THE PARABLE OF THE LIFE PRESERVER EXPERIMENT by Phil Siegel
There once was a Navy in a country we all know. One of its Admirals had a brilliant idea. If one life preserver works well and saves lives maybe two will work better. So they ran an experiment by throwing sailors into the water and tossing them two life preservers…one was painted Preserver 1 and the other Preserver 2. All of the sailors survived and they noted that some were clinging to Preserver 1 and some to Preserver 2. The conclusion was obvious…2 preservers are better than 1!
There was another Navy in a country we know (called Britain?) that heard about that experiment and thought it sounded fishy. So they ran the same experiment with just one Preserver per sailor and found that all of the sailors also survived. A bright young sailor noted that if we had enough Preservers to throw 2 per sailor in the water that might be grand, but perhaps someday we won’t and it’s a good thing we know we can still save our sailors.
Many years later a ship in the first country set sail and hit a berg. Alas, there were 100 sailors cast overboard in this awful moment. And even worse there were 100 Preservers on board—50 of them painted Preserver 1 and 50 painted Preserver 2. The captain looked stoic but yet heroic. He looked at the first mate and said: first mate, you must choose the 50 that die so that we may throw a Preserver 1 and Preserver 2 so that 50 can live!
The mate said, “aye sir” but perhaps we should throw 1 to each sailor. The captain contained his rage and said: “the experiment was clear! 2 Preservers works and we’ve never tried just 1! You must choose who lives and who dies and throw 2 the ones who will live”. “But sir, the first mate said the British showed we can maybe save everyone by throwing them but one”. The captain, Antonio Fauci, said “first of all the British are stupid and wrong so we shan’t listen to them! And second the Preservers are designated 1 and 2! We can’t send a 2 to someone who doesn’t have a 1! And we can’t withhold a 2 from someone who has received a 1. First mate…choose who lives and who has to swim harder to wait for another boat to come along!”. And First Mate Walensky did as she was told and saved exactly 50 of the sailors.
We mourn the other 50 and their heroic sacrifice and to this day the British tell the tale of how their sailors only require 1 Preserver while others require 2.