You may have read or seen more sci-fi stories than I have.
But save for one crummy little Star Trek: The Next Generation TV moment, I can’t think of any human-spirit-honoring futuristic fiction that denies the value of life.
Even the weird life. Even the monster’s life.
‘To seek out new life …’
In “Doctor Who,” the Doctor saves every life he can. Even monsters. When a monster dies, such as the Minotaur in the series 6 episode “The God Complex,” it’s a tragedy. But sad is happy — or if not happy, challenging — for deep people. “Doctor Who” dares to go deeper, to the point of the Doctor flirting with pacifism rather than destroy even genocidal aliens.
Every iteration of Star Trek showcases honor for life, even if the heroes aren’t sure it’s life.
In “The Quality of Life,” the Enterprise crew learns that several manmade tools have begun exhibiting signs of life according to every classical scientific definition. In that story:
Later Data reminds Captain Jean-Luc Picard that Data acted based on his own experience. In a previous TNG story, Picard legally defends Data himself, after another scientist wants to deactivate and analyze the android. “Your honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life,” the captain pronounces, and points to his first officer. “Well, there it sits! Waiting.”
In the observation lounge, Riker issues a direct order to release the transporter lock, but Data stands firm and will not do so, even if it means a court martial. He argues that sacrificing one lifeform for another is not justified, and based on his own experiences, he must believe that, like himself, the exocomps are alive—and therefore have the right to live.1
Which prompts the judge to ponder aloud the value of presuming life and freedom.
Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We’ve all been dancing around the basic issue: does Data have a soul? I don’t know that he has. I don’t know that I have! But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself.2
This classically humanist philosophy proves that such humanism’s ethics are not so far from Christianity (yet Christianity came first). It also proves that Christianity is not alone in defending the value of confirmed human life, and the presumed value of life that just might be human. Beside Biblical Christians stands honest sci-fi stories throughout ages, stalwart and sure, defending — though they may know it not — the sacred worth of the imago Dei, God’s image in human beings. Life is sacred. It is precious. It must not be destroyed.
‘Our own bodies’?
Previously I alluded to one sci-fi exception — one of the sillier Star Trek: TNG stories. “Up the Long Ladder” sets up a monumentally poor allegory in which a dying extraterrestrial race tries to clone Commander Riker and Dr. Pulaski. Outraged, the two Starfleet officers beam to the lab and spy on their maturing, sleeping clones. After one look, they blast them.
Riker (angrily): “We certainly have a right to exercise control over our own bodies.”
Pulaski: “You’ll get no argument from me.”
One would hope that Pulaski, despite not lasting beyond season 2, found her way back to the founding principles on which Starfleet is based: to respect life and not interfere with its natural development, no matter how it got there. Fortunately Riker in later stories became much less of a selfish and homicidal jerk. Confronting his own clone (generated by a freak transporter accident), Riker was not so inclined to phase-blast Thomas Riker in cold blood.
Life vs. death
Here’s why Christians can’t make as a first principle that we are for culture or against culture: “culture” contradicts itself. “Culture” is a schizophrenic mess.
Our stories love and exalt human life, especially children. But in reality people worship false “freedom” even more, the kind that crushes others’ freedom before they even experience it.
Our stories increasingly explore the horrors of dystopian societies in which all-powerful government leaders practice eugenics, worship power, and manipulate or even kill the weak to favor the living. Yet we support leaders who brazenly defend these very evils.
For the weak and unborn, the dystopia isn’t future. It’s already here.
Why do humans do this?
Answers can only start with this: only the spiritually dead could invent such ways to do evil against life. And only One can seek out new life among the dead.