Apollo astronauts

Here are the 8 surviving Apollo astronauts. Not too long to go before the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing! Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969, the Apollo lunar module Eagle landed on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, and Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the lunar surface on July 21, 1969, followed by Buzz Aldrin 19 minutes later. Michael Collins stayed in orbit around the moon on the Apollo command module.

astronauts

Left to right: Charles Duke (Apollo 16), Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7), Al Worden (Apollo 15), Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9), Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17), Michael Collins (Apollo 11), Fred Haise (Apollo 13).

Location: The Explorer’s Club, Marriott, Times Square, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA.

Date: March 16, 2019.

Source: Felix Kunze.

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Edge of chaos

A real world scenario

Instead of a hypothetical scenario, I have a real world scenario that happened to a Christian couple I know. They already have a son (their first child), and they were pregnant with a daughter (their second child), but they found out during early pregnancy testing that their daughter had a rare congenital medical condition that is fatal in the vast majority of cases. Several physicians recommended they abort their daughter because their daughter was going to die anyway and because it would be merciful to their daughter to be aborted rather than be born, suffer, then die in relatively rapid succession.

To abort or not to abort

However, as Christians, they believe abortion is unethical. There’s a distinction between passively allowing what’s naturally going to happen anyway vs. actively “terminating” their daughter.

Eugenic abortion

As for the “merciful” argument, if it works, then it “works” not only for unhealthy babies but also for healthy babies. Since everyone is born, suffers, and dies, then it would be morally licit to terminate healthy babies on the same grounds that we want to keep babies from suffering too much. As such, it would seem to be an argument for eugenic abortion, as Steve Hays points out.

Alternate histories

In addition, after their daughter’s death shortly after she was born, this Christian couple later had another child. A perfectly healthy child whom they love very much.

However, if their daughter hadn’t died, but (1) lived, or (2) never been conceived, or (3) been terminated as their doctors originally recommended, then there’s no guarantee their subsequent (third) child would have existed:

1. If their daughter had lived, then maybe the Christian couple would never have tried to have another child. Maybe they would’ve been happy to have had these two children, a boy and a girl.

2. If their daughter had never been conceived, then maybe they would have tried to adopt a child, thinking they might be infertile. If they continued trying to have children, they could have had a different child than their third child, if they had sexual relations at a different time than the exact time they had sexual relations when they conceived their third child.

3. If their daughter had been terminated, maybe they would’ve been traumatized by the ordeal, and as a result not had sexual relations until a later point in time, in which case their third child would’ve been too late to have been conceived, since the conception of their third child requires (among other things) the exact same sperm meeting the exact same egg at the exact same point in time.

Remedial chaos theory

In short, many possibilities could have played out. The point is, if we change a single variable – even a seemingly insignificant variable – then their subsequent history might well have been altered. It could be altered for better or for worse, but the point is it would be altered. In support of this concept:

1. Consider the butterfly effect, which in turn is often used to illustrate chaos theory. A butterfly flaps its wings in South America, and, a few weeks later, a tornado occurs in the United States. Minor perturbations in the air due to the flapping of the butterfly’s wings later resulted in the formation of a tornado thousands of miles away.

Likewise, here are two scenes from Mr. Nobody which depict the butterfly effect on film. The first scene is how the main character’s parents met, while the second scene is how the main character missed out on finding love.

2. Stepping back, we ask, what is chaos? As Edward Lorenz himself said: “Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

We might elaborate on Lorenz’s brief and breezy definition. Granted, there are different definitions for a chaotic system, but I’ll provide a standard or generic definition here. A chaotic system is a system that is (a) highly sensitive to initial conditions within the system, (b) nonlinear, and (c) deterministic. Change the initial conditions ever so slightly, and there will be different results. The fact that it’s nonlinear means it’s not possible to accurately predict its behavior within the system. As for determinism, here’s a point of contrast: certain aspects of quantum mechanics are said to be non-deterministic, that is, the results are not necessarily determined by initial conditions. This is also why certain aspects of quantum mechanics might be used to illustrate the difference between random vs. chaotic. Of course, my focus has primarily been on the sensitivity to initial conditions aspect, but nonlinearity and determinism have their roles to play too.

3. All said, chaos theory and the butterfly effect may not be perfect analogies to the main point, but I think they’re apt to a significant enough degree.

Nudity in Love, Death, & Robots

Apparently there are many secular progressives objecting to Love, Death, & Robots (LDR) for being sexist and misogynistic. They base this on the fact that there’s a lot of female nudity in the series (among other things). I’ll focus on the nudity in this post since it forms a central objection if not the central objection.

1. Before I begin, what is LDR? LDR is a new animated series on Netflix. It fits in several genres, but probably animation, science fiction, and horror would be the main genres. It’s a single season of 18 short episodes. Each episode is maybe 10 mins long on average. Each episode tells its own self-contained story. LDR is an anthology. See the Wikipedia entry on LDR for more information.

2. My perspective. I watched a few of the episodes on Netflix since I usually like scifi and animations. From what I’ve seen, the series is, indeed, full of gratuitous violence, nudity, foul language. Indeed, I have a lot of serious moral objections to this series. However, I’m speaking as a Christian, and from the perspective of Christian ethics, it’s easy to see why I would object.

3. Nudity and secular progressivism. That said, I don’t see why secular progressives are complaining, given their beliefs. I’ve read secular progressives objecting to LDR for its female nudity, but at the same time arguing they support nudity in film and television. If so, what’s wrong with the nudity in LDR? Also, why complain about female nudity alone? What about the male nudity in the series too?

4. Is it about the balance or ratio of female to male nudity? If so, why is ratio a problem if nudity in general is not a problem? If nudity is not morally objectionable, then isn’t any nudity acceptable regardless of balance or ratio?

However, if nudity is morally objectionable, then isn’t even a single instance of nudity morally objectionable? If so, then why isn’t a single instance of male nudity objectionable (as opposed to the ratio of female to male nudity)?

Moreover, secular progressives accept and promote LGBTQ rights. They support men wanting to become women and women wanting to become men. As such, what’s wrong with more or less male or female nudity? Male and female would be a distinction without a difference given secular progressive views. It’d be a trivial distinction since “male” and “female” aren’t fundamentally speaking fixed or static, but fluid and dynamic.

5. Is it because some nudity is gratuitous? What’s the difference between nudity and gratuitous nudity in their view? For instance, I’ve read the same secular progressives enjoying and respecting Game of Thrones. However, Game of Thrones contains quite a bit of gratuitous nudity. Why is the gratuitous nudity in LDR objectionable, while the gratuitous in nudity in Game of Thrones is not?

6. Is it because nudity in LDR doesn’t contribute to the story? If so, then that’s not a moral objection, per se, but a creative objection. Maybe someone else would take a different creative direction. Maybe it’s just a difference of creative opinion, not a difference of moral opinion. Yet, secular progressives react with moral indignation.

7. Is it because the female nudity in LDR is sexualized? I’m not exactly sure what secular progressives would mean by sexualized. If they mean it makes women objects of sexual desire, then isn’t that what women themselves often intend? Women often intentionally try to make themselves objects of sexual desire. That is, women often want to look “hot” so that they can win over a guy. Sometimes or maybe oftentimes more than one guy.

8. Is it because sexualized means something like LDR treats women like nothing more than sexual objects? If so, then, yes, that’s a problem in my view, but why is it a problem on secular progressive grounds? In fact, there are even some female secular progressives who argue that women engaging in stripping, pornography, BDSM, and/or prostitution is empowering for women, etc.

In addition, aren’t depictions of sexual assault and rape in the series always portrayed highly negatively? For example, I saw the very first episode, “Sonnie’s Edge”. The premise of the episode is that the main character, Sonnie, was brutally raped, and she uses her rape as a motivation to get even with her rapists. It’s like La Femme Nikita or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

9. Is sexualized nudity morally objectionable if it’s animated? If no people are involved in the animation except as voice actors? The ancient Romans scrawled and depicted something like pictographs of sexual acts in their cities (e.g. see Mary Beard’s Pompeii and SPQR). Similarly, one often sees “stick figure” pictographs of obscene sexual acts in public restrooms today. No one in their right mind doubts many of these depicted sexual acts are meant to be obscene. So these are examples of how art can be obscene. Modern animation studios are able to make photo realistic renderings of humans so that they’re almost indistinguishable from real humans on film.

10. Nudity vs. pornography. There should be a distinction between nudity and pornography. Not all nudity is necessarily pornographic. Take a patient needing to disrobe in order to be examined by a physician for a medical condition. There’s nothing sexual let alone pornographic about that.

At the same time, not all pornography necessitates nudity. Take schlocky erotic romance novels which contain no visual nudity, but contain plenty of detailed depictions of human genitalia and sexual acts, indulges in various fantasies, attempts to seduce (typically female) readers to fall in love with mysterious model men who don’t exist in reality, or if they do exist they wouldn’t be the type of man a woman would want to marry in reality, etc. In any case, these erotic romance novels are quite arguably pornographic.

I suspect what a lot of these secular progressives are actually arguing is that the nudity in LDR is pornographic. However, secular progressives often have no problem with pornography. So it’s a dilemma for them if they object to the female nudity in LDR because it’s pornographic.

11. What message is LDR sending to its viewers? Most of us can probably agree the fundamental problem with LDR is its message. That’s what secular progressives recognize when they complain that LDR is sexist and misogynistic. That’s not a message they think is good. So far, I presume we are agreed.

Now, Fincher is the executive producer for LDR and the name most associated with the series. He’s a famous director. He has directed Seven, Fight Club, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Zodiac, House of Cards, among others. Like most of Fincher’s stuff, LDR is gritty, violent, and utterly nihilistic.

So the more fundamental message of LDR the series (and of Fincher’s work in general) is its nihilism. Nothing matters in life. No one cares about anyone. It’s live or die. Survival of the fittest. People are disposable. People are basically meat bags, as is presumed in the “Three Robots” episode in LDR, for example. So why shouldn’t the stronger treat the weaker however they want? Will to power and all that. And all that includes luridly ogling women in various states of undress if they’re in a position to do so, including when the women are willing participants, as sounds like is the case in “The Witness” episode of LDR, which seems to be the most complained about of all the episodes.

Why don’t secular progressives object to the atheism and nihilism in LDR? Why don’t they argue (along Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s lines): “If there is no God, everything is permitted, and that’s a problem”? After all, the atheism or nihilism is the more fundamental problem in LDR. The sexism and misogynism are arguably justifiable on Fincher’s nihilistic worldview.

Mixed signals

1. On the one hand, New Zealand students perform the haka in response to the Christchurch mass shootings. It’s been retweeted many times. Traditionally, the haka has been part of Maori battle preparation. My understanding is the haka is a potent cultural symbol in New Zealand today, representing (one might say) defiance, strength, battle-readiness, and the like.

On the other hand, New Zealand is already strict with gun control, but they got even stricter with gun control.

Prima facie, these two events would seem to send mixed signals: we are standing strong against mass shooters by disarming ourselves.

2. At the same time, perhaps this illustrates how the ruling class (in this case the New Zealand government) is so out of touch with common people. The ruling class’s idea of defiance is not the same as the common person’s idea of defiance.

3. Likewise, perhaps this illustrates how some kids have a more sensible instinctive reaction than some adults. It’s as if one needs to be taught to disarm in the face of danger and violence, brutality and murder. It doesn’t come naturally.

4. At best, given what New Zealand has done to disarm its people, all this is empty rhetoric and vain posturing. People can be angry about what happened, people can march and protest, people can perform battle cries and so on, but what prevents another mass shooting from happening again? It only takes one willing and able person to buy a few guns on the black market. Most Kiwis will be sitting ducks.

5. Indeed, restricting guns in a nation that has already effectively restricted guns isn’t going to help much. As the age old quip says: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.