Whose non-existance would save the most lives, directly or indirectly?

The debate on Hitler and whether it would be ethical to blow him up at the expense of innocents got me thinking.

Suppose you can erase any figure from history, with the aim of preserving the most life possible without thought to any other consequences. Said person’s father shoots blanks during that night, the mother had a headache, the method of un-existing the person is irrelevant, but they are never born (and thus have no descendants).

Which person’s ‘erasing’ could best accomplish this goal? The first answers are obvious; the various genocidal dictators of the 20th century, then the tyrants of history. Arguing this a while back with a friend it was suggested that Marx was indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions; no Marx, no Communism (here’s where the point is highly contentious); means no Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Korean or Vietnam wars. Kill communism and you save the lives of millions?

Or is it best to focus on those who were tangibly responsible; in which case Genghis Khan (the numbers are a bit sketchy, but the Mongol conquests were undoubtedly responsible for the deaths of many millions) or Mao (again sketchy figures, but most likely killed around 45.75 to 52.5 million people (cite:WAR STATS REDIRECT)) would be the foremost candidates? Who would you choose?

IMHO, even if this was possible, I think others would had taken the place of Hitler or Marx.

Instead of Hitler, a guy like Ernst Röhm or Himmler would had taken his place.

In the case of Marx even removing Engels would not had mean much as most of the basic communist ideas where proposed by French philosophers. One should never forget that the emperors and rulers of Europe created a fertile ground for radical ideas to grow.

Adam. Without him, we would have saved ALL the lives.

Bush. That’s the correct answer, right? (Either one, doesn’t matter much, really.)

Franz Ferdinand. Sure he was a victim but his removal would have prevented his assassination. Gavrilo Princip, his assassin, was part of a conspiracy - remove him and he would have been replaced by somebody else.

Remove Franz Ferdinand’s assassination from history and you’ll probably prevent WWI. With that you can hopefully prevent the Soviets and the Nazis from ever taking power.

I’d take out Augustine of Hippo, myself.

I once read a science-fiction short story in which the protagonist discovered a way to go back in time, occupy anyone’s body he chose to and through his host, alter events. He set about creating a perfect world. He tripped Hitler’s mother while she was pregnant, sending her down some steps and causing her to miscarry. Killed off Napoleon, Caesar and many, many others until he’d crafted the perfect peace-loving society in the present, a society that knew no wars or violence of any kind and could not even imagine such.

They were completely unprepared for the brutal space-alien invasion shortly afterward.

Mao might have done it. His lieutenants might have still installed a brutal Communist regime, but at least they might have avoided the mass famines and the frenzy of the Cultural Revolution.

Cain, from the bible. He was responsible for the death of a quarter of the world’s population. :slight_smile:

But more seriously, if our goal is to preserve the most life possible, don’t we have to take descendants into account? If you kill somebody, you not only take them out of the picture, but you prevent all of his kids, and grandkids, and so on from ever existing.

Well… I’d go for Paul of Tarsus. (Saul, rather). I’m not sure what the result would be, but it’s a strong option. Failing that… Genghis Khan or Herman of Germany (Teutoberg Forest). Or maybe Fritegern (Or Valens) to stop Adrianople. If the Roman Empire had fallen slightly more gracefully…

Jesus. Unlike most of the other people mentioned here, the evil he created hasn’t stopped killing.

I didn’t know we could name fictional characters.

Interesting answer. Why?

I think the correct answer would be either Moses or Abraham, you know then we wouldn’t have had all those evil jews out there running the banks and controlling our minds with their Protocols!

Honestly, I don’t think it would matter. If you changed history, people would die for another reason, some other despot somewhere else would have risen to power.

Though I’ll cast my hat in the ring with Genghis Khan. The Middle-East was a fertile place until his Mongol hordes destroyed the civil classes of the agrarian societies that they took over, and the overgrazing of a nomadic people turned it into a desert. The Middle-East has never recovered from the ecological damage done by the Mongols.

LOL, so you think it would’ve been better if Western Society were dominated by the Persian Mithraic moralizing rather than the Judaic Christian moralizing?

You know, because the Romans were of course not killing ANYONE before Jesus came around. :stuck_out_tongue:

My nomination is Martin Luther. Leaving aside that his ideas influenced Hitler and the Nazis, the religion that he created led to the Thirty Years’ War which was one of the most destructive conflicts ever to plague Europe. I can’t really blame the Lutherans who fought in that war and in the Eighty Years’ War and other religious wars of Europe - they just didn’t know any better - but I can blame Luther for starting the whole thing. Although William the Silent is one of my heroes.

As far as I know he’s largely considered to have been a real person, not that the Christian story of his life can have much attachment to reality of course.

I think that anything short of the Aztecs would be better than Christianity. And eliminating Jesus also eliminates Islam as well.

What makes you think the Romans are the only people who have killed in the name of Christ? Directly and indirectly; among the lives saved would those lost to the war against condoms by the Catholics in modern Africa, for example. Or the people lost due to the resistance of Christians to admitting facets of science that involve evolution; the problem of microorganisms evolving resistance to antibiotics, or a fair amount of cancer research, or insects evolving resistance to pesticides.

And quite possibly the bulk of the human race; as long as Christianity and it’s fetish for the apocalypse is around there’s the danger that one of the wrong sorts of fanatics will get the opportunity to start a nuclear war, or biowarfare plague, or drop an asteroid or whatever future technology makes possible.

I think even if Christianity had never happened, some other religion would have come along and all the same stuff would have happened.

I doubt that; Christianity and it’s monotheism and it’s insistence on spreading at any cost ( which Islam inherited ) are hardly universal features of religion. Nor are all religions as anti-life, anti-human, anti-happiness as Christianity.

I don’t approve of any religion; but I regard Christianity and it’s relatives to be much worse than most.

Der Trihs, that’s why I chose Paul as one of my options. I think it’d be more effective to take him down than Jesus. I’m just not entirely sure what the results would be.

My understanding is there’s no independent evidence of his existence.