Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Aviator

Imagine there's this top pilot, the best in the world. S/he can fly any plane blindfolded from the smallest to the biggest, commercial or military. Let's call him the Aviator. Not let's say a new electronic system has been invented that allows any plane to be flown by remote control from the ground. Given how this fly by wire(less) device can save a troubled plane from crashing this type of avionics becomes the new standard in civil aviation. The leading aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus quickly retrofit all their existing short, medium and long-haul planes with this device. What's more, there need only be one remote control box (RCB) to manage all aircrafts. One merely has to punch in the aircraft's number into the RCB and, voila!, one immediately has total control of that particular plane with all the feedback from the sensors and gauges displayed right there on the colored LCD screen.

Imagine the Aviator is the sole individual authorized and certified to operate the RCB which he has with him all the time, 24/7. (It has various hi tech security measures that makes it practically impossible for some one with malicious intent to gain access to the RCB's functions). In case of an emergency the Aviator is informed and he can proceed to try and bring the plane of the crisis.

Now let's say Flight 576 bound for Tokyo, carrying some 300 passengers, has radioed in and reports that they've been losing altitude over the past hour. Nothing the pilots have done has been able to bring them back up to a safe altitude. Media has already picked up the exchange between 576 and the tower. The latest word is that the aircraft is now flying less than 500 meters above the Pacific Ocean.

At present the Aviator is in a pub in Dublin. By sheer luck the telly is broadcasting the news about Flight 576. The Aviator watches and knows of course that the situation is about to end horrifically. But instead of immediately pulling out the RCB he sits back and continues sipping his drink.

Someone in the pub recognizes him. "Mr. Aviator! It's you, right? Hey that plane's going down. Aren't you going to do anything?" He waves the guy away. "Neither the tower, the FAA nor the IATA, or any of those in charge has asked for my help. If they don't buzz me, well, that's just too bad for the crew and passengers." The man is incredulous. "What?! You're just going to let all those people die?!"


Do you think you the Aviator had an ethical obligation to use the RCB to try and prevent the plane from crashing? Do you think he should be ethically and criminally liable for ignoring the crisis, for not doing anything to help?

One of the latest air mishaps--real one this time--occurred in Buffalo, New York last week. Continental Flight 3407 dropped out of the sky and crashed into a house, killing one on the ground and all 49 on board.

Who do you think had the RCB that could've prevented this tragedy?


We can be quite confident there were people on board who rung Him/Her/It up. They had beseeched their deity to save them from certain death. But even assuming not one supplication was beamed, this being is said to be all-seeing, all-knowing. This entity in a sense was watching the entire drama unfold on his heavenly 600-inch plasma tv. And what did it do? God just let all those people die horrifically.

If you're a theist who believes God had the power to prevent the accident, knew what was happening and what would eventually happen unless he stepped in, actually cares about human beings, is a good and loving being, then if you have the gall to tell me that your deity is not morally, criminally culpable then you are absolutely sick in the head. Conjuring up such explanations as "higher good" or "mystery" to absolve this being of responsibility is nothing but a quadriplegic excuse.

Theodicies are just psychological painkillers to stem the massive attack of cognitive dissonance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Spectacular way to prove a point! I gotta RSS this blog, way too good to let it just go un-noticed.