Sentientist Culture

The Sentientist tenets of naturalism (evidence and reason) and sentiocentrism (compassion for all sentient beings regardless of other characteristics) can be found in many cultures and different forms of art and media, ancient and modern. This page sets out some examples suggested by people in our Sentientism communities. Thanks to Graham for suggesting the idea.

Please get in touch using the “Contact Us” form or by joining one of our communities if you have other suggestions. The commentary below includes spoilers!

Maybe, over time, we’ll see more movies, music, art and games reflecting rationality and universal compassion.

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E.T. – the Extra-Terrestrial: In this 1982 film, the lead human character, Elliot, grants moral consideration to the sentient extra-terrestrial E.T., despite his unfamiliar appearance, behaviour and communication. The adult scientists seem to want to experiment on E.T. with no regard for his interests or preferences.

Elliot also recognises the moral salience of the frogs destined for dissection in the biology class, potentially influenced by his remote empathic connection to the alien. Thanks to Floris van den Berg for this suggestion in our Sentientist Conversation.

Collage of a man holding a gun, a woman holding a cigarette, and a futuristic city-scape.

BladeRunner: In this 1982 film, bioengineered humanoids called replicants have rebelled against their intended slavery and are being hunted down by humans called BladeRunners. The film explores whether the replicants warrant moral consideration and whether they can be considered moral agents themselves. If you can no longer tell the difference between an artificial being and a biological human being, should you make an ethical distinction between them? The film even hints that the lead human character, BladeRunner Deckard, might himself be a replicant.

The film implies that the owning or use of any biological animal product is illegal. It seems more likely that this is motivated by environmental scarcity due to the damage caused by humanity than because of any moral concern for non-human animals – but it seems likely the BladeRunner world is technologically vegan.

The tests used to assess humanity often use scenarios of empathy for non-human animals, implying that some form of sentiocentric concern is a distinctive human characteristic – albeit one we discover the replicants seem to share.

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Blindsight: Is a hard science fiction novel written by Peter Watts. The novel follows a crew of astronauts sent out as the third wave, following two series of probes, to investigate a trans-Neptunian Kuiper belt comet dubbed ‘Burns-Caulfield’ that has been found to be transmitting an unidentified radio signal to an as-yet unknown destination elsewhere in the solar system, followed by their subsequent first contact. The novel explores questions of identity, consciousness, free will, artificial intelligence, neurology, game theory as well as evolution and biology.


Thanks to the awesome @0gPhilosophy for the suggestion. Often the best philosophy is in Sci-Fi!

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The Measure of a Man” (1989) is an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Captain Picard must prove that Data, their fellow android crew member, is legally a sentient being with rights and freedoms under Federation law when transfer orders demand Data’s reassignment for study and disassembly. It has since become a series classic and definitive example in science fiction generally of artificial sentient rights.

“The decision you reach here today will determine how we will regard this creation of our genius. It will reveal the kind of people we are; what he is destined to be. It will reach far beyond this courtroom and this one android. It could significantly redefine the boundaries of personal liberty and freedom: expanding them for some, savagely curtailing them for others. Are you prepared to condemn him [Commander Data] – and all who will come after him – to servitude and slavery? Your honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life: well, there it sits! Waiting.”

In this clip, a member of the Star Trek crew explains to a guest alien that “We no longer enslave animals for food purposes” instead preferring to create suffering/death free “clean meat” using transporter technology. The alien considers this “sickening… barbaric”.

Thanks to Graham Bessellieu for this contribution.

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The Great Silence (re-published here by Nautilus) is a short story published as part of the “Exhalation: Stories” collection by science fiction author Ted Chiang.

The story is written from the perspective of a parrot, wondering why, given the human fascination with the possibility of alien intelligent life, we don’t seem more interested with learning to communicate with the non-human intelligent life that already shares our planet.

This article, “In a Perfect World, There Would Be No Animal Suffering” by Andrew Openshaw in Sentient Media explains how moral concern for non-human sentient animals (and therefore veg*ism) is a frequent characteristic in many real world and fictional utopias.

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