Monday, August 30, 2004

Gimme That Old Time Religion Neuron

Imagine you’re at the wheel of a trolley and the brakes have failed. You’re approaching a fork in the track at top speed. On the left side, five rail workers are fixing the track. On the right side, there is a single worker. If you do nothing, the trolley will bear left and kills the five workers. The only way to save five lives is to take responsibility of changing the trolley’s path by hitting the switch. Then you will kill one worker.

Now imagine that you are watching the runaway trolley from a footbridge. This time there is no fork in the track. Instead, five workers are on it, facing certain death. But you happen to be standing next to a big man. If you sneak up on him, and push him off the footbridge, he will fall to his death. Because he is so big, he will stop the trolley. Do you willfully kill one man, or do you let reality play out and allow five people to die?

Which alternative would you choose, and, more importantly, why?


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