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America's 'Radical Elders' continue their work for fairness, justice; SCOTUS upholds law disarming domestic abusers; Workplace adoption benefits help families, communities; Report examines barriers to successful post-prison re-entry in NC.

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A congresswoman celebrates Biden protections for mixed status families, Louisiana's Ten Commandments law faces an inevitable legal challenge, and a senator moves to repeal the strict 19th century anti-obscenity and anti-abortion Comstock Act.

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Rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town, prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands and a Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival.

UW Professor: Fear of Death Inspires Death Penalty Views

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Wednesday, February 1, 2023   

A new book by a University of Washington professor on the death penalty finds support for executions may be motivated by people's own fear of death.

Philip Hansten, professor emeritus of pharmacology at the University of Washington and author of "Death Penalty Bulls---," argues against the practice.

Hansten draws on work by Ernest Becker, an anthropologist who said reminding people of their own mortality made them cling tighter to their cultural views and even increases people's punitive urges in order to defend their culture.

Hansten suggested hearing about a murder could cause somebody to think more about death, especially if it happens in their community.

"The murderers are an out group in general; I mean most of us aren't murderers," Hansten pointed out. "So the murderer is automatically an out group, somebody who we would tend to protect our culture from anyway."

Hansten argued it could make people more likely to support the death penalty. He also noted the fear of death can inspire xenophobia and racism in people who feel they need to protect their culture.

Becker's Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Denial of Death led to the creation of a study known as Terror Management Theory.

Hansten contended Becker's theory puts death row in a new light.

"If the terror of death has such a huge influence on all of us, putting people on death row for decades, it would be hard for me to imagine something more cruel than that," Hansten stated.

Hansten added Terror Management Theory also makes it clear people do not necessarily create their views on issues like the death penalty with their rational minds.

"You give them all this data and all the rational arguments and show how it's totally arbitrary, etc., etc., and it just falls on deaf ears because this death terror is preventing them from hearing it," Hansten emphasized.

Seventy percent of the royalties for Hansten's book go to the group Death Penalty Focus.

References:  
Death Penalty Focus 2023

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