The Big Question

Richard Wiseman has posted a thought experiment linked to polls for pet owners, one for cat owners and one for dog owners. The thought experiment is this:
Imagine walking into a room and finding your beloved dog or cat, and a randomly selected two year old child that you have never seen before.  You are presented with a simple choice.  You have to press one of three buttons.  One button will instantly kill your pet.  The second button will instantly kill the child and the third button will instantly kill you. No-one will ever know which button you pressed and there will be no legal ramifications for your choice.  Answer honestly – which button would you press?
Looking at the results, I am frankly amazed at how many pet owners would rather kill the child than their beloved pet (around one third at the moment). As for me, my answer would depend on additional factors. As a dog owner, for the most part I would unhesitatingly choose to kill my dog.

But I could also imagine a circumstance where I would choose active euthanasia, and kill myself. After all, Wiseman’s said that the death is instant. Sounds to me like a good way to go, if I were ready to die…

The kid survives in both scenarios…

On a related note, Philip Ball comments on a new paper from psychologists Ilkka Pyysiäinen of the University of Helsinki and Marc Hauser at Harvard. The paper draws on the results from the Moral Sense Test and points out that individuals presented with unfamiliar moral dilemmas show no difference in their responses if they have a religious background or not, although religion may influence responses in a few highly specific cases.

Oh, and harking back to the experiment that kicked this off, I’ve always found the phrase "cat owner" to be faintly oxymoronic. As someone said: "dogs have owners, cats have staff".

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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