Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What Star Trek Means to Me

During my days of watching YouTube debunkings and such, found one that included a clip of Hovind (I think) spouting the straw man about evolution being inherently progressive and how it'd all elevate us to deities who could fly around the universe meeting other intelligent life, "Just like in Star Trek." Something tells me Hovind listens to trekkies about as often as he does biologists: Roughly never.

Star Trek is very light on the science. Most fellow Star Trek fans I know don't bank on FTL travel being possible. Those who do doubt it would be convenient, usually because hypothetical methods would involve the power output of at least a few suns. Star Trek is a fantasy franchise set in the future instead of a medieval Europe-y place.

I signed on during The Next Generation, so that's primarily what I think of when someone mentions Star Trek. I don't see it as an accurate prediction of how things will go. I see it as something to hope for: Humanism will take off, the shackles of superstition will be broken, science will save the day, and all sentient beings will be treated with dignity, whether they're animal, vegetable, or mineral. It's idealistic escapism for people like me.

As for the "becoming gods" thing: Many, many episodes dealt with the Enterprise crew being powerful and resisting the temptation to just bully the local undeveloped planet into cooperating or forcing cultural change. Many episodes (most noticeably to me in the original series) had the crew helpless in the face of the week's sufficiently advanced alien and having to rely on guile. Of course, though, one minor point of annoyance is the lack of transhumanism. But the sheer amount of power is usually irrelevant to the story. I imagine it'd be easy to rewrite a lot of episodes with the Enterprise being a seagoing ship and replacing "planets" with "islands" and so forth. Having spaceships flinging glowing balls and beams at each other does tend to set a different visual tone, though. Anyway, I don't take the different levels of power to be a prediction: It's analogical for different moral dilemmas. I highly doubt we'll ever cram suns worth of energy in convenient packages. Besides, you could argue we're what primitive people would call "gods." That's more an argument for the lack of imagination that comes with ignorance.

In our current world, where woo reigns in politics, people like me need morale boosters like Star Trek. If we can imagine something like that show, maybe, just maybe we'll be able to achieve something like that. But then I bump into Creationists who claim ice is magnetic, and my cynicism returns.


King of Ferrets said...

From what little I understand of relativity, it might be that if FTL travel were possible, it would basically be a time machine and take you back in time. I'm not entirely sure how one would stop, though. Maybe it would just rewind to where the machine was going lightspeed.

Anonymous said...

The thing you always have to remember about science fiction is that it's fiction first, and science very much second (if at all). But then I'm a massive Farscape fan... (Speaking of which...)

Relativity rules out FTL for anything with mass. Of course, it's possible that relativity is wrong, or not the whole story. (Well, actually, we know it's wrong. The question is whether it's wrong enough that FTL is actually possible - the answer being "probably not". Which sucks.)

Trek is a nice enough fantasy provided you don't examine it too closely. For really convincing (trans)humanist fantasy fiction, I much prefer Ian M. Banks Culture novels.