Revelations on the Freedom to Explore the Soul
“The Measure of a Man” from Season 2 is a highly creative way to search for the differences between seeing a person as property or as a person. In this episode, Data, an android (stay with me folks) is on trial. A scientist wants to experiment on him, to take him apart to learn about him so that he can make more people like Data. So the question is set forth: Is Data a person or property? Should people just be allowed to do whatever they want with Data?
When the trial begins, Riker as the prosecutor proves that he is a machine with several pieces of damning evidence. Captain Picard is distraught, so he goes to talk to someone he trusts. He talks to Guinan who is both full of insight and experience. She points out that throughout history there have been creatures who were treated as “disposables.” She says that you “don’t have to think about their welfare or how they feel.” You just create “a whole generations of disposable people.” They are the sacrifice made to help others get ahead. Picard realizes that she is talking about slavery. Treating people as if they are disposable property is the same attitude that created slavery.
Back at the trial, Captain Picard asks the scientist what qualities does a person have that make him a person? The man replies, “Sentience…intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness.” He frequently calls Data “it” to detach himself emotionally from Data. So the captain asks Data what he is on trial for. “My right to choose.” Really, “my life.” As property, he can’t choose how he will be treated and even more whether or not he will live.
Then Captain Picard returns to the point Guinan had made and argues if you start making a race specifically designed based on these certain parts, aren’t you then condemning them to slavery by calling them property now through Data? If you call them property now, aren’t you already taking their freedom away for the future? The judge must decide.
The judge knows that her decision will have repercussions for the future–if and whether Data and those like him will be treated as property or persons. She says that she has to make a judgment that will “speak to the future.” She says that they have been “dancing around” the main issue: “Does he have a soul?” She feels too unqualified to answer that, saying that is a question for “Saints and philosophers,” but she says that she has “to give him the freedom to explore that for himself.” This is a striking instance of scientific humility–her admission that the soul is something that she cannot measure. She concludes that he is not property and that he is a person because she believes he deserves the chance to figure out if he has a soul!
Now, if we are able to stretch ourselves far enough and accept a fictional character who also happens to be an android–a non-humanoid–the freedom to explore whether or not he has a soul, shouldn’t we be capable to do that for someone who has the genetic make-up of a humanoid? Data, in the beginning, is considered a machine. Isn’t the body similar? But isn’t a person more than just a collection of DNA like Data is more than just his moving parts? Is a person more than just a body?
SOUL: The spiritual principle of human beings. The soul is the subject of human consciousness and freedom; soul and body together form one unique human nature. Each human soul is individual and immortal, immediately created by God. The soul does not die with the body, from which it is separated by death, and with which it will be reunited in the final Resurrection (definition from the Catechism).
In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being (CCC 28).
Dare I say that this Star Trek mythology brings up the relevance of religion and God to help others see the humane-ness of allowing someone the freedom to discover if and whether he has a soul? Working toward being humane, the “soul” eventually must work its way into the story.
Humans love stories. We listen to stories, read stories, watch stories. Many of us would like to have our own story. Mythology is a type of story. It is a wonderful way to explore ideas, explore the consequences of certain ideas, reveal human nature, and maybe even get people to think in a new direction. With mythology, writers can creatively grasp certain universal truths that are otherwise hidden. In short, the myth tends to know what is unknowable. How does mythology do this?
In the words of Chaucer, the best story is that of “best sentence and moost solas.” It is not only woven together well, but it also has more to offer. Sir Philip Sidney suggests that “Poesy [story, literature] therefore is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle termeth it in the word mimesis—that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth—to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture—with this end, to teach and delight.” Good stories not only entertain, but they also teach something. Mythology has a profound way of doing this. This series is devoted to delving into the mythology created by movie and other visual media makers.
Christological will be a frequently referenced concept.
 Jeff Cavins’ The Bible Timeline: The Story of Salvation
 Theology of the Body reference notes, p. 91
 from the “General Prologue” in Canterbury Tales
 from “The Defense of Poesy”