Chance and Morality


Scenario 1


Bob is drunk and driving too fast on rain-slicked streets. He runs a red light and doesn’t even see Belinda, a pedestrian who is crossing the street. He hits her and she dies.

Scenario 2

Bob is drunk and driving too fast on rain-slicked streets. He runs a red light. Belinda, a pedestrian, is about to cross the street. Luckily she spots Bob’s speeding car in time and remains on the curb. She lives.  Bob doesn’t even see her.

Bob’s behavior is identical in the two scenarios, and the difference in outcome is due to something completely outside of Bob’s control: whether Belinda spots his car in time.

Questions for discussion

1. In moral terms, is Bob equally blameworthy in both scenarios, or does his culpability depend on the outcome?

2. The legal system will punish Bob far more harshly in the first scenario than in the second.  Is this appropriate?

Justify your answers.


A number of posts have appeared at Uncommon Descent on the topic of macroevolution. Comments here have been appended to other threads, but I thought it an appropriate subject for its own thread.

The posts start here with a link to chemist James M Tour’s blog, on which he posted some personal musings on the creation-evolution debate. Numerous follow-on posts have appeared on UD subsequently, in a rather recursive comments-becoming-posts-spawning-more-comments-that-become-posts manner. I won’t detail them all, but they comprise the bulk of UD threads between 18th and 22nd February.

Tour admits his lack of credentials in the subject, but fundamentally expresses doubts that microevolution (which he accepts) leads to macroevolution. The issue has taken a bizarre turn since, apparently, a couple of UD regulars have offered to stump up costs for Nick Matzke to have lunch with Tour in a meeting that will be witnessed by one of them (it’s his dollar!) but, at Tour’s request, will not be recorded or discussed externally. A personal tutorial. Matzke’s mission, should he choose to accept it, is to prove to Tour’s satisfaction that the extrapolation is justified – that macroevolution is sufficiently explained by iterating the small degrees of microevolution.

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