Thursday, July 26, 2012

Star Trek and Secular Humanism

Friday the 27th:

Tomorrow begins our Star Trek unit, and we'll start with an overview of ST's depiction of religion.

Pearson, "From Thwarted Gods to Reclaimed Mystery?" in Star Trek and Sacred Ground
    Pearson offers a nice overview of religious themes in Star Trek, from the Original Series through Voyager.  Pay close attention to the views of Gene Roddenberry, but also take note of how religion changes from series to series.

Two Episodes
    We'll also discuss two episodes that offer similar critiques of religion, and illustrate the secular humanist values of Star Trek.  They are:

"The Apple," TOS: Season 2, Episode 5 (Netflix)

"Who Watches the Watchers," TNG: Season 3, Episode 4 (Netflix)*

RP4a Due
   You have the option to turn in a response paper tomorrow or on Monday.  Option A is on the following prompt:

What were Gene Roddenberry's views on religion and humanity when he started Star Trek, and how did ST's treatment of religion change over time?  Describe and compare the place of religion in two ST series, and tell me which of those two you find more interesting and why.

*Note: This week I'll refer to Star Trek series according to these canonical abbreviations:
TOS = The Original Series
TNG = The Next Generation
DS9 = Deep Space Nine
VOY = Voyager

Looking forward to your comments!


  1. I had never seen any star trek episodes before so it was definitely interesting to watch these. I watched them after i read the article, so that was helpful in noticing the differences in the presence of religion in each episode. In the first one it was interesting how they weren't concerned in interfering with the humanoids and even went as far as to destroy their God. They told them they could now live 'normal' lives how humans are supposed to. In the last episode, the people were very hesitant to interfere in the peoples way of life, that they should develop and learn on their own time at their own pace. And he was very adament in expressing that he was not divine and did not have super powers, that he was just like them, except more advanced.

  2. Reading about Roddenberry's religious views, and about how they influenced the series and the themes revolving around them, was particularly interesting to me. His 'agnostic humanism' was an interesting concept, and going on to read about humanism further was something interesting... but the way that Roddenberry's core values influenced the portrayal of religion in each season, going from a generally very negative portrayal to a gradually more moderate one, was quite fascinating.

  3. Revisions, reboots, remakes... why did they re-do the special effects? Thats half the fun of watching these! Red Dwarf did the same thing and now I cant watch it. This movement towards updating seems like a cultural phenomenon even more widespread (especially within the Sci-Fi media such as comic books and films). What motivates this trend is a mystery to me. Maybe its the desire for visual continuity across the whole history of Trek.

    What really amazes me, because Im an old fart, is that they've re-done the fx in TNG also. I used that software (Lightwave) years ago, it was cutting edge then.

  4. The nature of this show has always been to go boldly where no man has gone before...these episodes were very interesting. First about freedom, the second about understanding. It's amazing how the transition went from freedom to understanding as the show made its transitions. When religion was being very overpowering in peoples lives, they really did want to be free from it. but now, more and more people are coming to terms as to what religion is and how to make it contemporary for the individual.