Reality Skimming

Ethics in SF #19 – Defining human

Ethics in SF: A series of interviews, articles and debates on the Reality Skimming blog, hosted by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga.

DNA detail from art by Michelle Milburn

DNA detail from art by Michelle Milburn

"Our definition of humanity is based on the human genome," said Milap. "And Von's DNA isn't natural. It isn't in our catalog!" "That wasn't done to exclude someone like Von," Vera objected. "It was done to protect disabled people who might fall outside any particular functional definition!"

Quote from Courtesan Prince p. 234-5

What's Human?

I set up the passage quoted above to point out how complex problems are too often tackled with solutions that miss the point. We are intolerant of gray, preferring answers that are black or white. In the original draft of Courtesan Prince, I underscored the point by having Ann think something of this sort, expressing my impatience with other people's inability to entertain complex questions long enough to get at the real issues. An editor along the way cut the philosophizing out. Which, given Ann's character and the urgency of the situation in progress, made sense. So I'm raising it here, instead. What should the Reetion criteria for conferring human rights have been? A definition that would exclude, for example, a brain-dead human with natural DNA but include someone like Von? Or is that assumption of what's desirable flawed, itself?

Comments: What do you think?

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