WTF Is Wrong With These People?


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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124 Responses

  1. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    That is so wrong. Turtles are my favorite animal, as anyone could tell by spending even a minute in my office, car, or home. I can’t believe people would be so cruel.Report

  2. Avatar Glyph says:

    A couple things:

    1.) This “student” is a complete and total idiot both to have performed this “experiment”, and to have told people about it. Putting an object “in the middle of a lane on a busy road” is at minimum a driving distraction; if people attempt to avoid (or, squish) the fake turtle, and end up causing an accident, this dude would be liable in my mind.

    2.) I don’t doubt that there are some sadists out there. But it is at least possible that some of the drivers who swerved and hit the “turtle” were in fact attempting to avoid it. I myself have run over small road debris with my tire while attempting to avoid it; something about speed and perspective can cause you to think that turning the wheel will cause you to miss the object, when in fact had you simply left the wheel straight the object would have passed underneath the car.

    I also can’t find this right now, but IIRC it is also well-known that drivers can tend to drift towards whatever they are looking at – sometimes this can be oncoming traffic, sometimes a police car off to the side of the road with flashing lights – with catastrophic results. It’s not implausible to me that the unexpected turtle in the road caused such a drift in some cases.

    IOW, without interviewing the people who ran over the turtle, we can’t assume malice (obviously, even then, the drivers could lie).

    But we can sure assume idiocy on the part of the student.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      At least one person crossed the Yellow Line. That, in my book, says they did it on purpose.
      Where I come from, you Don’t Do That.

      Yes, I’m that bad driver who probably would run over the baby chicks while trying to avoid them.
      Yes, I’ve drifted towards things I’ve been looking at (while horseback riding, but the principle applies).

      But it takes a good bit more than “stupid” to cross the yellow line.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Again, drivers, particularly novice drivers (say, students near a college?), have a tendency to drift towards oncoming traffic – which is, of course, over the yellow line – sometimes with catastrophic results.…/teaching-your-teen-to-drive.pdf

        I don’t deny some are probably sadists (or at least, indulged in a momentary sadistic impulse, somewhat akin to squishing an ant for no reason, which everyone has done). But some may not have been.

        And the student who performed this “experiment” should be reprimanded, at the very least – even if someone crossed the yellow line with the malicious intent to squish a (fake, let’s recall) turtle, that’s no reason to give them, or the person they hit head-on, a death sentence.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          There’s been nothing to suggest that he wasn’t doing this in a “reasonably” low-speed traffic area, in daylight.

          Also, there are 34 people in class willing to admit to running over a box turtle maliciously.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            Um, the article “suggests” the danger:

            “Weaver put a realistic rubber turtle in the middle of a lane on a busy road near campus.”

            You cannot intentionally place objects in public roadways. Particularly busy ones.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Not disputing that. Simply disputing the “death sentence” you’re so willing to ascribe as a potential consequence.

              I’ve been in enough life-threatening situations with a car… a piece of trash in the middle of the road is a “reasonably likely event”. You ought to know what to do about it.

              The kid does need a lecture on “why this could have hurt someone”Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                A (perceived) live animal in the road, right or wrong, is an unexpected event; almost by definition, since it can reasonably be expected to move unpredictably and of its own volition.

                This wasn’t a Coke can.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Beside a playground? Dude, if you aren’t expecting a live animal in the road, or at least prepared for that possibility, you ought not to be driving near playgrounds.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                If you are not driving with the expectation, and plans for, unexpected events of this nature, you ought not to be driving at all.

                I live in Pennsylvania. 1 in 40 cars gets hit by a deer every year. Trust me, if you don’t drive as if there could be a live (and deadly) animal in front of you, you’re a fool.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Of course drivers should be prepared for unexpected situations.

                That doesn’t mean that we can intentionally CREATE same, and not be liable.

                I am not sure why you are conflating these concepts.Report

              • For what it’s worth, I’m going to jump in on Glyph’s side here. My initial reaction to the story was the same as most, but Glyph’s got me convinced that regardless of the study’s findings, it was at minimum incredibly irresponsible of the driver.

                I recall a very similar study from a few months ago, but the experiment in that case used a barren, flat stretch of road with little traffic and few, if any, hazards such that there wasn’t much danger from a car running off the road. This is different, though – you’ve got a purportedly busy stretch of road on or near a college campus (read: lots of comparatively inattentive and/or inexperienced drivers) on a curve (albeit not a blind one) with a good number of trees and an embankment nearby.

                You’re putting a hazard in the road, with the hope – indeed, expectation – that the hazard will in some way alter people’s behavior, either causing them to swerve and miss the turtle or swerve and hit the turtle. True, similar hazards are not uncommon, but they’re also not so common as to be devoid of additional risk. A complete stranger should not be going out of his way to introduce this additional risk, however small, into people’s lives without their knowledge.

                I understand that the study may wind up serving a legitimate purpose in the long run, but there are ways of doing this that would have been much better designed.

                I’d also note that by putting this on a curve, however slight, the student probably made any problems of speed and perspective significantly greater.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                it was at minimum incredibly irresponsible of the driver.


              • D’oh! Yeah, “researcher,” not “driver.”Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I think it’s interesting that some people’s reaction to this (my own included) is to more or less uncritically assume that people are intentionally running over the turtle. It’s good to point out that alternative explanations exist. I’m not sure the data (if accurately reported in the article) support the alternative explanation as the article refers to people driving over divider lines before running over the plastic turtle. But it is wise to remember and consider things more charitably if that is reasonable to do.

      I also think it’s interesting that you would aim as much venom at the student researcher as you did, Glyph. If I uncharitably presumed too much about the drivers (I blame my profession which exposes me to really awful behavior by people) then perhaps a similarly uncharitable reaction to the researcher suggests something else about those whose response is to not only criticize the data but to pillory the data-gatherer too.Report

      • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

        I just watched the clip, didn’t read the article, but seems to me the study is relevant regardless of the motive of the drivers — though motive is an especially interesting angle.

        We have a “rule 1” at the firm: People are just no damn good.Report

        • Avatar Miss Mary says:

          Note to self: don’t go into law as it will crush your optimism that all people are good. My boss says I’m gullible (which makes me want to kick her in the teeth), but I choose to call it trusting.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            This sentiment makes me cringe.
            To accept it as truth makes monsters of us all.
            I will not accept that someone who deliberately and sadistically murders someone else for their sexual pleasure is a good person.

            We cannot have a world without trust.
            But we must verify that our trust is wellfounded.
            I wish you sharp eyes and a strong heart.Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              Ya know, I’ve been reading about this sting in Chicago where federal agents were rooting out corruption in the court system. Operation Greylord. The Cook County Circuit Courts were actually found to be a criminal enterprise.

              But I’ve got to think that rooting out corruption in Chicago is like catching a tidal wave in a Dixie cup.

              But what would Chicago be without that pointless effort?Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            My boss says I’m gullible

            And you fell for that?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Burt, any responsible IRB should jump all over this IMO. You simply cannot place people in physical danger without their knowledge and not be at least somewhat liable. As a lawyer, I am frankly astonished you didn’t have the same immediate reaction.

        If I place an object in middle of the road, and that object is affecting unsuspecting drivers’ behavior – and they are swerving to avoid, or to squish, or even just to slow down and look – so that I can gather data as part of my “experiment” – I am endangering drivers.

        A student went to a busy road, and placed an object in the middle of it, for his own purposes. That is idiotic. He’s lucky no one got killed.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          You are 100% right on this.
          Most likely, an IRB wasn’t consulted.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          In that case, municipalities would be forking over millions related to all the wrongful death suits related to potholes.
          Meaning the danger is simply overstated.
          Because those types of damages (up to $6 million, of my own personal knowledge) are awarded for railroad crossings.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            Will H., potholes are something that happen; live turtles crossing the road are something that happen.

            I guarandamntee I cannot, as a matter of law, safety and common sense, intentionally place a distracting physical object in the middle of a public road (nor grab my jackhammer and dig a pothole, for that matter).

            If you don’t believe me, I suggest you go out and place some cones, or realistic-looking baby dolls, in the middle of the road in front of your local police or HP officer.

            Let me know how that goes.Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              I know, I know . . .
              I’ve been reading through the damages section of the jury instructions for section 1983 actions.
              This could conceivably qualify as “reprehensible conduct” for assessing punitive damages, in that it: a) was deliberately deceptive, b) repeated misconduct, which c) posed a risk to health or safety of the general public.
              The researchers acted with reckless or callous disregard or indifference to the reasonably foreseeable of risk of harm or substantially increased vulnerability to risk of great harm.

              That said, there is a duty to mitigate damages in order to recover those damages.
              Swerving is an affirmative act.
              “You made me do _____” is always a difficult proposition.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Glyph is right that this is within the zone of proximate causation.

                If X placed a hazard in the road, and Y swerved to avoid it, causing damage to Z, then Z has a more than reasonably good case for at least partial recovery as against X. That doesn’t entirely acquit Y of liability, but it’s entirely reasonable that X get a piece of it too.

                Perhaps in other circumstances, we’d acquit X of liability. But if X is the researcher (or rather, the university) and the hazard is the decoy turtle, then yes, I can totally see it.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I’ll leave the legal side of it to the esteemed Mr. Likko, but even leaving that aside – the whole point of public roadways being marked with lines, and signs, and stoplights, and rules of the road (and why cars have brake lights, and turn signals, etc., etc,), is to increase predictability and decrease unpredictability, so as to minimize misunderstandings and resulting accidents. Even with all that, s**t sometimes happens, in which case we assign fault; and sometimes it is nobody’s fault (that deer just leaped out of the bush).

                But intentionally placing a potentially-distracting object into the middle of a busy public roadway seems to be exactly the sort of thing we don’t ever want private parties doing without proper authority and safety measures (like a roadsign saying “CAUTION – ROADWORK AND/OR RUBBER TURTLES AHEAD”).Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                The problem is, while I see where the argument can be made (and especially with motorcycles), I don’t think the data supports that.
                By the time there are 19 cars rolling past without serious mishap, if no. 20 were to crash, then the issue of foreseeability is lost.
                That is, though the experiment may have been ill-conceived initially, with even a small data set (say, above 10) it gets to be an argument about why was this one person the only one distracted enough to plow down the little old lady on the sidewalk, or whatever. It’s then verified that it’s no longer a general hazard.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                What if the person stopped to rescue the turtle and caused an accident? Would that be considered a forseable action that someone might take? Then would the researcher be partly responsible?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                So if I remove a stop sign, and 19 cars don’t crash, but the 20th does, we can say he should have known better and just stopped like the previous 19 did?

                Look, if I intentionally place an object in middle of the road, I am interfering with the function of the road (to convey people safely from A to B). Any material adjustments I make to the roadway, that can carry the same problem.

                And as Just Me says, maybe someone slams on the brakes, to help the turtle. Or swerves. Or slows just enough to get rear-ended. Or is looking at the rubber turtle, and so misses the toddler that stepped into the road from the opposite side.

                Regardless of the legal aspects, I maintain this was an irresponsible thing to do. You just don’t intentionally monkey around with roads and cars, not with unsuspecting participants.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                umm… yes. I am not in favor of “it’s only okay when the government does it.” And the gov’t removes stop signs all the time.

                That said, objects in the middle of the road are NOT the same thing as removing stop signs. They are objective hazards, that the correct course of action is to avoid.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Kim, we are not talking about government actors. The researcher intentionally placed an object in the road. He is interfering with its function. My point was simply that it doesn’t matter if 19 drivers were not distracted (or not distracted sufficiently to cause an accident).

                Just like it wouldn’t matter if 19 drivers were smart enough to stop before entering the intersection anyway; if one wasn’t, and got into a crash because I, a private citizen, took it upon myself to alter the conditions of the roadway by removing a stop sign, I would be to blame.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                People throw stuff out of the windows of their cars all the time. Very few accidents caused by it.
                I’ve drove these interstates enough to know that it’s the other drivers on the road that typically pose a hazard, even with things laying out on the road.
                I never run over a plastic bag, or a paper sack– never.
                I’ve seen all sorts of animals and lumber and such in the road. The only time that I thought there was a true hazard (that wasn’t weather related) was along I-70, where I saw some bales of hay laying in the road. They had just fallen off a truck.
                That said, I’ve seen sheets of plywood flying off the back of a flatbed too. I don’t drive behind trucks, even if I have to pass on the shoulder.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Well, sure, people throw things out of their cars all the time.

                But Will, consider 2 scenarios:

                1.) Some 4×4 posts fall out of yr truck bed into the middle of the roadway. You either see this happen, and drive off anyway (either because you’re a jerk, or because you feel the additional danger/risk of stopping & getting out to remove them is too great – maybe you plan to call HP down the road), or you don’t see it, and drive off.

                2.) You intentionally stop and unload the 4×4’s in the road and hide in the bushes, so as to “see what happens when drivers encounter a pile of 4×4’s in the road”.

                Now, I suppose it’s possible these scenarios are legally equivalent (though somehow I doubt it) – but they are in no way morally equivalent.

                Put another way, if I am behind you when scenario #1 occurs, I will curse your name; but if it’s scenario #2, I may beat you with one of those 4×4’s. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Let me just say I’m surprised you are getting so much pushback on your criticism of this “researcher”. People shouldn’t deliberately place things in the road in order to provoke a response from drivers, full stop.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                We went to a concealed carry state and started throwing clay pigeons in the air. Let’s see what happens!Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Jaybird, not 100% sure where you are going with that, but if I were to draw the analogy, it’d be thus:

                A local outdoor gun range has long-established its shooting lanes, targets and lines of fire* in such a way as to ensure that shooters will not cross lines of fire and endanger each other, or the adjacent preschool.

                I decide, as an experiment, to take an object (maybe it looks like a turtle, or a bird, or a kid), and, without the knowledge or permission of the range owners or the shooters, I place it on the range, because I want to observe its interaction with shooters.

                If the presence of this unexpected and unauthorized object either draws fire (because some mistake it for a target), or causes shooters to alter their normal and prescribed and expected lines of fire to avoid it (because it looks like an innocent turtle); and either of these actions result in someone getting inadvertently shot – that is kind of my fault, no?

                * not sure if this is the correct term, but if not feel free to query me if it is not clear, or otherwise correct me.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I saw this while I was looking for something else, and figured I’d throw it up here, if only to establish the legality if not to persuade.
                But here it is, from the jury instructions from the Delaware Superior Court, 6.2 & 6.3:

                A driver must keep a vehicle under proper control. This means that the vehicle must be operated at such a speed and with such attention that the driver can stop with a reasonable degree of quickness or steer safely by objects or other vehicles on the highway, depending upon existing circumstances and the likelihood of danger to others.
                Therefore, if you find that any party failed to exercise a proper degree of control over a motor vehicle, you must find that party negligent.

                Every driver has a right to assume that others will use ordinary care and obey the rules of the road. This right continues until the driver knows, or should know, that somebody else isn’t using ordinary care or obeying the rules of the road.

                There’s also a section there on ‘No duty to anticipate negligence.’

                I’m reading this as the plastic turtle being ok between the stripes, but not within the lane of traffic.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Wouldn’t this be just as relevant?:


                Looks to me like if you can establish who left the debris in the road, and they were not the gov’t, then a negligence claim is easily possible. In this case, we can establish who did it, because he told everybody what he did.

                I think it is also instructive to look at rules concerning placement of objects in the right of way, such as mailboxes; there are varying local rules concerning how close they may be to the roadway, and their construction (=less solid, on roads where the speed limit is higher). This doesn’t speak specifically to rubber turtles, obvs. – but the general principle that private citizens may not place whatever objects they wish, on or near public roads, for safety reasons, seems well-established.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                But the question remains… if a real turtle walks his own ass into the road, can you sue his little turtle family for any accidents he causes?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                It looks like how large it is, how well anchored it is, etc. matters a lot for that type of claim; ‘contributory negligence’ at best, but that’s specifically barred as an affirmative defense in the Del. instructions.

                I would like to get a definitive word on that.
                Because I read things like this and think that maybe I oughta go get a plastic turtle and put about five big nails in it to set it right between the yellow lines.
                It wouldn’t be as if I were puncturing anyone’s tires. It’s just giving them the opportunity to self-select to do so.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                As noted by Nob below, there’s no reason to stop at just nails; go whole hog, and create an IET (Improvised Explosive Turtle).Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                That sounds single-use to me.
                I’m all about reduce, re-use, and recycle.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Kaz – nope, because his *reptile* of a tax lawyer will have helped him set up a *shell company* so as to hide his ass(ets).

                Hahahahaha!!! Oh, I kill me.

                Please…kill me.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Does he have insurance?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Sorry, I just have to reply to Burt one more time, because the implied questioning of my motives or reactions is sticking in my craw.

        I like turtles. A lot. I hope we can find ways to help box turtles. I had a gopher tortoise for a while growing up (Freddie, if you are reading this, please come home!)

        I also like science. A lot.

        Why would anything that I wrote be construed as attacking the researcher for his aims (=help turtles) or conclusions (=People Are No Damn Good, which we knew already, Science), rather than for his methods (= may have put humans in danger)?Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          Let’s get this out of the way right now. I respect you, Glyph. A lot. Absolutely and without question. Your reaction to this was quite different than mine, which I found very interesting, and I wished to explore that rather unexpected twist on things more fully.

          Please don’t imply anything other than garden-variety exploration-by-way-of-argument into my interactions with you here and if I wrote something that you took as a personal attack, I offer my apology for that. No attack was intended, then or now. FTR, I didn’t entirely appreciate your remark “As a lawyer, I am frankly astonished you didn’t have the same immediate reaction” as it implies a degree of either professional incompetence or indifference to risk on my part. But there’s something more interesting than that going on here than that and the last thing I want to get all meta. I hate meta with a distate equivalent to that which I feel for things like the act of vomiting or for telemarketers calling me on my cell phone during dinner. So please let’s not get meta here.

          My own reaction to the story is as much under glass as much as yours. Both of us have exhibited reactions that seem to me will be common to the point of typicality. And those reactions are dichotomous to the point of near incompatibility. I don’t think that’s fleshed out all the way yet. So forgive me for taking a risk of causing you further unintended anguish, but so fascinating do I find the difference in response that I want to have at least one more go at it, and to give you a response to the good questions you raised.

          So once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

          I’m skeptical that there are enough facts available to us to gauge whether the researcher did create an unreasonable risk while conducting his experiment. But I don’t want to litigate that issue, so I’ll concede it instead. What’s interesting here is not the risk or the liability or the law, it’s a question of how moral blame gets assigned.

          If the drivers are not intentionally hitting (what they think is) the turtle, they are doing so negligently. They either don’t intend to hit it but accidentally do, or they don’t see it at all and accidentally hit it. This is negligence and you are exactly, 100% right to say that we assign a much lower level of moral oppropbrium to negligence than we do to intentional acts.

          If the researcher has created an unreasonable risk of harm to others, then the researcher is also negligent. Obviously his intent is not to cause accidents, his intent is to gather data. Perhaps (I’m not clear on this so I’ll concede the point arguendo) he has done so in a way that causes an unreasonable risk, one which was foreseeable but not actualy foreseen. If so, he is guilty of the same moral transgression which you went to some logical effort to assign to the drivers: negligence.

          With respect to the drivers, you argue that they are merely negligent, as opposed to malicious. I agree this could be the case. With respect to the researcher, you argue — rather well, I think — that his actions are negligent rather than innocent. So you’ve made a pretty persuasive case here that the drivers and the researchers are moral equivalents.

          What I don’t understand is a) what made you focus on the researcher rather than the drivers as I did, and b) why it appears that you view assigning negligence to the drivers as cause for moral exoneration while assigning negligence to the researcher as cause for moral indictment.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            Burt, first of all, I meant no offense by the “As a lawyer…” comment – it wasn’t meant to imply professional incompetence, at all. I just assume by default that lawyers are often exquisitely attuned to things that look like (to me, in this case) “A Very Bad Idea That Could Get Someone Hurt/Sued/Jailed.” (“As your attorney, I strongly advise you NOT to place realistic-looking rubber turtles in the middle of a busy college road.”)

            I also respect and like you a lot, my comment was (like yours) intended to simply express surprise that we could both be looking at the same story and seeing two very different things.

            To a.) I focused on the researcher – I think – because he’s telling us something that is, IMO, trivial. There may be innocent explanations for at least some of the hits (though I concede impulsive or congenital sadism on the part of at least some drivers – and is it possible that some idiots think the turtle’s shell will protect him?). But even if all the hits were intentional/malicious, well, like I said, People Are No Damn Good.

            So if his finding is trivial, it REALLY isn’t worth the risks to drivers.

            To b.) negligence on the part of drivers that results in the potential death of a (rubber) (or even live) turtle is not the same as negligence that results in the potential death of a human. It’s not that one exonerates, and one doesn’t; in both cases, the negligent party bears some responsibility. But I think we naturally (and, I would assume, in law) place greater emphasis and penalties and opprobrium on negligence that endangers human life & limb, than negligence which endangers property or animals.

            Also, the drivers’ actions were contingent on the researcher’s – that is, the drivers’ actions may have been negligent, even dangerous; but their actions (assuming they even saw the turtle) were taken as a result of the researcher’s premeditated negligence of placing an object in the road.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              It strikes me that “premeditated negligence” may be legally (or linguistically) nonsensical, but I was trying to get across the fact that this wasn’t done on a whim.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                If we’re quibbling about that, yes, “premeditated negligence” is kind of a contradiction in terms at law, but I entirely take your meaning. It was an intentional act on the part of the researcher to put the rubber turtle on the road, while at the same time the researcher neither intended to cause a vehicular collision nor (we’re assuming) consciously thought through that doing this would increase that particular risk. I’m calling that mental state “negligence.”

                …And of course we’re all glad that only rubber turtles were harmed in the actual conduct of the experiment.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Some reading comprehension would be helpful for the whiners crying about a “hazard in the road” above:

                It was in the CENTER of the roadway. Between the lines.

                A car maintaining normal course of action has to swerve TO hit it, affirmatively. If they just ignored it they’d miss it.

                Carry on trying to tar and feather the researcher now, since you obviously fail reading comprehension.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Yes, it is indeed at the center of the roadway. One might even say, in the center of the lane.

                Again, feel free to intentionally place objects in the middle of the road in front of an officer, and let me know how that goes for you.

                And M.A., really dude, the constant personal insults are predictable, yet unimaginative. Do try to step up your game.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                How’s this:

                A Sigma Chi brother, probably after an afternoon of drinking, decides to place a realistic-looking baby doll in the center of a lane on a busy road near his campus, then hide in the bushes to “see what happens”.

                Us: WHAT AN A-HOLE!!!

                A Chi Beta Phi brother, probably after an afternoon of drinking, decides to place a realistic-looking turtle doll in the center of a lane on a busy road near his campus, then hide in the bushes to “see what happens”.

                Us: AWWWW, TURTLES!!!Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    We already knew this, if we saw through the efforts to smear Scott Beauchamp.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Sometimes I try to hit squirrels in the road. Am I a bad man?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Already-dead squirrels, I should clarify.Report

      • Avatar Miss Mary says:

        Still not cool. Why? Why?!Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          The 8-year-old boy in me is curious to see what wouls happen. It’s a dead squirrel… What treatment is it entitled to?Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            You better hope roadkill squirrels don’t zombify.

            They are flat, and could get right under your door.Report

          • Avatar Miss Mary says:

            Really?! Do you dig up dead humans from the graveyard and play with them too? Ever heard of respect for the dead? Poor thing died, the least you could do it not mutilate it more.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              Humans and animals are not equivalent.

              Should we similarly vilify people who squish spiders?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Should we similarly vilify people who squish spiders?

                Maybe. A spider has a right to life, yes?, minimal tho it may be. Personally speaking – since I don’t know what “we” means here – I don’t think gratuitously killing spiders is a laudable activity.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I used to never kill spiders until I was bitten by a brown recluse.
                I grew up in a place with a lot of tarantulas (they always come out after a rain), and I was never afraid of spiders.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                holy… shit! are you okay?
                *has heard horrible, horrible stories about brown recluses*Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I am now, but you can still see the mark over two years later.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                One of the very funniest scenes in Ruthless People (a very funny film) is Judge Reinhold fulminating about how he’s tired of being the nice guy that never gets what he wants and from now on he’s going to be ruthless, all the time guiding a spider onto a scrap of paper, carrying it outside, and carefully letting it drop onto the ground. At the very end of his rant he realizes what he’s doing and stomps it.Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                How far down the scale of life simplicity does this go? Are sea sponges entitled to the same consideration? Is this limited to animals or must fungi and plants be given similar consideration? Is this limited to prokaryotes, or must bacteria be given similar consideration?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                We’ve been over this before, and I know I may not be logically consistent (plus, I squashed a carpenter ant for no reason just the other day, and I don’t really know why) but I maintain that our responsibilities increase as the complexity of nervous system and likeness to ourselves increases.

                So I can commit germ genocide with bathroom cleaners and antibiotics. And I can commit wasp and ant genocide with pesticides. But (live, at least) reptiles, birds, and mammals deserve more consideration and respect.

                No, I can’t explain it any better than that. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Just realized I left amphibians off my list. Screw them, they don’t even know what they are.

                (Just kidding).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                How about “size” and “cuteness”? Does a cat deserve better that a squirrel? How about a squirrel and a rat? Rat and horse? Horse and pony? Dolphins?!?!Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I’d rate based on intelligence. Rat/Pig deserves better than horse/deer.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Horses are pretty damn smart. Well, they can be.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                That’s sound science.
                The way I learned it anyway.
                (which may well mean it’s outdated)Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                I think it’s fair to say that a life form without a central nervous system can’t suffer in any meaningful sense. That would suggest drawing the line at vertebrates.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                That’s very generous and merciful for someone with yr gravatar.

                Where do minions fall on this scale? On the one hand, they are generally incompetent and spineless (see: every performance review you’ve ever given them), so that would suggest they fall below the line; on the other hand, minions are hard to come by these days, so to attract and retain minion talent, you may need to offer them vertebrate privileges.Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                Xykon of course doesn’t have a central nervous system, as he’s a lich. Mind you, very few people are willing to tangle with those anyway since they tend to rip your soul out and use it as a chew toy.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary says:

                Kazzy, I didn’t say they were equivalent, necessarily. I won’t ask you to follow the same practice as you might for a dead human. I would just prefer that you don’t further mutilate squirrel corpses, or any animal for that matter. Is that too much to ask?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                It isn’t. Whatever benefit I derive is at best a morbid curiosity. Zazzy also disapproves and out of respect for her (not the dead squirrel), I don’t do it with her in the car. I don’t even do it all the time, just when that morbid curiosity strikes me, maybe a couple of times a year for reasons I can’t explain. And I know I’m not alone in that regard and think we’d be better served to not immediately vilify folks for what I’d guess is a fairly common human feeling.

                “WHAT MONSTERS!” is rarely a helpful response, even if the emotions motivating it are very real and legitimate.

                So, yes, I was being deliberately provocative with my statement in the interest of provoking conversation.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I believe this is not a moral behavior. But I think it tends more towards amoral than immoral.

                Thing is, you’re really indulging in that. With a real object. It’s no longer a feeling (for which I will not vilify anyone!! even if that feeling is gross/bad/reprehensible!)…it’s an action.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Is it the action or the intent that matters? My friend’s wife sticks needles into mice’s eyes. But she does it to test drugs. Is that moral? Amoral? Immoral?

                A dead squirrel is a lump of atoms. I don’t believe in the metaphysical.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I think medical procedures are a whole different ballpark.
                I’ve had a doctor stick his finger in my ass before, but not a single one has done it in a parking lot or out on the road.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                But you permitted the doctor. I doubt the mice consent.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                it is the action and the circumstance of the action.
                Dignity and respect are dependent upon circumstances… surely that’s easy to see. Wearing just trousers is undignified, unless you’re at the beach.

                Heck, I’ll give a wide leeway to science, and say that if you were running over the squirrel for an experiment, that would be different.

                Now, time to mindwarp. If you deliberately run over a squirrel, and then come back, put it in a box, and give it a very decorous funeral, have you actually dignified the critter enough to overcome the disrespect of being randomly and wantonly run over?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I squish spiders as a matter of course. They have a real habit of hurting my husband. And necrotic spider bites take FOREVER to heal.

                If they would be so kind as to leave him alone, I’d take them outside.

                I tend to kill centipedes barehanded too (takes a quick hand to manage that one!). Same reason.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Hydrogen peroxide.
                Just up-end the bottle over the hole about five times in a row. It will make the stuff shoot out like a volcano.
                Do it several times a day until the bruise is gone.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            The standard respect one gives a dead body.
            Which is not to say that dissecting one in science class is not fun, nor important and a good learning experience.

            But you drive over the squirrel? Do you go back to see what happened?Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            Dude! Your car deserves better!Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I guess that’s morally neutral if they’re already dead.

        But I think that it’s coming from the same place that makes those one in fifty drivers observed in this experiment cross the center divider line on the road to seemingly intentionally strike what they presumably thought was a live turtle.

        While you may restrain it in the case of a live turtle as opposed to a dead squirrel, do you feel an impulse to run over the turtle? What’s up with that?Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          I think we all have stupid/bad/horrible ideas.
          Like jumping off the side of a building, just to see what would happen.
          Or slitting someone’s throat,w hen you’re watching it quivver as they talk to you…

          One blinks, and says “No. That’s a Bad Idea.”Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            The throat-slitting thing seems different than the jump-off-a-building thing. One is self-destructive, and one is destructive of something else. Effective socialization will make one restrain both impulses almost immediately. (Conceded that, for instance, Kazzy is properly socialized and exercises appropriate impulse control.) The thrill of perceived self-destruction I kind of get.

            What I’m interested in is where that destructive-of-others impulse comes from. There’s no apparent gain to be had from running over a live turtle, running over a dead squirrel, slitting a conversation partner’s throat. Why does that impulse come up in the first place?Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              It was jiggling? And blood would be pretty?

              And it’s not the self-destruction — it’s “I’d get to fly! to really feel what that would be like!”

              … you can, if you would like, blame this all on ADD.

              It’s all a sense of “I wonder what it would be like if…”Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Got it. A good deal of it is a resistance to the natural chains we put on our impulses. A “let’s pretend I could actually do this…” impulse.

                I’m afraid of heights. Thinking about jumping off a building (or a bridge), is a way of freeing myself from that fear, for just a couple of seconds.

                (actual self-destructive impulses are both more serious, and more thoughtful, than “Let’s jump off the building!”, at least in my head).Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              Do you know how good it feels to destroy something?!?!Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                I do play video games. It’s lots of fun to “kill’ monsters and bad guys in video games. Maybe that tickles the same sort of impulse?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Nope. definitely different. This… is more curiosity, less… problem solving?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Absolutely! Do you like watching building demos? Big hits in football (even if you rationally recognize the danger)? You never wondered what it’d be like to pop someone in the nose?

                There are all sorts of things I’m curious about… But very few I act on. A couple times I saw an already dead squirrel and aimed for it, curious about what exactly would happen. (Never a live one, though I won’t swerve in a way that puts me or other humans in danger to avoid.). And sometimes I play too rough with the cats. But that’s it. But I understand the feeling and think it is fairly human. Why do you think there is such a market for first-person-shooters?Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary says:

                Please pick something that wasn’t ALIVE at one point.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I idly dissect grass. It fascinates me. Not terribly deadly, but still.
                Have had friends yell at me, even when it wasn’t their grass.Report

              • Avatar Just Me says:

                I know it feels great to tear a building apart. Nothing like using a crow bar or sledge hammer on an inanimate object. I hate running over anything with my car though. Always afraid I’m going to puncture a tire.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I don’t mind when people tear apart buildings that need breaking.
                It’s when they tear apart formerly precious objects.

                There’s a record collection that I feel very, very guilty for not rescuing — before the crew used them like frisbees, shattering every one.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          I dunno, man… People are weird! I’m weird! But I don’t think I’m evil.

          I’d never and never have intentionally hurt someone physically. But I love to play tackle football because I like to hit people (people who’ve volunteered to be hit, mind you). If I could play any position in the NFL it’d be free safety so I could hit people.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      Yes. This is known as “associative affect disorder.”
      See a therapist. It affects human relationships as well.Report

  5. Avatar Will H. says:

    That’s sick.
    I’ve stopped the car and turned around to go get a turtle out of the road.
    Every living thing is deserving of respect.
    Whatever harm I inflict upon another, I wish upon myself.Report

    • Avatar Miss Mary says:

      I never see turtles in the road in Oregon. If I did, I would save them all.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      My ex was driving on Alligator Alley (the section of I-75 that crosses the Everglades) when she encountered a turtle crossing the road. She stopped to try to help it, but both sides of the road are fenced off, to keep alligators and other wildlife off the road (the turtle must have found a hole somewhere).

      She couldn’t take it with her, and just moving it to the side of the road seemed insufficient, as it would almost certainly end up back in the road.

      So, she wound up, and whipped that mother over the 10-ft fence, spinning like Gamera; he hit the water with a splash, and sank like a stone.

      (At this point in the story, I asked her if she was *sure* that it was a turtle, not a tortoise; wide-eyed, she admitted that question only occurred to her just as it hit the water. Of course, even if it was a turtle, that’d be quite an impact, so who knows what happened to him. She was really upset).Report

  6. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I do like how the comment thread on the news piece now is suggesting rerunning the experiment with explosive plastic turtles.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Maybe we could bring over some Iraqi insurgents to build them. I hear they have some experience in creating unexpected events for drivers.Report

  7. Avatar david says:

    In East Texas (other ETexans can chime in), it’s considered a sport. No true redneck would ever pass up the chance to veer into oncoming fauna. Turtle, squirrel, ‘possum, snake, armadillo, raccoon, rabbit…. anything but skunk (stench), hog and deer (size, although hog and deer are considered fair game to take home and dress for future meals).

    I work out of my car. I do my best NOT to strike anything; I figure they’ve got as much right to make a living out there as I do.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Interesting. The student is in S.C.

      Wonder how much of this is cultural (like you say, a sort of “sport”), how much is momentary unpremeditated sadism or curiosity (temporarily succumbing to the Imp of the Perverse/”What happens if I do this?”), and how much is actual real sadism (“I enjoy hurting things and do it every chance I get.”)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        My hunch is few fall not the last one, especially here where the individual doesn’t even get to enjoy the fruits of his labor. A sadist tortures…. He doesn’t just kill.Report

  8. Avatar M.A. says:

    Chances are that the entirety of that 2% turn out to be politically “conservative”.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Or maybe not.

      Given that one speculated reason in the above-linked article is liberals’ “increased openness to experience”; and the speculation here that “turtlecide” may be a momentary act of impulse indulging our darkest desires, it wouldn’t shock me at all to find it runs the other way, and that an otherwise-virtuous liberal gets more of a charge of frisson out of hearing that “pop’n’squish” than does an evil conservative, who presumably killed several bunnies before breakfast.

      If an evil conservative wants to momentarily indulge his Imp of the Perverse, he probably just donates to Greenpeace or something.

      I mean, as long as we are engaging in wild unsupported political speculation and cheap shots.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        I’ve been working on a device called the Spank-o-matic. Baaaad kitties go in… gooooood kitties come out. Thus are the musings of the Twisted Liberal Mind.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          We’ve talked before about the charge of frisson that comes from from violating taboo, so what say you?

          Just as Greenspan may wear women’s clothing in his off-hours, is it possible that Kucinich is a Koopa-killer in his spare time?Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Good Lord, what’s life without the spicy zest of transgression?

            As for Dennis Kucinich, he is well known as a Tool of Satan, a marvel of verisimilitude. How else could he so cleverly manifest a conscience and yet remain a member of Congress?Report

  9. Avatar Randy Harris says:

    A similar experiment was run last summer, but with the “critters” being placed on the shoulder rather that between the yellow lines:


  10. Avatar Fnord says:

    To play devil’s advocate:

    Taking as given that the drivers are swerving because they get pleasure from killing animals, is that any worse than people eating meat because they enjoy the taste? In both cases, it’s someone killing animals for no reason other than their own personal enjoyment. Even if everyone in this thread is a vegetarian, I’m guessing their reactions to non-vegetarians isn’t “WTF is wrong with these people?”Report