Friday, January 22, 2010

How is religion looked at by Roddenberry

In the episode “Who Watches the Watcher” in Star Treck Next Generation one of the main common themes of how religion is looked at in Star Treck is played out to its usual end. In this particular episode anthropologists are studying a supposed primitive but advancing civilization. When Picard beams down to the planet in front of the natives they identify him has a god. Towards the end of this episode anthropologists want Picard to pretend he is god in order not to disrupt the people who live there. However Picard belief of not interfering leads him to different definition “send the Mintakands back into dark ages of superstition, ignorance of fear” is what he believes will happened if he pretends to be their God (22). There are few things that I find wrong with this episode that everyone might not agree with it. First of all has someone studying anthropology I can tell others that watching people in a study that might take place for months or years without their knowledge is frowned upon in the anthropological world. In this case Mintakands’ belief in God was disappearing before they noticed that people were watching them. In this particular case of Star Treck I understand why they might be leaded to the conclusion that they should tell the Mintakands that they are not gods because they were coming to this conclusion on their own. Another aspect that I find disappointing in this episode is the word primitive to describe these people. The word primitive in my mind in applies that one group of people is better than the other. By the anthropologists describing this group has primitive it limits their ability to get a clear picture of these people while the Mintakands might not be has technological advance it does not mean that they are inferior to the people studying them.

In some cases of encounter with alien races that believed in god or gods the Star Treck crew in my opinion acts like god or gods to these people. For example in the episode “Apple” the Star Treck crew decides to free the people of the machine that is controlling their lives (19). Kirk later goes on to say “ Listen to me, all of you. From this day on, you will not depend on Vaal. You are your own masters” (19). By deciding what best for these people in my opinion is very god like. The crew decides that they must push their own beliefs on to these people and that whatever the newly free people choose to believe in it should not involve gods because they do not exist according to the crew of the Enterprise. By not showing any civilization at least in my opinion that has a health relationship with god in the first Star Treck series it shows a lack of acceptances of religious tolerance which in my opinion is backwards instead of forwards.


James Pate said...

Good post! I've always been offended by that TNG episode, even though I love the scene where the Vulcan-like woman says to Picard, "I am not afraid of you now."

Scott said...

Of course, Roddenbery was an Athiest/Humanist, but my understanding of what the story was illustrating is how we humans react to the unkown?
Some people react with fear and some people with curiosity. Those that react in fear want comfort and so rely on something that gives them comfort. Sometimes that is a belief in stories of deities or deity. Those that are curious tend to push to understand what is unknown and by understanding are comforted. The problem with relying on the deity stories is that our diety (deities) tend to be very ethnocentric. This creates problems when we encounter another group of people. If they don’t have the same culture references we do, then our tendency is to classify them as bad, less, or inferior. This is proved by our history with the First Nation Peoples.