent, but it is a degree of irrationality and incompetence that I'd expect to apply to most humans in similar situations. And there's a very big difference between "evil" and just "irrational and incometent." It is I think a difference that is worth appreciating.

Anybody care to explain the 2 down-votes? I was trying to figure out how to show that I read it but wasn't planning on responding further, and I figured that signalling my appreciation for his response would be an adequate way in this circumstance. Perhaps not though.

It tends to frustrate me when I'm waiting for a response and can't figure out whether (1) they aren't planning on one, or (2) they're just taking a while. This is one of my first attempts to get some practice saving people from that annoyance, but apparently it didn't go very well.

Explanations on why this was down-voted, or suggestions on a better way to go about this next time, would be appreciated.

I suspect that a comment that had some minimal comment other than just an upvote note might have been better received. Examples would be something like "I understand your position. Upvoted." or just "That makes sense. Thanks for clarifying." Although I did make a comment that was almost identical to the second one a while ago that got downvoted.

Edit: See for example this comment by Pedanterrific which seems to have been intended to have a similar goal set.

Thanks. I guess a possible reason why it wasn't well-received was because maybe it read as "Hopefully he'll trade rep with me =D" or something. Perhaps any upvote declaration would suffer from that, but especially one that doesn't have any other content to distract from it or warrant an upvote on its own.

Something like that. A post just saying 'upvote' seemed astonishingly pointless to me, and thus "the sort of thing I would prefer to see less of on Less Wrong", but your explanation was perfectly satisfactory so I reversed my vote (down to up).

I find this sort of thing happens a lot- the first couple downvotes can usually be mitigated by a clarifying edit.

To me, the part of this comment that smacks of empathy failure is where you say "That their daughter has died is very little excuse." Short of organic disease, the murder of one's child is about as good an excuse for irrationality as a human can possibly offer.

To me, the part of this comment that smacks of empathy failure is where you say "That their daughter has died is very little excuse."

My original version (which I truncated because the comment was getting too large) was perhaps more clear. It explained that it is an excuse in a similar way to "he was abused as a child" is an excuse to abuse children when an adult. It kind of explains it a little and perhaps warrants a lesser punishment but it doesn't directly justify it. This is distinct from the more direct kind of excuse like "self defense", "they had been abusing me consistently" or "they killed my daughter and I was getting revenge" where the actual behaviour is closer to being the right thing to do in the circumstances.

The above was condensed into 'very little' because I sometimes manage to refrain from exploring all tangents.

And the accepted length of childhood is once again incremented...

Edit: Parent comment is no longer phrased so as to carry this implication.

Different meanings of child. To parents someone is always their child no matter how old they are. This is a distinct notion of child as in "human below the age of maturity". Child in this sense means closer to genetic/memetic offspring that they have raised.

One of the most interesting and tragic things about this is how Kercher's family has reacted very negatively...If I were (Omega forbid) in a similar situation, I suspect that I'd react very similarly to the Kercher family.

So, what might we do -- as in what cognitive strategies should we employ -- to prevent falling into such a trap?

So, what might we do -- as in what cognitive strategies should we employ -- to prevent falling into such a trap?

Well, being aware of this issue would be an obvious thing. A lot of dealing with cognitive biases is simply being aware that they exist. And if one has any belief that is at all controversial it helps to ask every so often "why do I actually believe this?" This is especially the case as new evidence emerges or experts change their opinions.

I'm not sure we can do a very good job at avoiding this sort of trap. The level of rationality required is extremely high. Being a less vengeful person in general might help. Maybe there's some good that comes out of this. If one is ever in a similar situation just think about the Kerchers and realize that one is likely not in a circumstance to judge things well.

Only think about these things while in a dissociative state. That could be under the influence of some drugs; the other ways I know to do that are to be in a fight or a car accident.

What's the rational response to the wrongful death of a loved one?

Get high, drive fast and pick fights

Whatever you say, Mr Durden.

How have they reacted negatively?

We respect the decision of the judges but we do not understand how the decision of the first trial could be so radically overturned,

I completely agree. It's hard to understand and it's hard to believe that such a serious, important verdict can switch like that.

It can really make you feel bitter about the judicial system, and skeptical about it's ability to reliably root out the truth, so I think Kercher's family is doing great with being able to say this:

"We still trust the Italian judicial system and hope that the truth will eventually emerge."

Or was there something else?

(By the way, I couldn't understand how the verdict was guilty to begin with. But from the point of view of the parents, not only would it have been too much to ask them to look rationally and independently at the evidence with respect to Knox's guilt to determine on their own there likely wasn't enough evidence -- grieving parents may be dependent on the judicial system for that -- they would have been deeply hurt from anything the accused did to hinder the case. I expect the parents would have seen their evasions as much more malicious than we would. If Amanda was a friend how could she have not told the complete truth from the beginning? Etc.)

As the article also notes, they became very emotional when they announcement was made. That article may not have been the best example article to use. This one has more quotes from family members.

They include:

“It is ludicrous. How can they ignore all the other evidence. I thought the judge might play it safe and uphold the ­conviction but reduce the sentence. But this result is crazy."

and

“It makes a mockery of the original trial. We are all shocked, we could ­understand them reducing the sentence but completely freeing them, wow."

There doesn't seem to be any indication that the family has been at all shaken in their absolute certainty that Knox is guilty.

That is a better article, but I still don't think the parents are disgraceful based on that. They just believed the first verdict.

Which I believe is the point of a verdict. It's supposed to mean the accused are guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The parents followed the first trial, believed in it, and were of course emotionally invested in its validity.

It also sounds like they just need more time. They are in shock and don't know what to think:

What happens now? Does that mean the police have to look for more killers?

The poor grieving parents. They have to start back from square one. They'll be needing a few months, not hours.

It makes a mockery of the original trial. We are all shocked, we could understand reducing the sentence but completely freeing them, wow.

No kidding.

I'm glad they're 'completely freed' but how can such two 180 degree verdicts even happen?

how can such two 180 degree verdicts even happen?

This isn't so rare, is it? That's what appeals are for.

In this context, the new ruling was not just that there was insufficient evidence but (as I understand it) that she likely had not done it. I don't fully understand the distinction in the Italian system but in the American system at least appeals don't generally do that sort of thing.

In this context, the new ruling was not just that there was insufficient evidence but (as I understand it) that she likely had not done it.

This is being widely reported, but my own understanding is that this cannot actually be determined until the motivation document is published.

(Regarding the Kerchers, you will want to see this comment.)

What happens now? Does that mean the police have to look for more killers?

I'm a bit confused that they are so confused. Guede's verdict is still guilty. How in the process of the appeal were they not introduced to the notion that their daughter could simply have been killed by one person without co conspirators?

How in the process of the appeal were they not introduced to the notion that their daughter could simply have been killed by one person without co conspirators?

The same way they avoided being introduced to it during the first-level trial: by not listening to the defense arguments.

That, it occurs to me, was their mistake, and is why they are in my opinion fully worthy of criticism for the stance they have taken. From the beginning, they appear to have only gotten their information through prosecution filters. (They admit as much when they speak of having to trust the police; but they didn't have to trust the police -- they could have attended the trial and listened to the arguments, which they didn't do.) It isn't that they can't be excused for feeling harshly toward the people they believe killed their daughter/sister; it's that they shouldn't have allowed themselves to become convinced that Knox and Sollecito killed her without listening to what Knox and Sollecito's attorneys had to say first.

(Indeed, I find it somewhat telling that they flew in in time to hear the verdict, but not to hear Knox and Sollecito address the court earlier the same day.)

Good question. The father actually answers it in one of the handful of quotes given by the press. They were convinced by the prosecution that the crime could not have been committed by one person -- this was probably a key component of Knox and Sollecito's initial guilty verdict. The father said,

There were 47 wounds on Meredith and two knives used. One person couldn’t possibly have done that.

I think it is a good sign that in his confusion, the father is clinging to facts. I think it is a matter of time before they see things more clearly. Despite their emotional state, the parents seem to have a better than average relationship with epistemology.

I find it odd that the prosecution would ever have claimed that one person couldn't possibly have done that. I mean, it's their job to find reasons to believe in the guilt of the defendants, but a simple review of murder cases committed with knives should be able to dispense with that. I've only read several, but one of the things that surprised me was the sheer number of times which the perpetrators frequently stabbed the victim. In one case that I read, the murderer stabbed the victim over 90 times.

I suspect that murderers often continue in a panic or frenzy when they discover how hard it is to get their victim to die. An inexperienced knife wielder against a struggling victim can easily stab the victim dozens of times without inflicting a single individually fatal wound.