Speakers discuss Sci-Fi ethics


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Photo by Tianfang Yu |

Timothy Casey, left, and Daniela Sharma, right, discuss ethics of science fiction.


After all of the scientific enlightenments the human race has experienced over the centuries, it remains to be seen whether we have succeeded in becoming masters of the environment, or to remain just a part of it.

Students gathered in the Livingston Student Center on Wednesday for a discussion on ethical concerns in the scientific community, hosted by The Intergalactic and Mystical Enthusiasts of Rutgers.

Daniela Sharma and Timothy Casey, faculty members in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, presented the discussion.

Casey, director of the SEBS General Honors Program, discussed two groups of people as defined by Daniel Quinn in his book “Ishmael.” Humans can be takers, people who see themselves as the race meant to dominate the environment, or leavers, people who live as one with the environment.

Casey urged students to consider the actions the human race has taken, and which role humans more often fill.

Sharma, the undergraduate program director in the Department of Animal Sciences, brought to light the changes in the interactions between humans and animals over the centuries.

“A lot of us have a very romanticized idea of how people used to live in harmony with animals and nature,” Sharma said.

In contrast, history shows that humans have always separated themselves from animals. Whether they worshipped an animal or claimed it was an ill omen, Sharma said, humans set animals apart and did not try to understand them.

She used the animated movie “Princess Mononoke” as a model of animals, humans and the relationship between them today.

The movie follows a boy who falls into the middle of a conflict between humans, who are urbanizing the land by cutting down the nearby forest, and the sentient animals that call the forest home.

The boy reconciles the issue by learning and understanding the needs of each side, and uses that knowledge to bring the humans and animals together in peace.

 Sharma emphasized the importance of cohabiting the earth. She said it is crucial to understand animals rather than using them to further humans’ control of the environment.

While the relationship between humans and animals has grown to demonstrate appreciation and understanding, Casey believes similar action must be taken in other areas of our culture.

The fight to become masters of the environment may produce results at first, but there are usually unintended consequences, he said.

Countries such as China and India continue to over-pump their land by depleting their resources in an effort to produce abnormally high amounts of crops for a short period of time, he said.

As the demand for these crops — such as corn, wheat and soybeans — increases, producers leave behind the land they have exhausted and search for more farmland in foreign countries, Casey said.

He believes that the growth in agriculture has caused humans to become takers, and this behavior must be changed before the damage becomes irreparable.


By Melanie Groves

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