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ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture

Many of you argue that no objective morality exists. Right and wrong are subjective categories. Great.

Pretend we're all in an airplane. The engines explode. We're heading straight to the ground, and will be dead in around 70 seconds.

Given this scenario, how do you object in any meaningful way to a fellow passenger taking those last few seconds to murder the nearest person? Does it make a difference?

Here's a different question if you prefer: Should we have stopped the Holocaust?

Possibly the greatest war in human history was waged to stop the Nazis. Thousands of innocent soldiers were lost in the endeavor... and I can reasonably expect every single holocaust survivors to be dead anyway by the time I'm married. So what was the point? To postpone the inevitable and pretend it makes a difference?

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algebe's picture
It's wrong. Right and wrong

The engines explode. We're heading straight to the ground

I hate it when that happens.

It's wrong. Right and wrong are social as well as individual concepts, and the people in the plane are still part of society. Killing is wrong from my viewpoint and that of society. Therefore I'd be under an obligation to try and prevent the killing. What I could do while contending with G forces in a plummeting plane would be another question.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
I don't think there are G

I don't think there are G forces during free fall, so that shouldn't be a problem. You would still try to stop it knowing you, the victim, and the culprit will all be dead shortly?

algebe's picture
I was on a plane that went

I was on a plane that went into a long free fall in an air pocket. One of the cabin crew hit the ceiling and came down unconscious. It's not a smooth ride.

But yes. If you think something is right, you stand by it to the end, don't you? I certainly wouldn't waste my last minute praying.

And until you actually hit the ground, there's always a chance of a reprieve. Look up the Gimli Glider. You'll learn about another reason not to fly Air Canada, in addition to the terrible food and awful service.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
From a personal conviction

From a personal conviction sure, but I suppose I'm interested in your reasoning behind it.

In my scenario everyone dies. No chance of recovery.

LucyAustralopithecus's picture
for clarification, when in

for clarification, when in free fall, you would 'experience' 0g, because there is no mechanical force on a body.

however you are accelerating at 1 g (9.8 m/s2 ).

Nyarlathotep's picture
finally someone who gets it

finally someone who gets it right!

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Didn't I get it right?

Didn't I get it right? Trusty Wikipedia says: "The g-force is a measurement of the type of acceleration that causes a perception of weight.

Nyarlathotep's picture
What you meant to say was

What you meant to say was probably correct, but what you actually wrote was a bit confused and technically wrong. I wasn't going to say anything because it is basically splitting hairs; but you did ask.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Standing still = 1 G

Standing still = 1 G
Free falling = 0 G

Nyarlathotep's picture
Well for starters:

Well for starters:

[G] = L^3 ⋅ M^(-1) ⋅ T^(-2)
[g] = L ⋅ T^(-2)
∴ G ≠ g

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
I capitalized to distinguish

I capitalized to distinguish it from grams.

Tin-Man's picture
@John Re: G-force/Freefall

@John Re: G-force/Freefall

Well, if you want to get technical with your scenario, here's some interesting info.

When skydiving, a general rule of thumb we used was once you leave the plane (in stable freefall position) it is roughly ten seconds for the first thousand feet, and then six seconds for every thousand feet after that. So, if I jumped from - say - fifteen thousand feet, I would have roughly 94 seconds before going splat on the ground if I failed to deploy my chute. Keep in mind the only acceleration is in the first thousand feet. The rest is constant speed. (Or, basically, zero G.)

Now, in your scenario, you said the engines went out and the plane was going to hit the ground in 70 seconds. You did not specify an altitude, so let's say it was at thirty thousand feet at the time of engine failure. Given my skydiver rule of thumb, the plane (in stable freefall) would take roughly 184 seconds to hit the ground. In that situation, it would be zero G within the aircraft. (Which would probably be kinda fun under other circumstances.) For the plane to reach the ground in 70 seconds, though, it would have to be accelerating pretty much the whole way down, meaning everybody would likely be pinned to their seats, and therefore unable to kill or save anybody else anyway.

On a happy note, however, your 70 second scenario could be more plausible if engine failure happened at roughly eleven thousand feet. And I'm keeping things WAY simple by not going into the fact that even without engines the pilot could still "fly it" like a glider because of the aircraft's glide ratio.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Well you're correct that I

Well you're correct that I didn't specify the altitude. I also mentioned the engines exploded. As far as I'm concerned the wings are gone, and we're dropping straight down like eggs.

Tin-Man's picture
Ah. Well, I admit, I did not

Ah. Well, I admit, I did not consider the wings being gone. (I was on a plane once when the engine exploded, and the wing remained intact.) Anyway, with the wings being off, it actually makes the situation worse, because the aircraft is then tumbling randomly out of control, causing absolute chaos in the passenger section with multiple G forces acting in multiple directions. (Again, probably would be kinda fun in different circumstances. *chuckle*)

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Would it tumble if the wings

Would it tumble if the wings are gone but the tailfins are intact? I expect it falls like a dart.

Tin-Man's picture
@John Re: "Would it tumble..

@John Re: "Would it tumble..."

Yep. It would not be a pleasant ride.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
The question now becomes, is

The question now becomes, is life all that different from an unwanted fall.

Tin-Man's picture


Hey, man, life is a freefall from an unknown altitude. Just enjoy it while we can. *chuckle*


David Killens's picture
If the airframe experienced a

If the airframe experienced a catastrophe great enough to tear the wings off, the tail would definitely be long gone. And even if it was plunging to the ground like a dart, there would still be air resistance and all passengers would tumble down to where the nose is pointing. And even if zero G was expienced, how could one thwart another's efforts since one would not have purchase or leverage?

Sheldon's picture
Almost impossible for such an

Almost impossible for such an explosion not to compromise the fuselage, a depressurisation of the cabin would render anyone not on oxygen unconscious pretty quickly. Even with it they'd be confined to their seats, and the if the fuselage were compromised in an explosion that ripped off both wings many of them might be killed or injured immediately. Is this a wide bodied aircraft or a single isle? Hard to imagine anyone doing anything physical during such a descent tbh, beyond an involuntary evacuation of bowels, bladder and stomach that is.

algebe's picture
You didn't mention the wings

You didn't mention the wings being gone. Did any of the debris from the wings puncture the fuselage or hit the tail? Did both wings go at exactly the same time, or one after the other? Did they both detach at the same distance from the fuselage?

I think in a situation that catastrophic I think everyone would be unconscious. They certainly wouldn't be able to move around the cabin.

But if you want an example of people fighting to stop murderers even though they all expected to die, look at UA 93 on 9/11. People can be heroic under any circumstances.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
UA 93 is not a good example.

UA 93 is not a good example. It violates important premises of my scenario.

Sheldon's picture
Well it focuses on shitty

Well it focuses on shitty murdering theists rather than directing loaded questions at atheists for a start. No one could reasonably argue it wasn't about morality or the lack of it though, and it happened on a plane of course.

LucyAustralopithecus's picture
it is surprising how many don

it is surprising how many don't.

mykcob4's picture
There ARE negative Gs Breezy

There ARE negative Gs Breezy and they are just as forceful.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
You first question is

You first question is answered by: Would it be a mercy killing? Certainly if I knew a child was going to be burnt slowly while trapped i a plane then I would definitely take on the terrible task of cutting their suffering short as I would for anyone who asked.
In the bald case you present, a matter of seconds, a quick death versus agonising crushing and burning, I would ask the putative murderer to shoot me as well.

Your second question is about the inevitability of death, so why do we bother? I detect several little questions/follow ups lurking around that. Because purely subjectively the concept of one human group rounding up others on the basis of their race, religion, disabilities, or even religion, stripping them of all dignity, gassing them in conditions worse than an abattoir is anathema. Anyone even contemplating such a course or suggesting that the thousands of lives lost were wasted is morally bankrupt.

Interesting that you chose the holocaust? Why not any of the great inter faith christian massacres that occur with astonishing regularity?

jonthecatholic's picture
Oh my! This answer bothers me

Oh my! This answer bothers me.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
I'm not sure I understand

I'm not sure I understand your second response. Why morally bankrupt?

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
The vast majority of

The vast majority of servicemen and women were fighting for their homes and lives against the scourge of fascism. Even the poor bastards of the axis footsoldiers(Not SS or sicherendeinst) gave their lives for a cause they believed in. And the next generation will probably be called to do the same.
To ignore their sacrifices at home, overseas and in that conflict is moral bankruptcy.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
That's rather abstract, you

That's rather abstract, you're not really telling me why. Perhaps instead of saying something simply IS morally bankrupt, you should replace it with: Morally bankrupt in my personal opinion, taste and feelings.


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