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Susan Sackett - The Secular Humanism of Star Trek
Posted: 05 July 2009 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Susan Sackett began an association with Gene Roddenberry, creator of the television legend Star Trek, serving as his personal executive assistant for over 17 years until his death in October 1991. She also served as his production assistant on the first Star Trek film and worked closely with him on the next five Star Trek movies.  In addition, she served as Production Associate during the first five seasons of the television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation.  She is the author of 10 books about the film and television industry. In 1994, Susan left California and relocated to Arizona, where she got involved with the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, for which she has president of HSGP since 2000. Since 2005, she has been on the Board of Directors of the American Humanist Association, and currently serves on the Executive Committee as Secretary.

In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Susan Sackett recounts her history with Gene Roddenberr, and the influence he had on her, especially regarding the development of her secular humanist worldview. She talks about Roddenberry’s unshakable optimism about humanity’s future, and how that was expressed in his creative efforts. She discusses social justice and political messages written into the original 1960’s Star Trek series, such as racial and gender equality, and allegories about the United State’s involvement in Vietnam. She talks about explicitly secular humanist themes throughout Start Trek: The Next Generation, specifically in episodes like Who Watches the Watchers. She debates other topics addressed within the various Star Trek series, such as distribution of wealth, overpopulation, and the end of the nation-state, and whether or not there was a Marxist bias in the shows. And she reveals her favorite Star Trek episode, and why it is her favorite. 

ttp://www.pointofinquiry.org/susan_sackett_the_secular_humanism_of_star_trek

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Posted: 06 July 2009 07:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I was horrified by what I saw as complete betrayal of humanist virtues Roddenberry advocated and what has been put forward by the less educated and less focused while producing later Treks. 

In DS9 and Voyager, there was significant and increasing effort to rationalize faith in immortal souls.  The introduction theme song to Enterprise featured lyrics extolling “Faith of the Heart”.  This is profoundly offensive to those of us working toward “education of the mind”, especially when pitted against massive corporate and military interests which are threatened by free and open inquiry of rational, well-educated masses.  Using Star Trek as a tool of propaganda like this is profoundly offensive, and motivated a blog series on Abrams’ film called “Star Trek by the Minute” at http://structureddream.blogspot.com/2009/06/my-take-on-star-trek-2009-001.html

I would really appreciate feedback from people who felt this movie was “great”, which seems to be a frequent reaction.

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Posted: 06 July 2009 07:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, even I was disappointed by the latest Trek.  To me, it’s not Trek, even though some people insist it is.  It’s more like Star Wars.

Even so, I can’t wait to get home tonight from work and listen to this podcast.  smile

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 06 July 2009 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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As I ask in the blog, has there ever been a film with more errors and self-contradiction that ST 2009?

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Posted: 06 July 2009 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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No, I don’t think there ever has been.  It was pretty bad and I don’t care what anyone else says.  They can even accuse me of not being a true fan, if they want, but the truth is, that wasn’t Trek.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 07 July 2009 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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This was a great podcast!  I never knew that Gene Rodenberry had purposely implemented secular views on the “..Next Generation.”  Now I know why I was so addicted to that series when I was younger.  I hope that future Star Trek movies will continue to be and remain secular.  After all, isn’t this what Gene wanted his creation to be? Consequently, isn’t that why everyone loved the series so much?  “Numbah-One, Engage!”

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Homeostasis, balance, and equilibrium ............

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Posted: 08 July 2009 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Mriana - 06 July 2009 08:05 AM

No, I don’t think there ever has been.  It was pretty bad and I don’t care what anyone else says.  They can even accuse me of not being a true fan, if they want, but the truth is, that wasn’t Trek.

Mriana, anyone who is as passionate about Trek as you are could never be accused of not being a fan. I may not agree with what you’re saying completely but I understand your point of view and respect it. A healthy debate about what is or isn’t Trek helps keep the subject interesting.

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For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious,.... and just plain wrong

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Posted: 08 July 2009 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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macgyver - 08 July 2009 06:36 AM
Mriana - 06 July 2009 08:05 AM

No, I don’t think there ever has been.  It was pretty bad and I don’t care what anyone else says.  They can even accuse me of not being a true fan, if they want, but the truth is, that wasn’t Trek.

Mriana, anyone who is as passionate about Trek as you are could never be accused of not being a fan. I may not agree with what you’re saying completely but I understand your point of view and respect it. A healthy debate about what is or isn’t Trek helps keep the subject interesting.

Thank you. Some have all because I won’t accept and swallow this new movie.  rolleyes  All silly accusations aside though, you are right healthy debate is good and keeps the subject interesting.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 10 July 2009 10:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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As a DS9 fan I feel I must present a vigorous defense to the charges made against it in the interview.  First, I think it is unfair of Susan Sackett to say that Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t have liked DS9- since she admits in the interview that she has never watched an episode. The claim that DS9 promotes supernatural or religious belief is patently false, at no time are the Prophets, Bajoran Prophesies, Orbs, ect. ever regarded as supernatural in origin by the Federation.  If anything DS9 is the most outright anti-religious of all the Star Trek series, particularly its portrayal of Bajoran religion and the Vedic Council.  Every negative aspect of religious faith, from terrorism to fundamentalism and anti-science, was showcased in many episodes.  Some people seem to think that merely having characters who subscribe to a supernatural or religious belief on the show is somehow a betrayal of Genes humanist values, not so.  The thing Star Trek is great at is engaging viewers in critically examining our beliefs as individuals and as a society, and I submit that DS9 does this very successfully with the issue of religion. 
Lastly, the new movie did indeed suck.

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Posted: 11 July 2009 01:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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BurntSynapse - 06 July 2009 08:02 AM

As I ask in the blog, has there ever been a film with more errors and self-contradiction that ST 2009?

It was definitely not GREAT.

This may sound contradictory but it was not quite as good but slightly more interesting than WRATH OF KHAN.  It isn’t interesting enough to study for contradictions though.  It is the kind of flick you mostly have to turn your mind off to enjoy. 

It is certainly funny to now have two different Star Trek movies in which the planet Vulcan was destroyed.  As Spock would say, “Fascinating!”  LOL

You can never have few enough Vulcans.

psik

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Fiziks is Fundamental

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Posted: 11 July 2009 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Or Betazoids.  :-D

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 13 July 2009 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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tcm92678 - 07 July 2009 06:17 PM

Now I know why I was so addicted to that series when I was younger.  I hope that future Star Trek movies will continue to be and remain secular.

Sadly, there’s not much chance of that, TCM.  Paramount just wants to squeeze as much money out of the “franchise” as they can, and if that means competeing with every Hollywood blockbuster that comes along, so be it.  They will dump out every ounce of the Humanism if it means appealing to the mass market.

Every time I hear someone struggling desperately to justify the New Movie (notice I don’t even call it “Star Trek”), I am irresistably reminded of the line from the movie “The Outlaw Josey Wales”—

“Senator, don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.”  wink

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Posted: 13 July 2009 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Too bad their son Rod can’t buy it back and make movies right.  He thinks Star Trek needs a rest for a few years and I’m beginning to think he is right.  Until someone who know about Humanism and can keep it in the show, there is no point in having any Trek movies or series.  It is not Trek with what they have done to it.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 13 July 2009 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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True to the “faith” or not, the collective personal opinion of two very long time fans here is that the most recent movie rates as the best.
The real question is, “Will Spock ever actually die and not come back yet again?”
Spock has already been reincarnated once and now has even outlived his own home planet!
And what’s with always wearing a robe…
does that make Spock a messianic figure or what?
He’s looking a lot like a Jedi to me.  Is that the next surprise?

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Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful. - Seneca (ca. 4 BC –AD 65)

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Posted: 14 July 2009 02:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Rev. JeffroBodean - 10 July 2009 10:25 PM

The claim that DS9 promotes supernatural or religious belief is patently false, at no time are the Prophets, Bajoran Prophesies, Orbs, ect. ever regarded as supernatural in origin by the Federation. 

Every negative aspect of religious faith, from terrorism to fundamentalism and anti-science, was showcased in many episodes. 

The thing Star Trek is great at is engaging viewers in critically examining our beliefs as individuals and as a society, and I submit that DS9 does this very successfully with the issue of religion. 

Rev, I read 3 factual assertions in your post, extracted above. 
In the first, you refer to “Federation” judgment on what are seen as religious elements, but even if we assume a single opinion for the Federation, such as some “official” position, that is not the issue to which anyone objects; Certainly I don’t.  Rather it is the explicit support of religious faith by means of fallacious “reconciliation” which apologists use to maintain faith as a “virtue”, when it is painfully clear such belief is foolish only in the most benign scenarios, and is only maintained by fallacies.

You claim that “every negative aspect of religious faith is showcased”, and you provide what you many consider examples, which I will address separately.  I recall an exchange between Kira and Odo in which Sisko was declared not to be what I will call The One. (I forgot his messianic title.)  Odo was troubled that the previous day, Sisko was regarded by Kira as The One, and today this was a different person.  She claimed that her faith followed these rules, to which Odo replied something like “Major, they can’t both be true.”  Kira replies something like “if you have faith, no proof is needed.”  The skeptic (in this case Odo) bows his head respectfully at this shameful fallacy in support of deliberate self delusion. 
“Terrorism”, “fundamentalism”, and “anti-science” are merely symptoms of problematic thought processes, but hardly require religion.  Atheist and religion-free reasoning can justify each of these crimes as “self-defense”, “ethical morals”, and “open mindedness”.  In the case of terrorism, I would like to know of any historical case where perpetrators of terror did not claim it was self-defense.

What makes DS9 supportive of religion is the steady, sympathetic portrayal and repeated justification of faith itself.  What was lacking was any clear, logical refutation of the core fallacies used for supporting faith – which would justify claims of “successful” treatment.  In the above example, Odo does not answer Kira’s fallacy of distraction and changing the subject.  He does not point out her unethical faith as contrary to her rational values, nor compare faith-based decisions with rational study of available evidence, and the list goes on and on.  Combine this gaping absence with explanations that the Prophets are entities outside of time, etc., and the increasingly frequent appeals to “neural energy” as an equivalent for “soul”, and I would have to say that the DS9 criticism is sustained.

This brings us to your 3rd point, which claims in summary that DS9 critically examines religious faith well.  Unless there is a great deal that I’ve missed which refutes what I recall as the overwhelming themes of prophecy, spirits and the idea that faith is a virtue, I think it fair to judge DS9 as generally pro-religion, in spite of the associations with “a few bad apples” in many episodes, like the terrorists you mention.

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Posted: 14 July 2009 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Gray1,

I would like to ask again: “Why was this a great movie?” and assuming some justification, “Do plot or dialogue need to make any minimum of sense for a movie to be categorized as ‘great’?”

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