I would love to see an intellectual discussion concerning the first interaction of human and extraterrestrial culture. There are so many unknowns, and there are so many charlatans making money by claiming to be “in contact” and/or “channeling” “extraterrestrial intelligences” that even the possibility of a serious discussion has been corrupted beyond absurdity.
I’ve been reading both Peter Cave and an old article by Cora Diamond, “Eating Meat and Eating People” on this tricky, emotion laden subject. We are culturally trained to accept certain taboos that put roadblocks in the way of our thinking about certain things, and this is one of those taboos.
If disagree with Stephen Hawking’s latest alarmist pronouncements about the dangers of an E T contact, and instead see such contact as a great way to get to know our ‘space brothers [and sister, too, if indeed such entities has only two genders, who know, but I digress] then we cannot understand what all the concern is about. But the truth is that we have no ideas the ontology of a exo-biological form would be and/or how it would appear to us. For example, they might not use oral or auditory faculties to communicate. They might have evolved a language based directly on light signals and like certain kinds of jelly fish have the capacity to light up in order to express themselves. If so, they might communicate by various and subtle differences in their luminosity. How could we ever begin to translate their language (or indeed their ontologies) into something we humans could grasp?
And what if a super-species saw the human species as so inferior that they farmed humans just as we intensively farm those species we consider to be “lesser species”? What if they took a look at life on earth and decided that there was nothing morally wrong with doing that they made sure that our lives seemed no pointless to us now than they do already and also made sure that we were killed and dispatched to their tables as painlessly as practicable? They might well justify eating human beings if they tried it and found us tasty.
One man’s meat they be another man’s person [pun intended], and there are standards, as human beings ourselves, we are genetically programmed to be against people colonies, fricasseed and tinned men and women would encounter problems that doing the same to chicken and beef doesn’t.
The argument might be made that it should be OK for them to eating were permitted only of those who died naturally or by accident — carrying ‘donate for eating’ our way of looking at each other would alter for the worse. Looking would be affected by the cooking. After all, some argued that some pornography encourages men to view women as flesh, devaluing their personhood. With person cooking accepted, maybe we would regard others as lumps of flesh, commodities, rather than persons. But is this likely? Just because we would be treating corpse is in one way, why should we slip into a related attitude to living people?
respect for persons involves respect for their bodies — and such respect extends to a person’s corpse. Having human corpses, butcher shops, or tinned man or women available on grocery store shelves, merely to provide dining variety, undermines the respect. It certainly differs from using organs of the deceased to save others’ lives.
we de-humanize people, lockout respect, reducing their status to mere bundles of flash, by addressing them even when face-to-face, simply by numbers — as done in concentration camps. Dehumanization dangers are ever present when, for example, patients are known simply as appendix or hernia. Yet, there are cases. Cases vary, depending on context, intentions, and perceptions. People sometimes may rightly be treated as just bodies. But those treated in such a way must consent.
We have pictured human corpses dangling and butcher shops; and such scenes would deeply offend the sensibilities of most of us, but a lot of people see chicken, pigs, cows so displayed and think very little of it. In the America where life is sanitized that may not be true, but in most of the world, including the UK and all of Europe, it is a common sight in a lot of butcher shops. BUT would it be morally if people wishing to be donate themselves for such uses after their natural death? We have a natural repugnant at the idea but is there anything truly immoral about it?
Respect may be shown in diverse ways. Just as today we respect people’s wishes whether to be cremated or buried — and even except that a few mothers after birth cook the placenta — so in that society, and choice could be made to be. Perhaps a highly significant and ritualistic dining ceremony exists, with only deceased loved ones present. Perhaps the ritual is symbolic of ultimate or eternal bonding of connecting with the deceased. In such a society, people would feel their lives ended badly if the appropriate ceremonies fields take place. The dining might be associated with a sense of religious oneness or of flesh metaphorically sustaining living. Some could CDE being more as worthy sacrificing to the gods. Others may regard life as a work of art, requiring the right ending, just as novels and music do.
Such rituals, with the justification offered, would today generate laughter or discussed; they would not be taken in the right spirit.he would not follow, though, that there is anything morally wrong in the proposed society. Let us hasten to add: this is not a slide into moral relativism. It is not a slide at all, for, in justifying the dining practices, we deploy values readily recognized across cultures: respect in people’s wishes, connecting with others, manifesting love. It does, though, remind us that respecting people can take different forms.
Eating people could be a significant practice in a highly moral world. E. M. Forster’s injunction only connect — with its implicit wish to stress empathy, bonding, and valuing other people’s wishes — might result in such a ritual, mightn’t it? What cultural bias leads most of us (including me) to be reflexively repulsed with this literal rendering of Forster’s words, and why are we not equally repulsed by the corpses of other animals hanging from meat hooks in butcher shops?
[** Adapted from What’s Wrong With Eating People by Peter Cave.]
Finally, perhaps, there exists some extra-terrestrial imperative which states something similar, “Do no harm only connect.”