Alablawg

Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Flight Plan, Sheetrock Jesus, and Iran

Have you seen Flight Plan? It's an entirely predictable yawner of a movie, but it raises (unintentionally, I'm sure) an interesting issue. Be warned, though, for me to discuss it I'm going to have to give away the plot and its attempted surprises.

Basically, Jodie Foster's character Kyle gets on an airplane with her daughter and with her husband's corpse. The latter just died and she is bringing the body back to the states for burial. During the flight, Kyle falls asleep, and wakes up to find her daughter missing. Kyle frantically searches the plane, finding nothing. When she tries to get the crew to help, Kyle discovers that no-one on the plane ever saw her daughter. Nor did the crew remember checking her in. The daughter was not on the manifest. In short, there was no evidence that she was ever on the plane. Finally, someone contacts the morgue that packed up the husband, and the morgue says they also packed up the daughter.

This brings us to the interesting part. Kyle, who knows she got on the plane with her daughter, demands that the Captain order a full search of the plane. The search would be very inconvenient for passengers and crew, as well as dangerous. When the Captain refuses to carry out the full search, Kyle tells him he will have to apologize when she finds her daughter. Eventually, she finds her daughter, and the Captain apologizes.

For what? No doubt Kyle knew from her own personal experience that her daughter was gone, but put yourself in the Captain's shoes. All the facts of which he was aware contradicted Kyle's experience. So what was the reasonable thing for the Captain to do: Act based on the overwhelming evidence? Or act based on one person's sincerely held beliefs? In my view, he acted graciously in ordering even a limited search. Kyle should have thanked him, not asked for an apology.

Of course everyone is entitled to have strong beliefs based on personal experiences. Some of those beliefs, like Kyle's, may even be true. If, for instance, you think that praying while laying hands on a piece of sheetrock that resembles Jesus cured your blindness, that's fine with me. You may be right, who am I to say otherwise.

The problem is when someone draws from the premise 'I experienced X' the conclusion 'therefore you must do Y.' Sheetrock Jesus may have healed you, but I am still going to go to the doctor. God may have told you to invade Iran, but I'd still like some evidence before I commit my life to the cause.