Sunday, May 14, 2006

More interesting questions

Exploring ideas raised in a post below, here are some questions from Corkscrew, and quick responses.
OK, so I create an intelligent species of "Corkies" in a universe I've created, and I explain to them that I've created them, I have a right to expect they should acknowledge me as creator. A couple of questions:

1) Why? How does this "right" arise?

I'm not sure that "right" is the right word; I think it's more that this is inherent in the relationship. Probably the closest intuitively analogical relationship in "real life" is between parents and offspring. A denial of that relationship - either from the children to the parents, or the other way round - is incredibly painful, in human terms. And in any case (my wife says, kibbitzing) the relationship exists, whether it is acknowledged or not.

2) What about the 50:50 cases where I only create a proportion of each Corky, and import premade matter to complete the job? To what extent does this taint my intellectual property rights?
Don't know - depends where you got it from, and what bits. Again, thinking about parents and children, children develop their own personalities over the course of time. But that doesn't deny the role of the parent.

3) What else am I allowed to do to the Corkies? Can I:
a) Insist that they obey me in all things
b) Kill them
c) Torture them
d) Encourage them to abuse each other

Hmm, loaded questions, but in the context of this discussion, I'm not sure that they are sufficiently specific. If you create something genuinely free, then you can hardly expect that it will always choose to obey you in all things.* What do you mean by "kill them"? Is it killing a computer program to switch it off when it is running satisfactorily?** What do you mean by "torture them"? Do you mean that you might make something and then treat it in a way that is deliberately against its nature? I think that's about the best way of expressing it in a "creator/creature" relationship. That would strike me as a very odd reason to create something. What do you mean by "abuse each other"? Is that like the things you are talking about doing under the "torturing" heading, but to one another? I think you need more clarity in this question.

4) Are there any circumstances under which I could be considered to have forfeited my rights? For example, if I failed to make it clear to the Corkies that I had created them, would I still be justified in smiting them for not believing?
I think ... if you behaved inconsistently. The White Witch says that if she doesn't have the traitor's blood, then Narnia will be overturned. This sort of thinking - that God/creator is constrained to act in a way that is consistent with himself - seems to underlie a lot of theology. "If God is omnipotent, then can he make something that will destroy him?" Answer: no, because that would not be consistent with his nature. It's a bit like the post-modern problem - the only way that God can exist for one person but not exist for another is (ultimately) if you take away all meaning in language, which is going to make communication impossible. To get postmodernism to work, you have to dismantle the whole universe.

In other words, I think that logic and meaning have to work and apply to the creator, and if not, then the creator forfeits the right to expect a response from his creatures.

I think this applies to God's goodness as well. If God is good, then it would be inconsistent if he were to ignore evil. For God to ignore sin (behaviour that isn't consistent with his own nature) when he oversees the whole universe would be for him to be inconsistent with his own nature, and I think would destroy logic and meaning in the universe.
5) How many of the above questions did you answer by thinking "well, God's done this so it must be OK" rather than actually mulling over the ethical implications? That's the easiest question, but since you know what I would answer, I won't bother. However, it should be pointed out that your choice of language ("smiting", "believing") was hardly religiously unloaded!!

*... and in fact, God didn't. Adam and Eve chose not to obey God, and the rest of humanity followed. God didn't insist that they obeyed him. How can God:
a) allow humans the freedom to do things that are wrong
b) not destroy them and
c) be consistent with his own nature by not ignoring sin?

** Incidentally, if by "killing them" you mean "wiping out all trace of them", you aren't reflecting what the Bible says about humans. It argues that there is an eternal part of us - so if we die - if "God kills us" - the eternal part of us isn't lost.