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Choices and ethics and morals, oh my

I'm a little puzzled by all the angst I've been reading since the ep "Michael", over the morals/ethics of turning the Wraith into humans with the retrovirus. Frankly, I thought it was weak tension when they used it on the show, and I'm surprised at how many people have picked up the angst and run with it as gospel. Why am I puzzled? Let's look.

1) The Wraith are predators, plain and simple. They hunt and feed off humans, exclusively. They're not going to be changing their nature any time in the future, so...it's a simple survival equation: them, or humans. Period, paragraph. There's no room for 'let's all live together'. They won't do it--they can't do it. It simply isn't in their nature. And, as I pointed out before, their nature isn't going to be changing. It's that tiger hunting us in the forest: we either come up with a damn clever way to get to it first, or we're human hash. Tigers don't change their stripes. They are what they are.

2) Traditionally (and I say that due to current events which have gone counter to our past policy,) the United States has a public ethic of "no preemptive strikes", meaning, we don't go out and kill other people just so they can't harm us in some future scenario. We use sanctions, we create scenarios in which the other people are put in untenable situations to force their hand, we put them in jails to contain their behavior, etc...but we don't condone outright preemptive murder as a valid and ethical solution to events that haven't taken place.

But--as I pointed out in #1, it's a certainty the Wraith are going to hunt and kill, not a possibility. The Wraith don't have a choice. So, taking action is a necessary thing. The SGA have killed their share of Wraith already, when they've clashed in chance meetings or in combat. It's not like there's this big "oh, the poor Wraith" sentiment that's happening. And yet, to be true to our highest beliefs, the SGA tried to utilize a method that would create that 'let's all live together' sentiment: the retrovirus. In one fell swoop, it rids us of our very deadly predator, and avoids killing. A dream answer come true!

But of course, it isn't. It doesn't quite work right, there's big holes in the scenario. Mainly: without a daily dose, they revert. And now we have evidence that memory can return even with the daily dosing. With Michael, they tried a second time to avoid an outright murder (and this time, of a being who, for whatever its own reasons were, did help us) and gave Michael the drug again, desperate to find some sense of humanity's best nature in their actions and avoid murdering him. But the universe keeps conspiring to teach them the very stark lesson that, in the end, it's all about survival, not ethics, and, at that moment in time, they can't afford to keep trying to find a way around that fact.

(Because, in the end, ethics do very little for a race that's wiped out of existence, n'est-ce pas? )

So what does that tell us? It certainly tells me that a Wraith is a Wraith is a Wraith. Even forcibly stripped of the genetic material that makes it physically a Wraith, its nature is still there, still active...and will come to the fore at the first opportunity. So while Atlantis had a good idea in Carson's retrovirus as a way to try to take the High Road of survival, ultimately? There is no high road; there is only survival.

In that case, using the retrovirus is like using any other weapon in one's arsenal. The humans used it on board the hive ship to create a chance at survival for themselves, and it worked. They attempted to give the created humans a chance, continuing to give them the drug that would keep them from reverting to what they fundamentally are, but that attempt didn't work. If that unknown hive ship had not been bearing down on the planet and thereby threatening all human life in a second galaxy (Earth's) if they were to find Michael and have access to his knowledge, then leaving the Wraith/humans there on that planet, with no way off, at the mercy of their own natures, would be as valid and as morally high a choice that could be made. But the hive ship was coming, Michael did have knowledge we couldn't afford to let survive, and Sheppard made the only valid decision: kill them all while they had a chance left.

I don't understand all the angst about these decisions. Yes, the Atlanteans were put in an untenable position and had to make one hard choice after another, concerning the ethic of killing. They kept putting themselves in more danger than they would have been in if they'd simply killed the Wraith outright when they found them incapacitated and changed. But in the end, I don't think their choices were ethically bad. Trying for the high road, while certainly overly optimistic and naive, certainly couldn't be unethical. And in the end, survival can't be called unethical either. 

ETA: I can't help reccing lydiabell's wonderfully insightful post on Sheppard's behavior in the recent episode. Go to her LJ and read.

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(Deleted comment)
sundara
Jul. 22nd, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
I guess it's totally a matter of perspective, isn't it? I don't find the Michael experimentation "incredible incompetence"; I see it as people trying to find what they consider a good choice in a situation that offers only losing ones. Fumbling in the dark with it, yes--but not incompetence. I kind of find a strange admiration for the Atlantis group--here they are, faced with beings that view them as nothing more than lunch, and yet they're trying to avoid out-right killing of them, willing to attempt a risky venture to do so. Foolhardy, possibly, but there's something admirable in that stance.

b) I must say I disagree with your opening point on this. You mention "human rights" and Earth's struggles with it, but...this isn't Earth. The Wraith aren't human, no matter what they look like when they've had a dose of Carson's drug.

I'll use the treatment of pedophilia as an analogy: many pedophiles undergo treatment, some voluntary, many court-ordered, with testosterone-reducing drugs (chemical castration.) While the treatment removes the sex drive completely, physiologically, it doesn't change the mental component of the problem. In their minds, they still find children attractive and desirable. When the drug is stopped, the sex drive would resume and the recidivism rate goes way up. Most psychologists understand that, overall, treatment of pedophilia is first and foremost done for the protection of the society, not for the benefit of the individual--which is iffy and in many cases, not entered into willingly by the patient/client.

The Wraith are like this, only their urge is to consume humans as food. They are not humans; they cannot be treated as humans. And now, even when they are on the drug, we see their inner nature pushing to the fore. I don't view the Wraith as less than, or more evil than, humans when I say this. I view them as *different*. They have to be taken on their own terms, within the situation of their world, their galaxy. If, in some future time, science on the show would come up with a viable, lasting solution that permanently removes not only the Wraith need to feed, but the nature/memory that drives them to return to that form, then *that* resultant being would be able to integrate into the galaxy in a workable manner. As it stands now? They can't.

As for mistreatment of the Wraith? I'm scratching my head over that. Carson was doing everything possible to try and find a workable solution to their situation, so that they could *all* survive. How is that mistreatment? Would you have found it more ethical if they simply killed all the Wraith and didn't bother with the attempt at trying to find a way they could survive alongside the humans in that galaxy? I honestly don't understand.

C) With the reference to "unnecessary cruelty" in an "insane plan": how do you define unnecessary cruelty? As for insane (mentally disturbed, absurd or extreme), I'll grant that the plan was extreme! But there was an internal logic to it, and as I said above, it was an attempt to avoid outright killing of them. The science was shaky--they hadn't had time to really perfect it--so it worked far less than they'd hoped.

d) Absolutely! There *is* no moral superiority of humans over Wraith in the situation in the Pegasus galaxy, as I view it--which is what I am referring to in that quote you've used. There are only beings, Wraith and human, attempting to live in the universe, according to their natures. Now, within those natures, their are wide variances. We have the best of human nature and the worst; since we do not need to eat each other to survive, killing other humans is anathema in most human societies. On the other hand, most don't blink at killing cows and pigs and chickens to make dinner.

I think the argument you've used in this d section degenerates into a specious one...so I'm not quite sure how to respond other than to point that out. The phrase of mine you quoted wasn't a perspective that was intended to be applied in general to all human behavior, but specifically to the situation being discussed. Other situations would have to be discussed with their own unique merits and complexities.
(Deleted comment)
sundara
Jul. 23rd, 2006 12:04 am (UTC)
Oh yes! I totally agree on most of the above. But that's something I kind of skip on by because it's writer's stupidity. Granted, it's all a writer's creation in the end, but...I suppose when it's completely out of bounds, I tend to gloss over it and use it in canonical references as little as possible. Ha. In this, I've perfected the art of selective watching as an excellent self-defense, learned over decades of being subjected to illogical and completely bizarre tv plots utilizing way too much use of deus ex machina devices to round out the hour. Otherwise, it's all too easy to become disillusioned and unable to suspend disbelief...and that is essential to reaping any joy from following a tv show. And I need at least one show to sit down and enjoy!

Thanks for stretching my mind and sharing your perspectives.
lapislaz
Jul. 22nd, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)
I understand what you are saying, and I even mostly agree with you. And when there was no contact with Earth available, ala first season, it made sense.

But now, there is an alternative - they can leave. Go home. Back to the SGC, and the entire Milky Way Galaxy. It's not about survival any more - it's about stubborness.

Yes, the Wraith will still be predators, and the Pegasus Galaxy is always going to have this problem. It's John's fault that they woke up early, but they would have woken up sooner or later without our help.

I also agree that Michael and his hive-mates had to die. They knew where Earth is, and that information can't be communicated or Earth is in deep doo-doo. But to eradicate the entire race known as the Wraith is to upset a stable galactic ecology that's been in place for thousands of years. It's not our place to finish fighting the war that the Ancients gave up on ten thousand years ago.
grey_bard
Jul. 22nd, 2006 10:01 pm (UTC)
...Letting people get eaten is okay?
lapislaz
Jul. 22nd, 2006 11:08 pm (UTC)
Well, that's kind of a point of view thing - in our galaxy, so far at least, we're the top predator. So we see it as immoral to eat us. I wonder how cows feel about it? Dolphins? Whales?

If we had never gone to the Pegasus Galaxy, the Wraith would have kept doing that voodoo that they do so well, and we would never have known about it. Yes, we consider them monsters, and so do the residents. But they are a fact of life, and not something they can do anything about. They are a part of the ecosystem, and until we kicked the door down, it was a fairly stable one.

If we say it's not OK to eat people, then it's not OK to eat any creature that has sentience. Where you draw the sentience line is up to the belief system you were raised in, I guess.
grey_bard
Jul. 23rd, 2006 12:00 am (UTC)
It would be wrong for a dolphin not to do its best to survive or protect its own young. There's nothing immoral in a Wraith eating a human baby, but there *is* something immoral in a human not trying to stop a Wraith from eating a human baby. Does the distinction make sense to you, even if you don't agree?

Plus, look. Do the math. Wraith are sentient, so are humans. A Wraith, being a predator that needs to eat sentients once adult, needs to consume a large number of human lives in order to survive and remain awake. One sentient Wraith life costs at least twenty or so sentient human lives.


(no subject) - sundara - Jul. 23rd, 2006 02:16 am (UTC) - Expand
sundara
Jul. 22nd, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC)
So, would it be more ethical or moral to leave? I've seen that kind of argument alluded to...that we should leave and not upset the apple cart anymore.

But, as I've been talking about human nature a lot, that touches into an argument I think is valid: exploration and curiosity as intrinsic in human nature. Should we give up our nature because Wraith nature, which is different, threatens us? Interesting question, I think.

I think, bottom line, what we are seeing is the grand nature of the universe at work in this. Survival of the fittest. (I am *not* saying that such an observation gives free rein to rape, pillage and kill at will in the Pegasus galaxy.) I simply find the situation fascinating, not ethically troubling.

And...why isn't it our place to finish fighting the war the Ancients gave up on ten thousand years ago? I'm curious. Such a statement has lots of assumptions within it, doesn't it? I mean, where is it written that it's not our place? Despite the mess everything appears to be in at the moment, how do we know it's not the best destiny of the Earthlings in the Pegasus galaxy to take that path? Just some food for thought *g*
elynross
Jul. 22nd, 2006 08:37 pm (UTC)
so...it's a simple survival equation: them, or humans.

I'm not angsty about it; I don't care enough about the show to be so, but. I would say that simple reasons are two-fold, as I read:

1) the show itself isn't framing it as a simple matter of survival, but as a moral choice: that the Wraith are EVIL, and that therefore forcibly making them human is okay, because humans are GOOD and BETTER. And if it were purely a survival equation, they'd have just killed them to start with, rather than trying to convince themselves they were merciful by stranding them with medication that will run out, without really the means to support themselves once supplies run out, and they wouldn't try and justify it to themselves with incredibly weak and very questionable moral arguments.

2) What the show is saying about the Atlanteans as moral creatures, and the overall moreal subtext, is disturbing to fans because the whole "we're better because we don't eat sentient beings," to name one questionable argument, means that these aren't the people they thought they were/want them to be/what have you. It's the same thing that you could see after the torture episode; people didn't want to see people they like willing to torture people under their command/for whom they were responsible.

Utilitarian arguments don't work for everyone. And if you're going to argue "survival over all," then be honest about it and don't try to justify it with some kind of claim of moral superiority.
sundara
Jul. 22nd, 2006 09:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, I see. I guess that's why I'm puzzled over the response: I didn't see the show framing it as a good vs. evil thing--possibly because *I* don't see it as a good vs. bad issue, if that's what they're doing. I *did* see the show attempting to create a moral dilemma, and tension therein over decisions and choices, but the good vs. evil thing? Huh. I'll have to think about that.

As for me, I see Wraith as Wraith, their nature as their nature, and humans as humans, and our nature as our nature. No good or bad inherent in being Wraith or human, just something that *is*. Which puts me in a completely different starting point than most anyone else, I guess, and would naturally lead to completely different end perspectives.
elynross
Jul. 23rd, 2006 01:51 am (UTC)
As for me, I see Wraith as Wraith, their nature as their nature, and
humans as humans, and our nature as our nature. No good or bad
inherent in being Wraith or human, just something that *is*.


So do I, more or less. Or... I would view actual beings that way, I think, but I do think the show itself structures them as inherently evil, glorying in the terrorizing of their food, much as they vilified the Goa'uld on SG1. If they weren't evil, they weren't Goa'uld, they were Tokra. But each given individual Wraith or Goa'uld we see has contained negative personality traits -- unless (for the Wraith) they'd been literally "humanized." I think the show itself has set up a fairly simplistic good v. evil, where the Goa'uld and the Wraith, both, are parasites, and the "good" humans speak of them not as a pragmatic "evil," but a moral one.

And I think at least some fans are uncomfortable with seeing that in the characters they want to like, to the point of talking of both this ep&other Michael eps, and the torture ep, as things to be "fixed" by fanfiction. The feeling I get from some is that these people aren't *like that* -- even though the show clearly writes them that way. It's... really fascinating to me.
sundara
Jul. 23rd, 2006 02:55 am (UTC)
Good point about the Goa'uld being campy evil, and the Wraith as the SGA counterpart. Although, I have to admit, I still think the writers are going beyond that simplistic a line in SGA. From the very few things I'd read from the creators from the time the show was gearing up, they were very much interested in creating flaws in characters, and creating morally ambiguous situations...a lot more than in SG-1. SGA is a much darker show, much more ambiguous...so IMO, they've succeeded.

I think they've created a situation where it certainly would be easy for all humans to look at the Wraith, call them Monsters and evil and hate them and easily kill them without a qualm. And yet...not all humans are doing that. All of the Atlanteans have obviously differing feelings about the Wraith, despite their initial horror at such a Earth-human boogey monster come true. Some characters are grappling with the dichotomy of Wraith nature and their sentience. And the Pegasus galaxy humans run the gamut from alliance/worshipping them as near Gods, to vigorously fighting back. So I think they're doing a fairly good job of showing all sides, given the situation. It only lacks Daniel Jackson to come and give Atlantis a completely detached perspective on the sociological implications of Wraith-human interaction. *g*

Ah...discomfort with the ambiguity. Okay. Now that motivation I can understand. You've cleared up a great deal with that observation, and it makes complete sense to me. God knows I saw enough of it in Highlander years ago, and in X-Files, too.

No, it's the characters' very ambiguity and flaws that make me so love this show, no matter how many plot holes and faux pas I've winced at and then ignored. I'll skim over the obvious holes in the plot of the week, but please don't skim over my lovely ambiguous characters! The show would be utterly boring to me without them.
elynross
Jul. 23rd, 2006 03:26 am (UTC)
Although, I have to admit, I still think the writers are going beyond that simplistic a line in SGA.

Oh, I'm finding it fascinating, and I... hope, more than anything, that the problematic moral subtext that's developed is intentional. At the same time, the fact that really nobody is questioning how they've treated Michael and the transformed Wraith doesn't bode well for that to be true. I am also fascinated, though, but the assumption I see on the part of a number of fans that the writers are either oblivious to their own subtext, or are somehow promoting a might makes right fascist text as a kind of patriotic support for our own current regime.

SGA is a much darker show, much more ambiguous...so IMO, they've succeeded.

Oh, definitely agreed! I find the SGA universe much darker in undertone than SG-1; it's really puzzled me how much of the fandom seems to see it as campy and cheesy, all "balloons and lube," because that's never been my perception of it. I'd just accepted that I was watching a very different show than a lot of people -- but that's nothing new. *g*

Some characters are grappling with the dichotomy of Wraith nature and their sentience.

Who do you feel is really doing that? I mean, they tell me Beckett is struggling, but he didn't seem to have any moral aversion to performing genetic rape on a widespread scale; and the very personal and specific rape of Michael... I didn't see him express any regret or ambivalence about that. His concern seem to focus on the goal of making them permanently human, even though that would steal their minds, as well as their culture and physiology. It's like the ST genetics wars, only we're seeing it from the other side. *g*

So I think they're doing a fairly good job of showing all sides, given the situation.

The worship to rebellion is the same range they had on SG-1, against the Goa'uld, but those who worship are never presented as anything but delusional; I have yet to see anyone truly argue the concept that the Wraith have any right to pursue their own biology -- I don't see anyone saying they have just as much right to live and eat as anyone, even though they must be fought because we are their food. No real sign of a purely pragmatic "us or them" that doesn't come down on a "and it should be us because we're better people."

But for me, at this point it's only the dark subtext and the moral complexities of the situation that make the show interesting. But unless they start showing me that the characters are aware of these moral complexities, that things aren't as black and white as I'm being told and shown they think they are... That's not going to be enough. DS9 came straight out and questioned the idea that the Federation was wholly good and right and just, with the Maquis; I don't yet see anything comparable to that, particularly when you add in Woolsey basically saying that the IOA would accept Weir keeping her command because he'll lie and tell them she ordered the destruction of the POWs on the planet, and that would prove to them her fitness to command. I mean, Atlantis is basically our foothold in a foreign country; we're the invaders there, moving in and upsetting the balance of power. We're the ones who woke the Wraith.

Granted at this point they see themselves as fighting to protect Earth, but I honestly don't see any self-perception of moral ambiguity, no questioning of whether they're anything but in the right, no sense that there's any moral quandary, regardless of what pragmatics and survival dictate. That's an increasingly disturbing subtext, to me and a number of other fans. The difference it, it amuses me and gives me something to make the show more intriguing, while it upsets most others. *g*
(no subject) - elynross - Jul. 23rd, 2006 03:28 am (UTC) - Expand
lilyayl
Jul. 22nd, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC)
The Wraith are predators, plain and simple. They hunt and feed off humans, exclusively. They're not going to be changing their nature any time in the future, so...it's a simple survival equation: them, or humans. Period, paragraph. There's no room for 'let's all live together'. They won't do it--they can't do it. It simply isn't in their nature.

I think the second season of SGA targeted this particular belief strongly. In season one the Wraith were presented as a united, unquestionably powerful foe. In season two the cracks began to show. We learned about the Wraith deal with the Olesians, Ellia, infighting, Wraith worshippers, and the fact that humans and Wraith are closely related. Suddenly the Wraith, who had been a monolith, became fracticious(sp), occasionally contradictory, and more understandable.

The Olesians and the worshippers show that the Wraith (and Allies, for that matter) show that the Wraith are willing to work with humans, to at least tolerate their existance. The situations in which such toleration occurs are not acceptable for us (I assume), but that does not matter. What does matter is that these instances demonstrate that negotiation and communication can take place between humans and Wraith.

Now Ellia presents a couple more important pieces of information. Being raised by a human, she expresses human feelings and desires. Her Wraith nature is only brought out by the retrovirus (and that does not count). She resists her hunger. To always give in to the hunger and to always eat fully is a learned trait, I believe. Even when Ellia is starving, she only takes a few years. Consider also the sentiment expressed by the Wraith female in The Rising that hunger is 'distasteful' and the Wraith in Condemned who talks of being 'civilised.' While the Wraith do need to feed, they do not need to feed on the level necessarily that they do. However, to not sate one's hunger goes against their culture. They can survive on less, but choose to not do so. (I would argue that Ellia later killed because she was covering her tracks, not because she wanted to kill.)

We've also some other interesting tidbits on the Wraith. For example, in The Defiant One, the Wraith kills the little lightning bugs. They can draw life force from beings other than humans; we do not yet know if they receive any nourishment doing so, however. Also, as the latest epi suggests, the Wraith can count how many years they remove. We also know that cullings used to take place over the course of hundreds of years, sometimes allowing societies to rise up before they were culled and decimated again.

Now, I've gone over all this because I believe this information suggests a world in which humans and Wraith could co-exist without being engaged in constant battle. The Wraith can choose to eat less. They can choose to negotiate. They can look for alternative food sources. And on the human side, doctors and scientists could look for ways to allieve the hunger or for alternatives. Right now being Wraith is being treated like a disease, a corruption. If the humans could change this viewpoint and if the Wraith could change their views on hunger--- a lot might be achieved. I admit this amounts a lot of 'if,' but the important thing is that the potentiality is there.

There is no plain and simple where the Wraith are concerned. Even Us or Them does not work, because for Them to survive, they must retain an Us. This means that negotiation must at some point take place. Even if they find their way to Earth, that only delays the inevitable.
lilyayl
Jul. 22nd, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
Part 2
The Retrovirus

The problem with the retrovirus is that it was created on a false assumption, that being a Wraith is something to fix, cure. I think Michael's speech to Teyla in 3x2 should counter this view quite soundly. You're right; no matter what, they are Wraith. Only when they have no memories do their human skins fit (and even then not well). The retrovirus, as it is currently being used, is not the best course of action.

First, the humans must accept that being Wraith is natural, not a genetic problem. Second, they should never view the Wraith as human. You say that the retrovirus is an attempt as an 'let's all get along' policy, but it isn't. The retrovirus is getting along on our terms alone. Just as the Olesians and Wraith worshippers get along on the Wraith terms solely. Neither scenario will work completely in the end.

A humanized Wraith should be informed of his condition immediately or after a short measure of time. The retrovirus should be offered as a way of getting a long, rather than as a way to control (which is what it has been so far). This is merely my opinion, but I base it upon the fact that the first thing the humanized Wraith notice, the first thing that arouses their curiousity and causes them to look deeper, is the deception. The realize something is being kept from them and then like little children, they run straight toward it.

By keeping the Wraith clueless, that increases not just their desire to know more, but also the humans' responsibility for them. The humans remove choice from them and keep them innocent. By removing all choice from the Wraith, the humans take upon themselves the burden of those choices and the responsibility for them. If the retrovirus turned the Wraith into sentient bunnies, the responsibility would be the same. It is not because they are human (in human form), but because the humans made those choices for them. That is my view, at least.

But the hive ship was coming, Michael did have knowledge we couldn't afford to let survive, and Sheppard made the only valid decision: kill them all while they had a chance left.

I agree with you here. Did the human Wraith deserve to die? No, but that doesn't change the fact Sheppard made the best decision in the circumstances.

And oh, I rambled quite a bit more than I'd meant to...
sundara
Jul. 22nd, 2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2
say that the retrovirus is an attempt as an 'let's all get along' policy, but it isn't. The retrovirus is getting along on our terms alone. Just as the Olesians and Wraith worshippers get along on the Wraith terms solely. Neither scenario will work completely in the end.

Excellent point. I should have said it's an attempt at let's-get-along, in the best way the humans could grasp at, at that moment. Anything else is completely beyond them at the moment.

I don't think, in the end, that the retrovirus is going to work unless the Wraith enter into the treatment willingly (just like treatment for pedophiles, as I mentioned above.) I think it's a stop-gap method at best, for the moment, and it's a successful weapon to be used when necessary (as they did in No Man's Land) but ultimately, the Wraith hunger to feed for survival is as strong as the human's instinct to survive. All in all, it's a hugely fascinating and explosive situation they've set up on the show. Thanks for the comments!
sundara
Jul. 22nd, 2006 11:35 pm (UTC)
Good point, about the variations in Wraith behavior and choices they make. Great food for thought. Although, I'm not sure the assumption they can draw life force from other living creatures is true. Do we have concrete evidence of that? I always thought the Super Wraith in Defiant One was simply grabbing at the annoying bugs.

And yes, negotiation would be the ultimate goal to attain. But do I think the Wraith would enter into it willingly or easily? No. They've got however-many thousands of years of history bred into them that tells them humans are puny, humans can be defeated, humans are beneath us and our natural underlings. So until enough happens that countermands that knowledge in a real, tangible way, I think the Wraith are not going to really want to "negotiate".

And--here's a thought--negotiate for what? Which humans they would feed upon and when? Until that need is able to be completely eliminated, and the Wraith willingly go that route, there really isn't much to *truly* negotiate about.

lilyayl
Jul. 23rd, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC)
Although, I'm not sure the assumption they can draw life force from other living creatures is true. Do we have concrete evidence of that?

No, we do not. We do know, however, that their hand can work on both humans and Wraith, that it isn't keyed just for humans. What we do not know is how many creatures the hand works upon and whether or not nourishment can come from anything other than humans and Wraith. While I believe that the hand can work on all manners of living things, I am not yet convinced that they can sate their hunger with anything other than humans and Wraith.

And yes, negotiation would be the ultimate goal to attain. But do I think the Wraith would enter into it willingly or easily? No. They've got however-many thousands of years of history bred into them that tells them humans are puny, humans can be defeated, humans are beneath us and our natural underlings.

And they've memories of the Ancients, as well, who at least put up a good fight before running off. But that doesn't help much at all. The situation since then has changed and is continuing to change. The Wraith are too numerous. The Atlanteans are putting up a strong fight and have a strong new weapon. Also, there is the emerging new enemy to consider as well. The circumstances are changing and soon the Wraith won't be able to afford trying to maintain the status quo. In such a situation, negotiation could become possible.

And--here's a thought--negotiate for what?

This is why the humanized Wraith should be told of their circumstances first thing and why the doctors and scientists should be looking for alternative foods (etc), as well. Really only the Genii and the Atlanteans focus on the Wraith when fighting them, others (like the Hoffans) focus on the food. Zaddick searched for alternatives for his Ellia. The Hoffans worked to make themselves unpalatable. While attacking the Wraith head-on does get rid of Wraith, it can only end when the Wraith or the opposing forces are completely elimenated.

(Deleted comment)
itsthewa
Jul. 23rd, 2006 07:50 am (UTC)
honestly, it seems to me that the endless moralizing being done in fandom is incredibly tiresome, and I think it's based more on people's feelings concerning other, real matters than on anything that's being shown on SGA.

Bless you. :)
lilyayl
Jul. 23rd, 2006 01:12 pm (UTC)
honestly, it seems to me that the endless moralizing being done in fandom is incredibly tiresome, and I think it's based more on people's feelings concerning other, real matters than on anything that's being shown on SGA.

Well, yes. Books, films, television, plays-- they are all fantastic springboards for chatter and are ways to approach difficult and explosive topics from behind a screen. They facilitate discussions that would not happen otherwise and open up closed topics to a wider audience. After a while, the source only matters for the fuel it gives to the the dicussion.

Humans implanted with such adapters can be fed from at will without harming them in any way.

Now, see that would be interesting. Espeically since it would encourage the Wraith to keep little pets. If you write the fic, let me know. I'd like to see how you handle getting the Wraith as individuals to accept it and how those who contain an adapter are chosen and kept. (unless, of course, all get the device without telling the Wraith-- would this lead to the Wraith feeding and then killing manually?) Very interesting.
ann_i_blessing
Jul. 23rd, 2006 02:59 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a version of Jacqueline Lichtenberg's Sime/Gen novels, where the Gens produce a biological energy called selyn which the Simes feed off, leading to a universe of moral choices and societies based on them. (The Virtual Tecton online is a good place to wade into that 'verse.)

What we're dealing with morally here is the same homonids versus leopards situation that has made us human -- we realized we were prey and *didn't like it,* were so opposed to it that we began to war against the quasi-gods that ate us. Modern vampire stories deal with the same thing, as do other moral situations in which humans predate other people, other sapients, other sentients. That's what science fiction is about, morally, even the technological tales like Battlestar Galactica. Where do we draw the line between "us" -- sapients -- and living things that may be eaten or used for our purposes without restriction? What are the restrictions that bind us morally from using sentients that cannot prevent our use? The Wraith look sufficiently like people (at least as much as vampires traditionally do) that we are caught in a double bind: they are predators that cannot be expected to "negotiate with food," or treat us as sapients, but they are obviously to us sapients that should be able to be negotiated with. How do we protect ourselves from them as predators yet treat them as sapients?

Especially in this case, that the Wraith now know that the Milky Way Galaxy is a rich feeding ground (not "hunting ground"). Hunger is one of the first and strongest drives for survival; hard to negotiate survival-hunger.
jimpage363
Jul. 23rd, 2006 04:40 am (UTC)
I think the ep also pointed out that the humans and the Wraith are closer than they would like ot think. After all, the transformed Wraith murdered one of their own while they were still human.

I see the ethical crisis implied, but I also agree that ethics takes a backseat to survival in the situation in which they find themselves. They are definitely a target and will definitely be killed if the Wraith discover that Atlantis still exists.

Besides, we slash writers seem to like mining angst where there is less than usual to be found.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 23rd, 2006 06:48 am (UTC)
I think that the problem is that they don't talk about the ethics. They write an episode where they turn a Wraith into a Human and they don't say "Oh, if they're human we don't have to kill them and they won't have to eat us. Yay!" They just give it to us with no explination at all.
lilyayl
Jul. 23rd, 2006 01:17 pm (UTC)
Well, how often do you sit down and talk ethics with your friends? Do you talk about how right or wrong you are to walk past a homeless man on the street begging for food? Do you talk about the ethics of writing a paper at the last possible minute and then turning it in without proofreading? (Is that a violation of the teacher-student relationship? etc)

We don't discuss ethcis in our daily lives. We act and rationalize our actions and move on. The discussions start when we're looking at something else (like SGA) or when we stop moving and look at ourselves. I like that SGA doesn't have ethical discussions. Instead, they try to show the characters battling with what is happening and arguing over points that spring from different ethical perspectives (see John and Carson in 3x2). That, to me, is more realistic.
jic
Jul. 23rd, 2006 06:50 am (UTC)
You mentioned in comments way up above....
Would you have found it more ethical if they simply killed all the Wraith and didn't bother with the attempt at trying to find a way they could survive alongside the humans in that galaxy? I honestly don't understand.

Here's my take on it: Suppose I and mine are under attack from a predator (say, a lion, perhaps, or even a wolf). I have a rifle and a tranquilizer gun. Is it more ethical for me to shoot and kill the predator, or to shoot it with the tranquilizer, flay off its skin(1), replace the skin with the graft of another animal (2), and then put it in a private zoo (3)?

1) initial retrovirus treatment is painful
2) humans, obviously
3) life-long prison, since it was admitted on-screen that the former Wraith would never be trusted enough to integrate into any Pegasus culture.
thaliae
Jul. 23rd, 2006 08:33 am (UTC)
The problem with ethical decisions is that they say everything about you and nothing about the people they affect.

The wraith are a sentient species, as are human. All the rights of man, the protections we enjoy, the services we are provided, the fundamental respect for other human life on which our society is founded is based on the "something else" that makes us different from an ape, even be it a signing, communicating, problem-solving ape.

It's the concept of personhood we are thinking of here, which is a nebulous concept at best, but must somehow revolve around the ability for higher reasoning.

This certainly includes the wraith. So beyond that, what is really being argued here is because of certain behaviours (all be it extreme) they sacrifice their personhood...i.e. all right to consideration and protection. I'm sure you can see why this is a dangerous path to reason along.

But then if we're only acting on survival, I guess that means the humans of atlantis have sacrificed their personhood too, and are no more special than a clever ape.

I'll give you the fact that episodes following Michael were all a train of reasonable decisions on the path they'd set themselves upon, but the initial decision to capture and enemy soldier for the express purpose of performing experimental medical treatments on it, because their ethical world view had already stripped his personhood away...well there's no justification for that. Maybe the ends would have justified the means, and I don't deny that these things happen, but it is not cut and dried.

And I think that perhaps a successful outcome in terms of survival is not guarenteed to be a ethical outcome. Think of survival of the fitest - it's the most ruthless model of human behaviour out there short of sociopathy.
lilyayl
Jul. 23rd, 2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
Then there is the equally dangerous thought path that Carson seems to be upon. The Wraith's human attributes (being able to reason, etc) are reconciled by deciding that the Wraith are fundementally human and are merely corrupted by some bad DNA and can be fixed. Therefore the retrovirus is necessary because the Wraith are people who need healing.
kuna_yashmaa
Jul. 26th, 2006 12:22 am (UTC)
Were those choices ethically bad?

It depends for whom. For Mengele? That would be very good set of moral choices for him, I agree. That would be perfect to have such character portrayed in some movie in all its depth.

But for European MD/scientist character portrayed in kid's movie?

Again, it depends. If it's some evil/mad scientist - yes.

But I don't think they are bad, they are unacceptable for a 'positive' character (i.e. character that writer wants to be seen as a good man. By kids, who have no clue what Geneva Convention was all about). Sorry.

I am scientist myself, it is painful for me to watch one of my kind portrayed that way. I can't explain why. In my family all those stupid, ridiculous, unprofitable morals exist like an unspoken knowledge. I don't know how to explain... Oh, gods... Sorry for bothering you.

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