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Would/should you or wouldn’t/shouldn’t you?

Consider this scenario, which is only a theory (as opposed to a practical or real consideration) only due to the difficulty/near impossibility of providing the requirements (resultant considerations mentioned*) to make it work.

If you had the opportunity (or could vote) to press a button in one week’s time, (* that would instantly, entirely and without pain) destroy all life on earth, would you?

You could, at no expense, get to meet anyone you want to beforehand and do anything reasonably possible in that time for free, too.

I do not want to add more or go into further explanation or (to those who think this is a totally weird or stupid thought) justify it. I want you to think for yourself, e.g. come up with reasons why this would even be considered. Perhaps it can be left there and any further comments (or an alternative scenario) may be added if/after any other genuine or serious responses.

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Akamia

Member
To be honest, I don't think that is a button worth pushing. Things would have to get extremely bad already for me to even think it worth considering; I'd have to firmly believe the world as we know it is already coming to an end within the next week anyway, whether the button was pushed or not.
 

We are Borg

Administrator
Staff member
Why would you push a button that destroys all life on this planet. Nature then needs to start over from scratch. A better idea would be to remove 50% from the human population from this planet. This way nature could restore itself. The population would not be able to get past 4 billion people else the button would react again.
 
Thanks for respectfully playing along, guys.

Akamia. you correctly recognised that I was referring to the state of the world as a potential reason to destroy it, but you were looking at it just through your own eyes on a set level and as a mixture of everything, levelling it off and deciding that (on balance) it would need to be a whole lot worse before you’d consider it, if I hear you right. Which is a very common, typical and reasonable position to take.

We are Borg. You saw no reason to ask the question or posit the extreme action, though I did ask you to have a think about why this odd suggestion was being suggested. You did mention that perhaps the problem was human population and we might, at some stage, need to curtail it in order to go back to a better, more universal, ecological situation.

Consider this scenario and I’ll move on as quickly as I can:

If a person were suffering horrifically and there were no way to prevent the suffering, e.g. you could not access the person or give a painkiller, but the person would go on to live by being fed for many years, in that perpetual suffering state and nothing could be done, if you had the chance to end that person’s life, (by pressing a button) would you (e.g. there is no punishment for you)?
 

Akamia

Member
A better idea would be to remove 50% from the human population from this planet.
MCU!Thanos says "hello".

Yes, I am fully aware he cut 50% of all animal (and some plants) life in his universe, but don't ruin the joke.

If a person were suffering horrifically and there were no way to prevent the suffering, e.g. you could not access the person or give a painkiller, but the person would go on to live by being fed for many years, in that perpetual suffering state and nothing could be done, if you had the chance to end that person’s life, (by pressing a button) would you (e.g. there is no punishment for you)?
If the person doesn't want to die in spite of this suffering, I don't think I would. That is also my assumption if I can't contact them in any way to find out one way or the other.
 
I totally agree with you Akamia (and would say the same) and it is my own fault by giving too little or missing information based on where I am going with this, and you may even have hit a trump card or holy grail on my ultimate point here, so I will try to fully make my point now. (I did assume that the person in my example would do anything to have the suffering stop sand death would be heaven by comparison).

Sometimes the worst (or more extreme) thing is to do nothing, if we don’t recognise the elephant in the room.

The world is full of pleasure and suffering on a spectrum. For many of us, the nice outweighs the not so nice or we take the rough with the smooth and we feel sorry for those less well off than us, and move on with our lives.

Others and charities take a more focussed interest in the woes of the world and we offer donations or time or skills to help alleviate the poverty, illness or any of the many things that cause suffering.

But we cannot remove all of the suffering and never (conceivably) will be able to. Some suffering is not as bad as others, and it comes in many forms. Natural (the result of accidents, earthquakes, tsunamis etc.) and moral (our own acts/bad choices). And there are things like chemotherapy, correctional leg splints and antibiotic injections which are a lesser of two evils, and the mental anguish of losing someone or similar is also suffering.

Imagine that in a room, a lot of things are going on. People playing, talking, working. A kid had grazed his knee and a man has proposed to his girlfriend. A nice eclectic range of events and scenarios.

If someone were to ask, at this point, if the room should be evacuated, this would seem a ridiculous question. The total or collective average is typical and with all things being equal, carry on.

But behind a small screen is a dog mauling a small child. I assume that everyone’s issues would suddenly count for nothing and all attention would now turn to the suffering child with the purpose of relieving her. Many would be willing to sacrifice their situation/pleasure in order to relieve the suffering of that child, and probably everyone would be willing to do so if it was a defenceless baby that was being tortured horrifically and the baby was your own.

I want to argue that it does not matter if it is your own child or a complete stranger, as suffering is suffering to that person and that person has value to others, if not you. And any person, as a human being represents you or a loved one. Most laws do this by protecting the rights of the innocent or suspect as much as anyone else. The same rights apply. Hitler would have been accorded the same human dignity whilst on trial as any innocent citizen.

We also have to consider what level of suffering is worth the cost of what level of pleasure. You might be willing to have or risk a grazed knee in exchange for an average life, and life is a gamble – we don’t know what life will throw at us.

What if you KNEW you would have an awful life, or your potential offspring would. Really awful. Some people can even know this due to certain genetic or inheritable condition. Is there a limit where you would say that it is not worth it?

Taking this a logical step further; we KNOW that right now, tens of thousands of people (or more) are suffering horrifically right now. Not a second goes by when this is not happening to someone somewhere, often behind closed doors and sometimes on a 10/10 level of pain. Torture, rape, illness, accident, deprivation, abuse, burning, natural disasters, disease, starvation etc. How many of these cases (each of which, ‘represents’ someone you love) and how bad must even one be, for you to be willing to do anything or make any sacrifice for it to end, forever, instantly?

We all live in the room I described earlier, and most of us just look at the middle (the mostly observed part) levels of the spectrum of pain/suffering and assume it is worth it generally. But from the viewpoint of those suffering, they don’t see it this way, and this is an argument that asks you to look at life from the position of the most suffering. I haven’t even mentioned nature as a whole with all the predation.

Life is under extreme suffering right now as billions of humans and animals are suffering. My question is how much do we understand, relate, value or really want to eliminate this? Are we willing to give up our own happiness and future and hopes and dreams in exchange for relieving, permanently and painlessly, all suffering? Sure, you would be missing out on a lot, but weigh this against the suffering, which could be your own loved one(s).

Is it even right to make this a democratic issue? Could you sit and watch a baby being joyfully tortured and say that it is worth the exchange of your own selfish future? Sometimes there are things that are not up for a vote or utilitarian rules, like let’s all pick on the goofy kid because most of us like to.

Remember that there is no big red button and there is no instant, permanent way of doing this, so it is all hypothetical, but I just wonder if this resonates with anyone else as fair, ‘in theory’?

For those who fall short of the affirmative here, there is a less extreme option called antinatalism, which means that all suffering will continue for now, but by preventing all future human life (no more children) we eliminate human suffering within 100 years. Obviously this is also impractical to force or get everyone to agree or do this, but as a theory, it has its supporters, but does not address suffering of animals or the future evolution of higher organisms and sentience.

I am exploring the benefits and flaws in reasoning here, so please feel free to comment on any aspect.
 

Sparhafoc

Active Member
If you had the opportunity (or could vote) to press a button in one week’s time, (* that would instantly, entirely and without pain) destroy all life on earth, would you?

No, of course not. To do so would be absurd, and to even countenance it would have to be considered pathological. A button just for oneself; that's a different story and I actually think the existence of such could be considered a moral good.
 

Sparhafoc

Active Member
If a person were suffering horrifically and there were no way to prevent the suffering, e.g. you could not access the person or give a painkiller, but the person would go on to live by being fed for many years, in that perpetual suffering state and nothing could be done, if you had the chance to end that person’s life, (by pressing a button) would you (e.g. there is no punishment for you)?

If they indicated they wanted that, then I would do so without hesitation. But if I am deciding for them in the absence of any knowledge of their desires, then no. There would be a punishment in the latter scenario: conscience. Pressing a button is a distraction - it's no different to taking a chainsaw to their jugular. Both are murder, one just involves more gore.

I think this scenario more frequently plays out with pets because we do have the power to 'press a button' (albeit to type in your PIN to pay the vet) in order to end their lives and stop their suffering (euthanize) when they are old and irremediably sick. Culturally, I was raised to consider euthanizing your pet under such conditions to be humane, but over the years I questioned that and decided that I simply cannot know what my pet would choose were they able and cognizant of the choice - sure, pain is bad and stuff, but I have faced extreme chronic pain without wishing to die or have someone press a button for me, so it's entirely plausible that my pet would feel the same way.
 
I have read everything that you said, Sparhofoc, and in different (or the very trivial by comparison, related) circumstances you mention, I would totally agree with you and I think most people would. But given the fuller context and picture and reality (which is presented in the argument) I cannot see how people could make that choice. If the point was missed, it really comes down to the responder valuing the smallest and shortest of pleasures for her/himself above the worst and longest possible pain for someone else. If you did not see how it comes down to this, (and/or gambling with this option, KNOWING in advance that thousands to millions will suffer horrifically (above chronic pain), then it may need re-reading or I may have presented in poorly, which is quite possible.
 

Sparhafoc

Active Member
And I see absolutely no reasoning whatsoever in your position - frankly, it appears absent any comprehension at all.

For example, you seem to be saying that their suffering is my responsibility and that by not murdering them in cold blood, I am selfishly evaluating the situation only through my own wants and needs.

To me, your argument looks sociopathic and devoid of empathy.
 

Sparhafoc

Active Member
KNOWING in advance that thousands to millions will suffer horrifically

And thousands and millions will also experience joy, love, companionship, emotional and intellectual fulfillment etc., but I am supposed to focus solely on the fact that they will suffer at some point and so thereby am justified in snuffing out their freedom to attain all the benefits of being a sentient organism? For me, that's not blinkered: it's willfully blind.

Life contains suffering - being a bag of squishy parts that sense pain is the price you pay for all the good stuff. On the worst day, regardless of how much pain I experience, I still value being alive to experience it - so why shouldn't I assume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that other people feel the same way?
 
“And I see absolutely no reasoning whatsoever in your position - frankly, it appears absent any comprehension at all.”

I am sorry if you see it this way or if this is the case, for whatever reason. It may be my poor presentation. If not, then I don’t see it that way.

“For example, you seem to be saying that their suffering is my responsibility and that by not murdering them in cold blood, I am selfishly evaluating the situation only through my own wants and needs.”

I do think it is your responsibility, but that is for me to prove and justify, and I can expand if need be.

From my position, your selfishness is to stick your head in the ground (from a selfish position of having more joy than suffering or considering only your own position – and I recognise and sympathise with what you have shared, personally) and not fully grasping the reality of so many in unimaginable circumstances, beyond what most of us can imagine. An immediate comparison is the thief who seeks to rob to get money. A simple thought/act (perhaps selfish) with little serious outcome for anyone. A few lost pounds. One can easily ignore this. But theft often results in a lot more than we imagine. People get hurt, a getaway car crashes and hurts/kills someone etc. If we were to be constantly aware of the worst suffering all of the time, it would be awful, so we ignore it for our sanity and give to charity, pray or hope things change. But horrific suffering will NOT stop, even if/when we ignore or push it away. I am trying to deal with the reality, from the suffering’s position.

I do recognise that many suffering individuals would want to remain alive. There are others who don’t, but I am not focussing on those and if you want to, then I appeal to them to sacrifice themselves, painlessly with no afterlife to regret or worry about, for the sake of the many horrific scenarios going on all the time, which they/we can stop. Yes, you might be having a great holiday or plans to marry. I’m asking for a fair comparison and perspective to weigh things against.

“To me, your argument looks sociopathic and devoid of empathy.”

To me, YOUR argument looks wholly selfish and devoid of empathy.


You are beginning to understand, but you have climbed about a foot on mount Everest to reflect the comparison, when talking about the benefits, joys or downside on whether to jump from a/the mountain. I want you to go to the top, to reflect my argument fairly.

To be clear, the situation is only hypothetical. This is because a.) no such means exists (to instantly and totally and painlessly destroy all life on earth) and b.) even if it did, who decides? 100% of people would be an unlikely to agree and so would 51% if it were a democratic decision and c.) not everyone could be reached to ask/vote.

People who argue against vegetarianism, don’t tend to include any horrific video in their presentation in order to show the neutral audience that they come from a position of understanding prior to justifying the suffering. This might simply be that it is not their job to help the opposition, but if they really have a good case, they would be happy to climb the opposition’s argument, lay it out fairly and thoroughly and then show its flaws.

This last paragraph was a long way of asking you to present my argument fairly, which will then give a comparison and framework from which you can fairly refute it and it will also satisfy me that you have read my argument.

I hope you will address and perhaps quantify comparisons of joy vs suffering (perhaps giving examples of sacrifice. For example, starting with a more extreme example, would you give up two single fries from your McDonalds meal in exchange for 2 billion babies not being skinned alive and tortured? If not, e.g. as they are not your problem or responsibility, that they are suffering, then I don’t need any further explanation on your position – which to me is one of ultimate selfishness. If so, where do you draw the line between what should be sacrificed for what?

I can see how and why this argument can be refuted and have an understandable response, but yours seems to me to be selfish to the greatest extreme possible and fails to account for many issues raised. An argument deserves to be countered as a whole. You can’t find a single flaw and claim victory.

You seem to be presenting an argument about how suffering is a part of life (i.e. get over it) and it is outweighed by all the great stuff in life and why should the reader sacrifice their life for someone else’s bad day which is not their fault. This is not a fair reflection of the argument.

To what extent (as presented in my argument) were you accepting or addressing the worst possible suffering example and that it represents your own self or loved one (but for the luck of the draw)?

The argument is more complex than you might think. It needs to weigh up and compare one thing vs another, one’s reasonable duties as a society and to those who cannot defend themselves and decisions of euthanasia weighed against not euthanasing the world and why.

My view is that if we were to somehow see live video of all the suffering being experienced, particularly the worst of the worst, then (to be able to end it all instantly, now and forever, would justify any amount of joy for any amount of people. The other key part of the argument is the naturalistic result, that there is no afterlife; it just ends. Regrets don’t exist when/if you don’t, so the whole aspect of what you are giving up is nullified, especially if there is no-one left behind to mourn or suffer. For this, examine the antenatalism argument (before responding). Theists will have a good reason to reject the whole argument.

In a nutshell, if you can agreeably, fairly steel man my argument, then we have the basis from where we can proceed. Currently, you have wrapped it in so much soft tissue that it is unrecognisable and easy to knock down.
 

Sparhafoc

Active Member
Like I said: you seem to genuinely want to argue that not murdering people in cold blood indicates being selfish or self-centred. I understand all the words comprising the sentence, but the resulting significance is completely irrational and devoid of sense to me. It just doesn't contain any content: it's pure scaffolding.

How is murdering people in cold blood not selfish, plus also grotesquely lacking in even a jot of empathy or consideration of all these peoples' individual ability to choose their own outcomes?
 

We are Borg

Administrator
Staff member
@Sparhafoc you have the opportunity to save the planet or let everything die on the planet. What would you do now, removing 50% of population is the only way to save the planel. There is no alternative to save the planet the solution they have created is a last ditch effort. Now you can choose either press the button or not.
 

Sparhafoc

Active Member
@Sparhafoc you have the opportunity to save the planet or let everything die on the planet. What would you do now, removing 50% of population is the only way to save the planel. There is no alternative to save the planet the solution they have created is a last ditch effort. Now you can choose either press the button or not.


Who is 'they'? Why haven't they pressed the button, and why the hell are they expecting me to do it? :)
 

We are Borg

Administrator
Staff member
Who is 'they'? Why haven't they pressed the button, and why the hell are they expecting me to do it? :)

Because the button is DNA encoded you are the only one that can press it and activate it. Also they can be anyone it does not matter in this case. The premise is that you need to decide.
 

Sparhafoc

Active Member
Because the button is DNA encoded you are the only one that can press it and activate it.

But why?

Why have they done this?

Why have they gone to all this trouble constructing such a device only to hang the responsibility of employing that device specifically on me?


Also they can be anyone it does not matter in this case. The premise is that you need to decide.

Then I decide no. They should've asked first. Very rude of them.
 

We are Borg

Administrator
Staff member
It does not matter why and how or who they are. You need to choose that is the premise in this case and only you can choose and activate the button. So either remove 50% of population and save all life on the planet or don’t and all life dies.

By the way Thanos in Avengers was not how the story goes, people said he could increase the resources in the universe. But Thanos did it to impress lady Death to court here, not that the universe was struggling.
 

Sparhafoc

Active Member
Yup, all life dies because there's no way I would accept that burden. Je refuse.

The button, of course, is meant to make it feel more clinical, less visceral (as with the trolley problem), but it's ethically the same as wringing 3.8 billion people's necks.

As for the pop culture references.... I'm afraid that I know bugger all about anything film related regardless of the fact that I work in film! :D
 
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