View Poll Results: Is the Captain innocent or guilty?

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  • Innocent

    9 64.29%
  • Guilty

    5 35.71%
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Thread: Innocent or Guilty?

  1. #1
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    Innocent or Guilty?

    The Overcrowded Lifeboat

    In 1842, a ship struck an iceberg and more than 30 survivors were crowded into a lifeboat intended to hold 7. As a storm threatened, it became obvious that the lifeboat would have to be lightened if anyone were to survive. The captain reasoned that the right thing to do in this situation was to force some individuals to go over the side and drown. Such an action, he reasoned, was not unjust to those thrown overboard, for they would have drowned anyway. If he did nothing, however, he would be responsible for the deaths of those whom he could have saved. Some people opposed the captain's decision. They claimed that if nothing were done and everyone died as a result, no one would be responsible for these deaths. On the other hand, if the captain attempted to save some, he could do so only by killing others and their deaths would be his responsibility; this would be worse than doing nothing and letting all die. The captain rejected this reasoning. Since the only possibility for rescue required great efforts of rowing, the captain decided that the weakest would have to be sacrificed. In this situation it would be absurd, he thought, to decide by drawing lots who should be thrown overboard. As it turned out, after days of hard rowing, the survivors were rescued and the captain was tried for his action, charged with premeditated first-degree murder.

    If you had been on the jury, how would you have decided?

    COULD A MOD DELETE THIS POST? -- I forgot the poll. Thank you very much.

    Tried to do another and the system wouldn't let me duplicate my post. Could someone add the poll then?

    Is the captain:

    Innocent
    Guilty

    Sorry.
    Last edited by MaggieD; 12-11-10 at 12:27 PM.
    The devil whispered in my ear, "You cannot withstand the storm." I whispered back, "I am ​the storm."

  2. #2
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    Re: Innocent or Guilty?

    Poll added.

    Fiddling While Rome Burns
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  3. #3
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    Re: Innocent or Guilty?

    I don't think the poll choices are up to the question. I wouldn't pick either one. He's responsible; the question is, is he justified or not? It's not, to me, a question of guilt or innocence.

    In any case, the idea that everyone dying being more just and thus more acceptable is silly talk. Would be no different than if someone had to go to the lower decks to plug a hole in order to save everyone else, knowing that whoever did so would drown. Should the captain not give that order, because it would be "unfair"?

    Or, put another way, one of the really stupid arguments I've seen against missile defense is that it wouldn't be possible to stop every warhead, therefore, none should be stopped, because why should some people get to live when others will die?
    “Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives, and then eating a meal in the same room, far out! The Weathermen dig Charles Manson.”-- Bernadine Dohrn

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    Re: Innocent or Guilty?

    This is a hard call.

    On the one hand, we'll never know for certain if the boat would have sank thus overloaded. However, the Captain was presumably the most experienced seaman on hand and in his judgement it would have. It is not unreasonable to assume that he was correct, and if nothing had been done then all would have died instead of some being saved.

    Triage is a medical term. It is used in situations where the number of injured/sick persons exceeds the immediate medical capacity to treat them. Those who need treatment immediately to live, but who are likely to survive if they recieve immediate treatment, are taken first. Those who will survive if their treatment is delayed are set to one side; those likely to die regardless of treatment are also set aside. In some extreme cases, the latter group is simply set aside to die.

    This situation is very similar.

    One way of looking at it is that the Captain murdered X number of people. Another way of looking at it is that EVERYONE was going to die, and by making a hard decision the Captain saved Y number of people who would not have lived otherwise.

    At sea, the Captain is "master under God". Legally, the opinions of the lifeboat castaways is irrelevant as the Captain was legally in command, and legally responsible for everything that happened. A ship is not a democracy; that goes double for a lifeboat in a survival situation.


    I am inclined to be sympathetic to the Captain. I would however, prefer more details before making a final judgement, such as whether women and children were forced overboard. Is there a link to this story?

    Fiddling While Rome Burns
    ISIS: Carthago Delenda Est
    "I used to roll the dice; see the fear in my enemies' eyes... listen as the crowd would sing, 'now the old king is dead, Long Live the King.'.."

  5. #5
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    Re: Innocent or Guilty?

    actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea
    "you're better off on Stormfront discussing how evil brown men are taking innocent white flowers." Infinite Chaos

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    Re: Innocent or Guilty?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harshaw View Post
    I don't think the poll choices are up to the question. I wouldn't pick either one. He's responsible; the question is, is he justified or not? It's not, to me, a question of guilt or innocence.

    In any case, the idea that everyone dying being more just and thus more acceptable is silly talk. Would be no different than if someone had to go to the lower decks to plug a hole in order to save everyone else, knowing that whoever did so would drown. Should the captain not give that order, because it would be "unfair"?

    Or, put another way, one of the really stupid arguments I've seen against missile defense is that it wouldn't be possible to stop every warhead, therefore, none should be stopped, because why should some people get to live when others will die?
    I should have worded the poll: Guilty / Not Guilty -- since there's no finding of "innocent" in a courtroom.

    In the scenerio I painted (actually, someone else painted it), the choice is clear-cut. When a DA brings charges of First Degree Murder, the jury has two choices. Guilty / Not Guilty.

    Moral dilemas are just that. Fortunately, I've never been called upon to make one of this magnitude. Our leaders, on the other hand, are forced to make them all the time.

    Thanks for responding, Harshaw.
    The devil whispered in my ear, "You cannot withstand the storm." I whispered back, "I am ​the storm."

  7. #7
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    Re: Innocent or Guilty?

    I go with not guilty. It is a terrible choice to have to make, but in the end a just one. Whenever there is a problem where the ends do not meet, you save what you can and sacrifice what you have to. Ultimately, this is the sort of thing that responsibility is all about.

    Justice is a great ideal and something we should always strive for (and technically, I see justice as the captain doing nothing as opposed to causing harm), and we should always behave by those ideals when we can. However, we must always accept necessity and the constraints we find ourselves in. To do otherwise is to let a greater harm happen in the name of an ideal. Sometimes the worst thing we can ever do is nothing and the best thing we can ever do is cause harm, if it is in the service of a greater good.
    Last edited by tacomancer; 12-11-10 at 01:35 PM.

  8. #8
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    Re: Innocent or Guilty?

    I think it's kind of like self defense. It was necessary to "kill" those who were in the way of the other's surviving.
    It would be better in a case like that if people volunteered to sacrifice their own lives for others. I guess the Captain was needed, otherwise he should have sacrificed his own life.
    I voted innocent anyway.
    Is this a hypothetical case?
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  9. #9
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    Re: Innocent or Guilty?

    Quote Originally Posted by Goshin View Post
    Is there a link to this story?
    I actually found the scenerio presented as a moral dilema -- not a true story. But since you asked, I googled and found this: Alexander Holmes Trial: 1842 - Holmes Tried For Manslaughter - William, Night, Lifeboat, Passengers, Captain, and Rhodes

    You'll see he was charged with manslaughter; found guilty; sentenced to 6 months and a $20 fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gardener View Post
    actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea
    On'tda etgay ittay.

    Quote Originally Posted by megaprogman View Post
    I go with not guilty. It is a terrible choice to have to make, but
    in the end a just one. Whenever there is a problem where the ends do not meet, you save what you can and sacrifice what you have to.
    I agree with you, Mega.
    The devil whispered in my ear, "You cannot withstand the storm." I whispered back, "I am ​the storm."

  10. #10
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    Re: Innocent or Guilty?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gardener View Post
    actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea
    Oh!! Thank you, Google.

    Never heard of that, but it makes perfect sense. Thanks, Gardner.
    The devil whispered in my ear, "You cannot withstand the storm." I whispered back, "I am ​the storm."

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