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Theoretical Question About Extra Terrestrials

 
 
Eorl
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 07:32 am
@Ionus,
Ionus wrote:

Quote:
This thread is about extra terrestrials, not elves and fairies and gods and demons.
I for one put extra terrestrials, elves and fairies in the same basket.

I assume ten years ago you would have put the existence of extrasolar planets in the same basket.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 08:01 am
@Eorl,
Eorl wrote:

Ionus wrote:

Quote:
This thread is about extra terrestrials, not elves and fairies and gods and demons.
I for one put extra terrestrials, elves and fairies in the same basket.

I assume ten years ago you would have put the existence of extrasolar planets in the same basket.


That's gotta be one hell of a basket!
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 11:10 am
@failures art,
failures art wrote:
Let's say that one day and alien race was to discover our planet and begin taking humans and doing testing on us. They are doing testing on us so that the they could cure their diseases, know their detergents are safe, and that they can test erectile dysfunction pills. Many humans die and more are permanently injured.

Would the Aliens be ethically justified in their actions because they are a superior species?

Depends on comparing the amount of human suffering caused by the tests with the amount of alien suffering prevented by it. So, how many aliens are we talking about, and how sentient are they?
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 12:29 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

You are missing my point Failures Art.

Or I simply disagree.

ebrown p wrote:

Any system of ethics is a human invention. Humans evolved a brain that has the tendency to hold to a system of ethics-- but there are many very different systems of ethics that humans have invented and there is no way subjective to judge that one system of ethics is better then another.

I asked a simple question: Would they be ethically justified? We both seem to agree that they would not. We seem to however be crafting very different rationales for why. It seems you're averring that humans are the most sacred and important because they are humans.

That's circular logic, and you shouldn't have to be told that.

Can we judge if one system of ethics is better than another? If by better we decide that the best ethics are the ones that are most internally consistent, then yes we can. Saying that humans can dramatically effect the environment and use other lifeforms for their needs/wants but other species could into do the same to ours is NOT internally consistent without relying on your circular argument from entitlement. But by all means, keep it.

ebrown p wrote:

Any system of ethics is completely subjective... it depends on your culture, and your experiences and a bit of your genes. There is no reason to think that an alien would have any of the same ideas about ethics; in fact it seems fantastically unlikely.

Looking at how cultures here on earth have treated each other, your logic is kind of a **** you to the Native Americans and Aboriginals of Australia.

Yes, Europeans had a radically different ethical structure to the natives. However, if the natives could have anticipated the invasion to come, could they have crafted a rationale to present the Europeans to keep their land? Certainly the natives ethics lead them to judge the European's actions as "evil," but it wasn't because they thought themselves more sacred. Perhaps more important, and the hole in your argument here is that the Europeans by their own ethics could have found their own actions evil.

So go ahead and assume Aliens have a radically different ethical structure than ours. Assume it is one that we can not anticipate or extrapolate, for that matter. Now, tell me how ANY system of ethics insulates itself from declaring its own practices as "evil."

ebrown p wrote:

This is why I can call aliens who want to eat me -- "evil"... I am making a subjective judgement that is only valid from my point of view (which I can probably safely say encompasses people in any modern Western culture). However, I admit that this is a subjective judgment which makes it consistent with me imagining other points of view.

Should the aliens care or more importantly what should your opinion on the aliens actions mean to them? Should they factor your human ethics into their choice to eat you or not?

ebrown p wrote:

I am dubious about the implication of terms like "catching our ethics up" which imply that you think there is some progression of ethical systems (where one system is "better" or "more advanced" then another).

There doesn't have to be a progression.

If I invent anything that has a social impact, then there are ethics involved. Certainly the invention of the atom is the best example. I think it's perfectly fine to question if we had fully investigated the use of such a thing prior to actually using it.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, we are starting to use electronic warfare to preemptively detonate roadside IEDs. This is good for our solders but will result in a greater civilian casualty rate. Here is a piece of technology whose use exceeds the ethical investigation behind its use.

Now, both of the above could be justifiable, but let's talk about IF they are. For example, when do we fire a nuke? Do we have a logical criteria or is it simply a gut feeling trusted to an authority?

ebrown p wrote:

The order in this hypothetical progression is also quite subjective; it is questionably useful in discussions of our own culture for things we think are important, such as freedom, respect for life or human rights. But applying these ideals to non-human species is completely invalid.

I don't think there has to be a progression, but for every scientific discovery, there is certainly a corresponding ethical investigation. I gave examples of war technology, but the same could be said for medical and communication break-throughs.

A
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failures art
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 12:36 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

failures art wrote:
Let's say that one day and alien race was to discover our planet and begin taking humans and doing testing on us. They are doing testing on us so that the they could cure their diseases, know their detergents are safe, and that they can test erectile dysfunction pills. Many humans die and more are permanently injured.

Would the Aliens be ethically justified in their actions because they are a superior species?

Depends on comparing the amount of human suffering caused by the tests with the amount of alien suffering prevented by it. So, how many aliens are we talking about, and how sentient are they?

How would the human-alien suffering ratio effect the situation? At what point would it be acceptable? 1:1, 1:10, 1:100, ... I think it's a valid question, and if our biology could unlock their ability to cure their diseases and help them, I might be able to accept some sort of dramatic ratio. I don't think however that experiments on us to make alien Viagra would be worth our life.

As for the alien's sentience, let's say they are as sentient and no less intelligent (perhaps more) than humans.

A
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 12:47 pm
@failures art,
failures art wrote:
How would the human-alien suffering ratio effect the situation? At what point would it be acceptable? 1:1, 1:10, 1:100, ... I think it's a valid question,

Let's figure it out experimentally. Since the aliens were smart enough to come here, we may presume that they are rational, self-aware, and capable of informed consent. So are we. So why not match supply and demand with a price system? They decide how much their new medications is worth to them and offer a certain amount of gold-pressed latinum for each individual human taking the tests. Based on that offer, humans will decide if they're willing to participate.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 12:47 pm
@failures art,
I think we disagree with quite a bit (but it's OK, I still like you). Let's start with the idea you raise of "internal consistency". I don't think this is a good way to make a distinction... internal consistency is cheap and easy, pretty much any ethical system from monarchy to fascism to our current system has internal consistency (unless you define it so that no one does).

My axiom is that human life is sacred (in a way that other life forms is not). This is axiomatic (I am stating it without proof)... but it is not circular-- it is the starting point of my ethical system. It is also not inconsistent with any other part of my ethical system... I base everything on the premise that human life is sacred (I do allow for the taking of human life... only to prevent a greater loss of life), and go on from there. This is completely internally consistent.

Let's look at the alternatives...

We could state that no life is sacred. This might be an interesting idea, but I don't think either of us could defend it.

Then we could state that all life is sacred. In this case my spraying my house for termites, or slapping a mosquito would be unethical. In fact, realistically speaking, with our need to build houses and roads and to grow vegetables, forgoing acts that took life would make modern life quite impossible.

Is modern life unethical? It seems to me that my ethical system, founded on one axiom, is more consistent then an idea that no modern human could take to its full extent.
Pepijn Sweep
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 12:50 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Wasps lay their eggs on host animals knowing their young will eat out their hosts to death.

Sounds like a business-plan of a hedge-fund
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 12:57 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Let's look at the alternatives...

We could state that no life is sacred. This might be an interesting idea, but I don't think either of us could defend it.

Then we could state that all life is sacred.

But let's ignore the alternative that makes sense: all life, just like everything else that we value, has costs and benefits. And the benefits of living are worth very high costs, but not infinite ones.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 01:09 pm
@Thomas,
Fine Thomas there are lots of alternatives that are all make perfect sense when viewed internally.

You do agree that human life is worth more then that of a house fly, right? Is there anyone who would argue that me squashing a house fly to death is unethical in the way that me killing my pesky neighbor would be?
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 01:27 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
You do agree that human life is worth more then that of a house fly, right?

Yes---because I believe that humans are capbable of much more intense sufferings than flies are capable of. Our self-awareness and rationality hugely amplify our ability to suffer and rejoice. The issue would more different with, say, chimpanzees. If an average chimp has one-tenth an average human's rationality, self-awareness, and ability to suffer, I should be indifferent about trading the death of one human for the death of ten chimps. I can't say that strikes me as absurd.

ehbrown p wrote:
Is there anyone who would argue that me squashing a house fly to death is unethical in the way that me killing my pesky neighbor would be?

No---because the death itself is quick and painless, and the housefly isn't equipped to spend her life having nightmares featuring your hand.
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 02:36 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

failures art wrote:
How would the human-alien suffering ratio effect the situation? At what point would it be acceptable? 1:1, 1:10, 1:100, ... I think it's a valid question,

Let's figure it out experimentally. Since the aliens were smart enough to come here, we may presume that they are rational, self-aware, and capable of informed consent. So are we. So why not match supply and demand with a price system? They decide how much their new medications is worth to them and offer a certain amount of gold-pressed latinum for each individual human taking the tests. Based on that offer, humans will decide if they're willing to participate.

Agreed.
R
T
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 02:45 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas, I got a bit sidetracked with the hypotheticals (which are always interesting to discuss with you) but that is distracting from the point.

Any ethical system starts with one or more axioms (that are presented as fact with no proof given or possible) and then from these axioms, most derive a perfectly good set of rules that are perfectly logically consistent with the initial axioms and with each other. Your ethical system is a fine example of this.

Utilitarianism is appealing because it gets from the core axioms to the ethics in a very elegant and simple way. However, consider the opposite of Utilitarianism. A system of ethics predicated on maximizing the amount of suffering would be just as logically consistent.

Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 03:25 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
Any ethical system starts with one or more axioms (that are presented as fact with no proof given or possible) and then from these axioms, most derive a perfectly good set of rules that are perfectly logically consistent with the initial axioms and with each other.

I disagree that all ethical systems necessarily start that way. For a counterexample, I can easily imagine a system of ethics that starts like the Common Law did. In the beginning, you have particular controversies, in each of which one party feels the other has morally wronged it. Arbitrators whom both parties trust then resolve those conflicts. To accomplish that, they use whatever means will do the job---quite possibly snap judgments by the seat of their pants. Moral rules would only emerge after the fact, as a rationalization of how the best arbitrators work---where "best" means "the most conflicts resolved to the greatest satisfaction of all parties".

Although the story I'm sketching here does not start from axioms, it nevertheless describes a system of ethics. As the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote: "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." The life of ethics could work the same way---indeed I think it does.
0 Replies
 
InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 03:56 pm
@djjd62,
djjd62 wrote:

http://outlandinstitute.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/to-serve-man-cannamite-3.jpg

wait, don't get on the ship, the book "to serve man", it's a cookbook

Man, thanks for posting that. I had been wondering where The Simpsons got the idea from in that Treehouse of Horror episode.
0 Replies
 
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 05:16 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

I think we disagree with quite a bit (but it's OK, I still like you).

Yeah. You're okay.

ebrown p wrote:

Let's start with the idea you raise of "internal consistency". I don't think this is a good way to make a distinction... internal consistency is cheap and easy, pretty much any ethical system from monarchy to fascism to our current system has internal consistency (unless you define it so that no one does).

Internal consistency is cheap and easy?

Where you've gone wrong here is what internal consistency measures. It doesn't not determine if fascism is fascism.

Why is it okay for us to use other species? We're sacred.
Why is it not okay for other species to use us? We're sacred.

The idea that human life is "sacred" should be axiomatic is kind of the heart of the issue here. So if you've got nothing more than what accounts for a faith card, you're not contributing.

I challenge you to defend the idea that aliens would be "evil" without some argument from entitlement.

ebrown p wrote:

My axiom is that human life is sacred (in a way that other life forms is not). This is axiomatic (I am stating it without proof)... but it is not circular-- it is the starting point of my ethical system. It is also not inconsistent with any other part of my ethical system... I base everything on the premise that human life is sacred (I do allow for the taking of human life... only to prevent a greater loss of life), and go on from there. This is completely internally consistent.

It is circular. It's also the ending point. It ignores the actions, and looks at the players. Is ethics about who and not what to you? If that's the case, then I could have just asked you "Would aliens be evil?" To which it is not hard to imagine you asking me "what do they do?"

ebrown p wrote:

Let's look at the alternatives...

We could state that no life is sacred. This might be an interesting idea, but I don't think either of us could defend it.

Then we could state that all life is sacred. In this case my spraying my house for termites, or slapping a mosquito would be unethical. In fact, realistically speaking, with our need to build houses and roads and to grow vegetables, forgoing acts that took life would make modern life quite impossible.

False dichotomy. These are the alternatives?

You're FORCING this issue to be one about what is and is not "sacred?" I think you've dimensionalized this in a very odd way. The idea that humans are sacred is in opposition with other species being sacred? That's a ridiculous position to defend.

By your presentation, Aliens would be evil for using us but not a cow. After all, the cow is not sacred (Hindus would argue otherwise, but... meh). The aliens will just see a bunch of animals. I can't imagine they'd see us any more sacred as any other.

Your argument reduces down to entitlement. I'm unimpressed.

ebrown p wrote:

Is modern life unethical? It seems to me that my ethical system, founded on one axiom, is more consistent then an idea that no modern human could take to its full extent.

I'd argue that it is. I'll not subscribe to the utter ridiculous hysteria that we'd have to return to the caves to find sustainable ways to live ethically. I'd probably care less about the issue, but we don't use animals for our survival as much as for our luxury.

We may kill mosquitoes and termites ebrownp, but we should not get so drunk on entitlement that we start to fool ourselves that they are "evil" because they dare harm sacred humans.

A
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 05:35 pm
@failures art,
You are attacking my view of ethics- and your criticisms are mostly correct - I can't deny that my system of ethics is based on "faith" (in that I base it on something that can't be proven), that it is entitlement and sure, obviously this system of ethics would necessarily be at odds with the alien system of ethics (which is kind of my point).

Let's turn this around.

What system of ethics would you like to defend?

I suggest that any system of ethics that you propose would have the exact same problems. Any system of ethics is axiomatic, based on at least on article of "faith" and at odds with other systems of ethics.

I don't think you really believe that all life is equal (do you?). Thomas has a perfectly good system of ethics that is more elegant then most-- and even his has at least one axiom (actually I think he has more, but for the sake of this discussion it is only relevant that he has at least one).

But please, choose a system of ethics, and let me have a go at it the same way that you are going at mine. It's only fair.
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 06:46 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

You are attacking my view of ethics- and your criticisms are mostly correct - I can't deny that my system of ethics is based on "faith" (in that I base it on something that can't be proven), that it is entitlement and sure, obviously this system of ethics would necessarily be at odds with the alien system of ethics (which is kind of my point).

I wasn't aware your ethics were under attack. The idea that you'd take an animal life to maintain a human's is perfectly fine. I said I'd do so myself.

What my problem here is that you mistake the threat humans are under such that it is a necessity to objectify other lifeforms. This objection carries whether we are equal or above any form of life.

You don't eat a cheeseburger because you are starving. You're not starving. If you were starving, you'd be damn sure to get whatever I could find, and if that was a cheeseburger, I'd be jamming it down your throat so that you didn't die.

ebrown p wrote:

Let's turn this around.

What system of ethics would you like to defend?

I suggest that any system of ethics that you propose would have the exact same problems. Any system of ethics is axiomatic, based on at least on article of "faith" and at odds with other systems of ethics.

Sure. I've chased you around for a while. You can chase me around.

All lifeforms are a part of nature.
Any interaction has a social outcome.
Evaluating social outcomes in moral/ethical terms requires discussing actions.

No individual creature owns the earth/universe. Humans have a great ability to dramatically change their environment. Humans share their environment, and therefore a change in their environment is a change in another creature's environment. Changing another creature's environment requires justification, and potentially accommodation.

In short, I think Thomas hit it on the head pretty well when he suggested that the Alien's explain their situation, and then offer compensation. It would be up to us to decide to participate. The ethics of our situation change dramatically when we are given the will to choose.

I think that the idea of do unto others as you would wish for them to do unto you is more than simply axiomatic.

ebrown p wrote:

I don't think you really believe that all life is equal (do you?).

No, I do not think all life is equal or the same. I don't see why I must think us superior for me to form a system of ethics which both protects us and allows us to treat other life forms the way I'd wish to be treated.

If it turns out that the idea that some life is sacred, your dichotomy doesn't account for if the sacred ones aren't us. Perhaps there is one sacred species, and perhaps it is not us.

A
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 07:03 pm
@failures art,
Quote:

I think that the idea of do unto others as you would wish for them to do unto you is more than simply axiomatic.


Please explain what you mean by this. If it is not axiomatic... then what is it based on?
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 07:16 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Quote:

I think that the idea of do unto others as you would wish for them to do unto you is more than simply axiomatic.


Please explain what you mean by this. If it is not axiomatic... then what is it based on?


What has worked. Social interactions which are mutual have are better at establishing stable relationships.

Certainly if a ruling class had been meant to remain in place, the monarchies of the past would not have encountered such revolt from the peasantry. When civilizations stopped endorsing that kings and queens had a direct line to a god, the world was a better place in my opinion.

Additionally, as a ethic it address situations we have yet to imagine.

A
R
T
0 Replies
 
 

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