Doxing gods

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. leeeroy57
    July 6, 2015 @ 12:15 am

    "…the likes of Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson think such endeavours are a waste of human mind productivity."

    Honestly? Here's a random quote I managed to find from deGrasse Tyson after about 2 minutes of Googling: "The great tragedy is that they're removing art [from schools] completely, not because they're putting more science in, but because they can't afford the art teachers or because somebody thinks it's not useful. An enlightened society has all of this going on within it. It's part of what distinguishes what it is to be human from other life forms on Earth — that we have culture."


  2. Froborr
    July 6, 2015 @ 12:39 am

    Yeah, that jumped out at me too. First, I wouldn't lump deGrasse-Tyson in with Dawkins AT ALL, and second, while I'm not fan of Dawkins, I don't think his position can be construed as being opposed to art–so long as it maintains a clear divide between the fictional/imaginative and the "real," anyway.


  3. Froborr
    July 6, 2015 @ 12:42 am

    I know I keep singing the same tune, but again, one of the few unequivocally good things is that it gives Crosby another chance to play Yar and Sela, and in particular Sela gets a fascinating narrative that is still being played out within the game (and the more recent portions, interestingly, are explicitly positioned as rewards for the player).


  4. Froborr
    July 6, 2015 @ 2:24 am

    One of the unequivocally good things about STO, I mean.


  5. Josh Marsfelder
    July 6, 2015 @ 6:05 am


  6. leeeroy57
    July 6, 2015 @ 8:21 am

    The only link that I can see is relevant is the first one since it deals with his opinions on philosophy. I don't see how an inability to quote people accurately and support for GMOs has anything to do with art and culture.

    So yes, it appears he doesn't have a great opinion of philosophy. The author of that article uses this to presume he also dislikes literature, history, the arts, or religion, which I think is a bit of a stretch. Having listened to the portion of the interview it sounded more to me like he was talking about his opinion of philosophy as a physicist, rather than as a person, but that's probably just my biased assumption.

    Anyway, sorry to kind of derail comments here. The part I originally posted just seemed to me to represent a stereotypical 'scientists hate art and culture' view which annoyed me a bit, since I have an admiration for both.


  7. Daru
    July 6, 2015 @ 11:24 pm

    One of my absolute fave moments is the bar with the musician female alien – really enjoyed seeing other aspects of life in the universe beyond Starfleet.


  8. K. Jones
    July 7, 2015 @ 2:13 am

    I took your meaning regarding Dawkins/Tyson and didn't want to critique it hard. I don't think it can be suggested they don't love and respect art. After all, how can't anyone? Art is. Everything in your life that has been created or produced or ad-engineered has passed through a design-phase involving an artist of some kind. And I can at least off-hand recall several Tyson quotes about the wonderful effects of blending art and science … or rather, the intermingling of scientists and artists, neither of which is of course mutually exclusive.

    But I don't begrudge them leaning hard here and there into preaching the need for STEM careers. I imagine I lean pretty hard into the direction of the world needing more artists, considering my field of expertise. But anyway, back to Romulans and Vulcans and the trouble with mistaking nostalgia for nobility.


  9. K. Jones
    July 7, 2015 @ 2:18 am

    Ah, see there, I focused on "art" and completely ignored "philosophy". We've all got our biases.


  10. K. Jones
    July 7, 2015 @ 2:40 am

    So Romulans.

    Last commentary, I'd remarked that everyone has at least some hidden agenda except Spock. That still holds true even as it dawns on us that he's a true believer. And looking at him in that light colors the hell out of his retroactive history. But let's not at least lose the fact that Spock, as of Khan/Search has undergone a profoundly religious Vulcan experience that if he hadn't focused on his Vulcan half, and logical ordering of his mind, couldn't have taken place. The pure logic of one over many led to death and rebirth. But these aren't noble, heroic sacrifices and restitutions. Or "god-given rights" type rights. They're a fluke of evolution in his species, a few causes and effects, a few plot contrivances, and a device named "Genesis" by snarky scientists playing god with symbolism, not Christly resurrection for chosen one destiny stories.

    The narrative doubles down on this by undercutting a lot of fans presuppositions that Data is somehow "this show's Spock" by putting them in a room together and showing us that there's just plain no truth to it – though it's on Nimoy's performance. It's the classic compare & contrast, as the inquisitive Data's line of questions draws a line and we realize what "unification" is. Holistic integration. That logic vs. emotion was always a false dichotomy. Data is a being of pure logic. Spock, and Vulcans have always had plenty of emotions (See: Sarek) and the trick for them has always been living with it, with a dogmatic religion balanced way too far in one direction for societal growth to take place. "We Romulans are passionate people," (misquote). The Romulans are purposefully contrasted as being creatures of sensuality and emotion. They always have been. And in the end that's why Spock stays. With his two "halves" unified, it's only the embrace ("fascinating") of his human half that allows Spock to really see the Romulans not as lost sheep of some dogmatic opposing extreme in a false conflict of emotion vs. logic. His missionary role dissolves. He's not a shepherd among sheep, he's a friend. Because the Romulans are just basically humans. And have shared ancestry with the Vulcans. And so Spock isn't "half-anything", he's just Spock. And he wants to get to know these people. And hey, look, he's actually finally a bit Christ-like.

    Sela is right. Screw your arrogance. More on her later, as her last camera shot was a bit unceremonious. From the point of view of our heroes though, because this is their show – Data could not be less Spocklike. Picard could not be less Kirklike. There's so much narrative sleight of hand here – Spock talking about how Vulcans wish to be like Data, or how Picard reminds him of Kirk, these things prove the opposite. Because the implication is obviously that "Vulcans can never be truly like Data", and "Picard has transcended his own "old generation" roots and is a part of the Next Generation."

    (And talk about smashing that "holistic integration" theme home, the show literally ends on a mind-meld with the fairly well integrated, but ever striving to learn and grow, Picard.)


  11. Jacob Nanfito
    July 7, 2015 @ 5:28 am

    This two-parter was one of my favorite episodes as a youngster. I can't help but mark out a little bit whenever one of our TOS friends appears on TNG. This one is handled especially well.

    I watched it again the other night for the first time in many years. I was really touched by Spock and Sarek's relationship. I recently lost my father, and he and I never saw eye-to-eye and were never able to set our pride aside enough to connect. He died without us having a chance to come together and make amends. So I related to Spock's situation here and I was moved in a way I wasn't expected to be.


  12. Jacob Nanfito
    July 7, 2015 @ 10:43 am

    To take my personal anecdote a little further — in my opinion, Spock is torn between being Vulcan (his father) and human (his mother). He chooses the Vulcan path at least partially to please his father and to be seen as a worthy son. He never really gets that validation from his father, even after becoming a successful Starfleet officer and a highly regarded diplomat. Maybe earning his father's love is what pushed him to pursue the Kolinhar, as well.

    In any case, his Vulcan missionary tendencies here are a result of his drive to absolutely embrace that side of his heritage — thereby embracing his father. Once his father is gone and Picard is able to share that his dad did indeed love him and was proud of him, Spock is able to let go of his Vulcan fundamentalism and grow in acceptance of his human (and Romulan) sides.

    BTW — anyone interested in a beautifully written vision of Vulcan culture, history, and spirituality should check out Diane Duane's "Spock's World." I'm reading it now and loving it.


  13. Daru
    July 7, 2015 @ 8:12 pm

    Although the Richard Dawkins Foundation did publish a link to this article entitled "The Triumph of Art Over Science" on their website:


  14. Daru
    July 7, 2015 @ 8:24 pm

    Although I should say I'm not a fan of Dawkins's work or ideas – I am a lover of science as much as art – and I tend to measure people such as Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson by the way the inspire (Sagan for example was a true inspirer), and Dawkins seems to have for me very few inspiring genes. Neil deGrasse Tyson on balance has had more inspiring things to say when I have heard him.


  15. Daru
    July 7, 2015 @ 8:31 pm

    "Spock, as of Khan/Search has undergone a profoundly religious Vulcan experience that if he hadn't focused on his Vulcan half, and logical ordering of his mind, couldn't have taken place."

    I suppose then Dawkins would be rather condemn Spock for the apparent irrationality of his experience and even possibly for the squandering of his wonderful logic. But then I have always seen the Vulcans as not just Logicians/Scientists and Philosopher/Artists, but also as deeply religious in the sense of mystics.

    "The Vulcans are not necessarily Scientistic in the traditional sense as they seem to value art and philosophy quite highly while the likes of Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson think such endeavours are a waste of human mind productivity."


  16. Stardust
    July 11, 2015 @ 5:04 pm

    Yeah. :<

    Neil deGrasse Tyson: "What is art but emotion?"

    Doesn't sound like art hater to me?


  17. K. Jones
    July 13, 2015 @ 8:13 am

    I agree that Spock's use was handled well – and I think it stems from the fact that the show has been organically building a stock trope or, well, a primary function of bringing in "older generation" characters to muddy up the waters of progress for the Enterprise crew to have to bring out of the dogma.

    As if it was always building toward the eventual magnetic fact that the Original Series generation would eventually pop in – and of course, TOS characters will assuredly fall into the "yes, we learn something from our youngers" camp, rather than the crash & burn failure camp. Can't work around that fact.


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