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prometheus59650

Robert Beltran: "The prime directive is fascist crap."

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I think of the small scale example:

Someone has fallen off a cliff, and it's your choice whether you give him your hand and pull him up, saving his life, or you do nothing and let him fall into his death.

Hardly anyone would argue you are not obliged to help. Ethnics are pretty clear, aren't they?

You wouldn't argue "I refuse to help, because this man might become a serial killer later" (out of the blue, while you know nothing about him -- just because it's a remote possibility). You wouldn't argue "who knows how many people will never be born when he is allowed to live, because the continuation of his life would change the fate of many other people on this world" and let him fall. You would not argue "when he was too weak to prevent his fall, this means the cosmic plan says he is supposed to die, and it's not up to me to 'play God'".

No, if you have the slightest hint of ethics in your heart, you will not even hesitate before taking his hand and saving him.

I don't see how the large scale example, saving an alien civilization from extinction, is ethically any different.

 

As for the "cosmic plan" or "fate" argument: It is a terrible, terrible fallacy to confuse this with an ethical argument. If there is a "cosmic plan", it's about how things are. Descriptive. But ethics are about how things are supposed to be, normative.

Just because things are in a certain way, says absolutely nothing about the question how they are supposed to be.

This confusion of scientific description of nature with an ethical imperative gave us wonderful ideas such as Social Darwinism, Nazi ideology and Holocaust. "Nature shows that the fittest survive. This is the "cosmic plan". So it's good and ethical when the fittest survive and the weak die -- let's put all weak individuals to death, and let's make sure that our actions make us the fittest by subjugating all who are weaker. That's the ethics of nature".

^
If we (by 'we' I mean humans in a Star Trek-kian style future) interfered every time we perceived there was a 'right to be wronged' we'd be patrolling the galaxy as the non-stop space cops of the galaxy.   Starfleet's mission is one of scientific exploration, not interference.   That is their ACTIVE choice: to observe the galaxy naturally, and to do so they have to follow certain scientific principles; the prime of which is to remain objective and NOT become actively involved.

If we see a shark eat a seal pup in the ocean should we interfere?  No.   You're depriving the shark of a meal.    If we see a lion kill a weaker animal in the Serengeti should we fire a tranquilizer gun at the lion to stop it?   Our 'impulse' would be to save the creature in peril; and in this case, our impulse is WRONG.

I remember Trip in the ENT pilot "Broken Bow" and how he had to learn a lesson about interference when he saw a humanoid woman seemingly suffocating her child; it turns out she was only weaning him off the gas he breathed before maturation.    Even something as seemingly 'black and white' as saving what seems to be a life in immediate peril may not be as simple as what it seems.    I imagine the hardest part about humans going into Starfleet would be to resist the impulse to apply human values to things and scenarios they don't fully understand.   In many cases, they could be wrong.  "Gut feelings" aren't enough.   As Carl Sagan also once famously said, "Where we have strong emotions, we're likely to fool ourselves." 

 

I don't think humanity should enter the galaxy expecting to become its permanent police force.

 

^
It's a classical ethical dilemma; in the short term, it seems obvious to want to help.  But longterm, it might not be.   If I were sent on a mission to just observe and not interfere, I would adhere to that directive; no matter what the consequences.  

Again, ideally the Federation should observe with unmanned probes and long-ranges telescopes ONLY.   Putting humans into ships and sending them out into space invites the potential for interference (or even conflict).   Robots don't.  

You know ... this makes me wonder if maybe the Vulcans in ENT were right after all to fear humans making their way into outer space. Because they knew some humans would not be able to resist interfering. I suddenly am viewing T'Pol's "conservative" stances on human exploration in a completely new light. :)

^
Personally, I side with the Vulcans on that issue.  
I'd love to see space travel firsthand myself, but if long-range reconnaissance offered the same (safer) opportunities for exploration?  I'd rather go that way.   A robot or telescope is the only TRUE way to effectively observe 
without interference.   If Starfleet's mission is scientific, then they really have no business entering the galaxy with phasers and photon torpedoes a'blazing.   But I digress: it's a television show, not a science lecture. 

I don't believe in intelligent design of the universe, but there may be a certain universal wisdom in effectively creating natural quarantines of distance between even neighboring star systems... 

 

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Sim   

I think of the small scale example:

Someone has fallen off a cliff, and it's your choice whether you give him your hand and pull him up, saving his life, or you do nothing and let him fall into his death.

Hardly anyone would argue you are not obliged to help. Ethnics are pretty clear, aren't they?

You wouldn't argue "I refuse to help, because this man might become a serial killer later" (out of the blue, while you know nothing about him -- just because it's a remote possibility). You wouldn't argue "who knows how many people will never be born when he is allowed to live, because the continuation of his life would change the fate of many other people on this world" and let him fall. You would not argue "when he was too weak to prevent his fall, this means the cosmic plan says he is supposed to die, and it's not up to me to 'play God'".

No, if you have the slightest hint of ethics in your heart, you will not even hesitate before taking his hand and saving him.

I don't see how the large scale example, saving an alien civilization from extinction, is ethically any different.

 

As for the "cosmic plan" or "fate" argument: It is a terrible, terrible fallacy to confuse this with an ethical argument. If there is a "cosmic plan", it's about how things are. Descriptive. But ethics are about how things are supposed to be, normative.

Just because things are in a certain way, says absolutely nothing about the question how they are supposed to be.

This confusion of scientific description of nature with an ethical imperative gave us wonderful ideas such as Social Darwinism, Nazi ideology and Holocaust. "Nature shows that the fittest survive. This is the "cosmic plan". So it's good and ethical when the fittest survive and the weak die -- let's put all weak individuals to death, and let's make sure that our actions make us the fittest by subjugating all who are weaker. That's the ethics of nature".

^
If we (by 'we' I mean humans in a Star Trek-kian style future) interfered every time we perceived there was a 'right to be wronged' we'd be patrolling the galaxy as the non-stop space cops of the galaxy.   Starfleet's mission is one of scientific exploration, not interference.   That is their ACTIVE choice: to observe the galaxy naturally, and to do so they have to follow certain scientific principles; the prime of which is to remain objective and NOT become actively involved.

If we see a shark eat a seal pup in the ocean should we interfere?  No.   You're depriving the shark of a meal.    If we see a lion kill a weaker animal in the Serengeti should we fire a tranquilizer gun at the lion to stop it?   Our 'impulse' would be to save the creature in peril; and in this case, our impulse is WRONG.

I remember Trip in the ENT pilot "Broken Bow" and how he had to learn a lesson about interference when he saw a humanoid woman seemingly suffocating her child; it turns out she was only weaning him off the gas he breathed before maturation.    Even something as seemingly 'black and white' as saving what seems to be a life in immediate peril may not be as simple as what it seems.    I imagine the hardest part about humans going into Starfleet would be to resist the impulse to apply human values to things and scenarios they don't fully understand.   In many cases, they could be wrong.  "Gut feelings" aren't enough.   As Carl Sagan also once famously said, "Where we have strong emotions, we're likely to fool ourselves." 

 

I don't think humanity should enter the galaxy expecting to become its permanent police force.

For clarification: My argument was about preventing the extinction of an alien civilization. I did not mean to defend the idea of arbitrarily meddling.

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

 

As I said further above, I absolutely agree with the PD when it comes to meddling into the evolution of a species, their culture or their conflicts -- I agree with you that in those cases, "we" (the humans in a Star Trek-ian style future) are simply lacking the necessary information we need to be able to have an idea about the consequences. The potential for negative consequences is very high, so indeed it would be wise to stay out. Simply because we never know if our meddling really brings the intended good consequences, or actually makes things even worse.

(As I said before: In today's real world, the US could probably use more of this philosophy -- very often, the US has meddled into foreign conflicts, and even if we assume the intentions were good, it has backfired most of the time. Or the attempt to impose Western style democracy over societies that are culturally not ready for it, like in Afghanistan or Iraq -- this too has backfired. It may be an illusion to "stay out" in today's ever-more interconnected world, but a more cautious philosophy that helps avoiding way too blatant meddling, would probably be a good thing.)

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

In such a case, we do not lack the necessary information. We do know that our inaction condemns them to extinction. And we do know that any other possible negative consequence our meddling might yield, it would still be better than extinction.

^ This is the case I was trying to make.

Edited by Sim

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I think of the small scale example:

Someone has fallen off a cliff, and it's your choice whether you give him your hand and pull him up, saving his life, or you do nothing and let him fall into his death.

Hardly anyone would argue you are not obliged to help. Ethnics are pretty clear, aren't they?

You wouldn't argue "I refuse to help, because this man might become a serial killer later" (out of the blue, while you know nothing about him -- just because it's a remote possibility). You wouldn't argue "who knows how many people will never be born when he is allowed to live, because the continuation of his life would change the fate of many other people on this world" and let him fall. You would not argue "when he was too weak to prevent his fall, this means the cosmic plan says he is supposed to die, and it's not up to me to 'play God'".

No, if you have the slightest hint of ethics in your heart, you will not even hesitate before taking his hand and saving him.

I don't see how the large scale example, saving an alien civilization from extinction, is ethically any different.

 

As for the "cosmic plan" or "fate" argument: It is a terrible, terrible fallacy to confuse this with an ethical argument. If there is a "cosmic plan", it's about how things are. Descriptive. But ethics are about how things are supposed to be, normative.

Just because things are in a certain way, says absolutely nothing about the question how they are supposed to be.

This confusion of scientific description of nature with an ethical imperative gave us wonderful ideas such as Social Darwinism, Nazi ideology and Holocaust. "Nature shows that the fittest survive. This is the "cosmic plan". So it's good and ethical when the fittest survive and the weak die -- let's put all weak individuals to death, and let's make sure that our actions make us the fittest by subjugating all who are weaker. That's the ethics of nature".

^
If we (by 'we' I mean humans in a Star Trek-kian style future) interfered every time we perceived there was a 'right to be wronged' we'd be patrolling the galaxy as the non-stop space cops of the galaxy.   Starfleet's mission is one of scientific exploration, not interference.   That is their ACTIVE choice: to observe the galaxy naturally, and to do so they have to follow certain scientific principles; the prime of which is to remain objective and NOT become actively involved.

If we see a shark eat a seal pup in the ocean should we interfere?  No.   You're depriving the shark of a meal.    If we see a lion kill a weaker animal in the Serengeti should we fire a tranquilizer gun at the lion to stop it?   Our 'impulse' would be to save the creature in peril; and in this case, our impulse is WRONG.

I remember Trip in the ENT pilot "Broken Bow" and how he had to learn a lesson about interference when he saw a humanoid woman seemingly suffocating her child; it turns out she was only weaning him off the gas he breathed before maturation.    Even something as seemingly 'black and white' as saving what seems to be a life in immediate peril may not be as simple as what it seems.    I imagine the hardest part about humans going into Starfleet would be to resist the impulse to apply human values to things and scenarios they don't fully understand.   In many cases, they could be wrong.  "Gut feelings" aren't enough.   As Carl Sagan also once famously said, "Where we have strong emotions, we're likely to fool ourselves." 

 

I don't think humanity should enter the galaxy expecting to become its permanent police force.

For clarification: My argument was about preventing the extinction of an alien civilization. I did not mean to defend the idea of arbitrarily meddling.

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

 

As I said further above, I absolutely agree with the PD when it comes to meddling into the evolution of a species, their culture or their conflicts -- I agree with you that in those cases, "we" (the humans in a Star Trek-ian style future) are simply lacking the necessary information we need to be able to have an idea about the consequences. The potential for negative consequences is very high, so indeed it would be wise to stay out. Simply because we never know if our meddling really brings the intended good consequences, or actually makes things even worse.

(As I said before: In today's real world, the US could probably use more of this philosophy -- very often, the US has meddled into foreign conflicts, and even if we assume the intentions were good, it has backfired most of the time. Or the attempt to impose Western style democracy over societies that are culturally not ready for it, like in Afghanistan or Iraq -- this too has backfired. It may be an illusion to "stay out" in today's ever-more interconnected world, but a more cautious philosophy that helps avoiding way too blatant meddling, would probably be a good thing.)

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

In such a case, we do not lack the necessary information. We do know that our inaction condemns them to extinction. And we do know that any other possible negative consequence our meddling might yield, it would still be better than extinction.

^ This is the case I was trying to make.

 

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

^
Yes, but my point is where do you stop?  When do you take a break from helping car crash victims?   I'm sure if we encounter life elsewhere in the galaxy, we'd find that lifeforms are in peril ALL of the time, on every planet, everywhere.    Even on this planet, there is mass suffering every second.   Does everyone who is capable of helping help?  No.   At a certain point, humans have to accept that sometimes bad things happen to people; it's neither good nor evil, it simply IS.   

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

^
Maybe this is where you and I fundamentally differ; I see humans as simply another type of animal.  Uniquely intelligent and technologically sophisticated, but also capable of the same kinds of impulses (good and bad) that we observe in nature.    I don't really see us as having any more 'right' to survive than the rodents we evolved from had the 'right' to supersede the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.   We got lucky, and nature worked out in our favor... for now. 

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

But in trying to prevent extinctions, that is altering what would normally be; eventual extinction is the norm of evolution, not the exception.   Extinction is perfectly natural; for all species in time.   Even on a more 'human' scale; we're born, we live, and we eventually die.   It's not an evil thing; it's the nature of our biology.   We can delay that eventuality by making smart choices for ourselves, but in the end we only postpone the inevitable.   The extinction of a civilization is a tragic thing, but not necessarily an 'evil' one.   That's where I make the distinction.   One can quietly observe the extinction of a species from a healthy distance; and maybe (just maybe) something very valuable can be LEARNED from that observation... 

I see a Starfleet dedicated to stopping extinctions around the galaxy much in the same way I would see a 98 year old man getting a series of pacemakers put in, or a 102 year old woman getting endless facelifts.   Death (or species mortality) isn't a desirable outcome, but one can also choose to face it with dignity and a certain healthy respect.     

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Sim   

I think of the small scale example:

Someone has fallen off a cliff, and it's your choice whether you give him your hand and pull him up, saving his life, or you do nothing and let him fall into his death.

Hardly anyone would argue you are not obliged to help. Ethnics are pretty clear, aren't they?

You wouldn't argue "I refuse to help, because this man might become a serial killer later" (out of the blue, while you know nothing about him -- just because it's a remote possibility). You wouldn't argue "who knows how many people will never be born when he is allowed to live, because the continuation of his life would change the fate of many other people on this world" and let him fall. You would not argue "when he was too weak to prevent his fall, this means the cosmic plan says he is supposed to die, and it's not up to me to 'play God'".

No, if you have the slightest hint of ethics in your heart, you will not even hesitate before taking his hand and saving him.

I don't see how the large scale example, saving an alien civilization from extinction, is ethically any different.

 

As for the "cosmic plan" or "fate" argument: It is a terrible, terrible fallacy to confuse this with an ethical argument. If there is a "cosmic plan", it's about how things are. Descriptive. But ethics are about how things are supposed to be, normative.

Just because things are in a certain way, says absolutely nothing about the question how they are supposed to be.

This confusion of scientific description of nature with an ethical imperative gave us wonderful ideas such as Social Darwinism, Nazi ideology and Holocaust. "Nature shows that the fittest survive. This is the "cosmic plan". So it's good and ethical when the fittest survive and the weak die -- let's put all weak individuals to death, and let's make sure that our actions make us the fittest by subjugating all who are weaker. That's the ethics of nature".

^
If we (by 'we' I mean humans in a Star Trek-kian style future) interfered every time we perceived there was a 'right to be wronged' we'd be patrolling the galaxy as the non-stop space cops of the galaxy.   Starfleet's mission is one of scientific exploration, not interference.   That is their ACTIVE choice: to observe the galaxy naturally, and to do so they have to follow certain scientific principles; the prime of which is to remain objective and NOT become actively involved.

If we see a shark eat a seal pup in the ocean should we interfere?  No.   You're depriving the shark of a meal.    If we see a lion kill a weaker animal in the Serengeti should we fire a tranquilizer gun at the lion to stop it?   Our 'impulse' would be to save the creature in peril; and in this case, our impulse is WRONG.

I remember Trip in the ENT pilot "Broken Bow" and how he had to learn a lesson about interference when he saw a humanoid woman seemingly suffocating her child; it turns out she was only weaning him off the gas he breathed before maturation.    Even something as seemingly 'black and white' as saving what seems to be a life in immediate peril may not be as simple as what it seems.    I imagine the hardest part about humans going into Starfleet would be to resist the impulse to apply human values to things and scenarios they don't fully understand.   In many cases, they could be wrong.  "Gut feelings" aren't enough.   As Carl Sagan also once famously said, "Where we have strong emotions, we're likely to fool ourselves." 

 

I don't think humanity should enter the galaxy expecting to become its permanent police force.

For clarification: My argument was about preventing the extinction of an alien civilization. I did not mean to defend the idea of arbitrarily meddling.

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

 

As I said further above, I absolutely agree with the PD when it comes to meddling into the evolution of a species, their culture or their conflicts -- I agree with you that in those cases, "we" (the humans in a Star Trek-ian style future) are simply lacking the necessary information we need to be able to have an idea about the consequences. The potential for negative consequences is very high, so indeed it would be wise to stay out. Simply because we never know if our meddling really brings the intended good consequences, or actually makes things even worse.

(As I said before: In today's real world, the US could probably use more of this philosophy -- very often, the US has meddled into foreign conflicts, and even if we assume the intentions were good, it has backfired most of the time. Or the attempt to impose Western style democracy over societies that are culturally not ready for it, like in Afghanistan or Iraq -- this too has backfired. It may be an illusion to "stay out" in today's ever-more interconnected world, but a more cautious philosophy that helps avoiding way too blatant meddling, would probably be a good thing.)

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

In such a case, we do not lack the necessary information. We do know that our inaction condemns them to extinction. And we do know that any other possible negative consequence our meddling might yield, it would still be better than extinction.

^ This is the case I was trying to make.

 

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

^
Yes, but my point is where do you stop?  When do you take a break from helping car crash victims?   I'm sure if we encounter life elsewhere in the galaxy, we'd find that lifeforms are in peril ALL of the time, on every planet, everywhere.    Even on this planet, there is mass suffering every second.   Does everyone who is capable of helping help?  No.   At a certain point, humans have to accept that sometimes bad things happen to people; it's neither good nor evil, it simply IS.   

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

^
Maybe this is where you and I fundamentally differ; I see humans as simply another type of animal.  Uniquely intelligent and technologically sophisticated, but also capable of the same kinds of impulses (good and bad) that we observe in nature.    I don't really see us as having any more 'right' to survive than the rodents we evolved from had the 'right' to supersede the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.   We got lucky, and nature worked out in our favor... for now. 

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

But in trying to prevent extinctions, that is altering what would normally be; eventual extinction is the norm of evolution, not the exception.   Extinction is perfectly natural; for all species in time.   Even on a more 'human' scale; we're born, we live, and we eventually die.   It's not an evil thing; it's the nature of our biology.   We can delay that eventuality by making smart choices for ourselves, but in the end we only postpone the inevitable.   The extinction of a civilization is a tragic thing, but not necessarily an 'evil' one.   That's where I make the distinction.   One can quietly observe the extinction of a species from a healthy distance; and maybe (just maybe) something very valuable can be LEARNED from that observation... 

I see a Starfleet dedicated to stopping extinctions around the galaxy much in the same way I would see a 98 year old man getting a series of pacemakers put in, or a 102 year old woman getting endless facelifts.   Death (or species mortality) isn't a desirable outcome, but one can also choose to face it with dignity and a certain healthy respect.     

Ok, so your whole point boils down to "people suffer and die all the time, so ethical behavior is useless".

Why help anybody? People die anyway. We can't help everybody, so we should help nobody.

Looks like you are a nihilist.

I can't subscribe to a view that shows such a total lack of respect for human life.

Edited by Sim

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I think of the small scale example:

Someone has fallen off a cliff, and it's your choice whether you give him your hand and pull him up, saving his life, or you do nothing and let him fall into his death.

Hardly anyone would argue you are not obliged to help. Ethnics are pretty clear, aren't they?

You wouldn't argue "I refuse to help, because this man might become a serial killer later" (out of the blue, while you know nothing about him -- just because it's a remote possibility). You wouldn't argue "who knows how many people will never be born when he is allowed to live, because the continuation of his life would change the fate of many other people on this world" and let him fall. You would not argue "when he was too weak to prevent his fall, this means the cosmic plan says he is supposed to die, and it's not up to me to 'play God'".

No, if you have the slightest hint of ethics in your heart, you will not even hesitate before taking his hand and saving him.

I don't see how the large scale example, saving an alien civilization from extinction, is ethically any different.

 

As for the "cosmic plan" or "fate" argument: It is a terrible, terrible fallacy to confuse this with an ethical argument. If there is a "cosmic plan", it's about how things are. Descriptive. But ethics are about how things are supposed to be, normative.

Just because things are in a certain way, says absolutely nothing about the question how they are supposed to be.

This confusion of scientific description of nature with an ethical imperative gave us wonderful ideas such as Social Darwinism, Nazi ideology and Holocaust. "Nature shows that the fittest survive. This is the "cosmic plan". So it's good and ethical when the fittest survive and the weak die -- let's put all weak individuals to death, and let's make sure that our actions make us the fittest by subjugating all who are weaker. That's the ethics of nature".

^
If we (by 'we' I mean humans in a Star Trek-kian style future) interfered every time we perceived there was a 'right to be wronged' we'd be patrolling the galaxy as the non-stop space cops of the galaxy.   Starfleet's mission is one of scientific exploration, not interference.   That is their ACTIVE choice: to observe the galaxy naturally, and to do so they have to follow certain scientific principles; the prime of which is to remain objective and NOT become actively involved.

If we see a shark eat a seal pup in the ocean should we interfere?  No.   You're depriving the shark of a meal.    If we see a lion kill a weaker animal in the Serengeti should we fire a tranquilizer gun at the lion to stop it?   Our 'impulse' would be to save the creature in peril; and in this case, our impulse is WRONG.

I remember Trip in the ENT pilot "Broken Bow" and how he had to learn a lesson about interference when he saw a humanoid woman seemingly suffocating her child; it turns out she was only weaning him off the gas he breathed before maturation.    Even something as seemingly 'black and white' as saving what seems to be a life in immediate peril may not be as simple as what it seems.    I imagine the hardest part about humans going into Starfleet would be to resist the impulse to apply human values to things and scenarios they don't fully understand.   In many cases, they could be wrong.  "Gut feelings" aren't enough.   As Carl Sagan also once famously said, "Where we have strong emotions, we're likely to fool ourselves." 

 

I don't think humanity should enter the galaxy expecting to become its permanent police force.

For clarification: My argument was about preventing the extinction of an alien civilization. I did not mean to defend the idea of arbitrarily meddling.

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

 

As I said further above, I absolutely agree with the PD when it comes to meddling into the evolution of a species, their culture or their conflicts -- I agree with you that in those cases, "we" (the humans in a Star Trek-ian style future) are simply lacking the necessary information we need to be able to have an idea about the consequences. The potential for negative consequences is very high, so indeed it would be wise to stay out. Simply because we never know if our meddling really brings the intended good consequences, or actually makes things even worse.

(As I said before: In today's real world, the US could probably use more of this philosophy -- very often, the US has meddled into foreign conflicts, and even if we assume the intentions were good, it has backfired most of the time. Or the attempt to impose Western style democracy over societies that are culturally not ready for it, like in Afghanistan or Iraq -- this too has backfired. It may be an illusion to "stay out" in today's ever-more interconnected world, but a more cautious philosophy that helps avoiding way too blatant meddling, would probably be a good thing.)

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

In such a case, we do not lack the necessary information. We do know that our inaction condemns them to extinction. And we do know that any other possible negative consequence our meddling might yield, it would still be better than extinction.

^ This is the case I was trying to make.

 

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

^
Yes, but my point is where do you stop?  When do you take a break from helping car crash victims?   I'm sure if we encounter life elsewhere in the galaxy, we'd find that lifeforms are in peril ALL of the time, on every planet, everywhere.    Even on this planet, there is mass suffering every second.   Does everyone who is capable of helping help?  No.   At a certain point, humans have to accept that sometimes bad things happen to people; it's neither good nor evil, it simply IS.   

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

^
Maybe this is where you and I fundamentally differ; I see humans as simply another type of animal.  Uniquely intelligent and technologically sophisticated, but also capable of the same kinds of impulses (good and bad) that we observe in nature.    I don't really see us as having any more 'right' to survive than the rodents we evolved from had the 'right' to supersede the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.   We got lucky, and nature worked out in our favor... for now. 

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

But in trying to prevent extinctions, that is altering what would normally be; eventual extinction is the norm of evolution, not the exception.   Extinction is perfectly natural; for all species in time.   Even on a more 'human' scale; we're born, we live, and we eventually die.   It's not an evil thing; it's the nature of our biology.   We can delay that eventuality by making smart choices for ourselves, but in the end we only postpone the inevitable.   The extinction of a civilization is a tragic thing, but not necessarily an 'evil' one.   That's where I make the distinction.   One can quietly observe the extinction of a species from a healthy distance; and maybe (just maybe) something very valuable can be LEARNED from that observation... 

I see a Starfleet dedicated to stopping extinctions around the galaxy much in the same way I would see a 98 year old man getting a series of pacemakers put in, or a 102 year old woman getting endless facelifts.   Death (or species mortality) isn't a desirable outcome, but one can also choose to face it with dignity and a certain healthy respect.     

Ok, so your whole point boils down to "people suffer and die all the time, so ethical behavior is useless".

Why help anybody? People die anyway. We can't help everybody, so we should help nobody.

Looks like you are a nihilist.

I can't subscribe to a view that shows such a total lack of respect for human life.

Easy, Sim.   

This isn't a Kobayashi Maru thread.   Let's not get personal.   This is a hypothetical argument about a hypothetical directive in a hypothetical universe. 

And for clarity, I'm not a nihilist (I think you know me better than that), and I never said ethical behavior is useless; but it also depends on one's ethics.   I respect human life on a  personal basis.   If I can help someone, I will (and have; many times, in fact).   I've prevented a coworker from choking.  I've volunteered time for charity (many times, in fact).  I've helped take care of a friend of mine who was dying of AIDS.  I've given money to charities.  I've offered (and given) shelter to friends of mine who found themselves homeless.   I'm no saint, but I don't think of myself as a nihilist either.  

Those were my personal choices; not an imposition of my will over people (you're assuming they're all humans) living on another planet thousands of light years away.    

Again, if one were to make 'prevention of suffering' part of their mission then their mission would be nothing BUT going out into space and looking for suffering (which I'm sure is everywhere in the galaxy; suffering is, unfortunately, as natural as pleasure). 

Starfleet's mission is observation and learning, NOT universal prevention of all suffering everywhere.  

And in accordance with THAT philosophy (not my own) I would be against sending thousands of ships out into the galaxy looking for ways to prevent disasters; that would become Starfleet's sole mission and they would learn NOTHING.   They'd be in constant damage control.  

I'm saying if Starfleet's mission were genuinely about seeking out life and learning from it, it could be done far more effectively (and with no risk to the PD) by remote; long-range subspace telescopes or robotic probes (much as NASA is doing now).   Otherwise Starfleet should change its mission to 'seeking out any and all suffering and to prevent it all the time everywhere.'  

That's unrealistic; not to mention that's also not a job for science.

Jacques Cousteau and his team didn't board the Calypso hoping to rescue every seal that's threatened by a shark.   He went onto the ocean to learn as much from it as was possible.  By gathering information, one makes informed choices about when to take action and when NOT to take action.    

A Starfleet with only 300 years experience taking baby steps into a 100,000 light-years-across galaxy simply isn't mature enough to know the best possible outcome for every situation; even when it 'feels' right to take action.   That's objectivity, not nihilism. 

 

Objectivity would be as vital to a scientifically-oriented service like Starfleet as oxygen is for human life.   Without it, you would be constantly putting out brush fires instead of learning how to avoid them.   Starfleet would be little more than a spacefaring corps of firemen, not explorers dedicated to investigating the unknown. 

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Sim   

I think of the small scale example:

Someone has fallen off a cliff, and it's your choice whether you give him your hand and pull him up, saving his life, or you do nothing and let him fall into his death.

Hardly anyone would argue you are not obliged to help. Ethnics are pretty clear, aren't they?

You wouldn't argue "I refuse to help, because this man might become a serial killer later" (out of the blue, while you know nothing about him -- just because it's a remote possibility). You wouldn't argue "who knows how many people will never be born when he is allowed to live, because the continuation of his life would change the fate of many other people on this world" and let him fall. You would not argue "when he was too weak to prevent his fall, this means the cosmic plan says he is supposed to die, and it's not up to me to 'play God'".

No, if you have the slightest hint of ethics in your heart, you will not even hesitate before taking his hand and saving him.

I don't see how the large scale example, saving an alien civilization from extinction, is ethically any different.

 

As for the "cosmic plan" or "fate" argument: It is a terrible, terrible fallacy to confuse this with an ethical argument. If there is a "cosmic plan", it's about how things are. Descriptive. But ethics are about how things are supposed to be, normative.

Just because things are in a certain way, says absolutely nothing about the question how they are supposed to be.

This confusion of scientific description of nature with an ethical imperative gave us wonderful ideas such as Social Darwinism, Nazi ideology and Holocaust. "Nature shows that the fittest survive. This is the "cosmic plan". So it's good and ethical when the fittest survive and the weak die -- let's put all weak individuals to death, and let's make sure that our actions make us the fittest by subjugating all who are weaker. That's the ethics of nature".

^
If we (by 'we' I mean humans in a Star Trek-kian style future) interfered every time we perceived there was a 'right to be wronged' we'd be patrolling the galaxy as the non-stop space cops of the galaxy.   Starfleet's mission is one of scientific exploration, not interference.   That is their ACTIVE choice: to observe the galaxy naturally, and to do so they have to follow certain scientific principles; the prime of which is to remain objective and NOT become actively involved.

If we see a shark eat a seal pup in the ocean should we interfere?  No.   You're depriving the shark of a meal.    If we see a lion kill a weaker animal in the Serengeti should we fire a tranquilizer gun at the lion to stop it?   Our 'impulse' would be to save the creature in peril; and in this case, our impulse is WRONG.

I remember Trip in the ENT pilot "Broken Bow" and how he had to learn a lesson about interference when he saw a humanoid woman seemingly suffocating her child; it turns out she was only weaning him off the gas he breathed before maturation.    Even something as seemingly 'black and white' as saving what seems to be a life in immediate peril may not be as simple as what it seems.    I imagine the hardest part about humans going into Starfleet would be to resist the impulse to apply human values to things and scenarios they don't fully understand.   In many cases, they could be wrong.  "Gut feelings" aren't enough.   As Carl Sagan also once famously said, "Where we have strong emotions, we're likely to fool ourselves." 

 

I don't think humanity should enter the galaxy expecting to become its permanent police force.

For clarification: My argument was about preventing the extinction of an alien civilization. I did not mean to defend the idea of arbitrarily meddling.

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

 

As I said further above, I absolutely agree with the PD when it comes to meddling into the evolution of a species, their culture or their conflicts -- I agree with you that in those cases, "we" (the humans in a Star Trek-ian style future) are simply lacking the necessary information we need to be able to have an idea about the consequences. The potential for negative consequences is very high, so indeed it would be wise to stay out. Simply because we never know if our meddling really brings the intended good consequences, or actually makes things even worse.

(As I said before: In today's real world, the US could probably use more of this philosophy -- very often, the US has meddled into foreign conflicts, and even if we assume the intentions were good, it has backfired most of the time. Or the attempt to impose Western style democracy over societies that are culturally not ready for it, like in Afghanistan or Iraq -- this too has backfired. It may be an illusion to "stay out" in today's ever-more interconnected world, but a more cautious philosophy that helps avoiding way too blatant meddling, would probably be a good thing.)

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

In such a case, we do not lack the necessary information. We do know that our inaction condemns them to extinction. And we do know that any other possible negative consequence our meddling might yield, it would still be better than extinction.

^ This is the case I was trying to make.

 

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

^
Yes, but my point is where do you stop?  When do you take a break from helping car crash victims?   I'm sure if we encounter life elsewhere in the galaxy, we'd find that lifeforms are in peril ALL of the time, on every planet, everywhere.    Even on this planet, there is mass suffering every second.   Does everyone who is capable of helping help?  No.   At a certain point, humans have to accept that sometimes bad things happen to people; it's neither good nor evil, it simply IS.   

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

^
Maybe this is where you and I fundamentally differ; I see humans as simply another type of animal.  Uniquely intelligent and technologically sophisticated, but also capable of the same kinds of impulses (good and bad) that we observe in nature.    I don't really see us as having any more 'right' to survive than the rodents we evolved from had the 'right' to supersede the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.   We got lucky, and nature worked out in our favor... for now. 

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

But in trying to prevent extinctions, that is altering what would normally be; eventual extinction is the norm of evolution, not the exception.   Extinction is perfectly natural; for all species in time.   Even on a more 'human' scale; we're born, we live, and we eventually die.   It's not an evil thing; it's the nature of our biology.   We can delay that eventuality by making smart choices for ourselves, but in the end we only postpone the inevitable.   The extinction of a civilization is a tragic thing, but not necessarily an 'evil' one.   That's where I make the distinction.   One can quietly observe the extinction of a species from a healthy distance; and maybe (just maybe) something very valuable can be LEARNED from that observation... 

I see a Starfleet dedicated to stopping extinctions around the galaxy much in the same way I would see a 98 year old man getting a series of pacemakers put in, or a 102 year old woman getting endless facelifts.   Death (or species mortality) isn't a desirable outcome, but one can also choose to face it with dignity and a certain healthy respect.     

Ok, so your whole point boils down to "people suffer and die all the time, so ethical behavior is useless".

Why help anybody? People die anyway. We can't help everybody, so we should help nobody.

Looks like you are a nihilist.

I can't subscribe to a view that shows such a total lack of respect for human life.

Easy, Sim.   

This isn't a Kobayashi Maru thread.   Let's not get personal.   This is a hypothetical argument about a hypothetical directive in a hypothetical universe. 

And for clarity, I'm not a nihilist (I think you know me better than that), and I never said ethical behavior is useless; but it also depends on one's ethics.   I respect human life on a  personal basis.   If I can help someone, I will (and have; many times, in fact).   I've prevented a coworker from choking.  I've volunteered time for charity (many times, in fact).  I've helped take care of a friend of mine who was dying of AIDS.  I've given money to charities.  I've offered (and given) shelter to friends of mine who found themselves homeless.   I'm no saint, but I don't think of myself as a nihilist either.  

Point taken, and yes, I do know you well enough to know you're not a nihilist. :)

Sorry for the suggestion you are. Please accept my apology.

However, you have to admit, based on what you wrote above, that's not an uncalled for conclusion, if those paragraphs were the only thing I'd know about you. ;)

Those were my personal choices; not an imposition of my will over people (you're assuming they're all humans) living on another planet thousands of light years away.    

Again, if one were to make 'prevention of suffering' part of their mission then their mission would be nothing BUT going out into space and looking for suffering (which I'm sure is everywhere in the galaxy; suffering is, unfortunately, as natural as pleasure). 

Starfleet's mission is observation and learning, NOT universal prevention of all suffering everywhere.  

And in accordance with THAT philosophy (not my own) I would be against sending thousands of ships out into the galaxy looking for ways to prevent disasters; that would become Starfleet's sole mission and they would learn NOTHING.   They'd be in constant damage control.  

I'm saying if Starfleet's mission were genuinely about seeking out life and learning from it, it could be done far more effectively (and with no risk to the PD) by remote; long-range subspace telescopes or robotic probes (much as NASA is doing now).   Otherwise Starfleet should change its mission to 'seeking out any and all suffering and to prevent it all the time everywhere.'  

That's unrealistic; not to mention that's also not a job for science.

Jacques Cousteau and his team didn't board the Calypso hoping to rescue every seal that's threatened by a shark.   He went onto the ocean to learn as much from it as was possible.  By gathering information, one makes informed choices about when to take action and when NOT to take action.    

A Starfleet with only 300 years experience taking baby steps into a 100,000 light-years-across galaxy simply isn't mature enough to know the best possible outcome for every situation; even when it 'feels' right to take action.   That's objectivity, not nihilism. 

 

Objectivity would be as vital to a scientifically-oriented service like Starfleet as oxygen is for human life.   Without it, you would be constantly putting out brush fires instead of learning how to avoid them.   Starfleet would be little more than a spacefaring corps of firemen, not explorers dedicated to investigating the unknown. 

Well maybe we were talking on cross-purposes here. Maybe I failed to make my argument clear enough.

I did not mean suggest that in this hypothetical scenario, Starfleet should patrol space to look out for opportunities to help, and then help whenever they find an opportunity. Starfleet indeed shouldn't be a "police force" or "Salvation Army" or anything.

But as in the example with the car crash: When you just happen to get into a situation where your help is required, the only ethical action is to provide this help. That does not mean you're supposed to spend all your time strolling the streets to look out for car crashs, only in order to offer help all the time. Nobody could realistically expect people to do that. No, I mean the case that when you just live your life and happen to get in a situation that requires this help. Nobody can blame you not to offer help for a car crash that takes place on the other side of the city you didn't learn about; but when it happens right on your way, and either you help or nobody will, and you take the decision to refuse to help -- then you'd be to blame.

Likewise, it was often shown on ST that a Starfleet ship just happened to get in a situation where such an ethical choice must be taken. Once the situation presents itself, you have to make this choice. You can't avoid this choice anymore, as leaving would be an active choice, too (much like leaving the site of a car crash after the fact).

 

And again, I want to stress I'm not talking about "help" in a situation when the very existence of a civilization is not at stake. When it's just about a plague that reduces a civilization, or about a war that might kill millions -- then I agree with you. Even meddling in the best intentions might make the situation even worse, at least on the long run.

I'm talking about the situation that when you do nothing, an entire species will be extinct. Like that comet or meteor crash. As I said, in this case, we do know for sure that extinction is always worse than any other possible unwanted consequence of our action.

 

And I don't really believe you actually mean what you said about "human life vs. animal life". Do you really believe slapping a mosquito is just as bad as murder? Or likewise, that a murder is not worse than killing a mosquito? Or in said car crash, would you give human victims the same priority when helping as, say, a dog that happened to be in the car as well? Or would you give humans a higher priority than pets in the car?

Sure, those are rhetorical questions, as I think I know you well enough to know you do make a difference between the value of human life and animal life after all. ;)

Which is why I think the shark/zeal comparison isn't really fitting. Animals have no morals or ethics; humans are different because they do.

Edited by Sim

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^
Yes, but we (like other animals) once came from a place where we didn't. ;)

And yes, apology accepted; I realize your response 

I wasn't trying to seem nihilistic, but I just feel that the purpose of Starfleet is, primarily, exploration.  And you can't really explore if you're spending all of your time in crisis mode rather than an objective observational mode (which is critical for scientific thinking).

 

But BOT, and not to get too hypothetical (again) but suppose you deflect an asteroid from an inhabited planet and that same asteroid came around centuries later and collided with another asteroid that carried primordial elements that would've seeded another planet (much as some scientists believe that our own world's organic compounds may have been seeded from comets or asteroids)?   You save one race at the expense of a future race.  

I realize the knee-jerk (and humane) response is that the life that exists already takes precedent, but THIS is the danger I'm talking about; dabbling in unknown possible futures because we have 'gut' feelings.   What if the race that never was would've been critical to the survival of the universe in some way?   We're trapped in one 'frame' of the cosmic movie; we can't see the future, and we're partly guess-timating at what came before.   The wisest course of action, IMO, is remote observation (without humans in starships); by robotic probes or by long-range telescopes (like TNG's Argus array; a perfect example).  Human beings are, for better AND for worse, simply too inclined to intervene.

Trip's actions in ENT's "Cogenitor" is a perfect example, by the way; another would be the 'duck blind' mission with the Mintankans in "Who Watches the Watchers?"  Crusher saved a native Mintankan's life, but as a result of her bungling his memory erasure she gave that culture religious contamination (much as Kirk did to the Nibirans in STID because he needed to save Spock).   Who knows what kind of horrors they may have brought to those two races?  Jihads, false worship, you name it.   Probably inquisitions down the road, too (at least Picard tried to undo the damage in TNG; Kirk didn't seem to give a damn...).   In both cases, the Mintankan (I forget his name) and Spock (in STID) should've been allowed to die.  Plain and simple.  

It's harsh, and seemingly unfeeling, but isn't that PART of the danger of life in Starfleet?  That a life may have be sacrificed to preserve the Prime Directive? 

Both of these incidents wouldn't have occurred at all if the planets had been observed from orbital scans, or by subspace telescopes.   TRUE non-interference. 

I have no issue with human beings tampering in our OWN destinies; but we start playing billiards with the galaxy?  Then we become truly dangerous.   As we are today, our decisions can only affect OUR planet.   We're effectively quarantined by distance.   Maybe that's not such a bad thing, is all I'm saying... ;)

 

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scenario   

I think of the small scale example:

Someone has fallen off a cliff, and it's your choice whether you give him your hand and pull him up, saving his life, or you do nothing and let him fall into his death.

Hardly anyone would argue you are not obliged to help. Ethnics are pretty clear, aren't they?

You wouldn't argue "I refuse to help, because this man might become a serial killer later" (out of the blue, while you know nothing about him -- just because it's a remote possibility). You wouldn't argue "who knows how many people will never be born when he is allowed to live, because the continuation of his life would change the fate of many other people on this world" and let him fall. You would not argue "when he was too weak to prevent his fall, this means the cosmic plan says he is supposed to die, and it's not up to me to 'play God'".

No, if you have the slightest hint of ethics in your heart, you will not even hesitate before taking his hand and saving him.

I don't see how the large scale example, saving an alien civilization from extinction, is ethically any different.

 

As for the "cosmic plan" or "fate" argument: It is a terrible, terrible fallacy to confuse this with an ethical argument. If there is a "cosmic plan", it's about how things are. Descriptive. But ethics are about how things are supposed to be, normative.

Just because things are in a certain way, says absolutely nothing about the question how they are supposed to be.

This confusion of scientific description of nature with an ethical imperative gave us wonderful ideas such as Social Darwinism, Nazi ideology and Holocaust. "Nature shows that the fittest survive. This is the "cosmic plan". So it's good and ethical when the fittest survive and the weak die -- let's put all weak individuals to death, and let's make sure that our actions make us the fittest by subjugating all who are weaker. That's the ethics of nature".

^
If we (by 'we' I mean humans in a Star Trek-kian style future) interfered every time we perceived there was a 'right to be wronged' we'd be patrolling the galaxy as the non-stop space cops of the galaxy.   Starfleet's mission is one of scientific exploration, not interference.   That is their ACTIVE choice: to observe the galaxy naturally, and to do so they have to follow certain scientific principles; the prime of which is to remain objective and NOT become actively involved.

If we see a shark eat a seal pup in the ocean should we interfere?  No.   You're depriving the shark of a meal.    If we see a lion kill a weaker animal in the Serengeti should we fire a tranquilizer gun at the lion to stop it?   Our 'impulse' would be to save the creature in peril; and in this case, our impulse is WRONG.

I remember Trip in the ENT pilot "Broken Bow" and how he had to learn a lesson about interference when he saw a humanoid woman seemingly suffocating her child; it turns out she was only weaning him off the gas he breathed before maturation.    Even something as seemingly 'black and white' as saving what seems to be a life in immediate peril may not be as simple as what it seems.    I imagine the hardest part about humans going into Starfleet would be to resist the impulse to apply human values to things and scenarios they don't fully understand.   In many cases, they could be wrong.  "Gut feelings" aren't enough.   As Carl Sagan also once famously said, "Where we have strong emotions, we're likely to fool ourselves." 

 

I don't think humanity should enter the galaxy expecting to become its permanent police force.

For clarification: My argument was about preventing the extinction of an alien civilization. I did not mean to defend the idea of arbitrarily meddling.

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

 

As I said further above, I absolutely agree with the PD when it comes to meddling into the evolution of a species, their culture or their conflicts -- I agree with you that in those cases, "we" (the humans in a Star Trek-ian style future) are simply lacking the necessary information we need to be able to have an idea about the consequences. The potential for negative consequences is very high, so indeed it would be wise to stay out. Simply because we never know if our meddling really brings the intended good consequences, or actually makes things even worse.

(As I said before: In today's real world, the US could probably use more of this philosophy -- very often, the US has meddled into foreign conflicts, and even if we assume the intentions were good, it has backfired most of the time. Or the attempt to impose Western style democracy over societies that are culturally not ready for it, like in Afghanistan or Iraq -- this too has backfired. It may be an illusion to "stay out" in today's ever-more interconnected world, but a more cautious philosophy that helps avoiding way too blatant meddling, would probably be a good thing.)

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

In such a case, we do not lack the necessary information. We do know that our inaction condemns them to extinction. And we do know that any other possible negative consequence our meddling might yield, it would still be better than extinction.

^ This is the case I was trying to make.

 

You aren't becoming a "police force" when you fulfil your ethical and moral duty by helping people in peril you come across. When you walk on the street, and cars crash next to you, you aren't suddenly becoming a "police officer" just because you decide to help the victims.

^
Yes, but my point is where do you stop?  When do you take a break from helping car crash victims?   I'm sure if we encounter life elsewhere in the galaxy, we'd find that lifeforms are in peril ALL of the time, on every planet, everywhere.    Even on this planet, there is mass suffering every second.   Does everyone who is capable of helping help?  No.   At a certain point, humans have to accept that sometimes bad things happen to people; it's neither good nor evil, it simply IS.   

And animals aren't sentient beings the same way humans are. It may be "species-ism" not to consider the life of animals just as worthy as the life of human beings (or their sentient alien equivalents), but nevertheless, most people will agree that the life of a human has more weight than the life of an animal.

^
Maybe this is where you and I fundamentally differ; I see humans as simply another type of animal.  Uniquely intelligent and technologically sophisticated, but also capable of the same kinds of impulses (good and bad) that we observe in nature.    I don't really see us as having any more 'right' to survive than the rodents we evolved from had the 'right' to supersede the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.   We got lucky, and nature worked out in our favor... for now. 

What I was talking about is extending the PD even to the point when you're not allowed to help, even when an alien civilization is about to be extinct.

But in trying to prevent extinctions, that is altering what would normally be; eventual extinction is the norm of evolution, not the exception.   Extinction is perfectly natural; for all species in time.   Even on a more 'human' scale; we're born, we live, and we eventually die.   It's not an evil thing; it's the nature of our biology.   We can delay that eventuality by making smart choices for ourselves, but in the end we only postpone the inevitable.   The extinction of a civilization is a tragic thing, but not necessarily an 'evil' one.   That's where I make the distinction.   One can quietly observe the extinction of a species from a healthy distance; and maybe (just maybe) something very valuable can be LEARNED from that observation... 

I see a Starfleet dedicated to stopping extinctions around the galaxy much in the same way I would see a 98 year old man getting a series of pacemakers put in, or a 102 year old woman getting endless facelifts.   Death (or species mortality) isn't a desirable outcome, but one can also choose to face it with dignity and a certain healthy respect.     

Ok, so your whole point boils down to "people suffer and die all the time, so ethical behavior is useless".

Why help anybody? People die anyway. We can't help everybody, so we should help nobody.

Looks like you are a nihilist.

I can't subscribe to a view that shows such a total lack of respect for human life.

Easy, Sim.   

This isn't a Kobayashi Maru thread.   Let's not get personal.   This is a hypothetical argument about a hypothetical directive in a hypothetical universe. 

And for clarity, I'm not a nihilist (I think you know me better than that), and I never said ethical behavior is useless; but it also depends on one's ethics.   I respect human life on a  personal basis.   If I can help someone, I will (and have; many times, in fact).   I've prevented a coworker from choking.  I've volunteered time for charity (many times, in fact).  I've helped take care of a friend of mine who was dying of AIDS.  I've given money to charities.  I've offered (and given) shelter to friends of mine who found themselves homeless.   I'm no saint, but I don't think of myself as a nihilist either.  

Those were my personal choices; not an imposition of my will over people (you're assuming they're all humans) living on another planet thousands of light years away.    

Again, if one were to make 'prevention of suffering' part of their mission then their mission would be nothing BUT going out into space and looking for suffering (which I'm sure is everywhere in the galaxy; suffering is, unfortunately, as natural as pleasure). 

Starfleet's mission is observation and learning, NOT universal prevention of all suffering everywhere.  

And in accordance with THAT philosophy (not my own) I would be against sending thousands of ships out into the galaxy looking for ways to prevent disasters; that would become Starfleet's sole mission and they would learn NOTHING.   They'd be in constant damage control.  

I'm saying if Starfleet's mission were genuinely about seeking out life and learning from it, it could be done far more effectively (and with no risk to the PD) by remote; long-range subspace telescopes or robotic probes (much as NASA is doing now).   Otherwise Starfleet should change its mission to 'seeking out any and all suffering and to prevent it all the time everywhere.'  

That's unrealistic; not to mention that's also not a job for science.

Jacques Cousteau and his team didn't board the Calypso hoping to rescue every seal that's threatened by a shark.   He went onto the ocean to learn as much from it as was possible.  By gathering information, one makes informed choices about when to take action and when NOT to take action.    

A Starfleet with only 300 years experience taking baby steps into a 100,000 light-years-across galaxy simply isn't mature enough to know the best possible outcome for every situation; even when it 'feels' right to take action.   That's objectivity, not nihilism. 

 

Objectivity would be as vital to a scientifically-oriented service like Starfleet as oxygen is for human life.   Without it, you would be constantly putting out brush fires instead of learning how to avoid them.   Starfleet would be little more than a spacefaring corps of firemen, not explorers dedicated to investigating the unknown. 

Jacques Cousteau is a good example. He never interfered when a seal was threatened by a shark. But he spent the last few years of his life actively fighting to protect the health of the oceans as a whole.

There is a huge difference between interfering with a less advanced civilization and stopping a moon sized object from hitting their planet and turning the crust and most of the mantle of the planet into molten rock. 

One of the big differences is time. There are a lot of situations where a moral person may want to interfere but shouldn't. But situations where a civilization will be totally destroyed by something totally out of the civilizations control that they had no hand in creating would be very rare. Realistically, the Federation might come across a situation like that once a century at most. It won't really interfere with the exploration of space all that much. 

If a civilization creates their own problems, they should solve their own problems. If there is something bad happening that they had no hand in creating and it will destroy their civilization totally and it can be easily fixed by Star Fleet, why shouldn't they?

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If a civilization creates their own problems, they should solve their own problems. If there is something bad happening that they had no hand in creating and it will destroy their civilization totally and it can be easily fixed by Star Fleet, why shouldn't they?

That's pretty much what it boils down for me as well.

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If a civilization creates their own problems, they should solve their own problems. If there is something bad happening that they had no hand in creating and it will destroy their civilization totally and it can be easily fixed by Star Fleet, why shouldn't they?

That's pretty much what it boils down for me as well.

 

I think it's a sneaky way for the Federation to gain more territory. They keep their hands clean, allow the collapse of a civilization, just so the pieces come begging for help so they have their arms wide open and act like a benevolent people....yet you have to join them to get the help. Take for instance the Klingon Empire or the Bajorans. Klingons have a massive catastrophe happen and they go, "Look guys, we'll give you a hand, but you guys need to disarm and stop being yourselves." They become allies but because the Klingons didn't join the Federation, they refuse to help Gowron, even though he officially requests their support to help him. "Sorrow G-man, we'd love to help but you aren't Federation, so you are on your own."

With the Bajorans: "Sorry guys, we can't help your refugees because your planet is Cardassian property. Now, if it wasn't Cardassian and you guys decided to join us, then we could help out." So....like the refugee crises even now, but more vindictive.

Edited by Admiral Harmon

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If a civilization creates their own problems, they should solve their own problems. If there is something bad happening that they had no hand in creating and it will destroy their civilization totally and it can be easily fixed by Star Fleet, why shouldn't they?

That's pretty much what it boils down for me as well.

 

I think it's a sneaky way for the Federation to gain more territory. They keep their hands clean, allow the collapse of a civilization, just so the pieces come begging for help so they have their arms wide open and act like a benevolent people....yet you have to join them to get the help. Take for instance the Klingon Empire or the Bajorans. Klingons have a massive catastrophe happen and they go, "Look guys, we'll give you a hand, but you guys need to disarm and stop being yourselves." They become allies but because the Klingons didn't join the Federation, they refuse to help Gowron, even though he officially requests their support to help him. "Sorrow G-man, we'd love to help but you aren't Federation, so you are on your own."

With the Bajorans: "Sorry guys, we can't help your refugees because your planet is Cardassian property. Now, if it wasn't Cardassian and you guys decided to join us, then we could help out." So....like the refugee crises even now, but more vindictive.

How could the federation help everyone? They can't go to war with the Cardassians, Romulans, etc. all at once. And then even if you win, you now have hundreds or thousands of former slave planets with no local government. It would be a disaster all around. 

I could also see a planet that prefers being under Cardassian rule. Lets say there is a planet with 5 or 6 different groups (races, religions, etc.) Each group thinks that they are the only real intelligence on the planet. All of the others are animals. For thousands of years the pattern is: The group in power is overthrown by the other four or five groups. After years of warfare one of the formally downtrodden group becomes the new leader. Then they act just as bad as the old leader did. This time the 4 or 5 slave groups appeal to the Cardassians to take over. They won't be treated well but much better than they were before.  

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If a civilization creates their own problems, they should solve their own problems. If there is something bad happening that they had no hand in creating and it will destroy their civilization totally and it can be easily fixed by Star Fleet, why shouldn't they?

That's pretty much what it boils down for me as well.

 

I think it's a sneaky way for the Federation to gain more territory. They keep their hands clean, allow the collapse of a civilization, just so the pieces come begging for help so they have their arms wide open and act like a benevolent people....yet you have to join them to get the help. Take for instance the Klingon Empire or the Bajorans. Klingons have a massive catastrophe happen and they go, "Look guys, we'll give you a hand, but you guys need to disarm and stop being yourselves." They become allies but because the Klingons didn't join the Federation, they refuse to help Gowron, even though he officially requests their support to help him. "Sorrow G-man, we'd love to help but you aren't Federation, so you are on your own."

With the Bajorans: "Sorry guys, we can't help your refugees because your planet is Cardassian property. Now, if it wasn't Cardassian and you guys decided to join us, then we could help out." So....like the refugee crises even now, but more vindictive.

How could the federation help everyone? They can't go to war with the Cardassians, Romulans, etc. all at once. And then even if you win, you now have hundreds or thousands of former slave planets with no local government. It would be a disaster all around. 

I could also see a planet that prefers being under Cardassian rule. Lets say there is a planet with 5 or 6 different groups (races, religions, etc.) Each group thinks that they are the only real intelligence on the planet. All of the others are animals. For thousands of years the pattern is: The group in power is overthrown by the other four or five groups. After years of warfare one of the formally downtrodden group becomes the new leader. Then they act just as bad as the old leader did. This time the 4 or 5 slave groups appeal to the Cardassians to take over. They won't be treated well but much better than they were before.  

I'm not suggesting they do that, because helping everyone would have political ramifications. As for the Bajorans, there is many refugees that were throughout the Federation but they did little if anything to help the refugees within their borders, because their home-planet was Cardassian. We see this with the TNG "Ensign Ro".

 

What I am saying is that it seems that the whole "Prime Directive" is used as a shield, a blank check to excuse themselves out of having to do anything for anyone who isn't a Federation member planet. Take the UN for example, who sends help even to places that aren't members, if they ask for help. The Federation does no such thing if they can manage it because "it's not our problem, you fix it".

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the prime directive is dumb. What's the logic of letting a whole planet die when nothing will ever evolve on it again. Because for instance IT LOST ITS ATMOSPHERE. I hated that episode with Worfs human stepbrother. How is stopping the extinction of a planet that will forever be lifeless wrong? Screw the Fascist Prime Directive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Prime Directive makes sense in some cases and not in others. The one with Worf's brother was an especially bad usage of the prime directive. Letting an entire species of hunter gather people go extinct isn't helping anyone.

But what if the Federation was orbiting the Earth during WWII? Should they have come down and interfered and stopped the war? Maybe it would have been better but maybe worse. Maybe species have to have their Hitlers and deliberately turn away from them and disown them before they can grow up and be mature as a species. Maybe the Federation would have ended up becoming an overlord and had to continuously use violence to keep in charge or the world would have broke out into WWIII as soon as they left. Maybe stopping WWII would have delayed the maturing of the human species for thousands of years ruining billions of lives. 

I'd like to see an episode where a member of the Federation stepped in (The Vulcans maybe)  and stopped a civil war on a planet but ended up in charge because the people on the planets issues were postponed but not cured. They have been there for over a thousand years, terrified that the species would go extinct if they left but having to be more and more brutal to keep them in line.They constantly try to use logic and talk their way out but the hatred runs too deep.  Do you continue to use brutal force to keep in power to prevent a probable extinction level war? Or do you step away and let the people solve their own problems knowing that the most likely result is that the entire species would die? If they had not interfered a thousand years ago, millions of people would have died but the problem may have been solved. Maybe by more peaceful means, maybe by the extinction of one side or the other. Maybe the world now would be a peaceful world that looks back at those days in horror rather than a powder keg constantly on the verge of exploding. 

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The Prime Directive makes sense in some cases and not in others. The one with Worf's brother was an especially bad usage of the prime directive. Letting an entire species of hunter gather people go extinct isn't helping anyone.

But what if the Federation was orbiting the Earth during WWII? Should they have come down and interfered and stopped the war? Maybe it would have been better but maybe worse. Maybe species have to have their Hitlers and deliberately turn away from them and disown them before they can grow up and be mature as a species. Maybe the Federation would have ended up becoming an overlord and had to continuously use violence to keep in charge or the world would have broke out into WWIII as soon as they left. Maybe stopping WWII would have delayed the maturing of the human species for thousands of years ruining billions of lives. 

I'd like to see an episode where a member of the Federation stepped in (The Vulcans maybe)  and stopped a civil war on a planet but ended up in charge because the people on the planets issues were postponed but not cured. They have been there for over a thousand years, terrified that the species would go extinct if they left but having to be more and more brutal to keep them in line.They constantly try to use logic and talk their way out but the hatred runs too deep.  Do you continue to use brutal force to keep in power to prevent a probable extinction level war? Or do you step away and let the people solve their own problems knowing that the most likely result is that the entire species would die? If they had not interfered a thousand years ago, millions of people would have died but the problem may have been solved. Maybe by more peaceful means, maybe by the extinction of one side or the other. Maybe the world now would be a peaceful world that looks back at those days in horror rather than a powder keg constantly on the verge of exploding. 

Or more simply, what if a 'benign' Federation came in and prevented an asteroid from striking Earth 65 million years ago?  We wouldn't be here today.

I think there is wisdom in preventing less developed cultures from suffering culture shock or accidental interference that could alter the future of an entire world.  Even a planet with an atmosphere diminished by a catalyclysm might've one day evolved anaerobic life forms that are hardier and better able to survive with minimal atmosphere.  We don't know.  

But regarding the Klingon civil war?  The opposing sides are both fully aware of the Federation so culture shock is hardly an imminent result of the Federation choosing a side.  Then again, the Federation orbiting Earth during WW2 argument comes to play, but I propose a twist: what if it were the Klingons or Romulans orbiting Earth during WW2 and they wanted to support the side that would most quickly lead to an Earth unable to resist an alien invasion; just as the Borg attempted in FC.  Help Hitler develop the atomic bomb first and the world is enveloped in an atomic holocaust in 1945 instead of the mid-21st century.  Granted the Klingons and Romulans don't have a prime directive, but the Federation could be equally blundering if they didn't.

What if the Federation unwittingly helped 'the bad guys' in a global conflict because they appeared more sympathetic in their appeal to the Federation for help?   Or what if a planet is destined for a nuclear war to make way for sentient cockroaches who would be better stewards of the planet than their humanoid predecessors? 

THAT is the wisdom of the Prime Directive; forsaking short-term 'good' or doing what seems morally 'right' and opting instead for long term wisdom that 'the universe will unfold as it should."   

Ah, the wisdom of Spock.  :happy:

The prime directive forsakes short term 'good' or 'bad' in support of a greater wisdom. 

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The Prime Directive makes sense in some cases and not in others. The one with Worf's brother was an especially bad usage of the prime directive. Letting an entire species of hunter gather people go extinct isn't helping anyone.

But what if the Federation was orbiting the Earth during WWII? Should they have come down and interfered and stopped the war? Maybe it would have been better but maybe worse. Maybe species have to have their Hitlers and deliberately turn away from them and disown them before they can grow up and be mature as a species. Maybe the Federation would have ended up becoming an overlord and had to continuously use violence to keep in charge or the world would have broke out into WWIII as soon as they left. Maybe stopping WWII would have delayed the maturing of the human species for thousands of years ruining billions of lives. 

I'd like to see an episode where a member of the Federation stepped in (The Vulcans maybe)  and stopped a civil war on a planet but ended up in charge because the people on the planets issues were postponed but not cured. They have been there for over a thousand years, terrified that the species would go extinct if they left but having to be more and more brutal to keep them in line.They constantly try to use logic and talk their way out but the hatred runs too deep.  Do you continue to use brutal force to keep in power to prevent a probable extinction level war? Or do you step away and let the people solve their own problems knowing that the most likely result is that the entire species would die? If they had not interfered a thousand years ago, millions of people would have died but the problem may have been solved. Maybe by more peaceful means, maybe by the extinction of one side or the other. Maybe the world now would be a peaceful world that looks back at those days in horror rather than a powder keg constantly on the verge of exploding. 

Or more simply, what if a 'benign' Federation came in and prevented an asteroid from striking Earth 65 million years ago?  We wouldn't be here today.

I think there is wisdom in preventing less developed cultures from suffering culture shock or accidental interference that could alter the future of an entire world.  Even a planet with an atmosphere diminished by a catalyclysm might've one day evolved anaerobic life forms that are hardier and better able to survive with minimal atmosphere.  We don't know.  

But regarding the Klingon civil war?  The opposing sides are both fully aware of the Federation so culture shock is hardly an imminent result of the Federation choosing a side.  Then again, the Federation orbiting Earth during WW2 argument comes to play, but I propose a twist: what if it were the Klingons or Romulans orbiting Earth during WW2 and they wanted to support the side that would most quickly lead to an Earth unable to resist an alien invasion; just as the Borg attempted in FC.  Help Hitler develop the atomic bomb first and the world is enveloped in an atomic holocaust in 1945 instead of the mid-21st century.  Granted the Klingons and Romulans don't have a prime directive, but the Federation could be equally blundering if they didn't.

What if the Federation unwittingly helped 'the bad guys' in a global conflict because they appeared more sympathetic in their appeal to the Federation for help?   Or what if a planet is destined for a nuclear war to make way for sentient cockroaches who would be better stewards of the planet than their humanoid predecessors? 

THAT is the wisdom of the Prime Directive; forsaking short-term 'good' or doing what seems morally 'right' and opting instead for long term wisdom that 'the universe will unfold as it should."   

Ah, the wisdom of Spock.  :happy:

The prime directive forsakes short term 'good' or 'bad' in support of a greater wisdom. 

I don't really consider being willing to wait for a couple of hundred million years so that maybe another intelligent species maybe, might evolve to replace the species you're going to let die is "short" term thinking.  I believe that intelligent species are rare and precious. Letting a hunter/gatherer species die when it has absolutely no power to protect itself is a waste. 

I used WWII as an example because although millions of people died, the human species was in no danger of extinction. An outsider would have no way of knowing which side would be the best side to support. And what do you mean by best side? The side that benefits the outsider or the species at war? And who gets to decide what is the goal? 

What is right and what is wrong when your dealing with another species is fraught with problems. Whose morality should you choose? But if you just step back and allow a defenseless species to go extinct, they have no morality on their side, they're  all dead. You have made the moral choice for them either way. They don't get a say either way. 

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The Prime Directive makes sense in some cases and not in others. The one with Worf's brother was an especially bad usage of the prime directive. Letting an entire species of hunter gather people go extinct isn't helping anyone.

But what if the Federation was orbiting the Earth during WWII? Should they have come down and interfered and stopped the war? Maybe it would have been better but maybe worse. Maybe species have to have their Hitlers and deliberately turn away from them and disown them before they can grow up and be mature as a species. Maybe the Federation would have ended up becoming an overlord and had to continuously use violence to keep in charge or the world would have broke out into WWIII as soon as they left. Maybe stopping WWII would have delayed the maturing of the human species for thousands of years ruining billions of lives. 

I'd like to see an episode where a member of the Federation stepped in (The Vulcans maybe)  and stopped a civil war on a planet but ended up in charge because the people on the planets issues were postponed but not cured. They have been there for over a thousand years, terrified that the species would go extinct if they left but having to be more and more brutal to keep them in line.They constantly try to use logic and talk their way out but the hatred runs too deep.  Do you continue to use brutal force to keep in power to prevent a probable extinction level war? Or do you step away and let the people solve their own problems knowing that the most likely result is that the entire species would die? If they had not interfered a thousand years ago, millions of people would have died but the problem may have been solved. Maybe by more peaceful means, maybe by the extinction of one side or the other. Maybe the world now would be a peaceful world that looks back at those days in horror rather than a powder keg constantly on the verge of exploding. 

Or more simply, what if a 'benign' Federation came in and prevented an asteroid from striking Earth 65 million years ago?  We wouldn't be here today.

I think there is wisdom in preventing less developed cultures from suffering culture shock or accidental interference that could alter the future of an entire world.  Even a planet with an atmosphere diminished by a catalyclysm might've one day evolved anaerobic life forms that are hardier and better able to survive with minimal atmosphere.  We don't know.  

But regarding the Klingon civil war?  The opposing sides are both fully aware of the Federation so culture shock is hardly an imminent result of the Federation choosing a side.  Then again, the Federation orbiting Earth during WW2 argument comes to play, but I propose a twist: what if it were the Klingons or Romulans orbiting Earth during WW2 and they wanted to support the side that would most quickly lead to an Earth unable to resist an alien invasion; just as the Borg attempted in FC.  Help Hitler develop the atomic bomb first and the world is enveloped in an atomic holocaust in 1945 instead of the mid-21st century.  Granted the Klingons and Romulans don't have a prime directive, but the Federation could be equally blundering if they didn't.

What if the Federation unwittingly helped 'the bad guys' in a global conflict because they appeared more sympathetic in their appeal to the Federation for help?   Or what if a planet is destined for a nuclear war to make way for sentient cockroaches who would be better stewards of the planet than their humanoid predecessors? 

THAT is the wisdom of the Prime Directive; forsaking short-term 'good' or doing what seems morally 'right' and opting instead for long term wisdom that 'the universe will unfold as it should."   

Ah, the wisdom of Spock.  :happy:

The prime directive forsakes short term 'good' or 'bad' in support of a greater wisdom. 

I don't really consider being willing to wait for a couple of hundred million years so that maybe another intelligent species maybe, might evolve to replace the species you're going to let die is "short" term thinking.  I believe that intelligent species are rare and precious. Letting a hunter/gatherer species die when it has absolutely no power to protect itself is a waste. 

I used WWII as an example because although millions of people died, the human species was in no danger of extinction. An outsider would have no way of knowing which side would be the best side to support. And what do you mean by best side? The side that benefits the outsider or the species at war? And who gets to decide what is the goal? 

What is right and what is wrong when your dealing with another species is fraught with problems. Whose morality should you choose? But if you just step back and allow a defenseless species to go extinct, they have no morality on their side, they're  all dead. You have made the moral choice for them either way. They don't get a say either way. 

^
And that last paragraph is the best argument in FAVOR of the prime directive I've yet seen. 

The Federation doesn't have the right to go traipsing across the galaxy playing god.  And yes, intelligence may be a rare thing, but whose responsibility is it to cultivate it?  The Federation's?  And why?  What gives them the moral prerogative?   You open yourself up to all kinds of ethical dilemmas when an organization pretends it's the galaxy's maternity ward/parent.   It'd be best for the Federation to mind its own 150-odd member planets and seek out new members rather than doing cosmological zoological experimentation across the universe. 

Their motto is to observe the natural universe, no need to interfere with it.   Again; the lesson of the dinosaurs.   How do we know that one of the thousands of dinosaur species that were sent to extinction 65 million years ago might've led to intelligence?  We don't.  And if we were in a position to do something about it (via time travel or some other means), we would be altering the cosmic game of billiards to our own detriment.    

I prefer to let the universe be, as Carl Sagan once said, "If Mars has life, even if they're only microbes, then I believe that Mars belongs to them." 

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Sim   

The Prime Directive makes sense in some cases and not in others. The one with Worf's brother was an especially bad usage of the prime directive. Letting an entire species of hunter gather people go extinct isn't helping anyone.

But what if the Federation was orbiting the Earth during WWII? Should they have come down and interfered and stopped the war? Maybe it would have been better but maybe worse. Maybe species have to have their Hitlers and deliberately turn away from them and disown them before they can grow up and be mature as a species. Maybe the Federation would have ended up becoming an overlord and had to continuously use violence to keep in charge or the world would have broke out into WWIII as soon as they left. Maybe stopping WWII would have delayed the maturing of the human species for thousands of years ruining billions of lives. 

I'd like to see an episode where a member of the Federation stepped in (The Vulcans maybe)  and stopped a civil war on a planet but ended up in charge because the people on the planets issues were postponed but not cured. They have been there for over a thousand years, terrified that the species would go extinct if they left but having to be more and more brutal to keep them in line.They constantly try to use logic and talk their way out but the hatred runs too deep.  Do you continue to use brutal force to keep in power to prevent a probable extinction level war? Or do you step away and let the people solve their own problems knowing that the most likely result is that the entire species would die? If they had not interfered a thousand years ago, millions of people would have died but the problem may have been solved. Maybe by more peaceful means, maybe by the extinction of one side or the other. Maybe the world now would be a peaceful world that looks back at those days in horror rather than a powder keg constantly on the verge of exploding. 

Or more simply, what if a 'benign' Federation came in and prevented an asteroid from striking Earth 65 million years ago?  We wouldn't be here today.

I think there is wisdom in preventing less developed cultures from suffering culture shock or accidental interference that could alter the future of an entire world.  Even a planet with an atmosphere diminished by a catalyclysm might've one day evolved anaerobic life forms that are hardier and better able to survive with minimal atmosphere.  We don't know.  

But regarding the Klingon civil war?  The opposing sides are both fully aware of the Federation so culture shock is hardly an imminent result of the Federation choosing a side.  Then again, the Federation orbiting Earth during WW2 argument comes to play, but I propose a twist: what if it were the Klingons or Romulans orbiting Earth during WW2 and they wanted to support the side that would most quickly lead to an Earth unable to resist an alien invasion; just as the Borg attempted in FC.  Help Hitler develop the atomic bomb first and the world is enveloped in an atomic holocaust in 1945 instead of the mid-21st century.  Granted the Klingons and Romulans don't have a prime directive, but the Federation could be equally blundering if they didn't.

What if the Federation unwittingly helped 'the bad guys' in a global conflict because they appeared more sympathetic in their appeal to the Federation for help?   Or what if a planet is destined for a nuclear war to make way for sentient cockroaches who would be better stewards of the planet than their humanoid predecessors? 

THAT is the wisdom of the Prime Directive; forsaking short-term 'good' or doing what seems morally 'right' and opting instead for long term wisdom that 'the universe will unfold as it should."   

Ah, the wisdom of Spock.  :happy:

The prime directive forsakes short term 'good' or 'bad' in support of a greater wisdom. 

I don't really consider being willing to wait for a couple of hundred million years so that maybe another intelligent species maybe, might evolve to replace the species you're going to let die is "short" term thinking.  I believe that intelligent species are rare and precious. Letting a hunter/gatherer species die when it has absolutely no power to protect itself is a waste. 

I used WWII as an example because although millions of people died, the human species was in no danger of extinction. An outsider would have no way of knowing which side would be the best side to support. And what do you mean by best side? The side that benefits the outsider or the species at war? And who gets to decide what is the goal? 

What is right and what is wrong when your dealing with another species is fraught with problems. Whose morality should you choose? But if you just step back and allow a defenseless species to go extinct, they have no morality on their side, they're  all dead. You have made the moral choice for them either way. They don't get a say either way. 

^
And that last paragraph is the best argument in FAVOR of the prime directive I've yet seen. 

The Federation doesn't have the right to go traipsing across the galaxy playing god.  And yes, intelligence may be a rare thing, but whose responsibility is it to cultivate it?  The Federation's?  And why?  What gives them the moral prerogative?   You open yourself up to all kinds of ethical dilemmas when an organization pretends it's the galaxy's maternity ward/parent.   It'd be best for the Federation to mind its own 150-odd member planets and seek out new members rather than doing cosmological zoological experimentation across the universe. 

Their motto is to observe the natural universe, no need to interfere with it.   Again; the lesson of the dinosaurs.   How do we know that one of the thousands of dinosaur species that were sent to extinction 65 million years ago might've led to intelligence?  We don't.  And if we were in a position to do something about it (via time travel or some other means), we would be altering the cosmic game of billiards to our own detriment.    

I prefer to let the universe be, as Carl Sagan once said, "If Mars has life, even if they're only microbes, then I believe that Mars belongs to them." 

I guess I said that before, but the line of reasoning "we're not supposed to play God" only makes sense when you actually believe in a God whose job it is to play God.

When you don't believe in God? There is nothing wrong whatsoever with "playing God". There won't be an angry God smiting you for taking his place.

On the contrary, when you believe there is no God, and when you don't believe that when people die, it's perfectly okay because that's "God's plan", and it's not our job to mess with it -- when you don't believe there is such a God with a plan, it's even your responsibility to decide if you let people die or not. And when you consciously decide to let them die, although you could easily help them? Then there is no God to blame, only yourself.

Then it's a question of how honest, how coherent you are about your values. You cannot claim to value intelligent life on one side, yet the next moment renouce responsibility because you feel it's some non-existant God's job to take it.

Edited by Sim

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The Prime Directive makes sense in some cases and not in others. The one with Worf's brother was an especially bad usage of the prime directive. Letting an entire species of hunter gather people go extinct isn't helping anyone.

But what if the Federation was orbiting the Earth during WWII? Should they have come down and interfered and stopped the war? Maybe it would have been better but maybe worse. Maybe species have to have their Hitlers and deliberately turn away from them and disown them before they can grow up and be mature as a species. Maybe the Federation would have ended up becoming an overlord and had to continuously use violence to keep in charge or the world would have broke out into WWIII as soon as they left. Maybe stopping WWII would have delayed the maturing of the human species for thousands of years ruining billions of lives. 

I'd like to see an episode where a member of the Federation stepped in (The Vulcans maybe)  and stopped a civil war on a planet but ended up in charge because the people on the planets issues were postponed but not cured. They have been there for over a thousand years, terrified that the species would go extinct if they left but having to be more and more brutal to keep them in line.They constantly try to use logic and talk their way out but the hatred runs too deep.  Do you continue to use brutal force to keep in power to prevent a probable extinction level war? Or do you step away and let the people solve their own problems knowing that the most likely result is that the entire species would die? If they had not interfered a thousand years ago, millions of people would have died but the problem may have been solved. Maybe by more peaceful means, maybe by the extinction of one side or the other. Maybe the world now would be a peaceful world that looks back at those days in horror rather than a powder keg constantly on the verge of exploding. 

Or more simply, what if a 'benign' Federation came in and prevented an asteroid from striking Earth 65 million years ago?  We wouldn't be here today.

I think there is wisdom in preventing less developed cultures from suffering culture shock or accidental interference that could alter the future of an entire world.  Even a planet with an atmosphere diminished by a catalyclysm might've one day evolved anaerobic life forms that are hardier and better able to survive with minimal atmosphere.  We don't know.  

But regarding the Klingon civil war?  The opposing sides are both fully aware of the Federation so culture shock is hardly an imminent result of the Federation choosing a side.  Then again, the Federation orbiting Earth during WW2 argument comes to play, but I propose a twist: what if it were the Klingons or Romulans orbiting Earth during WW2 and they wanted to support the side that would most quickly lead to an Earth unable to resist an alien invasion; just as the Borg attempted in FC.  Help Hitler develop the atomic bomb first and the world is enveloped in an atomic holocaust in 1945 instead of the mid-21st century.  Granted the Klingons and Romulans don't have a prime directive, but the Federation could be equally blundering if they didn't.

What if the Federation unwittingly helped 'the bad guys' in a global conflict because they appeared more sympathetic in their appeal to the Federation for help?   Or what if a planet is destined for a nuclear war to make way for sentient cockroaches who would be better stewards of the planet than their humanoid predecessors? 

THAT is the wisdom of the Prime Directive; forsaking short-term 'good' or doing what seems morally 'right' and opting instead for long term wisdom that 'the universe will unfold as it should."   

Ah, the wisdom of Spock.  :happy:

The prime directive forsakes short term 'good' or 'bad' in support of a greater wisdom. 

I don't really consider being willing to wait for a couple of hundred million years so that maybe another intelligent species maybe, might evolve to replace the species you're going to let die is "short" term thinking.  I believe that intelligent species are rare and precious. Letting a hunter/gatherer species die when it has absolutely no power to protect itself is a waste. 

I used WWII as an example because although millions of people died, the human species was in no danger of extinction. An outsider would have no way of knowing which side would be the best side to support. And what do you mean by best side? The side that benefits the outsider or the species at war? And who gets to decide what is the goal? 

What is right and what is wrong when your dealing with another species is fraught with problems. Whose morality should you choose? But if you just step back and allow a defenseless species to go extinct, they have no morality on their side, they're  all dead. You have made the moral choice for them either way. They don't get a say either way. 

^
And that last paragraph is the best argument in FAVOR of the prime directive I've yet seen. 

The Federation doesn't have the right to go traipsing across the galaxy playing god.  And yes, intelligence may be a rare thing, but whose responsibility is it to cultivate it?  The Federation's?  And why?  What gives them the moral prerogative?   You open yourself up to all kinds of ethical dilemmas when an organization pretends it's the galaxy's maternity ward/parent.   It'd be best for the Federation to mind its own 150-odd member planets and seek out new members rather than doing cosmological zoological experimentation across the universe. 

Their motto is to observe the natural universe, no need to interfere with it.   Again; the lesson of the dinosaurs.   How do we know that one of the thousands of dinosaur species that were sent to extinction 65 million years ago might've led to intelligence?  We don't.  And if we were in a position to do something about it (via time travel or some other means), we would be altering the cosmic game of billiards to our own detriment.    

I prefer to let the universe be, as Carl Sagan once said, "If Mars has life, even if they're only microbes, then I believe that Mars belongs to them." 

I guess I said that before, but the line of reasoning "we're not supposed to play God" only makes sense when you actually believe in a God whose job it is to play God.

When you don't believe in God? There is nothing wrong whatsoever with "playing God". There won't be an angry God smiting you for taking his place.

On the contrary, when you believe there is no God, and when you don't believe that when people die, it's perfectly okay because that's "God's plan", and it's not our job to mess with it -- when you don't believe there is such a God with a plan, it's even your responsibility to decide if you let people die or not. And when you consciously decide to let them die, although you could easily help them? Then there is no God to blame, only yourself.

Then it's a question of how honest, how coherent you are about your values. You cannot claim to value intelligent life on one side, yet the next moment renouce responsibility because you feel it's some non-existant God's job to take it.

^
Couldn't disagree more.

I don't believe in god, nor do I believe in playing god.  I believe in letting nature do what it does, regardless of whether one believes it's consciously driven or not (and I don't). ;)

It's only our 'role' to perpetuate ourselves by (eventually) becoming an interplanetary species, and increasing our species' odds of longterm survival, but it's not our role to tinker with others uninvited. 

As our own species' long history teaches us, the 'interference' of a more advanced tribe upon a lesser developed one almost NEVER ends well for the lesser developed one.   Look how the developed first world nations of the world tend to exploit lesser developed ones, even today.  

Now imagine how different the world might've been if we'd let them be.   What if we simply observed them?   Or met them on common ground, with NO agenda of our own? 

Hence, my belief in the value of the Prime Directive continues unabated, regardless of my own atheism.

I would advocate for a Federation reaching out to help another world if they were aware of the Federations' existence (or the existence of life beyond their planet).   Otherwise you risk trauma and shock that could destroy the fabric of their own society or culture.    We've also had too many examples of how cultural contamination from invading species ruins or destroys others (the native Americans of the United States, for example). 

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Sim   

The Prime Directive makes sense in some cases and not in others. The one with Worf's brother was an especially bad usage of the prime directive. Letting an entire species of hunter gather people go extinct isn't helping anyone.

But what if the Federation was orbiting the Earth during WWII? Should they have come down and interfered and stopped the war? Maybe it would have been better but maybe worse. Maybe species have to have their Hitlers and deliberately turn away from them and disown them before they can grow up and be mature as a species. Maybe the Federation would have ended up becoming an overlord and had to continuously use violence to keep in charge or the world would have broke out into WWIII as soon as they left. Maybe stopping WWII would have delayed the maturing of the human species for thousands of years ruining billions of lives. 

I'd like to see an episode where a member of the Federation stepped in (The Vulcans maybe)  and stopped a civil war on a planet but ended up in charge because the people on the planets issues were postponed but not cured. They have been there for over a thousand years, terrified that the species would go extinct if they left but having to be more and more brutal to keep them in line.They constantly try to use logic and talk their way out but the hatred runs too deep.  Do you continue to use brutal force to keep in power to prevent a probable extinction level war? Or do you step away and let the people solve their own problems knowing that the most likely result is that the entire species would die? If they had not interfered a thousand years ago, millions of people would have died but the problem may have been solved. Maybe by more peaceful means, maybe by the extinction of one side or the other. Maybe the world now would be a peaceful world that looks back at those days in horror rather than a powder keg constantly on the verge of exploding. 

Or more simply, what if a 'benign' Federation came in and prevented an asteroid from striking Earth 65 million years ago?  We wouldn't be here today.

I think there is wisdom in preventing less developed cultures from suffering culture shock or accidental interference that could alter the future of an entire world.  Even a planet with an atmosphere diminished by a catalyclysm might've one day evolved anaerobic life forms that are hardier and better able to survive with minimal atmosphere.  We don't know.  

But regarding the Klingon civil war?  The opposing sides are both fully aware of the Federation so culture shock is hardly an imminent result of the Federation choosing a side.  Then again, the Federation orbiting Earth during WW2 argument comes to play, but I propose a twist: what if it were the Klingons or Romulans orbiting Earth during WW2 and they wanted to support the side that would most quickly lead to an Earth unable to resist an alien invasion; just as the Borg attempted in FC.  Help Hitler develop the atomic bomb first and the world is enveloped in an atomic holocaust in 1945 instead of the mid-21st century.  Granted the Klingons and Romulans don't have a prime directive, but the Federation could be equally blundering if they didn't.

What if the Federation unwittingly helped 'the bad guys' in a global conflict because they appeared more sympathetic in their appeal to the Federation for help?   Or what if a planet is destined for a nuclear war to make way for sentient cockroaches who would be better stewards of the planet than their humanoid predecessors? 

THAT is the wisdom of the Prime Directive; forsaking short-term 'good' or doing what seems morally 'right' and opting instead for long term wisdom that 'the universe will unfold as it should."   

Ah, the wisdom of Spock.  :happy:

The prime directive forsakes short term 'good' or 'bad' in support of a greater wisdom. 

I don't really consider being willing to wait for a couple of hundred million years so that maybe another intelligent species maybe, might evolve to replace the species you're going to let die is "short" term thinking.  I believe that intelligent species are rare and precious. Letting a hunter/gatherer species die when it has absolutely no power to protect itself is a waste. 

I used WWII as an example because although millions of people died, the human species was in no danger of extinction. An outsider would have no way of knowing which side would be the best side to support. And what do you mean by best side? The side that benefits the outsider or the species at war? And who gets to decide what is the goal? 

What is right and what is wrong when your dealing with another species is fraught with problems. Whose morality should you choose? But if you just step back and allow a defenseless species to go extinct, they have no morality on their side, they're  all dead. You have made the moral choice for them either way. They don't get a say either way. 

^
And that last paragraph is the best argument in FAVOR of the prime directive I've yet seen. 

The Federation doesn't have the right to go traipsing across the galaxy playing god.  And yes, intelligence may be a rare thing, but whose responsibility is it to cultivate it?  The Federation's?  And why?  What gives them the moral prerogative?   You open yourself up to all kinds of ethical dilemmas when an organization pretends it's the galaxy's maternity ward/parent.   It'd be best for the Federation to mind its own 150-odd member planets and seek out new members rather than doing cosmological zoological experimentation across the universe. 

Their motto is to observe the natural universe, no need to interfere with it.   Again; the lesson of the dinosaurs.   How do we know that one of the thousands of dinosaur species that were sent to extinction 65 million years ago might've led to intelligence?  We don't.  And if we were in a position to do something about it (via time travel or some other means), we would be altering the cosmic game of billiards to our own detriment.    

I prefer to let the universe be, as Carl Sagan once said, "If Mars has life, even if they're only microbes, then I believe that Mars belongs to them." 

I guess I said that before, but the line of reasoning "we're not supposed to play God" only makes sense when you actually believe in a God whose job it is to play God.

When you don't believe in God? There is nothing wrong whatsoever with "playing God". There won't be an angry God smiting you for taking his place.

On the contrary, when you believe there is no God, and when you don't believe that when people die, it's perfectly okay because that's "God's plan", and it's not our job to mess with it -- when you don't believe there is such a God with a plan, it's even your responsibility to decide if you let people die or not. And when you consciously decide to let them die, although you could easily help them? Then there is no God to blame, only yourself.

Then it's a question of how honest, how coherent you are about your values. You cannot claim to value intelligent life on one side, yet the next moment renouce responsibility because you feel it's some non-existant God's job to take it.

^
Couldn't disagree more.

I don't believe in god, nor do I believe in playing god.  I believe in letting nature do what it does, regardless of whether one believes it's consciously driven or not (and I don't). ;)

It's our 'role' to perpetuate ourselves by (eventually) becoming an interplanetary species and increasing our species' odds of longterm survival, but it's not our role to tinker with others.   As our own species' long history teaches us, the 'interference' of a more advanced tribe upon a lesser developed one almost NEVER ends well for the lesser developed one.   Look how the developed first world nations of the world tend to exploit lesser developed ones, even today.  

Now imagine how different the world might've been if we'd let them be.   What if we simply observed them?   Or met them on common ground, with NO agenda of our own? 

Hence, my belief in the value of the Prime Directive continues unabated, regardless of my own atheism.

Just for clarification: I was just arguing for the case that an alien species would be extinct, unless the Federation saves them. Other kinds of meddling, I agree, are problematic.

As for that case: I am not sure what you are arguing here... that interference to save an alien race from extinction, even when well-intended, will bring bad consequences? And thatfore, we better don't interfere at all, simply because we can't know the consequences?

Or that just "letting nature do what nature does" is a rationale that trumps ethics?

 

And applied to our world: Why should we care about people in Africa? When they die, their problem, let them die. We're too busy with ourselves. <-- is that not more or less the same kind of reasoning, assuming we consider alien life as on Star Trek equivalently valuable as human life?

Aren't we, when we believe all humans are equally valuable, obliged to help even people outside our borders when they are in need, when we have the resources to do so? (And likewise, when alien races are equivalent to human life, as is the case in Star Trek, that would apply to them, too?)

Edited by Sim

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scenario   

Standing back and letting a species go extinct without them even knowing that we exist is not tinkering. Either way you are deciding their fate. 

I guess we will have to disagree. I agree that we should not interfere with other species paths because it is not our place to decide what is right and what is wrong for other species. But in the extremely rare case of an extinction level event like the dinosaurs I don't believe in standing back and just letting an intelligent race die. In the case of the dinosaurs there were no intelligent species on the earth as far as we know at the time. We would be choosing one species over another.  We shouldn't stop that rock. 

How often is the easily solved extinction level crisis with a non technical intelligent species in imminent threat of extinction going to happen on a time scale where the Federation is likely to exist. The last big rock to hit the Earth was 65 million years ago. How long will the Federation exist, a few thousand years maybe? By the time the Federation is gone there will be no suitable planets without technologically advanced life. They will all been settled.  I can see it happening once or twice at most. 

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@ Sim--   I'm not talking about current people living in Africa.  They're aware of our existence and routinely ask for help from the UN (the closest modern analog of the Federation).   Let's please NOT Kobayashi Maru this.

I'm talking about interfering in a greater tapestry that we can't even see yet; the ramifications of blundering ahead when we can't fully assess the potentially grave consequences of interfering.  You might save a species from extinction that turns around and becomes the new Borg in a few millennia.  

The observer's credo is a sound one; the Federation is also based largely on science.  Dispassionate observation is a critical part of scientific thinking.  Sometimes nature targets species for extinction, and to understand the consequences one has to be observant without the knee jerk response of intererence.  That's not evil, any more than a shark is 'evil' when it eats an otter that slides off a rock into the water.   If we interfered every time a shark preyed on a cute little animal, we'd be unwittingly driving another species to extinction, and destroying a part of the planet's vital food chain.

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I'm kind of late in this conversation here, but I think er should remind ourselves of WHY the PM exists, according to Picard it was the lack of the same thing that lead the Feds and the Klingons to war during many years. Also, one would think that many people on the federation would want take advantage of their technology more than helping anyone, like many did on TOS. I can kinda see their point on not interfering. Nothing prevents the Federation to become the new Goa'uld

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I'm kind of late in this conversation here, but I think er should remind ourselves of WHY the PM exists, according to Picard it was the lack of the same thing that lead the Feds and the Klingons to war during many years. Also, one would think that many people on the federation would want take advantage of their technology more than helping anyone, like many did on TOS. I can kinda see their point on not interfering. Nothing prevents the Federation to become the new Goa'uld

^
Late to the conversation, but you bring up a very good point.

What if the Federation helped a seemingly primitive race with their advanced technology, and instead of just quietly giving thanks, the alien species aggressively coveted that technology?   To the point of becoming militaristic in seeking it?   The VGR pilot "Caretaker" showed that exact problem when Janeway (in the first of many blunders to come) unwittingly offered the Kazon giant vats of water.    Were the Kazon satisfied or grateful?  Nope.   They were now aware that there WAS a technology that could make water from thin air, and were covetous of that technology.    Arguably Janeway made a bad situation worse; a hostile and aggressive species was now aware of replicator technology.   And to top it off, their newfound "ally" Neelix destroyed the water vats because he had an ulterior motive in rescuing his girlfriend Kes.

And so they beamed aboard Neelix and Kes.  Kes seemed like a sweet little Keebler elf... at first.   Later on, she began to manifest dangerous telekinetic powers which would, in only a few years, make her a threat to VGR's existence (see: "Fury").   

I'm not saying that all rescued/saved aliens run the risk of going 'bad' on the Federation, but if Starfleet's mission is one of exploration?   Then maybe it's best if they simply adopt the Jacques Cousteau approach to exploration, and not the Hernan Cortes model. 

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