Saturday, 25 December 2010

Are you a StarTrek fan? Then maybe you're also a Humanist at heart...

If you're a fan of the various Star Trek series, then there's a good chance that you're a humanist at heart. The creator, Gene Roddenberry, made no secret of his personal humanist philosophy, and liberally sprinkled his out of this world Star Trek stories with the fundamentals of humanism.

Many of its episodes may be viewed as morality plays set against the backdrop of space. Star Trek, like humanism, promotes rational social justice and reason, and rejects religious dogma and the supernatural. Roddenberry strived in his Star Trek adventures to affirm the dignity of all beings. He was so resolute about not including religion that he refused suggestions to add a chaplain to the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Instead, Star Trek was imbued with a philosophy of ‘infinite natural diversity, in infinite combination’.

‘The Return of the Archons’, from the original series, is an example of how Roddenberry employed elements of humanism - A planet's population follows in an unquestioning way a mysterious cult-like leader, who allows no divergent viewpoints. The society absorbs individuals into its collective body and the world is free of hate, conflict and crime; but all creativity, freedom and individualism is completely stifled. ‘Archons’, like other Star Trek storylines, warns how easily people can be controlled by religion - and the viewer subsequently discovers that the cult leader is in reality just a n advanced computer.

Rodenberry saw himself as Capt. Picard, the cool-headed commander in the “Next Generation” series, and the Kirk character was modelled on Horatio Hornblower, C.S. Forester’s protagonist. After his death, some of the Star Trek vehicles, particularly the television spin-off series “Deep Space Nine,” were permeated with religious themes, something the franchise creator would certainly not have appreciated.

The series was also sprinkled with Rodenberry’s view on some of the things that he felt were wrong with US Government policies. The Star Trek series' principled “prime directive,” that humans should not influence or interfere with other races and peoples, was actually a snipe at American involvement in Vietnam, something that would not have been allowed if the television network censors had realised it.

Both humanism and Star Trek espouse a rational philosophy that champions compassion and creativity, and they both advocate open societies and participatory democracy. If this analysis is new to you, then next time you watch a Startrek episode consider the Humanist themes. You’ll see it in a whole new light...

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