Enter your email address to receive updates by email:

subscribe in a reader like my facebook page follow me on twitter Image Map
Podcast Message Line: 512-222-3389
Logos Catholic Bible Software

« What If . . . | Main | Torture Day »

November 24, 2006

Comments

SDG

Uh . . . I think you mean our non-collective front doors. :-)

I had to read this three times before I got it. Non-collective! Ha ha.

Of course, one would want to protect individual members of the species who are not aggressors (e.g., Athena and 7 of 9), but the mass elimination of aggressors, even when the aggressors form a single species or meta-species, would be legitimate in principle.

Yes; having said that, granted the legitimacy of the principle of mass elimination of aggressors, the legitimacy of this type of defense would not be contingent on being able to protect individual members of the species who are not aggressors, within the bounds of the principle of double effect.

If the only way to protect the human race against a xenocidal alien attacker is to wipe out the attacking forces, even though in the process individual members who are not hostile may also be wiped out, it is still legitimate to do so. (Of course if we could protect the non-hostile individuals, we would be obligated to do so.)

This is completely different from nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were essentially mass exterminations of civilian populations aimed at coercing the Japanese government to surrender -- arguably, terrorism with weapons of mass destruction.

Piper

Dude, from what I've seen of the show, the universe might be better off with the Cylons in control than with those particular humans in control.

SDG

Dude, from what I've seen of the show, the universe might be better off with the Cylons in control than with those particular humans in control.

"In control" of what? The human remnant is hardly in a position to be "controlling" anything.

Besides, we aren't talking about a universe populated with lots of cute helpless alien species to be dominated either by humans or by Cylons. We're talking about a universe in which there are humans trying to survive, barely, and Cylons trying to exterminate them.

Just how is the universe going to be better off with all the humans dead?

Anyway, even the Cylons don't think that God is on their side. God doesn't take sides. All he wants is your love.

James Maliszewski

I have a hard time imagining how the Cylons could possibly have rational souls. They're the creations of human beings, not of God. This is not in dispute; even the Cylons acknowledge this. So, unless when is willing to posit either that a) creatures of non-divine origin may "grow" souls or b) that God may choose to invest creatures he did not create with souls, I don't see how the Cylons could possibly possess them.

Saying the Cylons aren't ensouled isn't the same thing as saying they're not intelligent. Clearly the Cylons are very intelligent, perhaps even moreso than humanity. Intelligence, though, doesn't require a rational soul. Many higher animals are very intelligent but they lack rational souls. The Cylons are thus no different than chimpanzees or dolphins -- very smart but ultimately "lesser" creations. Indeed, Cylons are even beneath chimps and dolphins to my mind because they have no divine origin at all, being works of man no different than (forgive the joke) toasters.

Publius

I'm not a Galactica watcher, but aren't the human-form Cylons virtually indistinguishable from normal humans inside and out (since they can even procreate with humans)? Wouldn't that give them the presumption of having a rational soul just as with a heavily genetically-engineered human (even to the point of being unrecognizable, like the Asgard in Stargate)?

James Maliszewski

The ability of two individuals to procreate is one possible definition of a species, except of course there are exceptions (like horses and donkeys and lions and tigers) in the real world. Given that, I'm not sure that that in itself would say much about the Cylons' "ensouled-ness." The same goes, I think, with their physical similarities to human beings.

For me, it all boils down to this question: if the Cylons have souls, how did they acquire them? Man may be made in the image and likeness of God, the divine Creator, but I'm not willing to say that we're capable of producing being possessed of rational souls. That means, if the Cylons have souls, they acquired them in some other fashion and I'm honestly not sure what that fashion would be. I am open to convincing, though.

Publius

Would a clone have a soul? It is, after all, created by man, not pro-created.

James Maliszewski

Provided it was a real clone, that is to say, grown from living cells, I'd say so. I think, aside from their origin as works of man, the other thing to bear in mind is that Cylons are synthetic beings. They're machines, not clone. So far as I can tell they're not really biological.

Or at least that's what I presume. The humaniform Cylons' origin post-dates the creation of the Cylon "race," so we don't actually know anything about how they came to be. For all we know, they might in fact be human beings raised in Cylon society and taught to think of themselves as different than other humans.

Kevin Jones

"Intelligence, though, doesn't require a rational soul."

Could somebody clarify this point for me? If I once knew the distinctions of Thomistic philosophy, I've since forgotten them.

Publius

Wouldn't human-form Cylons count as biological since they a) are indistinguishable from humans inside and out and b) can interbreed with humans?

Publius

Or virtually indistinguishable. Again, I only know BG from what I've read online.

Publius

Here's another question: if we could figure out how to make clones without directly using human biomatter—say by manipulating monkey cells until they were identical to human cells—would the result have a rational soul? Let's say it looked human, felt human, had human intelligence, and there was no way, or virtually no way, to tell that it came from radically altered monkey cells. Could we morally use it as a slave or "beast" of burden as we might use a horse? Could we kill it with a clear conscience? Would it have rights?

James Maliszewski

Could somebody clarify this point for me? If I once knew the distinctions of Thomistic philosophy, I've since forgotten them.

Following Aristotle, Aquinas posits three types of souls: vegetative, sensitive, and rational. The vegetative soul exists in creatures that grow, eat, and reproduce. The sensitive soul exists in creatures that possess sensory knowledge and desires. The rational soul exists in creatures that understand and possess free will. The rational soul also differs from the previous two in that it is created directly by God and is immortal.

I'm not certain that Thomistic distinctions are relevant here, although I don't mind using them. My point was only that an animal (or android) might be "intelligent" in some equivocal sense, but that isn't the same as possessing a rational soul. Unless the principle of their intelligence were created directly by God at conception and survives death, then they don't possess a rational soul.

Again, I'm not sure the Cylons qualify on these grounds, particularly since they can "resurrect" after death by transferring their memories and personality into a new body. Since this is achieved by technology of some sort, their putative "soul" would seem to be software of some kind and operates according to materialist principles.

Ahi se ve la altura de este hombre.
Habla de gente vestido como demonios.

Randolph Carter

Now I think we should keep in mind that "Battlestar Galactica" *is* just a television show, and not real. It is a work of fiction, and works of fiction, especially those set in an alternate universe, can follow their own internal logic, different from that of our own universe. Thus, in the "Battlestar" universe, we may well be able to assume that robots can suddenly become self-aware, with souls and whatnot. This may not be possible in real-life, but we can suspend our disbelief for the purposes of watching the show. We may not believe that machines can suddenly become sentient, any more than we believe that Hercules was a demigod or that the Durandal was actually indestructible, but it doesn't stop us from reading and enjoying those old stories. Likewise,

Now, all that doesn't stop me from loathing and despising "Battlestar Galactica" as perhaps the most overrated clod of excrement to ever float to the top of the toilet bowl of popular-culture. I don't despise this show because of its self-aware robots; I despise it because it is, to the best of my reason, a poorly crafted soap-opera in space, and a waste of our precious videotape resources! We need that videotape to live! :)

Publius

Now I think we should keep in mind that "Battlestar Galactica" *is* just a television show, and not real.

You're absolutely right! It's time to move on to more important things. Like whether Will Riker and his transporter twin both have souls. And how they are going to reconcile the new episode of Star Trek New Voyages with the canon (perhaps that one needs its own spoiler thread).

Some Day

If aliens ever appear, just pull out the Holy Water and Rosaries.
Demons don't like them.

SDG

a waste of our precious videotape resources! We need that videotape to live! :)

Now, there's an unpleasant blast from the past. From big clunky mechanical boxes with stupid spooling magnetic tape, from tracking problems, steadily degrading images, and monotrack sound, Good Lord, deliver us.

Randolph Carter

You're absolutely right! It's time to move on to more important things. Like whether Will Riker and his transporter twin both have souls. And how they are going to reconcile the new episode of Star Trek New Voyages with the canon (perhaps that one needs its own spoiler thread).<\i>

Yes, exactly! Exactly correct! What we need to do now is start a research initiative to figure out a rational explanation for how the Enterprise in Startrek V could get to the centre of the galaxy so expeditiously, but why the Voyager, a much newer and supposedly better ship, takes so long to cross over a few galactic quadrants! Better yet, why don't we research why Voyager was so awful? or why shows kept coming out with "Gene Roddenberry's" tacked on before their names long after Gene Roddenberry had died? Still, I must wonder; what, exactly, do Rodden Berries taste like? Black berries? Smurf berries? Chicken? I'm sure we could get a federal grant to research these and other Startrek-related perplexing mysteries, all of which lie at the heart of the human condition and the answers of which are necessary to our human survival.

Publius

Italics off.

Mary

Since "created by God" and "survives death" are not visible, we would probably have to go by another criterion, say, "evinces a conscience." If you catch a creature doing something, or refraining from something, because it is right, you probably have to go by the assumption that it has a rational soul.

Might be hard to judge, but it might be possible.

JC

As far as the practicality of this debate goes, one decade's science fiction is the next decade's scientific fact. But this is actually closer to our real situation than we might think.
I don't know the new Galactica, but the Borg are nto really a "species of aggressors" so much as a species that ensists entirely of slaves to one common mind. Eliminate the Queen/Hive Mind, and you will have millions of "aggressors" who return to being mild-mannered citizens.

same with WWII Japan, Vietnam or present-day War on Terror: fighting against an "entire society," in which each member is a potential aggressor. However, that state comes from the fact that the members of the society live under constant pressure and bullying from the aggressive leaders, such that their lives are threatened if they don't participate. Eliminate the system where tehy live in that compulsion, and they will go back to being mild-mannered citizens.

In most cases where people think genocide (or even warfare) is morally justified, I think strategic assassination would be a more ethical route.

Sunny in Cali

Has any one seen the first episode and every single one since it started?
I try that but never happens.

Rhys

This is why the Sixth Doctor was perfectly justified in destroying all of the Vervoids.

I. Shawn McElhinney

In real life, some argued during World War II that the entire population of Japan was functioning as combatants and so we could nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is not tenable, given human nature

When dealing with a conscripted population, the dynamic of the situation is different than when dealing with unconscripted civilians. When that is taken into account along with a plethora of other factors{1} that are glossed over in simplistic fashion by not a few "apologist" sorts, what is rashly presumed to be "untenable" becomes quite tenable indeed.

Too bad you had to ruin a really good sci-fi post with that attempted fast one.


Note:

{1} Threads on the Atomic Bomb Droppings, Military and Statistical Calculations, the Moral and Ethical Aspects of the Subject Matter in Question, Etc.


Ampleforth

Of course, one would want to protect individual members of the species who are not aggressors (e.g., Athena and 7 of 9)

Don't forget Hugh!

Greg Mockeridge

In real life, some argued during World War II that the entire population of Japan was functioning as combatants and so we could nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is not tenable, given human nature...

What do you mean by "[t]his is not tenable, given human nature..."? The Imperial Japanese had conscripted every male from ages 15 to 60 and females ages 17 to 45. Even small children were trained to act as "Sherman's Carpets" meaning they were to strap explosives to themselves and roll under Allied tanks.

Furthermore, given the fanaticism of the civilian populace, they were more than willing to go along with this. Remember, we are talking about people who believed their ruler (i.e the Emperor) was divine. What took place on Okinawa and Saipan bore this out in horrific detail where civlians fought alongside Japanese troops, proved that this was no mere theoretical possibility. This was a strong probability given the fact that the populace would have fought harder to defend the mainland than those on the other islands. So, your unsubstantiated assertion that given human nature, such mass militarization is "not tenable" is itself untenable.

The alternatives (an invasion or blockade) to the atomic bombs would have costed more lives not just on the American side (MacArthur, who was staunchly opposed to the atomic bomb drops estimated the American casualties at over one million) but even more Japanese deaths. This would have dwarfed those exacted by the atomic bombings at least ten fold.

Jimmy, if you are going to publicly take a position on the atomic bomb drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you would do well to make some actual arguments buttressing your views as opposed to a passing comment hidden with a Sci-Fi post.


Some Day

Did you know that the two A-bombs were dropped on the two most Catholic cities of Japan?

I think that was on purpose.

Not a pacifist

Even small children were trained to act as "Sherman's Carpets" meaning they were to strap explosives to themselves and roll under Allied tanks.

They are still innocent -- they were trained; they did not exercise their rational will and choose to do the attack. They were victims.

SDG

Were Hiroshima and Nagasaki obliterated for tactical reasons, as strategic military targets?

Or were they obliterated as an exercise of raw annihilative power, with the implicit threat "We will keep doing this to your civilian population until you surrender"?

The argument "More people would have died without the bomb" carries the day only from a proportionalist or consequentialist POV, which is inadequate from a Catholic moral perspective.

Tim J.

And there was also the possibility of a complete blockade of Japan, which was already mostly in place. After VE day, Japan had no allies that could have prevented it. The island could have been totally isolated.

It would still have resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent Japanese, but this would have been an indirect result, rather than a direct action, so it would be morally preferable to The Bomb, IMHO. It would also have been preferable to an invasion of Japan, which would have been unimaginably horrific.

There are indications that a surrender of Japan might have been negotiated.

Nihil

You know, there is a reason I still semi-regularly read your blog, even though I'm not Catholic, I'm not Christian, I don't believe in any god, don't watch Battlestar Galactica, and do not even own a cowboy hat.

The reason being that these kind of posts are the quintessence of awesomeness.

Jimmy Akin

Thanks! I aim to serve.

Monica

Nihil, we're glad you like our Jimmy! we like him too.

Jimmy Akin

Shawn & Greg:

I know that y'all have a burr under your saddle on the subject of the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but you really need to keep perspective on matters.

The above post is not *about* what the U.S. did in WWII. It is *about* whether you could kill all Cylons and similar fictional races that consist entirely or almost entirely of aggressors.

In such a context, it is worth pointing out the difference between human nature--which includes significant amounts of free will--and the nature of these fictional aggressor races, which either clearly do not have free will (the individual Borg) or which are expressly spoken of as being "programmed" (Cylons).

The fact that the Japanese--unlike the Borg and the Cylons--had free will means that one cannot simply rely on the idea that "they all count as aggressors" and exterminate them en masse. You'd have to *show* that they were all aggressors, which is dubious in view of the fact that different human use their free will in different ways.

In a post *about* killing fictional races that do not have human freedom of will, it is entirely appropriate for me to make passing mention of this difference and to state what is, in fact, the dominant opinion among Catholic thinkers about the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This is not "attempting a fast one." The mention must be brief because of the nature of the post. I am not obligated, just because I known that some Hiroshima-defenders out there, to slam on the brakes and conduct an extended discourse on the moral illegitimacy of the indiscriminate killing of Japanese people.

The burden is on defenders of the nuking to prove that it was morally legitimate to indiscriminately kill Japanese people--particularly given what the Catechism says on the subject of indiscriminate killing in wartime.

And, let me point out, this combox is not the proper place for that discussion. This thread is about killing Cylons and Borg and is not going to be become an extended discussion of a passing reference in the post. Passing discussions of passing references are fine, but I've seen the extraordinarily prolix and intemperate discussions of this subject that have happened elsewhere and do not intend to host such a discussion here.

Mary

They are still innocent -- they were trained; they did not exercise their rational will and choose to do the attack.

If they were over the age of reason, "they were trained" is not absolution.

And if they were under -- you can kill a homicidal maniac in self-defense, even if his insanity means he is unaware of the nature of what he is doing.

SDG

Mary is right: You can shoot a six-year-old carrying a bomb, even though s/he is innocent, in self-defense. The principle of double effect applies.

OTOH, obliterating civilian populations, not as tactical military targets, but as exercises in annihilative power, in order to coerce a surrender, is morally unacceptable. The principle of double effect does not apply.

One, I think we need to get a statement from the Church as to the status of these Cylons and Borg inre: whether they are life forms with an inherent right to dignity as creatures of God... i.e. do they have souls, do they go to Heaven or Hell? I mean, what are we dealing with here...beings or pots and pans?

Secondly, based on the little I know from the series, the threat of extinction to humans certainly allows us under the Just War doctrine to protect ourselves, up to and including killing the scroundels where they stand or move or warp...whatever. Genocide, however, could not be morally tolerated as it is an unjust act committed against an entire genus of beings and therefore morally repugnant.

MM from Brooklyn

The question of the ensoulment of created artificial beings has not, to my knowledge, been taken up by the Vatican. Granted, I've only seen the first season, but it seems like the Cylons are portrayed as almost more spiritual than the human beings that created them. I think the basic moral principle holds that one must give the benefit of the doubt to the idea that they have intrinsic moral status and cannot be wiped out indiscriminately. If every Cylon is programmed to be agressive to humans, however, I say blast every one of them into thousand pieces. Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out.

I. Shawn McElhinney

SDB:

I would suggest familiarizing yourself themselves with the factors involved with double effect methodology before making such unsubstantiated assertions as you have made. As double effect is not a subject that any of the mainstream apologetics organizations have correctly explained, I do not fault most people for failing to properly understand it.

The main distinction that is not made (and needs to be) is that double effect is a moral/ethical principle which by its very nature is non-normative in nature but virtually no one who discusses it keeps that in mind.

I. Shawn McElhinney

Jimmy:

To respect your wishes, I decided to respond elsewhere and merely post the link here. Please reflect upon what I note in that thread as something very serious and which needs to be taken seriously by those who have an interest in Catholic apologetics not continuing down the unfortunate path that it has gone for quite some time now.

The comments to this entry are closed.

January 2012

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31