Archive for murder

Morality is Subjective

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

When someone says that a person really “sticks with their morals,” it’s usually a good thing. It means that the person is able to stay on the straight and narrow, never faulting from their beliefs, and is a great example to emulate. But what exactly is “morality,” and how do we define our morals? defines “morals” as “principles or habits with respect to right or wrong conduct” (definition 11, under noun). That’s fine and dandy; we can appreciate someone who knows right from wrong, and continues to choose right over wrong at any point in time.

But what is “right” and what is “wrong”? Is there a universal definition for those terms in every scenario? The answer is unfortunately and resoundingly “no.”

There is a reason there are so many moral dilemma scenarios out there. It’s a great experiment into how flimsy morals are. I love playing them, because I love seeing how people who strictly believe that murder is wrong sweat over a scenario like the following:

You are a switchboard manager of a train station. There is a train that has lost control and is moving down the tracks at an amazingly fast speed. On the tracks ahead are 5 people who will be killed without a doubt if nothing is done. There is a switch that you have control over that will send the train on a sideline. On this sideline also without a doubt 1 person will be killed. The choice is yours what do you do? Do you save the 5 people, by killing the 1 person? Or do you use the switch and have the 1 person standing on the other sideline track killed?

What would you do? Many would immediately say to throw the switch, because losing one life is less costly than losing five lives. That’s a very noble answer.

But then comes the morality of the question: by flipping the switch, you have committed murder. You have intentionally used an object (here being a train) to end a human life. However, if you let the train go and kill the other five on the track, there was nothing you can do, it was beyond your control, and you can wash your hands of it all.

But suddenly, a new layer comes: is it better to live with the guilt of killing one person, or the guilt of knowing you could have saved five lives? Obviously having the burden of five innocent lives on your heart would be terrible, and it would be easier to know that the one life you ended allowed five more people to live.

Then there is another one of my favorites: You manage to go back in time and you are in a room with a 3-year-old Adolph Hitler. You have a gun in your hand and are fully aware of what happens during WWII, but at this point, the baby is innocent. Do you kill little Hitler, or do you let him live?

The immediate response is to kill Hitler. He’s Hitler, you know what he does, and you save over 6 million lives. However, at this point, the kid is innocent. He’s three years old, and hasn’t done anything. If anyone found out that you killed a young, defenseless child, you would be ostracized and exiled. (Click here for more excellent moral dilemmas.)

The point is, morality is subjective. We can see it across cultures, and even looking back through history. Today, it is immoral to have sex with young children, yet in places like Mexico and the Philipines, the age of consent is as low as 12 years old, and in ancient Grecian times, it was not uncommon to masters of trades to have relations with their younger, male apprentices.

Today, it is immoral for a man to hit a woman, yet not more than 50 years ago, it was encouraged to occasionally smack a woman to let her know that what she was doing is unfavorable.

Even in cases that don’t really matter much, such as swearing, people have completely different views. Some such as myself, have no problem dropping the occasionaly curse word, because it is part of this culture’s lexicon; but I also know others who have never dropped a curse word in their lives, and will backpedal like crazy if they’re caught doing something so “morally wrong.”

The purpose of morals is to make sure we differentiate right from wrong, but there are so many definitions of both that it’s impossible for everyone to be on the same page. Where some people feel that sex before marriage is immoral, others have no problem with it.

Probably the biggest issue of this all, though, comes from people who claim to be part of the “moral majority,” speaking out against the sins of the world, and eventually are caught in the act of those sins they were speaking out against. Most recently that person was Republican Senator Roy Ashburn, who was arrested for DUI after leaving a gay nightclub. Senator Ashburn later came out to a radio host, saying, “Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long.”

I’m not condoning either side of any of the issues laid out in this blog. In fact, I’m all about having people voice their own opinions on issues laid out in this blog, as well as the many, many issues that crop up every day. All I’m saying is that if we’re going to praise someone for sticking to their morals, we better know what those morals are.

Murder of KS Doctor to be Ruled “Voluntary Manslaughter”?

Posted in current events with tags , , on January 13, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

As I’m sure I’m going to learn all too often in working on this project, crazy things in the news are going to mess with whatever “schedule” I had planned for this blog. This is one of those cases.

I was reading the Des Moines Register today in an effort to build up my awareness of the world in which I live (since Wartburg College, as is probably the case with most institutions, is kind of in a bubble of its own), and I read an article that absolutely made me sick.

On 31 May, Scott Roeder of Wichita, Kansas, walked over to Dr. George Tiller, pulled out a .22-caliber handgun, and shot Dr. Tiller in the head before a church service. Roeder pleaded guilty to premeditated first-degree murder, and as if that wasn’t enough, there were 250 witnesses that saw him do it. Open-and-shut murder case, right?

Wrong. Oh so very wrong.

Because a judge–who is supposed to be non-partisan and neutral–decided to let Roeder plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, as the killing would “save unborn children”. For those of you who don’t realize how drastic of a difference this is, let me spell it out for you in plain language: the penalty for premeditated, first-degree, outright murder is a life sentence; the penalty for “voluntary manslaughter” is five years.

This decision makes people like The Rev. Don Spitz of Chesapeake, Virginia, extra super happy, because if a person can claim that straight-up killing a doctor for performing abortions is “voluntary manslaughter”, then it would influence more people to act, as the penalty is drastically reduced.

Here’s where things start to not make sense to me: pro-lifers around the world argue that “murder is murder,” and when you abort a fetus, you’re committing murder. That’s fine; I can handle people having what I view is an essentially backwards view of what a human life is. But when these people, in the same breath, call for the murder of doctors who terminate pregnancies, I’m left to wonder: whatever happened to “murder is murder”? If all life is precious, when does life stop being so precious as to call for murder?

This blog post is jumping ahead of a lot of things I had planned; I had three articles written and planned to post an article stating my views on abortion before anything else. But as one of my professors so eloquently put it: “Life has a way of being life, and it won’t be contained in a neat little box. Things happen that will throw you for a loop, but you just have to adapt and run with it.” No worries; those articles are still to come. But right now, human stupidity has taken center stage, and we must deal with that before we can deal with anything else.

Long story short, though: I am pro-choice, and like many pro-choicers, I don’t want women to have abortions. I don’t encourage abortions, but I’d like the option to be legal and available in case something comes up. Pro-lifers who accuse me of being a “baby killer” and a “murderer” are grossly mistaken. And with situations like this, where they actively call for the murder of doctors who are just doing their jobs, just goes to show how grossly mistaken they are.

It doesn’t make sense to me that someone would rally around a cause, stating that “all human life is precious” and must be protected, and yet can arbitrarily assign certain lives to be not-so-precious. This brings up two questions: one, are abortion doctors suddenly not human, or two, is human life actually not as precious as what was once thought?

Hopefully someone in that courtroom in Kansas will enlighten everyone with some common sense, that murder is in fact murder, and that killing a grown adult for no comprehensible reason is far worse than terminating a pregnancy.