Plim asked in Arts & HumanitiesPhilosophy · 9 years ago

A question for atheists only!?

Would it be acceptable to take a Healthy living person who is single with no living relatives and harvest their body to use on six people who need transplants?

I think if there is no god then nobody has a right to life, so if one persons death could save six people and if he/she will not be missed it'd be okay to harvest them for transplant organs.

However, if there is a god then we all have our lives to lead for whatever spiritual path we are on, and being single and totally alone is the path we are meant to experience.

I imagine most people would say it isn't okay, but what if there were seven hostages and the hostage taker said 'choose one amongst you to die and the I'll let the others go, if you choose nobody then you all die'? Would it be okay to draw straws in this scenario?

Please no christian/muslim comments - I wonder what atheists think about this!

Update:

Babez - I am a christan and I think it's wrong, but I think if there is no god then we all have to do what's best for the majority. I wouldn't get cut up because, seriously babez I'm hot! I would be missed I have family bfs etc.

Update 2:

Oh and that's my other point. If there is no greater purpose, then life is meaningless, it would be no more wrong than switching the TV off. If all we are is a machine, and if you can repair six machines with the parts of one machine, you'd do it wouldn't you?

Update 3:

Babe seriously - You can't use dead people for organ transplants, people have to be alive! Organs are removed when a doctor signs someone off as brain dead - organs are removed very quickly and die very fast. If we could use dead people there would be no shortage of transplant organs ever!

Update 4:

Babe se

24 Answers

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  • Anonymous
    9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    You begin with a faulty premise: that if there's no god then nobody has the right to life. There is nothing inherent in the notion of "rights" (to life, or anything else) that requires that they be granted by God. They can, rather, be inherent in one's nature.

    It's completely untrue that life is "meaningless" without god. Yes we are machines, but we are machines that want to live and love and so on -- unlike the TV, which doesn't care if it's on or off. Also, if death, to an atheist, is just like turning a TV off, then death, to a religious person who believes in an afterlife, is basically just changing the channel... why would it be "wrong" to send someone to the blissful afterlife that awaits them, but not wrong to kill someone who has no afterlife? This vague notion of "spiritual paths" chosen by God is not an answer. It's just an attempt to dismiss the question. What if God's chosen path for the healthy, lonely individual WAS for him to get cut up to save the lives of six others?

    As for your proposed scenario, it depends whether one is adhering to deontological or teleological principles. A good summary of the deontological position would be the assertion by philosopher Immanuel Kant that all people should be considered ends in themselves, not means to an end. In that case, it would not be justified to end one person's life in order to serve the needs of six others. If instead we choose a teleological perspective, such as utilitarianism, then we must choose the option that results in the greatest overall good or least overall harm -- meaning that it would be acceptable to kill one to save six.

    As to drawing straws in the hostage-taking scenario, that just makes no sense unless we assume that each hostage is equivalent in worth -- e.g. they're all "good" people who contribute to society, help out in their communities, support families, they all have comparable abilities and are in comparable health... a truly utilitarian selection would have to choose the person who will be "least missed" and/or whose life expectancy is already shortest (e.g. an elderly person with a terminal illness instead of a young, health person).

    My own view is that people are ends in themselves, and all of them have a right to live (by virtue of their nature, not because such a right was granted by god for a "spiritual path" or other purpose, because I don't believe there is such a thing as a god-given right or a spiritual path). So no, I would not approve of the opportunistic killing and organ-harvesting of a single individual in order to save the lives of six.

    The hostage-taking situation is different. In this case, a third party (the hostage-taker) has forced the group to compare the relative value of human lives and thus choose to sacrifice one for the benefit of others -- a decision they would not normally make if they were not forced to. In such a case, deontological principles may have to take a back seat to the utilitarian goal of limiting the total amount of damage.

    Of course, as a practical matter, what guarantee is there that the hostage-taker would keep to his/her word? If he/she is already a kidnapper and a murderer, why not a liar too? Perhaps he/she is some kind of deranged moralist psychopath playing a game in which he/she will, in fact, kill all of them if they choose one to sacrifice, but let them all go if they choose nobody. These "ethical dilemma" situations are always so contrived. In an actual hostage situation it seems unlikely that the finer points of the differences between teleological and deontological ethics would come into play. The hostages would be better off thinking in terms of strategies by which they might be able to delay or overcome their captors, and escape.

    But most of all, please remember that even though atheists don't believe in God, or spirital paths, etc., that doesn't mean we don't put an intrinsic value on human life and the right to live.

    Source(s): Logic! (and atheism)
  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    I do love the constant questions to atheists where Christians accidentally demonstrate their own lack of morals or understanding of law.

    "Would it be acceptable to take a Healthy living person who is single with no living relatives and harvest their body to use on six people who need transplants?"

    Not without their consent it wouldn't. Why do you think single people are worth less than married people?

    "I think if there is no god then nobody has a right to life,"

    ORLY. The Constitution says otherwise. Do you hate the Constitution? I wonder why that's not in the Bible.

    "what if there were seven hostages and the hostage taker said 'choose one amongst you to die and the I'll let the others go, if you choose nobody then you all die'?"

    It's like you've never heard of a hostage negotiator or a SWAT team. You take out the terrorist instead.

  • That doesn't sound right at all. The only time that it would be acceptable is if someone really wanted to die for whatever reason.

    1 - There are plenty of dead people about. Wouldn't it be better to use their organs instead of killing someone for the purpose?

    2 - It's not just the person who dies to supply the organs that you have to take into account. Think how their family and friends would feel about it.

    3 - How would you feel to benefit from such a situation. Possibly grateful but probably also incredibly guilty.

    4 - People die all of the time. If it doesn't happen now then it will eventually. I don't see how taking one life just to save a few others is really going to make the world a better place. Living things are supposed to die. When your times up, it's up. If you can extend your life by receiving organs from a dead person then fair enough. But other people shouldn't have to suffer.

    5 - Who would decide and how would it be decided which people should be killed? Extreme moral dilemma that no right-minded person would want to get into.

    6 - One life is never more valuable than another. You never know what that person might achieve or bring to the world in the future. It might be a grave mistake to kill them before their time is up.

    7 - Don't misplace atheism for lack of human compassion. It's a common (and misguided) assumption that atheists only look out for our own selves. We do good things because that's what good people do. We don't do it because we're expecting a reward at the end. Humans are quite obviously not machines and life is quite clearly not meaningless. That is your interpretation of atheism.

    As for the hostage situation, if it came down to it, I guess it would be a very noble and honourable thing if someone just volunteered to die. If not then drawing straws seems like a fair enough way to settle it.

    Edit - Yes, that's what I was talking about. Maybe "there are already plenty of people who are dying" would have been a better way of putting it.

  • 9 years ago

    The difference is machines don't have feelings, ambitions, wants, needs, likes, dislikes etc. Although they live alone and no-one would miss them, everyone fears death. If they want to live then they don't deserve to die.

    However, I'd say anyone who is a murderer with actual evidence (video footage of them doing it) should receive the same result as they gave to the person they killed. I don't see why not, they killed someone so they should be killed _unless_ they're willing to change, feel remorse, guilt and apologize. I'm not saying its okay to kill someone and then change and suddenly its alright, but some people might have reasons to kill someone (death threats, abuse etc.).

    In the hostage scenario, I'd expect someone to step forward, I know its wrong and I'd find it hard to do it. I'd say I'd step forward if someone else I knew was in the crowd, which I know is selfish, but its true. And even then I don't know whether I'd have the guts to step forward, because imagining and experiencing are two completely different things.

    P.S Kind of self-contradictive to Christians seeing as Jesus sacrificed himself for the whole world and everything...

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  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    Firstly I must state that I am a moral nihilist. I do not think that any normative statements have truth value in an objective sense. All I can tell you is my personal preference.

    This question is really two: one about medical transplants and one about a hostage scenario.

    First, the medical transplant scenario: This is a scenario where I can say my answer would be clear if I was actually involved. If I was the person to die, I would oppose it (perhaps unless someone I cared about very much was one to die), if I was one of those to be saved, I would support it (perhaps unless the person dying was someone I loved). But from an outside perspective it is a much more difficult question to answer. A few different values conflict. They are as follows: the value of autonomy and control over the body that one inhabits (which suggests that this is wrong), the value of utilitarianism and maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain (which suggests this is right). To me, I think the first value is more valuable so I would probably side with that one. Additionally, the system that would need to exist in order to enforce this utilitarian value does so in a way that breaks the autonomy value. Ergo I would likely oppose the system itself in support of a system that is organized in terms of autonomy in favour of utilitarian outcomes.

    The hostage scenario: if nobody volunteers to be the one to die, it's clear that the choice of anyone who values human life would be to choose one of the hostages in some sort of randomized way.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    If he is alive, and you want to harvest organs from him, then no. I'm an atheist, and I know killing is wrong. Not because the bible says so, but because everyone who is born, has a right to live.

    Even if he has no family members to grieve over his death, I'm sure that he himself wpould not appreciate being killed.

    Now, if he personally says, "I want you to kill me, and harvest my organs" I believe that is perfectly okay. But then you have the government/police to deal with, because it's still murder, and still against the law.

    As for the hostage situation part of the question, I feel like one of the seven people would say, "okay, kill me so the others can live", but, there is a high chance that won't happen.

    So the other six people would fall down to their most basic instinct, survival, and pick one person to be killed. The person being killed won't be happy about the choice, but it's all about survival for the other six.

  • 9 years ago

    What does being a Christian have to do with ethics? Just because you believe that your superstition gives you sole right to morality does not mean that it does.

    Morals come from the needs of our society and our biological and psychological needs. I live in a where the killing of any human who is aware is morally repugnant. It is even hard to train people to kill, ask any weapons NCO.

    So, my suggestion is that you start to examine the world with eyes wide open and not with a book glued across them.

    As for 'purpose in life', again, remove the book from your eyes and look at the real world, you will find that many indeed, do not need some sort of artificial purpose to give meaning to their lives.

  • 9 years ago

    I don't believe that it would be right to kill them and take their organs. I still believe in the right of free will and making choices. However it would most certainly be the most efficient thing to do for our race as a whole. I would gladly sacrifice myself if I know it would save the lives of many. If they consented to being killed, then I of course would applaud them and sharpen my knife.

  • Symos
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    As someone who values life, I feel such a killing is needless and immoral.

    However, if I were a christian who beleives all sins except denying the holy ghost were forgivable, I would probably consider such an action. Besides, if I and he beleived in a heaven, I'd be doing him a favour right? If he didn't, too bad huh?

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    youre really just trying to get a rise out of somebody with these hypotheticals.. im not an atheist but with this question youre kind of implying atheists dont value human life... they do. theyre people. i think its a little hypocritical of them to celebrate christmas but thats another issue entirely.. ill go ahead and answer it for you, no sweetie, atheism doesnt automatically mean a person will condone harvesting and killing and so on and so forth.

  • 9 years ago

    no, i dont think so, so i cant agree with you on that

    in a hostage situation its a different thing, you are being forced to choose , your not being forced to choose if you just randomly kill people cos you beleive no-one has a right to life, thats being a murderer, and in that sence thats the same as being the hostage taker not the victims who have to choose

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