Shakespeare wrote:I think that, if Carlisle could really control them, he would have stopped them before they killed people. In fact, I think that it is extremely out of character that he does let them commit murders....I found it unnerving that he would just let the other Cullens kill people. After all, as the creator, wouldn't he feel some amount of guilt for the deaths he has indirectly caused? He acts noble since talks about how he only turns people who are almost dead, but then he doesn't seem to think about the people who are killed as a result of his new creation. It goes against his kind, caring nature. So no, I don’t think it is any kind of recompense. Why should he act like Edward, Esme, Rosalie, and Emmet are more important than they many people they killed? I can only imagine that he did his best to stop the murders but ultimately failed. It isn't his position to deal out forgiveness and Carlisle doesn't seem like someone who would justify his own actions by allowing others to be murdered. It goes against everything that he is.
It’s a really good question: if creating a vampire means bringing a murderer into the world, how could someone as moral as Carlisle do it? From a strictly rational viewpoint, it’s hard to condone saving Edward’s life (for example) knowing that he will go on to take other innocent lives. That’s one life now for several lives later. Of course, in Edward’s case, the calculus turns out to be more equivocal than in, say, Emmett’s, because the lives he takes are not innocent: someone who believes in capital punishment could conceivably excuse him* -- but I doubt Carlisle does!
Two possible answers: first, as Li’lbit observes maybe Carlisle underrated his own unusual moral strength and firmly believed that any vampire he “brought up” would live as blameless a life as he does. Of course, after Edward’s rebellious phase he ought to know better -- but by then (I think) he’d already changed Esme as well. And of course, Rosalie does turn out to be a success from this perspective. (But then again, Emmett doesn’t). You’re right, Li’lbit that broadly speaking, Carlisle’s optimism is well-founded: not one of his family becomes the kind of voracious killer it would be unpardonable to let loose on the world. But they do slip up. They’ve all killed -- many many times. If we’re going to be tough-minded about this, that’s a lot of innocent blood on Carlisle’s conscience. It certainly seems likely that wishful thinking (and modesty) fed into his original decision to change Edward.
But more important, I suspect, is simply the particularity of human affections -- something we know from the Host that Stephenie takes very seriously. If you cold-bloodedly do the maths, there’s no excuse for trading Edward’s life for the lives he will take -- but Edward is there, dying before Carlisle’s eyes, and he is moved to save him. Something about this innocent, virtuous boy catches his heart (and of course in the long run his faith in Edward’s moral goodness is repaid tenfold) -- and he acts on it. And lets the chips fall where they may. This to me is the best answer to the charge often leveled at Carlisle of having a God Complex: in the event, he has never once sat down to make that arrogant calculation “does this one deserve life and that one death?”; he has simply followed the impulse of his heart, for better or for worse. His impulsiveness may have led him to make terrible mistakes, but that’s much more morally attractive (at least to me) than someone coldly dispensing a more perfect justice: it’s hard to condemn someone for errors committed out of love and compassion. Was it in fact an error? Is it wrong to let your feelings for a particular individual to overwhelm the rational calculation of lives lost and saved? To willingly exchange their life for that of several strangers? This takes us into deep philosophical waters, and I think I’d rather stick with Carlisle for now!
As for the question of how he can forgive his “offspring” the murders they commit, I think Cullengirl and Ouisa are right that it would be extremely unreasonable not to, when he’s the one who placed them in the path of such extravagant temptation. I don’t know if I’d go so far as seeing this as an gift offered as compensation for meddling in their lives, as you’ve suggested, Cullengirl. Absolution isn’t really a gift for him to give. But I’m sure he sees how unfair it would be of him to condemn them for stumbling under the crushing burden he himself laid on them.
Does he nonetheless owe his family something for taking the gift of mortality from them (as Tolkien’s elves would put it) without their consent? I think I’m partly with Li’lbit here: in life-threatening emergencies there’s no time to get permission first. But I think Carlisle's dilemma is a little more complicated than that of the doctor in the ER -- because he's not simply restoring their life: he's consigning them to an eternity of fierce moral and physical temptation -- and pain -- from which there's no easy release. And it matters whether you believe that changing someone robs them of their chances of heaven. If vampires are inevitably damned -- or have no afterlife -- it's making a Faustian bargain on their behalf you have no right to be making. (Which makes me curious, Cullengirl, whether you're worried that Edward might be right about vampires’ souls after all). This is why it's essential that Carlisle (of all the Cullens) believes that vampires are not damned per se. But it still leaves him on dodgy moral ground, given what a struggle it is for vampires to abstain from murder, and how greatly he's magnified his family's chances of damnation by changing them. Once you factor heaven and hell into the equation, diverting someone's natural progress through life and death looks less like an innocuous gift after all....
I wanted to reply to Ouisa’s fascinating observations as well, but I think that’s enough from me for the time being! More later.
*I'm setting to one side the question of whether it was ok for Edward to have appointed himself judge and jury and simply considering the innocence or guilt of the lives exchanged for Edward's