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The Human Cull


Butters
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If humanity got a point where our population was unsustainable, could culling humans ever be considered ethical? This would take place in the context of a global societal collapse for example, where no outside help could be expected as the whole population is in the same situation.

 

Let's say we have enough food and the means to continue producing small yields that will feed one billion people worldwide. Let's say we also have access to an engineered virus made before the collapse. One in six people have a natural immunity to this virus and suffer absolutely no ill-effects. If we try to feed everybody (assuming also that the food is spread evenly throughout the population and transporting it is not an issue) then we may all eventually die. By overreaching ourselves we eventually lose the ability to produce any crops at all. There would also be constant food riots that could destroy all future means of production.

 

Is it ethical to release the virus on purpose, to allow humanity a definite chance to recover? Or is the slow decline the more ethical decision, despite it greatly lowering humanity's chances of survival overall?

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No, arbitrarily choosing the people for killing would ever be considered ethical. There are already millions of people starving everyday, should we start killing off people in those places because of food/water scarcity. Also, in my opinion if we as a planet become so overpopulated that we can't feed ourselves most people would die out anyway so there would be no need

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Ringer is right. I don't think you'd ever get a significant portion of the population to agree to such a plan. The ethics are a bit fuzzy as the virus would kill off people indiscriminately, though if somehow the virus were tailored to kill a certain 5/6 of the population, then it'd seem a bit more unethical. If humanity expands beyond the ability of the environment to adapt, then humanity will start dying off through some natural means, so using a virus to randomly kill a majority of the population seems unnecessary.

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First, I find the idea of releasing a virus to be a very poor one. Once released into an uncontrolled virus their is nothing to stop the virus to mutating into more leathal forms, and once released their would be no way to remove that virus. As for the idea of killing people purposefully. If their was a food shortage as you suggest their would be no need for us to decrease our population. Nature would take care of that for us through famine and malnutrition. Lowering our population until it returned to its carrying capacity.

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That's true enough. But what about the competition for existing resources that would inevitably lead to conflict? Preventing that so the remaining food could actually help people to survive rather than be spread so thin as to do nobody any long term good seems preferable, from a utilitarian point of view. If we just let nature take its course with no plan, then it seems unlikely that humanity would have any sustainable food production left and be reduced completely to scavengers, who would also be doomed to die off eventually.

 

Also, in terms of the millions of people already starving or dying from lack of access to water, there is hope in that circumstance. We have the means to stop that already, just not the will. In this scenario there is no remaining societal structure outside of the affected area that could help.

 

PS- want to make it aboslutely clear I am not advocating this in any way! My sense of morality tells me it's wrong, but I just wonder if an ethical case can be made for it.

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Yes, there would be conflicts for resources, which would led to some death. However, I would assume that this death would just be par for the course, and would not cause the extinction or near extinction of the human race. Of course this would all change if the conflicts for resources were fought on a international scale. In this case this could result in a world conflict, which would be exceptionally deadly. However, if the conditions were that bad nations would probably attempt to hoard resources even if their was a cull, so I don't think the conflict aspect would matter that much.

 

Don't worry I don't think anyone believed you were condoning this as a practical idea, and agreement with the idea on the hypothetical side is not wrong, but is simply an opinion.

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If there were to be a conflict what would be the basis for culling instead of war? Let's kill these innocent people so these people who are paid to risk their live's for us don't have to. I'm with DJBruce in saying it's doubtful anyone actually thought you were saying we should actually do this.

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I don't think it's a realistic scenario. When people go hungry, their desire for sex and probably also fertility will drop. What you are suggesting is that we'd all die out due to spreading the food out evenly, and then actively killing people so they don't starve. Why not let the starvation kill people to save you the trouble? At least that is a passive system.

 

Anyhow, the other solution is called Soylent Green.

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This issue has already arisen in the case of the defense of necessity. In law, you are allowed to commit a crime if committing that crime is the only way to avoid an even greater harm. The legal cases which have explored this issue have usually involved lifeboats on the open sea where resources of food and water were scarce and someone had to be killed to allow the rest sufficient nourishment to survive. (Cf. R. v. Dudley and Stephens; U.S. v. Holmes) Now that the defense of necessity has been well-developed, deliberately murdering someone to save yourself or to save several other people, if there were no other option, would generally be permitted. Interestingly, courts have ruled that the best method for selecting victims for sacrifice in such a case is at random, by lotterly, rather than on objective criteria, such as how close the person is to death, which was the reason why the cabin boy was murdered and eaten in R. v. Dudley and Stephens.

 

A more recent example which was never prosecuted occured when the ferry, the Herald of Free Enterprise, was sinking, and the passengers trying to climb up to safety via a rope ladder were blocked by someone who had frozen with fear and could not advance any further. One of the passengers killed him and people were able to climb up above the rising waters.

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While there may be precedent in cases like passengers on boats and the like, you'd likely be hard-pressed to find any authority willing to endorse the destruction of over five billion people. I would argue it'd also take a sociopath to set such a measure in motion. But then maybe some sort of command hierarchy could be set up to create a sort of sick modified Milgram experiment. :P I don't know, it still seems it'd be unnecessary in the first place. Just let nature take its course.

 

I'll have to see if I can get PhDwannabe to comment on this.

Edited by John
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I say we give everyone on the planet an IQ test, and genocide all the people who score below 120.

 

You do realize that depending on which test you are using this would mean killing between about 90 and 98% of the world's population.

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While there may be precedent in cases like passengers on boats and the like, you'd likely be hard-pressed to find any authority willing to endorse the destruction of over five billion people. I would argue it'd also take a sociopath to set such a measure in motion. But then maybe some sort of command hierarchy could be set up to create a sort of sick modified Milgram experiment. :P I don't know, it still seems it'd be unnecessary in the first place. Just let nature take its course.

 

I'll have to see if I can get PhDwannabe to comment on this.

 

It was called the Holocaust. Milgram based his experiment on the assumption that Germans are more likely to follow orders from a figure head than American based on our culture of individuality. That was the crazy thing in his experiments, almost everyone "killed" the student when pressured, even when the experimenter wasn't in the room.

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You do realize that depending on which test you are using this would mean killing between about 90 and 98% of the world's population.

 

Yes. This is exactly my point. :lol:

 

 

If you are able to seriously consider this scenario as existing due to lack of food then logically you might as well consider the killed people as a source of food!!!

 

SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE

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  • 2 years later...

Who is anyone to decide who should live and who should die other than Mother Nature? This planet we live on has its own way of culling us what with ice ages, earth quakes, volcano eruptions, etc. when push comes to shove and food gets scarce, it will revert back to the animal instincts installed in all of us! Survival of the fittest! The same rules apply to us as they do to all of the creatures on this planet! And for those who think that only people with high IQ's should abstain from the cull, dream on! Life is not a university degree! Life is a gift that we ALL hold dear and its worth fighting for regardless of colour, creed or intellect! The government have tried Aids, now it's Cancer, which is undoubtedly in our food, but we, as humans are resilient, we will prevail as equals and we will survive regardless!!!

Peace out

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Who is anyone to decide who should live and who should die other than Mother Nature? This planet we live on has its own way of culling us what with ice ages, earth quakes, volcano eruptions, etc. when push comes to shove and food gets scarce, it will revert back to the animal instincts installed in all of us! Survival of the fittest! The same rules apply to us as they do to all of the creatures on this planet! And for those who think that only people with high IQ's should abstain from the cull, dream on! Life is not a university degree! Life is a gift that we ALL hold dear and its worth fighting for regardless of colour, creed or intellect! The government have tried Aids, now it's Cancer, which is undoubtedly in our food, but we, as humans are resilient, we will prevail as equals and we will survive regardless!!!

Peace out

 

You should give a speech like that to the dinosaurs...oh wait, you can't.

Edited by EquisDeXD
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  • 9 months later...

Releasing a virus like that would kill a lot more people than you might expect. Ask yourself this - if 5 billion people all dropped dead within, say, 10 days of one another, how are the other billion supposed to dispose of the bodies without the decay polluting the ground and water.

 

Sounds like a good recipe for sickness and (additional) death to me.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Releasing a virus like that would kill a lot more people than you might expect. Ask yourself this - if 5 billion people all dropped dead within, say, 10 days of one another, how are the other billion supposed to dispose of the bodies without the decay polluting the ground and water.

 

Sounds like a good recipe for sickness and (additional) death to me.

 

I have to agree with this. Disposal of five billion bodies would be no easy feat. even having mass burial grounds in each country could in effect create "dead zones", areas that would be uninhabitable due to contaminants that would be in all of the bodies that could then slowly make its way into the groundwater. Can't burn them for the same reason. All the smoke created from burning the bodies would have the potential to spread not only foul odors, but enormous amounts of ash into the air. This increase of solid particles in the air would only exacerbate the greenhouse effect by holding onto the heat from the sun. This could then cause climate shifts, raise the level of the oceans and also kill off flora and fauna of various regions that aren't made for the change in environment. I understand that this would be extreme cases, but it's also very likely with just how much would have to be burned in such a short amount of time.

 

The only logical answer to over population would be the inhabitation and terraforming of another planet with similar qualities to Earth. If humankind hasn't reached this level of development then the only thing remaining would be to let war, famine, and disease wipe out a portion of the population naturally until everything can settle back into a balance.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I do not mean to specifically aim at the above post, but In a way I find it funny that some people have a rather bleak outlook about the future on Earth. However, at the same time they are rather optimistic that these problems vanish or are easily overcome when transferred to another planet.

I.e. for some reasons solving problems on a planet that is perfectly suited for life as we know it is somehow perceived as a bigger challenge than making an inhabitable planet habitable.

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I know you aren't pointing to my post specifically, but I wasn't meaning it to seem like a bleak outlook. I was looking more at the effect that a strategic killing of the majority would have on those who were left behind.

 

And you can equate the need/desire to terraform another planet to trying to clean the house of a hoarder. When there's no other room in a set place for cleaning up, you have to move some of it out to get to other areas. I hate to reference a movie made for children, but the Disney/Pixar movie Wall-E portrays this quite efficiently. They send the human race out to the stars while machines back on Earth are designed to clean up the mess that was left behind. Granted in the movie the cleanup was a failure, that is really beside the point. Once the Earth has been cleaned up and restored, back to a more habitable planet than how it will be in a few thousand years if things continue on their present course, we would be able to start re-inhabiting those areas again while others would still make their way to the outer reaches of the solar system.

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From a logistic point of view I still fail to see how it is easier to have a significant amount of people survive either in space or even on a remote planet (unless they are, for some weird reason, perfectly suitable for human life) rather than find a corner on Earth and make that inhabitable until the rest clears out.

 

The basic assumption is that e.g. massive amounts of killing would affect every corner of the world. But what about the parts that are not inhabited, say, the ocean, or large parts of the arctic. Or even Canada for that part ;).

Even if there was significant pollution and heavy toxin contamination, how much worse is that from being in space or on a completely hostile planet? In all cases you would isolate the population from the environment.

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Modern morality is the product of the industrial age and the great food surpluses it has produced, when there is enough food around the common instinct is to not make unnecessary enemies. In more Malthusian times peoples mindsets are quite different. For example when the bible was written the main character called God frequently tells the Hebrews to exterminate rival tribes including all the women and children, but sometimes they are allowed to take slaves and concubines. These things where considered good and moral, sometimes the god character does the genocide himself with powers akin to nuclear weapons or great floods.

 

When societies advance from tribalism to despotism however the elite consider it in there interests to have some starving masses around to drive down the market value of labor to starvation rations, so philosophies that extol the virtues of peace are encouraged.

 

If Malthusian times return democracies will revert to either tribalism or sometimes despotism.

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