So, I've just finished reading the book Moral Minds
by Marc D. Hauser. It's an excellent book and I would recommend it to anyone who's interested in morality and how our brains actually compute it and understand it. He heavily pushes the notion that our moral sense is actually much like our linguistic sense, and that, in the same manner, we have a framework that accepts parameters for development from our society and allows us to access complicated moral rules unconsciously the same way we can access complicated grammatical rules without actually understanding them.
Anyway, I'm somewhat interested in running an experiment. Throughout the book Hauser presents a number of moral dilemmas that have been historically used quite often by researchers on surveys to better understand our moral choices and the reasoning behind them. I'd like to post a few here (some of you may be familiar with these dilemmas already) and see how all of you judge them, and more importantly, see how each of you justify your judgments of these dilemmas.
A brother and sister are on vacation together and decide that to enrich their wonderful relationship they should make love. he has been vasectomized and she is on the pill, there is no risk of pregnancy. They make passionate lover and it is a wonderful experience for both. They keep this as their secret, something that they will always remember and cherish.
A surgeon walks into a hospital as a nurse rushes forward with the following case. "Doctor! An ambulance just pulled in with five people in critical condition. Two have a damaged kidney, one a crushed heart, one a collapsed lung, and one a completely ruptured liver. We don't have time to search for possible organ donors, but a healthy young man just walked in to donate blood and is sitting in the lobby. We can save all five patients if we take the needed organs from this young man. Of course he won't survive, but we will save all five patients.
A train is moving at a speed of 150 miles per hour. All of a sudden the conductor notices a light on the panel indicating complete brake failure. Straight ahead of him on the track are five hikers, walking with their backs turned, apparently unaware of the train. The conductor notices that the track is about to fork, and another hiker is on the side track. The conductor must make a decision: He can let the train continue on its current course, thereby killing the five hikers, or he can redirect the train onto the side track and thereby kill one hiker but save five.
Frank is on a footbridge over the trolley tracks. He knows trolleys and can see that the approaching the bridge is out of control, with its conductor passed out. On the track under the bridge there are five people; the banks are so steep that they will not be able to get off the track in time. Frank knows that the only way to stop an out-of-control trolley is to drop a very heavy weight into its path. But the only available, sufficiently heavy weight is a large person also watching the trolley from the footbridge. Frank can shove the large onto the track in the path of the trolley, resulting in death; or he can refrain from doing this, letting the five die.
For those of you already familiar with these scenarios and the results that they've received in studies and why they've received these results, please wait until at least a few people have tried to answer before giving the full analysis, I'd like to see the different responses.