The virtual pantheism of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the Star Trek brand, offers a wellspring of opportunities to dissect his many creative offspring. My personal favorite is Star Trek, The Next Generation - the award-winning sci-fi television series that many have suggested merely serves as a vehicle for his secular, humanist, and atheist predilections.
One early episode of this series, "Justice" (episode #7), examines a subject that believers and non-believers almost universally disagree about: the notion of moral absolutism. It's fair to say that most religious conservatives subscribe to the idea that humanity needs moral absolutes to guide itself, and that God is the appropriate source of this perfect morality. Whereas the secular among us tend to decry moral absolutes as usually dysfunctional. When an absolutist points to the Fifth Commandment, Thou shalt not kill, many would quickly point out that killing is often performed in what most would agree is a righteous context - as in a war to defeat an evil opponent. In this example, absolutism fails; moral relativism - or consequentialism, to be more precise, succeeds.
In "Justice" the precocious young Wesley is sentenced to death for the apparently harmless offense of walking through the forbidden garden to retrieve a ball. The native Edo claim that their crime-free, totally peaceful society has flourished precisely because of strict, or absolute, adherence to the laws of its protector, God (who is actually just a very advanced civilization orbiting the Edo's planet in a spaceship above).
After Captain Picard decides to defy the Edo and remove Wesley from the planet, his next challenge is to convince the governing entity of the mysterious "god-vessel" that clinging to its absolutist philosophy and destroying the Enterprise would be unjust. After an impassioned plea employing pure reason, the Enterprise and its crew are allowed to go free. Here Roddenberry clearly states his objections to an absolutist approach to morality, and in so doing promotes moral consequentialism as the better choice.
Reasonable minds can no doubt differ about which brand of morality offers what is best for humanity. I just happened to enjoy how this one creative mind offered his examination of those very options.
3 years ago