Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Redback Spiders and the Dish of the Day

Steven Den Beste is dubious about eating the Dish of the Day. But first, let's see what the Dish has to say:

I know many vegetables that are very clear on that point. Which was why it was eventually decided to cut through the whole tangled problem and breed an animal that actually wanted to be eaten and was capable of saying so clearly and distinctly. And here I am
Steven Den Beste disagrees:

I don't think many people would disagree that it would be wrong to routinely kill and eat creatures with that level of intelligence who did not want to be eaten.

But would it be OK if the creature did want to be eaten? Keeping in mind that it was designed to want to be eaten? It may say it wants to be eaten, and indeed we might believe that it truly does. But it isn't able to want anything else; it is forced to think as it was designed to. It would not actually have a free choice.

And even if it did truly have a real choice, it is by no means clear that would matter. If we think it's wrong to routinely kill creatures for food who are that intelligent, does the creature really get a vote in the matter?

One reason to be dubious about eating the Dish of the Day is that, since somebody designed it, it's exhibiting the designer's will and not its own. We can be sure it's not exhibiting its own will because presumably no naturally-evolved creature would behave that way. On the other hand, there is a species of spider that does want to be the Dish of the Day, at least for other spiders:
For redback spiders, mating begins innocently enough with the male courting the female by plucking on the strands of her web, producing a vibration which has been translated into sound in this recording. But the male is also courting death: as the two spiders mate, the female will slowly consume her partner. So does he try and escape? Hardly. Instead the male spider somersaults his body into position directly over the female’s mouth, as if to say “digest me, I’m yours!”


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