Extra-Terrestrial AIs IN SPACE

August 22, 2010

An article popped up on my news feed today from the BBC titled “Alien hunters ‘should look for artificial intelligence.’” It basically parrots the position of a SETI scientist who claims that soon after a civilization starts using radio waves (and so becomes detectable to SETI), it will develop AI, and soon after that the AI will replace organic life. Thus, he says, there’s no reason to focus on inhabitable planets when searching for extra-terrestrial life.

My first thought was, “REPLICATORS?!”

My second was, can he really be so confident that AI is possible, and that it would in fact replace organic life rather than be subservient to it? It sounds to like he’s basically writing science fiction and calling it science. Sure, it’s plausible, but there’s no real proof for his position, so why should we listen to him rather than someone who tells a story where the opposite happens?

Then I got to this paragraph:

Dr Shostak says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy – the only things he says would be of interest to the machines – would be in plentiful supply. That means the Seti hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centres of galaxies.

My central interest, as it were, is with the phrase, “the only things [that] would be of interest to the machines.” I’m wondering, what claim about the personhood of these AIs does the use of the word “interest” implicitly make?

My first reaction was to say that it assumes that AIs are not persons. After all, it reduces them to one core instinct – REPLICATE! – and says that it is only that which is of “interest” to them.

But, then again, don’t people often say the same thing about humans – that we’re only interested in sex and death? The primary difference between humans and animals isn’t that we have interests other than sex and death, it’s that we’re aware of our interest in sex and death, that we worry about that interest, that we try to attribute significance to it and to them. An AI might well be the same, aware of his drive to REPLICATE and struggling to assign meaning to it.

This struggle would be made harder by his own knowledge that the drive was placed there by a biological creator, and so cannot have any higher significance. A central aspect of Christian theology, as I understand it, is those central interests of ours – death and sex, sex and death – may be a result of our physical, animal nature, but they reflect a higher reality, and this reflection allows us to find meaning in lives that remain governed by those interests of ours. But the AI – would he become a gnostic? An atheist? I find it hard to believe that a true AI – a truly self-aware artificial intelligence – would not consider the question of God. But I find it equally difficult to see one becoming Christian, unless Christ became incarnate as a machine.

I doubt, of course, that the SETI scientist was thinking about these issues when he said that. He probably doesn’t put much stock in the concept of personhood, and so the question of whether AIs are people, and whether they could have any “interests” beyond replication, are of little interest to him. But for those of us who do think “person” is a good word, his words provoke some interesting questions.

(What I just said about sex, death, and God is probably poorly phrased and perhaps completely wrong from a Christian point of view. This is mainly because I’ve always had a hard time answering the question of what we’re supposed to do with our lives, given that we’re physical beings and can only take action in a physical way – by eating, breathing, procreating, dying – but Christianity says that the most important action we can take is a non-physical love of God. The concept of the Incarnation tries to reconcile the physical and spiritual, but it’s still doesn’t answer the question of what we ought to do with ourselves while waiting to die. But this is a post for another day.)


Musings about Modesty

December 18, 2008

[Be warned; this post is written from an implicitly Catholic viewpoint, and how it looks at sexuality will probably seem really weird to anyone who’s not Catholic – and perhaps to most people who are, as well. It’s really just me rambling about clothing and modesty and sexuality for seven hundred words.]

I remember a few months (years?) ago, we had a debate on the Wesnoth forums about standards of modesty. Some of the Europeans, talking about how nudity was more acceptable there, were trying to make the argument that nudity was not necessarily sexual, and it was just us American puritans who made it so – if we just required less clothes in the first place, lack of clothing wouldn’t be considered as intentionally provocative.

Well, coming back from Europe after three and a half months, I think I can say… nope, that’s completely wrong. Nudity really is always sexual – at least how it appears in Europe. I saw advertisements for pornographic movie theaters, “adult” websites, etc, all involving female nudity – advertisements you would never see in the US, they would be illegal – but certainly never saw nudity somehow used in a non-sexual way. Perhaps it is, sometimes, but it seems obvious that the primary effect of making nudity more socially acceptable is to make raw sexuality more socially acceptable and pervasive…

Anyway, the point is, it seems obvious that nudity and sexuality can’t really be separated from each other. But… what, with respect to clothing, is not always sexual? I mean, can we really separate clothing or the lack thereof from sexuality? I’m reminded of the part in Perelandra where the devil is teaching the Green Lady to wear clothing. He is teaching her modesty in order to teach her licentiousness…

Perhaps it’s not clear what my point is. Well, my point is a question – what does it mean for someone (well, a female, primarily) to “dress modestly”? The idea is that dressing immodestly is dressing in a sexually provocative manner. But women can dress without revealing much skin and still be provocative (obviously), and they can dress while revealing a lot of skin and not be very provocative (harder to find examples of, but just think of what the difference between “cute” and “hot” is – it’s not necessarily how much clothing is worn) – it seems to be the intent, not the actual manner of dress, that matters…

But this seems to contradict what I said at the beginning. If it’s the intent, not the amount of clothing, that determines modesty, why did I not see any non-sexual nudity in Europe? Why was all of it so highly sexualized?

Obviously there is some sort of correlation, even if it’s not exact, between how revealing clothing is and how modest it is. It’d be hard to be modest wearing a bikini; it’d be hard to be immodest wearing a burqa. But we don’t want to force women to wear burqas, and anything less than that will be sexual in one way or another; all clothing is, really. There must be some sort of middle ground, but I don’t know how one would find it.

And there’s also two factors here I’m conflating, I think – how modest the clothing is, and how chaste the woman is. Someone could wear a bikini but not be being intentionally immodest. I actually know some girls who would do, and have done, that…

I don’t have any grand theory of sexuality and modesty to lay out. My point, I guess, is that this is more complicated than most people realize. It’s not as simple as, “cover yourself up already!” – otherwise Catholics would require their women to wear burqas, which we don’t. But there have to be some standards or something – what I saw in Europe, which was basically the breaking down of standards of decency, was definitely not Christian in nature.

Perhaps the line is drawn where the clothing stops being intended to bring out the beauty of the wearer, and becomes about emphasizing the sexuality of the wearer… though, those two seem almost impossible to separate. So I’m not sure it’s actually possible to formulate a rule for how a girl ought to dress modestly.


January 24, 2008

As I think I’ve mentioned before, last semester we read epic poetry; the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, Beowulf, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. One recurring theme was that of armor. Achilleus, in the Iliad, has made for him by the god Hephaestus a suit of armor that protects him from all attackers. Aeneas in the Aeneid has a similar suit made for him. Beowulf, however, goes into battle unarmored – the movie Beowulf that just comes out interprets this as nude – trusting in God to protect him.

I don’t know if nude is what the Beowulf poet meant, but battling unclothed has certainly happened historically – the celts, it is said painted themselves with woad and wore nothing else, believing the blue dye would protect them from harm. I don’t know what they thought when it clearly didn’t stop the pilum-throws and gladius-thrusts they suffered at the hands of the Roman army.  Battling in full armor can also be seen in medieval knights who wore full plate armor, covering even their faces.

This is all seemingly tangential, but I think in the end relevant, to my topic of the nature of clothing. It seems to me that clothing is really not fundamentally different from armor. Both are intended to shield you from the outside world. To not wear armor in battle is to declare that you do not need physical protection, that somehow you are safe from physical assault or simply do not fear death. To not wear clothing is to declare that you are not ashamed of your nakedness.

So it seems armor is protection against physical assault and clothing protection from being seen. Most people, I think, would say that, in protecting against sight, the basic goal is to cover up the genitalia. I think it’s more than that, though. Clothing tends not to just cover up what needs to be covered up, it makes us look less like animals and more like machines. Pants hide the fact that our legs are composed of different parts, and make them look like single-width cylinders. Shirts do the same for the torso and, if they are long, for the arms. I have even read that long coats are a good idea if robots take over the world because they’ll obscure the fact that you’re walking, not just gliding, and thus obscure the fact that you’re human. We like to cover up everything but our face and hands so that we can manipulate the world, view the world with our senses, but not be affected by the world directly – we are protected by our clothing. Put like this, clothing takes on an almost Gnostic character. Which shouldn’t surprise; according to Christianity, clothes are a result of sin – but they are also, strangely, a gift from God, who gives Adam and Eve real clothes after he discovers them wearing fig-leaves.

This almost body-denying nature of clothing applies to men, definitely. I know that many guys, including me, rarely if ever wear shorts, and many of those will also wear long sleeves and coats whenever possible. I’ll also note that it’s usually the more intelligent – some might say pretentious – guys who follow this practice, and the less-so ones who don’t. But the goal of female clothing is clearly different – they want you to look at them.

This doesn’t go only for the… well, sluttish way many girls dress today. Even modestly dressed women don’t hide the fact that yes, they have breasts, yes, their legs curve, yes, their face and their hands are not just floating there in midair attached to lumps of cloth. In other words, they don’t hide that they are attractive, in a not-necessarily-sexual manner (c.f. my earlier post on that subject, Amor).

Why the difference? Perhaps because men won’t fall in love with a girl they aren’t sexually attracted to – but, really, I think it’s more than this. Like I said, it isn’t primarily about sex, for at least some women. Some of it probably has to do with the fact that (and I don’t care if you think this statement is sexist) women tend to be more earthly than men, who seem to be much more strongly tempted by gnosticism. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; no, we shouldn’t be gnostic, but if males tend naturally towards hiding their bodies more I don’t think that means we have to fight that tendency.

At least, I don’t plan on doing so any time soon. Even if it is flawed, I figure it can’t actually be sinful, and I really would prefer to wear a trench coat almost every day. Besides being potentially gnostic, they’re just cool.

Love is the Only Truth (3/4)

November 26, 2007

Then there’s Kamelot, an American band led by Roy Khan on vocals and Thomas Youngblood on guitar, with the two of them co-writing the songs. (I’ll mention right off the bat that those two names are pretty awesome. Roy Khan’s actual name is Roy Khantatat, and Thomas Youngblood is the guy’s real name. I think that’s amazing, since those names seem like perfect power metal musician pseudonyms.)

Kamelot is in medium much more like Blind Guardian than Rhapsody of Fire. This isn’t surprising – I doubt anyone else could pull off what Rhapsody of Fire does. It’s just too weird. Most epic metal groups, Kamelot included, are better off with albums in which different tracks are about different things (though all of them epic), with a concept album or two thrown into the mix – but no concept albums so engrossed in their conception that they forget they’re albums at all.

I have four of Kamelot’s albums – Karma, Epica, The Black Halo, and Ghost Opera. Karma is roughly analogous to Blind Guardian’s earlier work, in that it is fairly standard power metal (and quite good power metal at that). Epica and The Black Halo are, taken together, roughly analogous to Nightfall in Middle-Earth; they’re concept albums loosely translating the story of Faust. Ghost Opera is roughly analogous to A Night at the Opera, with the basic idea being “these are various stories you would see if you went to the opera-house one night”.

Interestingly, both have tracks centered on the story of Pontius Pilate (“Up Through the Ashes” and “Sadly Sings Destiny”, respectively). I also wonder about the beliefs of the member of both of these bands – it seems to me Kamelot is inspired greatly by Catholicism, and I think at least one of them was probably raised Catholic, but they seem to have a mixed view of the Church. Blind Guardian is similar. I’m not sure what to make of that, but it’s certainly more interesting than Avantasia‘s blatant anti-Catholicism.

Anyway… despite these similarities, Kamelot’s work is not analagous to Blind Guardian’s in content. They never talk about mythopoeia directly, except in their most recent album Ghost Opera, and even there the idea is only implied. Blind Guardian might be best termed an “artist metal” band, in that they deal with artistry per se, and Rhapsody of Fire could be called a “myth metal” band, in that they don’t just talk about making myths, they do make myths, but Kamelot is probably best called a “philosophy metal” band.

Let’s start with Karma. The first track (with lyrics – “Regalis Apertura” is instrumental only), “Forever”, is about a guy wondering what has happened to his dead lover, and whether they will be reunited once he dies as well. “Wings of Despair” has to do with, well, despair, at the idea that everything is predestined. “The Spell” laments that the modern world is too scientific and isn’t magical enough (at least that’s my take on the lyrics). “Don’t You Cry” is a tribute to Thomas Youngblood’s deceased father, talking about how father and son are still connected. “Karma” has an evil king realizing he has lived an evil life, and wishing he could trade his karma with someone else. “The Light I Shine On You” – well, I don’t really understand it, but it seems to be about the power lovers have over each other. “Temples of Gold”, well, a simple love ballad. Then right back to the philosophy with “Across the Highlands” claiming that immortality would be torture, that the narrator “is dead if life itself is condemnation”. The final three tracks are the Elizabeth Bathory series, about the historical Hungarian countess who bathed in the blood of virgins because she believed it would give her eternal youth.

Ghost Opera is quite similar. “Rule the World”? Man’s fear of the Other. “Ghost Opera”? Perseverance through hardship, or something like that. “The Human Stain”? Life itself is perhaps an evil. “Bluecher”? The fate of love when facing death on the battlefield. “Love You to Death”? Same thing, sans the battlefield. “Up Through the Ashes”? Whether or not Jesus was the Christ. “Mourning Star”? War and the fear of death inspiring belief in God. “Silence of the Darkness”? Similar to “Rule the World”. “Anthem”? “What’s the miracle, if life itself is not? /Who am I to praise it’s worth / With a hymn?” Finally, “Edenecho” is about the despair felt at romantic love – destroyed.

So it seems to me that Kamelot has two main interests – the meaning of romantic love and death/afterlife/immortality. These seem to be the predominant themes in Karma and Ghost Opera, anyway.

Now let’s take a look at Epica and The Black Halo. First, note that they chose the legend of Doctor Faustus for their concept double-album. Like Blind Guardian’s choice of the Silmarillion for Nightfall in Middle-Earth, this tells quite a lot about how to view the two albums. The story of Faust, especially as Goethe tells it, is one of love versus pleasure versus eternal salvation. (If you don’t know the basic plot, you should look into it – it’s a fascinating story, and several great works of art have been inspired by it.)

All this is well and good, but… now that we know what Kamelot’s questions are, we should ask – what are their answers? The entirety of the Faust sequence is Faust searching for these answers, but in the final few tracks – “Nothing Ever Dies”, “Memento Mori”, and “Serenade” – we see what he arrives at. I think that Faust’s answers are ones Kamelot would agree with, though of course I can’t be sure.

In Nothing Ever Dies, Faust proclaims that

Love is the only truth
Pure as the well of youth
Until it breaks your heart

He follows this up with

And the final winter comes to us all
Life is treacherous
But you’re not the only who must pretend

We’re a second in time
We’re the last in the line
Of the prey that walks the earth
Good and evil combined

I am the god in my own history
The master of the game
I may believe if she would come to me
And whisper out my name

So – man is doomed to die, a beast, and yet a god, and he achieves this godhood through love. I find it fascinating that “love is the only truth”. This seems similar to Rhapsody of Fire’s emphasis on “pure love and great emotion”, but it is much stronger. Love is the only truth? And I ask – what is love? Romantic love? Since in the next song Faust talks about how “she (Helena) [will] come to me / and whisper out my name”, I think that is what he means.

Interestingly, Kamelot seems to place romantic love in opposition to sexual desire. Kamelot’s idea of love seems to be quite spiritual and ethereal. I like that in many ways, but I wonder if they don’t tend too much towards that extreme – after all, humans are physical, and the purpose of romantic love is in some sense procreation.

Onwards and upwards. The final track, Serenade, isn’t part of the Faust saga per se. It seems to be meant as a summation of the ideas discussed in the preceding two-dozen-or-so tracks. The chorus goes,

So bow down with me
Where summer fades into fall
And leave your hatchets of hate
Bow down with me
And sing the saddest of all
The song we all serenade

This saddest song that “we all serenade” is apparently the fact that, as humans, we are doomed to death. The idea seems to be that we ought not to fight each other, because death will come for us all anyway – instead, we ought to love. It sounds cliche, but it is a noble sentiment nonetheless.

I find it interesting that in the track “III Ways to Epica”, from Epica, Faust says that

Maybe God is the melody
We all serenade

Kamelot seems to be suggesting either that God is death, or that God is love – two very different ideas. It seems that death and love are deeply, perhaps irreversibly intertwined in Kamelot’s philosophy; perhaps the ambiguity is intentional.

Legislating Morality

October 28, 2007

As a Catholic, I believe that abortion is murder. I also believe that contraception, while not murder, is gravely immoral.

It seems pretty obvious that I should be in favor of outlawing abortion. And I am. What about contraception, though? Should it be outlawed?

One answer would be that it depends on whether contraception is immoral according to the natural law, or according to Christianity.  If according to the natural law, we should outlaw it, but if according to Christianity only, we shouldn’t, since we don’t want to establish a religion. It seems to me that it is immoral according to the natural law, but I’m not sure – it might well be fine unless you know what we know through divine revelation.

The thing is – even if it is against the natural law, should we outlaw it? After all, there are a bunch of things that are against the natural law that we don’t, and shouldn’t, outlaw. What should the criteria be? Does it have to do harm to others as well? So does that mean we shouldn’t outlaw prostitution (St. Thomas Aquinas made that argument, by the way)? In a perfect society, of course, there would be no prostitution, but there is an argument to be made that it shouldn’t be outlawed in an imperfect society like ours. Then there’s stuff like the various drugs (marijuana, cocaine, etc, for example, and more and more tobacco is joining the list) that are against the law because they harm the user. Even if suicide is immoral, does that mean we should outlaw dangerous and harmful activities? I tend to think not.

At any rate, I find it absurd that in current U.S. law abortion is legal but prostitution, using marijuana, smoking, drinking, etc, are not. But the question is, ought we to legalize all of them (certainly not!), legalize none (but why should drinking be illegal?), or legalize marijuana, prostitution, smoking, etc, but not abortion (why does this seem so extreme to me when it makes a great deal of sense)?

I think a lot of it is that I include prostitution in the list along with smoking and marijuana use. We immediately recoil from legalizing it, because it has to do with objectivizing sex. The thing is – can we really make an argument for prostitution being illegal that doesn’t require banning smoking and drinking? I don’t think we can, though I may be wrong. And this leads us to something that Christians are often accused of that may actually be true – we’re sex–obsessed. That’s a stereotype I’d like to prove false.

Dumbledore’s Retroactive Homosexuality

October 22, 2007

A few days ago, J.K. Rowling revealed that Albus Dumbledore was gay. Or so the world claims.

Does this change anything about how I view the books? No, it doesn’t. As I’ve said before, I dislike the books not for the moral message they send – which, I think, is not a particularly profound or important one, but which isn’t heretical – but for their lack of decent writing or mythopoeia. What Rowling revealed doesn’t change any of this. Wait a second – “You’re a Catholic! You’re against homosexuality!” Both true. But there’s three reasons we can’t say that this revelation makes the books into homosexual propaganda. (Mild spoilers ahead.)

First of all, let’s say that Dumbledore had been clearly gay from the inception of the series. Or that he had been revealed to be gay in, say, the 4th book. Does this mean the book is in favor of homosexuality? We’re not saying that Dumbledore was in a homosexual “relationship”, or even that he considered his “gayness” to be an integral part of his identity. We’re just saying that at some point he confessed to Harry, or McGonagall, or some other character – perhaps his brother – that he was attracted to men not women. What’s wrong with this? The truth is that some men are attracted to other men not women. We don’t gain anything by ignoring this. Saying this shows that the books are homosexual propaganda is like saying that a book in which a character is tempted to have sex with someone else outside of marriage is promoting fornication and/or adultery.

So really, as long as the books aren’t making an argument that Dumbledore should have embraced his homosexuality and that he would have been better off doing so, I don’t have a problem with it. I really wouldn’t have had a problem even if Dumbledore had actually embraced his homosexuality in the books, so long as he wasn’t presented as being right to do so. It’s not like there have never been good books in which characters have committed adultery or something like that. Hell, Dante’s Inferno is full of sinners.

I suppose an argument could be made that, even if having Dumbledore gay isn’t bad for Harry Potter as a piece of literature, it’s bad for it as a piece of children’s literature. To which I say – why is it bad for children’s literature to contain mention of homosexuality when it’s acceptable for it to go on endlessly about teenage relationships, hooking up, ‘snogging’, etc? I’d disqualify it as children’s literature for the latter offense much sooner than I’d disqualify it for the former. And it’s not children’s literature, whatever people say about it. Nor is it adult literature. It’s just bad literature.

Onward and upwards. The second reason this really isn’t a big deal is that, as the facts stand, Rowling didn’t make this clear in the books. There’s no evidence that Dumbledore is gay. None whatsoever. Why does it matter what Rowling says about it after the fact? If C.S. Lewis had said, after publication of the Chronicles of Narnia, that “oh, by the way, Aslan is really a homosexual”, would that mean that he was right, that Aslan actually was gay, and that the Chronicles of Narnia was any less of a Christian allegory? I would say no. It would mean that C.S. Lewis was a deranged lunatic who didn’t understand what he had written, but it wouldn’t change the meaning of the text.

Of course, J.K. Rowling probably wrote down somewhere that Dumbledore was gay, and how is that different  from how J.R.R. Tolkien (I love how all of these authors go by their initials) had the entire mythology of Middle-Earth written down in my notes but never published them? Since the Silmarillion was never completed, can we really say that when Frodo yells out “A Elbereth! Gilthoniel!”, what he says is a call to Varda the Star-Queen, rather than just some random string of syllables? After all, the explanation of that phrase isn’t contained in the Lord of the Rings itself.

This brings me to my third point. There’s a fundamental difference between elements of the story – who did what when and where – and elements of character motivation. Authors often leave elements of both types unexplained in their stories. The difference is that the author usually knows the nature of the story elements, even if he leaves them unmentioned. This is true especially when the narration is third-person omniscient. The narrator may leave things unmentioned for whatever reason, but the author is assumed to know what happened, to keep the story coherent so that if/when an explanation is provided it will be coherent, and to have the ability and right to go in later and write a sequel, prequel, whatever explaining those events.

With character motivation, though, we have no reason to believe that the author knows any more than we do about the subject. The author does not know the character’s mind. (Even with first-person narration, the author is just saying that “this person said this” – he’s not guaranteeing that what the person says is what he believes. You could easily have a first-person narration where the speaker was deceptive.) I think Rowling is aware of this at a certain level – observe what she said. She didn’t say Dumbledore was gay, she said “I always saw Dumbledore as gay”. Did Dumbledore ever do anything that conclusively showed he was homosexual? Rowling has said she “thinks” he fell in love with Grindelwald, and that’s why he went along with his plan. But Dumbledore’s actions make just as much sense if you assume that he was just friends with Grindelwald and respected him. She is in no better a position than we are to speculate on what’s going on in Dumbledore’s head.

Basically, it’s often said that fictional characters take on a life of their own independent from the author. This statement has troubling implications, which I may explore at a later date, but at a certain level it’s true. In the stories I’ve written, I always have an idea of why my characters do what they do, but these explanations are always on the level of how they would justify their actions to themselves or to an outside observer. They’re not the actual causes of their actions. This makes perfect sense, when you think about it – I don’t understand my own subconscious any better.


February 16, 2007

First of all, let me just say – I hate Valentine’s Day. Nothing against Saint Valentine, a martyr, but I really don’t like how it plays out in the modern day.

Now, on to my present topic.

I’d like to begin by quoting something Jetryl wrote on the Wesnoth forums recently.

The human form possesses a beauty besides that of its erotic nature, a quality that is also possessed by animals – which I offer as a proof of its existence. Much of this has to do with general shape, and structure of the muscles; it is the beauty of a well-designed machine in action. On animals, examples include the well-toned muscles of a tiger, horse, or eagle. Confer also the sheen of blonde or black hair on humans, versus the sheen and hues of a bird’s feathers. The two qualities of “human beauty” are often conflated, but are distinct.

Remember, though, that drawing a fully literal image of an animal includes elements of the animal which are unpleasant. If I draw an image of a dog facing away from me, I’m probably going to contrive some way to avoid drawing the dog’s butthole, because – even though that’s strictly realistic, it’s a bit gross. Said grossness extends to genitalia and nipples of most animals. Human beings are animals, too. Thus; the only appeal that one gets from seeing genitalia depicted on a human being is not an appeal of general form or aesthetic, but an erotic appeal; an erotic appeal which overrides our simultaneous gross-out reaction. Purely erotic appeal = pornography; …

He has a great point here about beauty. But that’s not the point I’m making here… One of the things I got from this quote is that what we find attractive in genitalia is “an erotic appeal which overrides our simultaneous gross-out reaction”.

There’s definitely some truth behind this. Sex, when you think about it, is rather gross. When you explain sex to a child, he is disgusted. And that isn’t just the result of naivete. It IS disgusting, objectively speaking. Remember – think about humans as animals.

This isn’t to say that merely because something appears strange under close scrutiny, it is actually weird. After all, have you ever had the experience of looking at a word for a very long time, and then suddenly realizing that its spelling is just strange? Often when I’m manipulating .cfg files for a given faction, say, the Dwarves, I will see the word “Dwarf” over… and over… and over.

And eventually I will start to think that there is something just odd about the look of the word. Something perverse about having a “d” followed by a “w”, or about the letter combination “arf”… but that doesn’t mean the word “Dwarf” is actually eldritch.

Of course, sex is natural, and necessary for human reproduction, and sexual attraction is natural. But that doesn’t mean it is beautiful, when you think about it.

So maybe we’re better of just not thinking about sex at all. I am reminded of the quote, by Aldous Huxley, that “an intellectual is a person who has found something more interesting than sex”.

This can be seen, I suppose, as a Decartesian attempt to deny the physical nature of mankind. But really it isn’t. I’m not saying that sex is evil, I’m saying that it just isn’t that important. God is sexless. Never forget that.

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