Sunday, March 24, 2013

Star Trek Transporters vs The Human Soul

Transporters are a vastly interesting concept on many levels. In this post I would like to look at a few weird things I have noticed about them over the years. Now this will mostly be dealing with ST:TNG for the purposes of this discussion. I use that because it is, to my mind, the best version of Star Trek from a narrative perspective. Throughout this post I will be referencing "Rascals" and "Second Chances" as they revolve around the core of the conundrum that is the transporter.

How Do They Work?

Transporters work by converting the matter of an object or being into energy and transmitting that energy through subspace to the destination where the matter is reconstructed from that energy. This has some interesting ramifications and raises some odd questions as to the nature of the mind/soul within the Star Trek universe.

 The Mind in Star Trek

Star Trek would seem to follow some of the ideals of Secular Humanism and Philosophical Naturalism. Primarily they have held in many episodes that the mind, or soul, is the product of the brain. That is, the mind is a physical/material thing. This is the standard view of the mind on Trek. However, what muddies the waters is the psychic powers of various alien races. this is usually given the trappings of science though, so it is implied on some level these powers are just some matter energy process. So it is possible that the mind is something other than matter or energy. Transporters muddy that water even more.

See transporters work on the idea that the mind is teh brain. they break down the body and transport it. If the mind were separate from it then the body would arrive but would have no mind, or perhaps the mind is only attached to the body loosely so when the body is transported the mind just zooms over to the new body. In "Rascals" we see the latter idea. The crew is transported, but they are accidentally de-aged to children. They do have their adult minds though, so this seems to indicate that their minds are separate from the body. In second chances, though, we see the opposite is also true. When Ryker is doubled the the double has all the personality and memories of Ryker at the time of transport. This seems to indicate that minds(or Ryker's mind at the very least) are physical constructs.

I could go on and on about this and, as my friends could tell you, I do on many occasions. However, all I would be doing is reiterating the previous paragraphs. The main points is that either everyone in Star Trek is a clone/duplicate, or the mind has some kind of connection to the idea of the body and not a connection to the body they were born in. So, let the discussion commence.