Death Train

A train is speeding down the track, and the track splits in two. A baby lies on the right track and there is a broken bridge on the left track. If you let the train go down the right track, the baby will die. If you let the train go down the left track, the passengers onboard will die. Which way should the train go?

Both ways! :slight_smile: In that case everyone will die and the world would be better off. (The baby will grow to be a mass murderer, and all the passengers are lawyers and politicians!) :wink:

How do you know Superman won’t come to save the day?

Which is the lesser of the two evils? The baby will die anyway because there will be no one to save him/her from the next train.:imsorry:

Hehe, you must be a psychic. :slight_smile: I wanted to insert that a quick call to 1-800-SUPRMAN could save the day… but I did not want to save the politicians. That is too funny!

I say let God save the baby if it’s earthly life is more important than the people on the train.

Man, isn’t this like another “if your mother and girlfriend are drowning, and you only got enough time to save either one of them, who will you save first?”

I heard it as mother-in-law and wife! But I’m with Spocker - the politicians need to be on that train.


You save both…

The answer to this infamous situation of being setup to fail in either direction is the thought of which choice is more likely to prevent such situations from happening again.

By making the decisions based on that thought, the number of such situations reduce. With each reduction, both parties get saved through prevention. Countless would-be setups are prevented eventually to the point of the situation never occurring at all.

Thus in the long run, all get saved by choosing the shorter path to Heaven. :smiley:

…btw, this is also the answer to why evolution overcomes entropy (for those still wondering about that).

You can’t go both ways nor can you stop the train from going one way or the other.

I’d grab the baby off the tracks because the train has an engineer who is responsible for the lives of his passengers, but there is no one else who can rescue the baby.

But you can stop it tomorrow and forever more if you’re good at choosing today. :o

Isn’t that a quote from somewhere?

Obviously, you go the way that will save the passengers. The baby may die as a result, but it is not consequential to the prime moral action: saving the lives of the passengers. There’s more the the ethical decision making as well, but in almost all cases it comes to saving the passengers.

If it isn’t it should be, huh. :smiley:

It is now :smiley:

Well, it’s page 2, so now I’ll explain the scenario and my own answer.

The death train question is an old philosophical question, which is meant to stimulate people to think in ways they hadn’t before and to see what morals people have. Essentially it is meant to be unanswerable question, because the person, not sure of what to say, keeps asking for clarifications on the scenario, until it becomes incomprehensible. However, this would only work if you have flimsy morals or if you aren’t that good at ethics. The real trick of the question, though, is that you can only use philosophy, no religious beliefs or morals; however, since moral theology falls under philosophy, you get a kind of loophole to the rule.

My answer to the death train question, I would take the right track. My reasoning is that the baby has no personal sins, so it wouldn’t go to Hell, and, if I pray for its salvation, it will go to Heaven. So there is no loss at all; the baby goes to Heaven and the passengers onboard don’t die.

There is a Christian equivalent to this question, too. It goes “Who would you save from death, Jesus or a baby?” The correct answer is, again, the baby, because Jesus must die for our sins, and, as He taught, whatsoever you do to the least of His brethern, you do unto Him.

Hmm… I would have made that same decision, but not for your reasons. If it wasn’t a baby, but a teen? The US President? The Pope? John Lennon? Your own daughter?

That type of clarification is where you have to diverge based on your ethical theory you ascribe to. Let’s say that the baby is your child. A hedonist would say that personal contentment is the highest morality, and one could (most likely) not be personally content by running over their own child. Ergo such a person might choose to throw the whole train off the cliff and be justified in their moral theory by doing so.

A utlilitarian might see the idea of greatest contentment for greatest number of people, so they might choose to run over their own child, but not necessarily so for the president of the U.S. (I guess that would depend on if the vice president was a good person or not)

A prima facia Kantian perspective would suggest that the duty to protect life would supercede the stricture not to kill, and so the action which preserved the most life would be the morally correct one. The death would be an unfortunate side effect of the choice, but not the direct motivation for the action of choosing. This is the closest secular moral theory to what the church teaches.

As a Kantian Divine-Command ethicist myself, I’d say that it’s correct except insofar as I don’t believe in prima facia, so duty has no part of it. To me, all persons’ lives in the situation are suspended while the decision remains to be made. As a result, since all persons are effectively in peril, only the choice which saves the most lives can be considered the best: the people saved are not done so at the cost of lives of the remainder, but simply are brought out of a suspension of life to spare the most people. Here again this agrees with church teaching that the action to save cannot be done with the intent to kill, but rather with death as an unfortunate side effect of moral action to save.

Which action follows this principle;

Clarify and Verify the Hopes and Threats to greater Momentum of Harmony.

That is what I have to balance in every ethical and mental decision. It can be tough. :o