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Our Human Intelligence

Posted by T. Resnikoff // January 9th 2014 // Issues and Trends, Stories and Voices // 2 comments

The recent Royal pardon of Alan Turing for – what was at the time – the criminal offense of homosexuality reveals the struggle for equality of treatment before the law of the LGBTQ community is not over – not in Great Britain, nor the United States, nor elsewhere in the world. –Ed.

Pardon Should Not Have Been Necessary

alan-turingLast month the Queen of England granted Alan Turing posthumous pardon under the “Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen.” The Queen’s pardon came nearly 60 years after Turing’s suicide by cyanide poison, when Turing was 41 years-old. Two years earlier Turing was arrested because of his homosexual orientation after he had called police to investigate a burglary at his home. He was charged under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, and sentenced to chemical castration.

Turing broke German military codes during the Second World War, bringing the war to a quicker end. In fact, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in his government’s 2009 apology for its treatment of Turing, stated that Turing’s work might have altered the outcome of the war

Alan Turing is also generally credited with inventing modern computing with his Turing Machine conceived in 1936, and the “Turing Test” is generally accepted has how to measure artificial-intelligence.

Turing’s pardon was allowed after years of campaigning by supporters, and an apology for his treatment issued by the government in 2009. Turing is the only one of an estimated 49,000 men in Great Britain were similarly charged, and treated, under this law to have received the Queen’s pardon.

All this serves to remind that exceptional treatment accorded to exceptional individuals amongst us to bring them into society as it is, is neither real equality nor evidence of a society based upon humanist principles, such as those of Unitarian Universalism. It is often the opposite. Turing’s pardon is an occasion to consider that people who identify as LGBTQ still struggle for rights and freedoms that others enjoy only because of their hetero identity. Not only in Great Britain, not only farther afield,  but here at home as well.

We live in the world Alan Turing’s work made. Perhaps the best way to thank him is to stand as individuals for the cause of creating a just and fair world for all of us.

Learn more about this story here:

From The Financial Times: Alan Turing granted posthumous pardon by Queen

From Public Radio International (PRI): He helped win World War II and was rewarded with chemical castration

From the Patheos blog Temple of the Future: Should Alan Turing be Pardoned?

From the iBankCoin blog: No Pardon Required For Alan Turing (With a concise description of Turing’s mathematical work and its value.)

From the Happy Nice Time People blog: Great Britain pardons Father of Modern Computing and Nerd Icon Alan Turing, for Gay (including a concise description of Turing’s work during the War)

From the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts/Student Union blog (U.K.): Alan Turing’s pardon: No more than a gesture (with an explanation of the how the Queen’s Prerogative is also used to strip individuals of their freedoms or rights)

From the United Kingdom Government website: Royal pardon for WW2 code-breaker Dr Alan Turing

About the Author

Ted Resnikoff is the Digital Communications Editor at the Unitarian Universalist Association.
2 Responses to “Our Human Intelligence”
  1. Thanks for featuring Turing’s story! Turing’s sentence was so arduous that he committed suicide — who knows what he might have done if he had been allowed to live a full life. If you want to know more about Turing’s incredible codebreaking story, read about or visit Bletchley Park in England (www.bletchleypark.org.uk/content/hist/worldwartwo/captridley.rhtm).

  2. Leah says:

    I will never understand how people went to war to fight Nazi’s while simultaneously prosecuting homosexuality. In Turing’s case he was essentially tortured with medication until he killed himself. Why are they sorry for what they did to him, but not for doing the same or sometimes worse to thousands of others?

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