Remembering The Nameless: What Science Fiction Teaches Us About Utilitarianism
by Sam Veague
“Every science fiction movie I have ever seen, any one that's worth its weight in celluloid, warns us about things that ultimately come true.” Steven Spielberg argued that science fiction stories worth reading or viewing always give some warning about the futures that society desires in place of the present.
One of the most prominent themes of science fiction is the existence of Utilitarianism and its consequences on the people who live in the futuristic society. Spielberg said that any science fiction story worth its weight in film always has some sort of warning to give, and so does any science fiction story worth the paper it is printed on. Many science fiction stories have warned the audience of the dangers of Utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism is a philosophy that needs to be warned against because of how it allows for the treatment of human beings as nothing more than disposable tools or impediments to progress. If a human is viewed as a tool and not someone created “in the image of God,” the person who views him or her as disposable has fallen short and sinned. Therefore, Utilitarianism must be warned against due to its reduction of God’s creation. Science fiction expertly warns against the hazardous nature of Utilitarianism in its ability to exaggerate specific factors of stories in order to create moral quandaries for the characters to struggle through.
Science fiction is a literary and cinematic genre. Science fiction and science fantasy will both be referred to as science fiction for sake of ease in this paper. Science fiction generally incorporates some sort of scientific principle as a major plot point, such as spaceflight, cloning, and technological development. These principles are generally taken to their logical extreme, such as using spaceflight to colonize planets, creating an army or workforce of clones, and using technology to prolong life or radically change society. According to the University of Kentucky’s Gunn center for the Study of Science Fiction, “Science fiction is the literature of the human species encountering change, and the literature of ideas and philosophy; it is multi- and interdisciplinary; and at its heart is a community of thinkers and creatives.” Thus, science fiction is the literary and cinematic genre centered around the human interaction with scientific principles and emerging technologies. The stories that emerge from this genre often offer a slight glimpse into the future because the authors are able to imagine what a plausible technology of the future would be like.
John Stuart Mill popularized the term Utilitarianism and wrote a book with the title Utilitarianism. In it he defined Utilitarianism as,
The Creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure…. But these supplementary explanations do not affect the theory of life on which this theory of morality is grounded-namely, that pleasure, and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends; and that all desirable things (which are as numerous in the utilitarian as in any other scheme) are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as a means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain.
In this paragraph, Mill defines Utilitarianism as a philosophy that seeks the most amount of pleasure, which he considers to be the highest of human goods, for the highest amount of people. Thus, Utilitarianism argues that its adherents ought to take actions that provide the most amount of pleasure to the most amount of people and offers freedom from pain. Utilitarianism is not necessarily hedonistic as it does not promote sensual pleasure, it promotes a generalized form of pleasure alongside the absence of pain. Utilitarianism emphasizes the collective pleasure of a group as opposed to hedonism which emphasizes the experience and pursuit of pleasure above all other things.
Dehumanization is the manner in which a person is reduced to the status of an object, or is no longer viewed as being made “in the image of God.” When discussing Utilitarianism, the means and the ends are often discussed. The ends are the goal that someone is attempting to reach, and the means are the method by which someone reaches their goal.
Utilitarianism often forces a person to view another human as not a human, to dehumanize them, because there are things that cannot be done by one human to another. Thus, in order to commit certain actions against people, one would need to view the person as lesser than human as the conscience would prevent the doer of the actions. By viewing this person as not as a person, actions can be taken that would lead to the person’s resources being taken or the removal of the person could lead to greater stability and pleasure in a society.
The refusal to see others as human in order to commit malicious actions against them such as genocide is an active form of Utilitarianism that reveals itself throughout history. Countries such as Germany and Italy endured through the bloody reigns of fascist Mussolini and socialist Hitler, while countries still exist under the boots of communism and other fascistic ideologies derived from marxism. China is the most notable, modern example.
The Communist Party’s second claim to legitimacy rests on its record of national stability. After the turmoil reaching from the mid nineteenth century to the Cultural Revolution, the years since 1978 can be portrayed as a time when the country came to rest - the Beijing massacre of 1989 being classified officially as a necessary ingredient in that process as the regime warded of the threat of disruption….For anybody who questions whether this stability justifies the continuation of the one-party dictatorship China has always known, backed by the army and heavy repressive apparatus, the leaders have only to invoke the past.
The Beijing massacre is a reference to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, where between 180 and 10,000 people were killed by force of the Chinese army. The communist government in China, exactly 30 years ago, saw the people protesting not as citizens to be reasoned with, but as a threat to stability to be removed. The easiest way to remove a threat is to destroy it as it requires the smallest amount of effort and ensures whatever caused the threat cannot cause it again. In deploying the military to suppress and kill citizens, the communist government of the People’s Republic of China acted in a Utilitarian manner treating its citizens as nothing more than obstacles to be removed. The Chinese government actively worked against its citizens in a violent and Utilitarian manner. All communist and marxist derived governments as they degrade the human to ownership of property as Mussolini pointed out that free will of a person was reduced to the amount of property a person owned in marxist thought.
The reduction of humanity to object and obstacle needs to be warned against as so many people favor derivations of marxism, such as socialism, despite their Utilitarian leanings. If people support a system of government that is Utilitarianism, they must be warned against what it will do, as Orwell did in his famous 1984.
Totalitarian societies such as those of Communist China, were not the only societies to act Utilitarianism in a manner to produce stability for the supposed good and pleasure of others. Greek tragedies, in a manner, advocated for a variant of Utilitarianism. The plays were written in a manner to help people accept the unstoppable approach of death. The stories would almost calm the people and keep them from worrying about the inevitability of death. Stability by creating a populace that accepted death was the purpose of Greek tragedies, if no one worried about death, they could go about whatever their tasks were. Thus, Greek tragedies such as Pyramus and Thisbe exist to create a callousness or acceptance of death. Pyramus and Thisbe were lovers who both committed suicide when thinking the other had died. The blood of the lovers coated the fruit of the mulberry tree, and the gods decided to make the fruit of the mulberry trees red in honor of the the lovers and their parents. The temporary love of the mortals was immortalized in the color of fruit. The story argued that even though death would come, the mortal would be immortalized in death. Death was still the ending of a man’s life but death did not mean that the person would be forgotten. “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” Memory is the Greek response to death, even up to today, Pyramus and Thisbe are still remembered in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The majority would benefit if they were all remembered and there would be some meaning spread to every Greek, allowing the Greeks to gain something despite a true solution not being found. The benefit of the majority was to longer worry about death, such as the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae who died on behalf of the rest of the Greek peoples. With death no longer a factor, the people could act in a manner that would benefit the whole as they were no longer occupied with death. The philosophy of fate that is ever present in Greek mythology is rife with fate causing people to become tools, monsters, or trees as playthings of the gods. The people often became no longer human, such as Pyramus and Thisbe who were replaced by the plants their blood splattered upon. By turning the people into objects due to the actions of the gods, a greater number of people benefitted in the assurance that their death would leave behind some sort of memory. This is the philosophy of Utilitarianism, to get the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, even at the expense of a smaller group of people.
Stories have affected those who read them, the power of a story to influence the mind of its readers is exceedingly odd, with the same story influencing different people in varied manners. The portrayal of a story will often cause audience members to cry or to feel vast upwellings of emotion in his or her chest at the death of a favorite character, a confession of love, or the final triumph of good over evil after one final push against the odds. Stories are also capable of filling the audience with disgust at the reprehensible actions the characters commit in order to force the audience member to realize his or her own vice. Such an occurrence is recorded in 2 Samuel 12, when the prophet Nathan confronted King David. Nathan was sent to confront David because he had sent Uriah to die and took his wife. The moment of truth is recorded in 2 Samuel 12:5-7 and 12:13-15:
Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul…. David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” Then Nathan went to his house.
David became enraged at the thought that a rich man might commit theft against a poor man of his only possession to satisfy a traveler. (2 Samuel 12:1-5) When Nathan accused David of being the robber, he noted the evil he had done in saying, “I have sinned against the Lord,” and by remaining silent - implied by his lack of dialogue - for the rest of the time Nathan was present. David went from consumed by wrath to humbled silence when he recognized what the point of the story had been, to accuse him of his deeds and show him that which he did wrong. In this way, David was taught and affected by the story told to him.
The interaction between Nathan and David occurred more than two thousand years ago, but is still relevant in modern society as an example of how to gently change a person’s mind. Modern stories still have the capability to affect the audience, many people assume that because modern society is more technology advanced and has a higher collective knowledge, then the modern human is capable of more rational thought and is less easily influenced. This assumption is almost entirely false as people are always influenced by the words and stories that they hear, which lead them to take action.
N. Katherine Hayles, a literary critic wrote, “This book began with a roboticist’s dream that struck me as a nightmare,” when describing her book: How We Became Posthuman. Hayles described how her reading of the speculative science book Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence by Hans Moravec led her to write her own book. She noted that in one of his speculations, “a fantasy scenario in which a robot surgeon purees the human brain in a kind of cranial liposuction, reading the information in each molecular layer as it is stripped away and transferring the information to the computer.” Hans Moravec described what he believed to be a plausible future scenario in which humans can discard their bodies and place their minds into a machine. “At the end of the operation, the cranial cavity is empty, and the patient, now inhabiting the metallic body of the computer, wakens to find his consciousness exact the same as it was before.” In such a scenario, it is incredibly easy to argue that the human body, seen as a tool, should be replaced with a better vessel. By conceptualizing the human body as nothing more than a tool to contain information, namely the mind, the author attempts to create a comparison where a human body is compared to a machine replacement. Such a comparison is like comparing a book to a computer in terms of amount of information that can be stored. Hayles summarized this though pattern by saying, “the posthuman view privileges informational pattern over material instantiation, so the embodiment in a biological substrate is seen as an accident of history rather than an inevitability of life.” The human body, called the biological substrate for information, is seen as only a vessel for containing a person’s mind and thoughts. If the body is simply a tool for information, then it is logical to replace the tool with something better-suited to the task of preserving information for a long period of time, maybe even forever.
Alongside Hayles’ response to story, researchers such as Paul J Zak find the phenomenon of stories affecting people fascinating. Zak has been involved in the publishing of several articles that explore the effects of taking in a story on the chemistry of the human brain. Zak summarized that many forms of storytelling, specifically those including virtues such as generosity, tended to release oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is often correlated with a feeling of empathy for characters in the story. If a scientific study shows that stories can cause attitude change through the release of oxytocin, which is an incredibly powerful human hormone, then the stories that every person reads truly do affect them.
Ancient civilizations recognized the power of stories and throughout history have written stories of ideal heroes who reflect the values of their respective cultures. The most famous story written in the Roman Republic was about Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was a Roman leader who became a symbol of virtue in the republic, like George Washington, having myths written about him. Even though Cincinnatus was a real man, specific stories were chosen about him to be preserved by the republic for future generations with the ideal stories being chosen, whether true or not. Cincinnatus’ virtue was self-control through restraint. During times of crisis, the Roman Republic would make one of the leading consuls into a temporary dictator with absolute power to resolve whatever afflicted the nation. The story alleges that when Rome was attacked by the Aequi, a tribe near Rome, the Roman senate sought out Cincinnatus to drive the Aequi back and rescue the armies of the current consuls. The senators found Cincinnatus at his plow, tilling one of his fields, when they arrived. The senators then requested Cincinnatus to take up arms as dictator to defend the empire. Cincinnatus took up his weapons and led a hastily gathered army into combat against the Aequi and saved the consuls, their armies, and the Roman Republic from conquest. When he had finished what he was asked to do, Cincinnatus gave up his dictatorial powers and returned to his fields. The story of Cincinnatus described the ideal Roman statesman, who surrendered any power he had been gifted by the senate. The Romans recognized the danger of giving power to men as power is an incredibly tempting thing to use. The story shows that Roman society recorded what they valued in story, self-sacrifice and self-control on the behalf of the republic.
Science fiction occupies an especially interesting place in fiction as many parts of it that are fiction become reality and fact. In Starship Troopers, which was written in 1959, injured soldiers were given prosthetic limbs with robotic parts much like in today’s prosthetics. “I looked at my hand. The hand he had offered me was the one that wasn’t there-his right hand. Yet it had felt like flesh and had shaken mine firmly. I had read about these powered prosthetics, but it is startling when you first run across them.” Starship Troopers predicted prosthetics that were indistinguishable from actual flesh and bone several hundred years in the future, but currently modern prosthetics are very obviously fake.
From the utopian federations in Star Trek and Starship Troopers to the brutal dystopias of Gattaca and 1984, excellent science fiction stories present the extreme futures that society might forge. In such a manner, science fiction acts as a cynosure to warn the reader about the way in which people will influence each others’ futures. Such futures are divided between great and terrible in the way in which people are seen and treated. Many science fiction stories involve the existence of robots that people can transfer their minds into or out of in an attempt to force the audience to think about what it means to be human and how to treat a human despite his or her condition. The science in true science fiction allows for a glimpse into what the future could truly be like as the authors scour research papers and orbital mechanics equations to make the most realistic stories possible. Part of the realism of science fiction arises from the observation of history and the author’s personal experience with people he or she has known. Thus, many science fiction stories actually come to embody identical themes by the nature of having a similar creation process.
Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is filled with philosophical musing and conversation, centering largely on the way in which the main character, Johnny Rico, interacts with his troops and the novel’s federation of human planets. The most prevalent themes Heinlein explored were duty, responsibility, and how morality ought to dictate government actions. Heinlein discussed morality in his book through the usage of classes about history, morality, and philosophy. One of Heinlein’s characters asked Rico, “Are a thousand unreleased prisoners sufficient reason to start or resume a war? Bear in mind that millions of innocent people may die, almost certainly will die, if war is started or resumed.” According to Utilitarianism, the answer would be to leave any prisoners that had not been released after war in the custody of the enemy, even if they were your people and friends. In the Utilitarian philosophy, going to war to rescue a thousand people gets in the way of pleasure and causes undue suffering, therefore they ought to be left in the care of the enemy. Rico’s eventual response to the teacher’s question was as follows:
He got my goat. I gave him a cap trooper’s answer. “Yes, sir!” “Yes’ what?” “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a thousand-or just one, sir. You fight!” “Aha! The number of prisoners is irrelevant. Good. Now prove your answer.” “...Someone may claim that you have asserted, by analogy, that one potato is worth the same price, no more, no less, as one thousand potatoes. No?” “No, sir!” “Why not? Prove it.” “Men are not potatoes.” “Good, good, Mr. Rico!...”
Heinlein forces the reader to look at a situation where one’s own people would be stuck in prison even after a war had ended. According to Juan Rico, the story’s protagonist, even leaving one person in the hands of the enemy to avoid a war is morally unacceptable. One man seems insignificant to the millions that inhabit his country, but Rico points out that, “men are not potatoes,” men are not objects or tools to be bartered with. Men are humans and that is what must always be remembered in spite of the utility of leaving the man behind to safeguard peace.
Such an attitude that “men are not potatoes,” is seen in Jesus’ parables. Matthew 18:10-14 is Jesus’ admonishment of his disciples for telling little children to stay away from him. Jesus states that a shepherd will leave ninety-nine sheep to go find the one that has wandered away out of a flock of one hundred. Even if it would seem reasonable to leave the one sheep to its fate, the shepherd, who stands in for Jesus, will go after the one sheep to rescue him, because even one sheep is too many to be lost. The sheep stand in for humanity and humans were created “in the image of God” and if man is created in the image of God, then man is worth saving as one of God’s beautiful creations. Although Starship Troopers is not a Christian book, Heinlein shows the writing of God’s law on his heart by arguing that one man is worth saving even if it seems illogical to do so. In this way, Starship Troopers argues against Utilitarianism by attaching a value to man that can not be attached to objects because people are not objects, just as Rico reminds us that “men are not potatoes.”
Another story which portrays the rationale of Utilitarianism is Avengers: Infinity War in its character Thanos. Thanos saw his home fall due to overpopulation, a common issue that is debated in modern society. Thanos believed the solution to the problem he saw was random extermination of one half of all living beings with no regard to the innate value of the people he killed, only the ability to accomplish his goal. Thanos then proceeded to go on a rampage laying waste to many communities and killing many of the protagonists in order to retrieve parts of a superweapon, killing in order to remove the people who were his obstacles. He said, “I could simply snap my fingers. They would all cease to exist. I call that mercy.” Thanos described his goal, his end, as causing people to no longer exist so that they would not starve or suffer. If one makes the fundamental assumption that the purpose of life is to mitigate suffering and increase comfort, Thanos’ logic is internally consistent. If suffering can be reduced and comfort increased, then it should be done if the purpose of life is to reduce suffering and increase comfort. Thanos’ method to reduce suffering and increase comfort is to cause half of any population to cease to exist, and he calls it mercy because it would allow him to reduce bring suffering to a minimum and comfort to a maximum. Thanos’ logic is internally consistent if one fundamental assumption about the purpose of life is treated as valid.
Avengers: Infinity War shows the logical assumptions necessary to Utilitarianism about the purpose of life, where the good of a majority justifies any action committed, such as an act against a minority. Thanos divided life into two parts, each half, one that would die and one that would live, and placed himself on the side that would live. By placing himself on the side of the half that would live, Thanos made that half the majority by adding himself, one person. With a majority identified, the good could be done on the half the majority even at the expense of the minority if it benefits the majority.
From Thanos’ plan to wipe out half of all life so as to remove pain and generate more pleasure and happiness through an abundance of resources, Aldous Huxley imagined a world where hedonism was instituted to pacify the majority and create pleasure. Brave New World is a monstrosity in the same vein as George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Huxley created a world that seemed like a paradise, there was no war, everyone was content with their place in life, and everyone had very...generous social lives. The people had been sterilized, cloned, reduced to specific intelligence levels, and trained to search for nought but pleasure in their entire lives, the people could do almost anything they wanted. Nearly every pleasure imaginable was open to being experienced by the denizens of the Brave New World. The people who populated Huxley’s book were addicted to a drug he named Soma, which was a drug that promotes happiness at the expense of one’s physical health.
“...I’ll make you be free whether you want to or not.” And pushing open a window that looked on to the inner court of the hospital, he began to throw the little pill-boxes of soma tablets in handfuls out into the area. For a moment the khaki mob was silent, petrified, at the spectacle of this wanton sacrilege, with amazement and horror.
In Brave New World, world peace had been achieved at the expense of freedom, dignity, and human thought. The people who populated Huxley’s book were shells of humans, lobotomised and socially engineered to the ‘Fordian’ standard to create world peace and stability. Cloning was implemented in the book to attempt to standardize humanity more, but the book indicates through Helmholtz, Bernard, and the savage that some sort of humanity had been lost as everything became so trivialized. The lobotomised people of the Brave New World were incapable of living without their drugs, and they exchanged freedom and intelligence for the pleasure and supposed good of the entirety of humanity.
One of the most excellent portrayals of dehumanization and Utilitarianism in modern television came from Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars Umbara story arc episodes. The episodes dealt with the relationship between the clone troopers, who had been genetically copied and trained since birth to wage war, and their naturally born leaders who led them, as well as what it means to be a good soldier, and whether certain orders ought to be obeyed. The clones were led by a brutal and uncompromising leader who kept pushing his battalion to partake in dangerous frontal assaults and high-risk, low-reward battles.
The leader claimed that, “The other battalions are counting on our support. If we fail, everyone fails. Do you understand this? Do all of you understand this? Now, move on!” whenever a trooper questioned one of his orders. Utilitarianism rears its head in this sentence by their general, the other battalions as opposed to the singular one that he commanded, relied upon his troops to take a city. The implication was that if his men succeeded, then the other battalions would take substantially lower casualties and avoid large amounts of death and pain. The dehumanizing characteristic of the general’s Utilitarianism was finally stated by the battalion’s Captain Rex. He yelled, “Sir, if I may address your accusation; I followed your orders, even in the face of a plan that was in my opinion severely flawed, a plan that cost us men, not clones! Men! As sure as it is my duty to remain loyal to your command, I also have another duty, to protect those men.” The captain reminded his commander that the clones were humans, men, not just some piece of military equipment to be used and expended just because it was the simplest way to wage a battle. Sun Tzu said, “Hence to fight and conquer in your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” In Sun Tzu’s illustration, fighting is the simplest and most direct method to do something, but to do what is simple and direct is not excellent. To be excellent is to do what is right in the face of difficulty, true greatness is in finding the appropriate way to accomplish one’s objective.
Most philosophies exist today because people find validity in the doctrines that they provide, such as Marx’s principles on labor. Further, everyone espouses some philosophy through his or her actions, which is what makes Utilitarianism so necessary to be warned against, most people do not choose to espouse such a philosophy but support it via their actions. In doing so, many people look for ways to defend their actions that would be indicative of Utilitarianism as they do not see themselves acting in such a manner but believe that their actions are justifiable.
Some would claim that the previous examples do not constitute true Utilitarianism in its most literal sense and that as they are stories, they have no authority to identify the evils of Utilitarianism. However, stories do have the authority to warn against dangerous philosophies as stories often become thought experiments and allegory. George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 are allegorical thought experiments that explore the possible ramifications of radical social change. 1984 is often reference and cited in popular culture, magazines, and news articles due to its ability to describe the reasonable fears that people have. An allegory is an extended thought experiment that incorporates themes and story, rather than just the concepts and probability of a normal thought experiment.
The validity of thought experiments are easily questioned due to the bias of the person thinking through it and the fundamental assumptions that a person makes. Fundamental assumptions include ethical and physical suppositions such as the morality of killing and whether or not the earth is flat. People often have very different fundamental assumptions about life and society that greatly influence their thought processes. If a story can be an extended thought process, then it logically follows that the story can also be influenced by the same factors as a small, or regular, thought experiment. The validity of allegories can thus be disputed on the basis of the author’s fundamental assumptions being radically different than that of other members of society. Thus, the validity of many metaphorical stories and allegories can be argued against because of fundamental assumptions that lead people to believe that various solutions to problems are appropriate or not and what the response ought to be based on what is moral.
However, stories such as George Orwell’s 1984 have been universally accepted as valid in its portrayal of what a truly dystopian society, one in which the right of free speech and thought is revoked, might do. Aesop’s Fables are examples of stories that are meant to instruct and warn due to the way they are constructed. The Fables act very similarly to Nathan’s story about the man stealing the sheep. Instead of an explicit statement about morality or value, both Nathan and Aesop used implicit statements in well thought out stories to help define an argument and lesson. George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949, well after the formation of the Soviet Union and various other Communist countries that are well known for their Utilitarian leanings. Orwell based the state of Oceania upon the totalitarian reign of Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong. Orwell took precedent from the previously established regimes and wrote about what the next logical step would be. In this way, 1984 is a satire that takes Communism to its logical extreme where people are viewed as tools to be repaired and remade. In spending roughly 300 pages building the world and pseudo-language of 1984, Orwell forced himself to make a story that is internally consistent in order to make a close approximation of what the world could be like in a war-torn future. By spending so much time developing a novel, Orwell was able to make a warning, or instruction manual depending on the perspective it is viewed in.
Therefore, a well-written novel of sufficient length has forced its author to consider many alternatives and options to form a reasonably plausible speculation. George Orwell is by no means alone in making novels that force the author to think, as Arthur C. Clarke wrote Rendezvous With Rama which draws the reader into the exploration of a physically possible interstellar vessel. Clarke used many physics calculations to design a ship that would simulate the existence of gravity through rotational inertia. A high school A.P. Physics class contains the algebraic equations to calculate how fast a cylindrical object would need to spin in order to simulate gravity.
Therefore, as stories are able to be well-thought out and can obey the natural laws of the universe, well-written stories can be used as authorities in the subjects they are written on. Most science fiction stories implicitly or explicitly mention the concept of Utilitarianism in the far or near future due to the fact that the reactions people will have can be based on historical precedent.
The fact that Utilitarianism seems to facilitate results effectively is why it must be so vehemently warned against. To choose what is easy or most effective is not always morally right. Utilitarianism often involves some form of conflict whether social or physically violent as conflict makes people see time as of the essence and if time is of the essence, many more options become permissible to the person searching for a solution. It is simplest to push against the problem and break it, and the problem becomes the person’s enemy. “Hence to fight and conquer in your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” In Sun Tzu’s illustration, fighting is the simplest and most direct method to do something, but to do what is simple and direct is not excellent. To be excellent is to do what is right in the face of difficulty, true greatness is in compromise and finding a moral way to do something. The apostle Paul wrote:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Sun Tzu described the action of defeating or accomplishing something in the least violent way as “supreme excellence” which is a bold claim. Paul instructs Christians to think on whatever is excellent and worthy of praise. There is very little that is better or more excellent than to do what is right even if it not the simplest or easiest thing to do as it will save one from coming into conflict with any person they may be trying to help or impede. Therefore, to go forth and advocate for Utilitarianism because it accomplishes its results is not truly excellent or good. In order to do what is excellent and good is to what is not simplest or easiest which will welcome “the God of Peace” into the world.
To reduce one’s fellow man to less than human is like referring to him or her as an animal: simply untrue. Everyone must be weary of how easy it is to think of their fellow man as nothing but an obstacle, to do so is to oversimplify the world in falsehood. Lastly, to believe that one’s fellow man is a tool or animal is to believe that they are not human and if they are not human, one can do whatever he or she wishes to that individual.
The warning about Utilitarianism given by science fiction indicates that most forms of Utilitarianism are implicit and need to be thought about and exposed. If the science fiction stories that are read today are worth their weight in paper, then the audience must also be worth their cost in education. The audience must see the manner in which they view and describe others and wonder if they truly see other people as humans created in the image of God with an innate value. The stories require that we recognize how we refuse to see humans as others who have lived years like we have and who think and act in a manner like we do. Thus, in order to defeat Utilitarianism, we must truly see each other as human, to recognize that every human is a hypocrite in some fashion, and to make certain we know that another person is a human and not an object even if he or she is in our way.
David did so in 1 Samuel 24 when he could have killed Saul, who was hunting him throughout Israel, in a cave. “See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands.” David could have killed Saul and taken the throne that God had promised him right there. David could have killed Saul for being the thing that attempted to cause his death, but he did not. David recognized Saul as a human whom God had created, “And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the
Lord put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.” Saul was David’s enemy, but David gave him the dignity he deserved as a human created by God by treating him not as an enemy, but as a human. Instead of killing Saul for being his enemy, David recognized that Saul was not only his enemy, Saul was a human who had been gifted with the same breath of life that God had given him. Even though it may seem logical to reduce a human to an object in order to kill him or her or remove him or her as an obstacle so that we can return to the absence from pain and the experience of pleasure, to do so would be to forget that that person was made “in the image of God.”
So, what do science fiction stories require of us? Science fiction stories implicitly ask the audience to think on their own actions like how Nathan’s story gently forced David to realize the evil he had committed in taking Bathsheba and having her husband killed. The stories ask us not to forget that every person is a human and not an object, that behind the name the person is a human created “in the image of God” who is not simply a means to pleasure but an end in him or her self.
To not see someone as created “in the image of God” is to view them as less than human, and to abandon love for one’s fellow man and neighbor.
I abandoned this love and laid it to rest
And now I'm one of the forgotten
We are the faceless
We are the nameless
We are the hopeless
Until we have faces!
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