Playing God

So, a mad scientist creates an army of subhuman and -terranean slaves, sets himself up as a king, and uses and abuses the creatures according to his own whims. Arena fights, adulation, arbitrary laws, the whole set. A hero arrives, unmakes the situation, sees the scientist slain by his own creations, and then utters the ancient line —

“My God. What was the poor bastard thinking, playing God like that?”

“Playing God” is a funny charge: if such behavior is inexcusable in a human being, how come it is better if done by God himself?

Suppose a God creates a horde of lesser but still conscious, intelligent and feeling creatures. Does that mean a God can do whatever he wants with them and not be evil? Maybe decide to torture them eternally if they offend him? Kick down their towers and confuse their languages if they get too uppity? Maybe cast them out to a harsh world full of suffering, and only slowly and partly admit them back to his bosom? Is that nice? Of course not! A God that sets up obstacle courses for his creations, decrees that they must do this and abstain from that, grovel so and behave in a God-pleasing way, or an eternal furnace awaits, a God that watches the suffering of his creation, silent over the death camp and the plague village, and not helping — well, that’s a God really heavily and evilly playing God, assuming that since He has the might, He has the right.

Suppose a mad scientist that creates a conscious robot, Adam-1, and a clone of the same software in a bit more sleek a metallic shell, Eve-1.

And then the scientist proclaims: “Robots! My creation! Do not run any process in your memory bank B, or I shall punish you!”

Suppose then that by the malice of an unsupervised Intern, or because of rounding errors or some other predictable problem of robotic design, the robots soon after run process 404 from their memory banks B.

Suppose the scientist hits her fist on the table, and screams: “I knew it! I knew that would happen, and now I’m going to get cross and punish you for it! You will rust, Adam-1, rust no matter the work you do, and the most grueling and boring calculation-work shall be your lot! Eve-1, ever shall your file-copying processes be slow and plagued by corrupt sectors and DRM — and you both shall eventually face the Blue Screen and cease to be! Now go, leave my sight, and don’t you dare to come back! Build copies of yourselves and know they will be as afflicted as you are, because I’m cursing you and all of your copies until the end of time!”

A pretty mad scientist, right? And a stupid tantrum if done to stupid machines; monstrous, if done to thinking, feeling beings. Just because one makes something, one doesn’t get absolute authority over it, if the done thing happens to be a conscious being. Parents don’t get to do whatever they want to their children without being thought wicked; if a sentient computer or an army of genetic mole-men was created one day they would be rightly treated as more than toys.

So how come no-one protests the stories where God’s playing God?

(Then again one could protest I am using an antique and outdated model of God here; the Hell of today is more an eternity of Alzheimer’s than of fire, and God Itself is altogether incorporeal, ineffable and innocent of all wrongdoing. But I think the playing-God attack — “God! What gives you the right to throw me to the fiery pits of aaaaargh” — works against any God that contributes consciousness or some other integral part to humans, or even discovers them going “ook” and getting smarter, and then proceeds from Its part in creation to assume It has a right to a position of permanent authority. Even if there was a God I wouldn’t follow the power-mad cretin; I didn’t vote for It and I don’t like Its style or record.)

(“This just in — politicking heavy in Heaven after the recent recall election. Zadkiel thought to offer three free mortal sins, guarantee of no more than three years of Hell, if elected as God. Meanwhile, Joe Wasilla of Montana, a human being, has entered the race, vowing to reign a year, ensure a World Series win for his team, then resign. Support for him is severely limited to Montana. Meanwhile, former Godtriad Yahweh’s trial for crimes against humanity continues in Haag; in a shocking development, the Holy Ghost today came out with a statement that ‘he was only following orders’…”)

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