The Cleveland Freethinkers Message Board › Food for Thought
A group of children were playing on two railway tracks, one still in use while the other disused. Only one child played on the disused track, the rest on the operational track.
A train is coming, and you are just beside the track interchange. You can make the train change its course to the disused track and save most of the kids. However, that would also mean the lone child playing on the disused track would be sacrificed. Or would your rather let the train go it way?
Most people might choose to divert the course of the train, and sacrifice only one child. You might think the same way to save most of the children at the expense of only one child. Many would think that would be the rational decision to make both emotionally and morally.
But, have you ever thought that the child choosing to play on the disused track had in fact made the right decision to play at a safe place?
Nevertheless, he had to be sacrificed because of his ignorant friends who chose to play where the danger was. This kind of dilemma happens around us every day. In the office, community, in politics and especially in a democratic society, the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority, no matter how foolish or ignorant the majority are, and how farsighted and knowledgeable the minority are.
Just look at our recent financial crisis where savers are punished with suppressed interest rates in order to bail out imprudent bankers or over-indebted governments-welcome to crony capitalism and the entitlement state.
The great critic Leo Velski Julian as well as Sorav who told the story said he would not try to change the course of the train because he believed that the kids playing on the operational track should have known very well that track was still in use, and that they should have run away if they heard the train's sirens. If the train was diverted, that lone child would definitely die because he never thought the train could come over to that track!
Moreover, that track was not in use probably because it was not safe. If the train was diverted to the track, we could put the lives of all passengers on board at stake! and in your attempt to save a few kids by sacrificing one child, you might end up sacrificing hundreds of people to save these few kids. (Sounds like the U.S.'s centrally-controlled bailed-out financial system)
'Remember that what's right isn't always popular.and what's popular isn't always right.'
I heard a version of this on This American Life, but I like this version better: it ups the ante by using children and it makes the "used/disused" track distinction, raising the issue of whether the lone kid "deserves" life for making the safe choice. A nice extra dimension for the dilemma. (The unused track being unsafe for the passengers, though, may be too much--it almost makes the decision simple: don't mess at all with a train full of people!)
To which I have two thoughts:
1. There's no good way out of a great many situations. Deadly mistakes (or simple bad luck) happened to create this situation before you even came on the scene, and now you're left as a victim--in a sense--having to second-guess your decision.
2. Horses! Good enough for my grandpappy, good enough for me. Nothing good will come of these newfangled "trains".