Every now and then, I like to watch some old episodes of Star Trek. I should clarify: I watch “The Next Generation.” I’m a little young for the original series. The Next Generation aired during my younger formative years (and how grateful I am for this). I often think that my strong sense of morals has a lot to do with the fact that I was often presented with ethical dilemmas through the vehicle of this show.
A few weeks ago, I happened to catch an episode from near the end of the final season: Thine Own Self. One of the two featured plot lines for this episode is Data‘s visit to a ‘primitive’ village. Data, suffering from amnesia, is taken in by this village. Maybe I should back-up and tell you how he got there. Data was sent on a mission to recover some radioactive material from a probe that crashed on the planet. Having suffered injuries during this recovery attempt, Data walks to this village (miles and miles away), carrying a box that says radioactive.
As I said, this village welcomes Data — at least for a little while, but I won’t get into all of that. The parts I want to focus on are those that occurred with the town’s healer. Because Data doesn’t know who he is, he is taken to see the town’s healer. Listening to her assessment of Data’s injuries and the like is a real treat. The way the healer reasons that this is causing that because of something unforeseen is just what you might expect from a pre-industrial society. That’s not meant to sound pejorative — societies do the best they can with what they’ve got.
I looked and looked for a clip of the healer diagnosing Data or of the healer diagnosing the members of the village (as some of them get radiation poisoning), but couldn’t find it. However, I was able to find a clip of the healer teaching some of the children about the elements.
After seeing this episode again, I had to think to myself, what are our assumptions in medicine today that will seem laughable in 100 years. What about in 300 years? What about in other fields? Will we laugh that we ever used to think that we weren’t able to communicate telepathically? What about seeing things at a distance? Will there still be poverty? Hunger?
Whenever we start to take ourselves and our assumptions too seriously, it’s important to remember the humble beginnings from which we come.