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From: "Roy C. Lackey" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Those chems
Date: Fri, 6 Sep 2002 01:24:02 -0500

President and Founder,
Chem Rights Now wrote:

>anything at all. Even if you grant per hypothesi that
>the chems do have a hardprogrammed equivalent of
>"glands," that doesn't mean that they duplicate the
>specific functions of human glands;

The books may be fresher in my mind since I am currently re-reading them,
and have paid particular attention to the chems. Time and again Wolfe
portrays chems, mostly Hammerstone and Marble, experiencing all-too-human
emotions, and that's the very thing I can't swallow -- at least on this side
of the looking glass. Trivial (to the plot) example: Marble thinks that it
may rain and spot the clean sheets she needs to hang out to dry: "Fuming,
she put aside the wicker clothes-basket . . .". (LS3, chapter 8) That just
happens to be where I am in my reading; I didn't take notes, but there are
many such examples. Hammerstone's obsequious adoration of Incus includes
wanting to just stare at him like some star-struck teenager. (LS3, 3) At one
time or another chems are made to experience shame, anxiety, anger,
timidity, doubt, joy, worship (oh yeah; Hammerstone lectures Auk about it),
wistfullness, and a whole lot more. And Olivine is such a twisted mass of
emotions it's pathetic. Literally. When she gave up an eye for her mama, I
thought I was gonna cry. :-)

>only that there is
>some built in drive equivalent to the (glandularly
>influenced though not, I think, determined) human drive
>to reproduce. We see in Marble at least one other drive
>-- a drive to maintain her own bodily "health" to the
>extent possible.

Then why did Olivine give up an eye if it wasn't in her best interest? Human
altruism, that's why.

Look, I've acknowledged that Wolfe intended chems to be regarded as sentient
automatons pretty much on a par with humans. (The question of chem "souls"
is one I'd rather not get into, but I seriously doubt the Vatican would buy
it.) He goes out of his way to do it. But I don't start turning on the
lights before entering a dark room just because I've read a ghost story,

>> Perhaps you missed the "(probably less)" part of that quote.
>> Anyone who has seen a whipped cur, or one that has just been
>> handed a piece of meat, can see that the dog acts very
>> differently in those cases. Likewise the cats don't purr when
>> I yell at them to get off the screen door. Animals seem to
>> have a certain degree of consciousness and emotions, sure;
>> they just don't have the ones my wife projects them to have:
>> they can't--their brains don't have room for that complexity,
>> even if they could think like a human, which they can't.
>Why in Heaven's name do you assume that emotions are more complex
>than thinking?

How does that follow from what I wrote? I didn't say that.

>And why in Heaven's name do you assume that they can't "think
>like a human?"

Because they can't. Language and thought are inextricably related in humans;
cats don't have the language, ergo . . .

>> Although this animal-rights stuff had nothing to do with my
>> post, you have several times brought up Heinlein on this list.
>> In TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE he said that when the need arises you
>> must be able to shoot your own dog. I can; I have.
>Are we establishing some kind of credentials?

It was my response to your "'naked lunch' principle" spiel.

>I haven't shot my
>own dog; it would be illegal where I live. I have held my dog,
>and my cat, while the vet gave it the final shot, and continued
>to hold them until well after their hearts had stopped. Same
>logic, different environment.

Not the same at all, and it's also illegal where I live, but this is way off
topic. I should have given the full quote, which is on page 260 of the
hardback. Suffice it to say I agree with Heinlein, but I don't deride those
who don't.

>Meanwhile, back at the Whorl: one last question ... why, do you
>suppose, Wolfe chose to call them "chemical" persons instead of
>(say) "electromechanical" persons? Does this have any bearing on
>your assumption that they are what we would call "robots" and not
>"androids?" (Yes, I know that Li'l Scylla uses the word "robot."
>Proves very little, I think.)

I assume that they were so called because chemical reactions (as take place
in modern dry-cell batteries) were their power source. As I said before,
both Urth-born Mamelta and Kypris called them robots and mechanical (LS2, 10
and 4, respectively). Mamelta was so incensed when Lemur (the chem version
killed by Crane with the azoth) was hurting Silk, that she screamed at him
"_You damned robot! You THING!_" (emphasis in text, LS2, 12). (I would give
page numbers, instead of chapter numbers, but I have only the paperbacks of
the first three books.) Clearly, people who had not been born on the _Whorl_
did not regard chems as equal to bios.

Even on the _Whorl_, in Silk's day, such an attitude still apparently
persisted, lest Silk would not have said to Lemur:

"'You said something else that I ignored, Councillor.'
    For the first time, Lemur sounded dangerous and even deadly. 'Which was
. . .?'
    'You said that you were not a chem. I'm not one of those ignorant and
prejudiced bios who consider themselves superior to chems, but I know--'
    'You lie!'"

Then Lemur pitched a fit and fired the azoth. (LS2, 12) He didn't want to
admit that he was a chem because he was aware of the prejudice, and even
seems to have shared it.



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