The Trolley Problem, kill 1 to save 5?

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Socreta93

Senior Member
Jul 28, 2015
1,819
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#1
There is a runaway trolley barrelling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person tied up on the side track. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person

Here is something to note, you can kill that one person to save 1 but your're deliberately pulling the lever. You can do nothing and maybe your conscious would be clean since there was nothing you can do.
 

tourist

Senior Member
Mar 13, 2014
23,580
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Florida
#2
The trolley is probably an Amtrak. They seem to have a problem with levers on tracks.
 

Tommy379

Senior Member
Jan 12, 2016
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#3
I'll just send them my prayers
 

maxwel

Senior Member
Apr 18, 2013
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#4
People still take trolleys?

Maybe somebody needs to take an introductory ethics class from a school with newer books.
 

Waggles

Senior Member
Sep 21, 2017
2,027
379
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South Australia
adelaiderevival.com
#5
This is like those theological conundrums we used to
dream up in religious instruction class.
Great fun.

"Father, what would happen if ... "

Theory is one thing being there when it actually
happens is another thing.
To be honest I don't know!

It's like first aid training: you practice on dummies
[no real dummies] and yet when there is real blood
and gore - well that is all together different.
 

posthuman

Senior Member
Jul 31, 2013
18,980
1,457
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#6
The lever is railway property and you can face legal penalties for tampering with it.
 

zeroturbulence

Senior Member
Aug 2, 2009
20,925
980
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#7
You can't tie people to trolley tracks... because they are below ground....

...plus, the person driving the trolley controls the switches for the tracks. :p

 

Lynx

Senior Member
Aug 13, 2014
13,047
721
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#8
I want to know who is tying these people up and leaving them on tracks.

By the way, now that Spectre and Meltdown have made people aware that for years processors have been using speculative computation... Your computer has already sent trolleys down both tracks in a quantum way, and when you make a choice the trolley you did not choose will be deleted. All you have to do is NOT choose anything... and ALL SIX PEOPLE WILL DIE! Bwahahahaha!

 

Lynx

Senior Member
Aug 13, 2014
13,047
721
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#9
This reminds me of an old joke about a good-ole-boy kind of guy who was working at a railroad switching point, back in the days when they needed a guy to manually throw the switch. The inspector came around to make sure all the employees knew their jobs and were doing them. The inspector was a bit of a smart-alec, and he thought he'd see just how far he could test this rube.

"If you knew two trains were coming toward each other on a dead-on collision course, what would you do?"
"Well I'd throw this switch here and send one of them trains on the other track."
"What if that switch didn't work?"
"Well I'd throw this other switch here and send the other one down the other track."
"What if that didn't work either?"
"Well I'd turn this switch and turn on the red stop light to tell both trains to stop until we got this mess sorted out."
"What if that didn't work?"
"Man, what is this? I wanna know who's breaking all this equipment, that's what I'd be finding out."
"Just answer the question, what if the signal light didn't work?"
"Well I'd get on this here radio and call up the trains and tell them they better stop."
"And what if the radio didn't work?"
"Then I'd get on the phone and call up my uncle Jim."
"Jim? What does your uncle Jim know about trains?"
"Oh he don't know nothing about no trains. But uncle Jim, he ain't never seen a train wreck before."
 

Socreta93

Senior Member
Jul 28, 2015
1,819
58
48
#10
Thank you for all these serious answers :(
 

Lynx

Senior Member
Aug 13, 2014
13,047
721
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#11
Socreta I know you are trying to start conversations, and I give you props for that. Not many people want to start a thread these days, with so many critics waiting to pounce on and denigrate an idea.

But I never could take the trolley problem seriously. It's just too contrived. It's supposed to be a foil for those who believe all ethical problems are black-and-white, but my first question is "Who is tying all these people up and leaving them on the tracks?" My second question is "Why can the trolley not just stop?" My third question would be "What am I doing standing beside a switch when the trolley driver can't flip it for himself?" I have a lot of other questions about the trolley problem, but it goes downhill from here.

Sorry, I just can't take it seriously. The best I can do is supply some levity and move on. Hopefully somebody else can be serious about it.
 

WineRose

Senior Member
Jan 3, 2017
3,550
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Row A, Column 9
#12
I would just leave it be, because no one would die. Nope. Not even one.

1. Railway tracks are very uneven and bumpy. I doubt that the trolley would even go past the first track without stopping or drastically slowing down, even if it were fast.

2. A trolley would have a REALLY hard time killing a person, let alone a group of 'em while slowed down by the uneven surface of the railway. Even at relatively high speeds, it can perhaps cause a broken foot at most, but it would eventually heal most of the time.

(But if you used a cargo train instead of a shopping trolley, oh hooooo...now we'll be talkin')
 
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D

Depleted

Guest
#13
There is a runaway trolley barrelling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person tied up on the side track. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person

Here is something to note, you can kill that one person to save 1 but your're deliberately pulling the lever. You can do nothing and maybe your conscious would be clean since there was nothing you can do.
This is called "situational ethics." It is taught as "effective education." I know this, because I was young-and-dumb enough to teach it as my first fulltime job after college.

Here are the problems with it:
1. It teaches only two possible choices, and either choice is bad. How often does a dilemma only have two choices? Not even this one did. (My choice would have been to wake up from the dream, since, clearly, no one is tying six people on railway tracks just to see if someone would pull the switch. Note: Post had another choice.)

2. It teaches that no matter what you choose you are a good person.

3. It's purpose in teaching is for everyone to have "good self-esteem," under the delusion that good self-esteems stops people from doing "bad things." However, if you are being taught to do something bad or to do something badder, exactly how well is it stopping people from doing bad things?

This is world-speak, double-talk, 1984ism at it's finest. It is not the gospel. It is not godly. It is anti-god.

Now, I truly get that Soc is posting this just to have lively debate. He is not anti-god simply because he posted this. He probably didn't even know what this was about, but then again. That's why I spelled it out.

It's very easy, even as Christians, to think we're doing okay at discussing things like this as if it is a real scenario. And it is, except when we don't understand why there are so many such scenarios out there and what it is truly trying to promote.

I taught this in 1978-1979. I was a young Christian back in those days, (physically and spiritually speaking.) And I must admit, I cheated on the lesson plans. After letting the kids discuss the two choices given for a while, I presented something else to the scenario -- another choice. One that didn't mean making the best of two lousy choices. And, in doing so, I truly hoped I taught them to think for themselves, rather than assume an authoritative figure gave them all they needed to know.

Here it is 40 years later, and look how well the youth of that day got brainwashed into the worldly doctrine of today. If Christians don't get the hidden message, how are we to show the world?
 

maxwel

Senior Member
Apr 18, 2013
7,411
541
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#14
Socreta I know you are trying to start conversations, and I give you props for that. Not many people want to start a thread these days, with so many critics waiting to pounce on and denigrate an idea.

But I never could take the trolley problem seriously. It's just too contrived. It's supposed to be a foil for those who believe all ethical problems are black-and-white, but my first question is "Who is tying all these people up and leaving them on the tracks?" My second question is "Why can the trolley not just stop?" My third question would be "What am I doing standing beside a switch when the trolley driver can't flip it for himself?" I have a lot of other questions about the trolley problem, but it goes downhill from here.

Sorry, I just can't take it seriously. The best I can do is supply some levity and move on. Hopefully somebody else can be serious about it.


So you first criticize all the people who who criticize the trolley idea...
then you go on to criticize the trolley idea.


So it's fine for YOU to have a critical opinion,
but it's a sin for other people to have a critical opinion?


You'll probably prove my point by responding to this comment with something critical...
and be critical of ME for having a critical opinion in the midst of your own critical opinions.





If you're going to speak critically about the critical opinions of others,
it would be hypocritical to act as if "critical opinions" are a sin....
since you'd be in the very act of giving your own critical opinion.

I think it's best if we all just speak our minds freely,
as we're allowed to do here,
and everyone learns to wear their big boy pants.










 
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maxwel

Senior Member
Apr 18, 2013
7,411
541
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#15
Lynx,

Before this gets worse, how about I just apologize for being so cranky and snippy.


I haven't been feeling well, and I think I've been pretty ill tempered lately.
Since you and I have had some problems in the past, how about we take this to PM, try to chat, and see if we can sort things out?

If you'd like to chat, and sort things out, and try to improve things, please send me a PM.
 

Lynx

Senior Member
Aug 13, 2014
13,047
721
113
#16
Maxwell:

First, I alluded to people who sit back and criticize everything without contributing anything useful themselves.

Second, I criticized an idea... One single idea which is at the heart ludicrous... Not everything the OP has ever started here. There is nothing at all illogical about mentioning people who criticize everything, and then criticizing an idea myself. And I was only criticizing it to illustrate why I could not take the idea seriously, and thus attempt an explanation of why this thread has not gotten the serious comments Socreto seems to want.

Third, you didn't have to tell me you have been cranky lately. That has been very obvious.
 

Susanna

Senior Member
Jan 21, 2013
2,591
74
48
#17
If my memory serves me correctly the Brits, during WWIl, sacrifized Coventry so that the Germans wouldn't get to know that they had busted the Enigma code...and...as for good ole Harry S...I think he, rightfully or not, was thinking he could save lives by dropping those two bombs...

Was it right or was it wrong? I guess no one can tell.

That might be the point regarding the trolley problem as well. You can never know what is the best thing to do, even though it seems to be clear on a sunny day.
 

maxwel

Senior Member
Apr 18, 2013
7,411
541
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#18
Maxwell:

First, I alluded to people who sit back and criticize everything without contributing anything useful themselves.

Second, I criticized an idea... One single idea which is at the heart ludicrous... Not everything the OP has ever started here. There is nothing at all illogical about mentioning people who criticize everything, and then criticizing an idea myself. And I was only criticizing it to illustrate why I could not take the idea seriously, and thus attempt an explanation of why this thread has not gotten the serious comments Socreto seems to want.

Third, you didn't have to tell me you have been cranky lately. That has been very obvious.

No worries.


I tried to reach out to you, and take this to PM, and maybe sort out some past differences, but you were unwilling.

So I'll put you back on ignore, and we can both just go on our merry ways.

It's all good.