Let’s make a deal, conservatives. You get to teach religion in science class when liberals get to teach science in church. You get to preach creationism if we get to come in and explain the inaccuracies of the sun standing still, a world-wide flood, and a six-thousand year-old planet with sentient life.
Tennessee has what it calls an “academic freedom bill.” They want to make sure teachers have the freedom to teach and question, to make sure children are exposed to new ideas so they may have a well-rounded education.
Sounds good. Except for the part where everything about it is actually an attempt to teach creationism in public schools. Let’s break this down.
The bill specifically mentions “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” as theories and concepts that need to be analyzed and questioned. That should already make alarm bells start ringing in your ears, but here’s the kicker: the bill was based on legislation drafted by the Discovery Institute. This is a group that’s been pushing for intelligent design for years and, time after time, it gets its hide handed back to it by judges who know what they’re doing.
This bill, though, is intelligent design wrapped up to look like “freedom.”
It’s the same call of “freedom” that the 1% wants when it insists it can’t pay its fair share. It’s the same “freedom” libertarians want whenever they say they want to get rid of social programs and regulations in the name of ideology. It’s the same freedom espoused by racists when they claim they want to right to treat others like crap.
A science class is a place where facts are shown and theories discussed. It is a fact that the Earth has been getting much warmer than previous centuries. It’s also a fact that the geologic formations on this planet required billions of years to form. The theories that explain these observations are based on decades of investigation. To throw them away and put them on the same level as unproven, unscientific theories based on religious teachings is to put science on the same level as the guessing game involving a jar of jelly-beans.
Fox went after the Muppets. As you know from previous posts on the site, I have a soft spot in my heart for Jim Henson’s creations. The segments in question, though, told us more about the conservative mentality than they did about the Muppets themselves. Let’s rip Fox a new one and figure out the network’s thought process.
This is an edited version of something i wrote for a class back in college. It got me an A, too. As you can see, while I enjoy Star Trek in all its forms, I still have serious reservations about one little aspect of its mythology…
In the Star Trek Universe, there is no greater commandment for Starfleet personnel than the Prime Directive, otherwise known as General Order #1 (“The Drumhead” TNG 095). It dictates that Starfleet personnel must not interfere with the development of less technologically advanced worlds. This includes, but is not limited to, sharing advanced technology, “helping” a world develop, or even revealing that there are other intelligent beings in the universe.
At first glance, the Prime Directive seems both benign and logical. If a pre-warp1 civilization is exposed to the truth about life in the universe, or is given technology too quickly, they might self-destruct. Our own history shows that when two societies with a large technological gap between them meet, the results can be disastrous. The Prime Directive serves to both protect alien cultures and the Starfleet personnel who study them.
However, the Prime Directive also prevents humanitarian action and places all other priorities, even sentient life, on the back burner. It is an absolute law. In effect, it prevents Starfleet captains from taking action that could save lives, even in instances where such help would go unnoticed by other civilizations. In the two hundred years since it was created, the Prime Directive has become a plague upon the Federation. In fact, despite Starfleet’s protests, a captain’s test of morality should be judged on whether he or she had actually broken the Prime Directive, not whether they upheld it.
The United Federation of Planets was founded in 2161 (“The Outcast” TNG 117). Ten years before, the various species in our section of the galaxy existed with each other through loose alliances and treaties. Humans had barely left the Solar system and lagged behind several other species, notably the Vulcans. In an effort to prove themselves, Humans entered the world of galactic politics with a small fleet of ships capable of nothing faster than warp 52 (“Broken Bow” ENT 001).
The first ship sent to explore the galaxy, the Enterprise NX-01 commanded by Captain Jonathan Archer, faced hostile alien species and caused shifts in the political field. For example, Archer and his crew exposed Vulcan spying equipment on the Vulcan monastery of P’Jem, increasing tensions between the Vulcans and their neighbors, the Andorians, in the summer of 2151 (“The Andorian Incident” 007). By mid-fall, both sides were on the verge of war, and the Vulcan consulate on Earth placed the blame on Archer’s meddling (“Shadows of P’Jem” 014).
Throughout Enterprise’s mission, the Vulcans, who exercised a control over Starfleet3 that many Humans did not appreciate, shepherded Earth. Captain Archer, for example, often blamed the Vulcans for stifling human technological development. It took Humans nearly ninety years after inventing warp drive to even hope to become a truly interstellar civilization. The Vulcans, however, insisted they did not interfere because Humans were irrational and driven by impulse.
In the Vulcans’ eyes, they never interfered and only offered their services where needed (every episode after “Broken Bow”). In reality, the Vulcan High Command unofficially controlled Starfleet for many years. They could say what ships could launch, where they could go, and even what Humans could and could not do once in space. In early 2151, they tried unsuccessfully to delay the launch of Enterprise, citing threats to planetary security from the newly encountered Klingon Empire. In some cases, the Vulcan ambassadors asked Starfleet to divert Enterprise so the crew could help with Vulcan internal affairs (“The Seventh” ENT 033).
Meanwhile, Vulcans condemned Humanity’s intrusion into alien affairs since they felt Humans could cause more harm than good. This fear would later be echoed by the Federation towards its own captains, and the Prime Directive would be written in such a manner that it bound Starfleet from acting on emotion.
Even in pre-Federation times, however, the Vulcans had something akin to what would later be called the Prime Directive. As early as 1957, when a Vulcan survey ship crashed on Earth, the survivors knew they could not interfere with human development4 (“Carbon Creek” 027). Starfleet adopted a similar, unwritten system nearly two hundred years later.
When the crew of Enterprise explored new worlds, they tried their best to not interfere, although there would be no legal repercussions if they did. The Prime Directive was not made into law until sometime after 2168 (“A Piece of the Action” TOS 049). The early Starfleet (pre-Federation) is shown trying to prevent cultural contamination in “Civilization” ENT 009 and “The Communicator” 034. In both instances, the crew disguised themselves in order to blend into the culture they were studying.
In “The Communicator,” though, Archer is faced with the choice of either sacrificing himself or telling the people on the planet his real identity5. In this instance, only the crew’s quick thinking saved him. He was willing to sacrifice himself to protect a culture bent on killing him. Even before the concept of the Prime Directive was made law, Captain Archer knew the importance of preventing cultural contamination. However, had Archer actually shown the aliens who he really was, there would have been little legal repercussions from Earth, though the Vulcans would undoubtedly have put pressure on Starfleet to either court marshal or reprimand him.
There may actually be a reason why the concept of the Prime Directive was not made into a written law with pre-Federation Starfleet. Humans were in the lower end of the technological spectrum in relation to their neighbors. They lacked shields, advanced weapons, and even transporters were fairly new to them. There would have been little for them to interfere with in the way of technological development. They only encountered a small handful of species that lagged centuries behind humanity. Therefore, early captains had leeway with its application.
The unbending nature of the Prime Directive, however, may also have come about because of the nature of space travel.
Starfleet ships employ a mode of faster-than-light travel known as warp drive. Though the early warp drives required weeks or months to travel from one star system to another, the warp drives of the 24th century (TNG, DS9, VOY) still required many hours or days to travel from place to place. Points along the Federation frontier often require travel times as high as several months (“The Neutral Zone” TNG 026, “The Icarus Factor” 040, “Second Chances” 150, etc).
Even though ships also use faster-than-light communications known as subspace radio, it still takes time to receive orders when a ship is far from the core Federation worlds (“Heart of Glory” TNG 040, “Ensigns of Command” TNG 049, “Night Terrors” TNG 091, etc). Since direct contact with Starfleet Command is impossible in many cases, the lawmakers who originally created the Prime Directive as an unbending rule may simply have been trying to automatically destroy any possibility for cultural contamination. If the law leaves no room for interpretation, it is unlikely a starship captain would attempt to find some way of breaking it. However, in the 22nd and 23rd centuries, the Directive was not enforced with an iron fist. Human ships never wandered too far from contact with Starfleet command, so orders could be received in real-time. Violations of the Prime Directive were analyzed on an individual basis, as was shown in the hundred years after the Federation was founded.
By the mid-23rd century, the Federation had spread to include several species and encompassed at least a thousand planets (“Metamorphosis” TOS 031). Humans and Vulcans remained the most influential species, and Starfleet worked to protect the Federation and study the galaxy. By this time, the Prime Directive was a much more powerful force and every starship captain was willing to uphold it to the fullest extent. Blatant violations could be prosecuted.
However, one captain saw that the Prime Directive was too unbending to adapt to the challenges of exploration. Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the starship Enterprise NCC-1701 (the second starship to bear this name) was notorious for his utter disrespect for regulations when he felt the greater good was at stake. During his historic five-year mission onboard the Enterprise (2264-2269), Kirk amassed a record of seventeen time travel violations, a record even into the mid-24th century (“Trials and Tribble-Attions” DS9 503). His disregard for the Prime Directive was also infamous. During his mission, however, he influenced only those cultures he felt needed help.
For example, in late 2266, the Enterprise accidentally became embroiled in a war between Eminar VII and the planet Vendikar. Since neither planet was a Federation member, Starfleet had no right to intrude. The inhabitants of both planets, though spacefaring for five hundred years, lagged behind the Federation technologically, making them candidates for non-interference. However, when the Enterprise visited the planet and was declared a casualty in an electronic war, the crew was required to report to disintegration chambers so the kills could be confirmed. Instead of sacrificing his crew, Kirk worked to end the computerized war, ending the conflict and saving his crew (“A Taste of Armageddon” TOS 023). Though his interference was a blatant disregard for the Prime Directive, Kirk was never prosecuted for it. In fact, Kirk felt he was justified in breaking the Prime Directive. He placed sentient life and the welfare of his crew above regulations. In his mind, the countless lives lost to the war outweighed any cultural contamination.
A few months later, in early 2267, the Enterprise encountered a pre-warp civilization in the Gamma Trianguli system. Upon closer inspection, the crew found that the inhabitants had lived in cultural stagnation for ten thousand years. At that time, they created a machine named Vaal who fed them and protected the planet, extended their lives, but also prevented them from growing culturally. Eventually, they reverted to a technological stage similar to the North American natives at the time of Columbus’ discovery. Kirk saw this and concluded Vaal had to be destroyed in order to free the people from its grasp (“The Apple” 038). In this case, however, the security of the ship was also threatened. Vaal concluded that the Enterprise could disrupt the balance of power, so it tried to destroy the ship. Even before the crew was placed in danger, however, Kirk already contemplated freeing the people fromVaal’s influence. Ship’s doctor Leonard McCoy also supported Kirk’s decision, citing it is every culture’s right to change and grow.
This pattern of interference repeated throughout Kirk’s five-year mission. If he felt something threatened freedom or life, he acted. His interference into other cultures also included the inhabitants of Betta III (“The Return of the Archons” TOS 022), the Terran Empire of the mirror universe (“Mirror, Mirror” 039), and the miners of Ardana (“The Cloud Miners” 074). In each instance, Kirk placed the Prime Directive below the lives of sentient beings. No legal retribution was ever brought down on him, and he became a legend to other Starfleet officers for over a hundred years after his missions (“Trials and Tribble-Attions” DS9 503). This should come as no surprise since, in modern times, legendary heroes are the people who defied authority and helped change history: Thomas Jefferson, Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., Abigail Adams, etc. Kirk understood a law is not just simply because it is a law. Laws exist in order to preserve the common good, but if the law prevents a greater good from occurring, then that law must be broken.
By the mid-24th century, however, both the Federation and Starfleet underwent several changes in policy. The United Federation of Planets changed from a capitalist society to neo-Marxist system6, and Starfleet hid its intentions behind a mask of exploration. Though some spirit from the vast expansion of the 23rd century remained, the 24th century was marked by armed conflicts and massive political changes.
This might be linked to something called the Tomed Incident, which occurred in 2311 and created a fifty-year-long isolation between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire (“The Neutral Zone” TNG 126). Thousands of Federation lives were lost (The Defector TNG 158), and the Federation agreed to never develop or use cloaking technology onboard their starships7 (“The Pegasus” 264). In this new era of political and military conflict, the Prime Directive changed in order to protect the Federation more than it protected others.
For example, the Prime Directive forbade Starfleet officers from interfering in the affairs of any government, regardless of its technological status. It even forbade humanitarian aid towards other worlds, even if it could be kept from less civilized species. This was not the case in Kirk’s time. Violations of the Prime Directive for humanitarian aid were not explicit, but since Kirk never received punishment, it is likely Starfleet Command thought his actions were justified. By the 2360’s, however, any interference in the affairs of another world was seen as worse than death for the inhabitants of that world.
In late 2365, the crew Enterprise NCC-1701-D discovered that the fourth planet in the Drema system would destroy itself through a geological anomaly and kill the native population, a pre-warp culture. Captain Jean-Luc Picard could not prevent the catastrophe, even though the Enterprise-D had the technology and time to do it. In the end, Picard violated the Prime Directive and restored the planet’s geologic stability (“Pen Pals” TNG 141).
Picard actually needing to figure out whether or not to help means that the Directive was engrained so deeply into Starfleet behavior that even basic humanitarian instincts were called into question. A similar situation occurred in mid-2370 when the Enterprise-D received a distress call from a Federation observation post on Boraal II. The planet’s atmosphere underwent violent electrical disruptions, and, by the time theEnterprisearrived, most of the planet was uninhabitable. Though Picard could have saved a single village of the native population without their knowledge, even taken them to a new planet without contaminating them, he chose to sit by and watch the planet destroy itself (“Homeward” 165). The difference between the motivation in the first and second cases is not clear. Except for the fact Picard heard broadcast pleas from someone on Drema II, the situation remained the same. He could have helped Boraal II without cultural contamination. Instead, he adhered to the rigid Prime Directive and allowed countless people to die.
Picard is not the only member of Starfleet to display this isolationist and non-interference policy. For almost forty years, the entire Federation stood by while the Cardassians tortured, enslaved, drove the Bajorans from their home world, and left for many more for dead after the Cardassian Occupation finally ended. In those forty years, the Cardassians killed roughly ten million Bajorans (“Cardassians” DS9 425). Since the early 24th century, the Cardassians occupied Bajor and left only after decades of terrorist activities (“Ensign Ro” TNG 103, “The Emissary” DS9 401), but not before they poisoned much of the planet’s farmland (“Shakaar” DS9 470). Throughout the Occupation, Starfleet cited the Prime Directive as their reason for non-interference. As Captain Picard would later lament, it occurred in someone else’s territory, so it was not the Federation’s place to intervene.
Keeve, a Bajoran resistance fighter, replied to Picard:
…You were innocent bystanders for decades as the Cardassians took our homes… as they violated and tortured our people in the most hideous ways imaginable… as we were forced to flee […]. How convenient it must be for you. To turn a deaf ear to those who suffer behind a line on a map. (“Ensign Ro” TNG 103)
In the 20th century,America turned a blind eye to the plight of the Jews during Hitler’s reign, then later as he stormedEurope.America only became involved in both World Wars because we were attacked directly. Politicians feared that the situation inEurope was an internal affair, therefore something we had no business in.
In both instances, Star Trek and real life, a major superpower with the means to end suffering and destruction failed to live up to its own principles. Both theUnited States and the Federation claim to value life and freedom. In both cases, each failed miserably. The Prime Directive makes it worse because it makes it illegal to assist someone, whereas in the real world, it was simply a matter of politics. The Federation therefore condones the most hideous acts, like the Cardassian Occupation, under the guise of neutral bystanders. However, there are no neutral bystanders. As soon as someone learns of a preventable catastrophe, they become participants. An unwillingness to help when one has the means is tangible to negligence and apathy.
The isolationist policy of the Prime Directive also has a secondary effect: since Starfleet cannot provide aid unless a world is a member of the Federation, less advanced worlds that achieve warp capabilities must vie for membership.
In effect, the Federation lures other worlds into becoming full-fledged members by promising to protect them and give technology (“The Price” TNG 156, “The Hunted” 159). Since many hostile species roam space, it is a bargain many less advanced worlds cannot afford to pass up.
It is a weighed bargain, however. New worlds must conform to the ideals of the Federation or they may not join. Bajor faced this problem when their ancient caste system was reestablished for a time. The Federation does not tolerate caste systems (“Accession” DS9 489). Member worlds are therefore assimilated into the Federation, leaving them well-protected and economically secure, but without some traces of their former culture. The Prime Directive is used as a political tool. Instead of exploring new life, the Federation exploits it.
It should be evident by now that the Prime Directive, despite its idealistic beginnings, has been turned into a political safety net by the 24th century. Over two hundred years of implementation, it is apparent a captain needs room to make choices that can affect millions. Starfleet often finds itself in situations it never encountered before since it usually charts areas of space unknown to others.
An unbending law like the Directive can cost millions of lives, and cultural contamination is placed even above the preservation of life. On at least two occasions, Captain Picard was willing to let millions die simply to preserve their culture (even though said cultures would become extinct). In the Federation (at least in Starfleet), such an act is proof of high morality. In the real world, it is a perfect example of the consequences of isolationism. It was not seen as a problem in the 22nd and 23rd centuries. By the 24th, however, the Directive’s goals made it incompatible with the government’s policy. Therefore, captains of this era are certainly justified in breaking it when the situation demands it.
If we discovered a technologically inferior society in some remote corner of the world, untouched by modern civilization, we would undoubtedly try to study them. If we then discovered that they would be killed within a week by some natural disaster (hurricane, lava flow, or maybe some disease we have a cure for), would we sit by and watch them perish? If we assisted them, even if they knew where the help came from and they saw our technology, would it really damage them more than death? Picard and the rest of the Federation seem to think so. They place themselves on a high pedestal and watch the rest of the galaxy as wars and injustices occur all around them. The Federation may claim to be enlightened, but they ignore basic ethics, like the sanctity of life, and the edict that with great power comes great responsibility. Instead, the Federation is content as long as it is safe and Starfleet stays out of trouble. Preventing cultural contamination is a lofty goal, but it is not the only ethical Starfleet should vow to uphold.
If modern-day Earth followed the Federation’s example, President Roosevelt would have followed his political advisors when they declared the Nazi invasions as an internal European matter, something the United States had no concern with. Powerful nations would turn a blind eye whenever an earthquake devastated a section of a third-world country.
Might would make right, and the people with the most power, hence the most responsibility, would be content to let death and destruction ravage the Earth. The Federation is a powerful organization. It commands resources that dwarf modern-day standards (fusion power, massive engineering projects, etc), and it holds the technology to wipe out hunger and disease across entire planets. Instead of helping where they can or when humanitarian issues are at stake, the Prime Directive steps in and the resources remain unused. Starfleet then claims to be a neutral bystander.
The Prime Directive started as nothing more than something to consider when exploring new worlds. It was intended by the Vulcans to prevent Humans from letting their emotions get the best of them. In the first hundred years, it evolved into a law designed to protect less-developed worlds and help them find their own way. By the 24th century, however, the Prime Directive was a shell of its former ideology. The Federation used it to boost its membership, and countless lives were lost elsewhere as isolationist policies took hold. Captains and Starfleet officers who break the Prime Directive should not be court-marshaled. If anything, they should be given commendations. Each time a Starfleet officer breaks the Directive in order to help someone, or to fight for basic freedoms the Federation cherishes, he or she sees beyond the law. Laws can never be absolute, or justice will be stifled.
And now, before we get to the end notes and the references and all that jazz, let’s enjoy a little fun with Trek, shall we? I love the shows and movies (for the most part, but as you can see, I’m willing to have some fun with it. See you Monday, and keep sharing links and telling people about the site!
1The term pre-warp refers to a civilization without faster-than-light capabilities. In essence, it is any society that is confined to its home solar system. “First Contact” TNG 089 establishes that the Federation makes official contact with a world once it develops warp drive, but even then only after extensive study and even surface reconnaissance by trained operatives. Captain Picard called First Contact missions the most dangerous mission any starship could be sent into.
2Starfleet started out as an Earth-based program. It was apparently assimilated by the Federation after the Constitution was ratified, probably because it had proven its merit in the Romulan Wars of the late 2150’s.
3The Vulcans had ships capable of warp 7, and speeds beyond that were rumored for other species but never confirmed. Though no actual speeds for warp factors were ever given, “Broken Bow” (ENT 001) suggests than the Enterprise NX-01 is capable of at least 100c, and as high as 125c at warp 5 (the official policy is that warp factors for TOS and ENT-era ships are cubed in order to get their respective speeds. Warp 2 would therefore be 8c and warp 5 would be 125c, which is consistent with the shows).
4During the months the Vulcan crew stayed on Earth, though, they affected Earth’s development in several ways. T’Mir, the leader of the expedition, sold a piece of Vulcan technology to allow a friend of hers to attend college, a young boy named Jack. The technology she sold was an adhesive substance called “Velcro”.
5Archer and Lieutenant Reed were captured while trying to retrieve a piece of advanced technology they accidentally left behind on a pre-warp world. The government that captured them mistook their physical differences to mean that their enemies had engineered super-soldiers. As a result, Reed and Archer would be put to death and dissected.
6The reasons behind this assumption would require a report onto themselves, so I refer you to Mike Wong’s excellent essay on the subject, “The Economics of Star Trek”, at http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/index.html. In short, there is no money, the government controls nearly all means of productions, there are never any references to private business beyond something small like a restaurant, and military work is the best chance to advance in society.
7In early 2371, however, the Federation reached an agreement with the Romulans. The Empire agreed to lend Starfleet a single cloaking device for use onboard the Defiant NX-74205 when the Dominion threatened our section of the Galaxy.
“Ensign Ro”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Michael Piller. Directed by Les Landau. Produced by David Livingston. NBC,20 October 1991.
The Original Series
“Balance of Terror”. Star Trek. Written by Paul Shneider. Directed by Vincent McEveety. Produced by Gene Roddenberry. NBC,15 December 1966.
“The Return of the Archons”. Star Trek. Written by Boris Sobelman. Directed by Joseph Pevney. Produced by Gene Roddenberry. NBC,9 February 1967
“A Taste of Armageddon”. Star Trek. Written by Written by Robert Hamner and Gene L. Coon. Directed by Joseph Pevney. Produced by Roddenberry. NBC,23 February 1967.
“Mirror, Mirror”. Star Trek. Written by Jerome Bixby. Directed by Marc Daniels. Produced by Roddenberry. NBC,6 October 1967.
“The Apple”. Star Trek. Written by Max Ehrlich. Directed by Joseph Pevney. Produced by Roddenberry. NBC,31 October 1967.
“Metamorphosis”. Star Trek. Written by Gene L. Coon. Directed by Ralph Senensky. Produced by Roddenberry. NBC,10 November 1967.
“A Piece of the Action”. Star Trek. Written by David P. Harmon and Gene L. Coon. Directed by James Komack. Produced by Roddenberry. NBC,12 January 1968.
“The Cloud Miners”. Star Trek. Written by Margaret Armen. Directed by Jud Taylor. Produced by Roddenberry. NBC,28 February 1969
The Next Generation
“Heart of Glory”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Maurice Hurley. Directed by Rob Bowman. Produced by Gene Roddenberry. NBC,3 April 1988.
“The Neutral Zone”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Maurice Hurley. Directed by James L. Conway. Produced by Gene Roddenberry. NBC, 29 May 1988.
“The Icarus Factor”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by David Assael and Robert L. McCullough. Directed by Robert Iscove. Produced by Robert L. McCullough. NBC, 7 May 1989.
“Pen Pals”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass. Directed by Winrich Kolbe. Produced by Robert L. McCullough. NBC, 14 May 1989.
“Ensigns of Command”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass. Directed by Cliff Bole. Produced by Gene Roddenberry. NBC,15 October 1989.
“The Price”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Hannah Louise Shearer. Directed by Robert Sheer. Produced by Gene Roddenberry. NBC,26 November 1989.
“The Hunted”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Robin Bernheim. Directed by Cliff Bole. Produced by Ira Steven Behr. NBC,21 January 1990
“First Contact”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Dennis Russell Bailey & David Bischoff and Joe Menosky & Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller. Directed by Cliff Bole. Produced by David Livingston. NBC,3 March 1991.
“The Drumhead”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Jeri Taylor. Directed by Jonathan Frakes. Produced by David Livingston. NBC,29 March 1991.
“Night Terrors”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Pamela Douglas and Jeri Taylor. Directed by Les Landau. Produced by Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman. NBC ,31 March 1991.
“Ensign Ro”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Michael Piller. Directed by Les Landau. Produced by David Livingston. NBC,20 October 1991.
“The Outcast”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Jeri Taylor. Directed by Robert Sheerer. Produced by David Livingston and Herbert J. Wright. NBC,29 March 1992.
“Second Chances”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by René Echevarria. Directed by LeVar Burton. Produced by Peter Lauritson. NBC,6 June 1993.
“The Pegasus”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Ronald D. Moore. Directed by LeVar Burton. Produced by Ronald D. Moore. NBC,23 January 1994.
“Homeward”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Written by Naren Shankar. Directed by Alexander Singer. Produced by Peter Lauritson. NBC,30 January 1994.
Deep Space 9
“The Emissary”. Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Written by Michael Piller. Directed by David Carson. Produced by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. NBC,3 January 1993
“Cardassians”. Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Written by James Crocker. Directed by Cliff Bole. Produced by Peter Allan Fields and Peter Lauritson. NBC,24 November, 1993
“Shakaar”. Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Written by Gordon Dawson. Directed by Jonathan West. Produced by René Echevarria. NBC, 22 May 1995.
“Accession”. Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Written by Jane Espenson. Directed by Les Landau. Produced by Hans Beimler and Steve Oster. NBC,26 January 1996.
“Trials and Tribble-Attions”. Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Written by Ronald D. Moore and René Echevarria. Directed by Jonathan West. Produced by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Steve Oster, and René Echevarria. NBC,4 November 1996.
“Broken Bow”. Enterprise. Written by Brannon Bragga and Rick Berman. Directed by James L. Conway. Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez. UPN,26 September 2001.
“The Andorian Incident”. Enterprise. Written by Rick Berman, Brannon Bragga, and Fred Dekker. Directed by Roxann Dawson. Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez. UPN,31 October 2001.
“Civilization”. Enterprise. Written by Phyliss Strong and Michael Sussman. Directed by Mike Vejar. Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez. UPN,14 November 2001.
“Shadows of P’Jem”. Enterprise. Written by Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong. Directed by Mike Vejar. Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez. UPN,6 February 2002.
“Carbon Creek”. Enterprise. Written by Chris Black. Directed by James Contner. Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez. UPN,25 September 2002.
“The Seventh”. Enterprise. Written by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. Directed by Davig Livingston. Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez. UPN,6 November 2002.
“The Communicator”. Enterprise. Written by Andre Bormanis. Directed by James Contner. Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez. UPN,13 November 2002.
Guess who has to drop several pounds gained over the last year? Yeah, it’s going to be a fun month cutting back on caffeine, sugar, pounds, AND getting ready for the holiday season. Woohoo?
With that in mind, let’s get some links out of the way.
Assassin’s Creed may be making its way tot he movies, but some insiders are shocked, SHOCKED I say, that Ubisoft has virtually total control over story, casting, everything. What does a video game company know about making movies, they ask? I’d ask instead what the hell Hollywood knows about adapting video games to movies. Bloodrayne, anyone? Prince of Persia? Doom? I could go on…
Speaking of which, the president of Universal admits his company makes “shitty” movies. His words, not mine.
If there’s one thing I hate as much as I hate sloppy or lazy writing, it’s the inability of some people to grasp BASIC science. Things like the definition of “theory” or the scientific method, for example, are not so difficult that you need a doctorate to understand. We teach them to kids, so they’re obviously simple enough, right?
Enter Robert Bryce, a man who can’t seem to tell the difference between experiments and the gum he stepped on.
He wrote an article for the New York Times where he attacked green initiatives, clean energy, and environmentalism. He went so far as to say that, even if we knew carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases were harmful (they are), what can we do? We’re making more and more useful energy-draining devices. Emissions are down. What else are we supposed to do?
Past all the willing blindness to reality, however, is this little gem of a sentence. See if you can spot where Bryce shows us he’s replaced his brain with assorted change and dull spoon.
The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere.
What exactly are neutrinos, anyway? They’re an elementary subatomic particle like neutrons and electrons. However, neutrinos have no electrical charge and are only affected by the weak sub-atomic force. They’re also TINY. If an electron is the mass of a battleship, a neutrino is the size of an apple. This means neutrinos can pass through ordinary matter and we would never know unless we’d developed EXTREMELY sensitive equipment to verify theoretical models. In fact, that’s why, as you read this, you’re getting hit with something around one quadrillion neutrinos emanating from the sun. And no, that’s not a typo. That’s a 1 with 15 zeroes after it.
As for traveling faster than light, that’s a bold claim. Nothing can accelerate past the light barrier, but some scientists think matter might exist on the other side. These little darlings are called tachyons and do not violate Einstein’s theory because they did not ACCELERATE past light. They already started on the other side. It gets into really funky science after that, but the point is that the numbers on paper say tachyons MIGHT exist.
Did CERN find neutrinos traveling faster than light? Well, it’s doubtful.
But let’s go back to Bryce for a moment. He says that scientists reported on an anomaly that may show regular matter traveling faster than light. This, he says, means we should question climate science as well, right? If we can question Einstein of all people, we can question Al Gore and his silly little movie, right?
Well, yeah, he’s right. Except he forgot the second and third parts of his logical argument.
We can question Einstein and we can question climate science. Questioning something, however, does not equate into proof that runs counter to what the established theories state. In other words, if I went out and I said I ran an experiment in my own home to see if carbon dioxide causes warming and it showed the gas did nothing, that would not b e evidence climate change is not real. That experiment would be dissected by the scientific community and I would have to show how my new data explains the currently observed behavior or greenhouse gases.
And here’s the kicker. Just because we have a debate, it does not mean there is a legitimate second point of view. When creationists try to claim that their point of view is legitimate because not everyone believes in evolution and people question Darwin, it does not mean the creationists are right. You have to show verifiable data. And do you know what happens to all that “data” creationists put in to defend their views?
It gets put through the scientific peer review process and is usually found to be lacking, a fluke, or fabricated.
Likewise, the claim that neutrinos traveled faster than light is being looked at by other scientists. It may turn out to be that equipment was faulty or someone forgot to carry the one. If it can be repeated, then we have to look at the underlying theory.
You can question climate science, Bryce, but that doesn’t mean you have a point. It just means you flunked middle-school science. Oh, and fifty points to anyone who tells me the joke in the title.
And now, here’s a short documentary of the Aperture. They build the future so we don’t have to.
People still believe the sun revolves around the Earth. And no, these aren’t some loony fringe group in some backwaters compound. This is an actual splinter group of the Catholic Church. They held a conference at the University Of Notre Dame. And if this story is to be believed, it is growing in numbers.
Really? That’s what we’ve come to? The sun revolves around the Earth?
Let me break it down for everyone. If a book written during the Bronze Age says one thing, but centuries of observation and data say something else, if the OBSERVED information contradicts said book, the SCIENCE is still right.
A theory, in scientific terms, is not a “guess.” That is a “hypothesis.” Something cannot be called a theory in science unless it has stood up to decades, often centuries, of scrutiny and testing. The “theory” of gravity doesn’t mean we’re guessing gravity exists. It means we’ve observed that objects tend to gravitate towards each other and larger objects create much more pull. Maybe it means planets and moons love each other and want to be close together, but we have no evidence for that, just evidence for the mechanics that govern the motions of stars and galaxies and everything else.
Stop trying to use “vocabulary” to discredit science.
You know what? I’m pissed. Whenever one of these backbirth groups pops up, they usually take to radio, or television, or the internet in order to broadcast their ignorance. I guarantee you these groups are shooting videos and getting the words out electronically.
You know what made those technologies possible?
If you have no respect for scientific advancement, for the fruits that science has given us, get off the internet and go back to the Pony Express. This is a place made possible by scientific discoveries, everything from the electron to the microprocessor. It is engineers and scientists reaching to make the most of the knowledge they have. Science has cured diseases. Science has extended our lifespans. Science took us to the moon and makes it possible for me to stream Hellraiser while I type this.
Science is the act of observing the world and discovering the rules that govern reality based on those observations. It is impossible to “prove” something, but highly possible to “disprove” it. All it takes is ONE piece of evidence. Something we can all measure equally.
If you want to dispute said observations, fine. Science welcomes your challenge. Scienc change as new observations come in. This is not a weakness in the process, but rather a strength. Religion doesn’t do this. It has to get dragged kicking and screaming to accept change. Old theories don’t just vanish. Relativity didn’t overthrow Galilean physics. It supplemented them, much like quantum mechanics didn’t replace relativity.
Then we find out that she’s actually a composite, which really begs the question…
Japan, this group had sixty-plus members, all attractive young women who were willing to work and perform. Did you really need a completely virtual singer?
I’ll give the management credit. The fact that people were even debating whether Aimi was real or not speaks volumes to the level of detail put into her design. Furthermore, the stills, while looking Photoshopped, are nevertheless quite impressive. She sings, she takes photos, and she’ll never ask for a raise. She’s the perfect client for her creators.
Of course, this doesn’t answer the question of why anyone would even make her. It’s not like they have a shortage of starlets. In fact, Aimi is a composite of other members of the group. This could easily be a test of the new technology, a stunt to show everyone just how far the programming and hardware can go.
Me? I’m terrified. Management managed to pass off this construct as a real person for a respectable amount of time, and given a year or two, the technology might easily be good enough to do away with the tiny imperfections that tipped off some fans. Think about it. Any recording company with sufficient money will be able to make pop stars on demand.
It looks like Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero is going to be a miniseries for HBO. I have fond memories of that album. I used to listen to it as I walked around the Capitol on my lunch break. The dissonance was amazing for clearing my head.
Evanescence is coming out with a new album. Without sounding too hipster, I remember hearing them before they got big. Their REALLY early stuff (the albums you can only find on eBay now) is really haunting and a lot more personal, but I’m looking forward to this new one.
And finally, seeing as how I ripped the Miss Universe contestants for not understanding basic scientific vocabulary, someone was kind enough to further show how dumb their arguments were by replacing one little word in some of the responses. Enjoy, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.
Okay, I didn’t think the last article would make me think so hard about something that I had never intended to pursue further. No, I’m not talking about Ayn Rand and the idea of Objectivism as a path to a real Utopia.
Are the cast members of Jersey Shore comedic geniuses?
I posted a link to several videos where some cast members of The Importance of Being Ernest read lines from the show in-character. They often delivered said lines with a straight face, often with a bit of irony, but otherwise it was like watching Sir Ian McKellen do lines from Jay and SilentBob Strike Back.
Okay, a few things. The lines as delivered are hilarious. Why? I’ve heard these same lines from clips of Jersey Shore and I have no desire to watch the show. However, I would love to watch these two do more lines like this. Why? What’s the difference? Why is one funny and the other infuriatingly bad?
I once took a class on comedy. While it killed my ability to really find anything funny for six months since I kept asking myself, “Why is this funny?” it did help me analyze literature, film, and television in a way I hadn’t considered. Also, everything is somehow a phallus or about sex.
Mel Brooks once said that tragedy is when he cuts his finger because it matters to him. Comedy is if you fall into an open manhole and die. What does he care? Comedy, then, would seem to be a matter of empathy. If we don’t care about the jerk and something bad happens to him, we laugh. If we care about the jerk, then the comedy is gone. Think of a bad horror movie where you don’t like the white college students who go investigating every noise. When they get hacked into cat food, you actually laugh.
I looked up a few more quotes from the show and tried to imagine them being said by these two gentlemen. Needless to say, I think they highlight why empathy is lost on these tanned wastes of genetic material. Observe the wisdom of Jersey Shore.
Mike “The Situation”: You can hate on me all you want to, but what can you possibly say to somebody that looks like Rambo, pretty much, with his shirt off.
What can I say? Let’s see. “You’re a conceited prick who is hinging other people liking him based on his abs.” Oh, and Rambo was a Special Forces badass who was wronged by the government and went on to kill entire armies with a knife. How badass does drinking vodka make you, MIKE?
Angelina: I feel like this job is beneath me. I’m a bartender. I do, like, great things.
While bartenders do great things in the sense that they get me my drink at the bar, I wouldn’t say they do “great” things. Necessary, sure, but they’re not heroes. And I have full contempt of anyone who still says “like” in casual conservation. Yes, I’m a linguistic snob. Sue me.
Snooki: Every time I meet a nice guy, he dies. It’s the same with every pet, friend or relative I’ve ever had. EVERYONE DIES! Next it’s gonna be me. Its all just a big conspiracy!
One of the surest ways to spot a narcissist is to see how he or she reacts to events. When the deaths of others and their misfortunes are seemingly your fault no matter how removed you might have been from the event, that is narcissism. The only way she could be responsible for their deaths is if some being with the power over life and death were targeting her.
Mike “The Situation”: To call me fake, it’s just blasphemy to talk against the leader like that, in other countries you get hung for that type of shit.
I would never call The Situation fake. Shallow as a puddle of dog piss, yes, but not fake.
Snooki: I don’t go tanning anymore because Obama put a 10% tax on tanning. I feel like he did that intentionally for us, like McCain would never put a 10% tax on tanning… because he is pale and he would probably wanna be tanned.
Please see my previous note on narcissism.
Said in the right tone, these lines might work for comedy, but here’s the thing.
The cast members on Jersey Shore are stuck up jerks who respond to the most basic principles and seem, at least from what I’ve seen, to actively avoid complex thinking. These are the guys and girls who would join a frat in college just because they want to be close to the party. They think the worst possible things about women, relationships, and people in general.
They’re about as shallow as I’ve ever seen, and I cannot fathom actually watching any of them for more than five minutes, let alone an hour. I remember that television was once about drama, about wit, and comedy made of carefully timed situations. I remember that WRITERS were involved once.
When did we accept that just following people was interesting? Sure, some shows like Dirty Jobs, Pawn Stars, and others are actually interesting because the people we follow are, well, interesting. The parodies are funny because they point out how silly the cast members on Jersey Shore can be. Beck was funny until we realized he was being dead serious. A murder is no laughing manner, unless it’s a movie murder delivered in a highly ironic way to a character I feel nothing for. Real idiots are not funny. Fake idiots pointing out the comedy in someone actually thinking this is acceptable, though, are hilarious.
It just goes to show two things I’ve said for a long, long time. Real life is often the source of the greatest material for stories.
Also, we pay way too much attention to the idiots in society. Stop feeding them and they’ll go away or die.
Cracked has a scale on the good and bad side of song covers. I think the same could apply for literature. Want to make a fairy tale into a gritty cyberpunk tale? It could work. Want to take that beloved science fiction story in your head and turn it around into a steampunk noir adventure story? Have at it!
And finally, we have the new trailer for the last Transformers movie destroyed by Michael Bay. Just based on this promo, I can at least see some of the action instead of trying to make out colored blurs, but I’m not sold yet. I’m going to wait for it to come out, then see the response. Thoughts?
February 18, 2011
Making fun of Glenn Beck is far too easy. It’s like making a grilled cheese sandwich. Sure, there’s some satisfaction in it, but it’s not too hard and you can’t really gloat over it. However, it’s a mistake to think the man is stupid. He has to know the falsehoods and craziness he spews out. He has to realize he’s doctoring quotes, altering symbols, and otherwise relying on fringe theorists who once would have been relegated to a street corner.
Instead, though, I’d like to offer a challenge to Mister Beck. If you would like to join, simply copy the text below and send it to email@example.com. Don’t just include the link to this page since odds are the spam filters will block the email. It’s one thing to claim the scary brown people are coming to take away everything we know and love… it’s another thing to say that an entire religion is the personal army of the Anti-Christ. So, without further ado… my challenge.
Mister Beck, for going on three years now, you’ve used your platform on Fox News to peddle conspiracy theories and accusations against progressives, liberals, and anyone else you see as a threat to the American way of life.
You’ve promoted the works of self-proclaimed anti-Semites and used their hate-filled speech to vilify people like George Soros who have actually helped topple communist governments.
You’ve had books ghost-written that are an insult to real writers everywhere, then tried to pass one, The Overton Window, as some sort of prophecy of the coming darkness.
You claimed the mantle of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., and then backpedaled when many called you out on it, eventually distorting even the meaning of Doctor King’s famous rally in Washington DC.
You’ve labeled groups such as Code Pink and NCLR as extremists, often grouping them with actual terror groups like MS13 or Hamas, using nothing but the most flimsy connection, hampering the process of race relations and community outreach in the process.
On February 17, 2011, though, you crossed another line and claimed that Islamic extremists, which according to your own theories must be everywhere, wish to bring the Anti-Christ forth. Your guest, Joel Richardson, took it one step further and claimed these beliefs, that the 12th Imam would lead a holy war against Israel and the West, were shared not by a small minority, but by Muslims everywhere, that this was somehow orthodox and could not be altered.
Mister Beck, you did not correct or chastise your guest for lumping all of Islam together with the extremists. You did not emphasize that these are views held by radicals. If you believe that the majority of Muslims believe the 12th Imam will come and destroy Israel and usher Armageddon, and if you believe that it will lead the end of all things, then you must work to prevent it.
You must denounce the state of Israel since its creation is one of the events that will help usher in the end times.
You must denounce Christians who likewise are working to create the conditions for the End Times.
You must spearhead a crusade against Islam itself.
If you do not do any of these things, then you do not believe your guest’s accusations. Instead, you’ve simply given a platform to a lunatic who believes he is a prophet for God and are using shock tactics to scare your audience into buying gold, buying food, or whatever else you’re peddling this week.
That is my challenge to you, Mister Beck. Either clarify your stance, denounce your guest, or take the actions that someone who truly believes Islam is the vehicle for the Anti-Christ must take.
I have a love-hate relationship with conspiracy theories.
When I worked as a legislative correspondent in Congress, it seemed like 10% of the mail we received was for legitimate concerns and questions, 30% was rehashed party lines and mass mailings, and the rest were paranoia and craziness from South Texas. You wouldn’t believe some of the theories I read, everything from a secret president ordering mass executions, the end of world brought on by the economic crisis knocking Venus out of orbit, to the Jewish cabals seeking to control us.
And that’s just dumb.
We all know it’s Dick Cheney, in the patented Cheney-Cave, who’s controlling the world.
While theories like this are dangerous because they rely either on illogic or false information, they are also quite fun. What can I say? I get a thrill from watching people jump like Chicken Little at the slightest things.
Lately, though, from Obama’s birth certificate to the allegations that global warming are a scientific hoax, it seems that conspiracy theories are more rampant today than they were even when the X-Files was still airing new episodes. Just for laughs, here are two of the funnier theories I’ve heard.
Oh you know me… I can’t start my day until I listen to good ol’ Rush Limbaugh. Man’s like a shot of caffeine right to the eye, and in the last few days, he’s been accusing Obama of blowing up the oil rig that has now created one of the worst ecological disasters in history.
It’s very simple. See, Obama and his radical left-wing progressive sociocommunazi friends want to force environmental protection regulations that will save us from that fakey global warming hoax. Control carbon emissions today… world government tomorrow! Blowing up the rig, says Limbaugh, gave Obama and the eco-terrorists the ammunition they need to pass bans on off-shore oil drilling.
This disaster serves as an example of just how bad things can get if we don’t act now.
So… environmentalists polluted hundreds of square miles of ocean, killed several workers, killed untold amounts of plant and wildlife, and have created a gaping wound in the ocean floor that still floods the water with toxins… all in an effort to save the environment?
By conservative estimates, the oil spill is worse than the Exxon-Valdez accident. There will be repercussions for decades. Entire ecosystems are destroyed. This is a bit like saying that Saddam Hussein secretly instigated the Gulf Wars in order to boost tourism to Iraq. Also, did you notice how Rush ended his segment? He’s just “asking questions.” Yeah, but you have no answers. Asking the question is not the same as addressing it. Hey Rush, did you take so much OxyContin that your ability to use higher brain functions has been destroyed?
I’m just asking.
Okay, that one was fairly easy and could be attributed to political paranoia, so let’s look at another theory that’s… special.
Did you know Earth actually has two suns, just like in Star Wars, and NASA is spraying chemicals to hide the fact from us? Oh yes. Our sun actually has a twin star and, if conditions are right, you can see this elusive second star.
Nibiru, which the cameraman mentions, is an object that is supposed to collide with Earth and cause mass devastation.
The theory for this video and others like it is actually very simple. See, the government is trying to hide this from us because… wait, no, it’s the GLOBAL government! It has to be since this has been viewed as far as Russia. Yeah, they’re spraying chemicals in the sky to hide the second sun from us because…
Yeah, this one is stupid to the extreme. While there are videos and photos of these two suns, it’s actually a very simple effect called a sundog. And if you honestly believe that NASA is hiding evidence of a second sun… where was this second sun, oh, say, the last five billion years? Even if there was a star with one percent the output of our parent star, we would see it and FEEL it! For it to be that far in the sky, it would have to be on a large orbit!
Dear gods, people… a second sun and the government is hiding it?!
Why do people buy into this stuff? Part of me wants to just say that people are stupid and will believe anything. I want to blame a lack of education. I want to blame it all on the laziness to investigate, to really use the scientific method as it was intended instead of coming to a conclusion first, then finding evidence to support it. If you follow that route, you can justify almost anything. Combine it with a public that is frighteningly ignorant of basic science, history, and critical thinking and you get little nuggets of laughter like this woman:
It’s fraking refraction and reflection through water, lady! It’s not a government conspiracy to sterilize you, although, seeing this video, I would endorse such a measure for you!
Conspiracy theories do have one thing in common. All of them have some small basis in truth. They also rely on information that is either wildly contested or on the fringe of data sets. For any scientific experiment of report, there will be lots of numbers, and geniuses like Beck and his “research” team and others looking for the “truth,” any slight inconsistency in the data means that it’s not reliable in the least.
Let me put it this way. Say you want to measure the height of a building and you have a ruler, a yardstick, and a tape measurer. You use all three and come up with 350 inches, 310 inches, and 333 inches. Most people would see these numbers and simply assume, rightly, that there are imperfections in the method used to gather information, but all methods point to a rough height between 310 and 350 inches or about 30 ft.
It takes a special kind of nut to say that the building must be 500 inches high because someone told you that was the height of the building and no one can prove you wrong, so you must be right.
Personally, I love deflating these little conspiracy bubbles. There are few things I hate more than misinformation or the bastardization of science for these kinds of things. I’m all for keeping an open mind about the world, but people, please, learn to think critically. I know the best conspiracy theories have the big bad villain(s) lying to you, forcing you into blind obedience, and making you the victim… but come on!
Next thing you’ll be telling me is that Kennedy and Michael Jackson are hiding in Puerto Rico with Tupac.
If you have any conspiracy theories you’re fond of, share them in the comments below. I’m always on the lookout for more crazies.