Aliens in Fiction, Stereotypes, & the Hasty Generalization

A logical fallacy. Statement 1: Most of the gr...

Image via Wikipedia

Long before I got my skeptismo on in late 2006, I wasted time as a relativist on a number of topics before getting out of that nonsense, but I’m a non-relativist, not an absolutist — Non-relativists and Relativists are complements, not polar opposites.

Non-relativists = Everything else in the universe other than relativists, of which absolutists are a mere puny fraction.


I used to do a lot more gaming than I do now, especially science fiction RPGs, like Traveller, originally published by a now defunct company called Game Designers Workshop, and at the time, I would sometimes silently object, sometimes not so silently, about what I naively saw as the unfair and unrealistic stereotyping of the aliens in the games as having certain psychological inclinations, when my view, as limited as it was then, did not see the important distinctions between the factors involved in the psychologies of individuals of a species, and those of entire intelligent alien species’ mindset.

We humans have the psychologies we do because of both individual diversity and species, and we get these as emergent mental properties from interactions between our environments and genetics, and these last from our evolutionary history as social primates over millions of years.

It follows that the same should apply to aliens evolving on a different planet with a different history than us. They might be more diverse mentally than us, they may be less, but in any case, they will almost certainly be different.

Why should other intelligent species, evolving on other worlds with unique histories and equally unique selective pressures, and likely different biochemstries as well, not be?

Of course aliens will likely have to us distinctive psychologies, distinctive to us, and on the basis of scarce data, easy to stereotype for that very reason.

Ironically, my rather futile objection to the perceived speciesist stereotyping was derived from just that: scarce data, and the very same logical fallacy stereotyping itself is based on — The Hasty Generalization, often confused with the Fallacy of Composition — the drawing of a faulty generalization on the basis of an insufficient amount of evidence, in this case, not enough published alien source material for the games featuring them with more in-depth information on the aliens’ evolutionary history and thus the reasons for them having certain inclinations, and greater detail and nuances on those inclinations.

Of course, if you’ve had only enough time to develop the concept of a species for the amount of data absolutely needed to play it properly in an RPG, you probably haven’t had the time to develop it to the satisfaction of sticklers like me.

‘Nuff said on that.

Yes, I know: It’s silly to whine about beings that don’t exist (because we have good evidence that the ones in question were made up for a game, not covered up by a conspiracy — alien dog-people being hidden by the government? Get real!) being pigeonholed and discriminated against, but that was something I’d seen done all too often in the real world.

Well, I still object to it when the ones stereotyped are actual groups of people, and not just letters, pictures, and numbers in a book, and it’s still just as wrong when it’s done, since for one thing, it’s specious reasoning, and the fact the far too many (on any side of a controversy) engage in it to support their prejudices against one group or another different from themselves in some perceived way.

No, for the confused: Bigotry is not just disagreeing with someone for using faulty logic; it’s using faulty logic to discriminate in some way against any group you don’t happen to like, and denial is more than just a river in Egypt.

2 thoughts on “Aliens in Fiction, Stereotypes, & the Hasty Generalization

  1. I searched this topic to try to find a site that would tell me not what to do as I write my first alien contact book.
    I have never been on this site before, and don’t know if replying is possible, but if so, can you reply and tell me what not to do? Or someone, anyone. I’m trying to create an interesting diverse alien culture for my already created human hybrid race to interact with positively, but with some difficulties. My main character is a language communication expert.


  2. Pingback: Gods of Terra | Aliens in Fiction: How Not to Design Them | The Call of Troythulu

Commenting below. No spam or trolling, or my cats will be angry.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s