Thursday, June 30, 2011

Captain's Log, Day Ten: A Little Logic Goes a Long Way...

          I’m not a psychologist. By ANY means. I might be what a psychologist calls a “literalist,” though. Or maybe just “annoying.”
          In one of my classes at college (one of the seriously lamer ones), a guest speaker was brought in to talk about moral dilemmas. After a few condescending remarks (in all charity, maybe he just mixed up his kindergarten notes with the college ones?), he gave this example of a dilemma; “Suppose you saw a runaway train full of passengers. You’re standing next to a fat man. The only way to stop the train and save the people is to sacrifice the man by pushing him onto the tracks. What would you do?”
          One person raised her hand. “I’d sacrifice the man. After all, there’s more people on the train who could be saved.”
          Another person: “But then you’d be killing the first guy! Maybe you could just ask him to sacrifice himself?”
          Me: “How the heck could a fat guy stop a train?” Oops, did I just say that out loud?
          The professor thought for a moment. “Well, just imagine that he’s fat enough to stop the train!”
          A buddy of mine a few seats away (also an engineer like myself): “Umm, but if he’s that fat, wouldn’t you not be able to move him anyway?”
          “Okay, then pretend you have superhuman strength…”
          Another person joins us. “But then couldn’t I just stop the train myself?”
          “Pretend that you’re strong enough to move the man but not strong enough to stop the train!”
          Me: “But by throwing a large object in front of the train, wouldn’t that cause it to stop so suddenly that it crashes? In that case, the point is moot because you killed everyone…”
          The professor wipes his glasses. “Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best example…what if you’re a sniper and you see three people about to perform three executions, of a soldier, a clergyman, and a child. You only have two bullets. Who do you save?”
          I decided to hush up for this part, even though I wanted to mention out that the second one of them collapsed, the rest would take cover, but I figured the class had enough people to point that out. Sure enough, after about a minute, one of them did. Gotta love engineers, right? As an added note, the professor praised us at the end of the class for being so “logical” and added, “This is the most involved class I’ve ever taught!”
          How about this for a dilemma: You’re failing three classes. You can only study for two…

**Captain's Note: For the sniper example, Nemesis suggested "Shoot two people and bluff the third." 

1 comment:

  1. For you're dilemma, I say study for the most important ones.