Over the course of human history, the level of innovation attained by mankind has not faltered in progression or abundance. We have cured diseases, engineered sustainable energy and even put a man on the moon. However, at the heart of human consciousness lies certain barbaric inclinations that we have yet to overcome.
Lessons from Trek
One of man’s greatest achievements, on the television at least, is "Star Trek." I will admit that I have only (very) recently become a Trekie, so I do not presently understand the complete scope of all the intricacies’ of the Trek universe. However from what I’ve seen, I am aware that they are far reaching. The incredible thing about the show is how it shows man at his most conceivably advanced yet still possessing the same barbaric inclinations that have marked humanity since our fall from grace in the Garden of Eden.
The difference? They realize these follies and are able to think rationally in regards to them. Amazing for a show originally created in the 1960s.
Lessons from Data
A prime example of this is found in the most touching episode of "The Next Generation" that I’ve seen yet, "The Measure of a Man."
This episode details the legal case between the resident Android, Data and Starfleet, over whether or not he should have the same rights as his fellow human officers. Captain Picard is made to represent Data and Commander Riker is forced to represent the opposition, Commander Maddox, a scientist seeking to disassemble Data in order to replicate his design. The issue at hand is whether or not Data is a sentient being with the right to choose. Is he a machine or a man?
This case is important in that it will set a precedent for all future cases on this issue. We have seen the power of this type of case in our own history with Roe v Wade (1973), Plessey v Ferguson (1896), and Brown v Board of Ed. Topeka Kansas (1954), just to name a few.
In the case of Data v Cdr. Maddox, however, the defendant desires to create an entire race of Androids for use on each starship in Starfleet. This raises a moral issue when Maddox reveals that he views this future race as “expendable.” As so eloquently stated by Picard, “A single Data is a curiosity, a wonder… Aren't we going to be judged as a species about how we treat these creations? If they're expendable, disposable, aren't we?”
As Data states earlier in the episode, “I am the culmination of one man's dream. This is not ego or vanity, but when Doctor Soong created me, he added to the substance of the universe. If by your experiments I am destroyed, something unique and wonderful will be lost.”
Curiosity or Blatant Inhumanity?
I have brought forth all of this to ask, where do we draw the line? All of our advancements aside, how are we to decide which lifeforms have rights and which are expendable?
These questions of morality have plagued us since our fall. Slavery. Apartheid. Genocide. Destruction. Murder. Abortion. Cloning. Stem Cell Research. Curiosity Experimentation. All of these things have blurred the line between progress and barbarity. We need to redefine it.
While "Star Trek" is completely fictional, human nature transcends the realms of fiction and reality and illustrates our utter depravity. As a race we have come so far, yet in some areas, it seems that we are still living in the dark ages.