The Instigator
bsh1
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points
The Contender
That1User
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

The Ethics of Star Trek: Ethnic Cleansing

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
bsh1
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/8/2015 Category: TV
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,669 times Debate No: 68038
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (60)
Votes (2)

 

bsh1

Con

Preface

This is my third installment in 12-part series on the "Ethics of Star Trek." I think Star Trek holds a wealth of moral and philosophical quandaries that are fertile ground for debate and controversy. While some may see these kinds of TV show-related debates as "fluff" topics, I think that the serious ethical implications that underpin the topics I have selected belie that idea.

My hope for this debate and for this series is that I will be able to have some fun delving into my inner nerd and my inner trekkie, while still having some lively and informative discussions.

In this debate, particularly, I hope to explore the concepts behind and ethics of cultural relativism and self-defense through the example of the Borg's near destruction.

Full Topic

That Capt. Kathryn Janeway’s destruction of the Borg constitutes an ethical form of ethnic cleansing.

Terms

Ethnic Cleansing - "Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic or religious groups from a given territory with the intent of making it ethnically or religiously homogeneous. The forces applied may be various forms of forced migration (deportation, population transfer), intimidation, as well as mass murder." [Wikipedia]
Ethnic Group - "An ethnic group or ethnicity is a socially-defined category of people who identify with each other based on common ancestral, social, cultural or national experience. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, myth of origins, history, homeland, language (dialect), or even ideology, and manifests itself through symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, physical appearance, etc." [Wikipedia]
Ethical - conforming to accepted standards of moral conduct

Context

This debate concerns happenings found in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Endgame." In an attempt to rid the galaxy of the pernicious Borg threat, Capt. Janeway allowed herself to be infected with a virus designed to harm Borg. She subsequently allowed herself to be assimilated into the collective, spreading the virus to all the Borg, leading to the destruction of huge numbers of them. [1]

Rules

1. No forfeits
2. Any citations or foot/endnotes must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling or semantics
6. My opponent accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add definitions
7. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss

Structure

R1. Pro's Constructive Case
R2. Con's Constructive Case, Pro rebuts Con's Case
R3. Con rebuts Pro's Case, Pro defends Pro's Case and Crystallizes
R4. Con defends Con's Case and Crystallizes, Pro waives

Thanks...

...to whomever accepts. This should be a fun debate!

[1] http://www.debate.org...
That1User

Pro

Before I begin I would like to thank bsh1 for the oppurtunity to debate this topic and I appologize for unentionally forfeiting my last debate with him. I look foward to learning more about ethics and Star Treks. In this debate*, I shall be arguing that Capt. Kathyrn Janeway's extermination of the Borg was ethically justified. This debate round will be divided into three sections, the Borg, ethics, and the ethical justification of the Borg's extermination.

The Borg:
"We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."
" Borg Collective, 2373 ("Scorpion")
"The Borg were a pseudo-species of cybernetic beings, or cyborgs, from the Delta Quadrant. No single individual truly existed within the Borg Collective (with the possible sole exception of the Borg Queen), as all Borg were linked into a hive mind. Their ultimate goal was the attainment of 'perfection' through the forcible assimilation of diverse sentient species, technologies, and knowledge. As a result, the Borg were among the most powerful and feared entities in the galaxy, without
really being a true species at all." [1]

Here is a quotation from the introduction of the Borg article of the Memory Alpha Wiki. This quotation describes the Borg as a "psuedo species" and a "hive mind" with one goal in mind- to forcefully assimilate species into the Borg collective. Because the Borg was a hive mind with the ultimate goal of assimilating all species, they were a threat to the Federation and other species of the Galaxy, who feared invasion and forced assimilation.

Ethics:
Ethical - conforming to accepted standards of moral conduct
This definition of ethical raises a few questions, including, "How does one determine what is ethical?"
One way to determine what is ethical or not is to determine if "an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone." [2] This ethical system is known as utilitarianism.

Ethical justification for Capt. Kathyrn Janeway's extermination of the Borg:
According the utilitarian ethical system, Capt. Kathyrn Janeway's extermination of the Borg have to be a net benefit to the Galaxy rather than a net negative to the Galaxy. I shall be arguing that Capt. Kathyrn Janeway's extermination of the Borg is a net benefit to the Galaxy, and thus is ethically justified under the utilitarian ethical system.

Exhibit A: The Threat of the Borg
While it can be argued that the extermination of the Borg was unethical because Janeway exterminated an entire species, she techinically exterminated a sub-species who were themselves trying to exterminate other species via assimilation, with the ulimate goal of having all species becoming assimilated into the Borg, at all costs. Naturally, the Federation and other species feared invasion and assimilation.
(An invasion would lead to uncessary causalties, possibily civilian ones. Forced assimilation would lead to becoming a part of the Borg without one's consent. On a massive scale, this could lead to the extermination of all ethnic groups, leaving only the Borg to remain.)
For these reasons (potential invasion and probable assimilation) the extermination of the Borg is justified, as their extermination would result in avoiding a massive invasion as well as removing the threat of assimiilation from the Galaxy, which, despite being a net negative to the Borg, would be a net benefit to the Galaxy.

Sources:
[1] http://en.memory-alpha.org...
[2] http://www.iep.utm.edu... (Second 2c, Conquestionalist theories, utilitarianism)

*Note, due to personal time constraints I was not able to construct a fully fledged constructive case and I appologize if this is a deterimate to the overall quality of the debate. I would also like the voters to take this into consideration when voting. Thank you for your time.
Debate Round No. 1
bsh1

Con

I thank That1User for this debate, and I look forward to a fun and interesting debate :)

FRAMEWORK

The question before us really comes down to whether two wrongs can make a right. Whether the "wrong" the Borg have done against humanity justifies a wrong against them. It will be my argument that retaliation can only be justified (a) in response to an imminent danger and (b) when it is proportional to the danger posed. This two-fold standard is crucial for ensuring that the concept of "justified" retaliation is not abused.

The first point, (a), is important because without it, fear alone becomes a justification for violence. Just because I am afraid of X, does not mean that X is about to harm me. Legally speaking, and using the idea of domestic violence as an example to illustrate a point, "[v]ictims sometimes suggest eliminating the reasonableness requirement altogether in favor of a purely subjective standard: if the victim felt in danger (even if there was no real danger), then she was justified in using force. It is even sometimes suggested that, to the battered person, 'the threat always feels imminent'--thus licensing violence at any time or place, if one accepts the subjective standard of imminence. But any such radical subjectivization of the law of self-defense...overlooks the problem of potential bias in one's perception of the need for the use of force against others. Indeed, it would legitimize those biases by accepting them as valid legal defenses. Such a position ignores the idea of responsibility to others, especially when it comes to the use of deadly force; merely feeling afraid of someone else does not entail the right to shoot him...Nor would civil society even be possible if each individual were granted a license to resort to vigilante violence any time he felt in danger." [1]

An imminent danger is one that is about to happen; it is immediate. [1] For instance, if I am swinging a punch at you, that poses an imminent danger. However, if I merely threaten you with violence--even if I have a prior history of violence--that is not imminent, because the violent act (1) isn't literally about to unfold, and (2) may never unfold.

But, even if someone were to show that (a) was met, an act of retaliation still would not be justified if the second part of the standard, (b), was not met. Frankly, (b) is just as important as (a), insofar as as disproportionate response is not a justified one. Certainly, if I pinch you, and you overreact and blow my brains out with a semiautomatic rifle, you were not justified in your response. "This means, for example...that when physically attacked we can fight back to whatever extent is necessary to restrain and subdue our attacker. Once restrained or subdued, however, we can no longer commit acts of violence since in that case we cross the line from counter-coercion to initiation of new violence. This is why, for example, we may kill enemy combatants on a battlefield but not torture or otherwise inflict violence upon them once we have captured and imprisoned them. Once they are disarmed, we are not in a situation of justifiably counter violence but we are it perpetrators when we introduce it." [2]

This two-pronged standard thus sets up an clear, ethical, and measurable way with which this round can be evaluated. I will address my opponent's framework and its flaws in my next round. Now that I have established my framework for the round, I will show that Capt. Janeway's actions against the Borg Collective were in fact unethical and in violations of one or more provisions of my standard.

ARGUMENTS

PA. The Borg did Not Pose and Imminent Threat to Voyager and her Crew

In the episode in question, "Seven angrily demands to know what she wants. The [Borg] Queen informs her of her awareness of the future Janeway's arrival and asks Seven the reason for it. Seven responds that it is none of her business. The Queen smiles in response and mentally brings up an image of Voyager on her viewscreen. She tells Seven she knows where they are going, and 'suggests' they change course. Seven demands to know why. At this, the Queen comes up to her and caresses her face. She responds that she will assimilate Voyager and all aboard if they do not change course...'If you try to enter my nebula again...I'll destroy you.' Seven angrily insists that Voyager is no threat; 'We simply want to return to the Alpha Quadrant!' The Queen responds that she has no problem with that. But make no mistake, she warns: 'If you try to enter my nebula again...I'll destroy you.'" [3]

The point of this excerpt is to demonstrate that the crew of the Voyager, by insisting on breaching the nebula, provoked the Borg, not the other way around. The Borg posed no imminent threat to the vessel on its original course. Also, keep in mind that it was the crew of the Voyager who decided to aggress on the Borg's transport hub facility--they did not need to destroy it; yet they chose to do so anyway. [3]

PB. Even if the Voyager Crew Responded to an Imminent Thread (something I've already shown to be false), their Response to the Threat was not Proportional

The Voyager responded to danger to the lives of one ship by destroying an entire race, by committing ethnic cleansing. Consider, if nation X and nation Y are at odds, it would not be justified for nation X, in response to a mild border skirmish, to obliterate nation Y with nuclear weapons, wiping out their whole population.

PC. The Borg and the Federation

Now, the response to these arguments might be that the Voyager's crew were proportional in response to the imminent danger posed to the human race. But, it was never clear when (or if) the Borg planned on attacking humanity again. So, let me pose the following example: Russia and the U.S. have increasingly tense relations. Now, let's suppose that 1,000 years from now, Russia and the U.S. will go to war. The U.S. somehow learns about this future war early, and decides to initiate an unprovoked preemptive strike in the present against Russia, wiping it off the face of the Earth. That is essentially parallel to the relationship with the Borg. The Federation is aware the Borg may attack and that they pose some kind of existential threat, but they never know when the attack will come, or whether it will ever come.

The problem with this mindset is that it justifies an infinite number of preemptive strikes--consider, any given nation may go to war with hundreds of other nations in its liftetime, but that doesn't mean it can launch preemptive strikes against them until those wars are imminent. Otherwise, I could randomly pick any country, and say, "well, I might have to fight them in the future, so it's better to wipe them out now." This just perpetuates and rationalizes senseless violence. Moreover, it would entail killing innocent people who would have played no role in any future conflict. That is why we need to reject the idea that just because one believes someone else will strike, that does not justify striking them first.

SOURCES

1 - Whitley R. P. Kaufman, Philosophy Professor-University of Massachusetts, 2007, “Self Defense, Imminence, and the Battered Woman,” New Criminal Law Review, 10 New Crim. L. R. 342, p. 367-8
2 - http://www.patheos.com...
3 - http://en.memory-alpha.org...
That1User

Pro

In this Round I will be rebutting Con's arguments:
PA. The Borg did Not Pose and Imminent Threat to Voyager and her Crew

"The point of this excerpt is to demonstrate that the crew of the Voyager, by insisting on breaching the nebula, provoked the Borg, not the other way around. The Borg posed no imminent threat to the vessel on its original course. Also, keep in mind that it was the crew of the Voyager who decided to aggress on the Borg's transport hub facility--they did not need to destroy it; yet they chose to do so anyway. [3]"

While the Borg did not posed an immeniant threat to the Voyager, they posed an immeniant threat to the Galaxy. The events of Endgame took place in 2378, and in 2381, a mere 13 years later, the Borg launched a massive invasion [1], which resulted in the death of 63 billion people. Thus, according to utiltiarianism [2], the positives of exterminating the Borg (preventing the war from happening) outweighs the negatives of exterminating the Borg (the extermination of the Borg)

"The Voyager responded to danger to the lives of one ship by destroying an entire race, by committing ethnic cleansing. Consider, if nation X and nation Y are at odds, it would not be justified for nation X, in response to a mild border skirmish, to obliterate nation Y with nuclear weapons, wiping out their whole population. "

The Voyager was justified in this, as noted before, the benefits of exterminating the Borg outweigh the negatives of exterminating the Borg. With the Borg exterminated, there could be no Borg invasion.

"Now, the response to these arguments might be that the Voyager's crew were proportional in response to the imminent danger posed to the human race. But, it was never clear when (or if) the Borg planned on attacking humanity again. So, let me pose the following example: Russia and the U.S. have increasingly tense relations. Now, let's suppose that 1,000 years from now, Russia and the U.S. will go to war. The U.S. somehow learns about this future war early, and decides to initiate an unprovoked preemptive strike in the present against Russia, wiping it off the face of the Earth. That is essentially parallel to the relationship with the Borg. The Federation is aware the Borg may attack and that they pose some kind of existential threat, but they never know when the attack will come, or whether it will ever come."

Russia and the US and the Borg and the Federation are two different things. The Borg are a hive mind that have one goal in mind: assimilation, while Russia and the US have humans with free will.

The problem with this mindset is that it justifies an infinite number of preemptive strikes--consider, any given nation may go to war with hundreds of other nations in its liftetime, but that doesn't mean it can launch preemptive strikes against them until those wars are imminent. Otherwise, I could randomly pick any country, and say, "well, I might have to fight them in the future, so it's better to wipe them out now." This just perpetuates and rationalizes senseless violence. Moreover, it would entail killing innocent people who would have played no role in any future conflict. That is why we need to reject the idea that just because one believes someone else will strike, that does not justify striking them first.

Not neccessarily, it justifies preemptively striking a hive mind with a single goal of assimilation as well as justifying a preemptive strike against a hive mind that is going to cause the death of 63 billlion people. Thus, the benefits of avoiding war by exterminating the Borg outweighs the negatives of exterminating the Borg.

Sources:
[1] http://memory-beta.wikia.com...
[2] http://www.iep.utm.edu...
Debate Round No. 2
bsh1

Con

Thanks again to User for this debate! I will use this round to rebut his case.

PRO's CASE

Really, Pro's whole case rests on the framework debate, so my rebuttals are going to be a discussion of the framework. Pro is suggesting we evaluate this round through a utilitarian system of ethics, which he defined as indicating that "an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone." Let's take a look at Pro's framework at both the macro- and micro-levels, starting with some big-picture issues.

(A) Utilitarianism is a problematic theory in itself for four key reasons.

1. Determining "favorability." "The utilitarian calculation requires that we assign values to the benefits and harms resulting from our actions and compare them with the benefits and harms that might result from other actions. But it's often difficult, if not impossible, to measure and compare the values of certain benefits and costs. How do we go about assigning a value to life or to art? And how do we go about comparing the value of money with, for example, the value of life, the value of time, or the value of human dignity?" [1]

2. Reliance on Prediction. How certain can we be of the consequences of our actions? Myriad factors, including poor data, incorrect analysis or judgement, luck, etc. can interfere with outcomes that we though we knew for certain. Relying on prediction to determine morality thus means that we make morality mere guesswork, rather than a set of clearly defined and understandable guidelines or rules. And, what does happen if things go wrong. Say all data points to the outcome of action G being thing Y; yet, when G is performed, thing V occurs. V is worse than Y. Can we the retroactively blame someone for causing net harm, despite the fact that they did everything in their power to not do that, and despite the fact they worked with the information they had?

3. Utilitarianism Justifies Clearly Unethical Acts. "[U]tilitarianism is incapable of differentiating the root sources of utility. For example, some people may get utility from viewing beautiful scenery and others from performing sadistic acts. In the value-free world of utility theory 10 utils is 10 utils no matter how it is derived." [2] Consider, if three sadists torture one person, the pleasure that the three derive could be said to constitute "consequences...more favorable than unfavorable to everyone." Unless Pro is prepared to defend that action as being ethical, then his framework hits a roadblock. And, even if he does defend it as being ethical, a world in which that kind of activity is justified is not one in which any rational person would wish to live, and thus it seems to fail the test of what makes ethics, ethics--that is, to provide fair and equitable rules that make society livable and cooperative human interaction possible.

4. Pro gave us no reasons to prefer or justify his standard. With no good reasons given to use it, we can't really have a good reason for using it ourselves to weigh the round.

(B) On the micro-level, Pro simply has no evidence that he links to utilitarianism.

This is true for two reasons.

1. Murdering the Borg. Certainly, the "Borg" are everyone, and presumably there are just as many Borg as humans, so by slaughtering them, Pro is generating either net neutral or net negative outcomes. And, unless he can show that Janeway's actions saved more lives than they cost (in terms of Borg deaths), there is no real way he can illustrate net utility in this debate.

2. Assimilation as a harm. Assimilation is not necessarily a harm insofar as it might produce net good; consider, the Borg offer a world without violence and crime, pain or suffering. Surely, that is a world a utilitarian would embrace. Assimilation, then, is not something to be feared, but rather it is something to be welcomed. Moreover, he cannot demonstrate assimilation to be an "unfavorable" outcome without being ethnocentrist. Certainly, from the perspective of the Federation, assimilation is a bad thing, but from the point of view of the Borg, it not only enhances the collective, but gives the individual access to the strength, information, and unity of the hive mind. To prejudice one view over the other is, at its core, an ethnocentric act. Isn't ethnocentrism an "unfavorable" consequence, and couldn't that mentality lead to additional harms if allowed to be justified?

(C) Pro dropped my Standard

Finally, we can prefer my framework to Pro's because Pro simply did not rebut my framework or its justifications. Without any rebuttal forthcoming, my reasons to prefer my standard can be extended, leaving us with no reasons to prefer utilitarianism, and at least two reasons to prefer my two-pronged framework.

(D) Conclusion

Utilitarianism is a problematic ethical framework for a number of very good, valid reasons. If it fails as an ethical framework, we cannot use it to evaluate or structure ethics; it thus has no place in this debate. Additionally, and even if you decided to use utilitarianism to weigh the round, Pro just cannot show that he is actually produces the most favorable outcomes. Finally, my self-defense-related framework ought to be sued instead because it is a viable alternative to utilitarianism, and Pro identified no problems with it as a framework to use for this debate. I will show next round how I link into my framework, and negate the resolution at that time.

SOURCES

1- http://www.scu.edu...
2 - http://www.env-econ.net...
That1User

Pro

That1User forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
bsh1

Con

Thanks again to User. I would request that judges not award the loss to User simply due to his forfeit; I would ask that he be allowed, as per the debate structure, to posted a rebuttal of my case (not a defense of his case, as that was the round he ceded) in this round. Thank you. At this time, I will be defending my case.

First of all, it is important to reiterate that Pro dropped my framework. Extend it. Now, on to my case:

PA. The Borg did Not Pose and Imminent Threat to Voyager and her Crew

Pro concedes that, "the Borg did not posed an immeniant threat to the Voyager." Pro's only attempt then to rebut this contention is to say that the Borg posed an imminent threat to the galaxy, but this is something I will cover later in my speech.

PB. Even if the Voyager Crew Responded to an Imminent Thread (something I've already shown to be false), their Response to the Threat was not Proportional

So, again, Pro implicitly concedes that the supposed threat to the individual ship would not warrant the drastic actions Voyager took in its defense. Pro implicitly concedes this by failing to address it at all. Again, his only argument was that the threat to the Federation justified the scale of Janeway's response.

PC. The Borg and the Federation

At this point, since Pro's really dropped a lot already, as long as you buy that the Borg's threat to the Federation wasn't imminent, you can vote Con.

Let me, at this point, reemphasize the definition of imminent that I offered--this definition went uncontested: "An imminent danger is one that is about to happen; it is immediate. [1] For instance, if I am swinging a punch at you, that poses an imminent danger. However, if I merely threaten you with violence--even if I have a prior history of violence--that is not imminent, because the violent act (1) isn't literally about to unfold, and (2) may never unfold."

Pro says that the Borg attack came "a mere 13 years later." In no sense of the term is 13 years "imminent." Moreover, there was absolutely no way to anticipate, from Voyager's point of view, when the Borg attack would've come. For all they knew, it might have been 100 years down the road, or 1,000. All this goes to show that when Janeway made her decision, she had no solid ground to stand on in declaring that the Borg threat was imminent.

It is important to note also that "imminent" and "inevitable" are not the same terms. The Borg threat may have been inevitable, but when Janeway made her call, the Borg threat to the galaxy was not imminent. This goes to the heart of what I meant with my Russia-U.S. example. In the lifespan of any society, it will go to war with probably dozens of other societies; but, even if they could look into the future and know that they would inevitably go to war with a country, say Russia, that doesn't mean that they can preemptively strike more than a decade in advance. By beginning the conflict early, the U.S. would be hurting millions of innocent Russian who were not part of future Russia's war effort, and the U.S. would become the aggressor.

Either way, Pro makes a great case that the Borg threat was inevitable, but he doesn't show it was imminent. Imminency is the standard, not inevitability, so Pro has not illustrated that under my framework Janeway was justified. Over to Pro...
That1User

Pro

That1User forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
That1User

Pro

I am sorry for wasting bsh1's time once again, I've chosen a very poor time to do this (near and in the middle of my midterms.) Give this win to bsh1, hopefully we can have a rematch when I actually have time to debate.
Debate Round No. 5
60 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
bsh1
Pro has 12 hours to post...
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
bsh1
Sure thing.
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
bsh1
I would really appreciate another Star Trek series (now that the movies have been revivified), and hopefully that could include a gay couple--or, at the very least, and LGTBQ person.
Posted by That1User 1 year ago
That1User
Thank you for understanding bsh.
Posted by n7 1 year ago
n7
@Bsh

Haha great avatar! You may find it interesting that there was a rejected TNG script that had an openly gay couple. It was rejected sadly because of that. Some fans remade it for TOS.

http://en.wikipedia.org...
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
bsh1
@User - I understand; I will ask the judges not to give you an auto-loss.
Posted by That1User 1 year ago
That1User
I appologize for forfeiting, I anticipated getting home sooner. Unfortunately, that did not happen, as I just got home.
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
bsh1
And, 30 minutes left for you to post...
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
bsh1
@User

You have just 1 hours and 20 minutes to post...
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
bsh1
Only 2 hours to post...
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 1 year ago
Maikuru
bsh1That1UserTied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro forfeited and conceded.
Vote Placed by 1harderthanyouthink 1 year ago
1harderthanyouthink
bsh1That1UserTied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: FF/concession