Pattern Spotted:It depends on your ethical approach.
- Utilitarian/Consequentialist? Then we're gonna try to max the positive outcome for the most people.
- Deontological? Then typically neither answer is ethical. They're both crimes and should not be indulged in.
- Virtue ethics? Then we focus on how the act of killing more people versus eradicating an entire culture properly reflects who we are or might change us to become less than who we are.
Personally, I'm more postmodern ethically in that I need to know context. On the surface, it looks better to eradicate a particular culture and save 30 million random lives; on the other hand, depending on what benefits from that culture could be accrued by a BILLION people, maybe it would be better in the long run to sacrifice 30 million in order to benefit a billion. Depending on the specifics, consequential ethics would try to maximize [something] resulting in the greatest good.
Ironically, these kinds of decisions are made all the time. Examine transportation, for example. It is projected that, in the United States, 3.5 million people have died from 1899 - 2012 in traffic accidents. Yet we would say it was worth it for those 3.5 million people to die, considering the benefits that all of us survivors have accrued.
Also look at the interesting dilemma we've discussed on this forum before -- a train is out of control, and you are stuck with it either hitting five people in its way or you can divert it and kill one (usually cast as a relative or child). Many people will try to maximize the saving of human life by diverting the train to kill one person and save the five. YET.... let's say we have one healthy human being and five people who need organ transplants to avoid death; almost no one will suggest we should kill the healthy human being to harvest his organs to save the other five. It's interesting to see how situation and context can change our response.
Action carries more weight than inaction.