I'm going to respond to some comments that Lydia McGrew left on this post:
Concerning Typhoid Mary, you are not acting contrary to what is medically best for her by quarantining her. It's rather surprising you should bring that up in any way in the context of your recommendation that doctors kill their evil patients to harvest their organs for their innocent patients! Or even in the context of deliberately refusing to treat Himmler (as, say, ER doctors) with the intent of letting him die. This has pretty much nothing to do with quarantining a patient.
I bring it up because it forced you to introduce a more qualified position on patient care than you originally presented. Now you've conceded that it's not just a question of acting in the best interest of each individual patient. Rather, there are situations when we must take into account the impact on others. Since you didn't volunteer that qualification, I had to smoke it out of you.
It's strange that you are so resistant to the example of killing baby Himmler but are actually quite open to the example of a fireman with ESP who leaves baby Himmler to die in a fire.
Lydia, there's often a morally relevant distinction between killing a person and refusing to intervene in an ongoing situation that will result in fatalities, absent intervention. There are lots of hotspots around the world. I could hop on a plane, go to one of those places, and kill some bad guys. My action would save innocent lives.
But I don't have a general obligation to be a vigilante. The fact that I didn't intervene to save the victims by killing the perpetrator is not equivalent to my killing the victims. Likewise, if the perpetrator is caught in quicksand, I don't have a duty to pull him out so that he can proceed to kill even more innocent people. But I didn't kill him–the quicksand did. I didn't put the quicksand there to trap him.
Of course, there are situations in which we do have an obligation to intervene. There's no single criterion. There are multiple criteria. Likewise, what's obligatory may depend on the particular circumstances.
You also said at one point that it just wouldn't be legitimate to ask Himmler's mom to kill him as a baby because she has a duty and an emotional attachment to him, which seems to mean that you aren't _entirely_ closed to killing baby Himmler outright.
I also said: That's different than killing the child in the daycare. There are many evils we have no moral opportunity to prevent. In that case, we must let them happen. If they are to be prevented, God must prevent them, because he hasn't given us a morally licit opportunity to do so.
But for some reason you ignore that. Likewise, I also said:
Conversely, advance knowledge of Himmler's future gives the fireman many opportunities to intervene during Himmler's formative years to redirect his course in life. There are alternatives to letting him die. Depends on how much we insulate the hypothetical.
Which I reiterated in a later post:
In addition, you're ignoring something I said before in response to the same basic objection: you have a lot more options when Himmler is four than when he is forty. As an adult, as head of the SS, with the Final Solution underway, saving his life guarantees the death of millions. But at the age of four, there are many potential opportunities to influence his development for the better and deflect him away from that horrendous career.
Yet you continue to ignore that. You don't appear to be making a good faith effort to accurately represent my stated position.
Yet in this post, you act as though you think innocent baby Himmler should be treated as an innocent child. But in that case, the fireman has a duty to rescue the innocent child. The active-passive distinction can't be combined, in anything but a really weird, ad hoc manner, with the innocence consideration to give us the conclusion that it's
a) right for doctors actively to kill adult Himmler when he is not a present threat, partly because of what he intends to do later,
b) wrong for anyone actively to kill baby Himmler when he is not a present threat, because of what he will otherwise grow up and do later,
c) right for a fireman with prophetic powers to stand by and deliberately do nothing while baby Himmler burns to death in a fire from which he could have been rescued, because of what he will otherwise grow up and do later.
If baby Himmler is innocent, he's just innocent. and the normal duties of doctors, firemen, etc., toward him hold.
If, however, their carrying out their normal duties toward him rather than deliberately withholding their aid so that baby Himmler dies makes them "enablers" of his later evil actions, it's difficult to see how there can be an absolute prohibition on killing him as a baby outright to prevent his later evil actions.
Because your objection is reductionistic, as if there's one universal criterion. I see no reason to accept that. You can only accuse me of inconsistency by oversimplifying my stated position.
I'm not an open theist, nor flirting with the idea that future statements have no fixed value. But words like "taking the lives" of other children or "insuring genocide" and the like simply abrogate free will. One can know, truly, future events that hinge on the contingent free choices of other rational creatures, but it does not follow from this that one's contributing causal actions guarantee, insure, or even are the same as (as if one is oneself "taking the lives" of their victims) those actions. To say so is simply to abrogate the fact that the later choices are _free_.That they are free doesn't mean that there is no truth value to what those choices will be. It does mean that other people's actions in saving my life don't "guarantee" or "insure" what I do later.
Well, you haven't begun to demonstrate how your affirmation of foreknowledge is consistent with your denial of inevitability. Moreover, you haven't offered a refutation of the reasons I gave. You simply assert their mutual consistency.
There can be, but those are cases of what the Catholics call "remote material cooperation," and they are as a class pretty un-cut-and-dried. Whereas the duty of firemen to save people from fires or of doctors in the ER to treat those in front of them is much more cut and dried. Your entire approach involves turning morality on its head: The good and normal actions of people who have voluntarily entered helping professions are being treated as material cooperation with the evil later actions of their patients or the people they rescue (given advance knowledge), and you are then using that to argue that their straightforward act of doing good to that person is morally dubious, that they would be justified in deliberately letting that person die despite their role in society. Indeed, given the strength of your rhetoric ("enabling," "taking the lives," "complicit," etc.), it's difficult how you can avoid arguing that the doctor or fireman has a _duty_ to _at least_ allow the person who will later do evil to die when he finds out that this is the person whom he would otherwise help.
That completely reverses the order of moral duties and the clarity of moral duties.
Ironically, it's your own position that represents a moral inversion, when–at best–you treat innocent and guilty alike, and–at worst–treat the guilty better than innocents.
You also have a bad habit of overgeneralizing. I daresay most folks don't volunteer to become firemen or trauma physicians to save the life of Himmler or Pablo Escobar. Rather, they enter those professions for the common good. To do good for garden-variety patients or ordinary at-risk citizens.
Likewise, they don't normally take future outcomes into account when making decisions because they don't have ESP.
It doesn't follow that if they had advance knowledge, that would (or should) have no affect on their decisions. Their motivations for entering these professions are based on ordinary circumstances involving normal knowledge, not extraordinary circumstances involving paranormal knowledge.
It's difficult how you can avoid arguing that the doctor or fireman has a _duty_ to _at least_ allow the person who will later do evil to die when he finds out that this is the person whom he would otherwise help. That completely reverses the order of moral duties and the clarity of moral duties.
Which simply begs the question. Ted Bundy lands in the ER with internal bleeding. If I patch him up, he will abduct, rape, torture, and murder a coed next month. ESP alerts me to that eventuality. Therefore, I give him placebo treatment instead.
According to you, that "completely reverses the order of moral duties and the clarity of moral duties." Really?
The moral duties to whom? Ted Bundy or his next victim? I doubt the coed would share your sense of moral clarity.
What makes you think the order of moral duties was ever based on that scenario?