Two years ago Richard Kachkar stole a snow plow and began driving it down the streets of suburban Toronto. In the process he struck and killed police sergeant Ryan Russell. On March 27, 2013 Kachkar was found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.
Philosophically the verdict is interesting. On the one hand, the evidence presented at trial — including the testimony of three independent expert witnesses — strongly indicates that the verdict was the correct one and Kachkar was indeed clinically insane and so not legally responsible. And so we have:
(1) A clinically insane person is not culpable for his harmful actions.
This seems right. And insofar as Kachkar was clinically insane he is to that extent absolved of legal and moral responsibility.
On the other hand you have the response of Russell’s grieving widow who spoke to the media following the verdict and observed:
“I imagine like most people I was very disappointed …. Ryan deserved a lot better than this.”
Mrs. Russell’s comment suggests a different analysis. I think she might well recognize in principle that insane people should not be held responsible for their actions. But even so she might reason:
(2) When a clinically insane person acts some person is culpable for his harmful actions.
We can call the intuition behind (2) the culpability intuition.
I resonate with the intuitive draw both of (1) and (2). It seems wrong to act punitively against an insane person. But it still seems intuitively right that somebody should be held culpable for their actions.
So then the question is who?
You might think it makes sense to blame another human being, perhaps Kachkar’s doctor or legally appointed care giver or ex-wife or parent. Some human person must be responsible for his actions.
The problem is that it may very well be that no human person is culpable for the actions of a clinically insane individual like Kachkar. And this means that appeal to human persons is insufficient to account for the intuition expressed in (2). Hence:
(3) Human persons cannot satisfy the culpability intuition.
(4) Therefore, a non-human person is culpable for the harmful actions of clinically insane persons.
Now what kind of non-human person could satisfy this description? I propose:
(5) God is the best candidate to satisfy the culpability intuition that some person is culpable for the harmful actions of clinically insane persons
(6) Therefore, God exists.
Now this is a rough form of argument and would need much polishing before I would roll it out onto the show room floor. But it seems to me that God satisfies neatly the intuitions behind (1) and (2).
Here’s another example. In 2008 a man on a Greyhound bus in Canada stood up, walked over to a young man named Tim McLean, and attacked him without warning. McLean’s attacker, Vince Weiguang Li, eventually decapitated the young man to the unbelievable horror of others on the bus. And then he proceeded to desecrate the body, even cannibalizing it. Li was found clinically insane and thus held not culpable. But if our intuitions call for some culpability in the case of Kachkar they scream for justice in the death of Tim McLean, and yet there is no direction toward which we can direct our moral protests unless God exists.
I grant that this may seem counterintuitive to argue for God’s existence by our very resolve to bring a case against God. But then have you ever read the book of Job? Part of the Judeo-Christian experience of God is the natural impulse to bring to God our pleas for justice, our grief at inexplicable loss, and our desire that the world be finally set to rights. But such a drive only makes sense if there is a God to heed our calls.