Star Trek Doesn’t Actually Understand Evolution

Star Trek Doesn’t Actually Understand Evolution

[Professor Terrance Hunyboye:]
Welcome to the latest installment in our series of lectures on how popular culture misunderstands and misrepresents science and is therefore
deserving of only our scornful disapproval. Today, we turn our attention to that most
fundamental of all biological theories: evolution. And we shall examine how evolution, one of
the most powerful phenomena in the natural world, and the subject of the most important
explanatory model in the life sciences, has been erroneously depicted throughout one of
the most insidiously prolific and inexplicably beloved franchises in all of popular science
fiction – emphasis on the fiction. The title of today’s lecture: Star Trek Does Not Actually Understand Evolution The sins, so to speak, of Star Trek when it
comes to the depiction of evolution are many, and to explore them all in detail would require
more time than I frankly feel the subject is worth. As one of the world’s preeminent science
educators as well as a leading voice in the skeptic community, I have better things to
do with my time, such as using my influence to quietly blackball feminists from secular
conferences, and appearing on podcasts hosted by accused sex criminals, thus leveraging
my celebrity and impressive scientific credentials to legitimize the horrid views of misogynists
whom I claim to despise, and defend and normalize people who represent a literal danger to others,
which I am happy to disregard so long as they agree with me that cathedral bells sound nicer
than Muslim calls to prayer. Also science. I do do science. Or, rather I do undertake science. When I say I do do science, it creates a scatological
impression in the mind that I should think is best avoided. What was I saying? Yes, Star Trek. And evolution. To assist us in our examination of this unifying
theory of biology and how this low-brow television show with its scientific illiteracy and feel-good
politically correct poppycock has bollocksed it up, I have enlisted the unwitting assistance
of a YouTuber who, to his lasting disrepute, has chosen as his vocation the analysis and,
so far as such a thing is possible, the illumination of various topics related to Star Trek. He has titled this project “Trek, Actually,”
and it was only yesterday as I was watching one of his videos in preparation for this
very lecture that I realized with a twinge of horror and no small amount of embarassment
for the poor fellow that he was trying to be funny. Nevertheless, however cringe-inducing his
misguided attempts at humor may be to men of – just a moment, we don’t have any
. . . no, I thought not – to men of science such as ourselves, the most recent installment
of his series is on the subject of Star Trek’s incorporation of evolutionary concepts into
its puerile narratives. This presenter does a fair job at indentfying
the various misrepresentations and distortions of evolutionary theory throughout Star Trek,
though unfortunately he is also a shameless and contemptible apologist for same. So, consider yourselves fairly warned. Now, if you please, Peabo, let us have the
first video clip. [Steve:]
So, if we’re gonna talk about evolution
in Star Trek, the first thing I need to establish is what we are going to focus on, and what
we aren’t. We aren’t going to focus on irregularities
or mistakes that we might notice but which are just sorta part of the whole Star Trek
deal, like how almost all the alien species are basically humans with some shit on their
forehead. The TNG episode “The Chase” attempted
to explain this, having the Enterprise crew, along with some Klingons, Cardassians, and
Romulans discover evidence that an ancient humanoid race had seeded its genetic material
on many other planets, meaning humans and all these Star Trek aliens had come from common
ancestors. That raises just as many questions as it answers,
doesn’t really make sense from an evolutionary perspective, and doesn’t explain the many
alien species we’ve seen who look exactly like humans, with no shit on their foreheads
or anything, or why individuals from different species that evolved on separate planets can
produce offspring together. But, hey, it’s Star Trek, what are ya gonna
do? Instead, we are going to focus on instances
where Star Trek has explicitly referred to evolution, sought to depict it or cited it
as an explanation for something that happens in the episode, and gotten it wrong. There are many episodes featuring such instances
– I mentioned one already in a previous episode of this series, the “Dear Doctor”
episode of Enterprise, where Dr. Phlox seems to believe (contrary to the actual science)
that evolution has a predetermined outcome and that it’s worth allowing people to die
of a genetic disease rather than risk altering that outcome – but for me, there are two
major offenders that stand head and shoulders above the others, two episodes that are not
only examples of Star Trek getting evolution completely wrong, but which also happen to
be two of the worst overall episodes in the franchise. The first of those is an episode from the
seventh season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, titled “Genesis”. So, Worf is testing out a new torpedo guidance
system by shooting at an asteroid field. One of the torpedoes goes haywire and flies
wildly off course. The torpedo can’t be remotely disarmed because
too many asteroids, so Picard is like “Data, why don’t you – the third-most important
officer on the ship – and me – the first-most important officer on the ship – take a shuttlecraft
out to grab that stray torpedo?” And Data’s like, “That sounds like a perfectly
reasonable suggestion. Let’s us, the captain and second officer
of the number one ship in the fleet, go do that right now.” So Picard and Data take a shuttle out to find
the lost torpedo. While they’re gone, some strange shit starts
to happen. Like, Worf starts acting all moody and short-tempered,
and Barclay is really nervous. Weird, right? Anyway, Troi’s been complaining about the
temperature, so she goes to her quarters and takes a hot bath with her uniform on, like
you do. Worf shows up for a booty call, and Troi’s
like “Not now, I’m cold and thirsty,” so Worf is like, “Cool, I’ll just bite
you and take off.” Later, Worf and Troi are in sickbay, and Dr.
Crusher and Nurse Ogawa are talking about how people all over the ship are reporting
unusual symptoms, complaining about the temperature, coming down with fevers. Crusher’s like, “Sounds like something’s
going around. Lemme talk to Worf, try to figure out what
it is.” And Crusher goes up to Worf and goes, “So,
what was all that about with you and Troi? How come you bit it and quit it?” And then Worf sprays acid in her face! Ogawa gets Crusher into stasis before too
much damage is done, but she tells Commander Riker that they still can’t figure out what’s
making everyone feel bad and act funny. Barclay says that they’ve been finding Worf’s
acid venom all over the ship, and Geordi says “Oh yeah, also, Worf is missing and security
can’t find him and he’s not showing up on sensors for some reason, so that’s also
a thing.” Riker tries to call Starfleet for help, but
forgets the number. Three days later, Picard and Data come back
from their torpedo hunt. Jesus, did it really get that far away in
a few minutes? Did it fall through a wormhole? Was it hiding? Or was Picard dragging his feet because he
just liked being out of the office. You know how you’re only supposed to take
an hour for lunch, but sometimes you stretch it a little and don’t come back for three
days? Anyway, they find the Enterprise just kinda
drifting with the lights off. They go aboard, and Data is getting some strange
life-sign readings. He’s detecting a bunch of animals instead
of the crew. They decide to go find the other senior officers,
and they start with Troi. They get to her quarters, and Troi is back
in the bathtub like we saw her earlier, but now she’s got gills on her neck. Picard’s like, “I’m beginning to think
something’s wrong here . . .” They go to the bridge, where they discover
a dead ensign with a fractured spine. They enter the captain’s ready room where
they find Riker, who seems his usual self. They take Riker and Troi to sickbay. Data looks ‘em over, then he says to Picard,
“So, here’s what’s happening: the crew is de-evolving.” Picard’s like, “Okay.” Data explains that a synthetic T-cell has
entered everyone’s genetic code and activated their introns, which are obsolete DNA sequences
that used to be responsible for certain characteristics in our ancestors billions of years ago but
are no longer used. That’s why Troi has gills, because her species
evolved from amphibious animals. Picard’s like, “Yeah. De-evolving. I got it the first time.” They look around the ship some more. Data’s cat, who as of this episode is suddenly
female and pregnant, has de-evolved into an iguana but given birth to a normal litter
of kittens. That’s odd, I’m sure that won’t come
up again later. Then, in engineering, they find Barclay, who
has de-evolved into . . . a spider? Sort of? Eh. He’s more of a spider than Gary from Horrors
of Spider Island, at least. Anyway, Data figures out a way to cure the
crew, to re-evolve them, if you will, using a retrovirus made from amniotic fluid – he
got the idea from lizard Spot’s kittens, so I guess that did wind up being important,
who would have thought? Data finds the cure just in time, because
Worf has de-evolved into Doomsday or something and he’s right outside ready to do unspeakable
things to Troi. Data gives Picard a hypospray full of pheromones
and tells him to go into the corridor and distract Worf so he can get some goddamn work
done. While Worf is chasing Picard, Data completes
the cure and releases it into the ship’s air supply and pretty soon, everybody’s
back to normal. Later, Barclay’s in sickbay asking Crusher
what the hell just happened, and Crusher explains, “Oh, so, you remember when I treated you
for the flu in that early scene Steve forgot to talk about? Well, it turns out it accidentally activated
all your dormant T-cells and turned into a virus that infected the crew! Whoopsie! Anyway, I’m gonna name the de-evolution
disease after you. Sound cool?” So, yeah. There’s a lot wrong with this episode. In terms of how it depicts evolution, one
of the most immediately obvious problems is that even if a virus that caused people to
acquire characteristics of their distant evolutionary ancestors could exist, it wouldn’t cause
a human like Barclay to turn into a spider monster because, you know, humans didn’t
evolve from spiders. We do share a common ancestor with spiders,
but it’s the same common ancestor we share with every other arthropod. It lived around 600 million years ago and
was probably a worm-like creature. Humans and spiders do have DNA in common. It’s just not the spidery bits. Those appeared after our evolutionary paths
had already diverged. There are other reasons why the writers of
Star Trek: The Next Generation might have wanted Barclay to “de-evolve” into a spider. For example, in an earlier episode, “Realm
of Fear,” Chief O’Brien confides that he used to be deathly afraid of spiders, and
Barclay says that spiders never bothered him. Maybe now we know why! Because Barclay is part spider! Whether you think this is an acceptable justification
for having Barclay de-evolve into a spider is a matter of taste. Personally, it feels like a long way to go
for not much of a pay-off. I mean, is a labored inside joke that some
in your audience will find confusing or off-putting and most won’t even get really worth the
effort? [Professor Terrance Hunyboye:]
Just a moment, I’m approvingly retweeting
someone who says Islam is worse than Naziism. Now then, the YouTube presenter is correct. The Star Trek episode in question misrepresents
evolution in numerous ways. Perhaps most egregiously, it makes use of
legitimate scientific terms, but distorts or in some cases discards entirely their proper
definition in order that they may serve a designated purpose within the narrative. For example, you heard during that clip the
term “intron.” Introns are real things. To put it in simple terms any layperson could
understand, introns are nucleotide sequences removed via RNA splicing during the post-transcriptional
modification process. They do not contain ancestral DNA, they would
not produce vestigial traits if somehow “activated,” whatever that is supposed to mean, and, as
the presenter points out, even if that were somehow possible, it would not result in a
human being acquiring the characteristics of a spider because human beings did not evolve
from spiders. I would also object to the use of the term
“de-evolution,” which suggests the phenomenon being depicted is a form of evolution or at
the very least a process similar to evolution. Nothing could be further from the truth for
the simple fact that the so-called “de-evolution” affliction affects individuals, while evolution
does not operate within a single generation but across many generations. There is, in legitimate biological science,
a concept known as “devolution,” but this is merely the notion that a species may revert
to a previous form. Such a reversion, if that is even the proper
word, would be due to adaptation shaped by the pressures of natural selection just the
same as any other result produced by evolution, and would occur through gradual changes realized
over multiple generations, just like every other product of evolution. And now, Peabo, I believe we have another
segment of this fellow’s YouTube video, let us turn our attention to that. [Steve:]
As bad as “Genesis” is and as wrong as
it gets evolution, there’s another episode in the franchise that is even worse and somehow
manages to get evolution way, way wronger. It’s not an episode of TNG. It’s an episode of Voyager. It’s from the second season. And it’s called “Threshold”. So it turns out for the past few months Tom
Paris, B’Elanna Torres and Harry Kim have been spending their free time trying to break
warp 10. In case you’re not hip to the importance
of warp 10, warp 10 is to the Star Trek universe as the speed of light is to us in the real
world. It’s the universal speed limit, nothing
can travel at warp 10 or faster. But if you could travel that fast, you could
go pretty much anywhere in the universe in no time at all. So it makes sense that officers on a ship
stranded 70,000 light-years from home would make retrofitting a shuttlecraft to travel
that speed their weekend project. Star Trek solved the problem of faster-than-light
travel by inventing subspace and explaining that ships are able to travel through it at
many times the speed of light. But how do Paris, Torres and Kim solve the
problem of how to fly faster than warp 10? They discover a new kind of dilithium that
remains stable at higher speeds. Oh, okay, so warp 10 isn’t completely analogous
to the speed of light? There’s no law of physics preventing you
from going that fast, it’s more of a mechanical puzzle to be solved? Like the speed of sound? You need a ship that’ll hold up to the strain,
you need a form of fuel that’ll give you enough power? Okay. Except, in this episode they also talk about
how warp 10 is infinite velocity and a ship traveling at warp 10 would occupy every point
in the universe simultaneously. So, there is something special about that
particular speed, it’s not merely faster that we’ve been able to go so far. And yet, Paris, Torres and Kim are able to
reach that unattainable speed by finding a new form of dilithium. That’s like suggesting a vessel here in
the real world could fly at the speed of light if only we could invent a form of rocket fuel
that burned hot enough. Spoiler alert: that wouldn’t work! Anyway. Sorry. Let’s get to the evolution stuff. So, Tom Paris flies their experimental shuttlecraft
at warp 10! The shuttle disappears for a minute but then
it shows back up, with a computer full of sensor information that, according to Torres,
“describes literally every cubic centimeter in this sector” – don’t expect that
to ever be mentioned again. But hey, good for Tom! He’s the Chuck Yeager of the 24th century! But, uh-oh, he’s dead! Wait, no he’s not! He’s alive! The Doctor examines him and he’s like “Oh,
look at that, you grew an extra heart.” Tom starts mutating. His tongue falls out. He goes through kind of a rotting corpse phase,
then turns into a lizard-like creature. Eventually he breaks out of sickbay, abducts
Captain Janeway, takes her aboard the experimental shuttlecraft and flies away at warp 10 again. While the rest of the crew looks for the stolen
warp 10 shuttle, The Doctor explains to Chakotay and Tuvok that traveling at the infinite velocity
of warp 10 accelerated the natural course of evolution, and that Paris’s mutated form
is possibly a future stage of human development. Just . . . just hold on to that for a second. The episode’s almost over. They locate the warp 10 shuttle in orbit over
a planet somewhere. Chakotay and Tuvok beam down and find Paris
and Janeway both having “evolved” – and I’m putting “evolved” in quotes, there,
in case I didn’t put enough stank on it just now for you to tell – “evolved”
into giant salamanders. And they had babies! Chakotay and Tuvok take Paris and Janeway
back to Voyager, the Doctor uses anti-proton therapy to revert them back to their normal
human forms – because not only can you accelerate evolution, you can also just wind it right
back, apparently – and Janeway makes a joke about how she’s thought about having kids,
but she never thought about having them with Tom! Did you think about abandoning them on a remote
planet? Because those salamander babies are dead! Everyone gets that, right? They fled into the water because they were
scared, but look how small they were! They still needed their parents! And Chakotay and Tuvok beamed their parents
away, and when they returned to their human forms neither one of them was like “Hey,
let’s go back and get our babies!” And now they’re DEAD! Of course, I didn’t know it at the time
I first saw this episode, but after watching Star Trek: Voyager for five more years, I
came to realize those dead salamander babies were the lucky ones! [Professor Terrance Hunyboye:]
Peabo? It was right here. You’re certain you haven’t seen it? And that is the truth? I shall be greatly vexed if that is not the
case. Now, then. As the addle-minded webcam jockey said, the
explanation offered for the transformation of the helmsman and later also the captain
of the starship Voyager is that traveling at infinite velocity somehow caused them to
undergo an accelerated process of evolution. While it is conceivable that traveling at
a hitherto unattainable speed might trigger mutations, in much the same was as exposure
to radiation, it is simply not plausible to suggest that these mutations would procede
in a way that is analogous to evolution, much less worthy of being described as an expedited
but otherwise natural form of evolution itself. Evolution, it cannot be overstated, operates
from generation to generation, not within a single generation. This fact alone rules out evolution as an
explanation for the transformations experienced by the characters in the Star Trek: Voyager
episode. Species evolve. Individuals do not evolve biologically. Upperclass white male individuals such as
myself do not evolve socially or morally, either, which is just as well as there is
no need, we are fine just the way we are and anyone who says otherwise is an overly sensitive
busybody who fails to realize how good they’ve got it! But even if it were the case that evolution
could be “accelerated” in some way so as to produce significant physical changes
in an individual over a short period of time, there is still natural selection to consider. Natural selection shapes the course of evolution
by, in essence, favoring or selecting for traits which confer an advantage. It is in this way that successful species
evolve to become well adapted to the environment in which they live. This being the case, what possible reason
would there be for a human being – surely already ideally suited for life aboard a spaceship
which was designed and built by human and humanoid beings – to evolve into a quadrapedal
amphibious creature seemingly best suited to an equatorial jungle? Why would natural selection, operating in
the environment of a spaceship, guide a human being to evolve into a beast utterly incapable
of functioning effectively in its environment? For further commentary we turn for the last
time to our YouTube presenter, who demonstrates in the following passage the truth of the
old adage that on occasion even a blind cave fish is able to locate an aquatic worm. Peabo, if you please. [Steve:]
But of all the ways that “Threshold” gets
evolution wrong – having it happen to one person rather than multiple generations of
people, having a person living aboard a starship evolve into a four-legged amphibious animal
that crawls around on its belly – this next one is the most outrageous, dipshittiest of
them all. One of the fundamental things that needs to
happen for evolution to work is for organisms to reproduce. If an organism doesn’t reproduce, it doesn’t
pass its genes on to another generation, and evolution can’t happen. But organisms can’t reproduce unless they
survive long enough to do so. How is it, then, if Tom’s condition is a
result of an accelerated but otherwise natural evolutionary process, that in the early stages
of his transformation he dies?! And shortly before he dies, his lungs become
unable to process oxygen, and he develops an allergy to water! So, according to the Doctor – who is a hologram
programmed with, like, all the medical knowledge – Tom Paris’s ultimate form is a future
stage of human development – a stage which humans will reach after developing life-threatening
allergies to water and losing the ability to breathe oxygen. And by the way, in case you forgot, as the
writers of this episode apparently did, humans are native to this planet. See all that blue stuff? That’s water! Here’s a view from the surface. See all that blue stuff? That’s the atmosphere. It’s full of oxygen! You might be saying, “But wait, Tom only
dies for a couple of hours! And when he comes back to life, he seems like
he’s breathing fine!” Sure! But remember, the Doctor says Tom’s mutations
are following the natural pattern of human evolution. So how are humans supposed to evolve into
whatever Tom is after he comes back to life, nevermind the giant salamander thing, if,
before we get to that stage, we have to evolve into a creature that can’t drink water or
breathe oxygen, on a planet that’s packed with both?! Sure seems like an organism with a mutation
that prevents it from processing water or oxygen that was born on a planet rich with
water and oxygen wouldn’t live long enough to reproduce, meaning its existence as a species
would end after a single generation, leaving no offspring behind, meaning it wouldn’t
evolve into shit! [Professor Terrance Hunyboye:]
Unfortunate as his typically crude American
dialect may be, he does make the point. As mentioned previously, the explanation offered
by the Doctor character is that these salamander creatures are examples of a “future” stage
of human evolutionary development. The Doctor’s explanation would only be acceptable
if evolution proceded toward a predetermined end, if humans were somehow destined to evolve
into these salamander creatures. But this is utter nonsense. The mechanisms of evolution are random mutation
and natural selection. Predestination is not a mechanism of evolution. Mother Nature is not a Calvinist. Well. I believe I have demonstrated, with the inadvertent
assistance of this hapless YouTube presenter that Star Trek is a nightmare of pseudoscience
and baseless fantasy, and no one should watch it ever, for any reason. Please join me for the next installment in
our series, where the subject will be the 2016 Ghostbusters film, which is preposterous
for two reasons: one, ghosts do not exist; and two, if they did, no woman would be clever
enough to catch one. Until then, this concludes our presentation. On an unrelated note, is anyone aware of what
has become of my pocket telephone?

100 thoughts on “Star Trek Doesn’t Actually Understand Evolution

  1. Came expecting Trek Actually, 3 minutes in, and finally its loosening up.

    Haha, I like it its a dif take and all, but its a little tough to listen to this cariacature of a symposium.

    Hoping for a break into the more congenial trek actually format at some point.

  2. Honestly, Olly Thorn probably has a better, and more accurately representative shirt you could have borrowed for this character.

  3. I mean, this is a far future society filled with hundreds of inter-fertile, intermingling sentient species, so while humans may not be descended from spiders, any given human maybe could be?

  4. How fast is the life cycle of giant salamanders that they could mate, give birth and have the babies grow to what looks like a fairly old juvenile state? Do these things have the lifespan of a mayfly?

  5. Before watching your video, i would say no, Steve, you are wrong, if Threshold taught me something is how evolution actually works.

  6. Haha, and it did some and that makes the symposium that much more fun. Also to correct the speaker, I believe he is looking for reverting, as the normal past particpal is reverted. "Such a reverting"

  7. I like to think StarTrek kept saying Evolution in order to piss off the Crazy Christians on the Kansas State Department Board of Education.

  8. Also, judging from Tom's appearance, is Voyager saying at some point human evolution will turn us into Pepe the Frog?

  9. Well this was unfunny, and (I assume unintentionally) contributes to the further denigration of liberal arts education, classical studies, and general anti-intellectualism. Strip out that very bad "prologue" part and it is okay, but the only reason I got beyond it and to the actual episode was that I had it playing while I was typing this comment. If it wasn't just so bad I needed to complain, then I'd have back buttoned away from it. That was a bad idea and you should feel bad about including it.

    There may be genuine criticisms which do need to be addressed in liberal arts education, but this was the wrong place and wrong way to do it. It just came across as more liberal arts bashing. If I wanted that, I'd watch FOX news. Yes, I am saying that your prologue put you on the same level and side as FOX news.

    Edit: For some reason youtube put a strikethrough where I tried to put brackets. Hopefully fixed now.

  10. Nice outfit. It looks like the 1970s threw up all over your shirt.
    No, actually, I dig classic styles.
    Just messing with you.

  11. Good mockery of certain people but please never do it again, your attention to detail with that impression makes it a bit too painful. Your natural cadence is a part of your appeal.

  12. Wait…so warp 10 is, like, the Infinite Improbability Drive, occupying every point in the universe simultaneously.

    So…what was warp 13? When Future Riker referenced it in All Good Things…?

  13. To a certain extent I feel like a lot of the stuff in the episode is mostly an excuse for the make up department to go a bit nuts.

  14. OK, you got all the evolutionary biology correct (and accurately characterized a certain scientist), but you missed the key objection. If a random webcam jockey and YouTube comedian from some podunk town on the East coast can get it right, how can a group of professional science fiction writers in Los Angeles fuck up the science so spectacularly? None of this stuff is that hard. They were getting paid to write it. They're in a big city with major universities packed with SF nerds who'd be overjoyed to consult on a show like Star Trek. You'd think a science fiction writer would have some respect for the "science" part of the term. What went wrong? Wasn't there a single competent person familiar with some basic science anywhere on the staff who would have raised a hand and said, "Uh, actually…"?

    What these episodes tell us is that there is a serious flaw in the culture of the production of entertainment. It would have taken so little effort to correct these egregious misconceptions, and better science might have made for a better show, yet that effort wasn't made. That tells me that at least in these instances, the goal of the Star Trek franchise was to churn out garbage for uncritical consumption rather than to make quality media.

  15. This video would have been perfect if you had added some random noise from the audience during the lecture scene, such as occasional coughing and people moving their chairs.

  16. First thing I thought of was the movie Pandorum, i liked it and it came up with an interesting way of working. Well i think so

  17. I want to see just one episode in Star Trek where someone tries to explain something with evolution and another character interrupts them, saying that this is not actually how evolution works.

  18. the main problem of the voyager episode "threshold" is Time and not biology. ,for Tom paris, time would have past in a regular manner, i.e. a few minutes, as for the "slow" going voyager, it's crew shoulld have been the one's affected. and as a whole, there should be a correlation between speed and time, like in the episode with the "sky ship" and not only a biological side to it.

  19. I always thought that it would be an interesting piece of connective tissue if they had related the ancient humanoid from The Chase to the Changelings. Since Salome Jens plays the humanoid and the female changeling.

  20. The Genesis episode almost had a reasonable explanation, when Data mentions that much of the crew of the Enterprise actually come from species other than Human. If that were the case then yes, they could mutate into just about anything, but unfortunately this isn't shown in any live action Star Trek. Maybe if the show were taking place thousands of years in the future, when every Human had a few aliens in their ancestry (Enterprise), this could actually have worked out. I did like the idea that Klingons evolved from beetles.

  21. Please never, ever do an opening and then side videos like you did in this video ever again. I have never skipped any of your videos until this one. It was a huge let down to a great video. It seemed like the scientific presenter bit was written by a the same person that wrote the evolution episode of Voyager that you talked about this episode.

  22. Pocket telephone? 🤣 who even calls it that?
    I enjoyed your video – at first I wondered if I’d clicked on the right one! (Nice wig, made me wonder whatever happened to Michael Whirly).
    Nice to see your disdain for “skeptics” goes on unabated 👍

  23. Sorry Steve, But I'm not keen on this format. I don't watch lectures or people who ar like this so I'm probebly missing some sort of parody (?), but I preffer the original Trek (not) Actually format.

  24. The problem with these episodes comes from not just getting specific things wrong (which Trek does in other sciencey stuff and few people mind that much), but from a fundamental and pretty much ubiquitous in fiction misconception about biological evolution that's probably almost as old as Darwin publishing his ideas.

    Evolution is almost always depicted as getting "better". Growing more complex, more intelligent, stronger. "More evolved", so to speak.

    The reality being that there is no such thing. By evolutionary happenstance, humans have incredible intelligence, but it's not an inevitable "endpoint" of evolution nor are we guaranteed to follow the path to even more intelligence. We're not "more evolved" than, say, tapeworms. We're pretty much as good at being humans as tapeworms are at being tapeworms.

    But emotionally and story-wise, it doesn't "feel" right, so evolution is simplified to "organisms getting objectively better and better and better".

    This idea of "evolution makes species better at stuff objectively and generally" is arguably rooted in, or at least taking notes from, racist ideology of the Victorian era. Early ideas that humans are "advanced" lower apes or that animals from previous eras in Earth history were "less evolved" were very prevalent in Victorian and early 20th century fiction, such as "lost world" narratives or early depictions of dinosaurs as "primitive" clumsy brutes for no good reason. The idea that evolution will "lead" us to having a second heart or telepathy or whatever is a distant echo of that early misunderstanding and, thankfully, more subtle than "people from continents other than Europe are less advanced because Biology", which was fashionable for a time.

    So of course, Star Trek having humans arbitrarily change into salamanders "because evolution" is funny on its own, but it reflects the writers' (and pop culture's in general) stubborn notion that evolution happens for a Reason with a big "R". It's a "we're on the path towards being X, whatcha gonna do?", which is always silly, but more noticeable at a glance when "X" is "salamanders" rather than "superhuman".

  25. i mean any show where species that evolved on different planets but can somehow interbreed
    suggests it doesn't know much about biology

  26. Tom Paris became allergic to ~60% of his own body – no wonder he died! In defense of Star Trek, just about every science fiction show and movie mangles just about every kind of science.

  27. Star Trek does this with every science. I tend to see good sci fi programs as contradicting "just" high school science. It's when these episodes mock grade school science that gets everyone's underwear in a bunch.

  28. I could have sworn in an episode it is mentioned that doctors had to intervene to cause inter species pregnancies. So a possible explanation is bio engineering?
    Basically humans wanna fuck aliens so bad they biohacked multiple species so they can have kids

  29. Loved this video, thanks. I really liked Dawkins a couple decades ago before he went full privileged asshole myself, I think you felt the same pain as I did. I remember the Enteprise episode about evolution having a predestined goal to justify Phlox committing genocide pretty much made me give up on the show.

  30. The Chase drives me nuts. It's the worst explanation given for the fact that human shaped is the only shape actors come in, which is something people aren't even really paying attention to, so it doesn't need an explanation.

  31. I guess this is more a reply to the Oct 30th Q&A, but…
    I was thinking on the progressive thing. I'm a liberal progressive,
    pro-Tulsi, etc. There are a lot of problems we can fight for but… as a
    disabled person, I feel really often that a lot of the causes I ally
    with don't ally with me. In PA, a right-to-work state, I can be denied
    employment with a lie. They can say I wasn't /this/ enough or /that/
    enough and I know its a thing because I've dealt with it for years. I
    live in poverty, I'm about one week from being homeless. I've used a
    majority of my credit cards just covering rent. The few jobs I was able
    to get (and eventually lost) took advantage of my desperation for work
    to hire me as a "independent contractor" and pay next to nothing,
    legally under the minimum wage.

    Conservatives and Liberals both often absolutely shit on me. "Why can't
    you get on Section 8?" Because the waiting list is impossibly long.
    "Why can't you get help from your church?" …I don't believe in God?
    "Why can't you just get a work from home job?" Do you think I've not
    been looking? …really? "Well, you chose whatever lead to you being
    homeless." TH'FU**? The irony is the very people attempting to take
    away many of these options are also the ones telling me to seek them.

    As I said though… It's also people I ally with. And while I
    understand people are seeking really important rights and
    respectability, I kinda' don't want to die? I also can't just pick up
    and move, though. I have no means, even though I'm trying really hard
    to get donations and help to do so. I don't have family. I don't have
    many friends. I don't have a lot of gifts people really often take for
    granted, especially family, friends, contacts, etc. And as much as I
    want to help keep up the good fight, I'm about to lose everything
    including my ability to do work from home (my computer and my
    apartment), my belongings, everything I've built up over the last 8

    So I have to ask… Do I matter? I mean, should I? Why is it that
    people so progressive still look down on people like myself? Put in
    terms of Trek, do the needs of the many really outweigh the needs of the
    few, or is there a chance the desperation of a situation could ever
    possibly escalate the placement of a thing on progressive checklists?

  32. Also, another gripe about writings regarding evolution: you often hear statements along the lines of: "This species evolved leaf-like patterns on its wings to camouflage…" or something similar (yes, even in science shows sometimes). No species can (yet) evolve intentionally. There is a fairly regular rate of mutation of genes, and if the effects of mutations can improve an organism's chance of surviving and reproducing to pass this mutation along, then you get evolution. Steve hits on this, with his remarks re: the "natural course" of evolution being destination-bound in bad Sci-Fi writing.

  33. OMG, you are too funny. Go ahead and rip Star Trek a new one as usual but just don't mention Voyager! Also, the wig and shirt make you look more human, keep it up.

  34. So much of popular culture doesn’t understand evolution. Pokemon is frankly the worst. I’m an evolutionary biologist, and getting DMs on Twitter from people thinking evolution is like in Pokemon is frankly torturous.

  35. I thought you'd talk about "Distant Origin" from the third season of Voyager. They determine the alien they encounter must be evolved from hadrosaurs. Not as extreme as the examples you present, and, as I recall the science isn't as bad, but another example of the idea of evolution following a predictable path towards the intelligent, humanoid form.

  36. What I don't get about the Genesis episode is why Data didn't devolve into a MacBook Pro? Not enough time exposed to the virus?

  37. Can I book you to hold my paper presentations? Or at least get a hint on how to talk like this is really important and enlightening as you do it in the video? Great performance and shirt. … Is it the shirt?

  38. Maybe the doctor intentionally rewinds evolution by using a version the same technique that Crusher accidentally discovered in TNG. Continuity!

  39. Aww man, why were there any women in the audience silently putting up with that terribly dressed presenter character? He didn't even notice they were there!

  40. The teacher sequence at the beginning was ok. Too long winded but ok. But continually cutting to him. For the first time I really lost interest in the video halfway through. It just slowed the pace of the video to sleep inducing levels. Love your regular Trek actually styled parts though.

  41. I get what you’re saying in the first 5 minutes but boy that was unnecessarily long. Glad you switched over to your normal styled commentary.

  42. And that’s why the show is science fiction. These were silly stories I agree. But they were still fun to watch if you check your brain in at the door.

    Yeah I don’t believe in all forms of evolution. I believe in the evolution that is also called adaptation as there is countless evidence of that everywhere. But evolution that changes the kinds of animals? Nothing has been proven with that one. I’ve read many things that people have said will prove all evolution to me. But everything sent to me just proved adaptation and other forms, not the changing of kinds. Put that with how unreliable carbon dating is and with how much stuff has been proven fake, I don’t think the changing of kinds will ever be proven.

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