Superior Beings

  1. If a superior being is as advanced compared to us as we are to a fruit fly, would there be any immorality if that being swatted us like a bunch of fruit flies?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Good question.

    I might add the following: would there be any immorality is those same beings collected the entire population of humans and kept them herded in order to process them in the most efficient manner?

    My answer is "yes" on all counts.

    -Ray.
     
  4. Absolutly Correct...
     
  5. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
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    I think it's safe to assume that fruit flies are not sentient beings and certainly that they don't have any moral concepts. I suppose if the superior beings thought the same thing of us, then it would be difficult to assign a negative moral worth to their actions. But if they knew what they were doing, that's another matter entirely.
     
  6. StatusX

    StatusX 2,567
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    Of course, if any being swatted us like flies, we would consider it immoral. And likewise, if we ever advanced to such a point and found a civilization similar to 21st century humans, we would consider it immoral to treat them in such a manner. Beyond this there isn't much to be said. There is no absolute morality, only what we as a species agree on. It's likely any intelligent civilization would need to have some concept akin to our morality to have survived through its advancement, but whether it's anything like ours and whether it would extend to empathizing with species besides their own, as ours does, is impossible to say.
     
  7. The question is whether sentience is essentially relative or essentially absolute. A fruit fly is worth much less than a human being because it is capable of far less, mentally. We as human beings have described some necessary traits for sentience so that animals less intelligent than us are excluded, and we are included. So the ideas of morality we base on this idea of sentience are necessarily somewhat biased.

    A truly superior being would have many more mental abilities than us, and might have a new idea of "sentience"--that is, a new idea of personal worth based on mental activity--than us. And so it might not be immoral from his enlightened perspective to swat us like flies, in full understanding; compared to him our lives would be without value.

    If flies could formulate rudimentary opinions about the world (which they can't), they might have an idea of "sentience" that includes stimulus-response and not consider higher thought necessary for a life to have intrinsic worth. Similarly, a truly superior being might have some tremendous quality x and we humans do not consider x to be necessary for life to be worth saving, whereas the truly superior being, who possesses it, does.
     
  8. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
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    You can say that moral worth is a relative concept, but I don't think sentience is. It seems pretty clearly defined as the ability to experience. This may very well be simply a very complex and refined system of stimulus/response, but it is hardly an arbitrary distinction. Making sentience a signpost for morality is arbitrary, on the other hand.
     
  9. A fruit fly is only less sentient than we are--has less ability to experience than we do--by only a matter of degree. Picking our own particular level of ability to experience as the only important one is just self-serving.
     
  10. I don't see how sentinence could be relative.
    Neanderthals definitly had less mental power then us, but we agree they were sentinent beings. So we did not pick our level of abiltly as the benchmark.
     
  11. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
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    What exactly makes you think that? How much knowledge of the insect nervous system do you have? They don't even have brains.
     
  12. learningphysics

    learningphysics 4,123
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    I'm no expert on insects or fruitflies, but here's an interesting article on the subject:

    http://www.animalsentience.com/news/2004-02-14.htm
     
  13. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
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    Did you read this article? The content isn't what the title suggests. All it says is that the neurons in the cerebral ganglion of fruit flies fire in synch when focused on a single visual image. I wouldn't even refer to this ganglion as a brain, technically. I don't know about the fruit fly, but insects I've studied personally (as a student, strictly - I'm not an entomologist) have multiple ganglia, and the ganglion used to process visual information isn't even necessarily the same ganglion used to process tactile information. There is a huge difference between showing a coordinated response to visual stimuli and feeling pain.

    Next time I'd use a less biased and more trustworthy source, too. The Compassion in World Farming Trust may not be the greatest expert when it comes to insect physiology. They didn't even give any citations for this article. What studies were they even referring to and what were the conclusions drawn by the scientists that actually performed these studies?
     
  14. learningphysics

    learningphysics 4,123
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    But nobody in this thread was ever talking about pain, but about sentience (the ability to experience).

    What can be taken as evidence that something is having an experience?

    Ok.
     
  15. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
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    True, but if a given being experiences visual sensations but not pain, the discussion does change a bit.

    To be honest, I don't know. I've listed in the past varying responses to similar stimuli, both between individuals and between individual instances of the stimulus, self-recognition, along with signs of curiosity and any other emotion - all of these are admittedly anthropomorphic signs. It's not like we can just get in the head (or with insects, the cephalus and caudal thorax) and see if any representation of perceptual/emotional states is taking place.
     
  16. Yes, considering we have intellect, strong emotions (such as love and hate), and the ability to use logic as a method of problem solving, as well as many other advanced resources availible to us.
    I would assume that it might be harder for us to go up and kill a chimpanzee rather than a fruit fly.

    If they where a vastely supererior civilization like a, lets say, Type II civ. then I would think they would have strong morals and understand exactly what we are doing here on earth. I couldn't imagine a civ. like that, so advanced in their years just comming up to the beutiful earth watch us do business, farm, learn, and then just go off and kill us. It would be like looking at a beutiful rare painting, and just ripping it to shreads.
    _____________________________________
    In seeking wisdom thou art wise; in imagining that thou hast attained it - thou art a fool.
    Lord Chesterfield
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2005
  17. Well, PSR, flies have wonderful and beautiful organ systems, working in perfect and fragile harmony to enable flies to do what they do. They are marvels. We recognize this... and yet, if a fly bothers us, we swat it without a second thought. A type II civilization might feel the same way towards us.
     
  18. learningphysics

    learningphysics 4,123
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    Are there 0 traces of these anthropmorphic signs in insects?

    An alien species may portray much greater signs of self-recognition, curiosity etc...

    Wouldn't that other species look at us and see beings that aren't having experiences... how is the way they would view us, different from the way we view flies?
     
  19. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
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    There are pretty much no signs of these indicators outside of mammals and birds.

    Even if they showed greater degrees of these signs, they should be able to recognize the same signs in us to a lesser degree. Unless their perceptual capacities are less advanced than our own, there is no reason to think that any species more mentally advanced than us would not recognize our rather obvious sentience. What I can see, however, is this more advanced species having different moral concepts than ours, and not basing the moral worth of an action on the experience of the subject being acted upon. In that case, they may very well not care that what they do hurts and even kills us.
     
  20. If a god transforms a human being into a fly, atom by atom, at what point does the "human quality of awareness" suddenly disappear? Everything is a continuum.
     
  21. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
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    So you think if a god transformed a human being into a rock atom by atom that the "human quality of awareness" would remain intact throughout? I don't know the boundary condition, but I'm pretty sure there is one. I'm pretty sure that rocks are not sentient.
     
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