12 November 2011

75. The Ethical Engineer

The Ethical Engineer - Harry Harrison

Another old sci-fi novel.

As a science fiction book it was pretty good. A couple of space travelers end up stranded on a primitive planet. These guys are light years ahead of the natives as far as knowledge and scientific discoveries go.

The two progress through parts of the primitive civilization beginning with a slave camp that forages for food all day, to a group that inefficiently pumps crude oil from the ground, to a group that is capable of manufacturing very basic steam engines, to a group is capable of generating electricity and using radio communication in Morse code. Eventually they are rescued by the spacemen in orbit awaiting their signal.

Anyway...that was all interesting and a good story.

The problem for me with this book is it wasn't just a science fiction story. It was a propaganda piece. It was riddled with moral relativism being far superior in every possible way to Judeo-Christian morality. The "ethical" engineer was constantly pointing out how different situations called for different actions. The other guy with him had morals based in his religious faith.

First of all...the religious moralist was WAY over the top. Nobody goes as far as this guy. The author took some serious liberties with this character to make his case against faith based morality.

Second...the moral relativist was always shown to be absolutely right in every single instance...but he really wasn't. That was ignored in the book. For instance...he has always said that  we are innocent until proven guilty. We, as human beings, should not condemn others for their actions until we understand the entire situation. But, he himself justifies his condemnation of a man based on his own perceptions of what is right and correct within that man's own society. He says that since the dude could be expected to kill because that is what his culture would normally do then he is justified in preemptively killing the man himself. So, what was his proof that the man would be expected to kill? He asked a third party what they thought the man might do...they said he might kill...therefore he is guilty!  That is total crap and can be used in a thousand other situations where someone wishes to make their own actions "morally relevant".

One line I did like very much. The two space travelers, Micah and Jason, are arguing about what to do in their current situation. They have become slaves. Micah yells "Live free or die!", or something to that effect. He is prepared to go fight the slave master for his freedom right away. Jason tells him to "shut up!" He says they should wait. They should be slaves until they can make a plan to escape or kill the slave master. He says it is "better to be alive-free than dead-free!" That made a ton of sense and I agree. I liked the quote, but once again, it was an example of the moral Micah taking a ridiculous false position based on morality so Jason could argue it into stupidity.

The book was good if you can look past all the moral relativist argument garbage.

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