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Sunday, May 03, 2009

10 Famous Thought Experiments That Just Boggle Your Mind Part 3

Read Part 2: The Gettier Problem


8. The Ticking Time Bomb

Imagine that a bomb or other weapon of mass destruction is hidden in your city, and the timer on it will soon strike zero. You have in your custody a man with knowledge of where the device is planted. Do you resort to torture in order to get him to give up the information?

Sounds like an action movie? It's only another thought experiment called "ticking time bomb". Like the trolley problem, the ticking time bomb scenario is an ethical problem that forces one to choose between two morally questionable acts.

Thanks to many fictional movies and TV shows, the ticking time bomb scenario is one of the most discussed thought experiments. The US government has laws against torturing prisoners (Although we all know how well that law is being followed. Think Abu Ghraib.), but would breaking the law be justified if large number of people's lives can be saved? A British news article extended the scenario and asked if one would be willing to resort to torturing the man's wife and children as a means of extracting the information from him. This sounds really scary now!

According to Wikipedia:
In September 2002, when reviewing Alan Dershowitz's book, Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge, Richard Posner, a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, wrote in The New Republic, "If torture is the only means of obtaining the information necessary to prevent the detonation of a nuclear bomb in Times Square, torture should be used--and will be used--to obtain the information.... No one who doubts that this is the case should be in a position of responsibility."

Morgan from the Center for American Free Thoughts gave an interesting discussion in the video below (sorry, I can't find a commercial-free version, so this will do).


I don't know which side I should support. It is quite a dilemma. However, I am one hundred percent sure that we shouldn't allow the government to easily slap the title of "terrorists" on innocent citizens and then torture him/her or take away their basic rights and claim it is "justified".

Read Part 4: Einstein's Light Beam


Picture of the Day:

This spectacular photo looks like it is coming out of a Sci-Fi movie. It is actually taken by a Russian girl who snuck into a Russian military rocket factory.