"No hold on, this is not some species that was obliterated by deforestation, or the building of a dam. Dinosaurs, uh, had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction!"
— Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
Despite the fact that Jeff Goldblum's character made his remarks in the context of a confrontation with a demonstrably dangerous population of beings that were out of their natural time, that quote still seems rather apropos.
Here's the debate from TNG: Pen Pals
Pen Pals wrote:
PICARD: It is no longer a matter of how wrong Data was, or why he did it. The dilemma exists. We have to discuss the options. And please talk freely.
WORF: There are no options. The Prime Directive is not a matter of degrees. It is an absolute.
PULASKI: I have a problem with that kind of rigidity. It seems callous and even a little cowardly.
PICARD: Doctor, I'm sure that is not what the Lieutenant meant, but in a situation like this, we have to be cautious. What we do today may profoundly affect upon the future. If we could see every possible outcome
RIKER: We'd be gods, which we're not. If there is a cosmic plan, is it not the height of hubris to think that we can, or should, interfere?
LAFORGE: So what are you saying? That the Dremans are fated to die?
RIKER: I think that's an option we should be considering.
LAFORGE: Consider it considered, and rejected.
TROI: If there is a cosmic plan, are we not a part of it? Our presence at this place at this moment in time could be a part of that fate.
LAFORGE: Right, and it could be part of that plan that we interfere.
RIKER: Well that eliminates the possibility of fate.
DATA: But Commander, the Dremans are not a subject for philosophical debate. They are a people.
PICARD: So we make an exception in the deaths of millions.
PICARD: And is it the same situation if it's an epidemic, and not a geological calamity?
PICARD: How about a war? If generations of conflict is killing millions, do we interfere? Ah, well, now we're all a little less secure in our moral certitude. And what if it's not just killings. If an oppressive government is enslaving millions? You see, the Prime Directive has many different functions, not the least of which is to protect us. To prevent us from allowing our emotions to overwhelm our judgement.
PULASKI: My emotions are involved. Data's friend is going to die. That means something.
WORF: To Data.
PULASKI: Does that invalidate the emotion?
LAFORGE: What if the Dremans asked for our help?
DATA: Yes. Sarjenka's transmission could be viewed as a call for help.
PULASKI: I'll buy that excuse. We're all jigging madly on the head of a pin anyway.
WORF: She cannot ask for help from someone she does not know.
DATA: She knows me.
RIKER: What a perfectly vicious little circle.
DATA: We are going to allow her to die, are we not?
PICARD: Data, I want you to sever the contact with Drema Four.
(Data goes to a wall panel and taps in commands)
COMPUTER: Isolating frequency.
SARJENKA [OC]: Data. Data, where are you? Why won't you answer? Are you angry me? Please, please, I'm so afraid. Data, Data, where are you?
PICARD: Wait. Oh, Data. Your whisper from the dark has now become a plea. We cannot turn our backs.
The viewpoint discussed here, that Federation interference to save a sentient species might be part of
the natural order, is a product of 24th
century philosophy in the Star Trek
universe. Furthermore, the debate in Pen Pals
is a direct challenge to the rationale of the non-interference directive prevalent in the 23rd
century of TOS.
Therefore, it's far more consistent with the established parameters of Star Trek
to have the 22nd
century beings who will form the Federation adopt a stance more sympathetic to the idea of a natural order which would be interfered with, if, say, humans stepped in to save a species from extinction. Otherwise, you wreck the continuity of ENT with TOS, and you undermine the significance of the debate in Pen Pals.
It actually fits the in-universe history of Star Trek
better, if you think that Archer is making the wrong choice.