I had to pull out yards of wool again last night when I realized that Horrible Henry once again had errors.

It’s a simple pattern — k2 slip2– but it starts at a different point in each row so as to create the lovely herringbone, and it’s incredibly easy to get off track, at which point everything you do from then on is wrong and there is no way to fix it.

In this case, I believe I got off while discussing good and evil with #1 son.

He’s taking Ethics this term, so naturally that is on his mind quite a bit, and I’d just watched Burke and Hare, quite a good movie about the 19th century grave robbers which brings up some intriguing moral dilemmas.

You wouldn’t think there’d be a lot of moral dilemmas in the story of a couple of guys who killed people and sold their bodies.

However, Robert Knox (“the boy who buys the beef” in the skipping rhyme about the murders, and its existence says something about little girls in Edinburgh in those days) in the movie says that his work in anatomy will save the lives of thousands or millions, so he’s okay with a few murders along the way. Another doctor casually kills a patient, presumably because he lacks full information about anatomy which Knox’s work could supply. There’s also reference to the public hangings which were so popular at the time, few of the crimes leading to which would seem to us now to be hanging matters.

#1 son had offered some of the moral dilemmas they’d discussed in class, which centered on questions of whether to kill someone in order to save multiple people.

There are no circumstances in which I would feel justified in killing someone, though I see the reasonableness of having a sniper shoot someone who is on a killing spree, and I recognize that this is one of the arguments for a just war.

My views on this are affected by my religion, though. I think that if everyone does the right thing, the outcome is in God’s hands. Someone who doesn’t recognize this could feel that it was entirely his or her decision. Then they’ve got the problem, it seems to me, of unintended consequences.

Burke and Hare were evil, certainly, but their actions led to reforms in law and medicine that improved things quite a bit, an unintended and unforeseen positive consequence. We can also bring to mind any number of unintended and unforeseen negative consequences of actions. And that’s before we even consider miracles and grace, which irreligious people wouldn’t.

So, as we were discussing these weighty matters, I missed a stitch and put in further hours of work messing up Henry’s pattern. I will therefore be spending some hours today knitting all that I have knitted before. Will I finish these Christmas gifts by Christmas? I’m not at all sure.