Monday, September 8, 2008

A social experiment

An unstoppable train is coming down the track, which splits into two. One track leads to 3 kids, while the other lead to 1 adult man. The train, at default, will head to the track with 3 kids and run them over, killing all of them.

There is a switch that can change the track of the unstoppable train. If someone pushes the switch, the train will instead run over the 1 adult man, saving the 3 children.

The unstoppable train, obviously, cannot be stopped. The 3 kids and the adult man cannot leave the tracks. No matter what happens to the switch, either group of people have to die.

You are at the switch...what would you do?

Things to keep in mind: Doing nothing to the switch is a type of action, in which you choose to kill 3 kids instead of the adult man

Personally, I would not touch the switch. I know I am making a choice of killing the 3 kids by doing nothing when I could have saved them.

If you have seen Batman *spoiler alert*, near the end of the movie, the Joker was doing a social experiment, in which he told people on two different boats that there were bombs on both boats. They both have a switch that will activate bombs on the other boat. If they blow up the other boat, they get to live. One boat was filled with criminals - the other boat was filled with the good citizens of Gotham.

In the movie, one person on both boats had the switch in their hands. The argument was made that the boats filled with criminals are worth less than the boats filled with good citizens, and the criminal boat should be sacrificed. But in the end, no one on either boat had the heart to push the switch that would kill hundreds of people.

And that is why I would not touch the switch in this train track scenario either. Shooting someone in the head and letting someone starve to death are both evil, but I do think that they are different levels of evil, as shown by the Batman example - no one could do it because they felt it was wrong, even though by not pushing the switch, they are murdering their boat-mates. There is a difference in pushing the bad fortune onto someone else instead of letting the bad fortune take its course.

Hippocrates said, "First do no harm." Why is it that doctors who didn't stop to help dying victims from a car crash do not get arrested, while the ones that poisoned patients with cyanide do?

If you answer that you would push the switch so that the 3 kids could live, imagine yourself on one of the Gotham boats, would you really push the switch?

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