20 February 2012
Post 481: Sex on the Moon
Thad Roberts, via Ben Mezrich, poses the question of whether something labeled "trash" can theoretically be stolen and whether, if it is trash, it is immoral to steal it. Generally I am of the opinion that if someone has obviously thrown something away then it almost more immoral to leave the item in the trash if it can still be used. Because we live in such a wasteful society, it is our obligation to try and reduce the amount of waste we create. If that means going through the garbage and saving what you can without harming yourself or others around you (i.e. not hoarding or feeding other people rotten food) then I would say go for it.
However, as always, there are exception. I would say some of these exceptions include body parts, corpses, tissue samples, etc. and scientific research. The first because the idea of someone being able to claim parts of my body without my permission is ultimately wrong, regardless of whether or not those body parts are still attached to me. This is especially true in the day and age where cloning is possible. I wouldn't want someone to steal cells from me, only to turn around and create a living, breathing science specimen from what is essentially my daughter/twin... er... just because I wasn't using my egg cells and had/have no intention to do so.
And I would say scientific research and specimens because ultimately those belong to the scientific community, and therefore to everyone. The idea of stealing property from a communal organization that intends to benefit the advancement of science, which ideally improves our lives or at least our knowledge and understanding of the world, is so completely wrong on so many levels. Sure, we can feel saddened and disappointed that the scientific community chooses to lock up and store non-pristine moon rocks in a safe that no one will ever see, but the way to express that disappointment is not to take those items. At the very least, the scientific community was doing an excellent job of preserving those specimens for a time when perhaps they could be ownable, or at least displayable. That Thad Roberts considered himself such a special snowflake that he should own a piece of the moon just because he could displays such a vast level of arrogance and entitlement that it is worrisome to know that those levels even exist. That he also tampered with the specimens shows a blatant disregard for authority and the scientific community and those said community was trying to benefit.
While we as individuals may not like everything the scientific community does, we do agree that they are typically the most knowledgeable in regards to their particular field of study. We do this through government regulation, licensing procedures, and through peer review of other scientists who have been through the first two. Had Thad Roberts really respected the community he worked in, he should have been able to question scientists in charge until he was either satisfied with the reasons for the containment of the moon rocks, or until he was able to figure out another, legal means of sharing the moon rocks with museums, etc. After all, questioning and reasoning is what scientists are supposed to do.
This book would have induced less rage if Ben Mezrich didn't write like he thought James Bond was the most awesome example of manly manhood on the face of the planet. Apparently there are also massive factual errors according to Becca. And I mostly agree with Andrew Shuping's review. But I now wonder how much of a sociopath megalomaniac Mark Zuckerbeg actually is versus how he appears in The Social Network (which was based off of Mezrich's book), and how much is Mezrich and/or how he writes his characters...
LibsNote: Library copy.