There is scientific evidence that evolution has endowed us with ethical impulses.
So states the sub-heading of an excellent article on ‘the moral instinct’ in this weekends Sydney Morning Herald (Page 26/27 of the Spectrum section) written by Steven Pinker. This article originally appeared in The New York Times on 13 Jan 08, here is the link, recommended reading for all.
The essay starts off by asking:
Before reading the article, who do you think is the most admirable?
The article also discusses “the trolley problem” (a trolley is a railborne (track) vehicle, lighter than a train, designed for the transport of passengers).
Imagine you are standing at a fork in the track and a trolley is hurtling down the track out of control. There are 5 workers on the main track oblivious to the danger. You can pull a lever that will divert the trolley to the side track, saving the five workers. However, the trolley would then run over a single worker labouring on the side track. Is it permissible to pull the lever killing one man but saving five others?
What would be your answer?
The article then discusses this moral dilemma further by postulating a slightly different scenario.
Consider the previous scenario, but you are now on a bridge overlooking the track. You realise if you throw a heavy object in front of the trolley you will save all the workers. However the only heavy object within reach is a fat man. Should you throw the man off the bridge?
What would be your answer to that dilemma?
The rest of the article discusses humans innate moral sense, and postulates reasons for altruism and fairness. Please read this excellent article and then, if you like, you can discuss it here.