A Question of Atheist Scruples – Round 3

I’m getting a kick out of doing this. Some of the questions out of this old Scruples game are a bit absurd and others leave too many options open for answers, but overall it’s getting interesting. Here are today’s ethical quandaries.

A friend asks you to join a demonstration for worldwide nuclear disarmament. You are busy. Do you go?

Where is it and how long does it run? If it’s at City Hall on a Sunday afternoon, I could probably swing it. Laundry could wait a few hours. If it would require weeks off work and cramped days sitting in a VW bus filled with angry sign waving hippies, I’d have to pass on it, no matter how much I might agree with them.

This isn’t news I stay abreast of, but I’ve found an opinion piece in the Toronto Star where the writer takes this position in terms of Iran.

Universal abolition of nuclear weapons is indeed a utopian ideal. As has been pointed out, it could not work in today’s international system of “a world divided into nations maintaining their full sovereignty.”

The authors of that comment were not utopians, though. They were the U.S. joint chiefs of staff. This was their judgment back in 1946, at the very dawn of the nuclear era.

Instead, we’ve gone the route of trying, by pressure and bribery, to limit nuclear weapons to respectable nations — or to weak ones (like Pakistan and North Korea). The consequence is an Iran within touching distance of gaining nuclear capability, and after it, almost anybody.

The alternative to that route would be, in essence, some form of global nuclear governance. Excruciatingly hard to accomplish, of course. But isn’t it time long overdue to have a serious discussion of that option?

And wasn’t that kind of initiative exactly the sort of thing that Canada, long ago it now seems, used to do and indeed was quite good at? Why not regain our voice?

We’ve seen the fall-out in terms of what happens in a nuclear event. Nagasaki and Hiroshima are testaments of that. No matter how bad one’s enemies are (or said to be), they’re still going to be surrounded by the innocent, those completely undeserving of the punishment. They didn’t necessarily choose their leaders and they don’t necessarily agree with them either. Those aren’t weapons anyone should use. They aren’t just enemy killers. They’re world killers.

Late one evening, your 19-year-old son asks permission for his girlfriend to stay over. Do you give it?

First, I’d be happy he asked. It shows respect for me and my house, which is cool, and if I said no, I think that means he’d abide by my decision instead of trying to sneak her in under the radar and risk disappointing me. (Or, he’s been sneaking her in for a while and finally feels some guilt about it…) While he’s nineteen and technically an adult, I’d rather know where he is and who he’s with than be up wondering why he isn’t home yet and what kind of trouble he might be getting into. If that means he has his girlfriend stay over once in a while, I think I’d probably be fine with it, so long as his girlfriend isn’t 17 or younger. I’d also be insisting on birth control, probably in some horribly embarrassing kind of way that only a parent can do.

You are a doctor. You have diagnosed a terminal illness. The family begs you to keep it from the patient. When the patient asks, do you tell him the truth?

If he asks, is it a safe bet that he probably already suspects that’s the case? I can’t see how lying to the guy would help the whole family cope with the news in the long run. I’d try to encourage them all to be open with each other and deal with the reality of the upcoming loss rather than pretend it’s not going to happen. They wouldn’t be giving their dad/grandfather/brother much credit. No doubt he’d notice a change in their behaviour towards him and know something was up. Also, how long does he have? If it’s a death that treatment could stave off for a few months, wouldn’t he want to know that option’s available sooner rather than later? At least give the whole family some time to consider the pros and cons of that.

Or, possibly the family just wants the news to come from loved ones instead of a complete stranger. Maybe they don’t intend to hide the truth from him at all, just choose the way they share it with him. In that case, I think I would have to respect their decision.

I leave the fourth open to readers:

The only available spot in the parking lot is reserved for the handicapped. You are in a hurry and won’t be very long. Do you park there?

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4 Responses to A Question of Atheist Scruples – Round 3

  1. Off Duty Mom says:

    Good question. But, I can’t imagine a scenerio where it would be okay for me to take the handicapped space. First of all, it’s illegal to do so (even just for a minute). Now, I understand that the law doesn’t deter everyone from wrongdoing, but nevertheless, that might be reason enough not to do it.

    Additionally, I cannot begin to think of why someone living with a disability ought to pay for my lateness or a parking lot’s popularity.

    Not only do I not EVER park in a handicapped space, I never park in the “Parking for Expectant Mothers or Parents with Infants” spaces. Anyone who has ever been a 9-month pregnant mom carting around a 3-year old with a penchant for ill-timed tantrums will tell you how shitty it is to find a perfectly healthy 35-year old man parking his BMW in a space you’d have really appreciated.

  2. #4 is a big fat "no" says:

    I read Off Duty Mom’s comment, and have nothing else to add except (in the immortal words of Taggart) “Ditto!”

  3. More answers:

    #1: as you point out, there are far too many unspecified variables here. Impossible to answer as-is.

    But as for some of your other comments:

    – Stop ragging on hippies. For one thing, you’re using the wrong term; the actual Hippies were apolitical (the “drop out” part of “tune in, turn on, drop out”), it was the Yippies who were politically active. But even with that correction in mind: it wasn’t the left who got things wrong in the 1960s. Pretty much everything they wanted would have been a wise choice, had we actually listened to them. Instead, we chose to mock them and ended up where we are.

    – Who gives a shit about a nuclear Iran? Iran hasn’t invaded anyone for a very long time indeed. Israel invades other countries about once a decade, and they’re nuclear, and amazingly it hasn’t ended the world. The Soviet Union was nuclear and fell apart, and some of the bombs even disappeared, and it hasn’t killed us yet. The only reason we’re worried about a nuclear Iran are that they might retaliate for our undeclared war against them. (Seriously, we’re already bombing them and assassinating their scientists. It’s a war in all but name.)

    – I’m not sure it really matters whether people are killed by a nuke, these days. Right now, we send drones to Asia to bomb people — people whose identities we don’t even know, according to the latest releases — and we kill anyone around them as “collateral damage”. And then, to add insult to injury, we have taken to sending a second drone back to bomb again a few minutes later, because obviously anyone who goes to help the victims must be a terrorist. If a small nuke is any more evil than that — keeping in mind that Hiroshima has already basically recovered — then I’d ask for you to prove it.

    #2: Your answer is very good, so no comments here.

    #3: Same here.

    #4: I don’t have a car, so this question is academic at best, but: no. The first commenter was absolutely right.

  4. 1minionsopinion says:

    Glad for the clarifications, Vicar. Thanks. Somehow I’ve never heard of Yippies. I have heard of Abbie Hoffman, though, probably on account of her botched Woodstock stunt. Interesting reading about the group and its actions.

    As to Mom’s comment, I’ll admit with some guilt to using the expectant spot when I was in a hurry to grab something from a drug store but, being a larger woman, I took it on “faith” that anyone who saw me would assume I qualified. And it was for only 5 minutes and then I bugged out and never did it again. It gave me a weird feeling.

    I have known people who had a handicap flag in their car for a relative’s need but parked their abled bodies in the spot even if the relative wasn’t with them. In the few times I’d been a passenger, I wondered if I should say anything about that.

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