I was on another website discussing Humanism, and someone posted this:

A moral question I'd like to ask humanists (who I think are really just in-the-closet Christians). If you start with the axiom "all humans have the same value"... What conclusions do you arrive at in practical scenario?

Example: if a boat is sinking, who should go first to the life boats?
1. random order (all are equal in all situations)
2. women and children (old gender prejudice)
3. the most moral of the people (all are equal, but the moral ones will contribute to more well-being, and so save more people e.g. more worth by their survival)

Now, aside from this guy claiming that I was an "in-the-closet Christian" (which I am not in any way), his question stumped me for a little bit. Upon further consideration, I gave the answer: "I would allow the women, children and aged to go before me, but I would let others make their own decisions regarding whether or not to be self sacrificing."

This is my first reaction, so I went with my instinct, but I'm not sure how it matches up against the ideals of Humanism. I'm still in the stage of studying Humanism, although I feel like I know enough to identify as a Humanist. So, I'd just like the opinions of other people here.


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(for all intensive purposes) giggles... for all intents and purposes...

on Chivalry.... Chivalry has very little to do with why to put women and children on a lifeboat, it has all to do with continuance of human lineage. And the male/female ratio can drop very low and the species will continue on since the limitation is the gestative ability. Today, not only are we the top predator on the planet, we also outnumber hundreds of lower predators and and herbivores of large mass.

Humans have never prevented extinction. No other species on the planet has single handedly in so short a time extinguished the myriad of species we have, so when the occasional Paul Watson save a whale, it's not humanity preventing extinction, it's one of us blocking the madness of the rest of us. Humanity has done nothing but harm to our environment. For me the measure of a man, and the measure of humanity is if we can say that we left this place a better place than we found it. For the last couple of thousand years, the resounding answer is no.

In our ecological pyramid, I have never excluded others than mammals. Both large mammals and large reptiles happen to be the species which have dropped below their survival threshold due to human activity. If lions had outnumberered elephants, elephants would have long ago disappeared. In a healthy ecosystem, the top predators must be less numerous. That is a fundamental notion of biological sciences.

You persist in attempting to explain life and values away using anecdotal, selfish examples. As we are sentient beings gregarious in nature, we should be able to put aside such petty whims as "who would I like to be with on an island?", it is petty and selfish and short sighted. My selfish desires have no bearing on the biological reality of a healthy ecosystem.
I have to admit these answers really cracked me up, whether your arguments about reproductive or biological value were meant to be funny or not – I hope they were tongue-in-cheek.

Let’s face it, no one would ever make such arguments and if you did you probably would be, and rightfully so, thrown overboard.

We would follow what are essentially human norms the world over, women and children first. I am a gentleman, and you can think of it whatever you wish, but I would give my place to a lady and a child. This would be my choice.

But I have to ask would a feminist relinquish this gender based selection and chose to die with the men instead.
Wow. He's asking you who you would allow to die and there is no good answer, only degrees of bad answers.

First I'm curious what the out-of-the-closet asshole would do... pray, I guess.

For me, take those most likely to help the others survive. Random is stupid as utility isn't universal, i.e. a doctor would be far more useful than a chef. A lifeboat full of children isn't going to make it very far. Morality only matters insofar as a person is going to help the others survive.
if a boat is sinking, who should go first to the life boats? The only answer possible in this impossible scenario is "not me".
First, this guy is obviously a Christian who doesn't really understand what Christianity and Humanism stand for.

Men and women most clearly do not have the same reproductive value. In the time it takes a woman to produce a child a man can father hundreds (thousands, if artificial methods are used). Women are, literally, the bottleneck of human reproduction. If all the men on Earth died except a handful but women survived, the human race would survive. This could not work the other way around.

Children represent an investment of time and resources and are society's future. For most of human history, their mothers were more important for taking care of the children as well. In addition, we are almost all hardwired by evolution to protect children. Even if you could live with yourself after allowing children to drown, the others who learn of it might not think much of you afterward.

There is the additional problem that arises from the fact that men tend to be larger. A general rush to the lifeboats would not only put the smaller women and children at a huge disadvantage, it would actually endanger them. They could be trampled before ever reaching the lifeboats.

Call me old fashioned, but "women and children first". I think it's just common decency. A person with no inclination to protect those weaker than he has no empathy.

The "most moral" option is ridiculous. Who would decide which people were the "most moral"? Is that just another way of saying believers first? Considering who posed the question, I suspect so.
There is no possible way to prove which of these three options is the most morally correct with the information supplied. I would go further and say there is no way to prove any of the infinite number of possible answers is able to be proven more morally correct than any of the others. There is no absolute moral yardstick in this scenario. My best answer would be, none of the above. My best solution would be to figure out, as best as possible, with available time, the combination of people on the lifeboats that would most likely save the most lives. I don't see how a Christian or other religious perspective would better inform a solution.
I am fine with who ever gets to the boats first. I would attempt to have my children first and then my wife. After that I will get in if there is room. No one will look after my children the same way that I will, and I think the ideal of sacrifice is absolutely asinine. I have carried enough dead weight already. I refuse to do it any more.
Who is John Galt anyway?
I would agree with the young women, but having older males might actually be better.  they aren't as aggressive, they don't lose their reproductive capacity, typically they are more learned, and they have more wisdom and diplomatic capacity than a younger generation.  just planning ahead.  that means I'd get left behind lol

As usual, I'm late to this party. Nevertheless . . .


   I suggest the best solution to the lifeboat problem is for the person who has the power or authority to decide the order of boarding  ( "the Captain" )to make a selection based on the passengers value, as he is able to determine that.  If he has a young Einstein or Ghandi, they get on the lifeboat first because they are the most valuable in his opinion.  If a young Lizzie Bordon, although perhaps she she seems an attractive breeder, she would be among the last.  


  The Captain, like all of us is biased and has incomplete knowledge and insufficient wisdom to select by value accurately, and he is wise enough to recognize these limitations.  He does have the power to enforce his selections, therefor not to do so would be, for him, immoral.  It's absurd to select by any criterion other than anticipated future value.  Value is, of course, subjective.

I'd just tell him, "Screw the lifeboats, it's all about sea turtles, mate!"


If you can't beat em*, confuse em...



*make no mistake, you can't beat em when the question is a loaded hypothetical with infinite possibilities for moving goal posts.  i.e. you suggest women and children, they reply young Hitler is on board, etc. etc. ad infinitum et nauseum.

YES to the sea turtles!
Dr. Marc,
The approx. 7x10^9 of us (the "Inferior Animals" projected to reach 9x10^9 by 2050) suggest we're doing OK at staying alive so far. What proof are you suggesting? Certainly the Earth still outweighs us, but in terms of relative brain mass it seems quite deficient. What Magic am I missing?


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