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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:
Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
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.
I understand this to be a true story. (I think it was in the 30's.) A railroad drawbridge operator brought his young child to work with him one day. He told the child to stay away from the big gears. After a while, a train came along and he had to lower the bridge. He noticed that his child had gotten into the gears and that if he lowered the bridge the child would be killed. But if he didn't lower the bridge everyone on the train would be killed.
What would you do? He lowered the bridge.
None of those people on the train knew what had happened to save their lives.
EarnestQ: The drawbridge keeper is actually a retelling of an older story from the 1800's. At least that is as far back as anybody has been able to trace it. Nobody knows if it is true, but I have heard many versions of it and even seen a video (drama, with a religious motif about Jesus dying for us.)
I actually LOVE questions like this. I had a few of my own; Some made up some retold but I would like it to be better received than this scenario so I am trepidatious about sharing them.
I would leave the lever alone. It isn't legal for me to mess with it. And I would think it may be a trick from some evil mastermind to pull it anyway. Maybe the one person is real and the other 5 are fake. The villain just wanted me to kill someone. Better safe than sorry.