…the Prime Directive was an important part of the founding principals of the Federation, formulated in 2160 in part to help protect the natural development of pre-warp civilizations.
Captain Jean Luc Picard once said this:
This is really a debate in two parts, or two timeframes, to be more accurate. Feel free to choose which point you would prefer to debate-you do not need to address both of them.
(1) In the context of future Star Trek civilization, do you agree or disagree with the principals of the Prime Directive? Do you agree with Picard’s observation that history has shown when a more developed civilization interferes with a less advanced civilization, the results are invariably disastrous? Do you self-identify as pro or anti-directive?
(2) In the context of present day Earth, should the principals of the Prime Directive apply to any current real world situations? Should the various “first world” nations adopt a “hands off” approach and let the developing nations develop themselves?
I’ll respond to point two, if I may excuse myself from the guesswork of the first one.
The Prime Directive simply cannot be compared to our modern day situation. The Earth is far too unified, and travel is far too easily done between all nations, whether they are first world or not. Pre-warp civilisations can develop naturally without infringing on the Federation. Not so with third world countries, who internal struggles can much more easily spill over borders
re: (1) - on the assumption that Picard isn’t just lying about the ‘history has proven again and again…’ bit (and of course he’s probably referring to a lot of stuff that has happened off-screen), then yes, the Prime Directive is probably generally the least of all possible evils, but for such a fundamental principle, it seems to be set aside or skirted rather a lot.
Actually, this is a perfect illustration as to why the “Prime Directive” couldn’t be made to work in even Star Trek’s universe. With FTL travel available to everyone with the necessary resources, how can you possibly ensure that some group won’t show up on a pre-warp tech planet and begin exploiting the natives in some manner? Given that in the Star Trek universe, at least, species of intelligent life tend to resemble one another no matter where they evolved in the galaxy, then Leisure SpaceSuit Larry and his replicator could set up shop on any number of pre-warp worlds and proceed to get all the nookie he could handle and then some.
Anti Directive. The context is simply different. Many of the societies that collapsed upon meeting more powerful cultures were the sort of unstable, primitive societies that have a tendency to collapse, period. And many of the others were attacked, not just contacted or traded with; of course that was bad for them. Quite often the ones that adapted to contact were attacked for just that reason; to keep them from becoming strong.
The Federation isn’t interested in conquest or genocide or slaves, and if a society does well after contacting them it’s not going to drop photon torpedos on them and herd the survivors onto reservations. And the societies it deals with are not generally unstable collections of tribes/clans, held together by unstable alliances, a fragile balance of power or a single strong leader who might choke on a bone and throw everything into chaos tomorrow. Except the Klingons, whom they do deal with. They aren’t dealing with the same sort of cultures, except in the cases when they are dealing with preindustrial primitives, and even then they aren’t going to smash them on purpose.
And then there’s the moral problem; refusing to do anything to help hurts and kills people just as much as attacking them or contacting them and screwing up does. It’s more a matter of moral cowardice, to be blunt; by not interfering they can claim a lack of responsibility. Rather like watching someone drown when you have a rope by your feet, because you don’t want the responsibility for giving them rope burns.
Yes and no; we aren’t nearly as benevolent as the Federation. It’s not that they couldn’t use the help, and it’s not that much of the less developed world couldn’t use a hefty dose of enlightenment; it’s that we aren’t likely to do do a good job of providing either.
On the other hand, there are too many problems that won’t stay neatly within borders, and most of the less developed countries aren’t interested in being wholly left alone in the first place.
So, in balance,we should try to help - but we should actually be trying to help, and not try to exploit them with a smiling face.
First of all, there’s no such thing as “natural development.”
Second of all, civilizations develop by interacting with other civilizations. Therefore, by failing to make contact the Federation is harming these civilizations’ “natural development.”
Third of all, what about the Federation’s “natural development”? Isn’t preventing the Federation from interacting with other, different civilizations, in fact, interference? In other words, how is the Prime Directive not a form of hubris?
Didn’t they apply the Prime Directive to other warp level groups at one point? I thought that the PD was one of the reasons the Feds choose to remain completely neutral during the Klingon civil war episodes of TNG. It didn’t really make much sense to me at the time given that one side was likely to ally itself with the Romulans and that in turn would have made things difficult for the Feds. Oh well, you can’t expect a group of people who can’t remember how to make a seatbelt to come up with a rational political doctrine.
The best argument for the Prime Directive is to remove the temptation to play God- how many renegade starship captains did just that? Or to become busybody crusaders trying to paternalisticly “help” everyone. But I think that they went from having the rule being largely ignored in TOS to over-applying it in TNG. The nadir of ridiculousness was reached when Picard refused to evacuate a tribal people whose sun was about to go nova, Worf’s human step-brother had to rescue them illegally, and he had to go into exile. In my book, that amounted to punishing the tribespeople for NOT developing warp drive.
For 2, as others have said, the world interacts too much for the Prime Directive to be applicable on Earth. I realized this when the inhabitants of the rain forest up the Orinoco river came to see us in their Adidas t-shirts.
For ST it would be a good thing, but it would involve true isolation. The very knowledge that there are star-traveling civilizations would affect a culture greatly, without anyone truly interfering. Wouldn’t a culture go into a fit of depression of all their hard won knowledge was chapter 1 of an interstellar text? Besides it being impossible to isolate a culture with star travel, the fact that a culture won contact by its accomplishments might help the inferiority complex that could otherwise arise.
Another good reason for it is that a culture who developed star travel might be mature enough to be a fitting partner. At least they would have gotten through their atomic age without blowing themselves up. A galactic civilization might want to avoid a “High Crusade” scenario with someone really nasty.
The Prime Directive was seldom applied rationally in the Star Trek universe. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in which Paul Sorvino guest-starred as Worf’s human foster brother, Picard cited the Prime Directive as the reason to let a whole planet full of people be destroyed by solar storms or seismic activity or some such natural phenomenon.
That’s just insane. No fair interpretation of “natural development” or “non-intervention” could lead to such a decision.
By tradition the President and Skinner of MITSFS has the power to change all natural constants, so I suppose getting Star Wars three years early was possible. I wish I had thought of that when I had the job - getting the race results early would have fixed all budget woes forever.