Starfleet Watch: The Measure of a Man
Updated: Jul 25, 2020
(If Star Trek were reported on by today's media)
I want to ask you a question: How many millions of Federation citizens have died in its defense? How many of our brave ground troops have been ground under the heel of more capable foes? Klingon, Andorian, Tzenkethi, Gorn, Romulan, Orion, the list goes on. Everywhere we look, it seems there are more capable enemies ready to attack. It's true that some of these races have joined with The Federation to one level or another, but Starfleet is overwhelmingly staffed by Humanity. Over eighty percent of Starfleet is human, in fact. And, humans often just don't measure up.
What I guess I'm trying to say here is that the Federation has been extremely lucky so far. There is no way to calculate the odds of our having survived this long as a polity, let alone how much longer we can expect that status to remain unchanged. Particularly with the return of the Romulan Empire, we reported on a few months ago. This imbalance of power cannot be allowed to continue.
Fortunately, there is an answer: the android. Webster's Dictionary 24th Century 5th Edition defines an android as an automaton made to resemble a human being. That same dictionary defines automatons as machines designed to perform a specific function with predetermined sets of code instructions. They are machines. They have no life, no soul. They exist to carry out those instructions.
Now, consider the impact an army of androids would have on that current balance of power. All, faster, stronger, able to assimilate massive amounts of data in the span of a breath. No more security officers being slaughtered by new alien species. No more ground troops being ground beneath Klingon, Romulan, Gorn, Orion, etc. heels. No more ship's crews being consumed in fleet battles.
That is precisely the dream Commander Bruce Maddox, a Starfleet cyberneticist, has been working towards. Commander Maddox has been intrigued by the android known as Data since its discovery on Omicron Theta. After years of diligent research he has come close to being able to replicate this product of late cyberneticist Noonien Soong. All he needed was to examine the filament links in the android's cortex to make this dream come true.
Sadly, that is also a dream that will have to be put on hold indefinitely, due largely to one man: Starfleet Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Captain Picard showed resistance to this idea almost from the outset, even as the android proclaimed an interest in the project. It was only after the captain met the android privately in his office that the android formally refused the procedure.
Then, claiming to be acting on behalf of his android's protection, Captain Picard approached the Starbase 173 Jag officer, Phillipa Louvois, once prosecutor of the court martial proceeding into the culpability of that same Captain Picard during the loss of the USS Stargazer. Louvois has gone on record as stating initially that the transfer could not be stopped, but that Data could refuse to undergo the procedure.
But, that wasn't good enough for Picard, showing that, despite his protestations of his android's rights, all he was interested in was keeping an incredibly valuable piece of machinery to himself. No doubt, his efficiency rating would drop a few points without his pet android.
And, when Louvois, after meeting with both Picard and Commander Maddox, ruled against him, he again impeded progress by challenging it, knowing full well that Louvois had no staff with which to hold a hearing yet. We at Starfleet Watch can only speculate, but we assume that he intended to call in enough favors to reverse the transfer before the starbase could be staffed. Unfortunately for him, regulations allowed Louvois to hold a hearing using the captain and his first officer as legal council.
Commander Riker did his duty, pointing out the above definition of android. He makes it clear that it is an incredibly complex machine, designed and built by a man. To serve man. But most definitely not man.
After a brief recess, Picard clouds the issue at hand with metaphysical debate. He manages to twist the hearing into a matter of sentience. As we all know, sentience is simply the ability to sense. We know the android has a limited level of this ability; it can see, hear, and sense pressure. It, no doubt, can sense heat better than a human. But, so can the Enterprise's computer. As Commander Maddox pointed out, Starfleet would never allow the ship's computer to refuse a refit.
Picard tricks Commander Maddox into defining sentience as a combination of intellect, self awareness, and consciousness, knowing full well that the commander is a cyberneticist, not a philosopher. Now, we all know the android is intelligent; it's proved its problem solving skills many times over. That's part of what makes this proposal so fascinating. So we can ignore that one.
That leaves self awareness and consciousness, two words that are synonymous. The fact that both were used should have shown that the Commander was outside of his depth on this topic. But Picard doesn't stop; he tackles this by asking the android what it is doing at that moment. It replies that it is participating in a trial to determine its legal rights.
Picard holds this answer up as evidence of consciousness, but is it really? Consciousness is more than just being aware of one's location, or current objective. A bird would tell you it's sitting on a branch looking for worms if it could. We don't consider them conscious. Because consciousness is about more than just the raw facts of an instance; its about feeling the moment. And we all know the android known as Data has no feelings.
But, even if he did, it wouldn't matter, because the true question here is whether or not Data has a soul. Despite Picard's casting about to take the hearing off topic, even Louvois recognized this. And the answer is: he does not!
God created all of the races in the cosmos, and it was he who breathed the breath of life (the soul) into them. Genisis 2:7 revised by Pope Honorius VII in the twenty-second century. It was God that breathed the breath of life in man and all of his creations. But God did not make this android named Data. Man did. And the idea that a man could impart a soul upon another being is ludicrous, for then he would be God.
Louvois, an officer focused on law, could be forgiven for not knowing this. But, Picard wasn't done. Having insinuated that the android was sentient (an irrelevancy) he then suggests that to disassemble the machine for study is tantamount to slavery.
Now, we here at Starfleet Watch would never condone slavery. But slavery is when one living being owns another. This machine is not a living being. It does not even fit the definition of life. It would be like suggesting that your replicator, or your shuttle were your slaves. Or that a ship's computer could refuse a refit. Its utter nonsense.
Yet, it was enough to convince Louvois to reverse her earlier ruling, giving the android the ability to choose. How ironic that it should choose what it's captain wanted it to choose all along.
It is also a bitter irony that these events should take place on Starbase 173, considering that this starbase was only constructed as a safeguard against another war with the Romulan empire. And yet, one of the first official acts of that Starbase was to set our ability to defend ourselves back by possibly generations.