June 25, 2011 § 12 Comments
The Prime Directive. As any self-respecting Trekkie knows, it is Star Trek‘s most important ethical rule. And possibly the most stupid. ‘Thou shalt not interfere with the natural evolution of another culture by giving primitive peoples technology or knowledge beyond their years.’ Or as Starfleet Regulations put it:
As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely.
In the Star Trek universe, the Prime Directive has particular force in the case of ‘pre-warp’ civilizations – societies, that is, that have not yet developed warp drive and hence are incapable of interstellar travel. Such peoples are to be denied not only advanced technology but also any knowledge of extraplanetary civilizations or of the possibility of interplanetary travel. In the words of James T Kirk prior to a mission to a ‘primitive’ planet, which the Enterprise crew were about to visit by disguising themselves as locals, ‘No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space, other worlds, or advanced civilizations.’