The dilemma was this:
Terrorists are holding you and hundreds of other innocent people hostage. You are told that if you press a button that will kill just one of the innocent hostages, you and all the others will be released unharmed. If you don't press the button, the terrorists will kill you and all of the hostages. Morally speaking, may you press the button? Why or why not?
I don't know if I can say it better than all of you did, so I am just going to pick out one of the answers and repost it. How 'bout... Sarah's:
Can't push the button. Human life is sacred. Every single life is as sacred and valuable as the next. You cannot make decisions on stats and numbers. It is utilitarian to do what would be best for "most people" if it means the destruction of even one. Now, it would be different if one person volunteered to die in place of the others. That is a heroic sacrifice. But the minute I push that button is the minute I kill a human being, I take their inherently valuable life, a life that was not mine to take.
Some may say my refusal to push the button "killed" 100 people. No, if the terrorists go through with their threat, they are the killers.
Exactly! The end (saving lives) doesn't justify the means (murder of an innocent).
In other words, we can never do an evil in order to bring about a good.
We are to serve the good, not effect the good.
Remember, outcome is not our concern. God will take care of that, in His way. We simply do the will of the Lord in all things, and we leave the outcome and the judgement to Him. If a mass murder happens, the terrorists are culpable for that horrible crime. As Wheelbarrow Rider said, there are worse things than death.... And as Lowly beautifully quoted from Aristotle: It is better to have injustice done upon you, than to do an act of injustice upon another!
(The question of "double effect" is for another post, another day, but thank you to Lowly again for rightly pointing out that Megan's example was an example of double effect and did not apply to this case. Double effect would also apply in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. Also, this is not a case of self-defense, as the person to be killed is not the aggressor.)
As Sarah mentioned, a person could volunteer to sacrifice his own life for another (or others). This is what Christ did for us on the Cross, and we know from Scripture that "greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Such an act is not suicide but heroic virtue, and thanks to Ann for pointing out that St. Maximilian Kolbe did that very thing for a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz.
Your answers are a great consolation to me, as almost everyone in my daughter's class answered the question the other way.
In fact, one Christian mom (a good woman) told her daughter later that it would be immoral not to push the button! I wanted to give her another scenario to see if she still felt the same way: What if the terrorists told all the men to torture and rape the women, and they would all get to live? Would it be moral for the men to do so? What if the terrorists told you to kill all the small children and the rest of the group would be set free? Would that be a moral act? Or any other nightmare scenario you can dream up. Hopefully you see that we are not permitted to do evil, monstrous things even to bring about a great good.
Okay, enough of killing, rape and torture! On to Bubble Awards!!!
I can't award a Grand Prize because it was a huge tie!
So, some lesser awards, but still worth a place on your mantle:
The How'd She Do That?! Award goes to Lowly, for pulling a perfectly relevant Aristotle quote out of her head, clarifying a double effect scenario for another contestant, and profoundly declaring that "utilitarianism is yucky" all while working with a broken right shift button!
On the other hand, Lowly also gets the Laziness Is No Excuse For Bad Grammar Award! Congratulations, Lowly, I believe yours is the first "Double Bubble"!
The I Thought It Was M*A*S*H And Not Ann Frank....Could Someone Clarify That? Award goes to Beth and Brenda! (Actually, that is not really an award as much as it is a question from me. Anyone know for sure?)
The Ex-Patriot In The Swiss Timezone Early Advantage Award goes to Monica! With extra points for going from deist to Catholic catechumen in 0 - 60 days!
And, finally, the You People Are Really Stupid Award goes to Jenny, for reminding us all that there is more than one way out of a terrorist hostage situation anyway!
Thanks for playing along, and I'll see you all for the next installment of Doctrinal Quiz Show!