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Date: Sun, 6 Oct 2002 18:05:11 -0400 (EDT)
From: Michael Straight 
Subject: Re: (urth) Bio bias

Roy wrote a great post documenting the attitudes toward chems but he lost
me here:

> I've said it before and I'll say it again; yes, Wolfe clearly intended
> chems to be thought of as people in some sense, just as he has other
> automatons in other works. I have no idea whether or not he believes
> they have "souls" but, it seems to me, even for Wolfe there is a line
> that may be approached but that Man's creations may not pass, one that
> separates the created from the Creator, just as surely as in _Genesis_.

I don't think this conclusion follows from your observations.

Wolfe has created a society in which chems are created as tools, thought
of as tools, treated like tools, and even those who would go the farthest
toward treating them like persons, and even the chems themselves, harbor
reservations and make distinctions between chems and bios.

But I don't think that this means Wolfe thinks chems are less persons than
bios.  If the Outsider loves them as persons, then it doesn't matter if
Silk himself thinks of them as mere machines.   I think that Wolfe's
inclusion of various reasons to see the chems as persons alongside these
attitudes is evidence he wants us to question the attitudes.

I think the chems and the inhumi are, among other things, meditations on
determinism and free will.  They are extreme cases of humanity.  The chems
programming and the imhumi's biology drive them to do things that we would
regard as inhuman or even evil.  Does that mean that they are not persons?
God help us if it does.

Are there not human analogues for the callousness Sand shows toward bios?
Can such callousness often be explained in part by analogues of biology
and programming?  To what extent do such explainations negate or mitigate
moral culpability?

And what if there had been no dissent from the view that blacks were
subhuman?  What if they believed it themselves?  Would that make it so?

(Similarly, in the Asimov story mantis quoted, I'm pretty sure we're
supposed to be horrified by Susan's Calvin's action.  Asimov was often
accused of making her too perfect, as if she was his fantasy woman, or
Mary Sue[1] even, so this later story may have been written specifically
to distance himself from the character.)


[1] see this link if you're unfamiliar with the term "Mary Sue"



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