Roddenberry's Vision of Epistemology

Topics: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek, Benjamin Sisko Pages: 6 (2013 words) Published: April 7, 2005
The television series Star Trek: Deep Space 9 takes place on a space station where different planet's cultures, morals and religious values collide. These differences cause the conflicts that form the basis of the stories. Some people in these cultures lead very nominalistic lifestyles, while others are more realistic and extremely devout in their beliefs in their Gods. These differences can be seen in episodes such as "In The Hands of the Prophets," "The Abandoned," or "Life Support." The struggle between nominalism and realism has been a familiar idea on earth ever since the theme of a God was introduced. This same struggle will always exist forever unless there is some definitive proof of God. The more realist ideas of Descartes and John Locke assist in one's understanding of Star Trek's themes. Descartes and Locke's epistemological philosophies are reflected in the philosophical aspect of Gene Roddenberry's ideal society.

As Star Trek's creator, Gene Roddenberry has had a huge effect on the philosophical beliefs reflected in the show. Most episodes are a direct mirror image of his thoughts. Since he was a teenager, Roddenberry strongly questioned the validity of religion and became an atheist in "The Humanist Interview," he said "religion was largely nonsense — largely magical, superstitious things. In my own teen life, I just couldn't see any point in adopting something based on magic, which was obviously phony and superstitious."i When commenting on his first experiences doubting religion. His views on religion first appeared on Star Trek: The Original Series when he refused to have a chaplain aboard the starship Enterprise. Since that early point, Roddenberry rarely addressed the issue of religion. Deep Space 9, the first series that he did not produce, developed episodes using religious themes. Although Roddenberry did not directly influence this series, his beliefs about realism and nominalism still applied in the episodes. Even though Roddenberry was a humanist, he did not completely reject all religions or the people who followed them. Tolerance was one of his best traits, and it was projected in Deep Space 9, through the large diversity of species and religions and the deep personalities of their members. Even though most species did not believe in each others religions, they were still able to learn from each other.

While the religions found in Star Trek are fictional, they still contain value, both to the other characters on the show as well as to the viewers. The lack of any physical truth of these religions does not discredit them because they still may hold psychological value. Descartes also felt that, the 'close and profound union of our mind with the body'; of the body in which the mind is 'immersed'; of the way in which he is 'very closely joined and, as it were , intermingled with' the body, so that 'I and the body form a unit'; that the mind is 'substantially united with the body'; even , that mind and body are 'incomplete substances when they are referred to a human being which together they make up.'ii The bond between mind and matter that Descartes discusses clarifies the importance of Star Trek's religions. Even though they may not exist in our material world, the ideals they include may still exist within ourselves. The important values from any religion, real or fictional, can be used for our own personal betterment in the physical world, thus proving the strong bond between mind and matter.

One religion in Deep Space 9 that stands out as the most important in terms of Descartes views; the Bajoran religion, which is very well described the in episode titled "In the Hands of the Prophets." The Bajorans are extremely devout to their ancient religion, where they worship beings known as the Prophets. "The will of the Prophets for the Bajoran people is communicated apparently in two ways. First, there is a large volume of scripture, the Prophecies, which may be...
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