[Star Trek] The quarantine of Vagra II was uncalled for [Skin of Evil]
First round is acceptance only.
I will be arguing that the quarintine of Vagra II and the isolation of the creature Armus was unnecessary, and a decision taken too quickly without proper thought.
Series - The Next Generation
Episode - Skin of Evil http://en.memory-alpha.org...(episode)
Main character I'm referring to - Armus http://en.memory-alpha.org...
I'm hoping to get a good, fun, Star Trek debate out of this, and confront my concern for Armus, which is something I've been thinking about way too much recently.
I thank my opponent for accepting this debate.
I'd like to start off by detailing what happened on Vagra II in a nutshell.
Armus captures Troi and her pilot after their shuttle crashed on Vagra II. After the Enterprise arrives, they try to confront Armus to save their crewmates. One of these crewmates was Tasha Yar, the security officer. After Yar attempts to walk over to the shuttle, which is being blocked by Armus, Armus hits her with a blast of energy and she is killed. Yar was a bridge officer with high ranking. Armus clearly showed that he wasn't going to let anyone pass, but Yar walked past him without first being sure if it was safe. After all of this, Captain Picard beams down to the surface, and works on distracting Armus so that the Enterprise can beam out the two people in the shuttle. Then Picard beams up, orders the destruction of the shuttle with a photon torpedo, and declares the planet off-limits.
Talking to the Captain, Armus says that even if he kills everyone, he will still be immortal and alone, being the only one on the planet. The Captain could've used this emotional state of Armus to try and convince him that if he stopped his violent behaviour, Starfleet could help him.
First, I will state Starfleet Regulation 619 - http://en.memory-alpha.org...
The commanding officer must relieve themselves of command if their current mission leaves them emotionally compromised and unable to make rational decisions.
Crewmembers aboard the Enterprise have been killed before, but Picard never expressed this much anger at their deaths.
Armus was the result of a procedure by an unknown race, which brought out all the negative atributes within them. The resulting substance took the form of a black, viscous liquid. This liquid, which was Armus, was rejected by that race and they abandoned him on the uninhabited, remote planet of Vagra II.
Since Armus was the product of experiments, Starfleet could've tried to approach him again. Starfleet was founded on the principle "to seek out life." And Armus was, life, that could've been studied, and his state of anger and sadism could've been cured.
Thanks to Midnight for instigating this debate.
Pro makes two straightforward arguments: firstly, that Armus could've been rehabilitated, and, secondly, that Picard was too emotionally distraught to make a rational choice. I will now endeavor to show that both of these arguments are highly flawed. My case will be made by way of these rebuttals.
1a. There was no reason to believe that it was possible to rehabilitate Armus. To quote from canon: "Armus was born as a by-product of a procedure in which a race of 'titans' brought out from within themselves all evil and negative attributes that had bound them to destructiveness. The unwanted substance spread and coalesced into a dank and vile second skin. The race rejected this 'skin of evil' and abandoned it." Humans are oftentimes salvageable because we are built capable of doing good--we have the potential for both within us. Armus, however, was made up of pure evil, and so had no reservoir of good within him that could have become a starting point for his transformation to good. A good analogy would be that humans are salt water, and that when wants to purify the water, one can boil it to separate it from the salt. Armus, however, is just salt. There is no process that can be undertaken to "purify" or redeem him, since he has no redeeming qualities in him.
1b. Even if Armus were redeemable, it is not worth the risk of trying. It is clear that Amrus is an extremely malevolent being, but he is also an extremely powerful one: "Armus manifested as a black viscous liquid that could also assume a vaguely humanoid shape. Tricorder scans could not register the substance Armus was composed of. Armus was also capable of enveloping Humanoids and incorporating them into the liquid, where they would remain conscious while in liquid form. Armus was capable of then inflicting suffering upon its victims while they were in this state. Armus was impervious to phaser fire, and Data theorized that it could, in fact, feed off of phaser energy. Captain Picard assumed that Armus was immortal."  Ardditionally, "Armus was capable of generating, around itself, an intense undefined force field. With this energy field, it was capable of blocking sensor scans, communications and transporters. It was also capable of using psychokinesis and teleportation on at least humanoid-size organisms within the field. Armus was also capable of inflicting energy discharges that caused synaptic damage to humanoids, killing them."  The chance that Armus, clearly a being of great hatred and cruelty, could be rehabilitated was slim, and the chance that he could do damage if released was very high. Imagine if he had managed to seize control of the Enterprise, for instance. The trade-off favored the quarantine.
2a. Pro offers no evidence that Picard was too emotionally unstable to lead effectively. Pro writes: "Crewmembers aboard the Enterprise have been killed before, but Picard never expressed this much anger at their deaths." Just because Picard was more upset by Yar's death than by any other's, that doesn't mean that her death pushed him over the threshold into irrationality. There is a difference between "more distressed" and "too distressed to make decisions." Even so, Pro's statement is just false: Picard was more distressed by the death of Data in Nemesis than he was of Yar's death.
2b. Picard's decision does seem to have been a rational reflection of the situation. Even if Pro disagrees with Picard's choice, Pro cannot deny that Picard seemed to assess the costs and benefits to the quarantine by evaluating Armus's lethality and inherent villainy when making his decision.
The Prime Directive--the overriding rule applied to all of Starfleet--commands that Starfleet personnel do not interfere, or minimize interference, with alien cultures and entities.  Rescuing Armus is clearly a violation of that rule.
Pro concludes by arguing that: "Starfleet was founded on the principle 'to seek out life.' And Armus was, life, that could've been studied, and his state of anger and sadism could've been cured." But, I have illustrated here that the crew had NO means of control Armus. He was extremely powerful and immune to phaser fire. If they cannot control him, how can they safely study him? Moreover, logic tells us that it is highly unlikely that Armus could ever have been rehabilitated. Essentially, not quarantining Armus would have put the crew of Enterprise at an unjustified risk for too little gain (the "possible" rehabilitation of one sadistic murder).
1 - http://en.memory-alpha.org...
2 - http://en.memory-alpha.org...
The Prime Directive - My opponent states that rescuing Armus would be a violation of the Prime Directive. But, the prime directive states that Starfleet does not interfere with THE DEVELOPMENT of alien cultures. The Prime Directive also isn't applied equally to every culture or entity. It was applied strictly to societies with no knowledge of other worlds or life in space. It was also applied to the inner affairs of society, in example wars between the same members of one species. Choosing a side would be a violation of the Prime Directive. Rescuing Armus would not have been a violation of this, because he was not a culture undergoing development, he was just one being alone on a barren planet.
There was no reason to believe that it was possible to rehabilitate Armus - There was no real effort put in by Starfleet, which was founded on the quest for knowledge and the search for life, to study this creature. I cite another example, being the Crystalline Entity, which was known to destroy whole soceties, and had killed thousands of humans. Starfleet still made an effort to communicate with this creature, even though it was much harder. Starfleet had a great opportunity to study the Titans as well, which was an alien race previously unheard of. If Starfleet can attempt communication with a much more powerfull creature such as the Crystalline Entity, which killed thousands, it could've at least made a second attempt to reason with Armus. The Crystalline Entity possessed a greater risk to Starfleet than Armus did. Unlike Armus, who has evil qualities, the Entity needed organic life to survive, which is why it killed so many people. After it attacked a planet, it stripped it bare of any life, and nothing was able to grow there for many years afterwards. Starfleet still attempted to communicate with this being. And the Crystalline Entity needed to kill to survive, and posed a huge risk to federation planets, but still, Starfleet attempted communication. My opponent states that there is no process that can be undetaken to redeem him, but Starfleet will never know if they place a quarantine on a creature they just encountered once.
My opponent also states that it's not worth the risk trying to redeem Armus. I cite the Crystalline Entity again. It posed a much greater risk to the Enterprise than Armus did, but Starfleet specifically sent the Enterprise to try and communicate with it.
My opponent states that Picard assessed the costs and venefits to quarantine Armus when making his decision. But Starfleet could've sent personnel that were more prepared to deal with Armus after the first encounter. And, the knowledge of Armus's resistance to phaser power could've been usefull to them, and they could've used the same information to create some type of phaser resistant armour for away teams, when they're put into dangerous
Starfleet had much to gain with the knowledge of the Titans, which Armus could've provided. They could've attempted contact with Armus a second time, being better prepared. They have done this before with the Crystalline Entity, even though it was much more dangerous than Armus, killed many more people, and needed to consume life to survive. Starfleet attempted communication with this being even after the first encounter, but it didn't do the same to Armus, who posed a much smaller risk.
I thank my opponent for this fun and intriguing debate.
Thanks once again to Midnight for this debate. It is always fun to do a Star Trek debate, and this was no exception.
For the sake of uniformity, I will be rebutting points in the order that I presented them in R2.
1a. I argued that there was no reason to believe rehabilitating Armus was even possible.
Firstly, Pro DROPS my argument that you first need some good left in you to be salvageable. To mix my Star Trek-Star Wars metaphors, the situation is kind of like Vader and Sideous. Sideous could not be brought back to the light side of the force because there wasn't a shred of good left in him. However, Vader still had some goodness left to cling on to, and so was finally saved by Luke. Armus, in this case, is like Sideous, he has no good inside him, and so cannot be rehabilitated. Remember: "Armus...was made up of pure evil, and so had no reservoir of good within him that could have become a starting point for his transformation to good." What is the impact of this dropped argument? Well, it shows us that, logically speaking, it is impossible to save Armus. Pro argues that Starfleet didn't invest any effort into attempting to help Armus, but why should they have? Just a cursory examination of the fact shows fairly conclusively that any such attempt would be doomed to failure. Thus, this argument is upheld.
Secondly, Pro tries to use the Crystalline Entity to show that Starfleet attempted communication with an entity far more dangerous than Armus. There are multiple problems with this analysis:
(a) Unlike Armus, the Crystalline Entity was mobile. Starfleet could not quarantine the Entity as they did Armus, and so they had to attempt communication to resolve the problem. But, the attempt at communication could've resulted in the death of the whole crew had the Entity attacked. With Armus, the trade-off was different. The risk, had Starfleet acquiesced to Armus's request and beamed him up, was the same: the death of the whole crew. However, since Armus could be quarantined, there was no need to endanger themselves by prolonging contact with him. So, while it made sense it the case of the Entity to make contact, it did not make sense in Armus's case to do the same.
1b. Pro really doesn't make any attacks here except to cross-apply his earlier arguments, which I've already rebutted. Pro CONCEDES the following argument: Armus was extremely dangerous, and likely could have killed the entire crew had he been allowed on the Enterprise.
2a. Pro DROPS that he has no evidence that Picard was too emotionally unstable to lead. Therefore, this portion of Pro's argument is invalidated.
2b. Pro says that Picard could've sent crewmen back to Armus who were better prepared to handle him. But, first of all, there is no reason that ANY amount of information could have prepared people to deal with Armus. If phaser fire and a torpedo couldn't kill him, it is highly unlikely that any weapons or devices that Starfleet possess could have dealt with or shielded against Armus. Secondly, the quarantines was basically a long-term version of what Pro wants. Picard likely realized that Starfleet wouldn't possess the technology to cope with Armus for decades, and so a quarantine was best. Once the technology was developed, the quarantine could be lifted; but, until that time, the quarantine was the best policy in order to keep people away from Armus and to deny Armus a means of escape (which could've put many people at real risk.)
Firstly, I don't need to win this point to win the debate.
Secondly, the Prime Directive applies to individuals too. Starfleet doesn't interfere with alien individuals unless absolutely necessary because the Prime Directive instructs them to avoid doing so.
Armus could not be rehabilitated, and even if he could've been saved, it wasn't worth the risk. Saving 1 being at the risk of an entire ship's crew isn't a trade-off an responsible Starfleet Captain would make. Moreover, a lot of what Pro says is non-unique, in that in can still happen with the quarantine. For instance, the quaratine does not mean that Starfleet can NEVER interact with Armus again, but it does keep Armus safely isolated until Starfleet develops the means necessary to engage with him safely. For all these reasons, please VOTE CON in today's debate. Thanks to Midnight and to all who took time to peruse this debate.
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