RSS iconTwitter iconFacebook icon

The Trek BBS title image

The Trek BBS statistics

Threads: 138,328
Posts: 5,353,013
Members: 24,618
Currently online: 728
Newest member: jmacenulty

TrekToday headlines

Drexler TV Alert
By: T'Bonz on Jul 26

Retro Review: His Way
By: Michelle on Jul 26

MicroWarriors Releases Next Week
By: T'Bonz on Jul 25

Ships Of The Line Design Contest
By: T'Bonz on Jul 25

Next Weekend: Shore Leave 36!
By: T'Bonz on Jul 25

True Trek History To Be Penned
By: T'Bonz on Jul 25

Insight Editions Announces Three Trek Books For 2015
By: T'Bonz on Jul 24

To Be Takei Review by Spencer Blohm
By: T'Bonz on Jul 24

Mulgrew: Playing Red
By: T'Bonz on Jul 24

Hallmark 2015 Trek Ornaments
By: T'Bonz on Jul 24


Welcome! The Trek BBS is the number one place to chat about Star Trek with like-minded fans. Please login to see our full range of forums as well as the ability to send and receive private messages, track your favourite topics and of course join in the discussions.

If you are a new visitor, join us for free. If you are an existing member please login below. Note: for members who joined under our old messageboard system, please login with your display name not your login name.


Go Back   The Trek BBS > Welcome to the Trek BBS! > General Trek Discussion

General Trek Discussion Trek TV and cinema subjects not related to any specific series or movie.

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old November 5 2013, 04:50 AM   #1
picardo
Lieutenant
 
Alien "species" or alien "race"?

I'm not an expert in biology -which is the reason I'm posting this, in the hopes someone more knowledgeable can elucidate.

It seems to me that the terms "race" and "species" -when referring to aliens from other planets- are used interchangeably, perhaps irresponsibly, in Star Trek series, and even though I'm no expert, I believe both terms aren't synonymous nor appropriate.

According to this wiki graphic, for example, a species sits at the bottom of a biological classification which consists of much larger groups such as Domains, Kingdoms, Classes, but these definitions pertain to earth organisms, therefore it cannot describe alien worlds.





The term race also poses problems. According to wiki:

"Race is a classification system used to categorize humans into large and distinct populations or groups by anatomical, cultural, ethnic, genetic, geographical, historical, linguistic, religious, or social affiliation."

Since race is used to categorise humans, it can only be applicable to those populations, therefore it's incorrect to refer to aliens as "races", in my opinion.

So, what could be the appropriate term to refer to alien inhabitants of other planets?
picardo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 5 2013, 04:54 AM   #2
Nerys Myk
Fleet Admiral
 
Nerys Myk's Avatar
 
Location: House of Kang, now with ridges
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

Species and race work fine. I fail to see why the terms have to be exclusive to Earth.
__________________
The boring one, the one with Khan, the one where Spock returns, the one with whales, the dumb one, the last one, the one with Kirk, the one with the Borg, the stupid one, the bad one, the new one, the other one with Khan.
Nerys Myk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 5 2013, 04:59 AM   #3
C.E. Evans
Vice Admiral
 
C.E. Evans's Avatar
 
Location: Saint Louis (aka Defiance)
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

I say both can be used interchangeably in casual or everyday conversation. Specifics can be reserved for stuffy classroom lectures.
__________________
"Everybody wants to rule the world..."
C.E. Evans is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 5 2013, 05:01 AM   #4
CorporalCaptain
Vice Admiral
 
CorporalCaptain's Avatar
 
Location: Kentucky
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

There are other senses of the word race than that cited in the OP. For example, when applied to humanity as a whole—as in the human race—it means, well, humanity as a whole, and at least in that case race is synonymous with species.
__________________
John
CorporalCaptain is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 5 2013, 05:02 AM   #5
Melakon
Vice Admiral
 
Melakon's Avatar
 
Location: Unmarked grave, Ekos
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

Until there's definitive proof of an intelligent lifeform on another planet comparable to humans, race and species work well enough. Then the biologists can invent new classifications.
__________________
Curly: Moe, Larry, the cheese! Moe, Larry, the cheese! (Horses Collars, 1935)
Melakon is online now   Reply With Quote
Old November 5 2013, 05:05 AM   #6
Christopher
Writer
 
Christopher's Avatar
 
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

We also use the term "race" in the context of "the human race," so it can be used to refer to the entirety of a species, at least if it's a sentient species. So in that sense, it can be a valid usage.

(Edit: Just got beaten to it.)
__________________
Christopher L. Bennett Homepage -- Site update 4/8/14 including annotations for Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

Written Worlds -- My blog
Christopher is online now   Reply With Quote
Old November 5 2013, 05:06 AM   #7
E-DUB
Captain
 
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

Species should be any alien, sentient or not. Race should be applied to any sentient species.

Worf's comment that "I like my species the way it is." not withstanding.
E-DUB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 5 2013, 05:23 AM   #8
R. Star
Rear Admiral
 
R. Star's Avatar
 
Location: Shangri-La
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

I don't see why there can't be any overlap. E-Dub described it rather well.
__________________
"I was never a Star Trek fan." J.J. Abrams
R. Star is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 5 2013, 06:30 AM   #9
QCzar
Fleet Captain
 
QCzar's Avatar
 
Location: Washington, DC - Taxation Without Representation
Send a message via AIM to QCzar Send a message via Yahoo to QCzar
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

It's been my observation that because of the way Trek aliens are often presented on a gradient of most human like to least human like, the terminology helps the audience distinguish between the characters' understanding of such differences. Thus, you'll rarely hear them refer to aliens like Tribbles or Horta as 'races' rather than 'species', assuming they use either term (for instance 'creatures' or 'lifeforms' are frequent substitutes). Where as they're more likely to use 'race' to describe human-like aliens such as Bajorans or Vulcans.

Star Trek is science-fantasy, not a clinical dissertation on alien life. The words merely have to function to give the viewer an approximate understanding of what they're talking about. As Melakon points out, we won't have a proper lexicon for this until we have to regularly identify and catalog real-world aliens.
QCzar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 7 2013, 06:09 PM   #10
alpha_leonis
Captain
 
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

For a lot of the people on Star Trek, I think "race" would be just fine. Especially if you look at the number of them who can interbreed with each other -- including Humans, Vulcans/Romulans, Klingons, Betazoids -- even with scientific help, it no longer makes much biological sense to call them separate "species" in the biological sense.

It's a pet peeve of mine, though -- one of the scientific concepts that Trek gets absolutely wrong.
alpha_leonis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 7 2013, 07:22 PM   #11
cyclonus11
Ensign
 
Location: Texas
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

You can't really apply real-life scientific concepts to Star Trek in this area. Even with the "explanation", it makes absolutely no sense. Klingons, Humans, Vulcans, Cardassians, etc. regularly interbreed, which essentially makes them the same species, despite having evolved on different worlds. How could that possibly happen, even with transplanted DNA code segments (TNG: The Chase), when mutations are random? The chromosomes and genes would have to line up exactly - and even that assumes that sexual reproduction occurs the same way. The same goes for the non-human animals referenced during the various series. Mastodons? Emus? Hawks? All seem to be popping up everywhere throughout the galaxy.

I wouldn't care all that much, except that most people already don't understand evolution at all. Pop culture isn't helping by completely screwing it up.

Another beef I had: The Voth. Dinosaurs were well established to be warm blooded long before VOY aired, yet they had to make them cold blooded. Why? That one point nearly ruined the entire series for me.
cyclonus11 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 7 2013, 07:53 PM   #12
Christopher
Writer
 
Christopher's Avatar
 
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

cyclonus11 wrote: View Post
Another beef I had: The Voth. Dinosaurs were well established to be warm blooded long before VOY aired, yet they had to make them cold blooded. Why? That one point nearly ruined the entire series for me.
Well, they had 65 million years of evolution on an alien world to change them. Maybe their ancestors were warm-blooded but the environment they were transplanted to gave them an incentive to evolve into ectotherms once again. After all, there's no "upward" direction in evolution, just adaptation to new environments. Perhaps their new environment had such a uniform, warm temperature that it was a waste of metabolic energy to generate internal heat, so they lost the ability.
__________________
Christopher L. Bennett Homepage -- Site update 4/8/14 including annotations for Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

Written Worlds -- My blog
Christopher is online now   Reply With Quote
Old November 8 2013, 08:54 AM   #13
scotpens
Vice Admiral
 
scotpens's Avatar
 
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

cyclonus11 wrote: View Post
You can't really apply real-life scientific concepts to Star Trek in this area. Even with the "explanation", it makes absolutely no sense. Klingons, Humans, Vulcans, Cardassians, etc. regularly interbreed, which essentially makes them the same species, despite having evolved on different worlds. How could that possibly happen, even with transplanted DNA code segments (TNG: The Chase), when mutations are random?
And how could so many intelligent alien species have evolved to look exactly like humans, except for having funny ears, bumpy foreheads and weird skin conditions?
__________________
“All the universe or nothingness. Which shall it be, Passworthy? Which shall it be?”
scotpens is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 8 2013, 05:56 PM   #14
cyclonus11
Ensign
 
Location: Texas
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

Exactly. They tried to explain it in The Chase, but it still doesn't make sense even with that.
cyclonus11 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 8 2013, 06:13 PM   #15
Bad Thoughts
Fleet Captain
 
Location: Disguised as Reb Bad Thoughts
Re: Alien "species" or alien "race"?

It seems to me that the terms "race" and "species" -when referring to aliens from other planets- are used interchangeably, perhaps irresponsibly, in Star Trek series, and even though I'm no expert, I believe both terms aren't synonymous nor appropriate.
Are they used interchangeably? Race and species are not themselves interchangeable, the former carrying connotations of "civilization" that aren't present in the latter. When Azetbur says, "We are a proud race. We are here because we want to go on being proud," she is not talking solely of the biological continuation of the existence of Klingons, but of the survival of their cultural and social structures.

ETA: Another example, from Odo, who says, "What better way to gauge another race than to see how it treats the weak and vulnerable," referring to the values rather than just the innate biological impulses.
Bad Thoughts is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump



All times are GMT +1. The time now is 07:43 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.6
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
FireFox 2+ or Internet Explorer 7+ highly recommended.