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Is God off His trolley? - Comments

PurplePanda's Avatar Comment 1 by PurplePanda

Where are you getting God's answers to this moral conundrum?

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 11:24:20 UTC | #558317

Hammert1me's Avatar Comment 2 by Hammert1me

All moral descisions made by humans actually come from God (citation needed)

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 12:56:11 UTC | #558350

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 3 by Schrodinger's Cat

The famous trolley thought experiment invites us to let a runaway trolley squish 5 people on a track or divert it to squish 1 person on a siding.

For sheer moral dilemnas, you can't beat the computer game Fallout 3 ( a post nuclear war roleplay 'survival' game ). One finds oneself excercising moral judgements, and even feeling guilt....even though it is 'just a game' ( damned good graphics though ).

Within an hour of arriving in the 'safe' undergound vault area...I had killed the 'Overseer'....the vault leader....in order to rescue his daughter. Something I actually felt genuinely guilty about, as he'd seemed quite a nice chap. I later found I didn't have to kill the guy to do the rescue. Oops !

Not long after that, when I entered the nuclear wastelands, I killed another person I didn't have to....it seemed the only choice at the time.

And all this despite my trying to be as 'good' a person as I could. Early in the game I offered some stranger some of my water, to help them. But after that...when I learned how tough survival was....I tried to avoid meeting that person because I knew they would ask again. How life real life !

And then, ironically, just when I needed crucial help from someone....that person ( despite my killings ) did not consider me 'bad' enough to want to associate with.

I think the game is much closer to the absurd real life dimemnas that one faces. It's a must for anyone who thinks they are fundamentally a 'good' person....or that there are cut and dried moral situations.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 13:43:16 UTC | #558364

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 4 by bendigeidfran

Comment 1 by IndigoPanda

From the 200,000 or so of His creations that have had a go at the question. If God has given them their morality, as some would claim, He appears to have completely cocked it up with His 'yes - no - er...yes' answer.

I failed to find any more interesting versions of the dilemma. I would be interested to see if there are gender differences. For instance, in intuitive human morality how many females are worth how many males? Would two fertile looking females on the siding be worth 5 old men? Would a female at the lever intuitively value them higher or lower than a male? etc

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 14:13:17 UTC | #558372

Pete H's Avatar Comment 5 by Pete H

The origin of the expression ‘off his trolley’ comes from trolley buses.

These have an electric motor fed via overhead power cables. So the driver's steering discretion is limited. The contact poles swing to allow the bus to move a few metres left or right under the cable pathway. Sometimes cars are double parked and the bus driver might veer too far away from the aerial power cable trying to pass the obstruction. The contact poles then release to avoid stressing the aerial power cable and the bus is ‘off the trolley’ (or off the rocker – depending on the preferred technical term). The outcome is that the vehicle comes to a standstill, blocking traffic and enabling road rage.

Sometimes the drivers do this deliberately and hope their momentum will take them past the obstruction without power. Then they can reattach the contact poles manually so the bus is on the trolley again. But this enhances the chance of road rage.

The poles are retained by a safety harness which sometimes fails allowing the contact poles to flail around with the metal trolley or rocker tip smashing the brains out of a random pedestrian. There may be a connection here with the affects of religious morality.

The expression is ambiguous because it may refer to someone who is dazed and has lost motive power, or to someone who is enraged when their path is impeded. Both interpretations can seem relevant to religion.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 14:16:35 UTC | #558373

clarerethink's Avatar Comment 6 by clarerethink

Good points well made,Just had a thought,if the singleton was a loved one,anyone would surely sacrifice the five.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 14:23:10 UTC | #558377

MumboJumbo's Avatar Comment 7 by MumboJumbo

Comment 3 by Schrodinger's Cat :

For sheer moral dilemnas, you can't beat the computer game Fallout 3 ( a post nuclear war roleplay 'survival' game ). One finds oneself excercising moral judgements, and even feeling guilt....even though it is 'just a game' ( damned good graphics though ).

The sequel "Fallout: New Vegas" is even better in this respect because you begin not really knowing who you are, what you are supposed to do or if the person you are working for is good or evil. Moral and existential quandaries abound.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 14:25:26 UTC | #558379

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 8 by bendigeidfran

Comment 6 by clarerethink

I think so. I heard somewhere that the idea of having basic 'men' is to remove lots of emotional clutter and see if the maths makes any sense. Which it doesn't. The button/trapdoor variation highlights the danger of deflected responsibility, and the stupidity of the 'right' to bear arms etc.

The 'women and children first' meme made me wonder if females are intuitively valued more highly than males. I don't know if this is cross-cultural. As I'm not a scientist, I can do guesses. My guess is that a female at the switch would be fairer and kill more equally, and a male would save the females disproportionately. My evidence for this is I just thunked it.

There are far more mischievous variants that could be tried. One could have 5 Palestinians on the mainline and 1 Israeli on the siding. Then an Israeli general at the lever. But that one's been done for decades in reality.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 14:46:52 UTC | #558387

Matt B's Avatar Comment 9 by Matt B

If we assume for the purposes of this exercise that the magic sky-daddy exists, then I would certainly consider it "off its trolley." If we attribute to this entity, the brief moments of happiness engulfed in a lifetime of pain and absurdity, the coincidences that stretch the credibility of randomness, and the complex diversity around us which would only have the illusion of a natural procession; if we attribute all this and more to a deity, then it would show that it is indeed a little bit crazy, with a malevolent sense of humor.

He who designs the game dictates the possible moves, and there are just way too many negative moves in this game of life for any such deity to be loving and/or forgiving. These questions of morality show us, in my opinion, that this creature would be dangerous to live under, if it actually existed.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 16:06:33 UTC | #558424

Lowpro's Avatar Comment 10 by Lowpro

We might as well consider God to be evil for giving momentum to large objects to squish people with...

On the subject of morality, does it matter whether one person dies or five people die? Is grief additive? 5 families crying or 1 family crying do the five families eek out more quantifiable grief than just the one family?

Isn't the answer "both choices suck" a viable answer?

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 16:19:51 UTC | #558429

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 11 by bendigeidfran

Comment 9 by Matt B

Certainly we must suspend disbelief for this exercise. The exercise then demonstrates that this supposed supernatural arbiter of morality can't manage to be consistent even within the simplest of scenarios. It was more for the fools who would claim otherwise.

But intuitive morality, though stupid, is still interesting. And I would like to see what other stupid things we unthinkingly think. Moral philosophers, like any other charlatans, must make a living. And genuine cases, such as unplugging someone whose organs could save many, arise often in reality.

I see the goal as striving to minimise the number of events where such moral dilemmas occur. And keeping people like me as far away from the decisions as possible. Few people would find it as funny as I would to gesture to the singleton to move to the mainline and then do nothing.

Where there is no logical ethical choice a person should merely toss a coin and take consolation from the transference of responsibility.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 16:35:39 UTC | #558433

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 12 by bendigeidfran

Comment 10 by Lowpro

It is. But gods unfortunately can't intervene and stop either being squished. You know why.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 16:39:04 UTC | #558434

Lowpro's Avatar Comment 13 by Lowpro

To bendigeidfran

What is?

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 17:13:28 UTC | #558445

Bernard Hurley's Avatar Comment 14 by Bernard Hurley

Does God use his trolley when he goes shopping in Tescos? Do you think he'll lend it to me so I can fill it up with talking snakes?

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 17:14:13 UTC | #558446

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 15 by xmaseveeve

Comment 11, Bendi,

'Where there is no logical ethical choice a person should merely toss a coin and take consolation from the transference of responsibility'

That is an excellent definition of religion.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 17:30:32 UTC | #558452

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 16 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 14 by Bernard Hurley

Does God use his trolley when he goes shopping in Tescos?

Blasphemy ! My God would never shop at Tescos and I am offended by the mere suggestion that he's anything other than a loyal Sainsbury shopper !

I hope the courts fine you £200 for 'incitement to shopper hatred' of Nectar card carriers.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 17:44:11 UTC | #558462

kzoframe39's Avatar Comment 17 by kzoframe39

I don't know about the God morality thing. It seems on this website we will all say 'Yes, God is off His trolley'.

I went to the website to take the tests listed in the book. I thought it was instructive that people did not 'think' they would answer the way they did. Yet most people answered that way.

What is the different between pushing a button to drop the fat man and pushing him off yourself? This is an inconsistent idea. People go around with the idea that to sacrifice the one to save the many is a good thing. Other people argue it. Yet when it comes right down to tests, it's not the mathematical equation at all which describes our behavior. It's involvement in the sacrifice ourselves.

Revealing little fact about human nature. And I'd agree that religion has exploited these inconsistencies since they began.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 18:34:02 UTC | #558480

root2squared's Avatar Comment 18 by root2squared

The 'women and children first' meme made me wonder if females are intuitively valued more highly than males

Purely from a biological view, and not from any other, one woman is worth about a thousand men. To make a thousand babies in a year, you would need a thousand women, but one man could do the job..so most men are expendable.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 18:45:20 UTC | #558484

Thylacinidae's Avatar Comment 19 by Thylacinidae

Comment 8 by bendigeidfran :

Comment 6 by clarerethink

stupidity of the 'right' to bear arms etc.

I disagree on the stupidity in bearing arms. At least in my state, resorting to lethal force against another human being requires a fairly clear situation where your survival was in serious jeopardy and the only choice was to kill the threat. And, no, "shooting to wound" is not an option. That gets you arrested, sued, and your attacker going away almost free (and a hell of a lot richer.) And, being a rural area, there are few police in the area that take over an hour to respond to anything. And, they do not bother even showing up if you call in about a rabid animal (local animal control is not equipped to deal with that.)

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 18:52:27 UTC | #558488

root2squared's Avatar Comment 20 by root2squared

The famous trolley thought experiment invites us to let a runaway trolley squish 5 people on a track or divert it to squish 1 person on a siding. Cross-culturally the vast majority of punters think it's best to squish the singleton.

Not knowing anything at all, I would not interfere. If I do, then I am directly responsible for killing the one person. If I don't, then I don't consider it my fault that the 5 people will die. If you think that not doing anything makes you responsible, then pretty much everyone who spends money on things that are not absolutely essential is responsible for the deaths of the starving people around the world.

Tossing a coin also seems reasonable...

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 18:56:16 UTC | #558490

Gerit Upyeh's Avatar Comment 21 by Gerit Upyeh

Comment 18 by root2squared :

The 'women and children first' meme made me wonder if females are intuitively valued more highly than males

Purely from a biological view, and not from any other, one woman is worth about a thousand men. To make a thousand babies in a year, you would need a thousand women, but one man could do the job..so most men are expendable.

Can I be that man please?

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 19:17:57 UTC | #558495

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 22 by KRKBAB

Comment 21 by Gerit Upyeh- Do you really thin you have what it takes to make more than two babies per day for 365 (or 366) days IN A ROW?!

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 19:49:31 UTC | #558501

Gerit Upyeh's Avatar Comment 23 by Gerit Upyeh

Comment 22 by KRKBAB :

Comment 21 by Gerit Upyeh- Do you really thin you have what it takes to make more than two babies per day for 365 (or 366) days IN A ROW?!

Nope! But I would be happy trying!

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 19:50:50 UTC | #558503

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 24 by xmaseveeve

As Tesco's don't stock world peace and a cure for all disease, I think God's trolley would be full of Heinz beans. God eats beans on the holy toast, and farts earthquakes.

He doesn't need to shop much. His son does the cooking, so as long as they have a couple of loaves and fishes, they're sorted for up to 5,000 unexpected guests.

No drinks bill - all they need is plenty of water to change, and it's God up again, swinging his halo and singing Nazareth's 'Broken Down Angel' at the Karaoke.

He also buys crappy tat to give to the three wise men. (Mary said, 'What, so, you couldn't bring a packet of pampers?')

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 20:48:07 UTC | #558527

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 25 by bendigeidfran

Comment 19 by Thylacinidae

Well you unfortunately live in a dangerous state. There are lots of super reasons to kill people, but lots more completely dumb reasons. Dumb reasons is what we're best at as the experiment highlights.

Comment 24 by xmaseveeve

Tescos trolleys have morality built in and proudly declare that if you take them too far they will 'stop suddenly'. I have never wanted to steal a trolley before.

Comment 13 by Lowpro

Your viable answer is.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 22:48:38 UTC | #558567

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 26 by bendigeidfran

Comment 19 by Thylacinidae

Americans currently kill four minors a day domestically. I bet lots of these are for dumb reasons.

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 23:05:52 UTC | #558574

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 27 by ccw95005

For me, the most interesting finding about the trolley dilemma is that atheists and godders answer the questions pretty much the same.

What that tells me is that it's an innate sense of morality that drives most of our moral choices.

The rules set down by religions and countries and our own individual ruminations are guidelines. The almost universal rule against killing innocent people came about because we feel inside that it's wrong. We don't feel that it's wrong because some church wrote down that rule.

A set of rules that goes against the innate sense of morality most of us have would not make the grade. A religion whose rules seemed unfair would die out.

In real life, most moral decisions don't fit neatly into any set of rules. What we all do - those of us capable of empathy - is that we try to decide which action will benefit people the most. You may weigh the lives of certain people more than others - yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors, everybody else - but basically the moral action is the one that benefits people the most.

Then you balance that against your own self-interests, and decide on your actions. That, it seems to me, is the thought process you instinctively go through in deciding what to do in a morally-complicated situation. You don't consult the list of rules, because ordinarily the rules don't fit.

In the trolley scenario, the reason we are more comfortable with the switch than in pushing the fat man is the yuck factor - the instinctive feeling that more guilt attaches to pushing a real live person. The moral implications are exactly the same, but you know your nightmares will be worse if you push the man rather than pull the switch.

Sun, 05 Dec 2010 00:22:43 UTC | #558592

Thylacinidae's Avatar Comment 28 by Thylacinidae

Comment 25 by bendigeidfran :

Comment 19 by Thylacinidae

Well you unfortunately live in a dangerous state. There are lots of super reasons to kill people, but lots more completely dumb reasons. Dumb reasons is what we're best at as the experiment highlights.

I live in Maine, the majority of handgun violence is suicide with less than 40% actual crime. Most of the use of my guns is putting down animals struck by cars because people cant bother to drive the speed limit, or when I go hunting for food (I have a personal distaste for trophy hunters.)

I apologize, somehow the second paragraph did not post for some reason: With the trolley, people will die by your action or inaction. No matter what, death is going to happen and all you have to do is choose who. It just seems to be a situation with an easy out: do nothing. Unless your life is in danger, there is no personal risk by either choice. Sit back, watch them die, give up responsibility, sleep well that night.

With a gun, it is not going to fire on its own. By your inaction, nothing happens. Assuming perfect accuracy, action means that someone will die from the bullet. For the situation to be considered legal, Inaction leads to a victim's death while Action leads to the attacker's death. The choice is also compounded by the bullet's capability to penetrate and pass through the human body so the area past the target must be considered. My real disagreement was that it requires a fair amount of ethics to legally carry and use a firearm. The interesting (and hypocritical) thing is that many of the pro-gun nuts I know who claim no trouble shooting an intruder also are staunch christian pro-lifers. Go figure.

Sun, 05 Dec 2010 05:45:49 UTC | #558670

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 29 by bendigeidfran

Comment 28 by Thylacinidae

Aye but I wasn't worrying about what was legal or not. Just that the numbers increase where you make it a button or trigger due to our nonsensical cognitive failings.

Sun, 05 Dec 2010 17:43:40 UTC | #558863

raytoman's Avatar Comment 30 by raytoman

There is no God(s).

This is an ancient invention made by shamen/medicinemen/witchdoctors to enable them to exercise power and control over others. It has been refined over tens of millennia and nowadays people brainwash their own children as they were brainwashed and police themselves to avoid the wrath of this non existent God(s) (basically do whatever the religious leaders say).

This has nothing to do with morals. Religion is the antithesis of morals. You cannot have morals if you believe that you and your co religious morons, and your God(s), are better than everyone else who are lesser creatures and whose only hope is to be converted to the true faith.

Mankind, a species divided by religion, gods, liturgy, methods of worship, required actions and other irrational religious crap. I don't find it funny. I have to live on a planet where over 6 billion think I am evil and doomed to spend eternity in everlasting flames. They don't even want my sympathy, let alone my help.

Sun, 05 Dec 2010 23:28:19 UTC | #559027