So, a bunch of aliens come along and tell us this:
We are beings from another dimension. In case you're wondering, we are the ones who created the comos in which you live. We can destroy it instantly or let it continue on as is. Your choice."
We ask, "What, then, is the choice?"
"Just give us an 8 year old girl who we'll make immortal and we'll give you back your cosmos."
"What will you do with her? Whatever we want. Primarily, we enjoy torture. We'll torture her till the end of time. If you won't do that, we'll bring everything you know to an abrupt end. What is your choice?"
How would you analyze this? The greatest good for the greatest number or what?
How come it has to be a girl? Is it because people would feel more sorry for a female rather than a male thus making a different decision if the genders were different?
Assuming the aliens do not lie, give the girl. Not because it would benefit someone else, but it would benefit me. The better question would be could you live with yourself if you made the call to give the girl. Also you need to look at what condition are you in. Are you suffering in the world? Are you poor and begging for food all the time, or just plain bitter at your betters.
Of course, it doesn't HAVE to be a little girl. It just increases the sympathy factor. It would be the same question essentially if the victim were an old man or YOU,
This ethical mind problem simply challenges the old "the greatest good for the greatest number" thing by maximizing the problem to the nth degree.
Of course, it doesn't HAVE to be a little girl.
Of course it HAS to be. Allow me to tell you why
Because otherwise we're just talking about making some everyday schmuck suffer eternal pain. But "God" has been doing that for an eternity now, and nobody is challenging that. That's completely normal. The only reason a little girl was chosen as an example subject was to make sure that whoever says yes is guilty of sacrificing an innocent being to eternal pain. If you just said "some old man," even the most retarded theist would recognize the similarity between those masochist aliens who want to torture that man for eternity in space, and a "God" who wants to torture you for eternity in "Hell." Calling it a little girl gives it a vibe of "innocence." That's why it has to be a little innocent child, because on any other account many of us would easily say yes. Every theist for example would, without exception, since essentially they already are doing exactly that. They believe and want eternal torture in hell for everybody they dislike (sinners).
I can think of many people I'd gladly hand over. Hell, I'd do it for free, fuck 'em. You don't even need to bribe me with the universe.
edit: Of course I should be fair here and also note that if given this ultimatum, many theists would happily sacrifice their little daughters too. Since they operate on canine logic, which is basically just a world of reward and punishment. I bet my fucking ass that thousands of Muslims would line up to sell their daughters to those aliens into a forced marriage. (Otherwise the torture would be haram)
Let's say it has to be someone innocent enough not to deserve an eternity of torture.
However, does even Hitler deserve eternal torture?
Eternity is a very long time.
Btw I meant sadist aliens not masochist. Credit goes to my retarded brain.
You said it. I didn't. ;)
It's ok. I think everyone already knows I'm not the sharpest spoon in the sock drawer.
As for your question, I know what you're trying to say, and I understand that usually Hitler is the first choice when you want an icon for "Evil." But ironically Hitler is not by far the worst I can think of. The church comes to mind for example.
I'll let Doug Stanhope explain:
So now that we've replaced the "ultimate evil," would I wish eternal torture upon the church and it's men in power?
Yes I would. With glee.
I know that sophisticated people are supposed to be forgiving and whatnot because that's what sappy Hollywood movies and religion teaches us (how ironic), but I couldn't care less.
Maybe, just maybe, if I watched them burn and suffer agony for a couple of million years and got tired of furiously jacking off to it... maybe then I might think "Ok, I guess that's enough for now."
But I wouldn't count on it.
So in conclusion yes, there are many people I'd happily see suffer for all of eternity, and the majority of those people are the ones who have irredeemably infected our species with the cancer of the supernatural.
And for the record, if I was pressed to choose the "most evil Nazi" I'd probably go with Joseph Mengele.
To substitute the church for the little girl would require reformulating the question. Also, sympathy for the little girl plays into it in a way that it doesn't for the church for many people. Even among self-proclaimed christians, there isn't 100% unanimity over whether the church as it is should be regarded as a worthwhile institution.
I'm sticking with the little girl.
That was my initial point. It has to be the metaphorical little girl to represent innocence, otherwise the choice would not be hard enough. I believe we agree on that point now. As for whether I'd sacrifice one girl for all of humanity...
To be honest I probably wouldn't. (That's to say after I initially try to panhandle them taking me under their wings and then do whatever they want to the rest of humanity because I don't give a shit.) The problem is the eternal suffering part. Humanity just is not worth that much. Whether it be eternal pain, or some sort of Alien currency, I don't think humanity would get any high bids. Other than from some rich Alien collector with an interest in rabid and furious species. He could put us on his shelve in between the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise and Gremlins.
But back on topic. Were it simply death, the choice wouldn't be hard. I'd even sacrifice all of humanity for a single person that I did care for. But then again I'm not that tight with humanity anyway so there's a conflict of interest here. I'd ethnically cleanse entire continents to save a cats life.
The gender thing is important wording. Someone can make a different decision if the type of person was different as korsan said..
Personally I am not a believer of utility. So I would make the decision to give the girl in a heartbeat depending upon the suffering I am enduring in the world...
I question not asked - what do the aliens consider torture? For the little girl it could wind up being a version of heaven and not hell. The original question does not create a sufficiently complete frame of reference for a definite decision to be made.
They are speaking to us using words WE understand, so they mean something WE would regard as torture, not something they would regard as torture, which might for them be stripping one of them of the ability to create a universe.