WHAT A DILEMMA!
THE IGNORANCE OF CERTAINTY
“A situation necessitating a choice between two equally undesirable choices,”
(Collins Dictionary 3rdEdition 1991)
The most dangerous minds are the closed minds of those so sure of their opinions that they never question them. To question yours, read the following dilemmas.
The Runaway Tram.
First, an old dilemma…the runaway tram.
Imagine if you will, a tram speeding down hill when the brakes fail. There ahead are five men working on the tracks, all wearing ear protectors and oblivious of the impending danger.
Suddenly there appears a branch line and to the driver’s relief, at least the steering is still working. Unfortunately there is one man working on the line, as oblivious to the danger as those on the main line.
This gives the driver just time to make a decision. Does he turn onto the branch line, kill one man but save five, or does he carry straight on and kill five to save one?
If you were the driver, what decision would you make? Straight on or turn onto the branch line?
Thought so! You would turn onto the branch line, sacrificing one man to save five. All done and dusted.
Now let us change perspective on the above event. You are standing on a bridge over the tramline witnessing all that is happening.
In front of you is a really obese gentleman leaning over the parapet to watch, barely maintaining his balance. It suddenly occurs to you. If you give him a shove, he will fall directly onto the line and his bulk should be sufficient to stop the runaway tram. True, he will be killed but his death will have saved not only the six rail workers but also the driver and passengers in the tram.
Now for the difficult bit. Could you or should you have given the large gentleman such a shove?
Still sure of your original chosen course of action? If so, now consider this, leaving medical ethics aside…
Imagine a ward at Papworth Hospital with five patients each needing an organ transplant to save their lives- heart, lung, liver, kidney and spleen.
In a room next door is a healthy recovering patient in for a check up and he is taking a nap… So why not take the organs of this one man and distribute them among the five patients in direct need?
Why or why not again sacrifice one person to save five? What do you think? Remember, leaving aside medical ethics is there any difference between this situation and the runaway tram? How?
The above is a theoretical ethical dilemma Below is another, but his time from real life.
The Overcrowded Lifeboat.
In 1842, a ship struck an iceberg and more than 30 survivors were crowded into a lifeboat intended to hold 7. As a storm threatened, it became obvious that the lifeboat would have to be lightened if anyone were to survive. The captain reasoned that the right thing to do in this situation was to force some individuals to go over the side and drown. Such an action, he reasoned, was not unjust to those thrown overboard, for they would have drowned anyway. If he did nothing, however, he would be responsible for the deaths of those whom he could have saved. Some people opposed the captain's decision. They claimed that if nothing were done and everyone died as a result, no one would be responsible for these deaths. On the other hand, if the captain attempted to save some, he could do so only by killing others and their deaths would be his responsibility; this would be worse than doing nothing and letting all die. The captain rejected this reasoning. Since the only possibility for rescue required great efforts of rowing, the captain decided that the weakest would have to be sacrificed. In this situation it would be absurd, he thought, to decide by drawing lots who should be thrown overboard. As it turned out, after days of hard rowing, the survivors were rescued and the captain was tried for his action.
If you had been on the jury, how would you have decided? Was the captain responsible for the deaths of his passengers? Why?
(Robert Heinlein 1907-1988, “The Libertarian in the Lifeboat“)
IS IT NOT TRUE THAT THE WORST THING ABOUT ALL EXTREMISTS AND THE TRULY IGNORANT IS THAT THEY ARE SO SURE IN THEIR OWN MINDS THAT THEY ARE RIGHT THEY NEVER QUESTION THEM?