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Monday, October 3, 2011

Deep Impact and Morality (January 7, 2007)

Ok, not exactly politics, but it's my blog and I'll share if I want to.  :-)

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I know, once again, two posts within a short period of time. The only reason this time is that I felt that each of my posts tonight deserve their own spaces and not to be crammed together.

Earlier this week, I was watching Deep Impact. If you have not seen it, I'll fill you in. It came out in 1998 (I believe) aroudn the same time as Armageddon. Both were about an astronomical body that will impact the Earth and wipe out all life. Where they differ is that Armageddon is more focused on what will happen out there and Deep Impact takes a more holistic view of events. Personally, I prefer Deep Impact; although I do love Armageddon; because it is more human.

Anyway, in Deep Impact there are two things that happen that raise enormous ethical and moral questions. The first is when the President of the US; played awesomely by Morgan Freeman; announces that caves have been built to ensure the safety of 1,000,000 Americans. He states that 200,000 of these people have been preselected. The other 800,000 will be selected randomly using their Social Security numbers. Anyone over the age of 50 (maybe it was 60, but I am pretty sure it was 50) will be automatically excluded from the lottery. The ethical dilemma that comes up here is, "Is it ethical and moral to eliminate a groups of people from being saved merely dfue to their age?" This is a fascinating question.

Pragmatically speaking, it was the only possible choice. Since they would be underground for 2-3 years the older people might become too weak to help rebuild. So to ensure that the culture will continue on and be rebuilt speedily, a younger groups must be selected.

I do not think this decision could be defended ethically. I could be wrong, and would love to see a defense of it, but I don't think it could be. To basically kill off one group solely because of their age strikes me as morally indefensible. I also cannot bring myself to condemn the decision, because the circumstances are singularly unique and brought alot of pressure on everyone involved, I am sure.

The second ethical dilemma was the suicide of the astronauts. In order to save life on Earth, 4 Americans and 1 Russian fly their shuttle with nukes into the comet and blow it up. Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely. Was it ethical? I would argue yes. My grounds would be St. Thomas Aquinas' Principle fo the Double Effect. This Principle states that if you do something moral and it has a side effect that is immoral, then the action is not immoral even though one siade effect was. This is used to justify self-defense. Your intent is to rpotect your own life, but as a side effect of protecting your own life, your attacker dies. You are not guilty of murder because you meant to defend your own life, not kill them.

To apply this to the shuttle crew, they intended to save the lives of billions on Earth. In order to do that, they ended up suiciding. Suicide is normally an extremely immoral act, but under the circumstances, it was not because their intention was to save others. A little more clear cut than the first to be sure, but still an interesting moral dilemma.