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Moral dilemma: Which infant will you save?

  1. infant on left (last of it's kind)

    12 vote(s)
  2. infant on right (one of billions)

    6 vote(s)
  3. can't possibly choose, even if this means both will die

    1 vote(s)
  4. human infant

    14 vote(s)
  5. ape infant

    4 vote(s)
  6. logic

    14 vote(s)
  7. species loyalty

    4 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Mar 22, 2005 #1
    In front of you are two infants, the infant on the left is the last of it's kind, the infant on the right is one of billions.

    The lives of both infants are in grave peril and you have been granted the power to save one and only one of them. You must choose.

    Question one: Which will you save?
    If you do not make a choice, there is a risk that both infants will die.
    Please answer this question, by selecting from poll options 1 to 3, before reading the rest of this post.

    Now, supposing you are told that the infant on the right is a human infant whereas the infant on the left is a great ape, does your position change?

    Question two: Will you now save the human infant or the ape infant?

    Question three: What is the reason for your final decision about which infant to save? Is it logic, or loyalty to your own species?

    Please be honest, if your immediate reaction is to save the infant on the left, please don't change this answer, just indicate whether or not your decision changes, in the next poll question. Please make sure you answer all three questions, to avoid skewing the results.

    Thanks for your participation.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 22, 2005 #2


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    "Race" doesn't apply to apes. If the two children are of different races, this implies that they are humans ("race" is something that only applies to humans). In this case, I have reason to save one infant over the other (i.e. race is not a factor) although I will save one (why would I let both die?). Now, if one is an ape and the other a human, I don't think the number of remaining members of that species matters. I feel no imperative to perserve a species. What's important is the life of the individuals, not the life of the group he or she belongs to. So, whether the group will disappear or not is also of no concern. Now, the situation for me boils down to just a human infant vs. an ape infant (and the number of remaining humans and apes is irrelevant). It's hard for me to tell which one I'd save. It would depend on my emotional responses to the infants at the time. Sitting at my computer, I can't really get a feeling for what it is like to have the life of an infant on my hands. Sitting here, I feel no more attachment to a strange human baby as I do to a strange ape baby (of course, I don't have any ape friends so all ape babies would be strangers to me). Right now, I don't instantly feel an attachment to any organism of the same species as me, but if the hypothetical situation were to become real, my reactions to the human vs. the ape would be different. Until that situation arises though, I'm not sure what my reactions would be.
  4. Mar 22, 2005 #3

    You are of course correct. I have edited my original post so that it now reads 'last of its kind'.
    Thanks also for your valid comments.
    I appreciate your comment that in your real world situation, you feel no particular attachment to either infant, nor any imperative to save a particular species from extinction (not that savng the one and only specimen would be much help in that instance) but then, this is a hypothetical question.

    The point of this poll is to try to determine (a)whether or not the fact that one infant is the last of its kind will influence a person's decision about which infant to save, (b) whether people would change their desicion upon learning that one of the infants is human and one is non-human and (c) whether people consider that their final decision is based on logic or loyalty to their own species.

    Of course, it may be that a person may choose to save the human infant, believing that to be the logical choice, whilst still actually being influencd by loyalty to their own species. Indeed, loyalty to one's own species may be so strong that it renders any decision other than to save the human infant illogical to most if not all people. These are questions that I would like to explore and I welcome comments about these points.

    Last edited: Mar 22, 2005
  5. Mar 22, 2005 #4
    You know, if you save the ape, it's the last of its kind... so then it dies anyway a few years later without reproducing.
  6. Mar 22, 2005 #5
    Indeed it does. The logical choice might then be to save the human infant, by that chain of reasoning. Which infant will you save?
  7. Mar 24, 2005 #6
    Theoretically, I would choose the ape infant if it were the last of it's species. I have no emotional attachement to the human infant (at least, no more than I do to the ape). Practically, I would choose the human infant, simply because of the sanctions human society would impose on me if I made any different choice (I'd probably be hated and possibly imprisoned).

    I think the great majority of people would instinctively choose the human child simply because it's human. People in general seem to put themselves before everyone and anything else. Ask someone why humans are superior to every other lifeform on earth. They'll never be able to give you a logical answer. It all boils down to self preservation instincts on a wider scale. After all, we're social animals. Living as a group is to the advantage of all it's members.

    If you could ask a solidary animal, like a spider (presuming it could answer you) the same question, I doubt it would really care either way. Spiders don't need eachother to live.
  8. Mar 24, 2005 #7


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    I don't even see how this is possible. What do you mean by last of its kind? At this point in your question, they are both presumably human infants, in which case neither is the last of its kind. Flip a coin.

    Humans are great apes. Presumably you mean that the infant on the left is a non-human great ape, and it is the last surviving member of its species. In that case, I would save the human infant.

    Same as Bicycle Tree's. Saving the ape-child only prolongs what is at that point the inevitable extinction of its species. I will assume that the human child at least has a family, in which case its life will be more valued by others who will be helped by my decision. Greater reward in that case.
  9. Mar 24, 2005 #8


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    loseyourname makes a great point.

    If the infant is the last of its race, then saving it will mean only a few extra years of survival.

    And considering our feelings on human babies...It's not looking good for the "great" ape ;)

    Since you imply that there will be a difference between a normal ape, and a great ape, what entitles this ape to be "great"? What exactly does this greatness mean.
  10. Mar 25, 2005 #9
    Ill be honest I chose the human simply because I dont believe apes have a soul, it will die in a few years anyways. This is of course with the religous premise I have so there is no real alternative for me.
  11. Mar 25, 2005 #10


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    "Great ape" is the term used to refer to Orangutans, Gorillas, Chimps, and Bonobos. Many biologists group humans in there as well, since chimps and bonobos are actually more closely related to us than they are to the other great apes. The other apes are Gibbons and Siamangs. The difference is just size. "Great" apes are larger.
  12. Mar 25, 2005 #11


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    I think the stuff about "the ape will die in a few years" really misses the point (correct me if I'm wrong katelynndevere). When I read the original question, I did so trying to understand what the original poster was trying to get at. The question was more about a choice between human and animal, and also whether or not "being the last of one's kind" was a factor, i.e. whether the fact that the existence of the group was at stake made the existence of the individual more important. Therefore, I think it would be prudent to assume that if you save one of the individuals, it would live a full life. Of course, if you save an infant and then leave it, it won't be a matter of years, but probably just weeks or even just a few days before it dies. As I understand it, the original poster was trying to get at the attachment many people show towards their own species, and explore justifications for such attachments (she asks if "logic" or "species loyalty" justify your choice), and so, I think it makes most sense to read her question making appropriate assumptions so that you can answer her question as you believe she intended it to be answered.
  13. Mar 26, 2005 #12


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    Perhaps it's a trick question and that the great ape infant is in fact the last of the human race.
  14. Mar 26, 2005 #13


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    Obviously, we don't want to see the last of any species wiped out, because we would want to save the last of any kind of being is for study, or maybe we feel affections towards that being, and most importantly, we fear the unknown consequences of such a species dying out.
    But I have a quarrel with people that want to imply that the instinct for species loyalty must be justified first or it is questionable at best.

    Last of its kind is clearly not a very good option for most cases, since we have more species loyalty than we do "last of its kind preservation" loyalty. It's uniqueness is definitely a factor, but coupled with the unknown potential of a human being, saving the last great ape just won't cut it.

    Perhaps the dilemma would be more difficult if the GREAT APE RACE would be preserved (and perhaps rejuvenated) because of saving the great ape. That is, cloning could bring the great apes back, or keeping the last ape infant alive means that it can have intercourse with the opposite member of its race and preserve the race. In this case, perhaps the survival of a single human infant (of which there are billions) might be put on the back burner.

    Perhaps my view can be explained in this way: A single individual's survival (great ape, human, object, whatever) seems to be much more worthy of saving if continuing that line/race/style/type/kind/uniqueness/etc is so dependent on the survival of that individual.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2005
  15. Apr 1, 2005 #14
    Thanks, AKG. I wanted to ask two questions; whether being the last of a group rather than one of many would influence the decision of which infant to save, in terms of making the life of one individual worth more than another, and whether people would be able to maintain such a value judgement if the issue was further complicated by the issue of species loyalty.

    I obviously did not make my point sufficiently clear, and this thread has failed, so let's allow it to fall off the page. Perhaps I'll try to ask this question again in the future, with more clarity.

  16. Apr 2, 2005 #15


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    Of course, I eventually replied to your question on my previous post.
  17. Apr 2, 2005 #16
    It is a non worth chice to choose the animal that is the last of it's species left, becuase it will eventually die and the species will be extinct.

    It is a much more reasonable choice to choose the human infant because that human could be or/and do something important in the future. (a douptull think with the ape infant....)

    And last, I would choose the logic chice, which actually is the loyalty one because of what I stated before. The human infant.
  18. Apr 2, 2005 #17
    try to save both of em. At any cost :P
  19. Apr 2, 2005 #18
    Yes, you did, thank you, GeD. :smile:
  20. Apr 5, 2005 #19
    1. The one of billions baby
    2. The human infant
    3. I don't see how logic would make a decisive impact, but I'll go with species loyalty.

    4. What if it were 100 great ape babies vs human baby? I might go with the 100 great apes. In that situation, the values would be skewed enough that logic would play a role.
  21. Apr 5, 2005 #20
    My first reaction was to choose the left one. However now given the context, I will most definitely choose the human infant because a human infant is an intelligent being with free will and a mind of its own. An ape infant does not have free will or a mind of its own (mind in the sense that it is not conscious of its own existence, cannot make choices, etc.) therefore it is worth much less than a human baby even if it may the last one of its species.
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