Lion of the Blogosphere

Star Trek: TNG S01E17 – When the Bough Breaks

At the beginning of the episode, we see a kid who looks like he’s 9 or 10 complaining to his dad that he doesn’t like calculus. This interaction is supposed to demonstrate that children in the future are far more advanced in their education than they are today.

This struck me as completely bogus, even the first time I watched it before I knew much about HBD. Children of that age today are just not smart enough to learn calculus. Because intelligence is a genetic trait, unless they did some eugenic genetic engineering, children in the future aren’t going to be any smarter than they are today. But there have been several Star Trek episodes unequivocally telling us that eugenics is the most evil thing in the world because it creates evil people like Ricardo Montalbán (aka Khan). All people created through eugenics were expelled from Earth and eugenics was banned.

Also, the adults in the first season seem pretty stupid. It’s hard to imagine Deanna Troi being able to handle calculus at the age of 10. It’s almost as if, in the future, people become stupider as they grow up instead of smarter. The Enterprise would have been destroyed many times over in Season 1 if the teenager Wesley Crusher wasn’t around to fix things that the adults are too stupid to fix.

Then in this episode, several children are kidnapped by “aliens” (who look perfectly human like at least half of the alien races in Star Trek) who can’t have their own children. This demonstrates again what a bad idea it is to have children aboard a starship like the Enterprise. Episode after episode bad things happen and they are only saved by lucky coincidence or a brilliant idea at the last possible minute. Eventually their luck is going to run out and all of the children will be massacred by the Borg or the Ferengi. (Maybe that happens in Season 8?)

But it turns out, the real reason the aliens can’t have children is because their technology has destroyed their ozone layer, and the radiation previously blocked by the ozone layer is giving them radiation poisoning and making them sterile. The only way to save their planet is to turn off their technology. (A strangely Luddite message from a television series glorifying space travel, transporters, and other magical advanced technology.) Back in the 1980s, the biggest environmental problem people worried about was the ozone layer, not global warming. (In the 1970s, they worried about global cooling caused by smokestack pollution blocking the sunlight.)

At the end of the episode, we are shown Captain Picard’s awkwardness with small children. A young girl wants to hug him for saving her and he doesn’t know what to do. These scenes make you really miss Captain Kirk who was very good with young children (when he wasn’t too busy having sex with alien women to have time to give them any attention).

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 11, 2015 at 11:37 AM

Posted in Nerdy stuff, Television

48 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. The official star trek explanation for kids taking calculus at age 10 is better teaching methods and also a culture that encourages intelligence.

    nate higgers

    February 11, 2015 at 12:02 PM

  2. Calculus, like most math, is just a set of routines governed by a set of rules. I think it’s possible for someone with an above average IQ to learn at it a young age.

    grey enlightenment

    February 11, 2015 at 12:24 PM

    • Doubtful. I had enough trouble tutoring people with average IQ’s at high school age to learn basic calculus.

      everybodyhatesscott

      February 11, 2015 at 3:16 PM

  3. At the beginning of the episode, we see a kid who looks like he’s 9 or 10 complaining to his dad that he doesn’t like calculus. This interaction is supposed to demonstrate that children in the future are far more advanced in their education than they are today.

    This struck me as completely bogus, even the first time I watched it before I knew much about HBD. Children of that age today are just not smart enough to learn calculus. Because intelligence is a genetic trait, unless they did some eugenic genetic engineering, children in the future aren’t going to be any smarter than they are today. But there have been several Star Trek episodes unequivocally telling us that eugenics is the most evil thing in the world because it creates evil people like Ricardo Montalbán (aka Khan). All people created through eugenics were expelled from Earth and eugenics was banned.

    Fantastic observation. As I’ve noted before, Star Trek, especially in The Next Generation era, represents the modern liberal Utopian vision come true. As I said:

    the world of Star Trek, where the society’s average IQ is perhaps 120 or more, everyone is thin, attractive, well-behaved (no crime or war), intellectual, long-lived (and overwhelmingly European it seems), and non-racist/specist

    And course, society got that way through “social progress,” more education, poverty elimination, better technology, etc. (as said in Star Trek: First Contact: “Poverty, disease, war. They’ll all be gone within the next 50 years [from 2063]).”

    In other words, everything modern White liberals envision happens. Star Trek: The Next Generation is their model. But, of course, as noted in my post “Squid Ink”, as all these things are heritable, and don’t seem subject to much environmental manipulation, you’d need some sort of genetic alteration to make this happen – eugenics, in one form or another:

    Maybe, through this genetic engineering/eugenics process, we’ll actually end up with the world of Star Trek…even though, in perhaps the height of irony, in the Star Trek world genetic engineering of any kind was expressly forbidden…

    If that doesn’t say it all, what does?

    JayMan

    February 11, 2015 at 1:08 PM

    • That’s a good vision, though> Why should we not strive for that? Even coming from a libertarin leaning conservaticve, i’m privy to th idea of eugenics being used to improve society

      grey enlightenment

      February 11, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    • As Mugabe says, HBDers argue against and refer to strawmen. In this case, it’s the idea that ‘liberals’ are opposed to any and all eugenics. No one would argue that we should preserve mental disability in our society. If there were a technological way to remove all disorders that have, as a consequence, mental disability, then liberals (and everyone) would approve of using that technology.

      swanknasty

      February 11, 2015 at 6:13 PM

      • I think “Liberals” would oppose ending something like Down’s syndrome. Progressives wouldn’t though. I use “Liberal” to mean a Leftist who is guided more by his heart than his brain, and “Progressive” to mean a Leftist who is guided more by his brain than his heart.

        CamelCaseRob

        February 12, 2015 at 1:23 PM

      • The ‘liberals’ who would be opposed to ending genetic disorders would be the same ‘liberals’ opposed to vaccinating children —- a vanishingly small minority.

        swanknasty

        February 12, 2015 at 2:10 PM

    • In theory though, couldn’t an inbred high IQ group produce more outliers than less gifted peers? My kids are serviced by an orthodontist in a primarily orthodox neighborhood. In the waiting room, I once had a 4th grader excitedly show me his graphing calculator and all its functions. He was in some kind of gifted solomon schecter program.

      slithy toves

      February 11, 2015 at 7:42 PM

      • @slithy troves:

        As the mean goes up, the number of people at the high extreme goes way up. It’s all about the mean.

        JayMan

        February 12, 2015 at 6:56 AM

      • Solomon Schechter day schools are run by the Conservative Jewish denomination. Not many Orthodox Jews would be willing to send their children to Solomon Schechter schools.

        nebbish

        February 12, 2015 at 12:11 PM

    • I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth reading Shatner’s Star Trek Movie Memories (the sequel to Star Trek Memories) for insight into the two different visions of Star Trek. The hippy-dippy stuff you refer to comes from Roddenberry; the circa 1800 Royal Navy stuff (e.g., Wrath of Khan) comes from Nick Meyer and others.

      In fact, Shatner said that Roddenberry was so pissed by the direction Wrath of Khan took that he leaked word of Spock’s death to sabotage it. As a counter, Nick Meyer added the Kobayashi Maru scene at the beginning where Spock feigns his death. Kirk’s “Aren’t you dead?” line was also prompted by that.

      As TNG went on, it started to move away from Roddenberry’s hippy dippy version a bit. Same with the DS9. A problem with utopia is that there’s no conflict, no drama.

      Dave Pinsen

      February 11, 2015 at 7:42 PM

  4. It’s almost as if, in the future, people become stupider as they grow up instead of smarter.

    This is Blank Slate 101. We are born with pure, open minds and loving hearts, and as long as we can stay away from bitter adults filling our heads with taboos and prejudice, we will maintain true wisdom.

    Fiddlesticks

    February 11, 2015 at 1:14 PM

  5. ode

    February 11, 2015 at 2:26 PM

  6. Elroy Jetson (born 2035) was taking space calculus at six and a half years old. That kid on the Enterprise (in the year 2364) must have been one of the slow kids to be taking calculus at nine years old.

    “The Jetsons: Uniblab (#1.10)” (1962)
    Jane Jetson: Elroy, why aren’t you ready for school?
    Elroy Jetson: I don’t feel good, Mom. I think… I think I’m coming down with Venus Virus.
    Jane Jetson: Venus Virus, eh? Last week you said it was Martian Mumps. Anything to get out of taking that space calculus test.

    Fred

    February 11, 2015 at 2:36 PM

  7. I loved ST:TNG when I was a teenager, but now I think it was pretty ridiculous and lame.

    The characters themselves acted like complete morons. One of the most absurd things about the show was the fact that the Enterprise would never put up a fight when they were attacked. I can just imagine Captain Picard saying, “Mr. Worf, we’re getting our asses kicked. What I’d like you to do is gently poke one of those enemy ships with a phaser beam that’s only strong enough to make their shields visible. If that doesn’t do it, I’m going to wait about ten seconds befor ordering you to do the same thing again.”

    stealth

    February 11, 2015 at 3:13 PM

  8. I’ve never watched STTNG, so keep that in mind, but

    it’s just a dramatic device. It is very easy to convey, in concrete terms, “children in the future are much smarter.” But, it is much harder to convey “adults are much smarter” in concrete terms that a) a viewer will grok and b) that won’t bog down the teleplay. So you’re just supposed to infer for yourself that the adults are smarter and that this teenager is an especially bright future youngster.

    Besides, if in the Star Trek universe they just eliminated all genes that could cause intellectual disability, and everyone’s ‘shared’ environment was some ridiculous +SD than now, the average IQ of the population would rise.

    swanknasty

    February 11, 2015 at 3:17 PM

    • but…

      it’s just a dramatic device

      Right. I have *never* understood people who nitpick sci-fi/fantasy.

      Samson J.

      February 11, 2015 at 5:55 PM

    • Yeah. I assume that Lion is just being glib (it’s a funny observation, after all), but the medium we’re in makes it hard to tell sometimes.

      swanknasty

      February 12, 2015 at 12:31 PM

  9. The Enterprise would have been destroyed many times over in Season 1 if the teenager Wesley Crusher wasn’t around to fix things that the adults are too stupid to fix.

    The actor Wil Wheaton, who played Crusher was deemed a creepy beta male, when I was in JS by some of my female classmates who watched TNG. He also married a cougar, which is unsurprising!

    Khan’s brain slugs literally gave everyone the creeps!

    JS

    February 11, 2015 at 4:18 PM

  10. no more star trek. let’s talk #betasuicides.

    rivelino

    February 11, 2015 at 5:43 PM

  11. I always assumed the clever kids on ST were a result of assortative mating and/or “non paternal events” with Vulcans.

    slithy toves

    February 11, 2015 at 5:57 PM

  12. Another thing about ST:TNG WRT intelligence and class:

    Everyone on the ship seems to be an officer, with the exception of Chief O’Brien, who is either a petty officer or a warrant officer, presumably. The original series focussed on officers, but there were also some enlisted characters, such as Yeoman Janice Rand.

    Also, positions that would seemingly require high IQs are portrayed as low status. E.g., there was an episode where working in Stellar Cartography or Astrophysics or something was portrayed that way. Also, one recurring character (the crazy guy from the A-Team) is an engineer, but he’s portrayed as kind of a dud.

    Dave Pinsen

    February 11, 2015 at 7:53 PM

    • Dave,

      This is a slight misinterpretation. The episode merely portrayed that Picard would not be be able to rise to the level of command from stellar cartography, given his career trajectory and age.

      That was a good episode. Picard has an artificial heart. He got it when he was stabbed through the heart by a Naussican in a bar fight between them and several Starfleet cadets. The moral of the story is that brush with death spurred Picard to work hard and aim high, making him a Starfleet Captain.

      He was given the option of seeing how his life would pan out had he never got into the fight with the Nausican.

      map

      February 12, 2015 at 11:36 PM

  13. “Poverty, disease, war. They’ll all be gone within the next 50 years”

    Poverty and disease pretty much have been eliminated in the US. The problem is that the quality of pop ulation has been degraded badly.

    PA

    February 11, 2015 at 9:46 PM

  14. From what I’ve read, high-schoolers taking AP classes in calculus generally short-shrift their learning of algebra and trig. (It’s not like you can learn all three at once.) As a result they sabotage their ability to really learn calculus, which should happen to them in college but never really does.

    As for Star Trek TNG, I’ve tried watching an episode here or there but just can’t get into it. The whole thing is just way to PC for me to stomach.

    Raoul Duke

    February 11, 2015 at 10:03 PM

    • The hard part of calculus is the algebra and trig, so not thoroughly learning those fails the point.

      thrasymachus33308

      February 12, 2015 at 1:37 PM

    • If an individual is taking AP calculus in HS, they have already done well in both algebra and trigonometry. I’m not even sure an individual will get much out of calculus if they don’t understand algebra and trigonometry.

      swanknasty

      February 12, 2015 at 1:45 PM

  15. Deep Space Nine’s Doctor Bashir had illegal genetic modification done on him as a child because he had a learning disability.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Bashir,_I_Presume%3F

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Bashir#Overview

    MEH 0910

    February 12, 2015 at 12:45 AM

    • That’s the weird thing about the world of Star Trek. There is a major taboo about genetic modification because of Khan and the Eugenics Wars, but the world they live in couldn’t exist without it. And as you’ve mentioned, even within the canon of Star Trek, there are people who get genetic engineering done illegally. Bashir’s dad actually goes to prison for that.

      Also there is a group of genetically modified people that have made recurring appearances on DS9 who were genetically engineered, but something went wrong, so they are like high functioning autistics who can’t live on their own and have to live in some sort of Federation halfway house.

      Mike Street Station

      February 12, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    • Ugh…..I can’t believe I did this:
      ‘By the 24th century, the United Federation of Planets allowed limited use of genetic engineering to correct existing genetically related medical conditions.Persons known to be genetically enhanced, however, were not allowed to serve in Starfleet, and were especially banned from practicing medicine.’
      http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Genetic_engineering

      See. Even in the Star Trek Universe it’s a strawman. The prohibition is on enhancement, not treatment.

      swanknasty

      February 12, 2015 at 2:08 PM

      • It’s possible that much variation in intelligence is due to variation in mutation load; that is, dumb people carry a larger number of deleterious mutations than smart people. If that theory is correct, then a lot of enhancement could be rationalized as removing defective genes preventing the unfortunate individuals possessing them from reaching their full potential. Raising intelligence that way could be presented as the equivalent of giving a myopic person glasses.

        But sure, it might be hard for the public to swallow the notion that anyone who’s not an uber-genius needs to be “treated”.

        Michael H

        February 13, 2015 at 10:06 AM

      • So much to unpack in that statement. Mutation load concerns genetic load, which itself concerns fitness. Fitness concerns a) survival and b) reproduction. If dumber people have more kids, then it doesn’t seem like ‘higher IQ’ is our ‘optimal theoretical genotype.’

        swanknasty

        February 13, 2015 at 1:13 PM

  16. Why even watch this crap?

    You seem a bit masochist to me, Lion.

    Thomas

    February 12, 2015 at 4:56 AM

    • Waiting for House of Cards Season 3.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 12, 2015 at 6:59 AM

      • You should watch Episodes on Showtime. It’s very funny.

        Dave Pinsen

        February 12, 2015 at 8:32 PM

    • Episodes is hilarious.

      Also check out the new season of Always Sunny in Philadelphia,

      map

      February 12, 2015 at 11:39 PM

  17. “we are shown Captain Picard’s awkwardness with small children. A young girl wants to hug him for saving her and he doesn’t know what to do. These scenes make you really miss Captain Kirk who was very good with young children (when he wasn’t too busy having sex with alien women to have time to give them any attention).”

    The original Star Trek debuted in 1966. TNG debuted in 1987. What happened in those 20 years? The sexual revolution came to fruition with increasing rates of promiscuity, illegitimacy and divorce. There was an explosion of single mothers. Men are much more likely to physically and sexually abuse children than women. But fathers almost never sexually abuse their own children. Rather it’s one of mommy’s new boyfriends or husbands who does that. The sexual revolution led to an explosion of chimos due to opportunities that didn’t previously exist. This colored the perception society has concerning men and children. No man is above suspicion. Which is one of the reasons men are terrified to be alone with children who aren’t theirs. No wonder Piccard looks awkward.

    PS: Note that although most chimos are men, it’s the children of single mothers who are at higher risk not children of single fathers. Yet who usually gets custody?

    destructure

    February 12, 2015 at 10:11 PM

  18. I think a relatively small percentage of the population could do calculus at age 10, but our educational system discourages early learning.

    If you look at reading vs. math scores you will find that the “achievement gap” for reading is much higher than it is for math. There are plenty of fifth and sixth graders reading at the high school and college level. That’s because reading beyond the basic level is mostly self-taught while math is primarily learned through instruction. Most schools simply refuse to provide instruction to the most-able math students.

    If the brightest decile were given a challenging math curriculum starting in kindergarten I have little doubt many would be doing calculus by age 10.

    ColRebSez

    February 13, 2015 at 3:47 PM

  19. I noticed all this stuff at the time (and I’m younger than Lion).

    What amazed me was that my cohort (who were all conservative Christians) had no idea there was a social/political message in the show. I called it “Star Trek the Politically Correct Generation” and was asked what I was talking about. The conversation went something like this:
    Me: You know that episode where there’s a whole planet of people with no gender, but one of them thinks that they’re really a woman.
    Other Kid: Yeah and?
    Me: And they persecute her for it. And that persecution is really bad and really ignorant?
    Other Kid: Yeah.
    Me: You know that episode is really about gays right?
    Other Kid: *blank look*

    MoreSigmasThanYou

    February 18, 2015 at 9:54 PM


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: