Posts Tagged ‘aliens’

The X in the File, the Meat on the Bones

Sunday, January 31st, 2010 by

Though not nearly as supernatural as its namesake, Bones Season 5, Episode 11 (“The X in the File“) concludes with a deliciously philosophical exchange.

But first, a brief plot summary:

An out-of-this-world case brings Brennan and Booth to New Mexico where they investigate human remains with extraterrestrial attributes. The victim is identified as a local UFO fanatic, known around town for her relentless search for alien life forms and whose latest “evidence” leads even Brennan and Booth to re-think outside existence. Meanwhile, a local sheriff refuses to release the bones, forcing the team at the Jeffersonian to work via satellite, and Angela and Jeffersonian intern Wendell come clean about their relationship.

After the case is wrapped up, Brennan and Booth celebrate with a little star gazing. In the middle of the desert, lounging on the hood of Booth’s car, the two wonder about the possibility that life exists on other planets:

(Brennan and Booth, alternating)

It’s ridiculous to think there’s anything on this planet which merits crossing what are literally astronomical distances.

Do you think aliens are anthropologists? Maybe they just want to study our religion, sex, love, our fine languages and line dancing.

That’s an interesting possibility I hadn’t considered.

They’re living creatures, they like to reach out, Bones.

Living creatures like to reach out and eat each other.

Oh. So what are you saying, that the aliens are going to come down here, and drink our spinal fluid?

Well, if the aliens are advanced enough to fly faster than light, then they can probably make spinal fluid.

You just said that aliens are nice.

Did not.

You just basically said that aliens are nice anthropologists.

I do not think so.

You think that aliens are you!

You got me. I was sent down as an advance scout.

At first, I thought the conversation might veer towards the ethical, with Brennan arguing that the aliens – being of superior intelligence and all – would have earned the right to drink our spinal fluid. After all, this is one of the most common justifications given for our individual and institutionalized exploitation of nonhuman animals (e.g., humans are more evolved, intelligent, refined, civilized, etc. – the “top of the food chain,” “because we can” school of “thought”). Taken to its logical conclusion, this line of reasoning grants a similar license to exploit us “lesser” humans to hypothetical intelligent alien visitors.

Alas, the episode ends on a lighter note. Even so, when Brennan suggests that the aliens could – and would – develop and consume synthetic spinal fluid, and Booth implies that this would indeed be the “nice” thing to do, I can’t help but read this as a subtle plea for veganism: why harm sentient beings for sustenance when you’ve no need? Exploiting just to exploit is “not nice” at best.

Thoughts?

They’re made out of…meat.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Mylène @ My Face Is On Fire recently wrote about scifi author Terry Bisson’s 1991 short story “They’re Made Out of Meat,” which she noted, “provides an interesting twist on how most humans view animals.”

Wiki’s entry is on the story is rather short (but then, so’s the story!) – and contains spoilers – so if you’d rather be surprised, skip right on down to the video and press play before reading further. The running time is 7 1/2 minutes, but it’s worth every second.

They’re Made Out of Meat is a Nebula Award-nominated short story by Terry Bisson. It was originally published in OMNI. It consists entirely of dialogue between two characters, and Bisson’s website hosts a theatrical adaptation. A film adaptation won the Grand Prize at the Seattle Science Fiction Museum’s 2006 film festival.

(The aforementioned award-winning short is what I’ve embedded below.)

The two characters are sentient beings capable of traveling faster than light, on a mission to “contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe.” Bisson’s stage directions represent them as “two lights moving like fireflies among the stars” on a projection screen. They converse briefly on their bizarre discovery of carbon-based life, which they refer to incredulously as “thinking meat.” They agree to “erase the records and forget the whole thing,” marking the Solar System “unoccupied.”

Interestingly, the only link listed under “See also” is “Carbon chauvinism“:

Carbon chauvinism is a relatively new term meant to disparage the assumption that extraterrestrial life will resemble life on Earth. In particular, it would be applied to those who assume that the molecules responsible for the chemical processes of life must be constructed primarily from carbon. It suggests that, as carbon-based life forms who have never encountered any life that has evolved outside the earth’s environment, human beings may find it difficult to envision radically different biochemistries. The term was used as early as 1973, when Carl Sagan described it and other human chauvinisms that limit imagination of possible extraterrestrial life in his Cosmic Connection.

From there, you can go to “Anthropocentrism,” “Chauvinism,” “Chemical evolution,” “Carbon-based life,” and “They’re Made Out of Meat.”

I always found our humanoid conceptions of aliens life forms to be unreal and egotistical, but never considered it a form of prejudice. But yeah, “carbon chauvinism” (carbonism?) sounds about right. How fitting, then, that “anthropocentrism” (which links to “speciesism”) is referenced in the entry.

Anyhow, this short adaptation of “They’re Made Out of Meat” is really well done, and – if you’re so predisposed (read: intellectually honest) – the themes can equally be applied to our treatment of non-human animals.

See also: Damon Knight’s “To Serve Man.”
 


 
If you can’t view the video above – or, if you can but would like to read the story as well – it’s available in multiple places online; Google “They’re Made Out of Meat” or try this link, for starters.

Many thanks to Mylène for the video!

Truth in Advertising: HUMANS ARE AMONG US!

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

This series of retro ’50s monster movie poster adverts for the SciFi Channel has little to do with animal advocacy – but why let a lil’ thing like that stop me from putting an animal-friendly spin on ’em?

Each “poster” depicts an iconic movie monster recoiling in horror as a human invades his space:

Sci Fi Channel - The Thing

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