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Theoretical Question About Extra Terrestrials

 
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 07:17 pm
@failures art,
I don't quite understand your examples. Let me carry them a bit further.

I eat hamburgers because I enjoy them. It is far from a necessity that I eat hamburgers (there are plenty of other food choices including tofu, which I consider evil). I eat hamburgers simply because they taste good.

The point is that in my system of ethics, even though human life is sacred, there are no sacred cows.

I suppose an alien could decide that we taste good. From their perspective, this would probably be justified the same way that I justify my consumption of beef. This would not stop me from labeling them as evil. If cows decide that humans are evil, I will understand.

Incidentally, humans are not the only species that changes the environment (not by a long shot). Termites do quite a job on their environment (which is why I have resorted to chemical warfare to wipe them out). Beavers, locusts, bees, algae all have drastic impacts on their environment.

Quote:

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.


Just to make it clear-- I am strongly arguing against any Universal truth.

There is no Universal ethical truth. Any ethical system on Earth; including mine or yours, is a human invention. In this hypothetical exercise we imagine that aliens will evolve a mental capacity to develop an Ethical system of their own. I am highly skeptical that an ethical system invented by an alien would be anything like what human minds have created.

Since the only systems of ethics on Earth were invented by human beings, it makes sense that the idea that human life is sacred. Ethical systems don't reflect anything outside of the mind of the creature that evolved to think them up.


ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 07:26 pm
@ebrown p,
Just to moderate my position a bit-- that human life is sacred isn't the only axiom in my personal system of ethics.

Killing any alien life that I considered "intelligent" would be immoral to me. Then again, if cows ever develop the mental ability to express their dismay at being eaten, I will quite certainly stop eating beef.

Of course the problem with this is that there is some arbitrary line between "too intelligent to eat" and "dumb enough to eat". But, as a human exercise... any system of ethics is going to have these messy fuzzy lines. And of course, I hope this hypothetical alien would think I had enough mental ability to be taboo as a yummy snack.

I find it interesting that most Americans would be horrified to kill dolphins (as they are quite intelligent) but are fine with killing pigs for food (even the religious proscriptions aren't based on protecting the pig).
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 08:01 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

I eat hamburgers because I enjoy them. It is far from a necessity that I eat hamburgers (there are plenty of other food choices including tofu, which I consider evil). I eat hamburgers simply because they taste good.

Yes, I figure, this is why all hamburgers are consumed: pleasure.

(How is tofu evil?)
ebrown p wrote:

The point is that in my system of ethics, even though human life is sacred, there are no sacred cows.

I've never seen a holy cow.

Sorry, couldn't resist. But seriously, what's your point? I have not once argued that the cow is sacred.

ebrown p wrote:

I suppose an alien could decide that we taste good. From their perspective, this would probably be justified the same way that I justify my consumption of beef. This would not stop me from labeling them as evil. If cows decide that humans are evil, I will understand.


What makes you so sure they haven't?

ebrown p wrote:

Incidentally, humans are not the only species that changes the environment (not by a long shot). Termites do quite a job on their environment (which is why I have resorted to chemical warfare to wipe them out). Beavers, locusts, bees, algae all have drastic impacts on their environment.

Sure. So if you're under invasion, kill them. Later, when asked why, it sounds like you've a good case to justify your actions.

We can certainly see the difference between killing a rat that enters our kitchen, and entering the woods to kill a deer.

ebrown p wrote:

Quote:

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.


Just to make it clear-- I am strongly arguing against any Universal truth.

So humans are or are not sacred? Or are we just sacred on earth. You're all over the place.

ebrown p wrote:

There is no Universal ethical truth. Any ethical system on Earth; including mine or yours, is a human invention.

If we can't deal in truth, let's stick to method. I'd say that begins by not assuming our actions are ethical because we benefit from them.

ebrown p wrote:

In this hypothetical exercise we imagine that aliens will evolve a mental capacity to develop an Ethical system of their own. I am highly skeptical that an ethical system invented by an alien would be anything like what human minds have created.

Sure. It is not inconceivable that their ethical system would be capable to address our question though.

Being that our interest is to survive, and survival is common to anything alive, even if their ethics are radically different, they will understand the desire to not die.

ebrown p wrote:

Since the only systems of ethics on Earth were invented by human beings, it makes sense that the idea that human life is sacred. Ethical systems don't reflect anything outside of the mind of the creature that evolved to think them up.

Yet. I'm challenging this point.

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0 Replies
 
failures art
 
  2  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 08:09 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Killing any alien life that I considered "intelligent" would be immoral to me. Then again, if cows ever develop the mental ability to express their dismay at being eaten, I will quite certainly stop eating beef.

Mental ability? No. That is present. I assure you.

The inability to communicate is no more the fault of cows than it is ours.

An alien species may not be capable to understand our language. Perhaps they will kill and eat us until we develop the mental ability to tell them to stop. Perhaps they will look upon us and say, all they do is make sounds. We'll stop eating them when they tell us to stop.

ebrown p wrote:

Of course the problem with this is that there is some arbitrary line between "too intelligent to eat" and "dumb enough to eat". But, as a human exercise... any system of ethics is going to have these messy fuzzy lines. And of course, I hope this hypothetical alien would think I had enough mental ability to be taboo as a yummy snack.

I find it interesting that most Americans would be horrified to kill dolphins (as they are quite intelligent) but are fine with killing pigs for food (even the religious proscriptions aren't based on protecting the pig).

Having a line of too intelligent to eat is good if you think you're intelligent enough to end up on the north side of that line for another being.

Is this what you'd say to an alien if you could? Don't eat us because we are smart? I'm sure that if the alien wanted to, it could find a way to declare you dumb enough to eat.

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ebrown p
 
  0  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 04:57 am
@failures art,
Quote:

The inability to communicate is no more the fault of cows than it is ours.


This is clearly false. Language is a trait unique to humans (let's not go to the chimpanzee hoax which is a very popular myth, but has been widely debunked by scientists). Humans are the only animal that has evolved with the ability to use language.

I have nothing against cows... they have evolved with a digestive system that is far better then that of humans-- different species evolve with different abilities.

Quote:

We can certainly see the difference between killing a rat that enters our kitchen, and entering the woods to kill a deer.


This doesn't make sense.

The deer is living in one environment, the rate is living in another. The rat certainly has the same feeling about your kitchen as the deer has about some clearing in the forest (the rat certainly doesn't accept your claim that you own the space you call you kitchen).

The only difference is that the rat is an inconvenience to you. I suppose this is as good an excuse to kill a living being as any.





failures art
 
  2  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 05:17 am
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Quote:

The inability to communicate is no more the fault of cows than it is ours.


This is clearly false. Language is a trait unique to humans (let's not go to the chimpanzee hoax which is a very popular myth, but has been widely debunked by scientists). Humans are the only animal that has evolved with the ability to use language.

I specifically used the word "communicate" here. We don't have to debate language. If we did, you'd probably insist on defining it such that language is addressed in terms of how humans do it. Blind, mute, and deaf ants smear a trail of pheromones as they walk. In your sacred state, perhaps you are missing the writing on the wall. Literally.

This is why I brought up that aliens may not understand our language. Their means of communication could be completely different. They could find our vocal means of communication no more significant than the smear of ant pheromones. For that matter, they could find the smear to be beautiful like we often like a bird's chirping "songs".

ebrown p wrote:

I have nothing against cows... they have evolved with a digestive system that is far better then that of humans-- different species evolve with different abilities.

I'd add a caution about over romanticizing our abilities.

ebrown p wrote:

Quote:

We can certainly see the difference between killing a rat that enters our kitchen, and entering the woods to kill a deer.


This doesn't make sense.

The deer is living in one environment, the rate is living in another. The rat certainly has the same feeling about your kitchen as the deer has about some clearing in the forest (the rat certainly doesn't accept your claim that you own the space you call you kitchen).

The only difference is that the rat is an inconvenience to you. I suppose this is as good an excuse to kill a living being as any.

This is my point. The rat doesn't see it as your space, but both you and the rat are in the same environment. Conflict is natural. The deer and you do not share the same environment. You have to travel to put yourself in their environment. Conflict is created.

I'm understanding of creating conflict at risk of starvation. We rarely tread near the border of starvation though.

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0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 05:36 am
I understand your point. You are using these hypothetical aliens, who would consider me as a source of food or pleasure the same way that I now consider cows a source of good tasting food. This is a fine application of the Golden Rule; do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I get it, but we aren't connecting with this line of discussion.

One problem is that I don't accept the Golden Rule. It is not part of my system of ethics. I believe in compassion and altruism for other human beings... but these are based on a set of axioms that doesn't include the Golden Rule.

There are many many specific examples where I would treat someone in a way that I would not like to be treated myself. And it is easy to have empathy or work for justice without this tag line.

I don't accept the validity of the Golden Rule in my interactions with other humans, I certainly don't accept it in my applications with other animals. And, for that matter, animals certainly don't apply the Golden Rule in their interactions with each other.







failures art
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 05:44 am
@ebrown p,
heh.

You accept the golden rule when you benefit from it I suspect.

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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 06:03 am
@failures art,
Quote:

You accept the golden rule when you benefit from it I suspect.


Of course. But in those cases I am not accepting it as an ethical principle. I am simply accepting it as a way to get something that I want.


0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  3  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:42 am
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
(let's not go to the chimpanzee hoax which is a very popular myth, but has been widely debunked by scientists).

By all means, let's. It doesn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and it doesn't take a scientist to tell if an ape can speak American sign language. All it takes is a human who speaks American sign language too. Our A2K-friend Sozobe, who does speak ASL, has looked at films of Koko, a gorilla. She thinks Koko does speak ASL on the level a mentally disabled deaf human would. Indeed, Sozobe has worked with mentally disabled deaf humans, and finds that they and Kokos are quite similar in numerous ways. Feel free to check with her. (Sozobe, not Koko.)

ebrown p wrote:
Humans are the only animal that has evolved with the ability to use language.

Not true even if you discard chimpanzees. The dance of the bees (PDF) is commonly recognized as a language.
ebrown p
 
  0  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 10:44 am
@Thomas,
Are you suggesting that Sozobe has spoken with Chimpanzees? Or are you saying that she has seen videos and says that the signs being used are authentic?

Parrots speak English, but they don't use language in a human sense. What bees do is communication, but again, it is not anything like what humans do with language (i.e. express new ideas).

Since I don't eat either Chimpanzees or bees, this is kind of off topic. This might be an interesting new thread.

Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 10:58 am
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
Are you suggesting that Sozobe has spoken with Chimpanzees? Or are you saying that she has seen videos and says that the signs being used are authentic?

Yes. She has seen videos (of a gorilla, not a chimp). She says that the signs the gorilla used were valid ASL signs, and that they make sense within the context the gorilla used them in.

ebrown wrote:
Parrots speak English, but they don't use language in a human sense. What bees do is communication, but again, it is not anything like what humans do with language (i.e. express new ideas).

I don't remember you ever expressing any new ideas. It's always moral relativism this, moral relativism that, moral relativism yadda yadda yadda. Clearly, then, you're as devoid of language as a parrot is, and can be experimented on with no moral problems whatsoever.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  5  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 11:15 am
@ebrown p,
Thomas pointed me here... Yes, I thought Koko used signs in a meaningful way (I wouldn't call it ASL though, way too rudimentary and primitive). She'd put words together in interesting ways. I'm on my Blackberry now so research would be arduous, but one thing I remember (may not be exact) was Koko's reaction when her pet kitten died. She kept signing "baby come hug," as she looked for the kitten (in vain).

It wasn't just parroting in other words, it was putting words she already knew together in an order she hadn't been taught to convey a new meaning.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 11:21 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?

What makes them "superior?"
ebrown p
 
  0  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 11:25 am
@sozobe,
I started a new thread, on the topic. I welcome your input there.

Harvard linguist Steven Pinker talks about the "baby come hug" example in detail. What happened is that Koko was rewarded whenever she made signs-- this meant that (as a smart animal) Koko would make signs quite often.

The over-enthuiastic researchers sat around recording each time Koko would make signs, and would be quite excited (and record as much) whenever the signs fit the situation Koko was in.

The seeming impressive "baby come hug" was recorded. When Koko signed "banana hat fish" or "drink blue tree", the researchers didn't even write it down.

When independent researchers tried to make this a more valid trial, the impressive results went away.

0 Replies
 
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 11:42 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago 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?

What makes them "superior?"

Pick a reason. Any reason.

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Take any thing humans do, and let them do it better.
ebrown p
 
  0  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 12:00 pm
@failures art,
Quote:
Take any thing humans do, and let them do it better.


I don't think this is correct. Humans are "superior" (from a human perspective) because we do things that no other animals do-- i.e. symbolic thought, technology etc.

I would assume that superior aliens would have abilities that we can't do at all.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 12:27 pm
@failures art,
failures art wrote:

joefromchicago wrote:
What makes them "superior?"

Pick a reason. Any reason.

A
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Take any thing humans do, and let them do it better.

Well, I can imagine all sorts of things that an alien race could conceivably do better than humans, but then the point isn't whether they are superior, it is whether that superiority would have any ethical significance. For example, suppose that the aliens are like humans in every way except they're much better golfers. I'm not convinced that you would consider their superiority in golf to have any bearing on the morality of their experimentation on humans. But then maybe you do. That's why I'm asking.
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 01:32 pm
@joefromchicago,
The comparison I'm drawing here is how we feel superior to other animals. So in this theoretical case, I'm projecting the same logic we use to assert our superiority only with a theoretical being who is declaring itself superior to us.

I'm challenging the logic that allows us to believe we are superior. I'm seeing if we'd use the same logic to declare other beings superior to us. And since we've used our position of superiority to assert our will upon the earth, could we judge another species if they did the same action to us.

Your question is to the point of what I'm asking here under the metaphor.

A
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 01:49 pm
@failures art,
failures art wrote:
Your question is to the point of what I'm asking here under the metaphor.

Yeah, I kinda' figured that. But then that doesn't answer my question. Philosophers may defend human actions with regard to animals that they would not justify with regard to other humans, but they typically don't say "well, humans are just superior to animals, so it's OK."
 

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