May 26, 2006

When the rugged individualist goes where only rugged individualists go...

He's got a problem when he needs help. The only people around are the kind of people who would be in a place like that.


goesh said...


KCFleming said...

Ah, at last a sport for Ayn Rand's objectivists!

knox said...

After reading "Into Thin Air," I think "rugged individualist" is a charitable term for a lot of Everest hopefuls.

However, you would have to know going into it that if something goes wrong when you're way up on the mountain, there likely is nothing anyone can do to save you.

David said...

The people who did not rally to bring this dying/dead man down from the mountain are not worthy of the title mountaneer.

Norgay Tenzing would have told these fools that the journey is the object of the climb and not the summit experience itself.

Is it a wonder that this lack of brotherhood affects the way our military is viewed? The 'me' generation has plumbed a new low in this unbelievable failure of their humanity.

The real conquest of Everest would have been a joint effort to bring this fellow down. You never leave the battlefield without your brothers!

HaloJonesFan said...

"The people who did not rally to bring this dying/dead man down from the mountain are not worthy of the title mountaneer."

There was a lengthy discussion about this on another message board, and the general consensus was that the guy was a corpse. He'd been oxygen-deprived for so long that his brain tissue had started to swell, and there's really no coming back from that unless it happens in a hospital with the doctor right there. (And even then the treatment is to chop your head open.) If the other climbers had stopped to carry him, all they'd have been doing was carrying two hundred pounds of slowly cooling meat. Yes, it seems callous and gruesomely pragmatic, but there's a more rational explanation than the article is trying to sell.

KCFleming said...

Re: "Yes, it seems callous and gruesomely pragmatic, but there's a more rational explanation than the article is trying to sell."

Except for military actions and certain emergencies, where triage is required, the common expectation is for compassion to be shown the dying. Here, aborting a recreational climb is demanded when someone is dying. The mountain isn't an imperative like a flood or bombs exploding all around you. It's just there.

Tibore said...


Got a link to that board? I'm curious to read it myself. I was struggling between righteous indignation and the thought that this couldn't be the whole story, that no one could be that callous. I still don't know if that was the right decision or not, but I'm interested in seeing what others far more qualified than me have to say about it.

reader_iam said...

In case there are who people read this post/comments section but don't click through to the link (and because in this case I DO want to put too fine a point on it):

"There have been a number of occasions when people have been neglected and left to die, and I don't regard this as a correct philosophy," [Sir Edmund Hilary, the first man to reach the top of Mt. Everest, in 1953] told the Otago Daily Times.

"The whole attitude toward climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. The people just want to get to the top," he told the newspaper.

Hillary told New Zealand Press Association he would have abandoned his own pioneering climb to save another's life.

He said that his expedition, "would never for a moment have left one of the members or a group of members just lie there and die while they plugged on towards the summit."

[Emphasis added.]

Kel said...

"If the other climbers had stopped to carry him, all they'd have been doing was carrying two hundred pounds of slowly cooling meat."

Satan couldn't have said it better himself. In your credit, however, your callous disregard for human life probably isn't your own invention but reflects the fact that secularist society regards many things as human non-persons, such as fetuses and people in persistent vegitative states. So now we can add injured mountain climbers to the list of meat-objects that aren't part of humanity anymore.

Hopefully your disgusting lack of empathy will be a lesson that selfish desires for something as idiotic as getting to the top of a pile of rock pales in comparison to the necessary humanity that should be afforded another man.

reader_iam said...

At a bare minimum, he should not have been left to die alone, without someone to even just hold his hand.

Think about it. "Saving him" isn't the only point here.

bearing said...

Inglis said Sharp had no oxygen when he was found. He said there was virtually no hope that Sharp could have been carried to safety...His own party was able to render only limited assistance and had to put the safety of its own members first, Inglis said Wednesday.

Had to put the safety of its own members first eh? That might be plausible if you had been on your way down. Not so plausible when you're still going up.

"I walked past David but only because there were far more experienced and effective people than myself to help him," Inglis said.

Who was he expecting to help him, the Mount Everest Ski Patrol?

reader_iam's right. A decent person, even knowing he couldn't get David off the mountain, might have stayed at his side. At least then he wouldn't have died alone.

David said...

Sydney, Well Stated!

The thought of this abandoned soul dying an agonizing, slow death alone in front of a parade of narcissists will haunt me to my dying day.

I guess neither 'Saving Private Ryan' nor 'United 93' were noteworthy for the secular set!

Private and personal remembrances are on for Memorial Day, 1500 local time, Monday, May 29. Let us reflect on our humanity and those who paid the ultimate price in reverence to that concept.

HaloJonesFan said...

Sydney Carton: Get a clue. The guy was done. All you are doing is showing that you're drinking the story's emotional Kool-Aid. What would you have expected the other climbers to do? Stand around and watch him die? Risk their own lives to carry his corpse down the hill?

This isn't like they saw him fall over but he was basically fine, and they ignored him and he died. They happened upon a dead man who hadn't quite finished dying. Should they have carried along any other corpsicles they encountered? (P'raps they could start a collection.)

Ann Althouse said...

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

He's my brother
He ain't heavy, he's my brother...

Tibore said...

The first draft of my comments -- which I never ended up posting here -- contained all sorts of indignation at the callousness of leaving a man to die on the mountainside. "Who'd even think about doing that?", I wrote, and that was the least venemous of my statements.

But then, I took a deep breath and figured, I'd better wait a bit and see what the whole story is. I still don't know it, but once rationality kicked in, I realized that I'm in no position to condemn, because I don't know the whole story. I don't know every circumstance, I don't know what's reasonable and what's not under those extreme circumstances... I don't even know if there are any factual errors or not in the story. I'm severely lacking in information, and when emotion combines with a dearth of data, that can lead to irrational conclusions. So I axed that composition and decided to wait out and see what others who've climbed Everest would say.

Look, folks, my first reaction was also the same as reader_iam's: Why didn't they at least stay with him, if it was too dangerous to actually convey him down? But then I realized something: 1) Staying in place out in the open may not have been doable. You can't just sit on the side of the mountain that high up, you must find or construct shelter. Was that feasable in that area? 2) They only have so much oxygen themselves. Even if they didn't give any to the stricken climber, would just sitting around "just holding his hand" not run through that supply? I mean, I'm no adventurer. I don't know what the consequences of those actions would be. I also asked why they didn't take the victim down themselves, even if he was near death. Was he that far gone? Was it that dangerous to do so? Everyone, I'm not condoning what they've done, but I think we're getting a tad overjudgemental over a rather short amount of info, and we're reading all sorts of motives and mindsets into their actions. Bluntly spoken: We don't know if they were really being selfish or not. We don't know. Yes, I'm predisposed to cynicism and condemning the action, given Sir Hillary's statements, and personally, even given what I've said here, I'm still wondering why some sort of attempt wasn't made, however dangerous, to get the guy down, even if he was already basically beyond hope. But the fact remains that none of us were there, and none of us has all the information regarding what happened.

You know, I'm sort of shocked I'm writing this. As I said above, my first reaction was the same as Sydney's, reader's, Bearing's, and David's, and that first composition reflected that. It was pretty harsh. And I know a lot of you will disagree with what I'm posting here, yet I think what I'm saying is the more rational of my two compositions. Understand this: I'm not issuing a pardon for what those climbers have done there. What I'm saying is, we need to know more -- a lot more -- before we know if we can really condemn their actions or not. That's part of the reason I was wanting to read the message board Halojonesfan mentioned; those folks will know far more about the situations and be in a far better position to judge the climbers statements than we can be. And keep in mind that they'll be mountain climbers themselves, and run the risk of being in the exact same circumstance that the victim was in. It'll be instructive to see what they say, and if they still agree with the act, even if it would happen to them.

Again: I'm as shocked as everyone else is. I'm having as much trouble understanding leaving a guy to die on a frigid mountainside as any one of you all. I'd like to think that, were I involved, I'd make every effort to get the victim down, even if it meant aborting the climb. But I wasn't there, and I don't know jack about mountain climbing. So how can I get that mad without knowing everything surrounding what happened, including the expectations and the considerations of the dangers invovled?

HaloJonesFan said...

Tibore: It's a private board, with a wide range of members of diverse interests and experience. It isn't dedicated to mountain-climbing, but it has several members who do; they were unanimous in their statements that at the altitude in question, someone who was as badly off as this man was not coming down off the mountain. Basically, he suffocated due to lack of oxygen. And anyone who tried to carry him would have been risking the same fate--putting forth so much effort that they would starve their body of oxygen and die.

Really--in terms of risk and effort, rescuing this guy would be like a parachuter trying to rescue another whose parachute had not opened.

Anonymous said...

The thought of this abandoned soul dying an agonizing, slow death alone in front of a parade of narcissists will haunt me to my dying day.


I guess neither 'Saving Private Ryan' nor 'United 93' were noteworthy for the secular set!

Christists and other Fundamentalists would never climb a mountain, that might challenge god! And they would never overlook the unfortunate! (Apart from abortion rights, minimum wage, freedom of speech, war in Iraq/Iran.)


Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a long comment iBore, now I know where you got your nickname.

HaloJones, you make seem very elite and sophisticated!

Kel said...

"They happened upon a dead man who hadn't quite finished dying."

You lack the wisdom evident from the pages of the Princess Bride: I don't think that word means what you think it means. Dead is dead. Mostly dead also means SLIGHTLY ALIVE.

Let me explain something to you:

A dying man, no matter how far gone, deserves respect. He should be comforted and helped if at all possible. Above all, you do not treat a man as a piece of meat.

A dead man should also be given respect, and the climbers should have radioed for help in carrying him down, buried him there, or taken down to be buried or delivered to his family.

You think it's more important to climb a pile of rock, and you have the nerve to say that I'm drinking Kool-Aid? As far as I can tell right now, the only piece of meat here is YOU because you seem to have no humanity at all.

Tibore said...


Thanks, man. But a question: Has anyone asked those members who are climbers what they think about Sir Hillary's statements? He seems to think it would've been feasable to get the fellow down.

Just wondering if anyone addressed that, that's all. No need to bring it up yourself; I'd hate for you to risk getting booted from the forum.


Sorry about the long post; I just hacked away and hit "Publish" without stopping to see all I wrote. Didn't mean to be a comment section hog.

Also, humbly speaking, it may be time to delete some stuff again. Some 12 year old seems to have gotten on the board and left juvenile statements for his own amusements.

Word verification: icegvnsx. I'm sorta creeped out that that's what appeared, given this thread's content.

Anonymous said...

Really--in terms of risk and effort, rescuing this guy would be like a parachuter trying to rescue another whose parachute had not opened.

Yeah. That could never happen, right?

Ara said...


I'm an atheist, ardently pro-choice, and used to work on right to die issues. AND this piece made my stomach turn. So apparently, there is at least one secularist who still retains basic human compassion, perhaps to your surprise.

Still, I think Tibore's cautionary comment is perhaps a wise one.

Too Many Jims said...


Those lyrics may be apropos for this post or for the Conservative rock songs post. What a two-fer.

Joe said...

Hi folks, BBC is reporting that he is alive and that a rescue effort is underway. They also say, however, that his chances of survival are extremely slim. It is like 100 degrees below up there.

Ann Althouse said...

Everyone who's excusing the nonhelpers has got to face up to the fact that they were going up, not down.

If you're going to justify them, why not say the man assumed the risk that exactly this would happen? No one should be climbing Everest, and whatever happens to you, that's what you got yourself in for: You have no right to complain or expect anyone to do anything for you. If you had enough much spirit and energy that you could to take off up Everest, why didn't you instead do something to help other people? If you think more people should be helping other people in this world where you're living like that, why do you think they ought to start with you?

This is essentially the meaning of my original post.

But that's all from the point of view of the dying man. The people who walked by him have to live with themselves -- which will include the shaming of those of us down at human altitudes. The fact is we're morally obligated to help people who have never done anything to help anyone else and who got themselves into their own predicaments.

KCFleming said...

The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: What?
Large Man with Dead Body: Nothing. There's your ninepence.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Large Man with Dead Body: Yes he is.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not.
The Dead Collector: He isn't.
Large Man with Dead Body: Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm getting better.

etc. etc.

Ann Althouse said...

Joe: I'm Googling the man's name and seeing many articles that say he died. Maybe you're seeing reports of a different person.

Here's an article:

reader_iam said...

HaloJones etc:

The linked article does say this as well:

Several parties reported seeing Sharp in varying states of health and working on his oxygen equipment on the day of his death.

Most corpses don't work on oxygen equipment. Note, also, the "varying states of health." Surely there was some transition from A-OK and "dead meat," or whatever that charming phrase was.

As for the Kool-aid, it's never been one of my favorite beverages, but I am absolutely thrilled and proud to be drinking this particular brew.

Let's say there's something huge missing from this story and I, and others here and elsewhere, turn out to be a fool. Well, so what; that's not so bad. I can live with that.

Let's say more comes out that definitively points out the passersby's callousness and selfishness. What, then, will that say about the rest of you?

Anonymous said...

BTW, how ruggedly individualist is anyone that relies on Sherpas and teammates to climb a mountain?

It was one thing to climb Everest because it was there, and another to claim you are an individualist just because you can shell out $100,000 to climb a mountain that 1500 others have climbed. Not because it's there, but because it has become affordable due to advanced technology, advanced physical fitness, and teamwork.

Climbing Everest is hardly the work of an individualist.

reader_iam said...

Btw, I'm not suggesting there was an obligation to sit with the man's body once he was dead, until his body could be retrieved, at the risk of other deaths.

I'm suggesting that at a bare minimum he shouldn't have actually DIED alone.

For Pete's sake.

Maxine Weiss said...

So basically, the problem isn't that he wasn't saved...the problem is that he had to "die alone".

Why is dying "alone" such a sin?

I, personally, want to die alone, by myself. At that point, I won't be feeling sociable, and don't want to have to entertain.

Some people like solitude, at death. It's the one time, when I might want to be alone. I may not look my best, and don't want anyone else getting in my face.

Who are we to say that everyone who dies always wants to be with someone.

Peace, Maxine

reader_iam said...

That's not what I meant, Maxine, which, being familiar with your commentary, which I always make a point of reading, I think you know.

I said at a "bare minimum," first of all, and second, do we know what he wanted? And in this particular sort of situation, on what side of assumption ought we to err?

It's not a sin to die alone, or to want to. (Things could change, but for myself, I think in bed, at home, asleep, alone sounds about right.)

reader_iam said...

In this situation, or something else that's not so mundane, I might not feel the same way. Can you be sure you would?

The Drill SGT said...

Without knowing whom to blame specifically, I disappointed in the post-modern climbing ethos I guess.

I would have thought that the ethos was and would be:

"leave none behind"

instead it seems to be:

"every man for himself"

whether or not the guy was a deader when Mark Inglis spotted him, apparently he was active and in trouble when passed by lots of folks. Somebody should have aborted their climb and helped.

In the California Sierras where I grew up, every winter you'd get a story like: "Man lost in snow found, 2 die in search effort"

I guess there are different rules now.

Bissage said...


Just saying.

bearing said...

Look, as I noted and as Ann noted, the fact that the climbers quoted were going up and not down --- matters.

Presumably they had enough oxygen to get from the point where they encountered the dying man, to the summit, and to come back down again.

They had a choice how to spend that oxygen.

They could have spent it at the dying man's side, perhaps trying to revive him, or pleading with other passing climbers to help them get him down. Or perhaps just being at his side, holding his hand, talking to him. They could have spent exactly the amount of oxygen they would have spent getting to the summit and back to that same point; and then, they could have come down for their own safety, knowing that they did what they could do.

Or they could leave him there and spend that same oxygen... "being concerned for their own safety" by summitting Everest... because everyone knows that it is much safer to summit Everest than to sit for a while some distance down from the summit and then return to base camp.

Good Samaritans apparently don't make it to the top.

The Drill SGT said...


To reinforce your point. Assuming he wasn't way out in front of everybody that morning,

folks passed him, while he was active and before he got to the point of no return. Having climbed a few small hills (14k) (Shasta and Whitney) it takes a lot less air to go down hill than up.

I don't know what the masks and valve arrangements are for climbing rather than scuba, but it seems to me that it would be possible to "buddy breathe" down a mountain. I also can't believe that if it's death to have a bad regulator or not enough oxygen, that some group didn't have an extra regulator/mask and a couple of spare bottles.

KCFleming said...

Drill SGT,

As keeps being shown here, some people have a hammer, and to them, everything looks like a nail.

Eli Blake said...

It may have been their dream to make it to the top, and they may have spent a great deal of money doing it, but there is no individual accomplishment that is worth throwing a man's life away to achieve.

On one occasion I risked getting fired from a job I once had to help a person who was in danger. Fortunately I did not lose my job over it, but if I had, I'd still sleep better at night for having made that decision.

This story really disturbed me.

On the other hand, Sir Edmund Hillary's comments about this make me think that maybe mountaineers are just not made of what they used to be made of.

Maxine Weiss said...

I find it rather romantic, and dramatic to "die trying"..

Anyone can die in their bed, at home.

I would want to go out in a manner, more dramatic, full of triumph...and the glory of aspiration.

The 9/11 plane victims that died trying to rush the cabin.

This guy who died trying for Mount Everest....

Evil Kanevil, or whoever,

These are people who die in the glory of aspiration...

It's a different way of passing on, different from simply laying down in your own bed etc....

Peace, Maxine

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tibore said...

Back to the Everest issue:

On the one hand, we have this:
"Here's Jamie's testimony of the nights David and Vitor died:

"Dawa from Arun Treks also gave oxygen to David and tried to help him move, repeatedly, for perhaps an hour. But he could not get David to stand alone or even stand resting on his shoulders, and crying, Dawa had to leave him too. Even with two Sherpas it was not going to be possible to get David down the tricky sections below."

"Dawa, who did not summit because of giving his oxygen to David, told this to me less than 24 hours later when I met him on the fixed ropes. He was close to tears even then."

On the other hand, regarding a different climber (not David Sharp), we have this:

"Our sister expedition 'The Peace Project,' summited on the 18th but have had an almost 36 hour rescue effort for one of the members. With the support of 10 of our Sherpa's and at least 8 Sherpas from the Peace Project, the member was carried in a litter all the way from the North Col. If it hadn't have been for the efforts of Jamie McGuinness and two Sherpas who managed to walk the member all the way from the summit of Mount Everest, this person would not have survived."

(Source for both quotes: (link)

And even though I'm still not sure whether I should condemn or not, at least we have more information. Looks like someone did give the man oxygen, and pass up the chance to summit. But, did they make any real, meaningful attempts to get him down? That's still unclear; they couldn't get David Sharp to stand, but that other person was brought down by litter. I understand that no one just brings a litter as part of their kit, but the point is that a rescue could have been made if a litter was sent for. Is it too difficult to get one up to the spot where Sharp was at? Or was that, in fact, what happened, and it was just too late?

Color me confused. But I'm even more certain now that I don't have enough info to condone or condemn yet, and need to hear more from those that do before making up my own mind.

Tibore said...

And then there's this:

"Now, American Washington Times have some answers: David was left to die - by 40 climbers.

David Sharp, 34, was still alive at 28,000 feet. Double amputee Mark Inglis, told the news source: "He was in a very poor condition, near death. We talked about [what to do for him] for quite a lot at the time and it was a very hard decision. About 40 people passed him that day, and no one else helped him apart from our expedition. Our Sherpas (guides) gave him oxygen. He wasn't a member of our expedition, he was a member of another, far less professional one."


Wasn't a member of our expedition?

I keep getting yanked back and forth, the more I read about this. With that quote, things look really bad. On the other hand, that story posted on the 23rd. The story I quoted above was posted on the 24th.

So what's the truth? Was it an unfortunate but unavoidable act? Or was it selfish, cowardly, and immoral? I still don't know.

I need to stop reading this for a while. I'm just seeing a jumble of info, and it's not clearing things up for me yet.

dbp said...

I have to agree that the fact that the team was on its way up is significant: Had they been on their way down, then they would not have had oxygen to spare.

Mountain climbers climb as a team and thus it is most likely the case that the whole team would have to either finish the climb or stop and render assistance. This introduces a whole new dynamic to the question: Each member of the team spent considerable resources in time, wealth and effort as part of the goal of making the summit.

It is easy for us here on the ground, unexhauted and with plenty of air to pontificate on how self-centered the climbers were. The Good Samaritan is "good" only because he did not have to help. Charity is only commendable because it is NOT required, but is given freely.

If these mountain climbers are to be condemed for not enormously sacrificing their own self-interest (in order to make a fairly minimal impact on the outcome of the sick climber), then aren't we all even more blameworthy if we have any excess wealth which is not being sent to save children in some God-forsaken place? It would take us much less effort to accomplish much more good.


Bruce Hayden said...

One thing that has to be remembered is that you don't fly into Everest and start climbing from, say, 12,000 feet. Most often, you have hiked in from sea level over an extended period of time.

The other is that you typically get just one chance to summit. If those who walked by had stopped and helped this guy down, if that had been possible, there is a distinct chance that they would have sacrified a month or two of their lives for just that.

Partly, this later is because the climb is so physically demanding, both the cold and the lack of oxygen. A friend of mine got most of the way up, was supposed to be on a 3rd assault, but by that time, he and the others in his assault group had lost enough weight (i.e. reserves) that they ultimately didn't make the final assault.

Let me also note that everything they have up there has been carried up through innumerable staging trips - and this includes the precious oxygen.

I point this all out, not to justify why so many walked by him, but to maybe explain it a little. I don't condone it, and hope and believe that if I were in the place of those other climbers, I would have done the right thing.

I should also note though that this sort of climb is foreclosed to me because of what we believe is a genetic susceptability to HAPE - high altitude pulmonary edima, the cousin to what some thought might kill this climber. I get some HAPE when camping above 12,000 feet, and so know not to camp any higher, as do my siblings.

The Drill SGT said...


Who the hell wants to camp above 12k? No trees, headaches...?

I've only spent a couple of hours twice above 12k and it wasn't real pleasant and I was in my early twenties then.

Maxine Weiss said...

To be able to bow out in a blaze of glory!

What a way to go.

Some people don't want to die a nice, sweet death.

The more drama the better. I might want to leave a lesson for those left behind.

Lesson: Human beings are Sinners.

Hardly news.

Peace, Maxine

Tibore said...

"To be able to bow out in a blaze of glory!

What a way to go."

Remind me never to get in a car with you.


SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tibore said...


The version I heard said "copilot" and "stewardesses". Either way, love the sentiment. :)

Daryl Herbert said...

Satan couldn't have said it better himself. In your credit, however, your callous disregard for human life probably isn't your own invention but reflects the fact that secularist society regards many things as human non-persons, such as fetuses and people in persistent vegitative states. So now we can add injured mountain climbers to the list of meat-objects that aren't part of humanity anymore.

What do you need to be considered part of humanity? You don't need arms. I'm pretty sure of that. Or legs, or a liver, other GI tract-type stuff. You don't need your own heart--if a mechanical heart is what keeps you alive, you're no less a human being. You don't need a face... you do need a brain, though. Your brain is the seat of your personhood. Your personality, intelligence, etc. is all up in there.

What else would you need to be a part of humanity? A "soul?" Some magical, unquantifiable, invisible thing that women or persons of certain ethnicities may or may not have? (who has "souls" varies by religion, after all. it's nice that you belong to an inclusive one, but I've been told straight out that I don't have a soul because of my parentage, by someone from the "faith community" in which I was raised.)

If someone attacked a friend/family member of mine, and destroyed a significant portion of their brain function, I would consider it equal to murder, whether or not the cells making up the meat-sack that used to carry their brain were kept alive by a bunch of tubes.

That's all a human body is--a sack of meat. To say so is not to disrespect humanity. It is to respect humanity, because you are properly valuing the thing about it that is actually important.

For example, people who are against blood transfusions or organ donation are not respecting humanity, even if they are showing greater respect for the integrity of the human body.

To you or anyone else from the "Save Terri" brigades, I accuse you of defining humanity down. We are more than meat!

Kel said...

Daryl Herbert: "You don't need a face... you do need a brain, though. Your brain is the seat of your personhood. Your personality, intelligence, etc. is all up in there."

Then logically you would assume that people with brain damage are less than human. So are retarted people. And anyone who lacks normal cognative ability. How creative can we be with this logic? Perhaps we should have intelligence tests for voting. Maybe the secularists will also tell us that only the smart can enjoy certain luxuries. And also, since dead people have no brain functions, you would probably see nothing wrong in defiling dead bodies, eating them, or doing whatever. They're not human anymore, so they're no better than other animals. Right?

Daryl: "That's all a human body is--a sack of meat....We are more than meat!"

Get your story straight. Are we meat or not? You argue conclusively that we are, and then end saying we're more than that? Methinks you're confused. But that's probably because you have some cognative defect. Don't worry though, I'm not going to say you're a human non-person.

Beau said...

MW said:
So basically, the problem isn't that he wasn't saved...the problem is that he had to "die alone".
Why is dying "alone" such a sin?

You wouldn't offer comfort to someone you came upon dying at a car accident?

Forty climbers also walked by him but Sir Edmund's disgust is because a fellow kiwi would do such a thing. NZ is a tiny country at the bottom of the world where you all 4 million hang together because there is a sense of being the last outpost. Mark Inglis's remarks would hit a nerve for most people.

A group of American climbers however, tried to help and give him oxygen but he was so badly frostbitten and had been in this state for 24 hours he asked to be left alone so that he could sleep.

Eli Blake said...


If he couldn't be saved it might be one thing, but it is by no means certain that he could not have been saved. In this article, which focuses mainly on Sir Edmund Hillary's dismay at the climbers, it states:

A scientist who has studied oxygen use on Mt Everest believes British climber David Sharp could have been saved.

University of Otago scientist and mountaineer Dr Phil Ainslie said it might have been possible to revive the climber with bottled oxygen and even get him down to safety.

Maybe he is right. Maybe he is wrong. But if it is just possible that you may save someone's life then you have to try.

Daryl Herbert said...

Sydney: I reject the idea that we should conflate two radically different things: an individual "person", and his/her physical body.

That should not be controversial or difficult concept for religious people who believe in the existence of a persistent soul that will outlast the physical body.

We should not always treat a physical body as if it were a person. Sometimes, a body is just a slab of meat. Other times, it's a slab of meat that is a living person's only vehicle for interacting with the world around them. That's why a human body can have value--only insofar as it is there to be used by a person. When a person is dead, almost-dead, or definitely-going-to-die, their body loses much if not all of that value. (likewise if you chop off someone's arm, even if you were to keep the arm alive in a vat of chemicals, it's not going to have any "human life" value--unless it could be reattached to whomever lost it)

Then logically you would assume that people with brain damage are less than human. So are retarted people.

If I had to choose between the life of a retarded child or a healthy child, I know how I would choose. I don't value every human life equally. that's not to say that I view certain people as "sub-human" (certainly a loaded term as to what it implies we might do to them, given recent history). Not less than human, not even less human. But certainly possessing less life-value, if you want to put it on a point scale.

If you had to choose between saving a man with terrible brain damage or saving a quadruple-amputee, who would you pick? If you pick the amputee, aren't you admitting that we share the same biases? If you pick the vegetable, or if you refused to pick at all, have you really made the most moral decision?

amba said...

The fact is we're morally obligated to help people who have never done anything to help anyone else and who got themselves into their own predicaments.

In another context, a pro-welfare Democrat would say that. Or a socialist. "To each according to his need . . . "

amba said...

On CNN last night (8PM, Paula Zahn) they had a special about weird things that can go wrong with the brain: OCD, sleep disorders, the psychiatrist who has a schizophrenic twin, etc.

One segment featured Prader-Willi syndrome, a strange genetic flaw in which babies first "fail to thrive" (they have no instinct to nurse, and in earlier times would undoubtedly have died) but then, later on, develop a devouring, insatiable, tormenting, 24/7 appetite for the rest of their lives. They are also, in the polite words of the segment, "mentally challenged," that is retarded: they have low IQs.

One of the patients they featured was a short, immensely fat and angry girl in her early 20s who threw tantrums and destroyed things when she couldn't get food. Another was a middle-aged man who lived in a group home. He had learned to resist his craving, and had won ribbons in special-Olympics dressage horseback riding competitions. He even had a smiling, retarded girlfriend -- or "a few," he said. But he couldn't go on dates because he had to give all his money to his mother "so I won't go out and spend it on food."

He spoke haltingly and movingly of the battle he fights, and mostly wins, every day. He was "retarded," but he had a moral life and real, earned dignity. He had the divine spark. I was so impressed.! How many of us do as well with much greater resources against weaker temptations?

Bissage said...

On the internet, nobody can tell if you're a disembodied brain.

"I wager 300 quatloos on the newcomer."

SippicanCottage said...
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Ann Althouse said...

Sippican: "There is no power on earth that would compel me to leave that man to die while I passed by on a frivolous journey."

But that would never happen in the first place. As long as you think it's a "frivolous journey," you would not be there. Everyone there, by virtue of being there, cannot possibly see it as frivolous. And everyone there has also processed themselves into a different mindset about death.

SippicanCottage said...
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reader_iam said...

f I had to choose between the life of a retarded child or a healthy child,

Excuse me. A "retarded" child may be either "healthy" or "unhealthy."

That word choice speaks volumes.

Let me ask you question: You have a choice between saving a "retarded" child and one who is not "retarded." You've said you'd choose the former, just like that.

God help any of us were forced to make that choice, but for the sake of the discussion: Do you really feel you have enough information?

What if the "retarded" child was reknowned for gentleness, for the way he took care of animals, or played with younger children, or his creativity, or for working harder than anyone else to achieve the highest level he could achieve? What if he was ever curious about older people? Pick whatever attribute you like.

What if the "not retarded" child was a slacker, selfish and a bully, or whatever? What if was mean to animals? Wasteful of opportunities? A bigot? Pick whatever attribute you like.

Would you still make the same choice?

I'm not saying that "retarded" people, or people with any disability, are inherently better or more "noble." That is a bias and burden of a different color, and also dehumanizing and reprehensible. People with disabilities can be admirable or not admirable (but more like a mixed bag), like everyone else

On the other hand, much of what I just said equally applies to "not retarded" people.

When you say you'd choose the not retarded child over the retarded, how much, unconsciously or consciously, are you responding to some sort of perceived burden on you, as opposed to the actual "value" of the respective children?

And how much time have you spent around people with disabilities, of various types? Just curious.

Beau said...

Eli said:
'Maybe he is right. Maybe he is wrong. But if it is just possible that you may save someone's life then you have to try.'

I agree absolutely. I didn't mean to imply that helping someone in distress, even when the outcome appears inevitable,should have any bearing on one's course of action.

I suspect Sir Edmund was challenging both points that Inglis appears to be making in his defence. The possibilty of saving the dying man, and disgust because Inglis in his remarks appears to be justifying why he didn't stop to help.

Maxine Weiss said...

Aren't the aged left to die in nursing homes?

Apparently, there are a lot of these "non-persons" in society.

Be careful, if granny doesn't bake pies anymore, isn't so cherubic and sweet, she's stashed away in a nursing home.

Nobody says a word about it. There are any number of old folks that can be saved from a life in those glorified snake pits. Where's the outrage about that?

Peace, Maxine

reader_iam said...

Nobody says a word about it.

Not so, though not nearly enough do. Some people even visit and/or otherwise participate in outreaches to nursing home residents--even those to whom they are not related.

And selfishness in one area doesn't excuse it in another.

Jim said...

Pogo's ignorant comment is juuust enough motivation for me to clarify a few things.

We Objectivists do not refuse to help others. What we refuse to accept is the idea that we have any duty to do so -- we repudiate the concept of moral duty as such. That concept belongs to and defines the morality of the conservative Right and the Left; it is not ours.

We recognize no unchosen obligations; there simply ain't no such thing.

It means that we only regard *positive* reasons to do things as moral. Duty is a negative motivation -- as Kant put it, "against or without regard to inclination". What Kant specifically means, is that we should act out of duty, not because we selfishly *care*, but because we "have to". Charity done from duty, as a chore or a *sacrifice*, becomes morally superior and imperative, while helping another from selfish motivations (inclination, "giving a damn" or "caring"), is morally suspect. (I don't have the quote here, but Kant specifically says this).

That is the morality of duty, and to hell with it.

Question the priorities of those other climbers, by all means. I do, for in fact I would consider helping that climber, including to the point of abandoning my own climb. But I would not risk my life to do it; I'm no good to him or anyone if I'm dying of asphyxiation myself.

But I also know that those other climbers have the moral right to look to their own interests as they see them. As soon as altruists start going on about such moral abominations as "duty" or unchosen obligations, I simply turn to them and declare "Molon Labe" -- come and get it.

The ones who do -- the ones who think their idea of how I should act trumps mine -- confess the truth about the end of their moral road: tyranny.

If anything about this is depressing, it's the continued prevalence of this irrational, barbaric morality.

Bruxatus said...

Jim. Molon Labe means "come and get them" , not me. It was the response issued to Xerces, the Persian, from Leonidas (sp?) by which he sacrificed the lives of his guard and the citizens defending Greece.

amba said...

Jim: if that's Objectivist morality it's pretty chilling too. It means you could justify any kind of conduct if it was what you wanted and willed. The serial killer could be an Objectivist.

What's missing is any notion of "natural law" -- the idea that there is objective good and bad. You are not obligated to sacrifice your own life to try to save another's, though we honor people who do (the firefighters of September 11, e.g.). But many people, Sir Edmund among them, still recognize a hierarchy of priorities by which saving a life does trump summiting, no matter how many thousands of dollars and how much bragging rights you've invested in it.

I suspect Ayn Randians also observe a hierarchy of priorities, in that they think the purpose of selfishness is to foster achievement and wealth creation (the Nietzschean will to power). But once you've valorized selfishness and the individual will, it can just as easily be used for dissipation and self-indulgence. Not all selfish people build skyscrapers, to put it mildly.