A Motion For Discovery

Part of an ongoing conversation. A reader with the pseudonymous name of False Keraptis replies to our ongoing MARS NEEDS WOMEN hypothetical with the following:

First, I move for discovery. I’m going to need the foundational texts of Martian Civilization (if that’s too contentious to define, then just give me the 100 most common texts), and a translator, or better yet, some kind of Arisian mind-alteration that gives me fluency in the tongues of Mars.

The Martian has a harem, appreciates the art of dance, calls himself warlord, and looks like Elvis. He’s pretty human-like. I think it should be easy enough to prove the Martian moral code indicts his act of aggression, or at least that Martians are similar enough to humans to be bound to a similar morality by both genetics and game theory.


Of course, this defeats the whole purpose of the hypothetical question, so let’s say the texts reveal that Martians are creatures like the beholder from D&D: solitary, entirely self-sufficient, and nigh-incapable of any kind of cooperation. Even their reproduction involves no contact or cooperation with each other, and their millions of microscopic young are cast into to the shifting sands to fend for themselves, like crab larvae in the sea.



This would be trouble. Why should such a creature be bound by a morality that resembles ours? Its interests and its nature are too different. Reason is the same everywhere though, and obligates the Martian to return cooperation with cooperation in an I.P.D. Unfortunately, neither Earth, nor Yvonne Craig had yet offered cooperation at the time of the attack, and it’s not obvious we could offer meaningful cooperation or defection.


However, just as this rule binds all rational creatures, there might exist other similar rules, unknown on Earth, which prohibit the Martian’s conduct. All I can say, o Mighty Star-Judges, is that my people’s moral sciences are primitive and undeveloped. The fact that we have not yet discovered such a rule does not mean that it does not exist.

On that note, I move for discovery of the major works on morality produced by the Vegan, Arisian, Monolith-builder, and Metron civilizations.


My comment: You get extra points for correctly using a legal term like ‘discovery.’

And you ask what I think is the most interest question of all, which is what all these nonhumans who share no genetics, culture, or civilization with us fit into a general and universal scheme of morality, if they fit it at all.

Let us suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the Martians were a gregarious species like wolves or humans who ran in packs and cared for their young, but that, let us say, the Arisians were as solitary as beholders and left their young to fend for themselves like sea turtles.

Does that mean that the Martians are bound to observe the Golden Rule and the Arisians are not?

Or does it mean only that the particular laws and customs each race invents as it applies the Golden Rule to itself must suit their particular circumstance?

Or is there a third alternative I am not seeing?

Let us further suppose, for the sake of argument, that all the races, both the gregarious ones and the solitary ones, have laws and customs clearly forbidding the abduction and coercion of young Martian maidens and young Arisian maidens, but that no rule explicitly rules out picking up Earthgirls and forcing them to dance slinky dances in skimpy costumes.

Can it be argued that if a law exists which Man or Martian or Arisian declares to be binding on the conscience, that law ceases to be binding if the present strength does not exist to enforce it? In other words, can it be argued that a law should be binding even if, under the particular limited circumstances of this case, it is not binding?

Myself, I see only two answers: yes and no. (anyone who sees another answer, feel free to jump in).

Yes means that laws are only to be obeyed when the policeman is present in the room. The anarchy that erupts from that answer is self-explanatory and the argument is self defeating. I say a law that is not obeyed for reasons of voluntary submission to moral authority is not a law at all: I say the whole apparatus of punishment exists only to make up for the relatively rare defects of voluntary submission to moral authority.

No means the law have a moral authority to it, above and beyond its mere force and frightfulness. No means the law should be obeyed even when no power is currently in position to force you to obey it.

Let us suppose for the sake of argument that everyone involved in our hypothetical case, even the Martians, agree that good laws should be obeyed even when no power is currently in position to punish disobedience. In that case, what is the argument for or against extending the already-admitted law protecting Martian maidens from kidnap (called the Deja Thoris Law) to cover Yvonne Craig and other Earthgirls? Once we admit that law IN THE ABSTRACT has moral authority, do we not also tacitly admit that the law covers every other rational being?

Again, in a theist background, that argument is easy to made. In an atheist background, it is a hard argument to make. I confess I am not sure it can be made at all, but I am interested to see you or anyone take a swing at the pitch.