Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Friday Debates- Ethical Relativism and Encounters with Aliens

September 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Alright, this might seem ridiculous, but I have to confess something that goes beyond the limits of absurdity. Yesterday I had my first encounter with an alien. This is how he looked like:

Mr. Bojo

Yes, I call him Bojo. I am not sure about the “Mr.” yet. Maybe he is a hermaphrodite. Or maybe he artificially created himself in some ultramundane lab. Wait. Is it even possible to create yourself? Never-mind that. Who cares what sex Bojo is or about logical conclusions related to self-creation?

I will not go on expounding how I felt about this encounter. Besides being probably the most important person on Earth right now, maybe even more important than Obama, Jesus, and Buddha combined, or a hundred times more important than Glen Beck is in the eyes of the tea-party sympathizers, I feel that no matter what I will tell you about Mr. Bojo, nothing will not be taken seriously. Because I do not want to spend my life fettered by stigma, I will just dust every evidence about Bojo under the carpet and let it stay there. Yes, Mr. Bojo will be my little secret.

Still, lets just pretend that I did meet an alien, ok? Can you accept that? Can I trust you that you will accept that without making a judgment about my sanity? Yes? Alright, read on then.

Mr. Bojo came to me, as all aliens probably do, in an unexpected manner. He just solidified out of thin air and asked me to be calm.

Me: “Whatever dude. I am probably in a dream right now. It’s ok to have visions when you suffer from insomnia. ”

Bojo:“I am real. And I have questions.”


B:“I will not shoot you. I come in peace.”

M:“Ok, got it. What are the questions?”

B:“We consider some of your practices morally wrong, hence, I came to bring reason to you. I came here to find out how I can do that.”

M:“Well, we are flawed morally in a variety of aspects. We have minor vices and we have major vices; we have virtues that in certain situations cause harm and suffering;  we kill, steal, willingly force our interests on some, and willingly show allegiance based on  arbitrary attributes to others;  we are  good at distorting the truth, as you probably noticed in a bevy of leaders in politics, religion, and science;  we are efficient at anything you would call morally wrong.  We know that. It’s not big news. We’ve been working on our characters. We’re getting there.”

B:“Yes, and I came here to help you. ”

M:“How can you help us? Do you want to be part of the 6.8 billion people who said that they’ve figured it out what’s wrong with our morality? Do you? It’s not like we need a divine hand to show us how to live our life. We know to what we should aim. We just are not sure how it can be done properly.”

B: “You do not fully understand me. I would not bother with correcting behaviors about which you have knowledge of. Nevertheless, I think that you need some divine hand to show you that what you commonly consider a nefarious behavior is really not that bad.  I want to know why so few humans are so behind in practicing cannibalism?”

M: “Whoa there, dude! Can you explain why you condone cannibalism? Do you really eat members of your own kind? That’s sick >(.”

B: “I knew that you would be disgusted. We do not practice cannibalism in the way you envision it. Also, our understanding of kinship is different from yours. We consider most living organisms who have an instinct of self-preservation as part of a big community, where the more intelligent life forms have the same value as the less intelligent ones. In order to put it in a more comprehensible way for you, we believe that a human life is worth as much as that of a chicken. Of course, we had to establish a certain criteria for what we consider a life-form that has an instinct of self-preservation. Any microorganisms,  bacteria and viruses, are not included, as well as any organisms whose death is imminent.”

M: “This does not explain why you advocate cannibalism.”

B: “Quite the contrary. You missed an important part of my explanation.”

M: “Which is…”

B: “Organisms whose death is imminent because of biological causes are not considered to have the same value as those whose life is yet to be lived. Hence, we eat our kin only in cases where they either have no desire to live or are dying. Of course, since we cannot predict unexpected deaths, we tend to eat those who have died from accidents within an hour or so. And, as you probably already surmised, we do not eat those whose biomass can harm us. We do this because we consider it morally wrong to eat any living creature who has both the desire and the right to exist. Therefore, I came to convince you that you should adopt cannibalism.”

M: “Your reasoning sound very much like the reasoning of Albert Schweitzer. He was philosopher and philanthropist who proposed that we extend our ethical duties to other creatures on Earth. The problem is that such reasoning is generally inapplicable to everyone.For example, you want us to adopt the duty of non-harm to other animals cohabiting with us, which to some extent can be done, but you would have to impose the same rules on everyone. How would you make organisms who are carnivorous by nature conform to your standards then? In addition to this, I do not think that the majority of meat-lovers on Earth would be happy to follow your ethical guidelines. In order to illustrate what I mean, I will bring up the conclusions to which Protagoras came. He believed that a moral law is good as long as it maintains harmony in a community. An undesirable moral law would be a law that renders a society dysfunctional. Most people on Earth are quite happy with eating nuggets, burgers, and tuna wraps, so there is no tension created by our behavior, even though it might seem extremely unfit for you that we show little respect for the animals we eat. According to Protagoras, you should let us be. It’s our society and we are happy with the way it is ordered. Your views on morality are subjective and are not applicable for us.

B: “Simply because an action is deemed fit for your society and your time does not mean that it is inherently moral. In order to convince you, let us watch something together.”

M: “Whoa, dude! Is that a holoscreen?”

B: “Just watch.”

M: “Hmm…I see your point. I am partially convinced that treating all creatures who have the will to live with respect is important, and that refraining from harming them should be one of our moral priorities. But you have not sustained a strong defense for cannibalism. I take it that no loving son will feast on his mother after her death. Am I right?”

B: “You are. I am still trying to establish how I could convince humans to adopt the same view on cannibalism as we do. That is why I came to you.”

M: “Sorry. No suggestions here. Even if you make up a utilitarian argument for that, you do realize that for the majority of humans it would take an insurmountable emotional effort to eat another human?”

B: “Hmm. So you understand the rationality of my argument then.”

M: “I do. You propose that we eat our dying kin because it would be irrational to let so much *food* go to waste. Nevertheless, I am afraid that you will find few supporters here on Earth who would agree with you.”

B: “If that is the case, then our discussion is over.”

Then, Mr. Bojo dispersed, leaving me with a strong conviction that I was, after all, someone special.


Alien sketch taken from here.