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Among Others
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2013 Reads > AO: Does reading SF give us different values? (Full Spoilers)

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D. H. | 100 comments I’m starting with the premise that morals are notions of right and wrong that come from the community (unlike ethics, which are notions of right or wrong that come from outside).

In the Western, Christian community that Morwenna is a part of, witchcraft is considered immoral, but she is so broadminded that she sees fairies and talks to them, trusts them, and learns witchcraft from them.

Her notions about right and wrong when it comes to sex are definitely different from those around her. She says incest isn’t necessarily wrong, and she’s willing to have sex just for the fun of it, which is a shock to the boy. She attributes her attitudes on sex to various SF authors.

Wim who also loves SF is interested in witchcraft. He has been all but ostracized by the SF group because of his immoral behavior.

(Her evil witch mother loves SF too. As does Daniel who is also not a moral person. Do any moral characters love it?)

So my question, does this story imply that reading SF makes one so open-minded that one becomes immoral?


message 2: by Joshua (new)

Joshua | 30 comments I think people who read SF are generaly going to be more open minded. I believe that is a large part of what makes SF appeal to them.


message 3: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Joshua wrote: "I think people who read SF are generaly going to be more open minded. I believe that is a large part of what makes SF appeal to them."

The whole "fans are slans" idea has always annoyed me. Reading sci-fi does not make you special, nor does being special push you to read sci-fi. There are plenty of reactionary conservatives who gobble up Honor Harrington and The Wheel of Time. There are tons of fans who fancy themselves outre liberals who actually hold completely doctrinaire social and political views and get absolutely pissed when feminists and fans of color point out all the sexism and racism still found in the genre.

Nor does sci-fi have a monopoly on fans thinking they're special. You can find the same thing with people who read Baudelaire, Huysmans and Dostoyevsky to say nothing of Nietzsche.


Michele | 1154 comments I believe it does make people more open minded but not necessarily immoral. Many morals are being changed as society moves away from the outmoded rules of religions and scifi readers are often even less influenced by them. Not that all religion based morals are bad, but some of them are outdated. Sex before marriage happens. Witchcraft does not equal devil worship. Safe sex with a person who is also a relative (especially one you didn't grow up with) doesn't result in twisted children so why not?

And ye harm none, do what ye will. I guess I'm a pagan morals-wise :)


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Remember it is also the late 70's, not the 40's. The type of standards you are talking about were already shifting. That is not only reflected in the books Mori was reading but in aspects of her life she did not record.

BTW, I view Daniel as deeply flawed as opposed to inherently immoral. He did at least two pretty bad things recorded in the book, but he also seemed to be trying his best to be a "new" dad to a teenager that just appears in his life.

I know this might be controversial, but I really believe people should not be defined by the worst thing they have ever done, but more by the pattern of their life. I usually extend the same courtesy to my fictional characters.


message 6: by Joshua (last edited Jun 05, 2013 09:12AM) (new)

Joshua | 30 comments I think Sean misunderstood me.

I am not stating that anyone is special or only smart people read sf. My point was more of a statistical nature.

First of all, I am defining open minded as being able to explore ideas that are different from your own whether you agrea with them or not. It doesn't mean your accepting of everything. Many people refuse to do that. Many smart people.

So based on that, I think it is more probable for some one with that open mindset to pick up a sf book than a closed minded,"You are going to Hell if you read Harry Potter!" kind of person.

No judgements being made. Just a plain statement of probabilty.

Open mindness will not cause you to fall prey to whatever you are exploring. Reading about a murder does not make me want to commit one. Studying (insert religion here) does not mean I have to convert to it. So I don't think reading something immoral will make me accept it. I have my own values and beliefs.

I hope I cleared that up. I am on my phone so it is a little tough making long posts.


message 7: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Joshua wrote: "First of all, I am defining open minded as being able to explore ideas that are different from your own whether you agrea with them or not."

And most SF fans aren't open minded in that way -- they want to read about pseudo-medieval Europeans slaying orcs and fighting dragons, or middle class white Americans exploring space and slaying space orcs.

So based on that, I think it is more probable for some one with that open mindset to pick up a sf book than a closed minded,"You are going to Hell if you read Harry Potter!" kind of person.

I have a higher standard for "open mindedness" than not being a reactionary asshat. Open minded would be reading a series in which Cho Chang and Parvati Patil are the heroes instead of a couple token characters.


message 8: by Rob, Roberator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob (robzak) | 6669 comments Mod
Most sci-fi fans? I could buy the word "many" but most seems awfully subjective without hard data backing your claim.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Sean wrote: "Joshua wrote: "First of all, I am defining open minded as being able to explore ideas that are different from your own whether you agrea with them or not."

And most SF fans aren't open minded in t..."


What is published and what is wanted or potentially wanted are two different things, would you not say?


D. H. | 100 comments Sean wrote: "Joshua wrote: "I think people who read SF are generaly going to be more open minded. I believe that is a large part of what makes SF appeal to them." The whole "fans are slans" idea has always ann..."

Interesting. How do you think this applies to Among Others? It seems the author is quite the SF fan. Do you think that she is saying the “fans are slans?”

Michele wrote: I believe it does make people more open minded but not necessarily immoral. Many morals are being changed as society moves away from the outmoded rules of religions and scifi readers are often even less influenced by them.

In other words, would you say that reading SF makes people more open-minded, which could put them at the forefront of society’s evolving morals?

Nathan wrote: "Remember it is also the late 70's, not the 40's. The type of standards you are talking about were already shifting. That is not only reflected in the books Mori was reading but in aspects of her life she did not record."

Yes, but she cites authors often when she talks about her morals. So clearly what she reads affects what she thinks. The shifting values in society at large probably affected the values presented by the SF authors she read, but we witness her receiving them from those authors. That made me think the story seems to suggest something about a relationship between her reading and her values. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Nathan wrote: "BTW, I view Daniel as deeply flawed as opposed to inherently immoral. He did at least two pretty bad things recorded in the book, but he also seemed to be trying his best to be a "new" dad to a teenager that just appears in his life."

I don't want to make a normative evaluation of the characters. I don’t think I would say Daniel is evil (which is strange considering those two bad things. I guess I don’t think he’s bad because Mori doesn’t think he is bad). Anyway those characters do things society at large would say wasn’t moral. What do you think of my distinction? Do you think there’s any kind of argument being made by this story that there is a connection between reading SF and having different morals?

Joshua wrote: "Open mindness will not cause you to fall prey to whatever you are exploring... So I don't think reading something immoral will make me accept it. I have my own values and beliefs."

But all the characters in the story who read SF seem to have a different set of values. Do you think the story seems to make a case opposite yours?


Sean wrote: "...they want to read about pseudo-medieval Europeans slaying orcs and fighting dragons, or middle class white Americans exploring space and slaying space orcs."

Nathan wrote: "...wanted or potentially wanted are two different things..."


This is very interesting. Do you think that SF back then (up until the eighties) was more open minded or thought provoking?


Michele | 1154 comments I believe many people that are drawn to scifi and fantasy are already disposed to open-mindedness and are more likely to consider the politics, moralities, societies, religions with an intelligent curiosity and willingness to consider the possibilities posited.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments D. H. wrote: "Sean wrote: "This is very interesting. Do you think that SF back then (up until the eighties) was more open minded or thought provoking?"

Honestly, I can't really say much about SF in general or late 70's SF in particular because I am more of a sword type, and I have not read alot of stuff from that time.

I do think that there is a lag from what providers of mass culture (publishers, movie studio's etc.) think people want and what they do want or will like.

Overall though, I think true engagement with "others" through reading of any sort, travel, etc. will give people more of a chance to reevaluate values. The underlying assupmtions of SF&F gives writers a larger sandbox to play with than other writers, and perhaps they can raise more/different questions.


message 13: by Josh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Josh (firequake) | 30 comments SF/F gives us a brilliant medium to explore social issues without all the extraneous baggage that comes with stories set in the "real world". The very fact that it's a different world makes you think about the cultural norms and how characters' actions are viewed by other characters, while trying to reconcile any differences with the values you personally hold.

The setup doesn't make you moral or immoral, it makes you critical of morals and beliefs. Why do I hold my beliefs? Are my beliefs right? Why are others wrong, or different?

By making us ask these questions, SFF makes us more accepting. By understanding how difficult these questions are, we are less likely to judge others by the conclusions they have come to.

My answers are different than your answers. I still think you are wrong, and I may try to convince you of that; but I don't view you as ignorant or stupid. I respect that the question is difficult and no two people will come to the same conclusion.


message 14: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Nathan wrote: "What is published and what is wanted or potentially wanted are two different things, would you not say? "

Based upon what happens whenever somebody complains about the lack of diversity in SF (see here for the most recent example), I think the market's working efficiently at giving people what they want.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Sean wrote: "Nathan wrote: "What is published and what is wanted or potentially wanted are two different things, would you not say? "

Based upon what happens whenever somebody complains about the lack of diver..."


Yeh she had problems at Cons, but most of them seemed to be with the professionals there, the ones that are involved in making and distributing the works, not the public itself. What she went through is not acceptable.

When it comes to people actually buying her books, she sold out at the con in question. I would think that is some indication that there are many who want to read her work, that perhaps there is a market for stuff like it.


message 16: by Gene (new)

Gene Phillips | 32 comments I do think that SF/F are less inclined to accept the standards of their community as givens. However, even saying that is somewhat of a misrepresentation, since a lot of people follow community standards not only becuase of mental/cultural inertia, but because it benefits them to do so.

At the same time, I've seen SF/F people be pretty narrow-minded on various topics. I recall statements by both Isaac Asimov and Brian Aldiss to the effect that all psychic investigation was pure hooey. The problem IMO is that in both cases they made their determination based on their presuppositions about how psychic phenomena would work in terms of traditional physics if they existed. I considered that ass-backwards reasoning.


Ulmer Ian (eean) | 341 comments Gene wrote: "
At the same time, I've seen SF/F people be pretty narrow-minded on various topics. I recall statements by both Isaac Asimov and Brian Aldiss to the effect that all psychic investigation was pure hooey. The problem IMO is that in both cases they made their determination based on their presuppositions about how psychic phenomena would work in terms of traditional physics if they existed. I considered that ass-backwards reasoning. "


All psychic investigation is pure hooey. Psychic phenomena wouldn't work without brand new physics, running studies that rely on finding statistically significant differences for a phenomena you don't even have a theoretical framework for how it works is infact completely ass-backwards. If drug testing was done that way people would die. (It's called the p-value fallacy.)


D. H. | 100 comments When it comes to the question at hand, I see three camps developing in the comments:

1. The predisposed to open-mindedness camp.

SF readers are “disposed to open-mindedness and are more likely to consider the politics, moralities, societies, religions with an intelligent curiosity and willingness to consider the possibilities posited.” (as Michele put it so convincingly)

2. The fans aren’t Slans camp

People are people no matter what you read, and just as readers of Dostoyevsky or Nietzsche are no more special than readers of law journals, SF readers are not special because of what they read.

3. Reading it makes us more open-minded camp.

It exposes us to ideas that might give us the opportunity to reevaluate our values and the morals of society at large. Plus by making us feel how important and difficult these questions are, we are more accepting of difference.

I find myself in camp number three because I believe that reading changes us, and people who are prone to read a lot are more likely to be changed. SF teaches us to dream about different worlds and consider possibilities beyond what we currently know. By reading more SF we may be more likely to dream about worlds with different values and consider the possibility that society at large may be wrong. Of course, we don't have a corner on the market, but we do have is a predisposition to this kind of dreaming and a community to share such dreams with.

Which camp are you in?


Katie (calenmir) | 211 comments D. H. wrote: "When it comes to the question at hand, I see three camps developing in the comments:

1. The predisposed to open-mindedness camp.

SF readers are “disposed to open-mindedness and are mor..."


I'm probably somewhat in camp three, but more that I think reading in general across a variety of genres is really good for your brain, your learning, and your understanding of others. It isn't just SF/F that can expose us to differing views and cultures but there may be something to what Josh said about it divorcing things from the "baggage" of the real world which could make it easier to wrestle with certain philosophical issues. There will always be readers who are uncritical however, so reading is not always a cure-all for a closed mind.


message 20: by Frog (new)

Frog Jones | 7 comments D. H. wrote: "So my question, does this story imply that reading SF makes one so open-minded that one becomes immoral?."

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc? This seems a chicken-and-egg question. People who read sci-fi will be more open-minded because it takes an open-minded person to read sci-fi in the first place.

The question you ask could just as easily be phrased as "Does being a devout Christian in turn make you an uptight, self-righteous bigot?" And the answer would still be no. Sure, uptight self-righteous bigots are drawn to the structure of organized religion, generally, but that doesn't mean Christianity causes bigotry anymore than science fiction causes open sexuality.

People will be bigots. Other people will be openly sexual. It takes a number of factors in anyone's life to make anyone anything. Chalking it all up to one factor seems...well, narrow-minded.


message 21: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 24 comments I tend to think "fans aren't slans" when it comes to scifi. In theory scifi would give readers the opportunity to look at much more different worlds, societies, ideas, etc, but in practice I don't think most scifi does that. And when it does, sometimes its not really explored in the book, it's just flavor for the reader to have their personal reaction to and move on. And even if it is explored, I feel such books sometimes leverage knowledge of the audience and modern western society to get the reaction or sympathy they want to get the reader invested in the plot or conflict, rather than actually challenging that viewpoint. This woman is being treated different for her gender, so the author can take for granted the emotional investment the reader will have in seeing her overcome that. This person is chafing under their birthright or caste, instant story about becoming free from that. Ultimately I think most people want to read a good story over getting exposed to fundamentally new ideas, and it'll be easier to get people invested in a story and focus on the characters and plot if you can leverage existing cultural ideas, rather than explaining and immersing the reader in new ones.

And even though I almost exclusively read sci-fi and fantasy fiction, I don't think it's the only genre that can challenge worldviews or expose readers to new ideas. The existing Earth is pretty big and has lots of people and cultures already, and even within one culture there's lots of people that have different experiences. Not every new idea needs to be on a planetary, galactic, or geologic scale to be new and thought-provoking. I'd argue some people find reading bios or vanilla fiction even more thought-provoking for the fact that they don't have to worry that the premise is unlikely or unrealistic.

Still, for me personally I think some scifi HAS made me more open-minded. There are a handful of books I can point to as having a really important effect on me and my worldview, or as having pointed me on a path to changing it by piquing my curiosity. I tend to like scifi books with strong world building or more extreme premises than character dramas that happen to happen in space or on another planet, but I know not every scifi fan is like that; even fewer than I thought, at least based on the sorts of reactions I've seen since starting lurking around Goodreads. I also don't mind if I find the premise of some new world ridiculous, since I like thinking about why I find it that way, and if I'm being uncharitable or straight-up wrong. But my other interests outside of fiction, like politics, economics, and science, seem to hint at why I find interesting world-building more enjoyable than characters and plot, and times when I've had my views challenged by a book, they were views at that level, abstract and high-level. I can't say I've really ever changed my day-to-day behavior or lifestyle based on things I've thought about in a scifi book, but I've heard some of my friends be affected at that personal level by a book.

So I guess I don't think reading scifi really makes you more open-minded in general, though I think based on how you read and who you are it can still have an affect on you or change your mind about things. I don't think that's unique to scifi, though :P.


message 22: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 24 comments Thinking about it a little more, I wonder if scifi's ability to actually challenge a reader's worldview and make them more open-minded is fundamentally handicapped by the fact that it is fiction, a passive story about something that did/could happen rather than an argument or attempt at persuasion. While I think an especially critical thinker might read a story, think about its implications, and let it persuade them of something, there's nothing key about scifi to stop a person from just passively reading the story and treating it just as that, a story. It's one thing to read about something different, and another to be confronted with arguments about why that difference should be taken seriously, or what can be said about it. I mentioned being affected by several scifi books during my reading life, but I think it's telling that the one I was most affected by is also one I had to write a 30+ page literary critique of back in high school. I was very interested in the topics hinted at while reading the book, and it gave me a lot to think about, but it wasn't until I really delved in, found outside resources, and was responsible for convincing others in a paper that I truly convinced myself of and internalized what I'd tossed around in my head before.

But like I mentioned above, this might be because of my own personality and interests :P. I can imagine some people I know becoming more open-minded or truly buying into some idea by becoming emotionally invested in a character and seeing what they do or how they think. For example, maybe weakening a strongly-held feeling against polygamy by following the story of a character in a polygamous marriage and coming to empathize with that person. I'm not really like that, though :P. I feel like I need to be persuaded of something to change my mind about it, and just reading passively about it doesn't really force me to confront actual arguments about it.


Katie (calenmir) | 211 comments Sarah wrote: "Thinking about it a little more, I wonder if scifi's ability to actually challenge a reader's worldview and make them more open-minded is fundamentally handicapped by the fact that it is fiction, a..."

Parables, fables, object lessons, story problems...I think people like stories and learn well from them. "And the moral of the story, children, is..." I think the best fiction contains truth and that can persuade better than an in-your-face or possibly dry argument. :)


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments D. H. wrote: "So my question, does this story imply that reading SF makes one so open-minded that one becomes immoral? "

I don't think you've made your distinctions clear enough.

For example you say "I’m starting with the premise that morals are notions of right and wrong that come from the community"

Therefore something is moral because the community has decided it is moral - therefore by implication any value that is discordant with community morals is by definition immoral.

So then if you suggest that open mindedness includes a willingness to diverge from community definition of morality then open mindedness is by definition immoral.

If you then want to imply that SF makes you more open minded then that implies that SF is inherently immoral.

Which then forces the answer to your specific closing question as "Yes"

These aren't my personal views - just pointing out that you opening statement appears unworkable as a distinction.

But further to that, your closing question undermines your opening statement - Asking "does this story imply that reading SF makes one so open-minded that one becomes immoral?" implies that there is a moral bottom line(objective standard) to cross.

Michele wrote: "Safe sex with a person who is also a relative (especially one you didn't grow up with) doesn't result in twisted children so why not?"

The flaw in this idea is that if incest becomes an accepted social norm you will in fact get "twisted children" being born for exactly the same reason that we still get unwanted children and sexually transmitted diseases despite the "safe sex" message saturating Western culture. As I heard one of my workmates loudly profess - "Once you've used a condom you know you never ever want to use one ever again."

"And ye harm none, do what ye will." So incest as a social norm would in fact create immense suffering.


Michele | 1154 comments Despite the message of safe sex saturating the populace, quite a few fail to practice it of course, but my statement implied truly practicing it whether with a condom or other birth control methods. Sexual beliefs still being puritanical in many ways helps lead to people not teaching their children about sex, being embarrassed or humiliated by the act of purchasing condoms, young adults denied easy access to birth control, and the ridiculous belief that, "I'm a good girl/boy therefore I won't be tempted therefore no need to be prepared in advance," has resulted in many an unwanted pregancy/disease. But the Heinlein world Mori referenced has complete control over reproduction and disease and so intellectually incest poses no problem. In Mori's timeline of course AIDS was not yet an issue and she went and got the pill just in case she decided to become sexually active.

"An ye harm none, do what ye will" only works in this case if there are no children obviously. Otherwise someone (the child) is harmed and so cancels out the idea. I don't care what consenting adults do in private, it's not my business, nor the state's or the church's business.

These things I believe in and yet I'm well aware that they cannot be openly practiced in today's imperfect world.

If disease weren't a factor I'd say temporarily sterilize every child at the onset of puberty and let them experiment to their lusts content. I'd like to see the statistics if every child were born as a conscious choice.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments See how open minded she is!


message 27: by Phil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Phil | 1126 comments 1. People who read science fiction tend to be more interested and educated in science than the general public.
2. People who are more eduacated in science tend to hold fewer religious and supernatural beliefs than the general public.

Some religious leaders actively discourage their followers from reading science fiction because they think it might lead them to questioning their beliefs. From a religious person's point of view, those without the same convictions often do act in a less moral manner.

It's hard to say whether interest in science or reading science fiction comes first in most cases but there does seem to be a correlation.


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Michele wrote: "These things I believe in and yet I'm well aware that they cannot be openly practiced in today's imperfect world."

So...you consider them moral in theory but immoral in practice? I don't find that a very convincing argument.

But you mention Heinlein. So do you think its ok to be open minded about his sexist attitudes as well? Or is there such a thing as being too open minded? Are there some things that we should be closed minded about?
What if SF created a world where child porn was considered moral? Or perhaps where children are presented in a sexual way without the child knowing what was really going on? Would it be ok to be open minded about that? Would that qualify as no harm no foul?


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments @Phil - Do you know most people who are religious or who read scifi? I think not.


message 30: by Phil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Phil | 1126 comments David Sven wrote: "@Phil - Do you know most people who are religious or who read scifi? I think not."

Nothing I said is negated by me not personally knowing those people.
I'll admit that point 1 is an assumption I made based on thousands of people I've talked to over the course of my life. In my experience, people who read science fiction tend to be more interested in and know more about science than those who do not.
Point 2 has been shown to be true by many surveys done over several years and published in The Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic magazines.
The second paragraph in my previous post I know to be true from personal experience and does not require me to "know most people who are religious".
What you said is true but irrelevant.


message 31: by Phil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Phil | 1126 comments I think some people are using the term "open minded" differently than I understand it. You can be open minded and a skeptic at the same time. In fact to be a good skeptic you have to be open minded. To me, open minded means being willing to examine a question. It doesn't mean believing everything.
"Keep an open mind. Just not so open that your brain falls out."


message 32: by Nathan (last edited Jun 08, 2013 09:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Phil, if you are saying religous people are not open minded, I find that a terribly broad generalization.

I find most people are open minded and closed minded in turn depending on the issue or question.

I find find people accuse others of close mindedness when they disagree, when, perhaps they came to diffrent concusion after examining the question, as you put it.

I know from personal experence that many religous people examine and reexamine the question of the existance of God (or whatever) and the various doctrines of their faith. Sometimes the answers are just different than what others would like.


message 33: by Phil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Phil | 1126 comments Nathan wrote: "Phil, if you are saying religous people are not open minded, I find that a terribly broad generalization.

I find most people are open minded and closed minded in turn depending on the issue or qu..."


I said some (emphasis on some) religious leaders would prefer that their followers not question their beliefs. I have no data whether or not religious people are open minded and hope I have not offended.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Phil wrote: "Nathan wrote: "Phil, if you are saying religous people are not open minded, I find that a terribly broad generalization.

I find most people are open minded and closed minded in turn depending on ..."


Not at all. I found it all very civil.


Michele | 1154 comments I don't think any form of sex between consenting adults is immoral in any way, but the facts of uncontrolled pregnancy and disease make it impractical and dangerous, so yes my beliefs on what SHOULD be allowed and what CAN be done in today's world don't match up.

I don't desire to walk around naked everywhere, but I believe people should be allowed to if they so choose. Yet I'm aware that in today's society anyone who did so would be arrested or raped or both, so do I advocate that? No, because I'm not an idiot. And without pockets, where would I carry my phone when listening to an audio book?

Since child porn can lead to adults preying on children for molestation, and the children are mentally fu*ked up by it, it does cause harm and therefore should not be done.

The rede is about consequenses. If an author could convince me there would absolutely be no negative consequences mentally, physically, spiritually, to anyone involved I'd have to consider it, but I seriously doubt that could be done.

On another topic, I've seen that many scientists believe in God but that doesn't mean they are religious as in follwers of a religious code of set beliefs. And I think the majority of most religious people are judged too harshly by the extremely vocal fundamentalists who get the most press.

Don't throw out any babies with the bathwater.


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Phil wrote: "I said some (emphasis on some) religious leaders would prefer that their followers not question their beliefs."

And the same could be said for some of my biology teachers :)

I would have thought it obvious that a secular education would tend to produce people who tend to hold a secular worldview. Especially in higher education science where it is taught that the secular worldview is the only valid scientific worldview.
It has nothing to do with whether nonreligious people are inherently smarter than religious people.


Michele wrote: "Since child porn can lead to adults preying on children for molestation, and the children are mentally fu*ked up by it, it does cause harm and therefore should not be done. "

So would it be technically okay if those people could control their actions and never touch a child? Is this a case of "what SHOULD be allowed" if it were practical?


Kevin | 701 comments Well, I don't consider myself to be immoral, though I'm sure some people would. I also consider myself to be fairly open minded, more than most (that I know) I'd say, but I'm not sure reading SF&F specifically really contributed towards that, though reading in general certainly has.

Most of the things I read during my "formative years" was fantasy about the good white guys from the West fighting off an invasion of evil "dark" guys coming from the East ... This was mostly due to what was easily available to me at the time (as in what got translated) and me not really looking for anything else. I've expanded a bit since I've started reading in English.


Michele | 1154 comments You seem to be referring now to sexual fantasies which have nothing to do with actions. People have such fantasies about murder, rape, bondage and so on without ever acting on those fantasies and such can be found in many movies today - is this what you are referring to? If so I don't judge a person by their fantasies, so yes if someone sitting alone somewhere watches a stolen home movie of a child running around a backyard and gets off on it, I think that's weird and sad and creepy and unhealthy, but unharmful IF no action is ever taken toward a child.


message 39: by David Sven (last edited Jun 08, 2013 07:02PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Michele wrote: "- is this what you are referring to?"

No, I was referring specifically to child porn where children are portrayed in a sexual way in photos or on film for consumption as porn. Is the consumer a "pervert" or immoral if they never act out what they see?

I guess what I'm driving at is that making moral judgements implies the existence of objective moral values - or an objective or universal standard. To say something is amoral raises the natural question "compared to what?" You have implied that causing harm is in most or many cases objectively immoral (note I use "objective" not "absolute"). And objective moral values can only be applied to actions - not consequences, even if you want to say it is the consequence that makes the action immoral - it is still the action and not the consequence that is immoral. So I don't think it is meaningful in a lot of cases to attempt to separate consequences from actions to redefine the moral value of those actions - especially when that separation is purely a fiction.

For example one might propose that rape is evil but it is only the suffering bit of it that is evil. One might further argue that many animal species engage in what equates to rape but is a normal part of that species reproduction and should not be considered evil. We might then engage in a Science fiction scenario where humans have similarly evolved to include rape as normal to reproduction and survival of our species. Would this then be a valid or meaningful argument to make the moral judgement that rape is not necessarily evil in and of itself because we can imagine a scenario where it is not evil?
Would this be an example where being open minded was virtuous?


Michele | 1154 comments I do not separate action from consequense - if no action toward child molestation occurs from a fantasy then there is no subsequent consequence of harm to the child. Thinking about is not doing. You posited a situation thus and so I responded.

An author can dream up any such scenario attempting to make something we consider wrong look right for the circumstances, but of course it must be believable. And just because he/she makes it a right act in the fictional society, doesn't mean it can be right or moral or not evil in ours. It is up to the reader to be sensible about such things and to truly consider them.

Do I believe child pornography can exist in today's US of A without people acting on those desires or the children involved being harmed in the making of? No. Therefore I don't in any way condone it. Theoretically, hypothetically if no action were taken I would not have any argument. I do not presume to police people on their dreams or fantasies, only on what they actually do.


Meghan (mesulli) | 14 comments Sort of related to different values as a SF reader - as readers of lots of dystopian worlds and additional violent wars, do you feel that type of future is inevitable?

Mor mentions the Russians invading Afghanistan and says "There's a terrible inevitability to it. I've read so many stories with World War III that sometimes it seems as if its an inevitable future and there's no use worrying about anything..."

I am inherently an optimist and like to think of all the positive ways our world could change, but it gets harder and harder to not see some hugely depressing future coming sometimes,


Caitlin | 355 comments David Sven wrote: "Michele wrote: "- is this what you are referring to?"

No, I was referring specifically to child porn where children are portrayed in a sexual way in photos or on film for consumption as porn. Is t..."


Re: the idea of animal rape. I just read "The Dolphin Rape Myth" in which the author points out we can't really know whether there is consent being given (or that consent would even be understood), so the correct term is likely sexual coersion.


Steve (plinth) | 177 comments Consider that the manner in which something is presented affects your interpretation of it.

For example, I grew up in the 70's and 80's - a time when in grade school and junior high school, the typical way to revile something/someone was to declare it 'gay'. When I was a senior in high school, a dear friend of mine who was two years older came out. There was no fanfare; no to do. It was matter-of-fact. I remember thinking, "Well, M is honestly no different than she was yesterday: she's still my friend, she's still a nice person. The rest of [my] world is clearly wrong."

And I think that's one of the things that changes (or at least affects) how we perceive the unusual. If it is presented in a matter-of-fact way, it doesn't come with the social taboos that normally cloud our reactions.


message 44: by Tom (new)

Tom | 2 comments "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink".

Reading speculative fiction gives the opportunity to think about different value sets, and desensitise yourself to new concepts, but doesn't force you to make any actual choices or decisions.

Re society, the treatment of such issues in popular media is a good litmus test, as certain issues move from unmentionable to scandalous to unpopular to unusual to incidental.


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