Shoot the Fatman Club – a history

The ‘Shoot the Fatman Club’ was officially founded in the year of the Lord Two Thousand and Eleven (2011). The club is actually descended from another club called ‘The Knob Club’ that was founded in the Cayman Islands for knobs of good reputation…The Knob Club even had an honorary female member and a machine called the ‘knobamatic’ for instant Knob release…

The name ‘Shoot the Fatman Club’ is inspired by a famous Anthropological study conducted around the world to determine the source of human moral behaviour. In the study, various people from various habitats including desert dwellers, forest people, sophisticated city dwellers and primitive tribesmen, were all asked a serious of questions (some of which were adapted to local cultures and lifestyles). The aim of the questions was to find out:

Where do people get their sense of goodness and badness from?

Do people get their sense of justice and morality from local customs, religion, culture, education or from some place else?

One of the questions that was asked by the anthropologists to the various people around the world was the following:


Imagine there is a railway line. On the railway line there is a stationary train carriage on the platform with people in it. Further behind, a few miles away, there is a out of control runaway train that is hurtling towards the stationary carriage. If the runaway train crashes into the carriage many people will die. You can see the whole scene from a high bridge across the track. Between the stationary carriage and the runaway train there is a fat man crossing the track. You have a rifle with you on the bridge. If you shoot the fat man, he will die and block the track, and the runaway train will crash into him and stop, thus saving the lives of hundreds of passengers. Is it right to shoot the fat man to save the lives of many people?


Almost everybody that was asked this question – be they tribes people living in the jungle, or primitive desert people, or people from London, or Muslims or Jews, or Atheists, or Hindus – they all agreed that it would be wrong to shoot the fat man.

Over 90% of people felt that there was something immoral and not right about shooting him even if they could not explain why. The religious beliefs or background of the people had little impact on their moral compass and sense of justice.

The question was then repeated, but this time the people were asked:

What if the fat man has a heart attack and drops dead on the track. Would you move him?

Most people answered no, they wouldn’t.

What this anthropological study proved was that humans have an innate inner sense of what is good and what is bad. We are born with this moral sense, and our religion, or culture, or language or upbringing has surprisingly little affect on it. Religion does not make you a good person! Your sense of goodness is innate and a part of your genetic heritage…it is something all humans share.


The Shoot the Fatman Club got its name from a club member (no names!) who argued that he would shoot the fat man if he was put in such a position!


It is interesting to ask why is it that most people would not shoot him? Perhaps people are afraid of firing a gun, so what if we change the method of death to make it easier so that instead of a gun, you just have to press a button in a room, and the fat man will drop dead on the track – thus saving the lives of the passengers. What are the results then? Answer: the same! Most people will not press the button though the % is lower.

So, why is that? Why are people reluctant to have him killed even if it results in more lives being saved?

The answer appears to be that most people recognise that the fat man is an innocent man who just happens to be crossing the track at that moment. By killing him, you are effectively killing an innocent bystander. Most people’s inner moral and ethical compass sees this as wrong. If he was to have a heart attack than that is a natural event, and by not moving him out of the way, you are simply not interfering and that is much easier to do.


The Shoot the Fatman Club will be meeting this Friday. Who knows what wonderfully quirky stuff will happen. Watch this space…


Fatman Forever.

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