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Old July 3 2013, 11:40 PM   #89
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Charles Phipps wrote: View Post
This was written before I consulted the script and am retracting my earlier statements.
I really appreciate your willingness to check your beliefs against the evidence and re-evaluate them accordingly. It's a vanishingly rare thing to find on the Internet. I'm glad I could help clarify the ideas of "Dear Doctor."

A few things, though:

This is a much more ambiguous point and basically implies some sort of guiding impulse behind biology. Which is not that fanciful, actually, since we know the Preservers (or a race similar to them) has genetic "guiding principles" built into the DNA of the Alpha Quadrant's various races. That everything was designed to come up humanoid bumpy-forehead races.
Definitely not the Preservers. The one verified instance we have of Preserver activity, the transplanting of Miramanee's people, happened less than 500 years ago: sometime after the Navajo emerged as a distinct culture (since Spock said those were one of the cultures represented) and after European diseases and colonization began threatening Native American populations (since there would've been no need to "preserve" them before they were in jeopardy). So the Preservers are a part of modern history, not ancient history, and certainly not billions-of-years-ago pre-pre-pre-prehistory.

Not to mention that what the First Humanoids did was to seed the primordial soup of uninhabited worlds with programmed DNA. They weren't preserving something, they were creating something new. So it makes no sense to call them Preservers simply from a vocabulary standpoint.

The Preservers, or Intelligent Design as a concept, basically has decreed that this race isn't going to survive and that the next race is going to take up the mantle instead.
First off, I think that "Intelligent Design" is a misleading and very loaded term to use here. It's basically just a new label for creationism, the argument that evolution doesn't occur at all and every life form was designed in its present form by God. The First Humanoids certainly allowed evolution to occur; they simply encouraged it to develop in a certain direction. Beyond that, they had no granular-level master design in mind, didn't program the exact specifics of every species' evolution, just established some recurring patterns and trends that turned out differently on different worlds.

Certainly evolution works differently in Trek (certainly Braga-scripted Trek) than it does in real life, with a greater degree of predetermination, but I don't think that necessarily represents the First Humanoids' "design."

It's not that Phlox and Archer are making the choice, it's the choice have been made for them many millions of years in the past.
Maybe not millions of years in the past, but as a consequence of their natural evolutionary process. Otherwise, you've got it -- Phlox isn't taking a side, he's just saying he doesn't feel qualified to tamper with the choice nature has already made, not given the enormous ramifications to two species. He's refusing to play God.

You can see a similar attitude in Phlox's views toward genetic engineering in the Augment-related episodes in season 4. While Denobulans do employ genetic engineering as a useful medical tool, Phlox is disdainful of Soong's and the Klingons' reckless tampering with genetics, of the way they're overreaching themselves and trying to make radical changes without sufficient knowledge to assess the consequences. He believes that's irresponsible, and that's much the same ethical principle that guides him in DD.

However, on a moral level, I believe the action was still wrong. That resisting Godlike intelligences is as often what Star Trek is about and so-is a Pro-Technology plan. It's a dying species that has no real hope for survival on its own but I think our heroes would be more "heroic" (if that makes sense) if they chose to try and help the Valakian overcome their condition to try and continue their survival into the future.
Granted, there could be a middle path: transplant the Valakians to another world, cure them, and let the Menk develop on their own. But that too could have unpredictable consequences. Who knows whether the Valakians could thrive in that other world's environment? Again, it's not a choice to be made in haste. And it could work out that way in the long run without Starfleet intervention, since the Valakians do have some interstellar capability and have a couple of centuries in which they might find a cure and settle other worlds themselves, or with help from another race.

Had the show ended with a "Up the Long Ladder" solution of the Valakians and Menks interbreeding, I'd have far less problems with it (and would find it cute, actually).
Who knows? That's another path that they could take in the next couple of centuries. The key is that curing the Valakians in the here and now would've closed off a paty for the Menk, but leaving things as they are keeps options open for both species. There are no guarantees for either, but there are options.

In any case, you've changed my perspective of the work even if I think the fact that they choose to let "nature take its course" with the ticking time bomb is the wrong moral choice and not very Star Trekky (even if the PD is a precedent). It's less offensive to me, now. Thank you.
It's certainly a problematical episode in the way the dilemma is defined, but there's not supposed to be a clear answer and it's supposed to be ambiguous whether Archer and Phlox's decision was right or not. That's what I like about the episode -- it makes you think and ask questions. I just regret that the situation it poses is confusing enough that many people misunderstand the facts of the story and thus aren't able to evaluate it fairly. Again, I'm glad you made the effort.
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