Does Data have a soul?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by eskyliz, Jun 16, 2013.

  1. eskyliz

    eskyliz Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    May 24, 2013
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    I just got done rewatching "Return of the Archons" in the original series and I got to the end when Captain Kirk was talking about how the computer was not Landru because even though it had the knowledge that he had, it did not have the wisdom and compassion and it had no soul.

    Now it's kind of obvious that the Landru computer had no soul. I mean it was leading a whole civilization that had almost no emotions. (No offense Vulcans. You're different.) But then I got to thinking. Why does Data seem to have a soul? He seems to have that spark of life just like any human. But he can't have a soul can he? I thought he was a machine and by Kirk's logic machines don't and can't have souls. Yet Data makes friends and even has a few romantic relationships. And we refer to him as "he" instead of "it." (Perhaps thats mostly because he's an android so he looks human and our brains are hot wired to recognize human faces and match them to names. Maybe we would call anything "him" or "her" if we painted a face on it.) Even though he's incapable of emotions, he understands that humans need creativity and feelings to be humans unlike the Landru computer which was only concerned with peace and order.

    So my question is does Data have a soul or is he just another lifeless computer?

    (Sorry if I sound like I hate Data. On the contrary, he's one of my favorites.)
     
  2. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    Location:
    Shangri-La
    Data is a toaster!

    Sorry, had to. Anyways... on topic. There's a bit of difference between your comparison to the Landru machine and Data. He does have compassion and wisdom. He's quite possibly the most compassionate person on TNG. Wisdom? He can be naive at times, and remarkably perceptive at others. Is he perfect no? But those imperfections seem to me to be part of the human condition he's coveting.

    As for a soul? I can't accept that as a criteria for sentience. If you can prove to me unequivocally that a human has a soul, then maybe I'll reconsider that. Until then I'd say it's just an abstract metaphysical term created by us to fill in the gaps between what we don't know and what we want to believe.

    So is Data human? Obviously not. I do believe Louvois made the correct determination that while he's different he should have the freedom to find his own answers in it.
     
  3. Timelord Victorious

    Timelord Victorious Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2006
    Location:
    Germany, Earth, the Solar System
    I sort of agree.
    You have to define "Soul" first before one can answer that.

    He is a machine, yes, but so are we, just different material bodies.

    We have a brain that produces our personality and so does Data.
    From what I understand of his positronic matrix is, that it forms new neural pathways all the time and makes his brain as unique as every human's.
    I think they had a diagram of it up in one episode.

    Of course that is abit of sci-fi magic, but within the StarTrek universe that Data really is much more than a programmed automaton.
    As much as we are anyway.
     
  4. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    Italy, EU
    People don't have "souls".

    Problem solved. You are welcome.
     
  5. Portal

    Portal Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    May 10, 2013
    Do you have a soul? Do I have a soul? I don't know.

    Now if Data were a Christian, I wonder what denomination he would chose to be. They're always asking that question when you go into the hospital, for instance.

    Can androids be religious/spiritual?

    Data is always striving to be more human, so I think he actually might believe in God and practice religion. He's always practicing his music and his art for example. But of course you have to consider whether or not he inherited a sort of atheism from his father and mother.
     
  6. cheesepuff316

    cheesepuff316 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2013
    Although Data isn't human, he is still sentient and AWESOME! :D

    Define having a soul.... Is it your personality, and everything that makes you who you are? Is it the spiritual thing that religion thinks it is? Is it like the katra for Vulcans?
     
  7. Portal

    Portal Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    May 10, 2013
    ^Does he have a strong Pah like the Bajorans?
     
  8. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2001
    Location:
    Great Britain
    This was one of the points made of "The Measure of a Man", it couldn't be proven or disproven that he had one, and the same went for a flesh and blood person.
     
  9. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2011
    Location:
    The Black Country, England
    Is the correct answer !
     
  10. SonOfMogh

    SonOfMogh Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    I think TNG made it pretty clear those silly superstitions are a thing of the past. I doubt anyone on the Enterprise believes they have a "soul".
     
  11. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    Location:
    Shangri-La
    The soulless minions of orthodoxy rule the future.
     
  12. Lt. Uhura-Brown

    Lt. Uhura-Brown Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    May 14, 2013
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Self-awareness is the seed from which the flower that is a soul, grows.
     
  13. Chemahkuu

    Chemahkuu Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Location:
    Ulster
    Exactly.
     
  14. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 10, 2005
    Location:
    The visitor's bullpen
    Yes, I believe Data has a soul. I don't care what he's made out of - he is a sentient being, and therefore has a soul. I feel the same way about the EMH.

    Of course there's no way to prove something like this, I just have to take it on faith.
     
  15. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    The issue is more complicated, even if you're an atheist (I'm not but that's not relevant). Soul can mean more than something that lives on past death but a certain Greek "spark of life" which renders something a person.

    What's the difference between Data, Moriarty, the Doctor, your typical hologram, and a very well-done computer simulation? In Star Trek, the question of simulating life is an issue which is relevant because a simulation is not real. However, if that simulation is real enough to FEEL that is a person. If a simulation does not feel but merely is following its programming, it's not.

    Yet, what is instinct if not programming?

    Also, while Gene Roddenberry was an atheist, the Star Trek universe is composed by people who have expanded it tremendously beyond and in some places against his vision. Bill Shatner's Star Trek is a deistic universe while accepting DS9 as part of "your" canon also means that it's a universe where literally true supernatural religion is not in conflict with science.

    It's more ambiguous in TNG and Voyager but even TOS has implications that religion isn't so much wrong as misinformed.
     
  16. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2012
    So..what exactly did that one guy project into Data when he possessed him in Season One?

    And that's not even touching the numerous other similar eps that had a more sci-fi angle.

    edit: In fact, after encountering numerous wonders to satiate desires both subtle and gross....I seriously doubt more than a handful of Enterprise crew sit there smugly going..."Pttt. There's no such thing as a soul."
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2013
  17. Portal

    Portal Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    May 10, 2013
    :guffaw:That's a great line, but I forget where it comes from.
     
  18. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 10, 2005
    Location:
    The visitor's bullpen
    ^ DS9 "In the Cards"
     
  19. Timelord Victorious

    Timelord Victorious Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2006
    Location:
    Germany, Earth, the Solar System
    That DS9 episode where Jake tries to get a baseball card for his father.

    Edit: ninja'd
     
  20. Chemahkuu

    Chemahkuu Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Location:
    Ulster
    Well, the problem is that the soul has to be something tangible, or it would keep getting left behind during transport.

    And I would love to see the religious bend-over-backwards explanations as to how a soul binds to a machine instead of the brain.

    I'd think maybe Data would notice that some weird energy field was attaching itself strangely to his positronic net. And the fact that deleting his ethical subroutines does not trigger this imaginary soul to compensate.

    Or that Thomas Riker and William must now be in possession of half a soul each, Voldemort style.

    Or that creatures resembling this aethereal form, energy born, seem to be largely evil or devoid of anything a soul is meant to impart. Strange, given that they're the closest to it.

    Sorry but, really? Data may never exist in any form at all no matter how advanced our technology becomes. He acts the way he does because of the script and an entirely Human actor dictating that he does.