True or False: Dear Dr. is most morally bankrupt trek episode evar

Discussion in 'Enterprise' started by ElimGarak, May 29, 2012.

  1. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Bullshit indeed as the Prime Directive has nothing to do with the right to live.

    We (not all of us, some among are less savage and don't) eat monkeys, pigs, dogs and cows, all intelligent, sensitive and social mammals. So much about how fantastic our natural morals are and how totally unnecessary culture and ethics are.
    Meat-eating which has been an essential protein source that made our brains grow now endangers our life due to climate gas emissions and inefficiency compared to normal food (we all know the 1:10 ratio). So it is absolutely necessary that we force ourselves to stop with this totally natural behaviour which is deeply ingrained into us as we have done it for tens of thousands of years. In order to achieve this goal we we need very counterintuitive and radical animal rights that forbid us to eat meat.

    Back to Trek, if pre-Fed humankind or the UFP would follow their guts and help everybody they meet without thinking about the consequences they could harm a species like Menk at the cost of the group they help, they could liberate a world occupied by the Klingons and get drawn into a war of galactic proportions or they could help a child which seems to be tortured by her mother whereas she does in fact merely wean it from a particular gas it needs at early life (Broken Bow).
     
  2. TiberiusMaximus

    TiberiusMaximus Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Nobody's advocating the idea that the Feds should "help everybody they meet without thinking about the consequences." Nobody. What we're advocating is being reasonable and not drawing arbitrary lines in the sand and saying "Until you advance THIS far, you don't deserve ANY of our help."

    It's not really that hard to imagine a middle ground between those two extremes.
     
  3. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    The Valakian lack of warp capability did not seem to influence Archer's decision. He would probably have done the same if the Valakians had warp capability yet in this case they would have also met far more aliens and increased their chance to receive external help.

    The Vulcans probably have not offered the post-Cochrane humankind too much help. Perhaps they helped them with radiation poisoning, delivered some medicine and so on but they let humankind solve their big problems alone, causing mild xenophobia decades later amongst even the best of them like Archer and Tucker.
    To get back to Dear Doctor, here the question also was whether this is just some arbitrary sickness or a deeper issue. Phlox eagerly worked on the medicine until he realized that there DNA is breaking together. Viewing messing with DNA so conservatively (this is also my personal stance but I think the only proper attitude towards biogenetics is a neutral one, it can be good or bad) is the big error of the episode. It only makes sense if you focus ignore the biological and focus on the social stuff.
     
  4. The Overlord

    The Overlord Captain Captain

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    The problem is the social stuff in this episode is backed up by junk pseudo science that has been used to justify evil acts in the past. The bad science makes this episode fail as a moral dilemma, because Phlox's conclusions seem to be based on science that would be dismissed as the work a quack at this point.

    The moral dilemma may have worked better if instead of a choice between the Valakians dying or the Menk developing at some point in the future, if it is a choice between the Menk dying or Valakians dying. To me that is more of a moral dilemma, that is a supremely hard decision and it would have made for a better story then what we got instead.
     
  5. Sindatur

    Sindatur The Grey Owl Wizard Premium Member

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    The Menk are enslaved, and deprived of Education and therefore Development, by the Valakians. Is that not applying and tolerating different Ethics for different Cultures if you gave the Valakians the cure? The Menk were shown to be quite sentient in the episode. Matter of fact, the Menk helping Phlox, who arranged and categorized and sub-categorized the Blood samples showed more intelligence than we saw exhibited to us by any Valakian
     
  6. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Killing A to save B or vice versa would be no dilemma, Archer would stay out of it (unless it were a member of his crew like in the case of Similitude which is slightly weaker than Tuvix as Archer does not kill Trip's clone).

    There is no bad science in the episode as nothing that Phlox says is scientifically wrong. As I tried to elaborate above, the crucial question is whether you view messing with DNA as curing sickness or giving the species a head start.

    I also think that the biological stuff should stay in there. The two greatest moment of the episode have been the moments in which the humans feel compassion for the sick Valakans as well as the exploited Menk whereas Phlox doesn't. He has his mind on the long-run and realizes that what is exploitation from a human perspective is decent form of coexistence as the dominant species might very well have eradicated the weaker one. This is clearly the view of a biologist.

    Of course the better version would have been the original one in which Archer did give them the cure at the end precisely in order to maintain tension between gut-following humans who only see the immediate suffering and the hyper-distanced doctor who only sees the distant past and the far future.
    A further problem was that the suffering of the Menk which Sindatur mentioned got not woven into this, that the initial "they are exploited" reaction does not create questions like "shall we give them the cure if they commit to treating the Menk better?".
     
  7. Deimos Anomaly

    Deimos Anomaly Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The entire reasoning behind denying them the cure was based on a combination of subtle racism, gaiaistic nonsense (in which nature is personified, so that instead of random happenstances, it's regarded as having a "will" or a "goal") and second guessing or thinking they can predict the future course of evolution.

    News flash: It's not the place of people to second guess the future. That way lies madness where nobody helps anybody. "Hey there's a guy drowning, I could help him but he might turn out to be the next Hitler, guess I won't save him then".

    (As a matter of fact this did happen - when Adolf Hitler was 4 he fell through thin ice on a river in Austria and nearly died, another kid heard his screams and pulled him out. But there is no shame on that kid for rescuing him - even though Adolf went on to become who he became, it wasn't for that kid to know, and in rescuing him, he did the right thing.)
     
  8. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    About Gaiaism, humankind has no natural relation to genetic engineering. They went too far when they tried to redesign their species and since then they do too little.
    About second guessing, the ability to think ahead and consider potential unanticipated consequences is what makes us different from animals.
     
  9. TiberiusMaximus

    TiberiusMaximus Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Those scenes completely fail at making Phlox seem more enlightened. He comes across as nothing more than callous. You gotta remember the audience is human, not Denobulan. Phlox doesn't come across as a scientist doing what is right without being blinded by sentiment - he comes across as cold and completely lacking in empathy or compassion. Largely because of that, the episode fails to make its point.

    The point that "Interference can have unforeseen consequences/we cannot play god" is not wrong in itself, but the episode fails to present it properly.

    And what if inaction would doom both races? Then the situation would be a dilemma.

    Did you miss the part where I said there are exceptions? IIRC, the Valakian's treatment of the Menk isn't presented as a good thing anyways, so it's really not what I'm talking about. There are exceptions, but in general, Trek doesn't present subjective morality/ethics as truth.
     
  10. Sindatur

    Sindatur The Grey Owl Wizard Premium Member

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    Sure, I read where you said there were exceptions, like the Klingon views on suicide, but, that's a far cry from condoning slavery and depriving a specific class of education so you can keep them down and enslaved. And condoning that is precisely what they would be doing, if they simply handed over the cure and made no complaints about it.

    As I said, there is no denying the Menks' potential, we saw far more exhibited in the one Menk we got close to, then what we were shown of the Valakian's intelligence. Intelligence, not Knowledge
     
  11. TiberiusMaximus

    TiberiusMaximus Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    I'm actually not necessarily saying they should have given the Valakians the cure. All I'm saying definitively is that "Dear Doctor" doesn't do a good job of presenting the issue and the rationale given for withholding the cure doesn't really work.
     
  12. The Overlord

    The Overlord Captain Captain

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    It is bad science to suggest that nature has a plan or species evolve into extinction, neither of those things are even remotely true. Phlox basing ideas on these two flaws ideas makes him a quack, not biologist.

    Also let's compare the Valakans treatment of the Menk, to the way America treated black people before the Civil war or the way Germany treated Jews during WWII. Both America and Germany did things that were worse then what the Valakans did to the Menk, but does that mean if Americans or Germans were dying of a plague, no one should help them? The Valakans could change their ways in the future, heck, giving them the cure could have convinced them to change. They can't change for the better if they are dead.

    The moral dilemma fails, because it based on junk science and ignores the possibility that the Valakans may treat the Menk better in the near future.

    I think sfdebris made a pretty good case of why the science and morality in this episode is crap.

    http://blip.tv/sf-debris-opinionated-reviews/ent-dear-doctor-review-5896615
     
  13. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Actually it IS part of Phlox's culture. It's a cornerstone of Denobulan medical ethics that the patient's will is always the prime consideration. If a patient asks to be treated, the doctor must do it. (Conversely, a patient who refuses treatment must also be respected in that wish.) So Phlox violated his own species' tenets in this episode as well as those of humanity!
     
  14. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    It is indeed yet Phlox does not make such suggestions.
    He merely compares the Valakians and the Menk with homo sapiens and the Neanderthals and says that giving the latter an advantage is wrong.
    It is a question of the time horizon. Is this an ordinary sickness we are treating or are we giving one of two sentient species a serious long-term advantage?
    I think the latter is true as we do not talk about an external issue like a plague but about collapsing chromosomes.

    If they gave them the cure they would have to counterbalance this via making them commit to treating the Menk better unless you wanna claim that biological issues are more important than social ones.
    To use your example, providing sick nazis or slaveowners with medicine while not caring about the people they subjugated would obviously not merely be wrong but a crime of vast proportions.
    Or to use again my animal rights comparison, the Valakian mistreatment of the Menk is as natural to them as our treatment of animals as they have done it for tens of thousands of years. The idea of equal rights is totally alien to them, you'd have to literally force your ethics upon them.

    So the Enterprise crew would have to cure a genetic breakdown and redesign the social fabric of two species. Sounds awfully close to playing God to me.
     
  15. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ^ No, they would only have to give the cure. The social issues of the Valakians and Menk are not the crew's concern. The simple fact is, they have a cure - and are thus morally obliged to use it. Whatever happens after that, is not their problem.
     
  16. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    You mistake enlightenment for compassion. Phlox does the enlightened thing, he uses his brain and thinks about more then than immediacy of the situation, i.e. the exploitation of the Menk.
    He realizes that this is not something culturally contingent like the power struggles inside humankind (or Denobula in his case) but more of a biological issue, a form of coexistance that has gone on for as long as these species have existed which is most likely hundreds of thousands of years.
    Doesn't imply that you cannot change it but the longer you do something the more deeply it is burned into you.


    This 'only biological, no social interference' stance is wrong as it implies that Archer has to give the cure if the Valakians wage war against the Menk or put them into concentration camps.
     
  17. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Neither of which were actually happening, BTW.

    In any case: Curing disease trumps all. If you have the cure for some disease, and you are confronted with people suffering from that disease who ask you to help them (which would automatically render the Prime Directive inapplicable, as you are allowed to help anyone who ASKS), you are obligated, under all circumstances, to provide it. There can be no circumstance under which it is ever ethical to refuse to cure someone if you have the power to do it.
     
  18. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Medical assistance which sustains a system of oppression is already a crime among humans (if Hitler is sick your ethical injunction is not to cure him but to ensure that he dies) and definitely among aliens.
     
  19. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I really don't think the way non-interference is presented here jibes with how Gene Roddenberry saw it. :shrug:
     
  20. Deimos Anomaly

    Deimos Anomaly Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think Phlox was speculating that as the Menk evolved towards full sentience, they would become dissatisfied with their role, and this would potentially lead to real oppression of them by the Valakians, or genocide against them by the Valakians, or long term war between the two.

    But it was only speculation. The future is forever inscrutable. Who knows what path it may take, what turns and twists and unforseen factors lie ahead? Based on some dodgy speculation, Phlox decided that he knew what was best for two entire species. And he took it upon himself to be judge, jury and executioner for the Valakians. And then he and Archer have the temerity to congratulate themselves for "Not playing God"? I'd hate to see their idea of actually playing god.