Saturday, March 29, 2008

"Star Trek" and cultural relativistic ethics

Gene Roddenberry...a cultural relativist [no absolutes]? It has been stated in many places that Gene Roddenberry embraced the varieties of all cultures that "[By the 23rd century, we] will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. [We] will learn that differences and attitudes are delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear." I think this is quite evident in many episodes of the Star Trek saga and such a philosophy is even expressed in the Federation's bylaws--non-interference with alien cultures. This position is well expressed in the ethics of the late University of Alabama's Professor James Rachels who proposed six points of ethics; hence, to be part of cultural relativism. And they are:

1.) Different societies have different moral codes.

2.) There is no objective standard that can be used to judge one societal code better than another.

3.) The moral code of our own society has no special status; it is merely one among many.

4.) There is no "universal truth" in ethics - that is, there are no moral truths that hold for all people at all times.

5.) The moral code of a society determines what is right within that society; that is, if the moral code of a society says that a certain action is right, then that action is right, at least within that society.

6.) It is mere arrogance for us to try to judge the conduct of other peoples. We should adopt an attitude of tolerance toward the practices of other cultures.

Remember the "Prime Directive" which is functional only with non-members of the United Federation Of Planets. That being the case all unknown species [those to be discovered] and known species that refuse to participate in membership such as the Romulans would be subject to the principles of the "Prime Directive". Conversely, the Vulcans would be fair game?

"The Ethics of Star Trek"

The actual directive is full of ethical issues and to cite a current one is one episode from Enterprise. The primary story line involves an inferior species that is somehow genetically doomed to extinction [a scientific problem in itself]. Through the research of Doctor Phlox a remedy is developed. Nows here is the ethical dilemma: Should Captain Archer provide the materials for the salvation of the sentient [and inferior--no warp drive technology] beings. The "Prime Directive" dictated his decision. Was this an error? I think so. Parallel ethical philosophy on Earth would be unimaginable. Can one imagine wealthy and prosperous countries withholding economic, medical, and educational elements to our own species? No way! It would be our duty to assist other members of the species Homo sapiens and other different species. Now, it would appear that the "Prime Directive" needs to be quantified more in say a definition of consciousness.

Any thoughts about this or any aspects of the ethics of Star Trek. Cite as many episodes of the Star Trek phenomena as you like for support.

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