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Date: Mon, 7 Oct 2002 15:18:14 -0400 (EDT)
From: Michael Straight 
Subject: Re: (urth) Bio bias

On Mon, 7 Oct 2002, Roy C. Lackey wrote:

> From Mary Shelly to those bad 1950s anti-science sci-fi
> films to today's human cloning debate, there is a common thread of
> sentiment _against_ Man having the audacity to usurp the role of the Old
> Testament God; to presume to create life in any form. Once Man has done
> so, a second problem arises--the nature of the created life.

The cloning analogy might be a good one.  Catholics and others who object
to cloning generally do so not because they fear that clones would not be
fully human.  Just the opposite, it is because a human clone would be a
fully human person that it is a crime to bring him/her into existence
deprived of the natural biological conection to a mother and father.

It is because man will inevitably create life for his own use, as a tool
for achieving his own ends rather than receiving it as a gift that
usurping the role of the Creator is wrong.  The wrong done in creating the
chems is not that they are not persons (if they weren't, then there would
be no problem).  The problem is that persons were created and used as

> >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?
> Yes, yes (sort of), and, it depends. Every killer on Death Row can give
> you _some_ nature or nurture reason for being there, and some of those
> reasons may be good ones. But that sort of thing can't be tolerated, by
> and large.

My point is that just as we hold people responsible for cruelty, even if
they are predisposed to it by nature and nurture, we might hold Sand
responsible for his callousness and not excuse it because of his
programming.  If we can't condemn Sand for his sins, then we can't admire
Marble for her acts of love and sacrifice (which I think Wolfe wants us to

> >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?
> Of course not, but I don't think Wolfe intended the bio vs. chem issue to
> be read as one of race. Blacks and whites can and do interbreed; chems and
> bios can't.

What I mean is that cataloguing the prejudices of the characters in the
story is not sufficient evidence that Wolfe does not regard the chems as
fully persons.

> When they became something more, Wolfe used them to explore the
> relationship of Man to God. But just as Man is not God, chems are not men,
> and neither creation will ever equal, much less supplant, their Creator.

I think this disregards the radical incomensurability between God and the
creation in most Christian philosophy.  No matter how much tinkering Man
does, bios and chems are equally part of God's creation.  There can never
be an x for which God:Man = Man:x.  In this sense, a chem person is no
more a creation of Man than a test tube baby.

Regarding the Asimov story:

> I haven't read the story but, based on mantis's synopsis, that girl did
> the right thing. Lest that robot "become like one of us". 

That may be the crux of our disagreement.  Killing the robot might have
been "right" in the sense of "looking out for our interests,"  possibly
even "right" in the sense that a time traveller murdering the baby Hitler
would be "right" (although, if I recall the story correctly, I don't think
Susan has enough information to be sure a robot uprising would mean war
and death for humans), but it is not "right" because robots as Man's
"creation" could never have the moral status of humans.



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