It's useful to meet the argument that torture works with the facts: actually, there is not much evidence
that it does. In the end, however, the question is not whether torture is ever useful but whether it is morally permissible.
Theories of change vary widely. Does progress arise from
countless participants, working in countless places and ways? Does it require
an organized movement? How critical are public, influential leaders? At what
point is there a need for precedent to be set from the top down?
In 1838 the Jesuits who ran Georgetown University sold 272 slaves in order to keep the school afloat. The college relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to finance the school, and slaves were sometimes given to the Jesuits by parishioners. The sale of the slaves in 1838 would be worth $3.3 million today. The university is considering what, if anything, it owes the descendants of those slaves. Richard Cellini, a Georgetown alumnus and CEO of a technology firm, has established a nonprofit organization and hired eight genealogists to track down those slaves and their descendants. A university group is also studying how Georgetown could make amends for its involvement in slavery (New York Times, April 16).