Am I the only person who disagrees with Dante/Hohenheim and half-agrees with Ed? And still believe equivalent trade is still applicable?
From how I see it, the way the Gate works doesn’t really destroy the whole sacrifice something to gain something of equal value thing. Sure, you’re using the energies of dead people to change things and make pretty pyrotechnics in another world, but I’ve been wondering for a while why they never mentioned anything on the energy used. In order to do some of the transmutations Ed does, like changing one type of metal to another, requires changing one type of atom to another. And that’s pretty much a nuclear reaction. To keep it under control, you have to have a greater source of energy. (If this is wrong, feel free to correct me. I’m rusty on the quantum side of things) Has Ed never wonder where the energy for the change came from? Obviously, somewhere. Apparently in the FMA world the solution to this problem is the energy we eject in death. This does follow the whole “Great flow” thing to a degree---things die, became food for other things, the energy in their molecules go off to power something else. In this respect, isn’t this still equivalent trade? You get the requisite number of molecules sitting around. To change it into another thing, trade if you will, some energy is needed. If you’ve got the correct type of molecules, all you need to do is to make them bond in the right ways and in the right places to get your product. This is presumably what Ed and Al were doing in their HT, bring together all the right elements and connecting them together. Energy needed is a lot less this way, but some is still needed and that needs to come from somewhere. Thermodynamics always apply.
And on the effort thing : There’s just way too many factors involved in the reward of efforts. And if we recall episode 16, the soldier said there are things you gain when you lose something, and Ed didn’t understand it. I think he still doesn’t understand it. What you gain when you lose, when you sacrifice, is not necessarily the same as what you wish to gain. Then, Ed doesn’t understand what he gained by losing Al and his limbs, but he did got something back. He got a glimpse into the world he might never otherwise see (I’m not talking about the Gate here), and he grew up in a way that he might never otherwise have, gotten into a position to change things that he might never have found. Is that a good thing? Yes and no. That’s the compromise here. The results you get from the trade isn’t always what you want, what the optimum is, but you always get something back. And is that such a bad thing? Take Shou Tucker. He studied, transmuted his wife, and became a State Alchemist. In return he lost his humanity. For those who didn’t pass...well, the least they could get is that they would know more about their craft than they previously did (as a result of the study), and while they may not become an SA, they may find other paths in life. Becoming an SA isn’t necessarily a happy thing, as Roy has demonstrated.
On the child and parental love : The child is spending great effort to live, what happens if Dante kills it? Has it been born just to die, and where is the trade then? I may be a bit weird...but the fact that the child is living is the whole result of its effort to live. Every second we live, our bodies are spending a good deal of energy to keep us alive. It’s a second-to-second trade if you look at the molecular level of it, and if by some chance something happens to cut our line of living out, we die. It’s simple as that. Or, to use another example, suppose a soldier fights hard to live but dies on the battlefield anyway, what does he gain? He gets to live for a bit longer than he might have had he chose to die in the first place. (Okay, I think I’m weird) The child is sacrificing its ATPs and other energy-rich molecules to keep itself alive, if Dante kills it, that merely ends the trade. And the child’s energy-rich molecules would go somewhere else in the great flow of things. And love...love, especially the way a parent loves a child, is a bit difficult to explain because it’s not a trade-trade like. But it’s my personal opinion that in learning that you love someone, the knowledge and the feeling itself fills the heart and that alone is enough trade for the unconditional love that requires no payment. Hohenheim probably realizes how love can fill the heart just like that when he met Trisha, so, uh.
Maybe it’s just the perspective, like Hohenheim has his and Ed has his, maybe it’s the whole show trying to ask us “What do you believe?” I have no idea.