Re: A (Useful?) Simplification

From: Geraint Rees (
Date: Thu Jan 03 2002 - 03:14:30 MST

On 1/3/02 8:18 AM, "Joe Dees" <> wrote:

> Let's say that there are a hundred people on an island (let's call it
> Spaceship Earth); the majority, say 85, eat meat and vegetables, but realizing
> that their numbers are growing and that latrine space is overtaking cattle
> range and farmland, a few are working on ways to get our eggs out of a tiny
> basket before we all die of overpopulation-induced pollution and starvation.
> Let's say that the other fifteen have sworn fealty to a murderous Thugee
> ideology, and the only people they will not kill are their own. What are the
> 85 to do?
> 1) Hunt down and convert, or, failing that, kill the 15 so that all may live
> their lives unendangered and those working on liberation may continue.
> 2) Join the 15 to avoid being murdered.
> 3) Blithely ignore the 15 and hope that one's own number does not come up.
> 4) Try to understand the killers as members of an alternative yet equally
> valid lifestyle and attempt constructive and nonjudgemental dialogue with
> them.
> 5) Assert that the 85 deserve such a fate because of real or imagined
> historical wrongs and await their fate with a sense that an incomprehensibele
> (or maybe comprehensible, but these would most likely convert) divine justice
> was being meted.
> I stand squarely with alternative #1. I see Samantha as embracing
> alternatives #4 or #5 or perhaps a syncretism of the two.

I'm not very sure how useful a discussion will be that starts off with such
a biased framework, but here goes with two observations:

1. Consider how the 85 should react if it turns out that not all of them
pick option 1. Should rational dissent be suppressed in such a situation?
Should the option 1 people regard option 4 people as their enemy? What if
it's actually a minority of these hypothetical 85 who pick option 1, but
they sincerely believe that they are right? What if some people pick option
1 initially, but then change their minds and want option 4 instead? Etc.

2. There are of course more options, and the options are not mutually
exclusive. So for example, political dialogue and military action are not
mutually exclusive (as current US action in Afghanistan, supported in
general by the international community, is showing). As JR Molloy pointed
out on the related real-world thread, war is diplomacy carried on by other
means. What if some of the 85 want some interesting combination of 1 & 4.

Anyway, I continue to have misgivings about whether further exploration of
such a biased scenario will be enlightening, so I'll stop now!

Best wishes,


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 01 2002 - 13:37:32 MST