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Star Trek’s Prime Directive – A lofty idea with a few wrinkles

Image FET-OPEN call deadline via Twitter

In the fictional world of Star Trek, the Prime Directive is a core regulation of Starfleet. To understand what the Prime Directive means, we have to know how Star Trek depicts its moral universe.

Star Fleet officers usually see themselves as an alliance of “good guys” belonging to the United Federation of Planets, as opposed to the “bad guys” made of up species like the Cardassians and the Borg.

Starfleet is concerned about right ethics, so the Prime Directive stipulates noninterference with other species’ planetary development.

This applies to space exploration through normal time¹ and to time travel. Violating the prime directive results in court-martial, except in extenuating circumstances.

The Prime Directive sounds like a great idea but, we could ask, what exactly does “non-interference” mean?

Extreme causal loop time travel paradox animation

Extreme causal loop time travel paradox animation – Wikipedia

Religious and New Age people, for instance, tend to say that humanity is invisibly guided by advanced beings residing in the universe, astral realms, heavens and throughout time.² If so, a Federation starship crew might have a moral responsibility to help primitive but eligible species develop better ways of living.

Despite its lofty ideal of non-interference, the Prime Directive is often breached. Moral dilemmas are key to dramatic storytelling and, it goes without saying, TV ratings. In real life, St. Paul says that moral dilemmas are best solved by following the spirit instead of the letter of the law.³ So it’s not surprising that the Prime Directive is often messed with.

As any good popcorn popping cultural studies or phony entertainment critic will say, art follows life and life follows art.

A relatively novel mystery arises with The Prime Directive’s treatment of temporal paradoxes. For obvious reasons, Star Trek’s writers never fully answer the tricky question: Could a time traveler going back in time be certain what choice out of many possible choices would be best? Or, for that matter, is there a single, best choice?

English: Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Borg Locutus...

Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Borg Locutus – Wikipedia

Possible answers to these conundrums lead to notions of a plethora of potential outcomes and universes (to include parallel universes) and a multiverse (which differs from parallel universes).

Tantalizing cosmological questions have been posed by both mystics and subatomic physicists, but no universally agreed upon answers have been found due to their speculative nature.4

But one thing is certain. The Star Trek mythos is no silly fantasy but, rather, provides us with some of the best imaginative thinking in 20th and 21st century science fiction.

Related » Aliens, Angels, Jane Roberts, UFOs

¹ Technically, Star Trek might be at odds with reality because warp speeds are faster than the speed of light but travelers experience no time dilation. But being good sci-fi, fans are obviously willing to give the benefit of the doubt.  They weren’t as forgiving with Space 1999, which was visually interesting but a bit of a bomb.

² For some, demons try to get us off track.

³ Usually associated with St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6, the idea has other applications. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_and_spirit_of_the_law

4 Sometimes the speculation is forwarded as a hypothesis, which is good, healthy science or mysticism. But other times it is not, as with those claiming to have advanced knowledge that others lack. In religion and the New Age, these mentally unwell characters may be ego-inflated holy men and women or, from my experience, some religious studies professors who do their esoteric “thing” under the cover of academia. In both cases, these half-baked manipulators are blind to their own prejudices and do everything possible to convince you that they know better. Watch out!

 Star Trek Continues, The Trek Show That Fans Wanted (ansionnachfionn.com)

 Star Trek spat: Why did one Starfleet captain block another on Twitter? (mashable.com)

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Jane Roberts and Seth – A look into the future?

Image via YouTube

Image via YouTube

Jane Roberts (1929 – 1984) was a trance channeler who wrote the Seth Books well before the idea of channelling became commonplace in New Age circles. Roberts also wrote several works of fantasy and science fiction.

Roberts allegedly went into a trance and channeled a spirit entity called Seth while her husband Robert Butts transcribed the sessions. Unlike some channelers, Roberts sometimes wondered if she was simply letting her unconscious express itself. But she usually writes as if Seth were a real being.

Whatever the case may be, the Seth character advances an interesting world view. Seth’s cosmology (map of all that is) includes parallel universes connecting backwards and forwards through time.

According to Roberts/Seth, the past and future of all parallel universes – to include parallel selves – interact with the present, perceived as now.

Not unlike other mystical traditions, Roberts/Seth says part of the self is flesh-bound while other aspects exist beyond the physical.

Image via YouTube

Jane Roberts – The Interview – Image via YouTube

The Roberts/Seth view differs from the belief in reincarnation in that:

  • Reincarnation highlights the effects of past on present lives, overlooking a possible retro-influence of future lives
  • Roberts/Seth advances the idea of many selves, existing in parallel universes, subtly interacting among themselves
  • Like Shakti Gawain and others, Roberts/Seth underscores the importance of life here and now, while reincarnation tends to focus on liberation from Samsara (the wheel of rebirth)

Science fiction TV shows Sliders, Charlie Jade and Supergirl dramatize some of Roberts/Seth’s ideas about parallel universes, and many Star Trek episodes speak to a possible temporal continuum. Recent productions like Quantum Leap, 12 Monkeys and Travelers also focus on past/present/future interactions and multiple timelines. And then, of course, we have the British classic, Dr. Who.

Depth psychologists like C. G. Jung view time, if not parallel universes, within a holistic framework. And the idea of parallel universes has gained wider recognition through figures like Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku.

The belief in an interactive past, present and future is not necessarily identical to the theological idea that God knows the past, present and future. Some theologians are uncomfortable with the idea, for instance, that the future could enter into or inform the present. They prefer to believe that the future just doesn’t exist and only God knows how it will unfold.

Image via Wikimedia

Image via Wikimedia

This traditional view has been challenged by the quantum world view of space-time as relative, multiple and interactive. Perhaps some are comforted by adhering to cherished religious and philosophical ideas. But clinging to the past rarely paves the way for future development.

As for Roberts, some might say that her well-documented difficult childhood and teen years¹ contributed to her creating a kind of escapist fantasy world. But if that argument were universally valid and true, people like Moses (sent down the Nile as a baby) and Jesus Christ (born in a manger to escape the murderous Herod) had nothing of value to say.

= ridiculous

The way I see it, difficult beginnings can compel some to grow into seeing new vistas that otherwise might have been dismissed. Of course, the insane can also emerge from difficult beginnings. But any truth claims should be judged on, to borrow from MLK, the quality of their content, not the ‘color’ of a person’s past.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Roberts

Related » Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, John Locke, Soul


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Temporal Paradoxes, Retro-Causality, Time…

Wonder Woman #37 (1949) script by Robert Kanigher, art by H.G. Peter – via Tumblr

Most theories about temporal paradoxes, retro-causality and time can get pretty complicated.

Wikipedia outlines many current philosophical positions on temporal paradoxes, so rather than go nuts by trying to rewrite what’s been said there, I’ll just link to it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporal_paradox

If you’ve at least scanned over what Wikipedia says, read on…

I think a lot of the current thinking about temporal paradoxes, retro-causality and time is flawed because, on the one hand, thinkers talk about going back in time, but on the other hand, they continue to philosophize as if time suddenly becomes linear again, once you’ve gone back in time.

From what we see in the latest new physics experiments, time is more like a multidimensional patchwork quilt. This means, if I can put it simply, that all of time is always interactive.

One of the analogies I sometimes use when trying to explain my view of time is to say that it’s like a ball of spaghetti, with each strand of spaghetti being a kind of wormhole cutting through and connecting different moments and places in time.

We cannot time travel on the macro level. We have no time machines. As much as I’d love to, I can’t go back to, say, New York City in the 1930s or to ancient Rome at the time of Caesar. But some subatomic particles do appear to time travel. And we have repeatable scientific experiments to support this.¹

Also, some report experiencing a kind of psychological – if not large-scale physical – time travel, especially when entering into deeper, meditative states of awareness.²

Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts – A trance medium who talked about multiple universes way before the idea became popular (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As for ethics and time travel, in the TV show Star Trek, which often involves the idea of time travel, the following hypothetical problem arises:

If a person had to choose between influencing two or, perhaps, more possible historical outcomes while traveling back in time, how would she or he know which choice would be right?

One might say that the best ethical choice would be right. But even those of us stuck in the present know that “right ethics” are not always easy to determine.

One hypothetical solution to this equally hypothetical problem involves the idea that every time we make a choice, a new universe branches off, creating a potentially infinite number of universes for each choice we make.

Again, there are several other theories about time travel mentioned at Wikipedia. It’s beyond me to go into each one, especially when I feel that most of them are loaded with faulty assumptions from the outset.

¹ http://goo.gl/XUnJTB

² http://goo.gl/UVFgJj

Related Posts » Free will, Prime Directive, Jane Roberts


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Collective Unconscious

collective unconscious

collective unconscious (Photo credit: noneck via Flickr)

The idea of the collective unconscious refers to Carl Jung‘s belief that humanity shares an underlying, biologically inherited storehouse of collective experience and knowledge.

From his considerable study of world myth and religion, Jung came to the conclusion that this collective data is cross-cultural. In fact, he didn’t just see the collective unconscious in myth and religion. He saw universally recognizable motifs among dreams, myth, religion, the arts and architecture. One leading example he provides is the mandala. For Jung,  the circular shape of the mandala represents the potentially limitless self.

Jung calls these hypothesized patterns of human existence archetypes.¹ Existing in a larger time frame than most people’s daily awareness, the archetypes of the collective unconscious apparently connect the past, present and future.

Jung speaks to the arbitrary nature of the term collective unconscious. Towards the end of his career he writes that he rendered essentially spiritual ideas in scientific-sounding language for the sake of professional and societal legitimacy. So this, in a sense, makes him something of a postmodern thinker way before the term became popular.

Because he was, in part, doing a sell job, his insistence on the bio-genetic base of the collective unconscious seems confusing to some, especially when he says:

The unconscious has no time. There is no trouble about time in the unconscious. Part of our psyche is not in time and not in space. They are only an illusion, time and space, and so in a certain part of our psyche, time does not exist at all.²

Could a timeless psyche be entirely biological? Perhaps Jung was saying that, although grounded in the body, the archetypes exhibit or resonate with a spiritual component. That is, a bio-genetic ground is necessary for the interplay of body and spirit.

What About Sigmund Freud and the Unconscious?

Freud and Jung’s views about the unconscious differ, but not so much as many believe. Some pop psychologists and New Age gurus quickly dismiss Freud’s ideas, unaware that his model of the unconscious also contains collective elements.

As we’ve seen in the above, Jung describes the archetype as a component of mankind’s psychological substratum—the collective unconscious. Freud similarly spoke of phylogenetic “schemata” and “prototypes.” And borrowing from ancient Greek and Jewish literature, Freud also devised the “Oedipus complex,” a “primal father” and likened the shadowy contents of the unconscious to archaeological ruins.

In addition, late in his career Freud revised his libido theory to include the general ideas of eros (life instinct) and thanatos (death instinct). Because Freud maintained that the fundamental aspects of the unconscious are universal, aspects of his model of the self, like Jung’s, point to a collective unconscious.³ And not only that. Freud, himself, said that Jung introduced nothing new with the idea of the collective unconscious.  He wrote that the “content of the unconscious is collective anyhow.”4

¹ Jung’s notion of the archetypes borrows from ideas previously found in anthropology, sociology, philosophy, religion and theology. The term archetype is traceable to St. Augustine, 354-430 CE.

² C. G. Jung Collected Works vol. 18, para. 684, cited in  “Time and Space” at http://www.fundacion-jung.com.ar/ingles/citas.htm.

³ Michael V. Adams illustrates this point in The Cambridge Companion to Jung, (ed.) Polly Young-Eisendrath and Terence Dawson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 101.

4 Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, p. 209, cited in R. J. Lifton with Eric Olson (eds.), Explorations in Psychohistory: The Wellfleet Papers, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1974 p. 90.

Related Posts » Archetypal images, Sheldrake (Rupert), Synchronicity


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Hawking, Stephen

President Barack Obama talks with Stephen Hawk...

President Barack Obama talks with Stephen Hawking in the Blue Room of the White House via Wikipedia

Stephen Hawking (1942- ) is a British theoretical physicist and an outstanding summarizer of recent ideas in physics. His bestselling book, A Brief History of Time (1988, 1996), helped to catapult him into the public eye.

In that work Hawking didn’t entirely dismiss the idea of God. However, his comments about God were usually couched in the language of theories that depend on sense observation (e.g. The Big Bang, Black Holes, Relativity Theories, the Beginning and End of Time).

Not much serious discussion is given to the possibility of immanent, spiritual powers (and realms) existing beyond yet influencing the observable universe. This isn’t surprising because Hawking is a leading physicist, and not a leading mystic nor theologian.

Having said that, Hawking is open-minded enough to rethink the nature of time and consider the possibility of backwards causality. And his use of the phrase “angel-eye’s view” to describe this process suggests that he’s not averse to using metaphors that, at least for others, would point to a spirituality existing beyond sensory and conceptual realities (although Hawking’s usage here does seem entirely literary and whimsical):

“Observations of final states determine different histories of the universe,” says Hawking. “A worm’s-eye view from inside the universe would have the normal causality. Backwards causality is an angel’s-eye view from outside the universe.”¹

The supermassive black holes are all that rema...

A black hole concept drawing by NASA via Wikipedia

To this Rob MacRiner adds:

Answer to Question: Why does time seem to exist only in a forward direction?

Time seems to only exist in a forward direction because the universe is expanding. If the Universe reaches Critical Velocity and starts to contract ….then time, as we measure time will reverse according to the Big Bang / Big Crunch Theory. The reason for this is that time does not exist without change or movement….. (change or movement of particle matter or energy as we know it). If matter has no movement either expanding or contracting then time does not exit for that matter. However Time can exist around non moving particle matter if something is either expanding or contracting around it.

If the expansion of matter increases as in the case of our universe, or an expanding object, or even light…then time increases relative to the rate of expansion. Example: if carbon A is heated and expands faster than carbon B (which is not heated) then time increases in carbon A relative to carbon B…However as Einstein pointed out…time is relative to the observer…and you need something of contrast to make that comparison….fortunately our universe offers lots of contrast …otherwise we would have a very difficult time figuring this out. Time being relative to the observer can exist at different speeds based on the rate of expanding matter. If you are on riding on a beam of light than time is much different than your friend riding on a sound wave.Of course time is relative to the observer, therefore your time is much faster only to him, or any body else who is not on a beam of light.

If matter contracts or condenses then time actually reverses…as in the case of a contracting universe…so Planks Quantum would be measured as zero time for the entire Universe…and time starts at the point of the Big Bang (once matter is on the move again)… In the case of a black hole, relative to our expanding universe)… there is also no time. (except for matter being sucked into a black hole….this matter would be reversing in time, until at which point it becomes part of the black hole mass, then time (in a Black Hole) as in Planks Quantum is zero….which is odd because the Universe is still expanding around the black hole…but it is consistent with the theory that. Time can exist around “non moving matter” if something is either expanding or contracting

Time as we know it is measured in a forward direction and will continue until the point of critical velocity…at which point time starts to reverse…and for a brief moment…the point where the Universe changes from expanding to contracting…time will again be zero…as in Planks Quantum. However…during the forward direction of time…(while the Universe is expanding)…black holes are continuing to suck up matter…and should in theory at some point converge with other black holes….Therefore…as the universe is expanding from the big bang…there is multitude of matter which is not expanding (black holes)…which might well be unexploded Planks Quantum matter from the big bang…and the black holes with their massive gravitational force are sucking up matter which was attempting to expand but was not able to overcome the stronger force of the black hole…like mini-Plank Quantum’s converging within the universe …When the Universe reaches Critical Velocity and then all matter in our Universe starts to contract…heading towards the Big Crunch….the multitude of black holes converging (up to that point) should in theory rapidly increase the speed of reverse time …acting as an accelerant force of a contracting Universe with there collective gravitational force …so the reverse of time.(the journey the contracting Universe is taking towards the Big Crunch)…should happen much quicker than the time it took for the Universe to go from the Big Bang to Critical Velocity…That is of course Time relative from the Big Bang to Critical Velocity ……in contrast to …….Time Relative from Critical Velocity to the Big Crunch..… » See in context

Click for larger animation.

Animated simulation of gravitational lensing caused by a black hole going past a background galaxy via Wikipedia

More recently, Hawking has argued that our universe has no need for an intelligent creator.

The laws of nature themselves tells us that not only can the universe have popped into existence like a proton and have required nothing in terms of energy but also that it is possible that nothing caused the big bang.²

¹ New Scientist, “Exploring Stephen Hawking’s Flexiverse” 20 April 2006, Amanda Gefter, cited at http://okgrouputer.blogspot.com/2006/05/heisenberg-lsd-stephen-hawkings.html.

² http://www.christianpost.com/news/stephen-hawking-something-out-of-nothing-is-possible-53589/

Related Posts » Parallel universes, Process Theology