The Policeman’s Dilemma:

A policeman arrives at a burning truck where the driver is so trapped that he cannot be rescued and is about to burn to death. To save him this final agony, should the policeman shoot him or let him suffer his terrible fate?

What do YOU think?

Bishop Harries and Richard Dawkins have collaborated on several occasions to promote the proper teaching of science in UK classrooms. They discuss the Policeman’s Dilemma and mercy killing and other strong questions of religion, science and ethics including faith schools, homosexuality and Christianity, the school curriculum and the media. They also do it rationally and respectfully.

To Richard Dawkins believing in God is like believing in a teapot orbiting Mars. Although, Dawkins says he is ‘a member of Atheists for Jesus’. This is a fascinating video interview with Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford by Richard Dawkins, the famed evolutionary biologist, atheist and popular science writer.


5 thoughts on “‘The Policeman’s Dilemma’

  1. A life is a life. The right to life exists regardless. A burning man would be likely to hold all hope that he would be saved. What if the burning man saw the policeman and the gun and experienced the horror of knowing the gun was aimed at him? The DR ABCD first aid acronym reminds us we should avoid all danger to ourselves and only then are we in a position to help others. A rescue is out of the question but is the horror of watching a man burn worse than the horror of knowing you ended his life?

  2. The act of ending his life would be the very last thing on my list. Unless he cannot saved even if I risked my life, I will not bring myself to such terrible act. Even so, I must have his permission before I would shoot.

  3. I do not think I have as yet come to a stage where I am able to decide that I can judge that it is OK to kill a person in order to relieve him of his misery. I would throw myself into doing whatever I can to save the man because I know that if he has to survive he will. No friend, I am definitely not going kill anyone.

  4. I personally do not think that a policeman has the moral right to shoot in this instance as it would go against all the training that they are given in the use of firearms against criminals who are threatening the public. They are not trained to do mercy killing nor to cope with all the mental psychology that would be needed afterwards. Therefore I would not expect him to do anything like this even if it were me in this situation of being trapped in a burning car! However I would hope that he would do everything else humanly possible to get me out and to rescue me, except to get himself killed in the process….where is the sense in that. Then there would be two people dead instead of one……and I do greatly value my life too!! It is very precious to me as it would be to anyone.

  5. The policeman should try to save the man in the burning truck, even at the expense of his own life. Or, lacking courage for that and having helplessly watched him burn to death, he should shoot himself. Or, lacking courage either to try to save the driver or kill himself for his cowardice, he should go have a drink, forgive himself for being unable to help the poor man, return home to his wife and children. Even if he can’t work out the ethical implications of the dilemma, his wife should be able to handle it, and will undoubtedly help him accept that even a policeman can’t fix every problem he comes across.

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