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The dilemma of three Crichtons


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#1    Paranoid Android

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 05:52 PM

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a sci-fi fan.  And anyone who loves sci-fi knows that sci-fi works best when it attempts to work out ethical conundrums of the human spirit while using guns and lasers to hide the fact that it's actually saying something intelligent and thought-provoking.  I've just been re-watching an old favourite show of mine called Farscape.  I'm honestly not sure how popular this was outside Australia.  It was an Australian production with an Australian cast (minus the main character, American Ben Browder, who played John Crichton).  For me, it's one of my all-time favourite series (edit: and for those who are Muppets fans, it was partly a Jim Henson production, so those who know that Jane Henson passed away just recently, this is an awesome legacy that the Hensons have left us).  Basic plot - the main character is an astronaut who attempts a new theory of using the gravity of the earth to reach never-before-heard-of speeds.  While in test flight, a wormhole opens that shoots him across the galaxy into an area of space where aliens are the norm and every turn can lead to death.

So, to the question of this topic.  One of the episodes is titled "My Three Crichton's" and the story goes as follows - an alien energy invades the ship of the main characters.  It envelops the main character, John Crichton, and duplicates him twice.  One duplicate is a cromagnon de-evolution, the other is a brainiac who has evolved well past the norms of current human development (hence the title "My three Crichton's").  The duplication was a by-product of the energy field meeting a new species it had never encountered (being from Earth, the other side of the galaxy).  The energy form relates to the crew that it will destroy the ship unless a genetic sample of a human was given (ie, sacrifice the life of one of the three Crichton's).

The obvious answer (and the answer the crew initially comes to) is to offer up the cromagnon Crichton.  He's just a cave man, and his death will save everyone else.  But morality rears its head as the crew slowly decides that being a caveman is not reason enough to condemn a person to death.  In the end, the futuristic evolution of humans decided that if they wouldn't give the caveman version of Crichton then he must give the normal Crichton to save everyone (after all, he's so evolved that to him, the normal Crichton appears to be a caveman-like intelligence).  Ultimately, the caveman Crichton saves normal Crichton's life by turning on futuristic Crichton, killing him, and then picking up its corpse and carrying it into the energy form (thus killing both alternate Crichton's and returning the series to its status quo).

The moral questions here are obvious.  And to be honest, I spent most of the episode yelling (not literally) at the screen and telling them to just give up caveman Crichton and move on.  But it is a moral conundrum, and since this is the place to discuss morality and spirituality within evolved/de-evolved forms of life, I thought I'd see what other people thought of it.  In some ways, caveman Crichton can be seen to be the truly evolved one (as per the story), giving his life so that others could live.  My apologies for the length of this OP, unfortunately it's not a quick matter to explain entire storylines of tv shows :P

Any thoughts are appreciated :)

~ Regards, PA

Edited by Paranoid Android, 11 April 2013 - 05:56 PM.

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#2    Simbi Laveau

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 06:14 PM

I was afraid this was about Michael Crichtons dopplegangers .

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#3    HerNibs

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 06:19 PM

YOTZ I love that show!!

I do agree that the one willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good would be the more evolved.  

IMO evolution doesn't always mean the smartest..


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#4    QuiteContrary

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 06:31 PM

Farscape fan too!
I would think there were never good reasons for choosing one life over another, in general??
That being said it certainly happens and I could see myself making choices if put in certain situations.

-Doesn't our legal system assign a certain variable "value" to lives taken when considering conviction and sentencing?
-A parent choosing their child over another (who to save).
-Choosing a criminal over another for a life-threatening mission. (TV again)
-Choosing a man over a woman to be left on the proverbial "sinking ship".
-Sophie's Choice? Horrible
-Sons over daughters  (financial decision)
We see these in TV/movies a lot. They are sometimes answered for the decision makers due to volunteering of one or self-sacrifice without telling the others.
I remember a Voyager episode where a serial killer member sacrificed himself in dealing with an alien invasion on board the ship. Something like that, anyway.

Are violent criminals considered less evolved?
If love or family or relationship were involved do we not put that first above more cerebral considerations?

Edited by QuiteContrary, 11 April 2013 - 06:35 PM.


#5    Liquid Gardens

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 06:38 PM

Interesting, and thanks for the reference to a sci-fi show that's worth watching that I haven't yet.  My first answer is that they should ask the evolved Crichton what they should do; if he's truly more evolved then he, theoretically, should be able to provide the best case.  But let's assume that evolved Crichton has all the human/moral failings as any other person, and is just more intelligent.  It would seem that sacrificing normal Crichton is not the route to take; since the other two were created from him (I wonder, do the other two have any past memories of a time prior to the duplication?), normal Crichton is the one who 'belongs' in that reality.  

But then it gets sticky I think.  Is it immoral to not do what may be best for the greater good?  Let's say that the evolved one has superior medical skills which would have a greater likelihood of doing good, that would seem to be an argument for his survival.  However I don't know that we can count on the evolved one being any more moral because of his evolution, he may want to just go his own way and have no interest in helping anyone.  What if instead of a caveman Crichton, we had a caveman adolescent Crichton, would it then be the most moral to not sacrifice him as he has more life in front of him?  But then again, if the evolved one lives that may be counter to the spirit of the Prime Directive so... oops, mixing my sci-fi realms there...

Thought provoking stuff, I'll be interested to see what other attributes others think are relevant to this decision.  At first blush, I'm voting for flipping a coin between caveman and the evolved one.

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#6    OverSword

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 07:00 PM

I thought this would be about Kryton from Red Dwarf.  :lol:

I would have assumed that the energy demanding the sacrifice would have been testing us to see how cowardly and craven we were and told it to p***-off.


#7    Paranoid Android

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 07:10 PM

View PostHerNibs, on 11 April 2013 - 06:19 PM, said:

YOTZ I love that show!!

I do agree that the one willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good would be the more evolved.  

IMO evolution doesn't always mean the smartest..


1 mippippi, 2 mippippi, 3 mippippi...


*off to NetFlix*

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View PostQuiteContrary, on 11 April 2013 - 06:31 PM, said:

Farscape fan too!
I remember a Voyager episode where a serial killer member sacrificed himself in dealing with an alien invasion on board the ship. Something like that, anyway.
So it looks like this made it popular beyond the Aussie borders.  I'm glad, I'm definitely a fan of the series.  I can tell you where most of the scenes were shot, they're only about half an hour drive from where I live (but it's at a part of Sydney that not many get to see and so therefore are used to appeal to the wider non-Australian viewers).

As to the Voyager episode, if I recall correctly you are referring to Ensign Suder, a Betazoid who had a natural chemical imbalance in his brain.  He sacrificed himself for the crew when the chemicals in his brain evened out and he was finally able to tell right from wrong.  But nevertheless, that story in itself has "ethics" written all over it - do we condemn a person for their actions if they are not responsible?


View PostLiquid Gardens, on 11 April 2013 - 06:38 PM, said:

Interesting, and thanks for the reference to a sci-fi show that's worth watching that I haven't yet.  My first answer is that they should ask the evolved Crichton what they should do; if he's truly more evolved then he, theoretically, should be able to provide the best case.  But let's assume that evolved Crichton has all the human/moral failings as any other person, and is just more intelligent.  It would seem that sacrificing normal Crichton is not the route to take; since the other two were created from him (I wonder, do the other two have any past memories of a time prior to the duplication?), normal Crichton is the one who 'belongs' in that reality.  

But then it gets sticky I think.  Is it immoral to not do what may be best for the greater good?  Let's say that the evolved one has superior medical skills which would have a greater likelihood of doing good, that would seem to be an argument for his survival.  However I don't know that we can count on the evolved one being any more moral because of his evolution, he may want to just go his own way and have no interest in helping anyone.  What if instead of a caveman Crichton, we had a caveman adolescent Crichton, would it then be the most moral to not sacrifice him as he has more life in front of him?  But then again, if the evolved one lives that may be counter to the spirit of the Prime Directive so... oops, mixing my sci-fi realms there...

Thought provoking stuff, I'll be interested to see what other attributes others think are relevant to this decision.  At first blush, I'm voting for flipping a coin between caveman and the evolved one.
Seriously, it's a few years old now (1999-2003) but it's definitely worth a watch.  As to your comment, the more evolved Crichton seemed to take a literal evolutionist "survival of the fittest" route.  Caveman Crichton was the expendable one, and therefore the logical choice.  When that failed, original Crichton was the next obvious choice, considering the things that futuristic Crichton could do that original Crichton could not.

But as you say, the "greater good" comes into play here.  Hence the reason I was yelling at the screen for half the show thinking the greater good meant getting rid of the caveman.  In some recess of my mind, I'm wondering if my choice would have been the right one, and could I have made it if I was actually in that situation.

Other than that, get yourself a copy of the show.  It is definitely worth it! If you don't mind spoiler details, I can give you a list of episodes that are the "best of the best" to whet the appetite to see whether you may be interested in watching the rest.  What this show does prove is that low-budget Aussies can still make quality sci-fi.  Enjoy, I envy your journey, not having seen it before.  Unfortunately, the show was unexpectedly axed after 4 seasons.  Fortunately, they created a 3-hour mini-movie to end the primary plot lines afterwards.

Edited by Paranoid Android, 11 April 2013 - 07:12 PM.

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#8    White Crane Feather

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 07:32 PM

View PostParanoid Android, on 11 April 2013 - 05:52 PM, said:

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a sci-fi fan.  And anyone who loves sci-fi knows that sci-fi works best when it attempts to work out ethical conundrums of the human spirit while using guns and lasers to hide the fact that it's actually saying something intelligent and thought-provoking.  I've just been re-watching an old favourite show of mine called Farscape.  I'm honestly not sure how popular this was outside Australia.  It was an Australian production with an Australian cast (minus the main character, American Ben Browder, who played John Crichton).  For me, it's one of my all-time favourite series (edit: and for those who are Muppets fans, it was partly a Jim Henson production, so those who know that Jane Henson passed away just recently, this is an awesome legacy that the Hensons have left us).  Basic plot - the main character is an astronaut who attempts a new theory of using the gravity of the earth to reach never-before-heard-of speeds.  While in test flight, a wormhole opens that shoots him across the galaxy into an area of space where aliens are the norm and every turn can lead to death.

So, to the question of this topic.  One of the episodes is titled "My Three Crichton's" and the story goes as follows - an alien energy invades the ship of the main characters.  It envelops the main character, John Crichton, and duplicates him twice.  One duplicate is a cromagnon de-evolution, the other is a brainiac who has evolved well past the norms of current human development (hence the title "My three Crichton's").  The duplication was a by-product of the energy field meeting a new species it had never encountered (being from Earth, the other side of the galaxy).  The energy form relates to the crew that it will destroy the ship unless a genetic sample of a human was given (ie, sacrifice the life of one of the three Crichton's).

The obvious answer (and the answer the crew initially comes to) is to offer up the cromagnon Crichton.  He's just a cave man, and his death will save everyone else.  But morality rears its head as the crew slowly decides that being a caveman is not reason enough to condemn a person to death.  In the end, the futuristic evolution of humans decided that if they wouldn't give the caveman version of Crichton then he must give the normal Crichton to save everyone (after all, he's so evolved that to him, the normal Crichton appears to be a caveman-like intelligence).  Ultimately, the caveman Crichton saves normal Crichton's life by turning on futuristic Crichton, killing him, and then picking up its corpse and carrying it into the energy form (thus killing both alternate Crichton's and returning the series to its status quo).

The moral questions here are obvious.  And to be honest, I spent most of the episode yelling (not literally) at the screen and telling them to just give up caveman Crichton and move on.  But it is a moral conundrum, and since this is the place to discuss morality and spirituality within evolved/de-evolved forms of life, I thought I'd see what other people thought of it.  In some ways, caveman Crichton can be seen to be the truly evolved one (as per the story), giving his life so that others could live.  My apologies for the length of this OP, unfortunately it's not a quick matter to explain entire storylines of tv shows :P

Any thoughts are appreciated :)

~ Regards, PA
An old question. Do the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few? I don't know the answer to this. All I know is that we are responsible for our own choices.

Intense moral dilemmas are tough. I wrote a paper in fifth grade to finish a story in a song about a nazi forcing a man to kill one of his countrymen or he would kill them all. I chose to to shoot the nazi instead, then the crowed of Jews turned on them to protect me. Many more died than needed, but it felt right. We are only responsible for our own choices.

There was a similar moral dilemma in star trek voyager. An episode were the volcan and this other meek alian ( a regular character) were joined after a transporer accident. The new character was a mixture of the two. They found a way to seperate them, but the new character felt that it would be killing who he had become. He pleaded for his life, but I the end they seperated him anyway. Indeed it felt as if they had committed murder just to have their friends back.

Edited by Seeker79, 11 April 2013 - 07:38 PM.

"I wish neither to possess, Nor to be possessed. I no longer covet paradise, more important, I no longer fear hell. The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, But I did not observe it until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light.  Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, Consuming myself. "
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#9    Paranoid Android

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 07:45 PM

View PostSeeker79, on 11 April 2013 - 07:32 PM, said:

An old question. Do the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few? I don't know the answer to this. All I know is that we are responsible for our own choices.

Intense moral dilemmas are tough. I wrote a paper in fifth grade to finish a story in a song about a nazi forcing a man to kill one of his countrymen or he would kill them all. I chose to to shoot the nazi instead, then the crowed of Jews turned on them to protect me. Many more died than needed, but it felt right. We are only responsible for our own choices.

There was a similar moral dilemma in star trek voyager. An episode were the volcan and this other meek alian ( a regular character) wee joins after a transporer accident. The new character was a mixture of the two. They found a way to seoerate them, but the new character felt that it would be killing who he had become. He pleaded for his life, but I the end they seoerate him anyway. Indeed it felt as if they had committed murder just to have their friends back.
Tuvix, definitely another moral conundrum.  As I said, sci-fi works best when it offers moral conundrums and hides it behind special effects.  A similar situation happened in Deep Space 9 when Jadzia Dax was interacting with her past life hosts, and Curzon Dax "melded" with Odo, the result was a completely new life form that was a Trill blending of Curzon and Odo.

As I said, tough decisions.  I don't know what I would do in any of these situations.  But in the John Crichton scenaro, I cannot help but feel that I would sacrifice the caveman for my own security.  Does it make me weak or (dare I say) sinful?  That's really what sci-fi is all about, at the end of the day - to offer us a glimpse into the soul of what it is to be "human".  If sci-fi does not achieve that, it has failed in its mission, in my opinion.

Edited by Paranoid Android, 11 April 2013 - 07:45 PM.

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#10    White Crane Feather

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 08:07 PM

View PostParanoid Android, on 11 April 2013 - 07:45 PM, said:

Tuvix, definitely another moral conundrum.  As I said, sci-fi works best when it offers moral conundrums and hides it behind special effects.  A similar situation happened in Deep Space 9 when Jadzia Dax was interacting with her past life hosts, and Curzon Dax "melded" with Odo, the result was a completely new life form that was a Trill blending of Curzon and Odo.

As I said, tough decisions.  I don't know what I would do in any of these situations.  But in the John Crichton scenaro, I cannot help but feel that I would sacrifice the caveman for my own security.  Does it make me weak or (dare I say) sinful?  That's really what sci-fi is all about, at the end of the day - to offer us a glimpse into the soul of what it is to be "human".  If sci-fi does not achieve that, it has failed in its mission, in my opinion.
I don't think you would pa as soon as you identified the cave man as haveing a soul. The moral of the story even though I have not seen that show was that ultimately it was his choice battling between different aspects of himself. Even though they were separated by special effects... Indeed it was all the main character. just as you struggle with the dilemma so did he in manifestation. Then he killed an aspect of himself and made a choice to save others. It's beautiful actually.

Edited by Seeker79, 11 April 2013 - 08:08 PM.

"I wish neither to possess, Nor to be possessed. I no longer covet paradise, more important, I no longer fear hell. The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, But I did not observe it until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light.  Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, Consuming myself. "
Bruce Lee-

#11    Liquid Gardens

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 08:53 PM

View PostParanoid Android, on 11 April 2013 - 07:10 PM, said:

Other than that, get yourself a copy of the show.  It is definitely worth it! If you don't mind spoiler details, I can give you a list of episodes that are the "best of the best" to whet the appetite to see whether you may be interested in watching the rest.  What this show does prove is that low-budget Aussies can still make quality sci-fi.  Enjoy, I envy your journey, not having seen it before.  Unfortunately, the show was unexpectedly axed after 4 seasons.  Fortunately, they created a 3-hour mini-movie to end the primary plot lines afterwards.

Thanks for the info!  It might be on Netflix streaming and even if it isn't I can rent the DVDs through there, I'm almost positive that's where I've seen the name of this series before.  I do recognize that sci-fi series like this can take a bit to hit their stride; I've always liked Star Trek:TNG but can't even watch the first couple episodes from the first season, just too cheezy.  If you'd like to just give me a list of some of your favorite episodes and what season they are in if you know that'd be great.

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#12    Paranoid Android

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Posted 09 December 2014 - 06:47 AM

Hey all, I remember starting this thread but I don't remember starting watching this series.  It is perhaps something worth discussing in another thread about the power of the human mind.  When this thread was created, my father had passed away only a few months before.  I was also in the middle of selling our ancestral home, sixty years worth of history.  

As said, I don't remember watching the show.  I know I did (this thread is evidence of that) but I don't remember.  

LG, I'll try and provide episode lists, if you like.  Several sources have tried offering the best of Farscape.  I don't remember watching the show that I spoke about a year ago so I can't exactly remember watching the episodes I think you should review.  I'll try and update you when I can..

Hopefully (as a Farscape fan), you haven't watched the show already and fallen in love with it.  If not, then there's always the next time.  

Just to finalise this, I'd like to say one thing that probably sums this post up best - BUMP

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#13    eight bits

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Posted 09 December 2014 - 11:07 AM

PA

(Condolences on the passing of your father. Weird to have this old thread suddenly resurface, and intersting that you now don't remember the epsiode too well.)

It was a good show, and using the Henson studio provided a definitive answer to the often-heard objection to television space operas, "All the aliens look like people in make-up." (Although another answer, in the Star Trek Next Generation series, had grandeur to it.) I will also confess that Farscape was not my favorite, especially its later seasons. Babylon 5 still rocks this hamster.

But I did see the episode. The problems with your "just kill the Cro-Magnon and move on" solution were (1) killing the Cro-Magnon was easier said than done (the only sense in which a phrase like "more or less evolved" makes sense) and (2) Cro-Magnon and modern human are the same species. We have better tailors, which is not much of a reason to kill anybody.

On the ehtical question, I think the international case law of "life boats" is apt. If it is necessary to kill a crew member for the survival of all, then all draw lots. This expresses the idea that there is, finally, no difference among the human claims to fundamental rights. (There is a contrary convention for admission to lifeboats, "women and children first," but refusal of a place on a life boat is not itself a death sentence, as close to that as it sometimes is. Since the lottery is based on case law, and old cases at that,  I don't know whether the "lottery" could exempt children or women, etc. The situation doesn't come up very often.)

There is a second question, which is "What would a 'more evolved' human being be like?" Objectively, we are a young species. We could already be at the "end of the line" in certain areas of development (some species go for eons without any remarkable change). Conversely, our species could simply be replaced by another one at the top-of-all-chains. (I understand that you would have a religious objection to that possibility, what with the Universe having been made expressly for us, etc.)

As to the qualities that would be enhanced in our replacement (whether another species, or an improved version of "us," and assuming that anything does get enhanced), I am unsure intelligence would be a top priority. We think very highly of ourselves, of course, and we couldn't be so self-congratulatory except that intelligence allows us to appreciate how special we are for being so intelligent. But evolution is about survival advantage, and intelligence is a mixed blessing in that department. The jury is still out on its survival value.

Fortunately, we taste bad and smell worse, so we have few natural enemies. (I have walked unmolested in sight of coyotes in threes. There is no suspense who would win a violent encounter, but a coyote would have to be very hungry to take any interest in me. Single coyotes just run away, trying to find some fresh air.) This untastiness gives us enough leisure time to think, and so not to kill ourselves then and there with every intelligent idea we come up with.

Years ago, I dimly recall having had a conversation about Childhood's End. The other person came up with, or maybe had read a review which posed the hypothetical "What if the great apes had grasped the idea of evolutuion, and tried to imagine what 'super ape' would be like?" Presumably, they would have envisioned King Kong, themselves writ large, and never even glimpsed the idea of a puny upright aromatic weakling (who hops in a tractor and with that help topples the tree in which they are having this conversation, and then chips it into sawdust).

In other words, the apes could not fully imagine the trait(s) which they themselves lacked and which, regardless of long-tern survival benefit do, in fact, define "super ape." Oddly, there is some math behind that blind spot in the imagination.

If there were some third reliable "way of knowing" besides deduction and uncertain inference from evidence, and if something called the Church-Turing Thesis is true (which seems to imply that the already known two "ways of knowing" are the only ways of "proving" knowledge) then indeed, it is possible that we "could not fully imagine" what this third way is like, nor, if some being exhibited skill with it, could we "understand" what we were seeing. But, like the apes being rousted by super ape, we would be able to see that whatever it was, it was effective.

Edited by eight bits, 09 December 2014 - 11:12 AM.

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#14    Leonardo

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Posted 09 December 2014 - 11:28 AM

View PostParanoid Android, on 11 April 2013 - 05:52 PM, said:

Any thoughts are appreciated :)

~ Regards, PA

Morality is not necessarily linked to survival, but is the justification we make for the actions we take. Those actions do not have to result in survival.

While some, perhaps many, argue that relative morality is all about the "survival/well-being of the greater good", morality is actually an individual process and only becomes a group phenomenon upon agreement by members of that group - hence it is always an 'individual decision'.

In the case-in-point, your "three Crichton's", we are uninformed as to whether any of the Crichton's are unaware of the consequences of the decision they have to take. My personal moral perspective would be that, if any of those Crichton's (e.g. the 'cro-magnon Crichton') were not aware of their moral responsibility, then it is the moral duty of those with that awareness to take that responsibility upon themselves.

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#15    Sir Smoke aLot

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Posted 09 December 2014 - 11:50 AM

It was fantastic show and i enjoyed it a lot, still watching some episodes from time to time. Chiana is awesome character, Scorpy too :)

To sacrifice you self for saving others, there is nothing of higher value then that.

Correct thing to do... Well, its to leave future and past where they are, episode could not end in better way. No matter what possible positive things there are to be learned from 'future John', it is just not enough, can't be a reason to take a life from a man who lives in his time - compared to past and future versions of John.

Highly recommended show.

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