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AR Philosophy > Morality of AR > Speciesism - Index

Intelligent Beings Enter our Gallaxy

WHO ARE THEY?
They appear to be hominids, but they are clearly superior in their technology and in their intelligence (they never forget anything and can mentally beat our computers in calculating figures). They even have unique capabilities (e.g., they have ESP powers). With their technology, they are vastly more powerful than human beings. One might even suggest that they are "superior" to us "puny earthlings" (to quote a phrase used in some video games).

WHAT DO THEY WANT?
Now, many centuries ago they despoiled their planet with pollution and overpopulation. Those problems were long ago solved but they now have no "animal" life on their planet other than themselves. Noting that there are plenty of us on this crowded planet, that we are clever little critters and that we even share some similarity in our physiological functions, they have become interested in "using" us as a planetary resource, and therefore have considered that maybe they should be permitted to "sport" hunt us for their enjoyment, "farm" us for food, and do medical experiments to advance their own medical knowledge

IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE
In the name of fair play, "kindness", or some sense of alien justice, however, they propose to do no more to us than what we are doing to our game, farm and lab animals. Many hundreds of millions of humans will therefore be randomly chosen each year and wrenched from their homes and families to be guinea pigs for their experiments, some very painful and some lasting for years. In the name of "conservation" other humans will be culled by Centaurian sport hunters. And many other human beings will simply be gathered up and factory farmed for a short period in order to fatten them further. With respect to those chosen for medical experiments, at the end of the experiment, if one should survive, one will be used for another experiment and finally at some point one will, of course, be killed and dissected. This is exactly what we do to animals in our labs, and the Alpha Centaurians promise to do no worse. This, of course, seems like little comfort.

A SECOND CHANCE
Now, out of some alien sense of compassion they have, however, given us a chance to be exempt from such treatments as we inflict upon our own planet's non-human animals, but ONLY IF we can convince them with rational argument that it is ethically wrong to use us in this way.

THE CHALLENGE
As a representative of the human race your task is to try to make a case for humans to be exempt from becoming their "livestock", "game", and "research tools". Does anyone care to make the case for why the Alpha Centaurians should NOT experiment upon human beings? Don't be timid, after all, the lives of many humans, and possibly your own, will depend upon your effort to convince these aliens not to do what they have proposed. Remember, it is the case that the Centaurians are vastly superior to us humans in terms of their inherent intelligence and possess certain capacities that we lack and find incomprehensible (e.g.,telepathy). Finally, it turns out that they, like us, are herbivores and do not really have to eat meat to feed themselves or even their pets.

WHAT IS THE POINT?
Let me point out that this scenario about the Alpha Centaurians is called a "thought experiment" (`Gedankenexperiment'). Einstein, for example, engaged in such imaginary scenarios in his theoretical development of relativity theory and contemporary philosophers often use such thought experiments in analyzing certain issues. The purpose of such thought experiments is to help us unearth and examine what might be some unexamined assumptions and possible implications of what we may believe. With the situation at hand, we are challenged to reflect upon behind our acceptance of how we treat other sentient animals besides ourselves.

I would hope that some people might think through this experiment for the intellectual fun of the exercise. Permit me to just point out the obvious. A common excuse that often is invoked is simply that we humans are in some important respects "superior" or qualitatively different to other animals in a manner that is crucially relevant for how we might exclude them from our circle of concern and compassion. Well, would we still use this as a justification if we in turn were faced with a Being "superior" or more "powerful" to ourselves? If you say yes, well at least that is consistent, but who are we fooling as to what you would really say if faced with such a situation? If you declare "no, the Centaurians have no right to treat us that way", then what would be a good justification for our current practice of how we in turn treat our fellow animals. What must be produced is a rational justification that condones our current practice while at the same time prevents the Alpha Centaurians from doing the same to us.

by Ted Altar


SOME PAST RESPONSES TO THE THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

rigg@osnome.che.wisc.edu (Tim Rigg) writes:

Now, this was initially puzzling but an obvious solution exists. Since we have advanced reasoning ability and intelligence, we can discuss and debate the issue with the aliens. An animal that relies primarily on instinct could not perform such a feat. This demonstrates that the human/nonhuman animal difference is much larger and more significant than the alien/human difference. This alone should save us.

Such hubris from a puny Earthling! We Alpha Centurians in our reasoning and intelligence are as advanced over you as you are over a field mouse! And just as "animals are not people", don't forget that "humans are not Alpha Centaurians". Is there some critical threshold of intelligence and reason, which if you surpass you now qualify for Alpha Centaurian consideration? Tell me, puny Earthling, even if we accept that you qualify what about your less capable brethren? The IQ of some brain damaged humans fails to exceed even the IQ of a bird, who can at least feed and take care of itself.

If it doesn't, we humans have cunning and intelligence to fight the aliens. Since they are vastly superior, we wouldn't win a head to head confrontation. However, we could seek and discover a chink in their armor and cause them significant losses if not defeat them. Since there is no possibility of deer organizing and mounting a combined offensive against humans, this also demonstrates a key difference between nonhuman animals, humans and aliens.

You dare threaten us! Well, we shall grant that you are indeed the most threatening animal on this planet. At one time you feared the seas because of sea monsters, but you overcame such threats and now all sea monsters are your prey. Well, we have no such fear of sea monsters nor of you, so go ahead and try our patience. An `argumentum ad baculum' does not wash for either of our common interstellar standards of reason.

So the deer can't organize a combined offensive and you can. Indeed, that does make you the most dangerous. And what have you done with this ability to become so dominant? Apparently, you have merely used it to satisfy your self-interest. Well, by the same token why should we constrain our self-interest when you have not?

Of course you are different than other animals but so is each species unique. Tell me, by what Earthling logic is your particular difference of moral relevance? If anything, your cunning and proven treachery suggests that you cannot be trusted; we are better off to trust the deer that you kill.

These examples illustrate that there are two "levels" of consciousness. Nonhuman animals are on one level. Humans and aliens are on another. So it would be wrong for aliens to "utilize" humans for the same reason it is wrong for humans to "utilize" other humans. Since we don't conduct experiments without human permission, the aliens can't perform experiments without ours.

We only see a difference in degree, not in kind. But even if we agree that you are relevantly different, you presume too much to think that you and we are of the same kind. There are some of us, who by a mere thought could wipe out your planet. I'm sure that this must seem as formidable to you as your organized cunning and technology is to the deer. To feed your overbearing hubris, let us say that there are 3 levels of "intelligence". Now, tell me why any "lower intelligence" cannot be exploited by the higher, that we cannot justifiable exploit you as you exploit the "lower intelligences" in turn? Are double standards something species-specific to you puny earthlings?

 Using humans to benefit their race would be as justifiable as our use of animals to benefit ours. In my mind, 1 human is worth the life of some large number of rats. If they are as far above us as we are above rats, then let 'em use us.

OK, that warrants their use of us for experiments. What about their non-necessary appetite for human flesh or their off-hours entertainment of sports hunting? Incidentally, they might even use bows, for the challenge, but given their protective suits and their ability to disable all our machines from a distance, all our puny weapons have been rendered useless.


cmort@NCoast.ORG (Christopher Morton) writes:

They can believe whatever they want. They'd just better ONLY travel in groups. They'd also better watch what they eat, what they touch and where they sit. And above all, they'd better develop the ability to smell Vigoro sensitized with diesel fuel, and watch out for cars left unattended near important places.

Such puny posturings Earthling! Do you fear the horns of deer and cows; do you run from a charging rhino? Without your weapons you take flight. Otherwise, such puny animal defenses are really no match. A minor inconvenience to be sure, but no more. Your Earthling bluster is merely the bark of a poodle. Your kitten claws are a mere tickle to us. Indeed, we can simply declaw you all.

Is this planet so void of rational argument? Are empty threats the best this species can offer?
  
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