Phlox and Archer's actions in Dear Doctor

Discussion in 'Enterprise' started by The Overlord, Nov 9, 2011.

  1. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    When you help the Valakans and not the Menk just because the Valakans have explicitly asked for help while the Menk are happy idiots (stupid housewives or Uncle Toms) you become something far worse than an imperial force. You don't merely conquer a world and subjugate its people, you randomly assist one group at the expense of another while being able to feel smug and righteous.
    But go ahead, if you think that helping the Valakans is an ethical impetus helping every subjugated Klingon and Romulan species is a far stronger impetus. You'd have to go to war with each and every power in the two quadrants and you'd have to unleash a total war that costs billions or trillions of life.

    Such nonsense, based upon intellectual laziness that refuses to acknowledge that you can't play in deep space like you play on Earth, should indeed not be taken seriously.
     
  2. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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  3. The Overlord

    The Overlord Captain Captain

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    The Cold War is not the same as a plague ravaging a population, the Cold War could have resulted in mass death, but didn't this plague did. As for WWIII. You are forgetting that the amount of effort Phlox and Archer had to put in to stop the plague was minimal compared the effort the Vulcans could have needed to stop WWIII.

    Phlox and Archer got involved, they made the cure and then they decided not to give the cure, the broke the PD by getting involved in the first place. Heck the PD didn't even exist back then, so there was nothing really stopping them from getting involved in the first place. They fact they got involved, give the Valakans false hope and then decide not to give the cure to them. That comes off as extremely cruel and callous. As was mentioned before, this is like someone with a jug of water coming across a man dying of thirst and decides not give any of his water to the man and then says that was the moral thing to do.
     
  4. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    You've thoroughly failed to address it, of course. In fact, you couldn't if you tried.

    That's because there's no real answer to it, in this context.

    All of these wonderful arguments about the morality of the Prime Directive in the Star Trek context that assume it has any referent in the real world are failures from their initial premise.

    The notion that "folks are the same all over" in cultural respects is underthough tripe. Star Trek pretends that human and non-human creatures would be so similar with respect to basic drives, instincts, and consciousness (if the last even obtained) that their values would be more confortably close to one another - that is, identical - than that of GOP and Democratic voters in the United States.

    Fail.

    "All forms of intervention" between a space-traveling, super-technological species and a less technologically advanced species (not "races," not "peoples," but at species and in fact essentially different kinds of life above the level of abstraction of the so-called "kingdoms") would not be "imperialism."

    It would be genocide.

    Fortunately, none of us will experience this - there's not one good reason to believe now that it will ever happen. ;) :techman:

    But, you know, we're free to keep having these hair-splitting, meaningless debates over vapor.
     
  5. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    You obviously can't with your big lettered words and your lack of an argument.
    But you can try to explain why one should help a sick species but not a subjugated species. You might wanna pick up Overlord's point about genocides like in Rwanada to get something going.



    I think the difference between us is that you talk about cruelty, psychopaths and morals whereas I talk about ethics.

    Let me phrase it like this, I agree with you that what the Vulcans or Archer did was cruel or even sociopathic (only so if the society we talk about stands alone, not embedded into a world with many alien species) but it was also the ethically right thing to do. This sounds like a contradiction but I don't think it is. To kill someone is normally morally and ethically wrong whereas to kill Hitler might have been morally wrong but if there was any ethical injunction for my grand-grand-parents it was to kill this man.
     
  6. The Overlord

    The Overlord Captain Captain

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    Except I don't see the actions of Phlox and Archer akin to killing Hitler to stop the Holocaust, I see more akin to letting the entire German population die because of the Holocaust. I don't see the ethics in Phlox and Archer's actions, because you seem to suggest that all Valakans are responsible for the mistreatment of the Menk, not just the leaders. Should Valakan children be left to die because of the sins of their fathers? I do not think collective punishment is moral or ethical. If Archer and Phlox gave the Valakans the cure, perhaps they would have been so grateful that they would have stopped mistreating the Menk right away, if Phlox and Archer merely suggested it. That would kill 2 birds with one stone, literally a win-win scenario, instead Valakan children are dying in the streets because Phlox used Nazi like pseudo science to justify not helping them.

    The problem with this episode is it makes Phlox and Archer extremely unlikable to a large portion of their audience and that was not good for a TV series struggling for ratings.
     
  7. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Talk for yourself, this episode made me like Phlox very much. Not because of the Prime Directive issue but because he was portrayed as a real alien who neither has the human urge to help the Valakans nor the ability to see exploitation in the stable, symbiotic relationship between Menk and Valakans.
    That's precisely why his argument is so convincing, he does not believe that the Menk are exploited or mistreated.
    Back to your main point, the Valakans are not punished for anything. They are just not given an advantage over the Menk. You can't choose sides so you gotta stay out.

    The Vulcans have been surely been asked again and again to help 21st century humankind deal with radiation sickness, to give them food, technology, etc. and I guess that their refusal to help humans (which might have made them appear like a nasty fatherfigure without any maternal elements) pissed us off. Enterprise started off with this very theme, distrust and tensions between the two species.

    Yet it was right for the Vulcans to withold technology and resources that could have eased human suffering, just like it was right for Archer to withhold the cure. The only problem of Dear Doctor was that is sounded social Darwinistic due to the Neanderthal comparison.
    Of course you can argue that the Vulcans are baddies ... but this would make the whole Federation with its nasty Prime Directive a bunch of wicked psychopaths which is a line I naturally can't follow. :)
     
  8. The Overlord

    The Overlord Captain Captain

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    If this thread is any indication, I'm not just speaking for myself, there are a lot of people on this thread who thought Phlox and Archer were very unlikable in this episode.

    This makes Phlox look like he comes from a society where psychopathy is encouraged, that makes him seem sinister not wise. Phlox's society is starting to look like the Cardassian Union, where the state tries to breed compassion out of their citizens. I'm beginning to think this episode would make more sense if Phlox was the villain of the episode.

    So letting one side when saving them would take no effort and perhaps saving them would lead to reforms to their society that would end the mistreatment of the Menk is right, why exactly? It seems like you are arguing from extremes, that there is no middle ground between micro manging other societies and being callous and indifferent.

    How is letting Valakan children die the moral thing to do? Why does this episode present compassion as a vice rather then a virtue?

    Well Vulcans did come off as extremely unlikable in the first couple of seasons of Enterprise, they were "Flanderized" in that series to far more cold and unlikable in that series, that past series presented the Vulcans in a more postive light, so yeah in Enterprise the Vulcans were often extremely unlikable.

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Flanderization

    Heck Archer himself would often rant against the Vulcans and there were many episodes that wanted us to take his side against the Vulcans. So frankly Enterprise itself presented the Vulcans as unlikable.

    The problem is, as the Star Trek series went, traits and ideas became warped and all consuming that they lost their original meaning. The Prime Directive started as a reasonable idea and then became inflexible dogma and the Vulcans went from logical and moral to cruel and callous. At first in Star Trek, there were episodes like "Patterns of Force" and "Who Watches the Watchers" that presented the PD in a positive light, but later there were only episodes that presented in a negative light, the positive ones were no where to be found.
     
  9. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Incidentally, the "it's wrong to intervene" argument is NOT the argument Phlox uses for not giving the cure, it's that the disease is a genetic disorder, and so the "gods of evolution" have slated for the Valakians to go extinct.

    So Phlox's rationale for his psychopathic actions is not "imperialism," it's pseudo-science.



    And the differences between giving a cure for a disease and a military intervention are so numerous that I can't believe anyone would even try to compare the two.


    Did Archer have to consider casualties of troops here? Or civilian deaths as collateral damage in battles? Or political balance-of-power calculations?

    In other words, what was it costing him to give the cure? What was the dilemma?


    There was none.
     
  10. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm not sure what I'm supposed to address because you haven't made an argument.


    You've just asserted that it would be disastrous based on your say-so.


    it's an assertion based on a hypothetical.


    I might just as well "respond" to your choice of favorite ice cream flavor.
     
  11. The Overlord

    The Overlord Captain Captain

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    Just show how unheroic Phlox and Archer are this episode, imagine if in the next Superman movie, Superman decides to mirror their actions:

    Superman: "Oh no, Brainiac is about blow up Metropolis, perhaps I should stop him! On the other hand, maybe intervention would be wrong, maybe Metropolis is fated to explode today. There are all sorts of social problems in Metropolis, crime, poverty and pollution, perhaps saving them would just make things worse. If I save Metropolis, perhaps one of the people I save will become a serial killer and kill people. Frankly I think it would be imperialistic of me to save Metropolis, so I am just going to let Brainiac blow it up. Bye."

    The End​
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011
  12. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Real ethics are always cold. I want people to have access to water, food and healthcare precisely because I am not compassionate and don't care about them.
    If you frame the issue in warm, emotion-soaked words like compassion, cruelty, likability and so on you naturally arrive at the conclusion that the responsible folks are cruel, unlikable and not compassionate.

    Just think about what would have happened if Vulcan had helped humankind in the late 21st century, then you might get it.

    You claim that Archer and Phlox are wicked, evil psychopaths whereas all they do is follow future Federation rule number one. The Prime Directive is not about what you consider "positive" and "negative", it's not a feel good rule. Ethics never are about feeling good, they are about doing the right thing even when it is monstrous like killing a tyrant, taking someone's property or not assisting someone who asks for your help.
     
  13. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    You distort Phlox' argument via not mentioning the Menk and then ask what the dilemma is? He presented it in a crystal clear fashion which one cannot say about your intellectually dishonest distortions.
     
  14. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    the Menk don't factor in, giving the cure does not "hurt" the Menk, as they are free to pursue their civil rights struggles at any time. Unless you're arguing that providing medicine to white Americans in the 19th century "hurt" American Indians or blacks.

    Also, I don't think you understand ethics, which have nothing to do with "coldness" or lack of emotion, I don't know where you get that weird notion.
     
  15. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    They are free to pursue their struggle translates into they are free to find a cure on their own in the case of the Valakans.

    Given that you provide noting but empty pseudo-arguments I am not surprised that you do not understand my point that being a warm-hearted, oh-so-caring human being has nothing to do with being ethical. Not that I'd have to quote Wilde to point out that compassionate love for over six billion brothers and sisters is impossible, but let me nonetheless quote some parts from "The Soul of Man under Socialism" which argue against charity to clarify my point:

    The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism – are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this. The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man’s intelligence; and, as I pointed out some time ago in an article on the function of criticism, it is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought. Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.

    [...]

    Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good; and at last we have had the spectacle of men who have really studied the problem and know the life – educated men who live in the East End – coming forward and imploring the community to restrain its altruistic impulses of charity, benevolence, and the like. They do so on the ground that such charity degrades and demoralises. They are perfectly right. Charity creates a multitude of sins.
     
  16. The Overlord

    The Overlord Captain Captain

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    I don't find the way the Prime Directive was enforced in this particular case was particularly ethical. Heck the Prime Directive didn't even exist back then, so it didn't exist as a system of ethics that guided the Federation, Phlox and Archer were just making stuff up on the spot in this case.

    I don't see any particular morality or logic in letting an entire race die, when you can save with extremely minimal effort. I think the positives far outweigh negatives, so even from a purely logical standpoint I don't think Phlox and Archer's actions hold water. The Prime Directive doesn't even exist, so what ethical system are they following? None, besides Phlox's arguments based on eugenics and pseudo science.

    From a basic moral standpoint, helping people is almost always considered better then letting people die. As Edmund Burke said " All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." That's what Phlox and Archer did nothing, they allowed a disaster to occur that would kill millions in a slow and painful manner. I would say that is a greater evil then the mistreatment of Menk. The Valakans could have reformed in the near future and started to treat them as equals, but once the Valakans are dead, nothing can bring them back.
     
  17. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    'Slow and painful manner' is factually wrong as they gave them medicine which eased the symptoms. I don't like the word evil but I would greatly enjoy to shove it back into the throat of a hypocrite like Burke who opposed the French Revolution.

    Episodes like Dear Doctor and Cogenitor are Prime Directive episodes. They show the genesis of this concept during humankind's first steps in space. A principle does not have to be codified yet to be active. I don't have to point out via previous Prime Directive episodes that even before the supposed wickedness of Archer and Phlox the Prime Directive has been the very opposite of Burke's stupid aphorism, do I?

    Anyway, this discussion has arrived at a dead end. You disagree with the the Federation's main principle while I am a proponent of it. I won't call you a Cardassian though and I found the difference between our standpoints, my cold ethics and your warm compassion, interesting.
     
  18. BillJ

    BillJ Admiral Admiral

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    Dear Doctor never made any sense to me on a couple of different count:

    A) If Phlox was so against interfering why even pursue a cure to begin with? If his convictions were that strong he could've simply refused to pursue any work.

    B) By giving them any help at all they are potentially changing the evolutionary course of the planet.

    It seemed that even Phlox didn't really know the correct course of action.

    It is morally repugnant to allow children to die for the crimes of their parents. It is also morally repugnant to allow people to die instead of them living on and learning the errors of their ways. Phlox made a judgement call that the two couldn't learn to live together, that the cosmos had fated one side to die. But if that's the case why did the cosmos allow them to reach out and find help? Why did the cosmos put the Starship Enterprise in a perfect place to offer assistance?

    But on the more pragmatic side. What happens to the Menk after the Valakians all die in a decade or so? They'll be faced with the clean up of tens of millions of corpses in the cities or else disease would run rampant and possibly wipe them out. They'll no longer have access to immunizations they count on to fight disease and infection. They may be able to work some of the machines left behind but would probably be incapable of replicating most of it. Pakleds anyone?

    Then there's the possibility that the presence of the Valakians is what is fueling the growth of the Menk to begin with. Like when a younger sibling develops faster than an older sibling did, because of the presence of the older sibling.

    Inaction may be sentencing a world to no civilization if the Valakians die. The Menk, if they don't die from disease, starvation or some other catastrophe, may simply move away from trying to grow themselves.
     

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