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Author Topic:   Even if you're not a trekkie or sci-fi fan, this is relevant to EvC.
hooah212002
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Posts: 3188
Joined: 08-12-2009


Message 1 of 11 (563777)
06-06-2010 7:46 PM


The whole episode, of course. I only linked the first of five.

It goes to show you what an inherently rational people will believe when faced with something they can't quite understand.

Yes, I got this off of Reddit. I've never watched really any Star Trek, but I just ordered every single episode, old and new, off Netflix (not due to this episode though. A buddy at work, the new movie and my renewed sense of love for science did the trick)


"A still more glorious dawn awaits
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise
A morning filled with 400 billion suns
The rising of the milky way"
-Carl Sagan

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dwise1
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Posts: 4070
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.6


(1)
Message 2 of 11 (563837)
06-07-2010 1:32 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by hooah212002
06-06-2010 7:46 PM


Yes, as a Trekker (ie, not in possession of even one single pair of Vulcan ears; albeit owning many technical documents) who has been watching the series ever since the very first episode ever aired, "The Man Trap" (08 Sep 1966), I am familiar with that episode. Along with every episode of every series produced, except for a season or two (the second season, most definitely, due mainly to scheduling problems) of Deep Space Nine.

The relationship between Star Trek and religion is unfortunately problematic. To begin with, we have Nichelle Nichols' story from the original series, in which one day she confronted Gene Roddenberry with, "I know what you're doing! You're writing morality plays!" "Shh! Don't let anybody know!" And indeed, Star Trek: TOS was full of morality plays, as were many TNG episodes. And that was one of the great strengths of that franchise, one which makes Star Trek almost mythical.

However, Roddenberry was a humanist -- which is a very good thing, mind you! However, the treatment of religion in Star Trek did suffer. Every single anomaly that could be attributed to a god would invariably, within the span of that single episode (remember, there were virtually never any multi-episode story arcs in 1960's TV), be given a totally materialistic explanation. In fact, one of the more mind-blowing episodes of a sci-fi show was immediately after the demise of Star Trek: In a Space: 1999 episode with Ian Shane, they encountered something inexplicable (an entity that inhabited Shane, seeking out heat at all costs) and the resolution of the story was that entity finally moving on and the main characters only able to say, "What the hell was that?" The complete anti-thesis of Star Trek, the admission that there are things that we still cannot explain. It ran like a shock through the minds of Trekkers.

Let us contrast another sci-fi show, Babylon 5. One of the principal races, the Minbari, was divided into three castes, one of which was Religious -- the principal Minbari characters, vitally important characters were of the Religious Caste ("We are Grey. We stand between the Darkness and the Light."). And religious themes and issues repeatedly appeared in that show. And these alien religions, and hu-man religions as well, were treated with respect and were not (always) explained away as they had been in Star Trek. In fact, many religious organizations praised the creator of Babylon 5 for his treatment of religion.

The creator of Babylon 5, Joseph Michael Straczynski (AKA "J. Michael Straczynski", AKA "JMS") is an atheist. Which supports a prejudice of mine. If a theist were to examine an alien culture and its religion (which theists have frequently done), he would do so through the filter of his own religion. He could recount factually what that culture's religious beliefs are, but he would need to discount those beliefs as wrong. Rather, it takes an atheist to look at those religious beliefs for what they are and to treat them accordingly. My personal prejudice is: A theist will only see what his own theology wants to see, whereas it takes an atheist to see what really is.

This harkens back to sac{whatever numeric sequence}'s Underlying Philosophy topic. In his OP, he assumes that we either proceed from a "God exists" or a God does not exist" presupposition. Well, he is fundamentally wrong in that assumption. But let us accept one side of his premise. If one approaches everything, including other religions, with the fundamentally underlying premise that God exists and therefore everything must relate back to that fact, then absolutely everything is filtered through that presupposition and therefore absolutely no non-Christian religious idea can be viewed as it really is.

Now, the other side of his argument is what's really wrong. sac{whatever numerics} assumes that the other presupposition is that "God does not exist". Rather, that other presupposition is "I observe what is." That is what JMS did. And for that, JMS received praise from many religious groups for his exceptional treatment of religion in science fiction.

Edited by dwise1, : airdate of "The Man Trap"


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Taz
Member (Idle past 1753 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 3 of 11 (563857)
06-07-2010 4:31 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by hooah212002
06-06-2010 7:46 PM


Ancient astronauts!

Edited by AdminAsgara, : fixed embed


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 566 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 4 of 11 (563879)
06-07-2010 7:58 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by dwise1
06-07-2010 1:32 AM


Faith Manages
Let us contrast another sci-fi show, Babylon 5. One of the principal races, the Minbari, was divided into three castes, one of which was Religious -- the principal Minbari characters, vitally important characters were of the Religious Caste ("We are Grey. We stand between the Darkness and the Light."). And religious themes and issues repeatedly appeared in that show. And these alien religions, and hu-man religions as well, were treated with respect and were not (always) explained away as they had been in Star Trek. In fact, many religious organizations praised the creator of Babylon 5 for his treatment of religion.

It should also be noted that Faith was presented as a Good Thing, and this was a core theme. And respecting beliefs was hammered home all the time. Remember the episode: Believers, where there was a religion vs surgical procedure issue and Sinclair concludes:

quote:
What makes a religion false? If any religion is right, then maybe they all have to be right. Maybe God doesn't care how you say your prayers, just as long as you say them ... What we hold sacred gives our lives meaning. What are we taking away from this child? ... I have to refuse to sign the order. I can't allow you to perform the operation

OF course the doctor goes ahead anyway, saves the kids life and the parent's treat the kid like a demon possessed thingy and so they murder him (I mean they euthanize him).

When Franklin comments that religion is to blame and that we'd be better off without, Sinclair reminds him that belief defines us so actually we probably wouldn't.


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CosmicChimp
Member
Posts: 306
From: Muenchen Bayern Deutschland
Joined: 06-15-2007


Message 5 of 11 (563984)
06-07-2010 4:14 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by hooah212002
06-06-2010 7:46 PM


quote:
'"It is our highest law, that we shall not interfere with other cultures." -Picard

Ironic how I've known the prime directive since childhood and upon hearing it there in the episode you linked above, what a new and deeper meaning it has for me. Ironic in that something so obvious never occurred to a Star Trek fan like myself before now.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4868
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.8


Message 6 of 11 (564116)
06-08-2010 10:40 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Taz
06-07-2010 4:31 AM


Embed Isn't
Taz, You're embed is not working.

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nwr
Member
Posts: 5593
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 7 of 11 (564119)
06-08-2010 11:18 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by AZPaul3
06-08-2010 10:40 AM


Re: Embed Isn't
See Message 6 in test for a working version.

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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4868
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.8


Message 8 of 11 (564123)
06-08-2010 11:33 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by nwr
06-08-2010 11:18 AM


Re: Embed Isn't
There she be. Thank you.

And all that work just to see Von Daniken?

I could have skipped that.

But thanks again, nwr.


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Stile
Member
Posts: 3914
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 9 of 11 (564289)
06-09-2010 2:48 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by hooah212002
06-06-2010 7:46 PM


Irrational jump?
Cool episode.

If (like me) you can't really watch the video but can skim over a script... here it is:
Who Watches the Watchers

hooah212002 writes:

It goes to show you what an inherently rational people will believe when faced with something they can't quite understand.


Well, it shows what might happen, if they were also very stubborn, anyway.

I find this one part a crucial turning point, and one that has a good chance of not actually happening (given this particular group of aliens, anyway):

"LIKO - Perhaps the beliefs of our ancestors are true. Nothing else can explain what's happened."

Yeah... I find the jump to "nothing else" to be kind of out-of-character for such a people. I think they would be more likely to ponder the situation and look for other options. Or, at least, be willing to accept that they may be wrong or may not know everything... such thoughts come hand-in-hand with developed rational thinking.

I understand the connections he's making, but for a "rational people", I don't think those are very "rational connections". In fact, I think they're kind of irrational connections. Otherwise, I tend to find the before and after (if we accept this turning point as valid) to be very much as I would expect.

But I suppose my idea of what would happen doesn't make for such an interesting story


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dwise1
Member
Posts: 4070
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 10 of 11 (564440)
06-10-2010 3:16 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Stile
06-09-2010 2:48 PM


Re: Irrational jump?
Ah, but the primitive Vulcans were not a rational people, but rather highly emotional and violent, so much so that they nearly destroyed themselves and would have if Surak hadn't shown them the path of peace and logic. Indeed, Vulcans are still highly emotional, but they train themselves to repress and deny their emotions.

However, it would seem that emotion, or at least the inability to control them, would have been bred out of Vulcans over time, much as independent thought and intelligence have been bred out of our domesticated livestock.

Anyway, it does not make much sense to expect a vulcanoid race to automatically be more rational than even the Vulcans were.


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dwise1
Member
Posts: 4070
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 11 of 11 (564443)
06-10-2010 4:07 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Modulous
06-07-2010 7:58 AM


Re: Faith Manages
That "Faith is a Good Thing"? Or that religious beliefs can be very strong motivators and that conflicting beliefs make for good drama? Remember, JMS is a writer. I recall him stating in his notes on The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5 (see also the actual Lurker's Guide at http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/lurker.html) that even though he's an atheist, he does recognize that religion plays a role in how people think and act and interac and thus can be a very important factor when writing drama.

Let's step back a bit a look that that first-season episode again (assuming it to be first season, since you mention CDR Sinclair; I haven't seen it re-air in the US since SciFi Channel re-aired it once through circa 2000, which is rather ironic {*}). Dr. Franklin was only seeing medical issues, namely saving lives and preventing unnecessary death. CDR Sinclair was seeing much broader issues that he had to deal with on a daily basis, such as getting a mixed population of widely divergent and conflicting beliefs and attitudes to co-exist peacefully and even hopefully to work together. And faced with events that that go completely against our own beliefs and values, such as parents killing their own child because of religion (since this was long before we in the West became more aware of Islamic "honor killings", I doubt that that was what JMS drew from; rather, I suspect that he had drawn from actual cases in the US of faith-healing believing parents whose children died because they withheld medical care), what does someone in CDR Sinclair's position do? He can't personally condone it, yet he can't publicly and officially condemn it. Was Sinclair's response really what he himself deeply believed? Or was it a way for him to rationalize not being able to take action against such an act? Even having a character being forced to accept a cop-out can make for good drama.

Those are just some other possible ways to look at that episode. If we could identify the episode, then we could go to the Lurker's Guide and read JMS' notes on that episode.

Now, how would that episode have been written if by a Christian? Assuming that Christian writer to not be a faith-healing type, would he have had Sinclair condemn that alien religious belief for being un-Christian? Would that episode even have ever been written? Would any of those many alien religions have been given due respect, or would they be shown to be either good (ie, echoing and even supporting Christian theology) or bad (ie, being contrary to Christian theology)?

It is my personal conceit that it takes an atheist to present and treat all religions equally and fairly and honestly. I think that is what JMS did in Babylon 5.

{* FOOTNOTE:
The irony in B5 not being aired any longer, is that JMS had deliberately planned for it to live on. As he was developing the show, he visited the on-line forums (being pre-public-Internet, that meant such forums as CompuServe, which is where I encountered him) to drum up interest in his project. Indeed, that is where he picked up the term "lurker" and chose it to described the indigent inhabitants of the station.

JMS' plan was for a 5-year story arc. He explicitly named Star Trek as his motive for this. Towards the end of Star Trek's second season, NBC decided to cancel the show, but a massive letter-writing campaign by its fans led to the show being renewed for a third season. Then when it was cancelled at the end of that third season, it went into syndication which is where its audience grew to such proportions that the franchise took off again and spawned four more series and ten movies.

JMS' point was that if Star Trek had not gotten renewed for that third season, then it never would have gone into syndication and never would have been revived. Three or more seasons (about 36 shows per season, instead of the UK's 13 per) of episodes are enough to show daily in syndication, whereas two seasons of episodes are not enough. JMS wanted his show to be at least three seasons long so that it would go into syndication and continue to build a larger audience, thus ensuring the B5 franchise long life and prosperity.

The irony is that, even though he got his five seasons, the show did not remain in syndication for long and the two shows spun off from it did not last long. A pity, because B5 was a damned good show.
}

{PS
Regarding the first-season episode, The Parliment of Dreams in which each delegate was to present their religion to the others as a cultural exchange, CDR Sinclair was at first perplexed as to what he should present to represent Earth. He ended up gathering representives from as many Earth religions as he could find and introduce them to the delegates. The first one he introduced was an atheist.

From JMS' notes:

quote:
- The atheist was not only first in line, he was the best dressed and smartest looking and nattiest one in the line.
jm(what a coincidence)s

. . .

- There was a follower of Islam; right next to the orthodox jew at the front of the line. "Mr. Rashid, a Moslem." I made sure we put them side by side.



}

{PPS -- Believers
Written, BTW, not by JMS, but rather by David Gerrold

quote:
Overview
Dr. Franklin asks Sinclair to intermediate with an alien family who, because of their religious beliefs, refuse to allow surgery that would save their dying child.

. . .

Analysis
- Franklin's willingness to break the rules for a cause he believes in, though indicative of a strong moral character, seems likely to get him into hot water at some point.
- On the other hand, Sinclair doesn't want to be placed in a position in which he has to stop Franklin from doing what he believes in; Sinclair would rather sidestep the issue than have his hand forced. This is consistent with his handling of the Senator's instructions in "Midnight on the Firing Line."
- The parents' reaction when Delenn refused to help could be viewed as hypocritical; they were perfectly willing to ask Delenn to violate her beliefs so they wouldn't have to violate their own.

Notes
Kosh is aware that he was examined by Dr. Kyle (cf. "The Gathering".) When he's asked how he would feel if a doctor performed an operation on him, he says, "The avalanche has already begun. It is too late for the pebbles to vote."

. . .

jms speaks {dwise1: fragments, nowhere near completely representative; I'm leaving out the ellipses}

- By the way, here's something interesting: an outline got turned in this week for an episode which I won't identify just now. Came in from one of our writers, based on an assigned premise. It's something you've never seen done in ANY SF-TV series, and I don't think has ever been done in TV overall. A very daring little story.

Word finally came back from our liaison with PTEN. "Number one, this is absolutely against the demographics on the show. Number two, no studio or network executive in his right *mind* would EVER approve this story in a million years. Number three...it's a hell of a story, I love it, let's do it."

- Similarity between "Believers" & a DS9 novel?
A couple points. 1) When "Believers" was written, Peter's book hadn't yet hit the stands. 2) Peter likely got his notion of the sick kid and the religious parents from the same basic source we did: the headlines. This has been an ongoing problem in real life for some time. So he took that real premise, and did one story based on it, and we did another extrapolation. This notion did *not* originate in the Trek universe....

- Excuse me....
You don't think that "Believers" was SF. Tough.

No, it didn't have warp gates, or tachyon emitters, or lots of technobabble...it was about people. And the dilemmas they face.

Part of what has screwed up so much of SF-TV is this sense that you must utterly divorce yourself from current issues, from current problems, from taking on issues of today and extrapolating them into the future, by way of aliens or SF constructs. And that is *precisely* why so much of contemporary SF-TV is barren and lifeless and irrelevant...and *precisely* why such series as the original Star Trek, and Outer Limits, and Twilight Zone are with us today.

{etc, worth reading so follow the link}

- Actually, I disagree when you say that the doctor was right. Says who? Not the parents. Not the episode. Nobody was really right, when you come down to it, except maybe Sinclair, who made the correct call. You say the boy was okay at the end...the parents didn't think so. Who's to say if there was or wasn't a soul inside?

I think David's script walked a very fine line and really didn't endorse either side. (I've had people send me email upset because we showed that the parents were right, and others because we said the doctor was right, and others because neither was right and the ambiguity bothered them.)

- A lot of our episodes are constructed to work as mirrors; you see what you put into it. "Believers" has been interpreted as pro- religion, anti-religion, and religion-neutral..."Quality" has been interpreted, as you note, as pro-capital punishment, and anti-capital punishment. We do, as you say, much prefer to leave the decision on what things mean to the viewer to hash out.

A good story should provoke discussion, debate, argument...and the occasional bar fight.

- The thing about "Believers" is that, really, nobody's right, and in their own way, from their point of view, everybody's right.

- ...
Sometimes, there are no-win scenarios. And what matters then is how your characters react, what they do and say, and how it affects them. That, really, was the thrust of the episode. And to go back to your question, "Who on earth is going to side...."

The operative word in your question is "Earth." No, no human is going to side with them (although I'd point out in the Bible that there is the story of Abraham, who was quite willing to murder his own son at god's request). They're not humans. They have a wholly different mindset, cultural background and belief system. People ask for ALIEN aliens, then judge them by human standards, and feel it's wrong if they don't behave like humans. These didn't. That's who and what they are. If humans side with them, or accept them, doesn't enter into it.


There's more to good story-telling than what appears on the surface.
}

Edited by dwise1, : PS: The Parliment of Dreams

Edited by dwise1, : PPS -- Believers


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