The Instigator
brian_eggleston
Con (against)
Winning
27 Points
The Contender
jmlandf
Pro (for)
Losing
23 Points

It is morally permissible to kill Nelson Mandela to save the lives of innocent orphans.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/21/2008 Category: News
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,007 times Debate No: 5100
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (18)
Votes (11)

 

brian_eggleston

Con

This debate is inspired by the forthcoming LD debate: "It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people" but I don't know how to do LD debate (and I'm too lazy to learn) so please forgive my self-indulgence in pursuing a less formal interpretation of the topic.

Picture the scene, if you will. It is a fine day in South Africa and Nelson Mandela is at the controls of his Ziviko Edge 540 single-seater stunt plane. All is well and he is heading home after performing a series of aerobatic manoeuvres when disaster strikes – the plane suddenly goes tech and he loses all mechanical control – the throttle, yoke, rudder and flaps are all jammed. "F*cking rats' c*cks," Mandela says to himself "that last knife-edge between the electricity pylons must have knackered the hydraulics". However, he notices that the avionics are still functioning so he tunes the VHF radio to 121.50 and issues a mayday call.

He duly informs air traffic control of the problem and advises them the type of aircraft he is flying, his position, his heading, his altitude, his air speed and his fuel level.

Please take it as given, by the way, that there is no way he can fix the mechanical problem in midair and there is no way to rescue the esteemed world statesman from the plane whilst it is in flight. Also, the plane is not equipped with a parachute.

Now, after the air traffic controller has calculated the distance the aircraft will travel before running out of fuel and it's trajectory to the ground thereafter, he becomes seriously alarmed.

That is because the plane is headed directly for an orphanage for children whose parents have died from AIDS. He knows that, unfortunately, the establishment has no phone and is two day's drive from the nearest settlement, so there will be no way to forewarn them of the impending disaster.

However, there is still a ray of hope for Mandela. According to the satellite image of the orphanage that the air traffic controller got off the Internet, just before it hits, the aircraft will fly over the orphanage playground, which has several large bouncy castles in it, and he reckons that at that point the plane would be low enough to allow the former President to bail out and land on one of these inflatable buildings and thus escape with his life. However, moment's later, the plane would inevitably smash into the orphanage causing mass carnage.

So, he has a dilemma. He can either allow the plane to carry on towards the orphanage and instruct Mandela to make a jump for it at the last moment, knowing that dozens of children would die seconds later, or he can call the air force and get them to scramble a fighter jet to shoot Nelson's plane out of the sky before it can do any damage, thus killing one of the twentieth century's most famous leaders.

It's a tough one, isn't it? What would you do if you were the air traffic controller? Eventually I decided, if I were in his shoes, it would be morally wrong to order the firing of an air-to-air missile to blast Nelson's plane to smithereens in order to save some poor little orphans and would, instead, spare the Nobel Peace Prize winner's life. Therefore, I have chosen Con's position.
jmlandf

Pro

Well I am a debater in the debate that inspired this debate, so I will give it a go. I choose the Pro for the following reasons.

Absolutes

Your hypothetical situation assumes the following.

1.The orphans WILL die, if the plane is not shot down. There is not a 1 in 1 billion chance of them living. They have ZERO chance in infinity.

2. The air traffic controller only has 2 choices of either (no other choices)
a)Save the orphans lives with a consequence that ends Nelson Mandelas life or
b)End the orphans lives with a consequence that saves Nelson Mandelas life

3.The outcome is KNOWN absolutely. There is no doubt or question. The decision maker has divine knowledge of these outcomes

Definitions

Orphans= Children, innocent, not of age, and not capable of making decisions of self sacrifice

Nelson Mandela= Grown man, capable of making decisions in regard to self-sacrifice. Popular man that has demonstrated self-sacrifice. All evidenced in his writings, speaking engagements, friends, family, co-workers, and the world.

If you agree on these Absolutes and Definitions in you Hypothetical Situation then

I Affirm: It is morally permissible to kill Nelson Mandela to save the lives of innocent orphans.

By knowing the outcomes of the decision and knowing Nelson Mandela by his word and deed he has publicly presented the World, I conclude it would be morally acceptable to Kill Nelson Mandela for the sake of the children.

In reality no one can ever know outcomes with such certainty. By not knowing the outcome, the air traffic controller would never question the decision; he/she would chose the same my opponent has chosen. There would also be more choices than what the hypothetical question lends us.

It is also important to note this hypothetical is quite different than the "It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people" In that it establishes several absolutes that do not occur in real life. Fictional absolutes that are not observed.
Debate Round No. 1
brian_eggleston

Con

I would like to thank my opponent for joining this debate and also for setting out the Absolutes and Definitions, all of which I agree with.

My opponent observed that my scenario "establishes several absolutes that do not occur in real life." I agree with my opponent's observation – it is highly unlikely that the air traffic controller would be able to determine with absolute certainty that the plane would hit the orphanage. For example, a crosswind could alter the aircraft's course by several degrees and cause it to crash miles away. Naturally, the whole story is ridiculous – Nelson Mandela is 90 years old and walks with a stick - I haven't checked, but I'm pretty confident that he doesn't fly stunt planes, and even if he did, he wouldn't be able to leap from one that was about to crash and still survive, even if he were fortunate enough to have a bouncy castle to break his fall!

Never mind that, though, that's not the point. The point is to debate the ethics of killing him to save some orphans and I contend that to do so would be immoral, even if by not killing him would mean that a number of innocent children would die.

My first argument to support my contention is that, while everybody has the moral right to save lives, nobody has the moral right to take a life, no matter what the circumstances. I realise this could open up a whole new can of worms with regard to religious beliefs and the death penalty controversy, but in everyday life, I believe my contention stands.

My second argument is that by saving Nelson Mandela, the air traffic controller would actually save the lives of many more orphans whose parents have died from AIDS than will die in the orphanage. This is because of Mandela's tireless work for AIDS charities. The loss of Nelson Mandela as the leading figurehead and voice in the international fight against AIDS would not mean the charities he is involved with would close, but it would mean that they would have a lower profile and, therefore, raise less funds, and so be able to help fewer AIDS orphans.

My third argument is that there is, in any event, no moral duty to save lives. To do so is admirable – one is usually hailed as a hero – but to fail to do so is not immoral.

Let me illustrate my point with a (somewhat far-fetched) hypothetical example.

Say you are standing outside the Adlon Hotel in Berlin with a bratwurst in one hand and a bottle of Pilsner in the other when you notice Michael Jackson appear on the balcony above you. He is carrying a baby and, for some unfathomable reason, he decides to dangle it over the balcony.

http://news.bbc.co.uk...

Now, let's say he loses his grip and the baby plummets towards the ground in front of you. You could drop your sausage sandwich and bottle of beer and catch the hapless infant (you hero!) or you could continue scoffing your grub and slurping your booze and watch as the baby goes splat on the floor by your feet (you b*stard!) The most admirable course of action would, naturally, to be to sacrifice your meal in order to save the baby's life, but you would not be morally duty-bound to do so.

I therefore reiterate that it would not be morally permissible to kill Nelson Mandela to save the lives of some innocent orphans.
jmlandf

Pro

Your first argument would be correct if it was in real life, however you agreed to Absolutes and Definitions. Knowing the future allows one to justify taking Mandelas life. This would not be possible in real life but we do have the absolutes to govern us in your hypothetical situation.

Your second argument, does not work. As you stated Nelson Mandela is old and soom to die of natural causes anyway. Nelson Manela has influenced so many that his death may in fact promote others to continue his legacy thus resulting in more helped orphans. Nelson Mandela has already set up several organizations that will likely continue in the event of his passing.

A death can create a martyr. A martyr can have more influence than when he was alive. This can be observed with other famous individuals such as Martin Luther, John F Kennedy, Curt Cobain, Elvis Presley, and Marilyn Monroe. Excuse grammatical errors, I didn't spell check!!!
Debate Round No. 2
brian_eggleston

Con

brian_eggleston forfeited this round.
jmlandf

Pro

At least we can all look forward to the Morgan Freeman movie. I'd like to see him jump out of the plane going 500 miles an hour onto some bouncy balls and live.
Debate Round No. 3
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 9 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
and Wally is just Wally in Britain. In North America however he is Waldo.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 9 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
Wait... how does a debate about whether it's morally permissible to kill an INNOCENT to save innocents lead you the question of whether it is morally permissible to kill a socialist head of state to save innocents? I don't get it.
Posted by Derek.Gunn 9 years ago
Derek.Gunn
Brian,
Wally was a cartoon character from the 90's with a red and white striped jersey and hat. He would appear in a huge crowd. The object was to spot him. He may have had a different name in Britain.
Posted by knick-knack 9 years ago
knick-knack
No, the question is...

Is it morally permissible to kill OJ Simpson to save the lives of innocent orphans?

The glove doesn't fit, he's innocent!!!!!
Posted by brian_eggleston 9 years ago
brian_eggleston
Who is Wally?! I don't know, but I travel a lot as I have family all over the place and also travel a lot on business. Last week I was in Paris, the South of France and Switzerland and next week I will be in Germany. I am in Norfolk, England, right now, but will be back in London soon. After the hurricane season is over I will go to Florida with the other "snowbirds"!
Posted by Derek.Gunn 9 years ago
Derek.Gunn
You were in Florida, then London... Where's Wally now?
Posted by brian_eggleston 9 years ago
brian_eggleston
I'm really sorry - I don't normally forfeit rounds - I'm away on holiday (vacation) at present and my access to the Internet is somewhat intermittent.
Posted by Derek.Gunn 9 years ago
Derek.Gunn
This sound like the kind of thing Brian would have been PRO for.
Very weird.
Nelson Mandela must be 90 years-old if he's a day.
Poor blighter could snuff it any time.
Given that the human life value needs to take life expectancy into account, I'm afraid Nelson has the short straw.
Posted by PoeJoe 9 years ago
PoeJoe
http://www.debate.org...

Read my comment (first one).
Posted by s0m31john 9 years ago
s0m31john
And the world will benefit by having another Morgan Freeman movie.
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Vote Placed by JBlake 8 years ago
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