My views, observations, questions about everything in this world ....and that country they call Egypt.

21 June 2007

The Mad Terrorist Thought Experiment

This is simple poll. Just answer in a format like this: 1A, 2B, 6A... etc. No need for words.

QI-- Identify yourself:

You think of yourself as;

    1. Strong theist. 100 % probability of God. In the words of C. G. Jung, 'I do not believe, I know.'

    2. Very High probability but short of 100%. De facto theist. 'I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.'

    3. Higher than 50% but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. 'I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.'

    4. Exactly 50%. Completely impartial agnostic. 'God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.'

    5. Lower than 50% but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. 'I don't know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be skeptical.'

    6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist, 'I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on that assumption that he is not there.'

    7. Strong atheist. 'I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung "knows" there is one.'

QII-- What you would do:

The mad terrorist has abducted you. He gives you the following options;

    A. The mad terrorist will kill you a slow torturous death. He will start by cutting off a few limbs then he'll burn you alive. He will end it with a slow beheading with a dull blade. No one else will die.

    B. The mad terrorist will kill you via a new lethal injection a very peaceful death with zero pain. If you choose this, after you die he will drop a nuclear bomb on a random city with at least 7 million people. NYC, Tokyo, Cairo, Shanghai, Mumbai... etc.

    C. If you refuse to choose one of the above options, he will kill you the painful death of Option A and nuke the entire earth!

i) The belief scale is borrowed from Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion.
ii) Sorry for being graphic with option A, I had to.


Blogger Miss S said...


I am a #6, but retain a jewish heritage. and for question two, i would like to think that i had the strength of character for A, but I have no idea how i would stand it.
Miss S

9:19 PM

Blogger Will E. said...

There's a moderately new definition of agnostics, since they're defined as people who have all the facts but decided that it's not possible to know.. that in itself is irrespective of whether they are thiests or athiests.. load of crap really.. but thought i'd mention it.

As for the questions, you can't measure faith with percentage, and people's faiths should theoretically sway between ranges, otherwise you're talking about dogma rather than faith..

As for the terrorist, chances are he's lying, I'd rather die trying to escape and if he really wants to Nuke the world, I don't think it will depend on me.. plus of course I don't trust what he says.

So, it might seem less self sacrificial, but I know God will punish him :)

12:56 AM

Blogger programmer craig said...

Well, I kind of agree with Will about the first question. Anyone who has faith, has to choose the 100% "I know" option. Anyone who calls themselves an atheist (using my understanding of the word) has to choose the 0% "there is no God" option. Everyone else is an agnostic, and I don't think you can really pin a percentage on degree of doubt like that! That's why it is called "doubt", eh? :)

Anyway...I choose 1 on question one.

On the second question, I also agree with Will. There is NO WAY a terrorist with the means and the will to use a nuclear weapon would let his behavior be influenced by any decision of mine. And also, he would kill me in whatever way served his "cause" best, regardless of what he promised me. So, this is a false choice.

PS-How did I manage to get captured alive by a terrorist? Did I miss the part where I was a stupid/naive SOB, or what? If you don't get taken alive, you don't find yourself trying to make this kind of decision! :P

8:31 AM

Blogger HalalHippie said...

ok, so if I answer 1A, do I get 70 virgins in heaven ?

1:08 AM

Anonymous effendi said...

I vote #2 in the first question. There may be days that I doubt, but they are short-lived. I think any true believer, being honest with him/herself, would admit to doubtful, dry times outside of God.

Question two is answered without any other information available. I vote for option A. Now if you want to tell me if I have time to learn more about my situation and the terrorist's motivations, his ability, his means, his support, and I am able to conclude that he is bluffing then I choose option B.

4:04 PM

Blogger Paul said...

On the atheist scale, emotionally I am #7, intellectually I am #6. It is not sensible to be #7 intellectually since I dont know of a way of disproving every possible version of god(s).

The second question is difficult. If I chose the slow painful death I may change my mind due to the torture, in fact that is likely for most people. Few people can resist a skilled torturer, in fact some claim that resistence can only lasta short time and many torturers claim that durin their career everyone eventually circummed.

2:41 PM

Anonymous Xodar said...

Choose the painless death. You won't know anything about the consequences.

4:36 AM

Blogger Daysleeper said...

but you'll have all that time to think about it while you're dying huh?
besides what if you're a masochist? option A can sound yummy.

and the faith scale does seem a bit suspect, especially for me being a doubter and all.

stopped being muslim about two years ago but i still like the idea of god. it gives me warm and fuzzy feelings. is the warm and fuzzy deity really up there/out there--mneh

12:26 AM


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