Sunday, May 17, 2009

What law owes to science fiction

Interesting item over at Whatever about the possibility that the Neanderthals died out because we ate them:

Technically It’s Not Cannibalism If They’re Not the Same Species

The comments are particularly tasty (ba-dum-dum)


I am particularly fond of the conclusion:

Even if it wasn’t cannibalism, I would still call it murder, since “murder” in my book (that book being a science fiction book) involves killing sentient creatures, whether they’re of the same intelligent species as you are or not. This is why one needs science fiction, incidentally: to model such legal conundrums. You’re welcome.

Which reminded me of a discussion (by which I mean argument) I once had with a post-colonial lit prof who insisted--INSISTED--that there was nothing wrong with cannibalism, that communion in Christian churches was cannibalism, and it was just another example of the intense and undeniable evil that is western society that we forced the South Pacific Islanders and other groups to stop being cannibals because of our own narrow-minded hang-ups.*

I of course pointed out that, while I agree that ritual cannibalism isn't particularly immoral (especially funerary cannibalism), it does cause prion disease and was probably a good idea to avoid it.



*Which was itself part of a longer argument over whether everything bad that has ever happened in or around a colonized society was entirely the fault of the colonizers, my point being that it's extremely racist to assume that any such society is so passive that they are incapable of screwing up without help.