An Order of Prime Directive with a side of Dominion Over the Earth, Please

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (

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. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation. (

If during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organisation, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometrical powers of increase of each species, at some age, season, or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each being’s own welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occurred useful to man. But, if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterised will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterised. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection. (

Severe struggle for life, sounds a lot like “Nature, red in tooth and claw.” (

Which will it be, oh brave space explorers? Will Darwin hold sway over our choices? Do we let Nature take its course? Do we save a child drowning in a pool, or do we walk on by? Do we lay claim to dominion over these other earths?

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About Patrick Sullivan

Pat Sullivan is an electrical engineer by training, corrupted into an Information Assurance architect--He recently let slip the secret motto of all IA people: "We're not happy 'til you're not happy." He likes to read science fiction and espionage thrillers, has a few patents, and is trying hard to breath life into a science fiction novel.


An Order of Prime Directive with a side of Dominion Over the Earth, Please — 5 Comments

  1. Very interesting — Genesis seems to take a more Darwinian approach than Star Fleet.

    I suspect the Polis do, as well. A bit of Prime Directive lurks in their complex ideology, but they certainly favor the “worthy” species, and they “select” whom they will for survival or destruction.

  2. I’m not sure non-intervention/non-inferference is ever possible, even with the best of intentions. As Margaret Mead and other anthropologists discovered, the simple act of observing a culture changes a culture. And despite the Prime Directive, the Federation certainly was doing a lot more than observing in the Star Trek universe. Contact, cultural exchange, trade/commerce, even–as we see with Spock as living proof–sex, intermarriage, and interbreeding (unlikely as that seems, biologically speaking).

    We also see those Starfleet officers rescuing people from various dooms. Surely that is interference on a grand scale?

    If the history of Earthly exploration is any indicator, our likely response to new intelligent species may range from befriending them to exploiting them to obliterating them, but non-interference is not on the menu.

  3. I suspect that between intense greed and a deep empathy for other living beings there is no way humans could obey the Prime Directive. Do you let a horse drown in the mud, or do you free it? If it’s furry with big eyes we are definitely going to save it from the nasty scorpions. Never mind that the scorpions need to eat,

    Our attempts at assistance will certainly result in colossal blunders as well as colossal successes.

    Does providing arms to Libyan rebels whom we do not know, will never meet, and share little culture with differ from saving a “downtrodden” culture on some distant planet? Do we have a right to save them?

    Do we have have a responsibility to save some victimized society?

    When do those rights or responsibilities kick in? When the victims are cute? When they are as “smart” as we are? What if they weren’t very smart or very cute? How do we decide when to offer up our own children’s lives and our treasure?

  4. What a discussion like this leads me to believe is that we can’t (well, I can’t anyway) take a cookie cutter and cut out a single approach or philosophy that will address all situations.

    While obeying a Prime Directive might simplify what action will or won’t be taken in the case of alien cultures, it seems ridiculous that each situation would not be weighed carefully. At least if not more carefully than we do by holding trials for people accused of crimes. As plodding and bureaucratic as such a system would become, I would prefer that to leaving it up to the “experts” as to who goes and who stays.

    I agree though, when it comes down to actions of individuals crossing other individuals, the butterfly will flutter its wings, a tree will fall in the forest, and all that other good stuff.

  5. I didn’t pose the question very well, I think. I was trying to get people to examine the assumptions their characters have about their relationships with their worlds. It is a more explicit question in a meet the neighbors and they are aliens story. Paul and Sharon and Tyler all have various “aliens” to deal with.

    Also, for a writer considering a space opera, what are the moral and practical choices they are making for their societies? You could choose the Prime Directive, and use that structure to create some big conflicts. I wouldn’t want to see that without recognizing the almost absurd difficulties it creates.