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  1. #1
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    The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    In 1842, a ship struck an iceberg and more than 30 survivors were crowded into a lifeboat intended to hold 7. As a storm threatened, it became obvious that the lifeboat would have to be lightened if anyone were to survive. The captain reasoned that the right thing to do in this situation was to force some individuals to go over the side and drown. Such an action, he reasoned, was not unjust to those thrown overboard, for they would have drowned anyway. If he did nothing, however, he would be responsible for the deaths of those whom he could have saved. Some people opposed the captain's decision. They claimed that if nothing were done and everyone died as a result, no one would be responsible for these deaths. On the other hand, if the captain attempted to save some, he could do so only by killing others and their deaths would be his responsibility; this would be worse than doing nothing and letting all die. The captain rejected this reasoning. Since the only possibility for rescue required great efforts of rowing, the captain decided that the weakest would have to be sacrificed. In this situation it would be absurd, he thought, to decide by drawing lots who should be thrown overboard. As it turned out, after days of hard rowing, the survivors were rescued and the captain was tried for his action. If you had been on the jury, how would you have decided?
    "At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes - an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive, and the most ruthlessly skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new." Carl Sagan

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    It all depends on if the sacrficed passengers agreed with the captain's reasoning.

    Or, alternatively, it is morally acceptable if you believe that the jurisdiction of the position of "captain" extends to the lives of his passengers in an emergency situation.

    If the captain (and, presumably, a small group of cronies) forcibly threw the weakest members off the boat to drown then he and anyone who helped him should be charged with murder (and accessory to murder or whatever).

    In my opinion, the only moral thing that could be done would be to ask for volunteers.
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Technically, the captain's reasoning was sound, in that some people did need to be thrown overboard, but the problems come with the question of who should be thrown overboard, and who should decide. Whoever threw someone else overboard would be killing someone, but without anyone thrown overboard, everyone would die. In the absence of any volunteers, the captain was correct in his decision to throw the weakest overboard, but he simply had to take the moral responsibility for that decision, making him a sacrifice as well.
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by AuspiciousFist View Post
    In my opinion, the only moral thing that could be done would be to ask for volunteers.
    Here in lies the problem. The captain needs the strongest people on the boat because they have to row a lot to be rescued. So if he asked for volunteers some of the strongest might volunteer which would cause them all to die anyways. Also not enough people might volunteer. I agree with Arraetrikos, the captain had to make a choice of either everyone dying or only some. He probably knew that he would be prosecuted when they got rescued so in a sense he sacrificed his own life in order to save at least a few.
    "At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes - an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive, and the most ruthlessly skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new." Carl Sagan

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by AuspiciousFist View Post
    In my opinion, the only moral thing that could be done would be to ask for volunteers.
    So what if he asked for volunteers and no one stepped forward to be sacrificed?

    Should he let everyone die?

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Is there any right answer to this? Either way, some people will die won't they?

    And why is is that the passengers have to jump in and the captain gets to stay alive? Why doesn't he jump in? That way, it is more equal and he won't be tried in court.

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by Leanne1 View Post
    Is there any right answer to this? Either way, some people will die won't they?

    And why is is that the passengers have to jump in and the captain gets to stay alive? Why doesn't he jump in? That way, it is more equal and he won't be tried in court.
    It would seem that the best thing to do is to give as many people as possible the best chance for survival. So assuming the Captain sincerely feels that the people remaining on the boat have a better chance of survival with him on the boat (like he's amongst the strongest rowers or he feels his leadership ability is important), then he should stay on the boat.

    So, to answer the question, assuming the Captain's actions ultimately saved lives that otherwise would have perished without his decision-making, I would not convict him for those he had to sacrifice to save everyone else.

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    So assuming the Captain sincerely feels that the people remaining on the boat have a better chance of survival with him on the boat (like he's amongst the strongest rowers or he feels his leadership ability is important), then he should stay on the boat
    What does leadership ability have to do with jumping off the boat to save others? Sure, if he was on a huge ship like the one they were probably on before it sunk, then yes he should stay, but on a small rowing boat? I don't understand how he could know more than them regarding jumping off a boat and rowing to land.

    assuming the Captain's actions ultimately saved lives that otherwise would have perished without his decision-making, I would not convict him for those he had to sacrifice to save everyone else
    I still don't understand why he is in the right, he was in charge of his ship; it sunk, because of this tragedy, the passengers are forced onto a small rowing boat that can't even hold all of them, yet he has the audacity to decide who lives and who doesn't? And even if he does let them decide who lives and dies, I still believe he should be one of the ones to drown, instead of someone who had simply wanted to go for a boat ride.

    So, you are saying that you wouldn't convict him just because he sacrificed others? What is honourable about ordering others to drown when he could have volunteered himself?

    I agree that his decision-making on the matter of 'some have to jump' was good although I personally think that a five year old could have come up with that.

    If you were the captain, would you have made others jump but stayed aboard yourself with the remaining?

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by Leanne1 View Post
    What does leadership ability have to do with jumping off the boat to save others? Sure, if he was on a huge ship like the one they were probably on before it sunk, then yes he should stay, but on a small rowing boat? I don't understand how he could know more than them regarding jumping off a boat and rowing to land.
    Perhaps the captain is the only one who knows how to steer to land. Also I assume that the captain was the only one who knew that a storm was coming and that the life boat would not survive the storm with the current number of passengers. So then if he is the only one who knows how to get to land and is one of the stronger rowers it make sense that he would stay on the boat.

    When looking at weather or not we should blame the captain, a few things should be considered. First why did his boat sink? Was this a lack of experience, a mistake in the construction of the boat or poor judgment. Lets say that the boat sinking was caused by the captains incompetence. If this is the case then how can we say that the captain knew for sure that, a storm was coming, that he needed the strongest rowers to reach land and that the life boat would not survive the storm with the current number of passengers. Perhaps if they had taken a risk and kept everyone on the life boat during the storm then they all would have lived.
    "At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes - an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive, and the most ruthlessly skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new." Carl Sagan

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    First why did his boat sink? Was this a lack of experience, a mistake in the construction of the boat or poor judgment. Lets say that the boat sinking was caused by the captains incompetence
    Yes that is why I said "I still don't understand why he is in the right, he was in charge of his ship; it sunk, because of this tragedy, the passengers are forced onto a small rowing boat that can't even hold all of them, yet he has the audacity to decide who lives and who doesn't?"

    Perhaps the captain is the only one who knows how to steer to land
    Couldn't he have pointed in a direction then jumped? If I was him, I would have lived in guilt for the rest of my life if I had been in charge of a ship that sunk then told people to drown so that I and the 'strong ones' could get to land.

    Lets say that the boat sinking was caused by the captains incompetence. If this is the case then how can we say that the captain knew for sure that, a storm was coming, that he needed the strongest rowers to reach land and that the life boat would not survive the storm with the current number of passengers. Perhaps if they had taken a risk and kept everyone on the life boat during the storm then they all would have lived
    Thats interesting...And even more reason for him to jump.

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by Leanne1 View Post
    What does leadership ability have to do with jumping off the boat to save others? Sure, if he was on a huge ship like the one they were probably on before it sunk, then yes he should stay, but on a small rowing boat? I don't understand how he could know more than them regarding jumping off a boat and rowing to land.
    They don't know what challenges they will face once they have who's going to stay on the boat. In survival situations, a competent leader can be a big help. For instance, the rowers might have better moral if their leader is with them and row harder than they might otherwise.



    Quote Originally Posted by Leanne1 View Post
    I still don't understand why he is in the right, he was in charge of his ship; it sunk, because of this tragedy, the passengers are forced onto a small rowing boat that can't even hold all of them, yet he has the audacity to decide who lives and who doesn't?
    The OP does not say that he is responsible for the original disaster so that does not factor.

    This debate is about the morality of intentionally killing some people so that others may survive and it seems clear that if you have the choice of letting everyone die or killing half of the people so the other half may live, the correct choice is to kill half to save half.


    Quote Originally Posted by Leanne1 View Post
    So, you are saying that you wouldn't convict him just because he sacrificed others? What is honourable about ordering others to drown when he could have volunteered himself?
    It depends why he saved himself. If he did it because he sincerely felt that the remaining people would have a better chance of survival with him along, then he saved himself for the right reason.

    If he saved himself just because he didn't want to die and the survivors were no better off with him along instead of someone else who was tossed into the water, then he didn't save himself for the right reason.


    Quote Originally Posted by Leanne1 View Post
    If you were the captain, would you have made others jump but stayed aboard yourself with the remaining?
    If I thought that I would help the remaining people survive better than every single person that was thrown off the boat, I would stay on the boat. If I thought there was one person being tossed off who would better help the remaining people survive than I would, then I would volunteer to jump out.

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by mican333 View Post
    This debate is about the morality of intentionally killing some people so that others may survive and it seems clear that if you have the choice of letting everyone die or killing half of the people so the other half may live, the correct choice is to kill half to save half.
    This is the correct choice only if there is a 100% certainty that all will die if half are not sacrificed. It would be assumed that the captain would be the most qualified to make such a decision in this given scenario. However the fear of death could have clouded the captains judgement making him come to a conclusion that was not true. He may have feared that with 30 people in the boat with a storm on the way their chances of survival were greatly diminished so then he decided to increase his chance of survival. Keep in mind that it is very difficult to convince 7 people to throw 23 people of a boat to drown. It is even more difficult to achieve this without the boat capsizing. One could say that it would require the 7 strongest people on the boat to throw the other 23 people off it. After all the boat that they were originally on would have sent a distress signal before going down. The rescuers would go to the place of the boats last coordinates, so why row anywhere? Why not stay in the same place as where the boat went down. A place where the rescuers are going to look first?
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    In 1842, a ship struck an iceberg and more than 30 survivors were crowded into a lifeboat intended to hold 7. As a storm threatened, it became obvious that the lifeboat would have to be lightened if anyone were to survive. The captain reasoned that the right thing to do in this situation was to force some individuals to go over the side and drown. Such an action, he reasoned, was not unjust to those thrown overboard, for they would have drowned anyway. If he did nothing, however, he would be responsible for the deaths of those whom he could have saved. Some people opposed the captain's decision. They claimed that if nothing were done and everyone died as a result, no one would be responsible for these deaths. On the other hand, if the captain attempted to save some, he could do so only by killing others and their deaths would be his responsibility; this would be worse than doing nothing and letting all die. The captain rejected this reasoning. Since the only possibility for rescue required great efforts of rowing, the captain decided that the weakest would have to be sacrificed. In this situation it would be absurd, he thought, to decide by drawing lots who should be thrown overboard. As it turned out, after days of hard rowing, the survivors were rescued and the captain was tried for his action. If you had been on the jury, how would you have decided?
    Not guilty, by reason of justification. He killed them, but they would have died anyway; the only real impact of his action was to save the survivors

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by Kivam View Post
    Not guilty, by reason of justification. He killed them, but they would have died anyway; the only real impact of his action was to save the survivors
    Excellent point! Life can be harsh, he did what he could to save as many as could be saved. He is a hero. Sometimes being a leader, or a Hero, requires cruel but necessary decisions. I applaud the Captain for having the bravery to accept the guilt of his actions. No matter how just only a sociopath would not feel the guilt.

    As long as he did it without conflict of interest as has been stated.
    All men SHOULD have equal opportunity to live their life to the fullest. Be as happy, productive, carefree, and content as possible. The trouble is we are NOT created equal.

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    In 1842, a ship struck an iceberg and more than 30 survivors were crowded into a lifeboat intended to hold 7. As a storm threatened, it became obvious that the lifeboat would have to be lightened if anyone were to survive. The captain reasoned that the right thing to do in this situation was to force some individuals to go over the side and drown. Such an action, he reasoned, was not unjust to those thrown overboard, for they would have drowned anyway. If he did nothing, however, he would be responsible for the deaths of those whom he could have saved. Some people opposed the captain's decision. They claimed that if nothing were done and everyone died as a result, no one would be responsible for these deaths. On the other hand, if the captain attempted to save some, he could do so only by killing others and their deaths would be his responsibility; this would be worse than doing nothing and letting all die. The captain rejected this reasoning. Since the only possibility for rescue required great efforts of rowing, the captain decided that the weakest would have to be sacrificed. In this situation it would be absurd, he thought, to decide by drawing lots who should be thrown overboard. As it turned out, after days of hard rowing, the survivors were rescued and the captain was tried for his action. If you had been on the jury, how would you have decided?
    Guilty of murder, as was anyone in the boat who helped effectuate his plan. Absolutely. That his actions happened to be the reason some were saved does not mitigate the culpable fact he made the decision to kill others on a pretended omniscience about future events. Since the "captain" lacked this knowledge, obviously, and was not the author of anyone's life in the lifeboat, including his own, he had no moral authority to decide who lived and who died.

    Of course, if he could convince enough to sacrifice their own lives for those of the others, and do so short of actual coercion, then he would not be culpable; could, in fact, be viewed as heroic on the remnant's survival.

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    In 1842, a ship struck an iceberg and more than 30 survivors were crowded into a lifeboat intended to hold 7. As a storm threatened, it became obvious that the lifeboat would have to be lightened if anyone were to survive. The captain reasoned that the right thing to do in this situation was to force some individuals to go over the side and drown. Such an action, he reasoned, was not unjust to those thrown overboard, for they would have drowned anyway. If he did nothing, however, he would be responsible for the deaths of those whom he could have saved. Some people opposed the captain's decision. They claimed that if nothing were done and everyone died as a result, no one would be responsible for these deaths. On the other hand, if the captain attempted to save some, he could do so only by killing others and their deaths would be his responsibility; this would be worse than doing nothing and letting all die. The captain rejected this reasoning. Since the only possibility for rescue required great efforts of rowing, the captain decided that the weakest would have to be sacrificed. In this situation it would be absurd, he thought, to decide by drawing lots who should be thrown overboard. As it turned out, after days of hard rowing, the survivors were rescued and the captain was tried for his action. If you had been on the jury, how would you have decided?
    But the captain thought, that even if lightened to the extent to which she afterwards was, 'it would have been impossible to row her to land; and that the chances of her being picked up, were ninety-nine to one against her.'

    And, further, that on the following morning, before the boats parted company, the mate, in the long-boat, told the captain, in the jolly-boat, that the long-boat was unmanageable, and, that unless the captain would take some of the long-boat's passengers, it would be necessary to cast lots and throw some overboard. 'I know what you mean,' or, as stated by one witness, 'I know what you'll have to do,' said the captain. 'Don't speak of that now. Let it be the last resort.' There was little or no wind at this time, but pieces of ice were floating about.


    Not one of the crew was cast over.


    It was among the facts of this case that, during these solemn and distressful hours, scarce a remark appeared to have been made in regard to what was going to be done, nor, while it was being done, as to the necessity for doing it. None of the crew of the long-boat were present at the trial, to testify, and, with the exception of one small boy, all the witnesses from the long-boat were women,--mostly quite young. It is probable that, by Tuesday night (the weather being cold, the persons on the boat partially naked, and the rain falling heavily), the witnesses had become considerably overpowered by exhaustion and cold, having been 24 hours in the boat. None of them spoke in a manner entirely explicit and satisfactory in regard to the most important point, viz. the degree and imminence of the jeopardy at 10 o'clock on Tuesday night, when the throwing over began.


    They then went to work; and, as has been already stated, threw out, before they ended, 14 male passengers, and also 2 women. [n. 5] The mate directed the crew 'not to part man and wife, and not to throw over any women.' There was no other principle of selection.


    http://wings.buffalo.edu/law/bclc/web/holmes.htm

    Let's return to the OP:

    It's clear the moral dilemma INSPIRED by the event is a tough choice, but the reality is, those crewmen were murderers. The established facts speak to it:

    1) THey knew beforehand that some people were gonna die because A) the lifeboat was overcrowded (the Captain refusing to take some onto his own boat) and B) Because the lifeboat was crappy.
    2) There was no threatening weather (at least none of which the witnesses could recount).
    3) There was no lengthy dialogue regarding what to do (again, none to which the witnesses could testify).
    4) It was clearly decided that no women or married men should be thrown over and no other statement or instructions were given in regards to HOW to choose who to toss overboard.
    5) The Captain, first mate, and secondmate, all knew BEFOREHAND that it would be impossible to row to land and that it was ultimately irrelevant if they did because rescue was almost impossible.

    In the end, I'd agree with the jury and push for warrants to be sworn against the other crew members (Captain Harris was never charged).
    But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    Guilty of murder, as was anyone in the boat who helped effectuate his plan. Absolutely. That his actions happened to be the reason some were saved does not mitigate the culpable fact he made the decision to kill others on a pretended omniscience about future events. Since the "captain" lacked this knowledge, obviously, and was not the author of anyone's life in the lifeboat, including his own, he had no moral authority to decide who lived and who died.
    I don't think that the captain was attempting to be omniscient or prescient, but as a ship's captain, I think he would be able to tell if a storm was coming, or if the probability of surviving was approximately high or low. Based on this knowledge, he does have the authority on that boat at the time about what to do about this situation. Based on this knowledge, he does have the authority on the boat to decide what needed to be done to save the most number of people, which was to kill some of them.

    When you said "'captain'", I'm assuming that you mean that the captain has no authority in the lifeboat. The captain's authority on the boat is justified by the fact that he is probably the most experienced in the ways of the sea on the lifeboat, but no longer because he was the captain of the sunken ship. Based on this authority, he had the right to make decisions that SOME people had to be thrown overboard, and that those people had to be sacrificed on the basis that their sacrifice would save the other people. The question then is who exactly to throw overboard.

    And yes, the captain is probably guilty of murder. But at the same time, he is also responsible for the saving of the lives he saved through the decision he made to kill the others. That's the sacrifice he made.

    Lastly, does your post mean that you support the alternative method proposed by the passengers at the time: let everyone die so no one is guilty? Or do you have yet another method of saving the most number of people in that situation?
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    I don't think that the captain was attempting to be omniscient or prescient, but as a ship's captain, I think he would be able to tell if a storm was coming, or if the probability of surviving was approximately high or low. Based on this knowledge, he does have the authority on that boat at the time about what to do about this situation. Based on this knowledge, he does have the authority on the boat to decide what needed to be done to save the most number of people, which was to kill some of them.

    When you said "'captain'", I'm assuming that you mean that the captain has no authority in the lifeboat.
    No, I didn't. I took MyXenocide's OP as if it were true, and it was he who used the term "captain" in referring to the person in charge in the lifeboat. I'm just following his lead like a good little ODN debater.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    The captain's authority on the boat is justified by the fact that he is probably the most experienced in the ways of the sea on the lifeboat, but no longer because he was the captain of the sunken ship. Based on this authority, he had the right to make decisions that SOME people had to be thrown overboard, and that those people had to be sacrificed on the basis that their sacrifice would save the other people. The question then is who exactly to throw overboard.

    And yes, the captain is probably guilty of murder. But at the same time, he is also responsible for the saving of the lives he saved through the decision he made to kill the others. That's the sacrifice he made.
    You just explicitly admitted the captain committed 27 calculated murders. Exactly when did saving seven lives become a justification for that? Did I miss a memo or somethng?

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    Lastly, does your post mean that you support the alternative method proposed by the passengers at the time: let everyone die so no one is guilty? Or do you have yet another method of saving the most number of people in that situation?
    The moral issue is not about how many people are saved. Let's start there. It's about what was done to save them. Unless I'm getting senile, killing a slough of innocents to save a few other innocents is still morally reprehensible in just about everybody's book of values. Even if we were to adopt the (in my opinion) bizarre "moral accounting" method of making each life saved by the murder of another a "moral wash" (no pun intended!), it still doesn't add up. The man still comes out a serial killer 19 times over. I think that puts him ahead of Ted Bundy, doesn't it?

    Then there's the fact saying the captain actually saved any one is guesswork, in stark contrast to saying he killed 27 innocent people. But then I mentioned this already, I think, so I dont want to start repeating myself, or the wife might ship me off to the home.

    But we have to at least acknowledge that captains worthy of the rank really shouldn't have a lot of lifeboat experience. I certainly wouldn't like to know the pilot of the next commerical jet I board has a lot of experience crashing, and that this is regarded by the airline as a plus. The point is the captain, once in the lifeboat, may be the best sailor in the boat, but is still way out of his natural element, or should be. This also is a "mitigating factor" in the captain's decisions and actions that precludes the argument his knowledge here boarders on omniscient.

    And before you bring it up, let me assure you I am completely setting aside something that is lurking in the weeds, so to speak in all this; and that is the prospect the captain's judgment was clouded by his own strong sense of personal survival. Most captains go down with their ships. This one managed to make it to the lifeboat. However, in the interest of an over-abundance of caution to be fair, I'm not going to read much into the fact this one didn't, and killed 27 people to give himself, and the six he didn't murder the best chance at survival as he understood the situation. But you can bet your last sou that were I the prosecuting attorney in this case, I would hammer on this appearance of personal survival at all costs with each and every survivor I called into the witness chair, trying to expose the least indication the captain acted for his own benefit at any point in the ordeal.

    But let's set everything else aside, and examine something I left out of my first post that I probably shouldn't have, because it serves to so clearly illuminate the legal and moral terrain before us in this case; that is, the legal concept of feduciary obligation.

    A captain and his cadre of ships officers and crew, in accepting their roles on a ship for which passengers pay money to be carried safely to their destinations, accept simultaneously a feduciary responsibility under law for each and every paying passenger on board. That obligation extends to doing anything and everything they can humanly possibly do to see that each and every passenger receives their utmost effort to deliver them safely, if not to their original destination, than to land. Now we're not told the circumstances of the sinking, but the lifeboat is simply the ship reduced to minature, with the captain's feduciary responsibility to the surviving passengers in it (all 30 of them, per the OP) intact. He's in charge, not just of the boat, but of the boat because he must be in charge of the boat to be able to fulfill his feduciary responsibility to everyone in the boat. That obligation is his reason de etre for being the captain.

    What the captain did then, was decide unilaterally for which persons he would fulfill his feduciary obligations, and for which he wouldn't, when each of them had an equal right to his best efforts to save each one. He doesn't have any right to make that kind of decision; not under law, and not under any civilized moral code. The only "law" I can see that might give him a "right" like that is the thoroughly animalistic "law of the jungle.

    Now we need to get the principle of feduciary responsibility clear as crystal. Bankers can't plunder some depositers' accounts to protect the integrity of others. Lawyers can't sacrifice one client's rights and interests to protect or enhance those of another. Everybody must be treated equally in any situation where a feduciary obligation exists either morally or legally, even if that means the chances everyone dies are greater than if some were killed.

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    You just explicitly admitted the captain committed 27 calculated murders. Exactly when did saving seven lives become a justification for that? Did I miss a memo or somethng?
    Yeah, that's what I'm saying: the captain did commit murder, and should be tried for such, but that's his sacrifice. Personally I think that's (at least a little) worse than death - he was between a rock (letting everyone die) and a hard place (making the hard decision to kill those that would have died anyways, and taking the moral and legal responsibility for it). I would have chosen the hard place too (but hey, that's just me )

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    The moral issue is not about how many people are saved. Let's start there. It's about what was done to save them. Unless I'm getting senile, killing a slough of innocents to save a few other innocents is still morally reprehensible in just about everybody's book of values. Even if we were to adopt the (in my opinion) bizarre "moral accounting" method of making each life saved by the murder of another a "moral wash" (no pun intended!), it still doesn't add up. The man still comes out a serial killer 19 times over. I think that puts him ahead of Ted Bundy, doesn't it?
    You're right, it's not about how many people were saved. It's about the fact that some people didn't die versus the alternative of everyone dying. And once again, I stress the fact that I'm not saying that the captain was not guilty, morally and legally, of mass murder (or the correct legal term), but that he did what he had to do.

    Also, the alternative was that the captain would let everybody die instead of some people not dying, and some living. In any case, the captain would be responsible for the deaths that had occurred. It was only the question of whether some people lived out of all those that would have died otherwise. Or am I missing another alternative to the situation?

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    Then there's the fact saying the captain actually saved any one is guesswork, in stark contrast to saying he killed 27 innocent people. But then I mentioned this already, I think, so I dont want to start repeating myself, or the wife might ship me off to the home.

    But we have to at least acknowledge that captains worthy of the rank really shouldn't have a lot of lifeboat experience. I certainly wouldn't like to know the pilot of the next commerical jet I board has a lot of experience crashing, and that this is regarded by the airline as a plus. The point is the captain, once in the lifeboat, may be the best sailor in the boat, but is still way out of his natural element, or should be. This also is a "mitigating factor" in the captain's decisions and actions that precludes the argument his knowledge here boarders on omniscient.
    There was of course the chance that nobody would die in that situation, but the OP described a situation in which rescue didn't seem likely to appear soon enough, and the situation (the storm) was about to worsen. Given that situation, guesswork is the best judgement to be relied on, and the captain's experienced guess would be the best one on the boat.

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    And before you bring it up, let me assure you I am completely setting aside something that is lurking in the weeds, so to speak in all this; and that is the prospect the captain's judgment was clouded by his own strong sense of personal survival. Most captains go down with their ships. This one managed to make it to the lifeboat. However, in the interest of an over-abundance of caution to be fair, I'm not going to read much into the fact this one didn't, and killed 27 people to give himself, and the six he didn't murder the best chance at survival as he understood the situation. But you can bet your last sou that were I the prosecuting attorney in this case, I would hammer on this appearance of personal survival at all costs with each and every survivor I called into the witness chair, trying to expose the least indication the captain acted for his own benefit at any point in the ordeal.
    There is obviously the considerably high chance that the captain was lying about his justifications for throwing so-and-so overboard, but I don't know whether this was true or not, and the OP didn't mention it. It would definitely be a factor in court, but his reasoning sounds sound to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    But let's set everything else aside, and examine something I left out of my first post that I probably shouldn't have, because it serves to so clearly illuminate the legal and moral terrain before us in this case; that is, the legal concept of feduciary obligation.

    A captain and his cadre of ships officers and crew, in accepting their roles on a ship for which passengers pay money to be carried safely to their destinations, accept simultaneously a feduciary responsibility under law for each and every paying passenger on board. That obligation extends to doing anything and everything they can humanly possibly do to see that each and every passenger receives their utmost effort to deliver them safely, if not to their original destination, than to land. Now we're not told the circumstances of the sinking, but the lifeboat is simply the ship reduced to minature, with the captain's feduciary responsibility to the surviving passengers in it (all 30 of them, per the OP) intact. He's in charge, not just of the boat, but of the boat because he must be in charge of the boat to be able to fulfill his feduciary responsibility to everyone in the boat. That obligation is his reason de etre for being the captain.

    What the captain did then, was decide unilaterally for which persons he would fulfill his feduciary obligations, and for which he wouldn't, when each of them had an equal right to his best efforts to save each one. He doesn't have any right to make that kind of decision; not under law, and not under any civilized moral code. The only "law" I can see that might give him a "right" like that is the thoroughly animalistic "law of the jungle.

    Now we need to get the principle of feduciary responsibility clear as crystal. Bankers can't plunder some depositers' accounts to protect the integrity of others. Lawyers can't sacrifice one client's rights and interests to protect or enhance those of another. Everybody must be treated equally in any situation where a feduciary obligation exists either morally or legally, even if that means the chances everyone dies are greater than if some were killed.
    Ummm...

    Obviously you are very well versed in the legal side of this issue, so I wouldn't debate feduciary responsibility with you. I'll just make one last comment: in the eyes of the law, all are considered equal. Does this mean that all the people on the lifeboat should die as equals, or should some die that others may live? Legally, there is, perhaps, no question of what the answer should be, but morally I think there is room, room for discussion.
    "More guns equal fewer deaths...by this logic, the Middle East would be better off if every nation in the region had nuclear weapons."
    Timothy Egan, NY Times

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    You're right, it's not about how many people were saved. It's about the fact that some people didn't die versus the alternative of everyone dying. And once again, I stress the fact that I'm not saying that the captain was not guilty, morally and legally, of mass murder (or the correct legal term), but that he did what he had to do.
    This is what I can't comprehend. You readily agree that the captain was morally and legally wrong, and yet you agree with what he did. You either have to be misstating your position, I don't understand it adequately, or you're fine with immoral and criminal means to a good end. Which is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    Also, the alternative was that the captain would let everybody die instead of some people not dying, and some living.
    That's simply a mistatement of the situation. There is no reason in the story to accept the captain had infallible knowledge of the future. Thus we cannot say what he did saved lives. All we can say from the actual facts of the story is that he killed 27 people intending thereby to save seven.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    In any case, the captain would be responsible for the deaths that had occurred. It was only the question of whether some people lived out of all those that would have died otherwise. Or am I missing another alternative to the situation?
    Several; but to keep this to pamphlet length, I'll restrict myself to one for the moment. MyXenocide's OP mentions the lifeboat was designed for seven. I'm assuming, for the sake of argument and consistency with the facts we know as they unfold in the OP narrative, that when a man is willing to kill a score or more of people to "lighten the load" so that others will be saved, he's going to lighten it to it's optimum load capacity so that the improved chances for survival, for which he paid so dear a price, will give him the most "bang for the buck" so to speak; which is why I've been using the figures 27 killed and seven saved out of the original thirty the OP places in the boat.

    Now, the actual figures don't really matter to the point I'm about to make. They're what they are because of what the OP says, and the fact I have to use some specific number or other to make this point. So say the captain had 27 thrown overboard (which, btw, is a gentle euphemism for what must have actually happened!) to save the designed optimum for the lifeboat; i.e., seven. Couldn't it then be plausibly argued after the fact that he could have saved one more than he did, and so killed one less? How about two? Certainly the difference between seven people in the boat and nine couldn't have spelled the difference between them making it or not. How about ten people in the boat? Or eleven?

    Anyway, you see the point. No matter what number the captain used as his "cut off" number, clearly it can't be defended as verdical, even if his decision to lighten the load to some extent can be. This means that even if we accept the premise immoral and illegal means are justified when the intended end is noble, the captain's decision was in all probability not an example of that premise. He undoubtedly killed at least one person he didn't have to, if not several, even if we accept the horrific premise that any means are justified to acheive a desireable end.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    There was of course the chance that nobody would die in that situation, but the OP described a situation in which rescue didn't seem likely to appear soon enough, and the situation (the storm) was about to worsen. Given that situation, guesswork is the best judgement to be relied on, and the captain's experienced guess would be the best one on the boat.
    This is the sort of reasoning one uses to bet on a horse, or make an investment, or for any other decision where paring down risk doesn't involve mass murder or cruelty or some other morally and legally proscribed act or consequence. It's not an excuse to kill people. In no civilized society is anyone allowed to pare the risk of failure for any enterprise illegally or immorally.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    There is obviously the considerably high chance that the captain was lying about his justifications for throwing so-and-so overboard, but I don't know whether this was true or not, and the OP didn't mention it. It would definitely be a factor in court, but his reasoning sounds sound to me.
    It's not his reasoning that's immoral. What's immoral is his decision to put that reasoning into effect. There's nothing wrong with him thinking they can't make it with everyone aboard, or that if there were fewere people in the boat, their chances would be greatly enhanced. What's wrong is cold-blooded murder based on your concerns about the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    Ummm...

    Obviously you are very well versed in the legal side of this issue, so I wouldn't debate feduciary responsibility with you. I'll just make one last comment: in the eyes of the law, all are considered equal. Does this mean that all the people on the lifeboat should die as equals, or should some die that others may live? Legally, there is, perhaps, no question of what the answer should be, but morally I think there is room, room for discussion.
    I don't agree. I also don't argee with what is apparently your operating premise in all this, that any means whatsoever, up to and including mass murder, is justified so long as the intended end is desireable. I would categorize that "end" more precisely, but since I'm deducing your operating premise here, instead of reading what it is from you, that's as fine an inference as I can muster at present.

    So my suggestion is, instead of responding to all of the above, from an unarticulated premise, start by articulating it, and then we'll see what we will see.

 

 
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