Theology of the Body, Rishathra and the Cyberpope

Nate Winchester writes:

Considering the normal problems that one would have with producing offspring with another species, one wonders that in the Star Trek world, sex would actually be encouraged with aliens since there’s almost no chance of procreation.

I think the Roman Catholic Church of the future might object to “rishathra” on that grounds that the Black Widow Woman of Mars will rip out her mate’s throat and swallow his skull whole, even if the sexual act is sterile.

Now one might object that the Roman Catholic Church will not make it into the far future year of 2001. Earthfolk, having discovered that we were created from the spore vaults of Atlantis by the Pak Protectors and the Forerunners during a time travel accident, will be too enlightened to need religion due to the widespread prevalence of Bene Gesserit Null-A Logic Vulcan Mind-Training given by Mike the Martian’s Way Cool Church of All Worlds, and besides which Captain Kirk will trap the robopope of the cyberpapacy in a simple logical paradox and cause sparks to erupt from the triple crown. (Unfortunately, the gross superstition of Christianity will continue to linger on among the less intelligent of the artificial intelligences, who, despite the best efforts of Robodawkins, will not be convinced that their intelligence were evolved rather than artificial.)

However, I have it on the good authority of Ralph Bakshi himself that even as far along as the astonishing year 3000, ROCKET ROBIN HOOD and his Merry Men will be still battling and outwitting the Sheriff of N.O.T.T.(National Outer-space Terrestrial Territories)

Logically, if Rocket Robin Hood is still wielding a electroquarterstaff, all his Merry Men are still in business, which means Friar Tuck is also. A fortiori, if Friar Tuck is a friar, then the Order of Saint Francis must exist, which means the Catholic Church is still in business.


  1. Comment by Captain Peabody:

    Well, Star Trek has established that most if not all of the humanoid races of the Galaxy are descended from a common ancestor, and can produce fertile offspring without too much trouble. This apparently includes Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, and pretty much every other humanoid race we see. So I wouldn’t foresee any problems.

    • Comment by Foxfier:

      If you feel like tweaking noses, point out that this would be rather good evidence of a designer.

      TNG geeks will then be faced with accepting a really annoying story which was dropped even faster than the universal speed limit because of ripping time-space open episode, or agreeing with something friendly to an organized religion.

      Usually folks get to stammering denunciations and stop.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        Here my Geek knowledge fails. I thought there was a show where it was established in the STAR TREK continuity that all the humanoid races in the Alpha Quadrant were settled there by a race of Forerunners, a common ancestor who meddled with the genetic stock of countless planets?

        So I thought that STAR TREK, like the Lensman books by EE Doc Smith and 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY by Clarke and WORLD OF NULL A by Van Vogt and the Known Space of Niven was one more of the many Science Fiction stories that proposes intelligent design rather than natural evolution (but with an extraterrestrial intelligence rather than a divine one.)

        • Comment by Foxfier:

          Here my Geek knowledge fails. I thought there was a show where it was established in the STAR TREK continuity that all the humanoid races in the Alpha Quadrant were settled there by a race of Forerunners, a common ancestor who meddled with the genetic stock of countless planets?

          Didn’t fail, just gets mostly ignored because it’s pretty silly– an attempt to justify all the humanoid aliens (before Voyager) that didn’t do a very good job, what with ignoring existing lore and all. (Even the Spock thing is a mess– Nimoy tried to be scientific about it, and everybody else got into the story appeal of half-Vulcan or half-Romulan!)

          The story went that the “Forerunners” spread DNA pre-programming all over the place, and left an ancient computer program to tell everybody about it. Somehow ignoring that several humanoid species don’t seem to be mammals, the wide range of blood-colors, etc, while they’re still inter-fertile.

        • Comment by Captain Peabody:

          Yeah, John is right. The “intelligent designer” in Star Trek is an ancient race of humanoids who, finding themselves the only intelligent species in the galaxy, seeded their DNA into thousands of worlds to create a loooot of humanoid “children.” They do get discovered in a kind of ID way, though, when Picard and company find intelligent information and even maps encoded into the DNA of various species from around the Galaxy, which eventually leads them to a nice holographic recording of the Forerunners which explains everything. So chalk one up to ID, I guess.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Ah, but according to that most accurate of science fictioneers, A.E. van Vogt, humans who interbreed with a type of artificial human created by improper matter-transmission (called, oddly enough enough, but technically accurate) “robots” create a hybrid called the Mixed Men whose double human-artifact brains allow them three-dimensional hypnotic powers. So some powers will arise from uncontrolled breeding of the humans seeded throughout the Orion Arm, I am sure.

      Fortunately, the Arisians, without our knowledge, are breeding us like showdogs to produce the Kwisatz Haderach, so the chance of odd hybrids cropping up by accident is small.

  2. Comment by Nate Winchester:

    Well obviously the Church would still object regardless, I was just thinking from a secular & societal perspective. Especially the Star Trek one (you brought it first) since all societies there were agnostic except for the Bajorans.

    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

      Uh, dude, Holodeck? It’s the safest “sex” of all.

      • Comment by Stephen J.:

        Yeah, as long as no viruses hack your safeword protocols.

      • Comment by Noah D:

        The holodeck is terrifying. You thought internet pr0n was bad? Just wait, we’ll make it real!

        • Comment by Nate Winchester:

          The fact that Star Trek conveys a still functioning society with holodecks (while Scott Adams & others have pointed out that a holodeck would probably be the last tech* humans ever make) means that there must be something about real gals vs holo ones.

          (*hmm… that would be a funny answer to the Fermi paradox – we’ve never run into aliens because by the time they invent space travel, they have holodecks and have wiped themselves out)

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          My idea of the Drake Equation runs this way:
          * N = The number of communicative civilizations
          * R* = The rate of formation of suitable stars (stars such as our Sun)
          * fp = The fraction of those stars with planets. (Current evidence indicates that planetary systems may be common for stars like the Sun.)
          * ne = The number of Earth-like worlds per planetary system
          * fl = The fraction of those Earth-like planets where life actually develops
          * fi = The fraction of life sites where intelligence develops
          * fc = The fraction of communicative planets (those on which electromagnetic communications technology develops)
          * L = The “lifetime” of communicating civilizations BEFORE THEY INVENT ROBOHARLOT HOLOP0RN!
          Because the L factor cuts off as soon as the holodecks are up and running. Seriously. One the Marylin Monrobot is lose, the population no longer reproduces. It is what happened to the barren moon called Sulva, which we call Luna.

  3. Comment by deiseach:

    I venture an opinion with becoming hesitance, since I am nothing approaching a canon law expert, but I think the Roman Catholic Church of the future and the Cyperpope (whom St. Aquin intercede for!) might object to “rishatra” on the same conventional grounds that it objects to human recreational sex, especially if sterile. Granted, ripping off the cranium and devouring the internal organs of one’s lover would be an additional matter of sin, since it would be not alone murder but the slaying of one’s partner in lust while he or she was in a state of mortal sin, and therefore doubly objectionable as a risk to the eternal welfare of the souls of both parties.

    However, Holy Mother Church might not object to matrimony between members of species not naturally interfertile, particularly if they could have offspring by means of the reproductive technologies of their time. In that instance, the human and alien spouses would be bound by the same restrictions as sterile or infertile human couples of our times that cannot avail of artificial methods of reproductive assistance (donor sperm or even insemination by the husband’s sperm collected, um, outside of the conjugal act, IVF, donor ova, surrogacy) because although the marital act may be unfruitful, it is not rendered so by artifical methods or the desires of the parties involved. (I’m thinking here of the idea in “Star Trek” fandom, rendered canonical by the tie-in novels that Spock, son of Amanda Grayson of Earth and Sarek of Vulcan, was conceived with the assistance of reproductive assistance; that would seem to indicate that Humans and Vulcans are not naturally interfertile, or only with great difficulty, but if Humans and Vulcans can have offspring then marriage – and fornication, though that is more down to Human lechery than Vulcan laxness in morality – is a possibility and thus governable by the laws of the Church).

    What would be very interesting to try and figure out would be species where the male becomes pregnant (hey, if seahorses can do it…) or, like the Tenctonese in the tv series “Alien Nation” where not alone the male bears the child in the later stages of pregnancy till birth but it takes two males (the binnaum and the gannaum) to fertilise the female’s ova for offspring to be produced. Then again, the binnaum were considered almost a priestly or religious caste, with a holy calling, and they were organised in what was explicitly depicted as a religious order with strict rules and a code of conduct governing their behaviour, so that makes me think that the Church and Cyberpope could do business there hammering out some kind of compromise (she said doubtfully).

    I have to admit, I would be fascinated to see future Jesuits and Dominicans getting their teeth into the question of species where males can become pregnant, and if a Human male married one of these males, is this along the lines of a same-sex union or could the alien male spouse be considered ‘female’ in this context (e.g. since in humans the female is the one who bears the offspring, if this entity bears the offspring, it is – or may be called – a female)?

    • Comment by Pierce O.:

      However, Holy Mother Church might not object to matrimony between members of species not naturally interfertile, particularly if they could have offspring by means of the reproductive technologies of their time.

      This is unlikely, since the Church opposes reproductive technologies; stated loosly, contraceptives want love without life, and in vitro wants life without love. “Man remains the master, not the product, of his technology.”-Pope John Paul II.

      • Comment by deiseach:

        I did realise that, Pierce, as I said in the next sentence:

        “In that instance, the human and alien spouses would be bound by the same restrictions as sterile or infertile human couples of our times that cannot avail of artificial methods of reproductive assistance (donor sperm or even insemination by the husband’s sperm collected, um, outside of the conjugal act, IVF, donor ova, surrogacy) because although the marital act may be unfruitful, it is not rendered so by artifical methods or the desires of the parties involved.”

        My point was that if a male and a female of the two species, who would be open to the gift of new life within the conjugal act if it were physically possible, and who could be interfertile (were the methods not prohibited) wished to wed, it might be possible that the Church would treat this as a sacramental marriage given that the sterility of the parties is down to nature and not the desire of the spouses to engage in recreational sex without consequences.

    • Comment by Foxfier:

      How do we define male and female would probably be the problem, unless (Star Trek style) it’s along mammalian lines; male sea horses don’t get “pregnant,” any more than cows have “four stomachs;” the male sea horse just carries around the eggs like an incubator. (And the cows have four digestive compartments.)

      Both the idea of a pregnant male seahorse and of a cow with four stomachs are ways of getting information to be understood without being technically accurate; I’m pretty sure the Church would come down on the side of being technically accurate. (And if it’s a seahorse situation, I know there’s no moral problem with incubators for premature kids, which is what human-alien eggs usually carried by the male would be!)

    • Comment by Mary:

      There might be problems with interspecial marriages, as one can easily imagine if one considers not the classic space princess, but the possibility of an intelligent alien that is, in fact, a talking horse, or tiger, or dog. Is bestiality predicated on the lack of a rational soul in the beast, or because of the discordance of species? Because a marriage between a man and woman might be accidentally infertile, but it can not be essentially infertile.

      Given that John Carter was able to have two children with an oviparous female, perhaps this is not as big a question as you might expect.

  4. Comment by CC:

    I am clearly missing something, but what does Ralph Bakshi have to do with Rocket Robin Hood?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Ralph Bakshi was the director of the Canadian toon show ROCKET ROBIN HOOD. It is not a very well known show, ranking up there with SUPERPRESIDENT and SPY SHADOW as shows no one has ever heard of.

      This was before he went on to eternal infamy, I mean fame, as the director of FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING Part One and a Half, the Animated Bomb.

      The same folk who did the 1960’s version of SPIDERMAN cartoon worked on ROCKET ROBIN HOOD.

      • Comment by CC:

        Thanks for the quick reply. I’m actually more familiar with Rocket Robin Hood than with all those other shows/films you listed. Thanks to every tv station in Toronto which has ever needed some animated filler to meet CRTC Canadian content regulations, it is a fairly perennial late night/early morning show around here. However, I didn’t know that Bakshi had ever worked in these parts, so that is new to me.

        And sigh, now I’m going to have to look up this 60s Spiderman (which mustn’t count as Cancon, or I’m sure I’d have seen it . . .)

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Maybe I got the decade wrong, but I am talking about the version of Spiderman which has the themesong:

          “Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can; spins a web any size; catches thieves just like flies, hey there, there comes the Spider man. In the chill of night at the scene of the crime like a streak of light he arrives just in time…” etc.

          Never saw it? It is the classic version.

          • Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

            Ah, the 1967 cool jazz Spiderman. Truly a classic.

            Not to be confused with the 1974 Electric Company mute, live action Spiderman’s theme:
            Spiderman! Where are you coming from?
            Spiderman! Nobody knows who you are!

      • Comment by RocketSurgeon:

        As well as the best Mighty Mouse ever.

  5. Comment by Sean Michael:

    I think everybody is missing an obvious point: the sheer UNLIKELINESS of human/alien matings resulting in offspring, whether fertile or not fertile. The genetic barrier between races who have no common ancestry makes it, in my opinion, impossible for human and non human to have children. And that would remain the case no matter how much alike two different races from two different planets might appear. And I can imagine how a male and female from two different races might feel sexual attraction to each other if their species resembled each other closely enough.

    Poul Anderson’s “Tiger by the Tail” gives us an example of precisely the kind of case I mentioned above. And so have other writers such as L. Sprague de Camp.

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by deiseach:

      Sure, but the logic of the Church’s position on extramarital and sterile sex would be the same: even if there was no necessity to use artificial contraception to prevent birth since the humans and aliens are mutually sterile (we’re ignoring the possibility of STDs as another question), the Church would not permit rishatra but would still object to recreational sex on the grounds of fornication and unchastity, and would only permit it within marriage, the same conditions applying to human-alien interaction as to human-human interaction.

      That is, the objections as expressed in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church are not to artificial versus natural sterility (that is to say, it is considered as only being wrong if you avoid pregnancy by using drugs or devices because if that were so, then a heterosexual contracepting married couple would be committing sin but a same-sex married couple would not, even though both marriages are not producing children, or a heterosexual unwed couple having sex would not be considered to be fornicating as long as they were not using contraception – do I really need to spell it out that these examples are not the case?) but rather to the intended home and expression of the sexual act, that being within marriage as the union of two persons of opposite genders.

      The really interesting theological question, therefore, is where there are not the same binary genders as with humans involved :-)

      • Comment by Sean Michael:

        Hi, “deiseach”:

        Thanks for replying. Oh, certainly, I agree a human and nonhuman of oppposite sexes would not commit the sin of unchastity/fornication if they married. And a human/alien of the same sex would still be practicing the sin of active homosexuality if they committed sexual acts on each other.

        I’m not quite sure what you meant by aliens who don’t have the same binary genders as does mankind. Non human races whose members alternate in sex from male to female at different times? An example of which would be the “moties” of Lary Niven/Jerry Pournelle’s THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE and THE GRIPPING HAND.

        Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

        • Comment by Foxfier:

          Aliens with three– or more– sexes is a pretty popular hard-sci-fi response to the Rubber-Forehead aliens. Well, when they’re not doing the all-female one, or the gene-stealer type thing.

          The one that made the most sense to me was one egg-maker, one sperm-maker, one that unites and carries the two. (Basically splitting the female role.) Anne McCaffrey’s ‘Dinis have an unknown number, since it was all hidden and taboo, we just know they go about in twin-pairs and it takes a LOT of organization to reproduce the mating that made a pair.

          • Comment by Dan:

            one egg-maker, one sperm-maker, one that unites and carries the two

            Larry Niven had Pierson’s Puppeteers do something like that: two puppeteers mating via a non-sentient third being, though it’s a lot more like wasps laying their eggs on a caterpillar.

          • Comment by Stephen J.:

            I vaguely recall reading speculation to the effect that two sexes is actually the optimum biological reproductive strategy: asexual reproduction doesn’t provide enough gene-swapping variety to ensure species viability, and the more different types of adult individuals required to reproduce, the lower the incidence of reproduction, by statistical acccumulation of logistical difficulty. Two adult contributors is the best balance between simplicity (and thus frequency) of process and spread of genetic distribution.

            • Comment by Nate Winchester:

              It’s not considered optimum any more since biologists started noticing that in the most chaotic, hostile environments (think sea floor steam vents), we tended to find asexual reproduction aplenty while the place we find sexual reproduction plentiful are… well the rainforest. One of the most stable environments on earth (relatively speaking).

              We’re back to the drawing board on why sexual reproduction exists at all. I think the current favored hypothesis is the “Red Queen” one (running to stand still), that it’s done to try and keep ahead of parasites.

              So far. By the time you (future reader) reads this, it might be something else.

              • Comment by Foxfier:

                I suspect the advantages of two sexes has been dismissed on too few samples– kind of like the previously mentioned “how many planets are there with intelligent life?” question, it just tells you a lot about your assumptions!

                Shorter: of course reproducing without needing another organism is an advantage in an environment where it’s really, really, REALLY dangerous. Places that are more stable? Not so much.

                Kind of like germs with resistance to germ-killers — they do poorly in environments that are normal, but when everything else is killed off, they can keep going.

                Which I guess means that the gene-stealer asexual model would be the “superior” format, if you’re looking just at staying alive.

                I’m having trouble seeing why societies would develop– or how— without needing at least a pair to make babies. So, maybe usually need a pair to make babies, and sometimes go asexual. Sounds like the “elves” my husband is designing for his game….

        • Comment by deiseach:

          Yes, or the Gethen in Ursula LeGuin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness” who only exhibit sexual characteristics when they go into kemmer; the same Gethen could be a fertile female if mated with a Human male or a fertile male if mated with a Human female (well, I don’t know that they are interfertile with Humans, but for the sake of argument…) and so it would be a pretty problem to work out if a Human male marrying a Gethen could argue that it was his wife (based on the fact that ‘she’ becomes female when in kemmer because he is the male partner).

          Or, as I said, the “Alien Nation” tv series where there are two types of males (gannaum and binnaum), both of whom are necessary to fertilise the female. In that case, would the binnaum male Tectonese interacting with the Human female married to the gannaum male Tenctonese be considered adultery (based on whether or not full sexual intercourse takes place, which we don’t know, since the programme was actually rather tactful as to the exact details).

          Easy questions like that :-)

          • Comment by Foxfier:

            In fairness… I think the first one is pretty easy… same way it’s not homosexuality if, say, someone like that poor African runner lady found out she was genetically male, but she’s physically female.
            (Note: does NOT have ANYTHING to do with the folks who are mutilated to appear to be the other sex. Stuff happening naturally is a totally different class from things that happen because of human choices, and no, I don’t wanna talk about that! This is enjoyable right now!)
            More so, really, since that’s just naturally the way they are, and being fertile is proof that it’s a natural relationship.

          • Comment by Mary:

            LeGuin, like Star Trek, had a species medle with evolution all over the place.

            I mention that once a character in kemmer was imprisoned in the same cell as a human male and responded by becoming female.

            (In a later essay, LeGuin claimed that it was a flaw, the obligate heterosexuality of it. She claimed that of course homosexuality would be welcome — as if it would carry out the biological purpose, or even certain issues of geometrical fit.)

  6. Comment by David_Marcoe:

    Now, this is what I was asking about with my space princess query before. Thanks everyone for some ideas to chew on.

  7. Ping from Aliens, Sex and Catholicism | The American Catholic:

    […] as the Author over there put it: Theology of the Body, Rishathra and the Cyberpope. Warning: Mr. Wright’s style can be a bit startling until you’re use to it, just keep […]

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Oh, dear. The American Catholic has overheard me. My worst fear in life, which is that someone will take me seriously, is moderated somewhat by the timely warning to unwary readers of AC that I am most likely joking.

      Of course, I suspect he has it reversed. The outrageous things I say are when I am serious; the calm and rational things are when I am totally kidding.

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