Monday, June 28, 2004

Creator's Rights

Some people argue that if humans were created by God, then we have a moral duty to obey him. I've never understood how that conclusion is supposed to be justified. I've heard analogies based around the idea of people getting to use their (inanimate) creations however they please, but there are obvious problems with the analogy - not least that it dehumanises us into mere 'objects' or playthings of God.

Anyway, I was just thinking about how the general principle here (that creations have a moral duty to serve the ends of their creator) would apply within an atheistic framework. For suppose Richard Dawkins is right, and we are 'lumbering machines' built by our genes for the purpose of enhancing their replicative abilities. (Perhaps 'purpose' has misleadingly anthropomorphic connotations; feel free to use the more neutral word 'function' instead.)

If we are created by our genes, does that mean we have a moral duty to serve them? That is, should we be dedicating our lives to reproduction, looking after relatives, and just generally spreading our genes? Surely not. But then this seems to imply the falsity of the Creator's Rights principle. Though perhaps one could object that it does not apply to creators who lack intentions (and thus genuine 'purposes').

But we can imagine biotechnology advancing to such a point that humans could create a new species of intelligent lifeform. Would they be morally bound to obey us? Again, surely not! If anything, we would be the ones with a moral duty towards them!

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