Beauty Queen Called Beautiful — the Science Fiction Scale

This is a weekend addendum to my weekly Friday post, which concerned the ugly insanity of the political Left and the beauty of the beauty queen Katherine Webb.

More than one reader wrote in to say that she was not so very attractive. Now, the young lady in question did indeed win a title in a beauty pageant, so no matter what your taste or mine have to say about her degree of good looks, she clearly falls within the general category of healthy and attractive femininity.

At no point did I give my personal opinion about her good looks, but, being opinionated about everything, of course I have an opinion. Sports fans rate women according to a cuteness scale unknown to me, but which, I am sure, include sportscasters from Phyllis George to Ines Sainz and sporting figures from synchronized swimming twins Bia Feres to Branca Feres.

Being a science fiction fan and not a sports fan, I would say that, if dressed as a space princess, Miss Webbs is cuter than Space Princess Leia but not as cute as Space Princess Amidala, and, if painted green and forced to dance for my pleasure at a barbarian space-feast, she is cuter than Orion slavegirl Vina but not as cute as Orion slavegirl Marta.

Let us compare:

FERES TWINS

INES

LEIA

AMIDALA

VINA

MARTA

You can see why I did not find Mr Musburger’s comments out of line! Compared to what Sciffy Dudes say about spacebabes, a wolf-whistle from a sports commentator is the very paragon of normalcy.

ADDED LATER:

A reader writes in with the comment–

Vina was much cuter as a blonde.

I leave the matter to my other readers to decide. Since she was one of the earlier Science Fiction Television glamor girls, we may of course use her as the standard baseline for determining how attractive as space babe is (in units known as ‘Dejas’ which are used to measure the allure of space princesses, in much the same way that the ‘Helens’ are used to measure the allure of earthly princesses).

Here is what Vina in the Star Trek episode THE CAGE looked like as a blonde:

Hmm. While I can respect a difference of opinion on so subjective a matter as space-beauty, I do think the green version has a certain allure.

Here are other imaginary versions.

You see, for some reason visiting Talos IV, where you can get trapped in illusions, is the only death penalty on the books in Star Fleet, whereas by the next generation, there were Holodecks which performed the same function, but without the need for giant brained Talosians to concentrate until their brain veins popped. Score one for Talos IV! They finally beat the Federation!

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
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34 Responses to Beauty Queen Called Beautiful — the Science Fiction Scale

  1. Dan says:

    Green slavegirl Marta is the fairest (greenest?) of them all, because that actress also played Batgirl.

  2. Sean Michael says:

    I had a good laugh at this! Thanks, Mr. Wright!

    And I agree with the more serious point you made, the political correctoids were dead wrong! Mr. Musberger said nothing wrong.

    Sean M. Brooks

  3. JaneMercer says:

    Vina was much cuter as a blonde.

  4. Without wanting to defend the “rape culture” stuff, I have got to say that personally I would not care to have my appearance, raffishly handsome as it is, publicly judged by god and Anyonesen every time I went out. Particularly not on national television. Beauty queen or not, it seems to me that Miss Webb should be able to go to a ball game and watch her boyfriend play without strangers’ comments on her looks (or indeed her morals, intelligence, or political opinions) being broadcast to the nation.

    • Odd as it sounds that you and I agree on something, of course I agree. I said as much in the essay.

      • Indeed you did, as I see on rereading the essay. On first reading, only your related statement that

        Gentleman do not express lust over the wives and sweethearts of other gentlemen, but may only express respectful admiration.

        stuck in my mind; this is a subtly different point, although pointing in the same direction.

        However, some of the other posters are saying things like “Mr Musberger said nothing wrong”, which seems to me a little too strong. “Nothing worth a paroxysm of national-media frenzy, especially since the lady in question has decided to be gracious about his error” is closer to the mark.

        • No, he said nothing wrong. His expression was of admiration only, albeit expressed in masculine and forthright rather than politically correct terms.

          So, the cosmic order is restored. You and I disagree after all.

          Out of curiosity, and knowing full well you are never yet answered honestly anything asked you: Does your worldview offer any logical reason why someone should not be courteous to women?

          If uncouth speech about one women displeases her, but pleases thousands of viewers, does your worldview have any argument against the utility of so speaking?

          Indeed, in your materialistic abyss where nothing exists but matter in motion, is there any reason whatever why a man cannot speak as he pleases on any topic he pleases, provided it is not fraud or deception or the violation of some confidence?

          Do your universe provide you with any guidelines for how to treat women?

          I mean rational guidelines, a logical argument, something more than mere sentiment borrowed from the traditional chivalrous and chaste moral code you reject?

          Are these guidelines based on an empirical observation?

          • No, he said nothing wrong. His expression was of admiration only, albeit expressed in masculine and forthright rather than politically correct terms.

            Ok, but didn’t we just agree that he ought not to have commented on Miss Webb’s appearance at all?

            Does your worldview offer any logical reason why someone should not be courteous to women?

            The question seems to involve a contradiction. Courtesy is the pattern of speech and behaviour that one ought to use. So you seem to be asking whether my worldview provides a reason one ought to behave otherwise than one ought to behave. I do not see how any worldview can come up with such a reason. They may of course differ on what behaviour is in fact courteous.

            Perhaps an extraneous ‘not’ crept into your sentence, and you meant to ask for a reason to behave with courtesy towards women, or a derivation of a code of manners? If so, the answer is the same as for any other question of how one ought to behave: Sufficient contemplation will lead any human to a core code of morals, to which he cannot deny his inner assent. He may of course break the rules, but he won’t deny (at least to himself) that there is a rule, that he is breaking it, and that it is wrong to do so. The procedure is the same in small ‘oughts’ as in large ones.

            Alternatively, by ‘courtesy’ did you mean something other than my reading ‘the way one ought to behave’?

            • Sufficient contemplation will lead any human to a core code of morals, to which he cannot deny his inner assent.

              In this particular case, what led your contemplation to the core code of morals dictating that sportcasters, and, I assume, all other men, should be kind and chivalrous to women?

              What is wrong with embarrassing someone, holding him up to public scorn or public lust?

              Are there certain emotions which are apt and fitting to situations like this, and other which men naturally are tempted to feel and act upon, but which we should not act upon (in this case, the temptation to wolfwhistle at a pretty dame)?

              He may of course break the rules, but he won’t deny (at least to himself) that there is a rule, that he is breaking it, and that it is wrong to do so.

              Do these rules have mass, occupy volume, exist for a certain duration? Is there a time before which they did not exist? What brought them into being? Could the thing that brought them into being change their content, composition, and meaning?

              • In this particular case, what led your contemplation to the core code of morals dictating that sportcasters, and, I assume, all other men, should be kind and chivalrous to women?

                The rule I had in mind was that everyone should be polite, and that it is not polite to broadcast a remark, especially in public and with no chance of answering back, on a stranger’s appearance. (Of course there can be special cases, like a beauty contest, where this rule doesn’t apply.) A compliment given face-to-face, by someone known to the complimentee, is a different matter. Obviously there are nuances and shades and grey areas, but it seems to me that Mr Musberger’s remark was definitely on the wrong side of politeness.

                What is wrong with embarrassing someone, holding him up to public scorn or public lust?

                The ultimate source of the rule against doing so, the axiom on which it rests, is that one should do no harm. (Obviously, there can be cases where one harm has to be weighed against another, or against a good, and so on; I state the axiom in its simplest possible form.) This statement I cannot justify; it is clear to all honest thinkers. Embarrassment is, of course, a fairly mild harm, as these things go.

                Do these rules have mass, occupy volume, exist for a certain duration? [...]

                If you want to take up our discussion of materialism again, I am happy to do so, but this is not the place to start. I should prefer to return to Shakespeare and the applicability of the laws of physics, where I believe we are not too far off clearing up the misunderstandings our different use of language has caused.

                • This statement I cannot justify; it is clear to all honest thinkers

                  I have thought and said many very harsh things about you, sir. This sentence makes up for all. I thought you were literally unable to think any honest thoughts and unwilling to admit yourself to be at a loss for a reply when asked a question.

                  I retract my cruel comments and beg your forgiveness. You perhaps have enough honesty to be a philosopher after all.

                  Just to give it a name, let us call “Do No Harm” the Hippocratic Rule. If you do not like that terminology, we can call it Right Reason, or The Golden Rule, or the First Rule, or the Universal Moral Imperative.

                  In terms of justifying your statement, allow me to point out that if everything has a cause, and nothing comes from nothing, there must be a cause for the fact that harming others is wrong is clear to all honest thinkers.

                  Moreover, the cause must be universal to all men (since any man can, upon turning honest, think and see that this moral maxim is the case) and moreover again, it must be something one perceives with one’s reason, when reason is honest rather than with one’s eyesight.

                  So several questions hang before our curious minds.

                  One is that the Hippocratic Rule is self-evidently true. (Because it is self-evident, ironically, it cannot be proved to be true to anyone who denies its truth, because by denying it they also deny the evidence for it.) But it is not a truth about something that is or is not, declarative truths. It is not a truth like “A is A” or “Twice two is four” or even “When two straight lines intersect, their opposite angles are equal.” These are all truths about something that is or is not, declarative truths. This is an imperative truth, a statement about what we ought or ought not do. So the first question is this: how can a truth be an imperative?

                  The second question is, where does it come from? I do not mean, how is it that we perceive it or deduce it or intuit it to be true? That is an interesting question in its own right. I mean, if nothing comes from nothing, this imperative must come from some authority who has the authority to impose it. Who or what commands our moral assent?

                  I add here a third and tangential question: does the moral command of the Hippocratic Rule applies to all men?

                  May we assume Martians and Elves and Witches and any nonhuman rational beings whatsoever which may exist also owe fealty to the Hippocratic Rule?

                  That is, if a Martian decides to attack an innocent Elf with his tripodal fighting machine, is this merely an unlucky accident, like an Elf caught in an avalanche, or has the Martian committed a moral wrong by violating the Hippocratic imperative?

                  Which leads to a fourth question: Is it possible for the cause, whatever it is, which makes the Hippocratic Rule universal to all rational beings to be local or limited in extent or duration?

                  If the cause, call it X, that creates the Hippocratic Rule and perhaps creates our ability to perceive it, only existed on Earth, it could not reach the Martians on Mars or the Elves in Fairyland and Witches in Oz.

                  What if anything can we deduce about X, given that it is able to impose an imperative, and can reach, if any rational creatures exist in those places, other planets in our continuum, and other realms, if any exist, outside it?

                  It cannot be a law of nature, because presumably such laws have sway over this continuum only. It cannot be a genetically inherited characteristic, because presumably such characteristics extend to one race or species or kingdom only, and not to other planets where rational creatures might exist. So what can it be?

                  • If forgiveness is needed, you may certainly have it. Some of the fault must be mine, for I have clearly not been conveying my thoughts with sufficient clarity.

                    This is an imperative truth, a statement about what we ought or ought not do. So the first question is this: how can a truth be an imperative?

                    (…)

                    I mean, if nothing comes from nothing, this imperative must come from some authority who has the authority to impose it. Who or what commands our moral assent?

                    It seems to me that these questions are different ways of approaching the same point. In particular, the thing that commands our moral assent is our own human nature; that part of our minds which, when presented with some moral truth, recognises it and says “Yes, this is true, that is what I ought to do”. Of course our minds have many parts, and the morality-recognising part may be overridden by other parts as far as our actions go. But we cannot avoid recognising what is right (at least in simple cases with no tradeoffs or complexities) any more than we can avoid recognising a human face in a painting. The circuit, so to speak, is beyond volition; there is no conscious control over that part of the mind.

                    Why then does this part of our mind have authority to impose its judgements on the rest of us? Well, deciding who has or hasn’t got authority is part of recognising what is right and wrong. In a sense they are the same question. Now, a mind which had the power to recognise right and wrong, but which didn’t accept its own recognition, would be analogous to one that could recognise a human face, but not realise that it was doing so. Madness! Or at any rate blindsight, in the classic sense of being able to flinch from a blow at your face, but insist (honestly, so far as your conscious mind knows) that you cannot see anything. Notice that the first known cases of blindsight were responses to unbearable stresses in trench warfare; this is not the way a well-functioning mind works. (As an aside, Orson Scott Card plays with the idea in one of the Homecoming books, I think the last one, where one of the characters has an instinctive recognition for truth, but is browbeaten into not accepting his own instinct.) So, I accept the authority of the right-recognising part of my mind for the same reason that I accept the authority of the face-recognising part: How can I do otherwise?

                    May we assume Martians and Elves and Witches and any nonhuman rational beings whatsoever which may exist also owe fealty to the Hippocratic Rule?

                    A hard question. First let us distinguish between ‘rational’ and ‘intelligent’. A chess-playing computer like Deep Blue is intelligent in its extremely narrow field, but not rational. I believe one could build a similar computer, programmed not for chess but for real-life warfare with robots, which could beat any human general – Saberhagen’s berserkers are a fictional example, except of course that for reasons of dramatic tension they are not really all that smart. A berserker programmed to exterminate all life without the restriction of being the villain in a dramatic story would just chuck asteroids into suns at high fractions of c. Or sit about waiting for entropy to do the job; what’s a few billion billion years between robots? Or accelerate the death of stars in a subtle manner, impossible to detect or prevent, as do the photino birds in Baxter’s Xeelee Sequence. But I digress.

                    A rational being, on the other hand (at least for my purposes here) is one which can recognise right and wrong. It is not the same as being intelligent. A dog is not intelligent, but it knows when it has broken a rule – simple rules, to be sure, but the emotion of guilt or shame seems to be very similar to what a human experiences. So, it seems to me that we know of beings which are intelligent and rational (humans) and rational but not intelligent (dogs, chimpanzees); and we can imagine beings which are intelligent but not rational (berserkers, perhaps psychopaths).

                    So, I believe we may find intelligent, tool-using, even space-faring civilisations which are nonetheless not rational in the sense of instinctively recognising the Hippocratic Principle. If so, we would probably have to exterminate them (assuming we could do so) on the same grounds that we shoot mad dogs: Too dangerous to have about!

                    But your question was more specific: Would such a civilisation owe fealty to the Hippocratic Principle; would it be wrong for them to break it? Well, yes, of course! That’s what wrong means! Just because their natures are such that they cannot recognise right and wrong, and they therefore live by different rules, doesn’t mean that the different rules are “right for them”. They’re still wrong.

                    I note that the existence of such a species would be one hell of a tragedy – indeed I would rather expect that a Christian theologian would assert that no such thing is possible, and then, if honest, he would give up his faith if such a species was encountered. (Of course, it might be rather difficult to prove the negative, “This species is incapable of recognising right and wrong.”) Tolkien’s Orcs, I seem to recall, caused him considerable difficulty on theological grounds. But, as I’m not a Christian, I am forced to say that the thing is possible, however tragic.

                    Which leads to a fourth question: Is it possible for the cause, whatever it is, which makes the Hippocratic Rule universal to all rational beings to be local or limited in extent or duration?

                    It seems to me that this is so; in particular, it exists where and when rational creatures exist – that’s what rational means. If a Martian is rational, then the cause of his morality-recognition is inside him. To put it differently, if the cause of morality is human nature, or the nature of rational thinkers, then it does not exist at all times and places; it exists where and when human nature exists.

                    • I am a Christian, albeit not a theologian, but I have no difficulty imagining beings that are both rational and unable to follow the Hippocratic Principle — we call them devils. They are, in fact, purely rational beings, consisting of all mental substance, pure thought, without physical bodies except at will.

                      You have established, to my satisfaction at least, that Human nature is the source of the rational faculty which recognizes the different between right and wrong. (I would have used the word conscience, but since I think the conscience is part and parcel of human nature, the terminology does not really matter.)

                      The question of whether rational beings can exist without an ability to recognize right and wrong is a difficult one, but I think your comments are on the right track.

                      A child is below the age of reason cannot follow the conscience any more than he can do calculus, and likewise a senile man or a madman has lost control of his faculties, including the faculty of recognizing and following the Hippocratic Rule.

                      Dogs do flinch with guilt when they disobey their masters, but, lacking a common language, the principle of right and wrong cannot be explained to them. They understand obedience and disobedience, but I assume (it is no more than an assumption, for I am not a dog) the a Nazi guard-dog would not have an attack of conscience when ordered to savage a Jewish toddler any more than it would suffer scruples over being ordered to savage a fox or a hare or any other target.

                      On the other hand, any creature, such as Elf or Martian, capable of speech and abstract thought could have the principle of right and wrong explained to them. If they were unable to recognize that they owed loyalty to that principle, this sounds like what psychiatrists called sociopathy. The elves are psycho.

                      Your comments, if I understand them, suggest that the Hippocratic Rule is self-evident: that is, namely, that it is by the Rule that we both recognize the Rule and recognize the authority of the Rule over us. So it seems also to me.

                      Your comments, if I understand them, suggest that an inability to recognize the Hippocratic Rule is a defect, although you did not say this in so many words. So my next question is: (1) is sociopathy a defect?

                      These four cases, child, madman, dog and psycho-Elf, all seem (to me at least) to be cases where we would not be right, indeed would not be following the Hippocratic Rule, if we treated them as law cases, that is, if we held the creature to be morally liable for his actions. A child cannot yet understand the nature of his own acts because the “human nature” has not developed, whereas a dog is fully developed an cannot understand the nature of its own acts because it lack the rational faculty. A madman has a rational faculty but it is defective.

                      (2) Now, if we met a sociopathic race, say, Psycho-Elves like Tolkien’s Orcs, who were born evil and were evil by nature would we be correct in saying that race is sick or diseased or defective?

                      By “evil” here I mean it only in the limited sense we using in this argument for the sake of argument, namely, a rational being unable to acknowledge fealty to the Hippocratic Rule. Your comment, if I understand it, is that the fealty still exists, the same way the human face still exists, but that a defect in the brain of the sociopath prevents him from perceiving it.

                      (3) In other words, my question is, are Elves and Martians and even Saberhagen’s Berserkers disobeying the Hippocratic Rule? Ought they to obey it?

                      Let us suppose for the sake of argument that there is some neural wiring in the brain which allows the rational creatures of Elfland or Mars to recognize the Hippocratic Rule. Let us further suppose that there is a race of rational beings, Berserkers, who lack that wiring.

                      If a Berseker was rational, however, a Berserker repairman or robopsychologist, let us call it Mecha-Asimov, could program in rules providing that Berserkers must obey orders, must preserve themselves from harm, and may not through action or inaction expose Bersekers to harm, and (so I presume) define Earthmen, Elfs, Martians and other rational creatures as falling into the category “Berserkers” ergo no longer enemies to be exterminated.

                      (4) Is Mecha-Asimov under a duty (whether he recognizes it or not) to rewire his fellow deathbots to make them obey the Three Laws of Hippocrates?

                      You said that the Hippocratic Rule exists everywhere human nature exists. (I hope our terminology is not confusing. By “human nature” we mean “rational faculty” — elfs and Martians have human nature by this definition. They are ‘persons’ rather than machines) But if the answer to my question #4 above about Mecha-Asimov is “yes” meaning “Yes it would be a right and good and morally proper act for Mecha Asimov to rewire his fellow Berserkers to recognize mankind as ‘Berserkers’ that is, the ‘us-group’ members of the set of beings falling under the Hippocratic Rule” then the Hippocratic Rule exists at least everywhere the rational faculty exists.

                      My eyeball sees light but does not shed light. We would be correct to say that “sight” does not exist when the eye is put out, but we would be mad to say the light is snuffed out when the eye is put out.

                      (5) Is the rational faculty perceiving the Hippocratic Rule or inventing it?

                      If the Rule only exists when it is perceived to exist, does the Rule come into being the moment a child develops a conscience? The moment an ape-man develops a human nature?

                      I have numbered the questions for ease of reference, not to annoy you by giving you flashbacks to the days when you took rather than graded tests.

            • I asked you follow up questions without answering yours.

              No, we did not agree that Mr Musburger ought not to have commented on Miss Webb’s appearance at all. What I said was that, among gentleman, we can give compliments on the appearance of other women, but not so as to excite the lust, or hold her up to public embarrassment by too fulsome a compliment. I never said nor implied that Mr Musburger overstepped this line. Indeed, I regard the judgment that he stepped over the line of courtesy to be absurd.

              (By the way, since the dishonorific ‘Ms’ is a gross insult against the institution of marriage, and insults the dignity of women, and I will edit it out of anything posted here with notification or apology.)

              Yes, my sentence seems to have an extra “not”. It should have read “ought or ought not”. Sorry for the confusion.

              By courtesy I certainly mere something more than what one ought to do. Courtesy is the use of proper formality to show signs of dignity. This is hardly the whole of the moral law.

              I take it as a moral commandment that one ought to be courteous (a command, alas, I do not always obey) on that grounds that all men, including inferiors and evildoers, are made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore worthy of respect despite having not earned any respect.

              I take it as a stronger command that one ought to be courteous to women because of the mystical nature of feminine genius, which is more supportive of life than the masculine; and because of the sentimentality and weakness of the sex, since it is easier to hurt their feelings and reputations and their resentments last longer than is typical of the male; and their greater capacity to reflect divine beauty, which makes the gift of their presence among us a greater blessing than our presence among them; but most of all, since God is male (or at least masculine) masculinity is unbalanced and ugly when it fails to reflect the divine strength, nobility, and compassion.

              I doubt these propositions can find favor, or can even be made clear to you, so I was a little surprised to hear so civilized a doctrine as chivalry toward women come from your lips. Perhaps I am assuming too much, and you are announcing some more general and unisex standard of behavior more in keeping with modern sensibility (or modern insensibility) and more in keeping with your own past record toward women.

              • No, we did not agree that Mr Musburger ought not to have commented on Miss Webb’s appearance at all.

                Then I must confess that I find your comment somewhat confusing. I said “Beauty queen or not, it seems to me that Miss Webb should be able to go to a ball game and watch her boyfriend play without strangers’ comments on her looks (or indeed her morals, intelligence, or political opinions) being broadcast to the nation.” and you responded “[O]f course I agree. I said as much in the essay.” What did you take to be the thesis with which you agreed?

                Are you making a distinction between “commenting on her appearance at all” and the act to which I was actually objecting, namely broadcasting his comment to the nation, in a situation where she had no chance of responding? It was not my intention to lay down a general rule against ever saying any word about anyone’s appearance whatsoever; but I do object to the specific circumstances of Mr Musberger’s commentary.

                By courtesy I certainly [mean] something more than what one ought to do. Courtesy is the use of proper formality to show signs of dignity. This is hardly the whole of the moral law.

                Not the whole of it, certainly; but a part of it. And since one can derive the whole, one can also derive any particular part; and any particular part of “what one ought to do” is, clearly, something that ought to be done even if it’s not the only thing that ought to be done. So, in short, I don’t quite see how your statement contradicts what I said, or corrects it.

                By the way, since the dishonorific ‘Ms’ is a gross insult against the institution of marriage, and insults the dignity of women, and I will edit it out of anything posted here with notification or apology.

                Out of curiosity, have you written anything laying out why you think so? I cannot recall you having said so before. I observe that many women, being perhaps prone to sentiment and weakness, prefer ‘Ms’ over ‘Miss’ and indeed are hurt and angry if you call them ‘Miss’; what is the argument which overrides your stated desire to avoid their longer-lasting resentments and more-easily-hurt feelings?

                • what is the argument which overrides your stated desire to avoid their longer-lasting resentments and more-easily-hurt feelings?

                  Courtesy never requires one to lie.

                  A woman asking you to call her ‘Ms’ is also, very deliberately, insulting womanhood, both her own and all her sisters.

                  It would be the same as a Negro asking you to call him a nigger.

                  I honor womanhood. This is not the same obeying any hysterical and lying-ass demand from an angry, empty-hearted hag. I also salute the uniform, not the man who wears it, and salute the flag, not the pikestaff from which it flies.

                • I said “Beauty queen or not, it seems to me that Miss Webb should be able to go to a ball game and watch her boyfriend play without strangers’ comments on her looks (or indeed her morals, intelligence, or political opinions) being broadcast to the nation.” and you responded “[O]f course I agree. I said as much in the essay.” What did you take to be the thesis with which you agreed?

                  The thesis to which I agreed was that gentleman do not express lust over the wives and sweethearts of other gentlemen, but may only express respectful admiration. (I did not say but I also agree that broadcasting such comments to a wide audience makes the matter worse.) From the context of your statement, I thought that by “strangers’ comments on her looks” you meant only lustful or otherwise humiliating comments, namely, the exact type I was also condemning. I also thought that you found Mr Musburger’s comments to fall into this category and that I did not: a judgment call where reasonable men can differ and which I can respect. Miss Webb did not find the comment other than flattering, nor do I.

                  All I said was that an objection on these grounds — too fulsome a comment may be ungentlemanly if it makes the lady uncomfortable — is an objection I respect. I thought that was your ground, and I was surprised, or, rather, shocked beyond words, as shocked as if I heard an orc singing an elf hymn.

                  But if your ground was something else, I am at a loss to understand what it is. That is why I asked.

                  In reply, you said that one should not harm another. You did not say, but I assume you meant, that Mr Musburger’s comments in this case committed or threatened some sort of harm to Miss Webb, perhaps (you did not say) the emotional harm of being embarrassed or the spiritual harm of being dishonored.

                  By this reply you admitted, for the first time in all the years of conversations about any topic, to have an axiom, an unquestioned first principle beyond which you cannot go, and which you describe as being perfectly obvious to all honest thinkers, that is, self-evident.

                  I am again astonished, since I thought your abortive epistemology forbade the possibility of axiomatic reasoning. I have been stymied in all our conversations heretofore, since each and every time I brought up your epistemological foundations of your thought, you have not answered. This is a breakthrough to our mutual understanding!

                  • Suburbanbanshee says:

                    What has not been mentioned is that, traditionally, American sports announcers at baseball games, and sometimes at football games and other sports, amuse the crowd during slow bits by commenting about specific people (famous or unknown-but-interesting) seen in the crowd, as well as by training cameras on the crowd and then showing the results up on the scoreboard. People go to big sports games not just to see, but to be seen, if the announcer-gods smile upon them. Brent Musberger was acting in this tradition.

                    • I myself did not mention that only because I assume that everyone knew this. I mean, I know less about sports than a Mi-Go from the far side of Pluto (which is still a planet, thank you) but even *I* knew that the cameras pan the stands and make human-interest comments about the families and fans of the players. In legal terminology, no one goes to a public sporting event with an ‘expectation of privacy.’ The ticket buyer is tacitly consenting to having his face broadcast to the networks.

              • Darrell says:

                I was under, the perhaps mistaken, impression that “Ms” was created to avoid confusion. So for example, if you did not know the marital status of a woman in a letter, news account, or upon first meeting/speaking to her you could refer to her as “Ms” rather than “Miss or Mrs.” The same would hold true of a woman who kept her maiden name — if Hillary Clinton had remained Hillary Rodham it would have been equally incorrect to call her Miss Rodham or Mrs Rodham. At any rate that is how our training materials described the usage when I was teaching US culture in Colombia.

                • Ms was invented by feminists for the express purpose of removing emphasis from the marital status of women, under the theory that emphasizing marriage somehow denigrates women or renders them servile.

                  It is no more difficult to discover if a woman is ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’ than to discover her name in the first place. Clinton cannot be married and remain ‘Rodham’ unless she wishes to remove emphasis from the marital status, such as when, with actresses, her name becomes a trademark with recognition value. In that case her name has become a commercial property, which she values more than her marriage. It is not always so: in India, Aishwarya Rai changed her stage name to Aishwarya Bachchan when she married.

                  In any case, it is absurd to say that we can discover whether Hillary is ‘Rodham’ or ‘Clinton’ but cannot discover whether she is married or not.

                  So, no. You have been lied to. People who care about things like avoiding confusion do not introduce confusion such as having mothers with a one-hyphen last name have different last names than their daughters with a four-hyphen last name. It was not done for reasons of simplicity.

                  It was done for the same reason that the French revolutionaries called each other ‘Citizen’ and the Russians ‘Comrade.’

  5. Foxfier says:

    But what about Mystique? (She’s gone into space, she’s the second-in-command for Magneto, sounds close enough to me! Then again, I’d also consider Ziyal an arguable space princess, though of the good-daughter-to-a-villain sort, so clearly I’m pretty loose in my qualifications!)

    • As I’m waiting to die and be reincarnated as Garak himself, I of course approve of Ziyal as she can be (in some respects) thought of as a princess of the Bajorans before they overthrew their oppressors.

      Of course, Mystique may not quite count since she can take on any appearance (though that of Jennifer Lawrence and/or Rebecca Romijn are quite good picks).

  6. Bobby Trosclair says:

    I looked up Susan Oliver, the actress who played Vina in IMDB. I don’t think there was a single TV series from the 1960s to the 1980s she didn’t appear in at one time or another (but, strangely, IMDB puts her episode of Star Trek in 1986, not 1968) http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0647010/

  7. TheConductor says:

    How many times do I have to tell you gentlemen that it is an irrefutable fact that silky stockings look better on just about any attractive lady than any form of catsuit or spacey foofaraw? One simply cannot argue with the facts.

    • I have made a thorough study of the way space-princesses, both good and evil, from Deja Thoris of Barsoom to Aura of Mongo, and space damsels in distress, and space-slavegirls in metal bikinis, and none of them wear silk stockings as far as I can tell. Out of loyalty to the Space Princess movement of Literature, I fear I cannot, despite my inclinations, bring myself to agree with you on this point.

      Earthwomen look good in them, though.

  8. JaneMercer says:

    Whether she was really, truly (but, hey, this is a fantasy, right?) beautiful or not, Vina had spunk. As did Eve of Mudd’s Women. Both understood that men were basically slaves to beauty and were pretty contemptuous of that fact even though they somehow loved them anyway.

    “Is this the kind of wife you want, Ben? Not someone to help you. Not a wife to cook, sew, cry and need, but THIS kind – selfish, vain, useless. Is this what you really want? All right then, here it is.”

    “Oh, the sound of male ego. You travel half way across the galaxy and it’s still the same song. ”

    Ben Childress: And what the devil happened to your looks anyway?
    Eve McHuron: I got tired of you. I slumped.

    By the by, the actress who played Gem in “The Empath” was one of my favorites.

    • What I think is funny, and a little sad, is that modern feminists always tell me women from the 30′s and 40′s and 50′s were repressed and oppressed and browbeaten by their menfolk, and portrayed badly in books, and such — but the books I read from those periods do not seem to bear that out. It could just be the particular books I read, or maybe I am forgetting the examples the feminists have in mind, but the female characters like the Red Lensman or the Green Lady of Perelendra seemed both feminine and filled with moxie, whereas I can think of books from the modern era (BLINDSIGHT by Watts or PERDIDO STREET STATION by Mieville, f’rinstance) where the female characters are neither feminine nor brave.

      And I think Vina should have had a human mate. There are plenty of folk willing to trade their freedom in return for comforting illusions — see recent elections in America, for example — they could have been shipped to Talos IV. Many a fanboy would be willing to lie back, think of England, and copulate with misshaped and scarred Vina if they could have a harem of lovely versions of her during the actual love-play. And they could ride their horses on Alpha Centauri and fight monsters on Rigel VII and watch Orion animal women dance and generally lived the good life. And then have Number One and the young yeoman girl as a side-dish, and I do mean dish. All of that was robbed from the lonely earth-losers of the Twenty Third Century! Darn that Captain Pike!

      No, no, back foul temptation! Back, I say! It would be worse than internet porn from the weirder parts of Tokyo, and ruin all marriages and friendships and sanity. It would be as bad for the human sanity as Cthulhu rising from darkest Rlyeh, if Cthulhu were horny and lusted with his many non-Euclidean spawning-members after buxom fuzzy cat-girls dressed like nurses and French maids — which I think I saw once in Internet porn from Japan, come to think of it. (Shuddering). On second thought, thank you for saving us, Captain Pike!

      Of course, since Pike later returns as a cripple in a wheelchair to Talos IV, and I assume his male organs still work at some level, perhaps with a little artificial medical help, the Telosian dream of creating a slave race to tend their machines would finally achieve success! Then they could spread through the galaxy and addict us all to illusions! Darn that Mr Spock!

  9. DGDDavidson says:

    Between the pictures you post here, I’m going to go with Amidala as the cutest.

    However, my tastes run to modesty and decorum, so I admit the garb of space princesses does not much appeal to me. I’d rather see Her Highness in a long dress.

  10. John Hutchins says:

    Whether by immersive VR caves or (more likely) VR glasses we are getting ever closer to having Holodecks. Right now they are so expensive that they are used to model drug interactions, nuclear reactors, design and planning of public utilities, and other such such high value purposes. However, since they actually tend to be under utilized for the high value purposes there have already been some games played on these expensive pieces of equipment, not sure if there is any porn made with VR caves in mind but I am sure it is only a matter of time.

    I imagine it will be similar to television, or the internet; both are highly useful and allow for previously unimaginable things to happen. Both are primarily used to waste time on highly undesirable activities. As we get closer to holodecks it will allow for better visualizations of massive data sets and better designs of goods and services and probably other not yet thought of benefits, but once the price comes down they will likely primarily be used for highly realistic (and eventually moderately interactive) porn with video games a distance second.

    Considering that there are already 3d televisions and xbox’s kinect one could easily make a mini cave for quite cheap already; a nearly full experience could probably be done for under $5000.00 in terms of hardware, and a partial one for much less. I think it likely that a good video game that uses 3d and kinect to create a semi-immersive experience will probably be one of the driving forces behind 3d television adoption in the next few years.

  11. I ran out of nesting space, so I continue down here.

    I am a Christian, albeit not a theologian, but I have no difficulty imagining beings that are both rational and unable to follow the Hippocratic Principle — we call them devils. They are, in fact, purely rational beings, consisting of all mental substance, pure thought, without physical bodies except at will.

    It seems to me that there is a distinction between being unable to follow the rule, and unwilling. Devils are of angelic stock, and angels, presumably, do follow the rule! So when devils don’t, it’s not because they are unable to do so (unless perhaps their abilities changed in their Fall), but because they choose to do otherwise. But there is a further distinction to be made, between not following the rule, and not seeing it. A devil presumably knows right from wrong; he just deliberately chooses to do wrong. So I don’t think a devil is an example of an intelligent being without the moral faculty; he has it, he just defies it. I’m speaking of beings who just don’t, even in their inmost selves and upon all consideration and argument, feel the rightness of the sentence “Do no harm”. To return to the analogy of the face in a painting, the devil would see that it is there; if you put one of those eye trackers on him, you would see his gaze go instantly to the face, then away. He just denies its existence out loud, for his own devilish purposes. A proper berserker doesn’t have the face-recognition circuit; to him, that part of the painting is just as important as any other bit, and no more.

    Dogs do flinch with guilt when they disobey their masters, but, lacking a common language, the principle of right and wrong cannot be explained to them. They understand obedience and disobedience, but I assume (it is no more than an assumption, for I am not a dog) the a Nazi guard-dog would not have an attack of conscience when ordered to savage a Jewish toddler any more than it would suffer scruples over being ordered to savage a fox or a hare or any other target.

    Yes; of course a dog’s moral code is much less complex than that of a man, involving in effect obedience and disobedience. But it does seem to me that a dog really feels that disobedience is wrong; so it understands the concept that some actions are right, even though it has no capacity to find its own moral axioms or reason from them. You’ve got to start somewhere! A cat does not have even this much morality. It may realise that some actions will lead to unpleasant punishments and avoid them on that ground, but it does not feel that they are wrong – it is merely obeying the Eleventh Commandment. A dog feels bad about disobeying even if it isn’t caught. A chimpanzee is more moral than a dog, though less than a man; it has a rudimentary sense of fairness as well as understanding that right and wrong exist, and will object vociferously if, for example, the bananas are unevenly distributed. Of course, it will still hide away more than its fair share of bananas if it gets the chance! But it understands the concept even though it doesn’t always act in accordance with it.

    On the other hand, any creature, such as Elf or Martian, capable of speech and abstract thought could have the principle of right and wrong explained to them.

    It is not entirely clear to me that this is true, if by ‘explain’ we mean to give true understanding. It would be a bit like explaining the colour red to a being lacking those receptors in the eye. Certainly, you can write down the frequency of light that it corresponds to, but you can’t make him experience redness. (Not, at any rate, without knowing much more about brains than we do at the moment.)

    However, I suppose what you mean is that you can make the Martian understand what the rule is in the sense of being able to say whether an action obeys it or not, so that he can follow it if it should happen to amuse him, or if he wants to avoid your ray-gun. A piece of paper might come in handy, for him to refer to instead of his moral sense, which he doesn’t have. In other words, understanding analogous to knowing the frequency of red light is sufficient to your argument.

    Your comments, if I understand them, suggest that an inability to recognize the Hippocratic Rule is a defect, although you did not say this in so many words. So my next question is: (1) is sociopathy a defect?

    (2) Now, if we met a sociopathic race, say, Psycho-Elves like Tolkien’s Orcs, who were born evil and were evil by nature would we be correct in saying that race is sick or diseased or defective?

    I think these should be treated together. Sociopathy is clearly a defect in a human. But it is not clear to me that the language of defectiveness, or sickness, can be used of species, as one may use it of a single member. A single member can be compared to a reference class, a Platonic ideal if you like, namely his entire species. What is the reference class for a species? So I should prefer to use the language of natural events: A sociopathic race is bad and dangerous in the same sense that an avalanche is bad and dangerous. An avalanche is not caused by a defective or sick mountain.

    (3) In other words, my question is, are Elves and Martians and even Saberhagen’s Berserkers disobeying the Hippocratic Rule? Ought they to obey it?

    They are disobeying it, and they ought to obey it. Likewise an avalanche may cause harm, and avalanches ought not to occur; if humans had their druthers, there would be no avalanches. (At least, none that caused harm. Perhaps we would keep a few in uninhabited areas, for the spectacle.)

    (4) Is Mecha-Asimov under a duty (whether he recognizes it or not) to rewire his fellow deathbots to make them obey the Three Laws of Hippocrates?

    Again, yes. This seems in effect to be the same question as above, “ought the Berserkers to follow the rule?”

    My eyeball sees light but does not shed light. We would be correct to say that “sight” does not exist when the eye is put out, but we would be mad to say the light is snuffed out when the eye is put out.

    (5) Is the rational faculty perceiving the Hippocratic Rule or inventing it?

    If the Rule only exists when it is perceived to exist, does the Rule come into being the moment a child develops a conscience? The moment an ape-man develops a human nature?

    A very good question, and a hard one. It seems to me that the answer is that, although for purposes of discussion we distinguish between them, human nature and the Rule are not really separable; the human mind is not perceiving a Rule outside itself, nor is it inventing a Rule for itself to follow, it is perceiving a fact about itself. I observe in passing that all problems of self-reference are difficult – from the Liar Paradox to Godel, and beyond.

    When does a fact come into existence? This seems to me to be a confusion of language. Rather, we have here a fact which can be more or less true of different things – just as many things are red, but some are redder than others. My caveman ancestor of a million years ago had, perhaps, less of the human nature than I do, but he had some, and more than does a modern chimpanzee. As a child of five I was less human, in this sense, than I was at twelve, and again less at twelve than I am now. So the human nature, and the Hippcratic Rule, do not come into existence like a light being switched on, but like an oak tree growing.

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