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Old February 14 2013, 09:36 PM   #31
Christopher
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

TiberiusMaximus wrote: View Post
That would be fine. But that's not the message I got from Phlox. To me, he seemed pretty sure that the Menk were going to become the dominant species as long as the Valakians died out. That's hardly a neutral, objective stance. He didn't say, "I can't meddle because I might screw things up." He said, "I can't meddle because the Menk have more of a right to live than all the people who just asked me to cure them."
But that's not what he actually said. Here's the dialogue:

PHLOX: I've been studying their genome as well, and I've seen evidence of increasing intelligence. Motor skills, linguistic abilities. Unlike the Valakians they appear to be in the process of an evolutionary awakening. It may take millennia, but the Menk have the potential to become the dominant species on this planet.
ARCHER: And that won't happen as long as the Valakians are around.
PHLOX: If the Menk are to flourish, they need an opportunity to survive on their own.
ARCHER: Well, what are you suggesting? We choose one species over the other?
PHLOX: All I'm saying is that we let nature make the choice.
He wasn't definitively saying he favored the Menk. He was saying that there were factors worth considering on both sides of the argument and he wasn't prepared to favor the Valakians at the risk of condemning the Menk. His decision was not to act in favor of either side, but to let natural evolution take its course.


I really don't get it. The Menk, who weren't sick and dying, who didn't ask for anything, were more important to Phlox than the patients who were sick and dying and asked him for help. They asked for a cure, he found one, and then he got all high and mighty on them and kept it away from them.
But the sticking point there is the word "cure." It assumes that what was happening to the Valakians was a disease, an aberration. As Phlox perceived it, it was just the natural life cycle of the species. Think of it in terms of an individual. There's no "cure" for death of old age; it's just the end of the individual's natural life cycle, and a lot of medicine is about accepting that inevitability and helping people reach the end of their lives with comfort and dignity. Evidently Denobulan medical training takes that same view of species as a whole -- no species is immortal, and if this was the natural end of the Valakians' life cycle as a species, then maybe it was better to help them accept and manage the transition than trying to artificially postpone the inevitable and incur unknown risks and damage in the process. Again, that's an argument that doesn't make sense in the context of real-world evolution, but we're talking about a fictional reality where the rules are different. If it is true within the Trek universe that some species, at least, have fixed endpoints to their lifespans, then the Denobulan viewpoint on the issue is no worse than the perspective of the people who run a hospice. And even if it's not true, Phlox at least sincerely believed it was true in this case, and the beliefs and ethics of his species shaped his decision. He is an alien, after all. It makes no sense to demand that every decision he make be compatible with 21st-century Western human values and attitudes.


And it really didn't seem to me like the episode was meant to be ambiguous, Phlox seemed to be presented as absolutely in the right.
I'm surprised that you think that's the case. True, Archer did end up agreeing with Phlox, but it wasn't an easy decision, and as I said, the closing scenes did offer some hope that the Valakians could still find a cure after all. And Archer does say that his decision goes against his principles. Certainly you don't think the writers intended to suggest that Archer's principles were dead wrong. He was the hero of the show, after all. The situation was meant to be ambivalent, but the point was that the characters came to terms with each other and resolved their conflict, however uneasily.

Actually the original intent was for Phlox to defy Archer and withhold the cure, leaving the tension between them unresolved, but UPN wanted them to reach an understanding. John Billingsley wasn't happy with that outcome, but I can see their reasoning; that outcome could've seriously undermined the trust between Archer and Phlox, which would've put Phlox in a very tenuous position, given that he was a civilian and a foreign national aboard an Earth Starfleet ship. It would've been hard to believe that Archer would've let Phlox remain as CMO if the trust between them had been damaged to that extent. So the outcome of the episode was more about the characters and the status of their roles and relationships within the show than it was about taking a clear position on the moral dilemma.
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Old February 14 2013, 09:38 PM   #32
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

TiberiusMaximus wrote: View Post
But that's not the message I got from Phlox. To me, he seemed pretty sure that the Menk were going to become the dominant species as long as the Valakians died out. That's hardly a neutral, objective stance.
ARCHER: A cure, Doctor. Have you found a cure?
PHLOX: Even if I could find one, I'm not sure it would be ethical.
ARCHER: Ethical?
PHLOX: We'd be interfering with an evolutionary process that has been going on for thousands of years.
ARCHER: Every time you treat an illness, you're interfering. That's what doctors do.
PHLOX: You're forgetting about the Menk.
ARCHER: What about the Menk?
PHLOX: I've been studying their genome as well, and I've seen evidence of increasing intelligence. Motor skills, linguistic abilities. Unlike the Valakians they appear to be in the process of an evolutionary awakening. It may take millennia, but the Menk have the potential to become the dominant species on this planet.
ARCHER: And that won't happen as long as the Valakians are around.
PHLOX: If the Menk are to flourish, they need an opportunity to survive on their own.
ARCHER: Well, what are you suggesting? We choose one species over the other?
PHLOX: All I'm saying is that we let nature make the choice.
So he didn't just imply. He outright stated that Valakians need to be out of the picture for Menk to evolve. Which is quite frankly ludicrous.

Christopher wrote:
He is an alien, after all. It makes no sense to demand that every decision he make be compatible with 21st-century Western human values and attitudes.
Yeah, but Archer is human, and yet he conformed to Denobulan ethics and their ridiculous misinterpretation of evolutionary theories.
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Old February 14 2013, 09:44 PM   #33
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Mach5 wrote: View Post
So he didn't just imply. He outright stated that Valakians need to be out of the picture for Menk to evolve. Which is quite frankly ludicrous.
No, he presented the other side of the argument in order to point out that there were issues that needed to be considered on both sides. Acknowledging that a side of an argument exists is not the same thing as favoring that side. Any intelligent, honest person should be willing to consider every side of an issue fairly and openly before making a decision. Phlox was telling Archer that there was a side of the argument that Archer hadn't considered, a side that needed to be weighed against the other.

And is it really ludicrous? Two species competing for the same ecological niche in the same environment are rarely able to share it. Usually one does outcompete the other to extinction. As Phlox pointed out, humans used to share the planet with a number of closely related hominins, but all of them died out except for us.

And one more time: whether it's ludicrous compared to reality is totally beside the point in evaluating a work of fiction. Humanoid aliens are ludicrous. Mind melds are ludicrous. Warp drive and tractor beams are ludicrous. In other franchises, superpowers and wizarding schools and lightsabers are ludicrous. But we willingly suspend disbelief about them for the sake of the story. All that matters should be whether it's the way things work within the fictional universe, and whether the characters' choices and actions make sense within the context of that universe's ground rules.
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Old February 14 2013, 09:56 PM   #34
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Actually, the bottom line, as Phlox put it was:
"All I'm saying is that we let nature make the choice."
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Old February 14 2013, 10:08 PM   #35
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Christopher wrote: View Post
He wasn't definitively saying he favored the Menk. He was saying that there were factors worth considering on both sides of the argument and he wasn't prepared to favor the Valakians at the risk of condemning the Menk. His decision was not to act in favor of either side, but to let natural evolution take its course.
Condemning the Menk to what exactly? That's the second time you've asserted that the Menk are in some kind of trouble, yet that isn't in the episode at all.

As far as 'natural evolution', the Valakians evolved to a state where they had the ability to ask for help.
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Old February 14 2013, 10:09 PM   #36
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Actually, the bottom line, as Phlox put it was:
"All I'm saying is that we let nature make the choice."
Which is non-sense. Nature isn't an intelligent being...
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Old February 14 2013, 10:15 PM   #37
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

BillJ wrote: View Post
CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Actually, the bottom line, as Phlox put it was:
"All I'm saying is that we let nature make the choice."
Which is non-sense. Nature isn't an intelligent being...
It's as much of a figure of speech as "natural selection".
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Old February 14 2013, 10:19 PM   #38
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Mach5 wrote: View Post
sonak wrote: View Post
You can tell that the writers were very pleased with themselves in creating this fake, nonsense dilemma from the way the episode plays out.
Do you think the writers were too lazy to do some basic research on the subject matter (evolution), or were they actually aware that what they were writing was utter nonsense, but didn't give a shit?

I would guess from the way that the episode plays out, and the way evolution has been portrayed in the past in Trek(like in "threshold," which I think had one of the same writers as "DD?"), that there seems to be a basic lack of knowledge about evolution and how it works.

This episode's writers seemed to seriously think that evolution has some design in mind, and actually "decides" to favor certain species over others in bringing that design to pass.

I could be wrong. Just a hunch from the way the "science" is portrayed in this episode as compared to the way the usual b.s. technobabble pseudoscience is portrayed.


And like a few others, I really disagree that this episode's conclusion is meant to be "ambiguous." Phlox is supposed to be seen as in the right, and Archer is supposed to have shown that he "matured" by making the more intellectually sound, less emotional decision.

Why do I think this? Look at Phlox's log entry where he says that he may have "underestimated" Archer and how impressed he was by him. He's speaking for the writers there.


And as usual in "dear doctor" threads, I want to recommend SFDebris' review of this episode.
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Old February 14 2013, 10:20 PM   #39
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

Christopher wrote:
And one more time: whether it's ludicrous compared to reality is totally beside the point in evaluating a work of fiction.
So you're arguing that fiction does not need to be grounded in reality, not even a bit?

Christopher wrote:
Humanoid aliens are ludicrous.
Are they? They're unlikely, but ludicrous? Those grey sons of bitches that crashed in New Mexico seemed pretty humanoid to me.

Christopher wrote:
Mind melds are ludicrous.
Telepathy is ludicrous? How so?

Christopher wrote:
Warp drive and tractor beams are ludicrous.
We'll see. NASA doesn't seem to think so. I'm a bit skeptical though, but what the hell do I know? I'm a different kind of engineer.

Christopher wrote:
But we willingly suspend disbelief about them for the sake of the story.
I can suspend my disbelief. But I can't suspend my ethical and moral standards.

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
"All I'm saying is that we let nature make the choice."
Nature does not make choices. Nature is not a sentient entity. Cause and effect, infinite diversity in infinite combinations. That's all there is to it.
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Last edited by Mach5; February 14 2013 at 10:33 PM.
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Old February 14 2013, 10:21 PM   #40
sonak
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
BillJ wrote: View Post
CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Actually, the bottom line, as Phlox put it was:
"All I'm saying is that we let nature make the choice."
Which is non-sense. Nature isn't an intelligent being...
It's as much of a figure of speech as "natural selection".

yes, but you were using it to justify an ethical stance, so admitting that nature DOESN'T choose invalidates your argument.
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Old February 14 2013, 10:40 PM   #41
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

sonak wrote: View Post
CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
BillJ wrote: View Post

Which is non-sense. Nature isn't an intelligent being...
It's as much of a figure of speech as "natural selection".

yes, but you were using it to justify an ethical stance, so admitting that nature DOESN'T choose invalidates your argument.
Where was I doing that? What I meant was that Phlox's bottom line was let nature choose. On rereading what I said, I can see that I might not have been clear that I was speaking to what Phlox considered the ultimate issue to be.

Phlox never really took any other stance, is what I meant.
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Old February 14 2013, 10:49 PM   #42
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
sonak wrote: View Post
CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post

It's as much of a figure of speech as "natural selection".

yes, but you were using it to justify an ethical stance, so admitting that nature DOESN'T choose invalidates your argument.
Where was I doing that?
What Phlox is essentially doing is passing the buck.

"We shouldn't choose because we might choose wrong."

Which is just terrible. Allowing billions to die on what might happen in a thousand years. Plus it completely dismisses the Menk as a factor, they've grown fat and happy living with the Valakians. And they may find themselves in a world of hurt when Valakian society crumbles.

No one checked with the Earth government on how to proceed, no one asked the Menk how they felt about the Valakians dying out.

Archer and Phlox alone choose for this world.

What a clusterfuck...
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Old February 14 2013, 10:54 PM   #43
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

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Archer and Phlox alone choose for this world.
No.

They simply didn't commit their involvement beyond the point of no return. There's still plenty of time for a cure to be found by other parties, for other powers to intervene, for Earth's government to overrule Archer's decision of what sort of aid to provide, etc.

By easing their suffering, perhaps Archer even improves their chances of finding a cure on their own.

Had Archer given them the cure, that would have been an irrevocable choice.
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Old February 14 2013, 11:04 PM   #44
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

BillJ wrote: View Post
Archer and Phlox alone choose for this world.

What a clusterfuck...
It would have been the same as Picard letting the planet in "Pen Pals" die off, which also had a distress call from someone else. Letting nature take its course is not a good thing in times like this.
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Old February 14 2013, 11:41 PM   #45
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Re: Why do so many people rag on "Dear doctor"

I can suspend my disbelief. But I can't suspend my ethical and moral standards.
Well said. That's probably the crux of my issue with the episode. I simply can't make what Archer and Phlox did seem like the right decision in my mind.

On another note, this seems like the most civil "Dear Doctor" thread I've ever been in. Although, it is only three pages in...
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