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  1. #21
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Let me ask you this. There are five people in a room. I put a gun to your head and say kill two and I will let the rest go or I will kill all five. Do you do it? Can you be held morally and legally responsible for your actions? The point is, how certain did the captain have to be that all would die if he did not act for his actions to be justified?
    "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

  2. #22
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    Let me ask you this. There are five people in a room. I put a gun to your head and say kill two and I will let the rest go or I will kill all five. Do you do it?
    The best I can do disarm you and make a citizen's arrest.

  3. #23
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    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.
    My premise is that the captain's reasoning was sound in the face of the information he had, and some people did need to be thrown overboard for the rest to survive. I also think that the captain's decision to carry out this deduction was the correct thing to do, even though it violated ethical and legal laws, because then some people would have a higher chance of survival, instead of all the people in the boat dying in a tempest.

    Did I miss anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    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?
    I'm saying that the situation the captain was in in the OP was one with, the way I interpret it, two choices: either the captain lets everyone die and his morality be untarnished, or he takes the necessary course of action to save the most people he could - by killing those who would have died anyway.

    I agree that he committed murder, and that he should be tried for such legally, but that the situation is not as black and white as the law says it is. In my eyes, the captain took the best course of action in a rapidly deteriorating situation, and managed to save some people instead of leaving everyone to drown.

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    That's simply a misstatement 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.
    I understand that the captain did not act on prescient knowledge, but does that mean that he should have waited and saw what would happen, and then think "that's what I should have done" while drowning? Nobody act with 100% certainty of the correctness of his actions, but with guesswork and probabilities. There was of course the chance that they would all be safe, but only with hindsight can he, or anyone else on that boat, say, "this is what's going to happen". Instead, the captain took the course of action in face of the most likely situation in the near future: that they were all going to drown in an overcrowded lifeboat in a storm in the middle of the ocean, and that the only way to avert that is to do what he chose to do.

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    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 achieve a desirable end.
    An example of the sand heap paradox, and a well used argument. But that wasn't really my point. I was asking what else could have been done by the captain, or by anyone else on the boat, at the time (besides leave everyone to drown).

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    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.
    Ever seen Sophie's Choice?

    Again, it all comes down to cold probability. It's not something I enjoy, but I stress again, in that situation, with the information available, what else could have been done? The probability that 30+ survivors can survive in a storm in an extremely overweight lifeboat is very, very low. Thus, the probability of everyone dying is very high. Lightening the load increases the chance that the people remaining can survive. Thus, lightening the load, or killing those least likely to survive even in the boat, or those likely to be a liability to those in the boat, was the correct option.

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    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 fewer people in the boat, their chances would be greatly enhanced. What's wrong is cold-blooded murder based on your concerns about the future.
    This is hardly a situation where a guy got fired, goes bankrupt, and goes on a shooting spree. The passengers of the lifeboat were all going to die if nobody does anything. The captain killed some of the passengers to save the rest, which means that some people were saved because of the captain's mass murder. Maybe it's not worth it, or whatever, but it's a better result than what would have happened if he had done nothing.

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    I also don't agree 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 desirable.
    Once, again, I'm not justifying the captain's killings. I'm saying that although he knew that what he was doing was wrong (I would hope so) it was the necessary thing to do. Maybe those two qualities are incompatible, but that man saved +/-7 lives because he killed twenty-something other lives. He is a killer, and of two score at that, and yet he saved seven lives because of his actions. It's not that black and white.

    One more thing: I looked up "murder" in Wikipedia, and one of the prerequisites is "malice aforethought", one of which prerequisites is that "the perpetrator acts with gross recklessness showing lack of care for human life". I hardly think this is the case here. The captain acted to save lives, and did so by killing people, but he was hardly a psychopath or cold-blooded murderer.
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malice_aforethought)
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  4. #24
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    The best I can do disarm you and make a citizen's arrest.
    You fail at disarming me because I am standing five feet from you and the slightest sign of you wanting to disarm me I shoot you and the other four people. So you choose for all five to die rather then two. How do you justify this? How is five deaths better then two?

    In the situation there is a 100% chance that five people will die. There is a small chance that three might live if you shoot two. I could be lying and just kill the other three after you kill two. But who cares those two would die anyways. You really wouldn't take that small chance? This is obviously different from the scenario in the OP, since in the OP it is not 100% guaranteed that all will die unless some are sacrificed. My point is how sure do you need to be that all will die unless some are sacrificed in order to justify that sacrifice?
    "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

  5. #25
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    In the situation there is a 100% chance that five people will die.
    Not necessarily. There is always the possibility that you are lying and won't kill anyone.

  6. #26
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    You fail at disarming me because I am standing five feet from you and the slightest sign of you wanting to disarm me I shoot you and the other four people. So you choose for all five to die rather then two. How do you justify this? How is five deaths better then two?

    In the situation there is a 100% chance that five people will die. There is a small chance that three might live if you shoot two. I could be lying and just kill the other three after you kill two. But who cares those two would die anyways.
    This is where you're rhetorically masking the fact your scenario both is and isn't certain. You say first there's a 100% chance five people will die, then in the next sentence introduce the probabilistic nature of the situation, then introduce the element of dishonesty by which all bets are off! If you could be lying (and, of course you could be), you could be lying about anything and everything, including your intention to carry out your threat.

    Let me give you another scenario, a slight variation of yours to better illuminate the terrain upon which we're walking: All is the same, except after I shoot the two people, a side door opens and the police enter. You turn to Inspector Gerard and say, "There is your murderer, Inspector. Take him away!"

    Are you lying then? Yes or no?

    ---------- Post added at 10:57 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:36 PM ----------

    [QUOTE=Arraetrikos;453420]My premise is that the captain's reasoning was sound in the face of the information he had, and some people did need to be thrown overboard for the rest to survive. I also think that the captain's decision to carry out this deduction was the correct thing to do, even though it violated ethical and legal laws, because then some people would have a higher chance of survival, instead of all the people in the boat dying in a tempest.

    Did I miss anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    I'm saying that the situation the captain was in in the OP was one with, the way I interpret it, two choices...
    Which is nothing more than a distraction from what I asked you. Either you're not articulating your position clearly (an option that grows less likely each time you write it), or I'm not understanding you correctly (same here), or you hold the belief that so long as the goal is what makes the means moral or immoral, rather than whatever acts the "means" of attaining that goal may be.

    Now, again, is that your position? Do you believe that the ends justify the means. A simple yes or not will suffice here, as it's pretty clear there is no longer any misunderstandings or ambiguities standing in the way of a yes or no answer.

    But looking at your last comment in your reply, perhaps there is still some misunderstanding on your part. You say:

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    One more thing: I looked up "murder" in Wikipedia, and one of the prerequisites is "malice aforethought", one of which prerequisites is that "the perpetrator acts with gross recklessness showing lack of care for human life". I hardly think this is the case here. The captain acted to save lives, and did so by killing people, but he was hardly a psychopath or cold-blooded murderer.
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malice_aforethought)
    You are obviouly blinding yourself with the lives of the survivors to what the captain actually did. His actions could serve as an instructional video to go along with the wiki definition. The captain looked at the situation, calculated the probabilities, and then with malice aforethought toward 27 human beings he had judged not worthy to live, had them killed.

    The only fly in the ointment is we're using Wikipedia, which is never a good idea.

    What I can't understand: you seem to recognize the immorality and illegality of the captain's actions, you seem to understand he has taken on God-like powers no man has any right to in deciding who will live and who will die; you even understand the implications of what you're calling the "sand heap" argument, including it's vaidity generally, and it's partucularly good application here. In short, you agree with every point that demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt the captain is a murderer and guilty of murder by any plausible definition of the crime, and yet you agree with him.

    So there is really nothing left, no stone to be overturned for some other influential fact or factor. It really does seem to boil down to you must think the ends justify the means, but I'd rather hear it from you than deduce it from the evidence, however strong that evidence is. So once again, yes or no?

  7. #27
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    Let me give you another scenario, a slight variation of yours to better illuminate the terrain upon which we're walking: All is the same, except after I shoot the two people, a side door opens and the police enter. You turn to Inspector Gerard and say, "There is your murderer, Inspector. Take him away!"

    Are you lying then? Yes or no?[COLOR="Silver"]
    No, I didn't actually kill anyone so that is not a lie. However I would still be charged with a whole host of crimes. The three remaining people would testify against me telling the court everything I had done. So I would go to jail and the man who shot the two would go to jail as well. Although the man who shot the two people would get a reduced sentence because of the circumstances under which he kill the two people.

    My point was how certain do you need to be that all will die to justify killing some to save some. This is exactly the situation that the captain is finding himself in. So how sure did he need to be of the consequences of inaction for him to justify what he did? He should still be punished but the situation he was in should be taken into account to reduce the sentence that someone would normally get for killing 23 people.
    "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

  8. #28
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    No, I didn't actually kill anyone so that is not a lie.
    I suggest you read my post more carefully this time, and then answer.

  9. #29
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    Which is nothing more than a distraction from what I asked you. Either you're not articulating your position clearly (an option that grows less likely each time you write it), or I'm not understanding you correctly (same here), or you hold the belief that so long as the goal is what makes the means moral or immoral, rather than whatever acts the "means" of attaining that goal may be.

    ...

    You are obviously blinding yourself with the lives of the survivors to what the captain actually did. His actions could serve as an instructional video to go along with the wiki definition. The captain looked at the situation, calculated the probabilities, and then with malice aforethought toward 27 human beings he had judged not worthy to live, had them killed.

    What I can't understand: you seem to recognize the immorality and illegality of the captain's actions, you seem to understand he has taken on God-like powers no man has any right to in deciding who will live and who will die; you even understand the implications of what you're calling the "sand heap" argument, including it's vaidity generally, and it's partucularly good application here. In short, you agree with every point that demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt the captain is a murderer and guilty of murder by any plausible definition of the crime, and yet you agree with him.

    So there is really nothing left, no stone to be overturned for some other influential fact or factor. It really does seem to boil down to you must think the ends justify the means, but I'd rather hear it from you than deduce it from the evidence, however strong that evidence is. So once again, yes or no?
    I'll try to make it as clear as I can:
    1. The captain is guilty, legally and morally, of mass murder.
    2. Insofar as there was no better option at the time, his murders were correct (pragmatically, I suppose, if not morally as well)
    "More guns equal fewer deaths...by this logic, the Middle East would be better off if every nation in the region had nuclear weapons."
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  10. #30
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    I'll try to make it as clear as I can:
    1. The captain is guilty, legally and morally, of mass murder.
    2. Insofar as there was no better option at the time, his murders were correct (pragmatically, I suppose, if not morally as well)
    What is "clear" about saying the captain acted "pragmatically" while acting illegally and immorally? Pragmatic in relation to...what else is there?

    Give me your justificatory generalization for mass murder. Until you do, there's nothing more to be said.

  11. #31
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    It is interesting how much values come into play in these discussions, and how folks like to spin the debate to reflect our personal values and preconceptions and not necessarily the issue at hand.

    Lets make it less ambiguous, and possibly less overt. You are captain of a spacecraft, you are docked at a space station with 14 people on board, when an evacuate type emergency arises (through no fault of your own). You could pack all 14 people on you vessel, but it is absolutely certain that you will burn and crash with that much extra weight, and you will consume all the reserve oxygen before any hope of rescue with all those people on board.

    But you can determine, with extreme precision, that you can take the 7 lightest people, and you choose to do so. You being a cost-conscious career pilot are among the lightest (plus you can fly the thing) and you manage to discourage the heavier crew from boarding your vessel with your sidearm (no shots fired).

    When you arrive at home the lawyers of the families of the heavier crew that were left behind sue you for murder.

    1. Should the lawyers win their case?

    2. Does their verdict change if you realize you have to jettison the heavier crew AFTER bringing them on board your vessel?
    Last edited by daveId; December 13th, 2010 at 06:28 AM.

  12. #32
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    I suggest you read my post more carefully this time, and then answer.
    I suggest you read my post more carefully this time, and then answer.

    or

    Explain your post more clearly.

    1. Should the lawyers win their case?

    2. Does their verdict change if you realize you have to jettison the heavier crew AFTER bringing them on board your vessel?
    The captain would probably feel bad about having to leave 7 people behind, but I don't think he should be charged with a crime. It's not like he was the one who created the situation in which he needed to evacuate the ship. However he should have had enough escape pods on board to get everyone out of there, so he would be charged with something. But if he did have enough escape pods but one of them got damaged in the situation that caused the required evacuation, then no he wont be charged.
    "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

  13. #33
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    I suggest you read my post more carefully this time
    I didn't read your post at all, except to the point it became clear you had not read mine.

    Look, I gave you a scenario, one very much like your own, except that after I'd killed the two people, as demanded by you holding the gun on me and threatening to kill me and the other people as well if I didn't, the police appear on the scence. Then you tell the police, "There's your murderer, arrest him"

    I then asked you if you'd be lying in charging me with murder? Yes or no?

    To which you answered,

    No, I didn't actually kill anyone so that is not a lie.
    There was nothing complex or convoluted about what I wrote. It was simply a variation on your own example. Your answer had nothing at all to do with the question you were asked, which is why I assume you didn't read what I wrote. Do you have a cogent answer now?

  14. #34
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    I then asked you if you'd be lying in charging me with murder? Yes or no?
    Thats not what you asked, this is:

    "There is your murderer, Inspector. Take him away!"

    Are you lying then? Yes or no?
    Since you where the only one who killed someone it is not a lie to say "There is your murderer, Inspector. Take him away!" Also I wouldn't be lying in charging you with murder. If you had read my entire post you would have had your answer. I am responsible for many things including the deaths of the two people that died. However I did not pull the trigger so I am not directly responsible for their deaths. But I am indirectly responsible. You would be charged with murder but your sentence would be vastly reduced once the circumstance under which you killed those people came out. Also my sentence would be vastly increased by those facts coming out.

    The bottom line is that you killed two people and I killed no one. So you are the only murderer in the room when the cops arrive. If I yelled there is your terrorist arrest him, that would be a lie since I'm the terrorist.
    "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

    re: gun to head,
    for some reason, which I haven't thought through very far, I make an exception there.

    If someone is going to kill, for no good reason that I can see, and wish to pin the responsibility of their actions on me for choosing two or all, then that just doesn't compute in my mind. The "this person pointing a gun at us is reasonable" premise goes straight out the window and really the only choice is to assume you are all dead and try something desperate.

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    What is "clear" about saying the captain acted "pragmatically" while acting illegally and immorally? Pragmatic in relation to...what else is there?

    Give me your justificatory generalization for mass murder. Until you do, there's nothing more to be said.
    I'm saying that the only and best thing he could have done at the time is what he decided to do.
    "More guns equal fewer deaths...by this logic, the Middle East would be better off if every nation in the region had nuclear weapons."
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    I believe that it would in fact be the Captains responsibility to do such a thing, as the will to survive is very strong, and it would probably be impossible to gather the required amount of volunteers. Additionally, what would the point have been to throw or allow anyone to go overboard if the lifeboat would then not be able to make it to safety? Therefore, the captains decision to keep the strong and not the weak seems to have been the only logical choice at the time for any of the passengers to survive.

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by Arraetrikos View Post
    I'm saying that the only and best thing he could have done at the time is what he decided to do.
    You're still missing the point. Telling me what he did was the "best he could do" only once again labels what he did as the best. It doesn't tell me why it was the best, which is what I've been asking you for repeatedly.

    ---------- Post added at 03:30 AM ---------- Previous post was at 03:12 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    Thats not what you asked, this is:
    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck
    I then asked you if you'd be lying in charging me with murder? Yes or no?
    That is correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by MX
    Since you where the only one who killed someone it is not a lie to say "There is your murderer, Inspector. Take him away!"
    So then you're acknowledging I've committed murder.

    Quote Originally Posted by MX
    Also I wouldn't be lying in charging you with murder.
    Is it me or are you repeating yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by MX
    If you had read my entire post you would have had your answer. I am responsible for many things including the deaths of the two people that died. However I did not pull the trigger so I am not directly responsible for their deaths.
    With the same disclaimer that I'm no lawyer, I think you would be considered to be directly responsible for their deaths. I think legally speaking coercing a person by deadly force removes any responsibility they have under the law for what they do. Of course, morally, may be a different matter, and according to my moral compass is a different matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by MX
    But I am indirectly responsible. You would be charged with murder but your sentence would be vastly reduced once the circumstance under which you killed those people came out. Also my sentence would be vastly increased by those facts coming out.
    And I think it was bascially be the reverse. I think any jury would see you as the unhampered free will agent here, and me as the one whose choices have been drastically reduced by the exercise of yours.

    Quote Originally Posted by MX
    The bottom line is that you killed two people and I killed no one.
    Now that statement is false on its face regardless of whether we're being guided by law or morality here. You did kill two people, and you used your gun to do it. Had you not used your gun to kill them, they wouldn't be dead by gunshot. On what principle can you say you didn't kill anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by MX
    So you are the only murderer in the room when the cops arrive. If I yelled there is your terrorist arrest him, that would be a lie since I'm the terrorist.
    Makes no sense to me at all. The only terrorist act in the room was the murder of two people, and you already pleaded guilty to that one above. Now you get down here and suddenly you're not a murderer anymore?

    Your argument seems very inconsistent and unprincipled to me. At least I can find any consistency in it or principle on which it operates. It all seems very ad hoc to me.

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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    You're still missing the point. Telling me what he did was the "best he could do" only once again labels what he did as the best. It doesn't tell me why it was the best, which is what I've been asking you for repeatedly.
    Because some people were saved out of a situation where, if that course of action had not been taken, they all would have died.
    "More guns equal fewer deaths...by this logic, the Middle East would be better off if every nation in the region had nuclear weapons."
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    Re: The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    Quote Originally Posted by cstamford View Post
    And I think it was bascially be the reverse. I think any jury would see you as the unhampered free will agent here, and me as the one whose choices have been drastically reduced by the exercise of yours.
    Re-read what I wrote, this is not what I said.

    Now that statement is false on its face regardless of whether we're being guided by law or morality here. You did kill two people, and you used your gun to do it. Had you not used your gun to kill them, they wouldn't be dead by gunshot. On what principle can you say you didn't kill anyone?
    Again re-read what I wrote, this is the opposite of what I said. The bullets in the two bodies came from the gun with your fingerprints all over it. How does that make me the murderer?

    Makes no sense to me at all. The only terrorist act in the room was the murder of two people, and you already pleaded guilty to that one above. Now you get down here and suddenly you're not a murderer anymore?
    So confining five people against their will and forcing one of them to choose between murdering two people or all five including himself dying does not terrorize people? Terrorism is causing fear in people, you wouldn't be afraid in this situation? The other four people wouldn't be afraid?

    Your argument seems very inconsistent and unprincipled to me. At least I can find any consistency in it or principle on which it operates. It all seems very ad hoc to me.
    This is because you didn't read what I wrote. It seems like you read bits and pieces and then let your imagination fill in the rest in a way to would aid your argument. Please re-read my post more carefully and then respond.
    "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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