Monday, March 27, 2006

The Mine

Thousands of people are working in an enormous mine facility, many miles underground. The mine is stocked with food, water, energy and oxygen to last them one year. There is a huge explosion which completely destroys the tunnel which is the sole link between the mine and the surface. The tunnel is a remarkable engineering effort which took over 20 years to dig.

One of the minors, let’s call him ‘Moses’, proclaims that he has found a hidden map which describes a secret escape tunnel. With a massive digging effort, they can reach the escape tunnel in less than a year. The followers of Moses argue that he must be correct. After all, the mining company would never put them into this mine without some means of escaping.

Others claim that there is no such tunnel, that the map is an obvious forgery. They point out that there are rational reasons why the escape tunnel must not exist. It would be virtually impossible for a second tunnel to be dug without it being known. Also, if the tunnel is there, why did the company not simply tell everyone. They point out various suspicious aspects of the map which indicate that it was drawn up far more recently than Moses claims, and that it looks far more like a map made by a single person that by the company. They argue that a system of rational law should be put into place and that, so long as no one violates those laws, they should spend their remaining time as they see fit.

The followers of Moses argue back that there are many reasons why the map may have been secret. It is possible that the Company did not want the escape tunnel used unless it was a last resort. After all, the tunnel does not have the same level of safety as the main tunnel, and is not designed for constant use. It is even possible that the Company kept the existence of the tunnel secret so that the minors would not lose confidence in the security of the main tunnel, which they had always believed to be impervious to mishaps. They point out to the non-believers that, when the escape tunnel is reached, those who dug would be rewarded by the Company, and those who did not would be harshly judged.

Some argue that, while they really don’t believe Moses, it is far better for them to go along with the charade. After all, this belief would give the group purpose and meaning for the year of life which they had left. By performing the ritual of digging for the escape tunnel, the people would maintain their hope, and would live a more fulfilled and happy year. In addition, they are afraid that if all conclude that there is no escape, that the group would deteriorate to immorality and chaos. They also point out that, while there are undeniable problems with the authenticity of the map, no one can offer an absolute proof that the map is forged.

Yet others argue that, while there is certainly no tunnel, there is always some hope that, through some process unknown to them, a rescue is remotely possible. Perhaps there is some new digging technology which they are unaware of. Even if they can not fathom a rational rescue, they can not rule it out completely. They advocate that, while the group should not waste their time and effort in meaningless digging, the group should accept that they do not really know what their future holds.

So what would you believe?


Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Is this your version of Plato's cave?


March 28, 2006 11:56 AM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

Well, I'd try to get a group of the most knowledgeable people regarding the mine who were there and start doing two things: (1) try to come up with some communication method with people above ground (things echo in rock, even if no radio or other communications are available, some sort of Morse code might work) to see if any rescue attempts are in progress, and (2) try to come up with the most rational and effective means of (a) survival, and (b) escape. Additionally, we would want to agree on a rationing system to prolong survival until rescue or escape for those who have hope or faith in these alternatives. A secret and unreliable looking map produced by someone who claims to be speaking for the higher ups (but without actual or apparent authority -- he found the map -- why would the authorities not give this to the miner in charge, whatever . . .) would produce great scepticism in me. I'd be thinking of these names: Jim Jones, David Koresh, Heaven's Gate, etc. I'd try to get a majority to agree with me and to inform 'Moses' and anyone who wanted to follow him to go do what they wanted, but not to waste our resources (including air) with more bombaste and demagoguery.

March 28, 2006 3:53 PM  
Blogger dbs said...


"David's Mine" I like it. Now all I need is Socrates.


Now I know why we keep you non-believers around. Of course, by my complexe alegory, you are one of the 'agnosic' group, since you won't take as 'fact' that there is no possible rescue. (Me too.) The 'atheists' would conclude that there is no rational hope of rescue and would spend the year either self-actualizing or eating the weaker minors, depending on your point of view.

March 29, 2006 8:03 PM  

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