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Old May 11 2013, 07:56 AM   #18
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Re: Episode of the Week: 2x15 "Pen Pals"

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: 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?
PULASKI: Absolutely.
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.
The slippery slope argument, that we must take an extreme position because it's the only way to avoid the other extreme, is a lazy, unsophisticated and fallacious argument. It's unfortunate that this is presented to us as an example of thoughtfulness and insight. It's not as bad as the seminar on humor and charisma in Okona, but it's another uncomfortable sign of Dunning-Kruger afflicting the writers.

It's not the position of government and law enforcement to tell parents how to raise their children, but in cases of abuse or neglect they do intervene. It's not the general policy of the US to use military force to intervene in the internal affairs of other nations, but in cases of genocide or crimes against humanity, it does intervene. We've evolved a rather complex system of standards and procedures for determining when to intervene, and sometimes bad decisions are made, but making it easier by adopting "Don't intervene" as an absolute is lazy and potentially catastrophic.

In this particular story, "Don't contaminate the Dremans with knowledge of us," is nonsense because of the colossal footprint the Enterprise is leaving. The tectonic crisis and its sudden abatement will be the most studied event in the planet's geological record. Scientists who assume a natural explanation for the abatement will try to shoehorn it into every natural theory, setting science back greatly. Others will interpret it as a miracle from God, completely changing the nature and role of religion in every culture on the planet. How is that better than telling the truth?
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