Saturday, November 24, 2007


Recent list work: #9, #13 (I did it today. Whoo!), #22 (finished!), #39 (work in progress), #69 (Jean seemed inordinately pleased with some chicken and potatoes I brought her while she was on crutches), #69 (Catch 22 is finally done. Also, Fathers and Sons, which I liked), #90.

Time has a very interesting poll about morality at the moment. Please go look at it first; it will take you less than 5 minutes to answer it.

(waiting for you to go answer the poll questions)

(no, really, go do so)


I'd heard about this poll before, but this time I get to see the exact scenarios laid out. My answers, for those who are interested, are: yes, yes, yes, no, no.

In the first scenario, the baby's crying will lead to not only my death, but also to the deaths of others, including itself. Obviously, you try other means to quiet the baby first: give it something to suck on, rock it, change its diaper, whatever. But the scenario states that the baby can't be quieted in any other way. If that baby continues to scream, it's going to die very soon no matter what. Better that it be just the baby that dies, and not take me and the other refugees with it. I'm smothering the baby.

In the second scenario, if someone isn't kicked off the lifeboat we're going to capsize and all die. If one individual is already grievously injured and bound to die soon anyways, and killing him just a little bit sooner preserves my life and those of others, I'm pushing him out of the boat. I've got a strong survival instinct.

In the third scenario, we have a group of 5 idiots on one train track not paying attention to oncoming vehicles, and 1 individual on another doing the same. They're all equally stupid, and none of them are guaranteed to die soon if I don't send the train at them. I therefore bow to the notion that 1 death is better than 5 deaths, and send the train at the lone individual.

In the fourth scenario, we have the same 5 idiots unaware of an oncoming train, but I'm on a bridge over the track with a stranger, and if I push him off the train will stop before it hits the 5 clueless. In this case, the idiots on the track are more culpable than the guy on the bridge with me, who is entirely blameless. I'm not going to make him pay the consequences of the idiots being idiots. I'll yell for them to get out of the way and maybe throw rocks at them if I think I have a chance of getting their attention, but I'm not going to kill an innocent bystander to save them.

In the 5th case, the guy in the catapult is just as innocent as the guy on the bridge. So, I won't kill him to save 5 idiots. I'm assuming he's not been sentenced to sit in the catapult as payment for a crime, nor is he being an idiot and playing in a catapult which has obviously been constructed to fling people at oncoming trains.

Of the people who had responded when I wrote this, 70% agreed with me in the first case, 56% in the second, 79% in the 3rd, 60% in the 4th, and 52% in the 5th. I'm surprised more people are OK with killing the baby than the presumably adult lifeboat passenger, but maybe they care that the baby probably won't really understand its coming death while the lifeboat passenger will.

What are your answers?

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