View Single Post
Old June 29 2013, 06:49 PM   #87
Christopher's Avatar
Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Charles Phipps wrote: View Post
I think Dear Doctor has some interesting historical parallels. However, the unfortunate fact is that the historical parallels tend to be rather unfortunate. The biggest historical parallels are the Black Death and what happened to Native Americans. The Black Death had its benefits, more or less ending feudalism in Europe. However, Phlox's argument could very easily be stated that the destruction of the majority of the people in the South and North Americas is "nature making its choice."
Well, that's not a very good analogy, because those were both cases where contact between different populations introduced a disease that one of the populations had little or no immunity to. Also, it was a disease, an external pathogen, not a natural part of the species' life cycle. What Phlox was saying was that the Valakian species itself had an expiration date built into its own genetics -- that they weren't suffering from a disease at all, just from reaching the end of their species' life cycle.

While that's a fanciful concept in real-world terms, as I've said, if it were the case within this fictional universe, I can see how Denobulan medical ethics could argue that it could be harmful to interfere with that natural life cycle -- just as many real-world doctors believe that easing the end of an individual's natural lifespan is a more desirable goal than trying to extend individual lifespans indefinitely. The same doctor who might go to all possible lengths to save a 30- or 50-year-old from a viral infection or cancer might not endorse similar extreme measures to prolong the life of a 98-year-old who's dying of old age, but instead would encourage the patient to accept the natural end of their life cycle.

And again, the episode was not saying that Phlox's view was unambiguously the right one. On the contrary, the whole point was to set up a situation that had no clear right answer, because that's far more dramatically interesting. And it was to show that Phlox was an alien, that his definitions of right and wrong wouldn't automatically conform to ours. It's the moral ambiguity in the episode that makes it so intriguing. Its goal wasn't to tell us what to think, but to give us something to think about.

I'm not saying I agree with Phlox's position either. But most of the critiques I hear are based on misunderstandings of what his position actually was, or what the problem actually was. We need to understand that clearly before we can validly assess the moral questions of the episode.

Likewise, I appreciate the fact DD is about Phlox and Archer attempting to make an ethically informed choice, but the problem is that the science behind their choice is most often associated with the absolute worst and Anti-Trek groups in human history. Phlox and Archer are judging the potential of the Menk to be superior life-forms because of their potential higher intelligence as well as motor skills.
Now, that is absolutely false, and just the kind of gross misreading I was talking about above. They never said either race was "superior." They just said the Menk had the potential to evolve more intelligence than they currently had, if they were given the chance. They never chose either side -- just the opposite, they chose not to take a side and leave nature to take its course. You really should study the episode more closely before judging it, because here you're judging it based on a completely wrong and invalid recollection of the facts.

I admit, part of my cultural discomfort might be due to my fandoms crossing. Would Phlox agree with Magneto that we need to destroy regular humans, or at the very least encourage them to die off on their own (keep them from breeding?) if it made more room for mutants?
Once more, a totally, completely incompetent analogy. Nobody is talking about "destroying" anything. Nobody is choosing to take action against the Valakians' survival; they're just remaining neutral. One could argue that in the Marvel Universe, it's likely that mutants will win out over normal humans just in the normal course of events -- after all, they're proliferating very quickly and have obvious survival advantages. Even without open conflict between the species, even with peaceful coexistence, just statistics alone would lead mutants to become the majority after enough generations, and eventually the specieswide norm. That's basically the situation here: one species naturally outcompeting the other because it has an advantage of fitness. It's not about one species actively trying to wipe out the other. There is no Magneto here. If anything, Phlox's position was more about refusing to become Bolivar Trask.

Are the humpback whales not worthy of life because humans are smarter and have killed them off?
As long as you're going to use these outrageous misrepresentations of the actual arguments in the episode, I refuse to discuss it with you any further. Your biases make it impossible to discuss the facts of the matter reasonably.
Written Worlds -- My blog and webpage
Christopher is offline   Reply With Quote