Blood on the tracks

From The Bosoton Globe:

Tracks MORAL PHILOSOPHERS and academics interested in studying how humans choose between right and wrong often use thought experiments to tease out the principles that inform our decisions. One particular hypothetical scenario has become quite the rage in some top psychological journals. It involves a runaway trolley, five helpless people on the track, and a large-framed man looking on from a footbridge. He may or may not be about to tumble to his bloody demise: You get to make the call. That’s because in this scenario, you are standing on the footbridge, too. You know that if you push the large man off the bridge onto the tracks, his body will stop the trolley before it kills the five people on the tracks. Of course, he will die in the process. So the question is: Is it morally permissible to kill the man in order to save five others?

In surveys, most people (around 85 percent) say they would not push the man to his death. In his forthcoming book, “Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong” (Ecco), and in other recent papers, Hauser suggests we may have a moral “faculty” in our brains that acts as a sort of in-house philosopher-parsing situations quickly, before emotion or conscious reason come into play.

More here.