Some of you may have encountered the discussions among psychologists and philosophers about "trolleyology." They ask people: "What would you do if you saw five people tied up on a trolley track with a trolley speeding toward them and you could pull a switch to send the trolley onto a side track where one person was tied up."  It seems that most people say they would pull the switch and kill one person rather than five.  The next question is: "What would you do if you were standing on a bridge over a trolley track,  saw five people tied up on the track where the trolley was headed, and could push a fat man over the side of the bridge so he would fall on the track and stop the trolley before it hit the five people?" Even most of the people who would pull the switch would not push the fat man in front of the trolley, supposedly because of the personal contact involved. When I read about this, I was angry about being put in a situation where I would be forced to commit an immoral act, just by pulling the switch. The justification for pulling it is based on Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism, which says that the ultimate moral principle is "the greatest good for the greatest number" and "every person counts one."  

In my view, the moral value of the life of an innocent person is infinite, and it is immoral to kill that blameless person to save any number of others. If one is making an economic decision about how to save the greatest number of lives with limited resources, of course some people will be left to die, but that is an economic decision, not a moral one. (Yes, I am talking about "death panels.")

What do you think?

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I did not connect the dots until after I wrote this discussion question, but my feeling that it is always wrong to kill an innocent person, even for the benefit of others, was a large part of the reason I rejected Christianity when I was in my early teens.  The other part of the reason was that I could not conceive of a "loving father" who would have his own son killed.

Homer, I too resented being put into the situation, and then realized that I was putting myself into it.

Having more important stuff to do, I stopped playing the trolleyology game.

I just explored the web site of an organization that actually does the economic calculation of how to save the most lives with a given amount of money. It is a href="" target="_blank">>;. If you are trying to decide about a charitable donation, check it out.




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