Jack the Ripper and Our Love of Closure

 Jack the Ripper

I see headlines all over the news about how Jack the Ripper has finally been conclusively identified. I heard radio talk show hosts talking about how wonderful it was that we finally knew Jack the Ripper identity. I was immediately skeptical but I would guess the majority of people were not so. I just read a wonderfully written article from Ars Technica indicating my skepticism was well-founded. Exceptionally good work, Jennifer Ouellette!

In any case, I leave it to you to read the article yourself and come to a conclusion. I don’t really want to talk about the guilt or innocence of Aaron Kosminski but instead the seemingly inherent human desire for closure. People want closure and, to a large degree, don’t really seem to care if it comes at the expense of critical thinking. Judging by what I’ve heard and read in media articles most people are thrilled to know that a conclusive result has been determined in the Jack the Ripper murders. Spoiler if you didn’t read the article, the case is far from closed.

Why do people care? The murders happened a hundred and thirty years ago. Solving the murders isn’t going to help or hurt anyone in any way. The descendants of victims are not going have their lives changed in any way. The descendants of the supposed murderer, who was a prime suspect to begin with, are not going to be arrested or punished. Yet, it’s clear to me, people are absolutely giddy with the idea that Jack the Ripper has been identified. Despite such knowledge having no practical effect.

I think the underlying cause is the satisfaction we get at a job well done, whether it is solving a murder or mowing the grass just right. Humans enjoy accomplishment and the identification of Jack the Ripper is just that. Not directly for me, not directly for anyone reading the article, but indirectly, very indirectly for people as a group. The case remains in the public conscious all these years later and there is a satisfaction derived from solving it.

I understand why people are happy with the news but I warn you to be aware of this human tendency and take it into account. Yes, you would be happy to know that Jack the Ripper has been identified but take into account you want this outcome. Be skeptical of people who understand human nature, in this case the people who released this supposedly conclusive proof. They are taking advantage of your desire to see something come to completion. The evidence is terrible and result is largely unsupportable. You’ve been duped.

In conclusion, be skeptical and do your research, particularly when it comes to something you want to believe.

Tom Liberman

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