Q: Let us assume there are two boxes on a table. In one box, there is a relatively normal turtle; in the other, Adolf Hitler’s skull. You have to select one of these items for your home. If you select the turtle, you can’t give it away and you have to keep it alive for two years; if either of these parameters are not met, you will be fined $999 by the state. If you select Hitler’s skull, you are required to display it in a semi-prominent location in your living room for the same amount of time, although you will be paid a stipend of $120 per month for doing so. Display of the skull must be apolitical.
Which box do you choose?
Q: Think of someone who is your friend (do not select your best friend, but make sure the person is someone you would classify as “considerably more then an acquaintance”). This friend is going to be attacked by a grizzly bear. Now this person will survive the attack; that is guaranteed. There is a 100 percent chance that your friend will live. However, the extent of his injuries is unknown; he might receive nothing but a few superficial scratches, but he also might lose a limb (or multiple limbs). He might recover completely in twenty-four hours with nothing but a great story, or he might spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Somehow you have the ability to stop this attack from happening. You can magically save your friend from the bear. But his (or her) salvation will come at a peculiar price: if you choose to stop the bear, it will always rain. For the rest of your life, wherever you go, it will be raining. Sometimes it will pour and sometimes it will drizzle-but it will never not be raining. But it won’t rain over the totality of the earth, nor will the hydrological cycle be disrupted; these storm clouds will be isolated, and they will focus entirely on your specific where-abouts. You will also never see the sun again.
Do you stop the bear, accepting the lifetime of rain?
Q: Genetic engineers at Johns Hopkins University announce that they have developed a so-called “super gorilla.” Though the animal cannot speak, it has a sign language lexicon of over twelve thousand words, an I.Q. of almost 85, and –most notably– a vague sense of self-awareness. Oddly, the creature (who weighs seven hundred pounds) becomes fascinated by football. The gorilla aspires to play the game at its highest level and quickly develops the rudimentary skills of a defensive end. ESPN analyst Tom Jackson speculates that this gorilla would be “borderline unblockable” and would likely average six sacks a game (although Jackson concedes the beast might be susceptible to counters and misdirection plays). Meanwhile, the gorilla has made it clear he would never intentionally injure any opponent.
You are commissioner of the NFL: Would you allow this gorilla to sign with the Oakland Raiders?
So what would you decide: raise a turtle or display Hitler’s skull? Allow a grizzly attack or a lifetime of rain? To gorilla or to not gorilla in the NFL?