Sunday, February 08, 2015

The ethics of mature creation

The problem with the mature creation view is that the phenomena that indicate "coherent age" contains information about the past which would not be otherwise present if the past was unreal. Take the example of distant starlight. Holding the mature creation view would indicate that the light from any stellar body beyond about 10,000 light-years away consist of photons created in transit. Therefore, such light is not truly indicative of what is happening in the stellar bodies. But when the light portrays for example a supernova, taking the mature creation view must say that the supernova did not actually happen since the light containing the information about the supernova was created in transit. How is this not deceptive, to indicate an astronomical event which did not actually happen?
i) I think Daniel does a nice job of framing the issue. I find his objection somewhat ironic, for even though I'm more sympathetic to OEC than he is, I am, at the same time, more sympathetic to mature creation than he is. Indeed, I think that mature creation is true to some degree. It's just a question of how much. And once you allow for mature creation, it's not easy to identify a cut-off point that isn't arbitrary.
ii) The charge of deception is the classic charge against mature creation. However, I rarely if ever find any critic discuss the nature of deception. What are the necessary conditions of deception? 
a) Normally, deception is defined as making a false statement with the intention to deceive. However, even a true statement can be deceptive. Take a lawyer who asks a "simple question" to elicit a "simple answer." Giving a true answer will be misleading because it lacks sufficient context. 
Moreover, it's possible for the speaker to make a true statement that he mistakenly believes to be false. 
b) Is a false expectation is a necessary condition? Someone can only be deceived if he expected the truth to be different. 
c) However, the issue of false expectation raises another issue: who bears the onus? is it speaker's duty not to foil the listener's expectation, or listener's duty not to have that expectation in the first place? 
It's hard to state a universal principle. If a listener has a reasonable expectation, then perhaps there's a the prima facie onus on the speaker not to foil the listener's expectation. 
Yet that's overdrawn. Even reasonable expectations can be wrong. We're fallible. So it would be extreme to say it's unethical to ever contradict a reasonable expectation.
If, however, the listener has an unreasonable expectation, then it's his fault, and not the speaker's, if the speaker foils his expectation. 
d) Put another way, the truth can be deceptive if the listener has a false expectation. But if his expectation was unreasonable, then he only has himself to blame. 
Did the speaker deceive you? Or did you deceive yourself by entertaining a false expectation? 
So one consideration when considering the ethics of deception is a justified or unjustified expectation. Was the speaker a deceiver, or was the listener self-deceived? 
iv) Take parents who adopt a newborn. They don't tell him that he's adopted. And they don't tell him he's not adopted, either. They just don't say.
They don't tell him when he's a child because they fear that would foster a sense of insecurity and rejection. They don't tell him when he's an adolescent because that's an emotionally unstable period of life. There never seems to be the right time to tell him. 
So he grows up believing these were his biological parents. Is that deceptive? If so, is that unethical? 
v) Does everyone have the same expectations about anything? Is there such a thing as a uniform human expectation? If not, then isn't deception or self-deception inevitable? Isn't a communicator bound to deceive some people some of the time?
Unless everybody has the same expectations, it doesn't seem possible to avoid deceiving some people. There's no intention to deceive. Rather, deception is the ineluctable side-effect of native listeners. 
a) For instance, there are literal-minded people who never get satire. They always read it straight. Did the satirist deceive them? Is satire unethical because some people take it seriously?
b) Likewise, there are naive people who are easily surprised by things that don't surprise cynical people. Is it the speaker's duty to avoid confusing naive people? Or is it the listener's duty not to be so naive? 
c) What about optical illusions? In a sense, they're only illusory if you don't recognize that they are optical illusions. But does every observer have that level of sophistication? Aren't some observers fooled by optical illusions?
Or take an audiovisual illusion–like seeing lightning before you hear thunder. We understand that because we know that lightwaves travel faster than soundwaves. Even though it's the same event, it seems to be separated in time. The effect is observer-relative. Depends on whether you witness the storm overhead or at a distance. But a prescientific observer doesn't have that interpretive framework. 
Scientific theories like Relativity and quantum mechanics have counterintuitive implications for time and space. They contradict common sense expectations. Take the twin paradox, Schrödinger's cat, or quantum nonlocality. Would it be unethical for God to make a world like that?
vi) At the risk of belaboring my stock illustration, a period movie set "contains information" about past nonevents. These include period stage props. Antique replicas. 
Even if the movie is based on a true story, there will be fictional details to fill in the gaps. Perhaps the director builds a set of Dodge City, based on historical photographs. But all he has are pictures of the facade. Even though the interior may be an accurate reconstruction of 19C saloons, that's not what the Long Branch Saloon really looked like inside. If you went back in time, that's not what you'd see. 
Likewise, here will be extras playing bit characters who never existed. Moreover, Dodge City never existed at the location of the movie set. And the 19C town doesn't exist in the here and now. 
vii) Now, Daniel might raise the obvious objection that when we watch a movie set in the Old West, we know this isn't really the past. Rather, it's an artistic recreation of the past. So it's not deceptive. Not dishonest. 
But that depends on the viewer. Does a young child who watches a Western know that? 

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