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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: RE: (urth) Those chems
Date: Tue, 3 Sep 2002 11:07:46 -0700

Roy C. wrote:

> Chem is a term coined on the _Whorl_. Both Urth-born Kypris 
> and Mamelta give them no more regard as sentient beings than
> I do my car or computer, each calling them by some variation
> of "robot" and "machine", which is what they are. The chems
> are "its", not "hes" and "shes". They have no instincts beyond
> their "standing orders", which can be subverted, as Incus
> demonstrated, by a little rewiring and reprogramming. They 
> do not have glands or hormones to influence behavior.

Now, this is an interesting statement. Roy, you seem to be
stating that behavior influenced by hormones is thereby
less mechanistic, or something? I wonder if that's a trap
Wolfe deliberately laid ... 

The chems (in my reading) are a perfect analogue of the human
situation, and I think Wolfe very much intended them as such.
We are (by Christian belief) free willed souls housed in
biological "hardware" that deeply affects our behavior -- an
injury to the head can cause amnesia, radical personality 
change, all sorts of things. Simple surgical alterations to
the brain can have strange, and often unpredictable, effects
on our behavior.

Yet we (Christians) claim that there is something, a soul or
spirit, underlying this which remains constant through all 
such changes and is the root of free will, the locus of moral
choice, and is what is "judged" after this life. 

Materialists claim that the way changes to the brain affect 
personality is "proof" that this intangible thing does not 
exist, and it's certainly an ongoing challenge to refute this; 
where is free moral choice when the right combination of 
implanted electrodes, injected hormones, and/or operant-
conditioning can turn any "normal" person into a Gandhi or a 
raging killer? (Forgive the exaggeration, if it is one. I don't 
know how far the state of this art has expanded since I last 
read up in it. Neither, I expect, do any of you; those likely
to fund really advanced research in this field are unlikely to
publicize it.)

So how do we differ from the chems? "Glands?" Pfui; the 
equivalent can be programmed, or hardware-coded -- the little
we learn of chem reproduction leads me to think the latter.
Though each has half the information needed to build a child,
it appears that they can't simply share the information, as 
they surely could (with, perhaps, the help of someone like
Incus) if it were simply software. Both must be present 
through the entire operation. Chems, apparently, have behavior 
and urges which are outside their conscious control and reside 
below the "software" level.

The analogy is not perfect but it's enough to allow Wolfe to
play safely with questions of the meaning of free will when
the brain is interfered with. Since this is a theme also with
the bios (Who is morally responsible for the acts of a bio 
possessed by a god? Or of that bio after the god has returned
to Mainframe but left traces behind? In Short Sun, where does
Horn's moral responsibility end and Silk's begin? Etc.), it 
seems likely that Wolfe intended the chems to extend this 
theme ... especially, but not only, in Hammerstone's case.

Onward, back to you Roy:

> The gamut of human emotions attributed to the head movements and
> body language of Marble exist only in the eye of the beholder;
> they are learned associations or fanciful projections with no more
> (probably less) real-world meaning than those my wife assigns to
> one of our cats.

And here the agenda steps forward: Roy, you are a victim of
pseudoscientific behaviorism, the idea that humans are somehow
the only creatures with real emotions or consciousness. While 
only a fool would claim that the _exact_natures_ of a cat's 
consciousness and emotions are identical to a human's, it is
equally silly to suppose that they don't have 'em ... in fact,
the only plausible argument for this is a religious one that
we have souls and they don't.

But if you accept even in part the idea that our emotions and
consciousness are _evolved_ for specific purposes -- and if you
don't accept that, then we (despite my professing Catholic 
Christianity) simply do not live in the same universe -- then
it becomes ludicrous to claim that the same general _kind_ of 
mind and emotions are _not_ present in, at least, other 
vertebrates, and certainly other mammals. Take two animals 
descended from a common ancestor as relatively recently as us
and a squirrel, cat, or (especially) chimp, and demonstrate 
(as is easily done) not only that they behave similarly under
circumstances we would describe using emotional words, but
(more difficult but it has been done) that the same regions 
of the brain are firing -- for emotions do _not_ fire 
primarily in the uniquely human areas of the cortex but in 
the deeper and older regions of the brain, shared with our
fellow vertibrates -- _and_ that similar chemicals flood 
their systems at those times -- demonstrate all this, I say,
and a claim that they do _not_ experience something very 
close to our emotions is not a least hypothesis at all, at
all, but a highly motivated claim intended to make it okay
to treat animals as we far too often do.

Let me make clear that I am not a PETA loonie and do not
seek to shut down all animal research; far from it, I am
a supporter of animal research for medical and scientific
purposes. However, I believe that this is a case of the
"naked lunch" principle -- which I describe as the idea 
that those who eat meat need to visit a slaughterhouse, 
see what is done, and understand that they are hiring 
people to do this for them. Use of animals for our own
purposes is (in my very firm opinion) morally acceptable 
only by those who clearly and fully understand what they 
are doing.



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