Star Trek and the Philosophy of Man

There’s no doubt that Star Trek: The Original Series is a cultural icon, yet I rarely find people my age who have actually enjoyed the series. If you have no taste for dated science fiction, then I understand; however, Star Trek has a timeless quality to it that will not grow old. Many have attributed that quality to the show’s intelligence—and it is brilliant—but I think that the eternal appeal of the show runs deeper than that. Quite simply, Star Trek asked questions about what it means to be human, and in doing so, it captured part of the awe and wonder of our human experience.

Psalm 8:3-4 says “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (ESV). These verses express beautifully what all people feel at some level when they consider the majesty and size of the universe. We are struck with wonder, and we’re immediately forced to examine our place that universe. The Psalmist answers these questions with the understanding that we are God’s creation and thus praises God. Star Trek deals with these same questions—but it approaches them from a slightly different angle.

One episode, there’s a transporter accident that splits Captain Kirk into two people who embody his conflicting natures of goodness and evil like a Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde  in space. In another, an android learns how to love, and yet another episode features an alien civilization that must be protected by the Prime Directive, even if that protection means that the social injustices of that civilization would be left to continue.  It’s cheesy, it’s thrilling, and it’s nothing less than a dramatized philosophy of man.

–Emily D.

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