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Blatant Altruism in new Stargate Show

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ZSorenson
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I've just watched the newest episode of the new Stargate series, Stargate: Universe.

The show is about a group of people from our day and age getting stranded on a broken-down spaceship far across the Universe. In this episode, the ship is on an unalterable course towards a Sun and is expected to be destroyed. There is a shuttle, that can accommodate a small portion of the total population of the ship, that might be able to land on some planet.

The solution, from the commanding officer, to the question of who would be allowed to escape on the shuttle, is a lottery. Whether this is rational or not, the point is that after the episode ended - and everybody miraculously survived - the commander ended up offering some words of commendation to the token pessimistic character of the show. This character refused to accept undeserved accolades, and so the officer gave him one last - I suppose the 'best' - accolade. He pointed out that the pessimistic character was the only one who voluntarily removed his name from the lottery. The conclusion of the show involved the officer deciding that, in fact, the pessimistic altruist must have known everyone would miraculously survive, so he didn't really make a sacrifice.

Ignoring the details of the plot, and whatever implications that might have on characters' motives, what do you have to say about this instance of the altruist ethic in popular culture?

Specifically, is there any way the idea of, "You took your name out of the fair lottery so others could live because of your sacrifice," is morally good or admirable in ANY way outside of notions of strict altruism?

And, finally, do you think the average person (of reasonable intelligence) who might watch that would be able to produce any articulate reason why such a sacrifice is admirable other than, "Well, that's how it is" with regards to morality? Let's say they have 60 seconds to think about it.

For a little personal context, I should announce that the ideas of Objectivism are relatively new to me, as far as I understand them I completely accept them, and consequently I am nearly always completely floored when I see instances of altruism like this in the popular culture. Previously, I never would have questioned or even noticed them. Now, I don't understand how these examples of 'morality' are not, in fact, morally depraved. I have a sense of intellectual whiplash and I would appreciate any comments or benevolent solidarity from those with experience who might be familiar with this phenomenon. Hence, I have posted in the 'culture' section because I suppose the implication is that American culture is often fundamentally depraved.

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Ignoring the details of the plot, and whatever implications that might have on characters' motives, what do you have to say about this instance of the altruist ethic in popular culture?

This is fairly common and it doesn't make for a good plot as far as I'm concerned. It sounds like easy-way-out, "I'm not going to put a price tag on human life," kinda crap. The captain should have decided which people had the greatest chance of survival. This way, there would be much more room for drama when the survivors harbor varying feelings about the selection process. Anyway, I'm not getting too worked up over it.

So, is the show basically, "Stargate Voyager"?

Edited by FeatherFall
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This is fairly common and it doesn't make for a good plot as far as I'm concerned. It sounds like easy-way-out, "I'm not going to put a price tag on human life," kinda crap. The captain should have decided which people had the greatest chance of survival. This way, there would be much more room for drama when the survivors harbor varying feelings about the selection process.

Right, that is itself an entire issue worth discussion. I left it out intentionally, but it's important. He did pick 2 out of 17 - a pilot and a medic - as givens before the lottery. I think the idea of the lottery was to prevent hysteria (i.e. a fight where no one would have made it to the shuttle) by using a system that was demonstrably neutral.

I would do that if I was with subjective-minded people on that ship. 'Fate' and 'Chance' are considered fair because it leaves the decision up to the 'perfect, ultimate authority'. Whereas a colonel might show preference. That theory is obviously wrong, chaotic chance from which one has no reason to expect a meaningful outcome is not more fair than even a potentially biased authority figure. His judgment, even if flawed, is infinitely closer to rewarding virtue for virtue than fate.

But that segues to your question. The name of the ship is 'Destiny', and it seems to 'know' what its doing. This is the common theme so far, that the ship is on some course, and solves problems on its own just at the moment when the humans realize that they are unable to themselves. There has already been a mystical vision which may possibly have been caused by dehydration, but coincidentally led to a life-saving discovery.

So let's call it Stargate: Voyager-star Galactica.

I've now decided that I really need to think about whether I should keep watching it. On the other hand, Flash Forward is something I'll keep watching. It has interesting, if flawed, spiritual implications. Knowing you future - can it give you motive power? Well, we can't, but we can anticipate it. So, whatever we have every reason to expect, we should, motive power doesn't depend on God's grace.

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I didn't take Dr. Rush's decision to be altruistic at all. If anything, it was entirely rationally self-interested. He wanted to die on that ship. The discovery of the ship was, in his words, "The greatest discovery since the stargate itself." In his estimation, he had reached the pinnacle of his productive powers and wanted to see the end. He's perhaps the smartest guy on the ship. If those on the shuttle have any hope of surviving where ever they were going, having him along would've gone a long way toward helping them survive. He denied them that chance and chose to do what he wanted to do for him.

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I didn't take Dr. Rush's decision to be altruistic at all. If anything, it was entirely rationally self-interested. He wanted to die on that ship. The discovery of the ship was, in his words, "The greatest discovery since the stargate itself." In his estimation, he had reached the pinnacle of his productive powers and wanted to see the end. He's perhaps the smartest guy on the ship. If those on the shuttle have any hope of surviving where ever they were going, having him along would've gone a long way toward helping them survive. He denied them that chance and chose to do what he wanted to do for him.

Good point, he probably knew the shuttle could be a dangerous suicide mission, and his interest was with Destiny. But I was referring to Col. Young's sentiments. Specifically, I wanted to know if there was any rational justification for considering a sacrifice like that to be a virtue. Without knowing Dr. Rush's perspective.

But, perhaps the character alone is worth watching the show for. It has redeemed itself! Do you think Dr. Rush caused the attack from episode one to occur in the first place?

Edited by ZSorenson
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I didn't catch it, but I can imagine other reasons for the decision outside of altruism. Desire for control over one's fate, suicidal motive, preserving value he sees in the other crew, etc. Not knowing the full plot I can't say if any of the above fit, but such a decision is possible without altruistic motive.

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Good point, he probably knew the shuttle could be a dangerous suicide mission, and his interest was with Destiny. But I was referring to Col. Young's sentiments. Specifically, I wanted to know if there was any rational justification for considering a sacrifice like that to be a virtue. Without knowing Dr. Rush's perspective.

Not in the way Young is looking at it. If he thinks Rush asked to be taken out of the lottery because Rush really wants to live, but is willing to give up what he really wants so some nameless, random other can live, then there's no way that's virtuous.

But, perhaps the character alone is worth watching the show for. It has redeemed itself! Do you think Dr. Rush caused the attack from episode one to occur in the first place?

That never crossed my mind. I'll have to re-watch episode one to see if I can pick that up. However, based on what I remember, and his character's development so far, I would say, "No."

I like the show, so far. It's a bit like Lost.

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