According to surprising new polling, the world isn’t yet fully on board with Star Trek’s Prime Directive approach of non-interference with potential future alien encounters.
Americans not sure about Star Trek’s Prime Directive
The subject of exploring new worlds and new civilizations has become more topical, especially following NASA’s recent announcement that they had discovered seven Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone around the star Trappist-1, about 40 light years from Earth. And last summer an Earth-sized planet was discovered orbiting in the habitable zone of our nearest stellar neighbor Proxima Centauri, a mere 4 light years away.
All this talk of new planets garnered the interest of the international polling firm YouGov – who conduct scientific surveys for media outlets like The Economist as well as major corporations and non-profits – to find out how people view the possibility of alien life. Their first round of polling showed a plurality of Americans (40%) believed that some form of alien life existed on these recently discovered planets, but there seemed to be no consensus on why humanity has yet to be contacted by any advanced civilization.
This was followed up with a new round of polling that YouGov has just supplied to TrekMovie regarding how Americans felt about how future human explorers should treat less advanced civilizations. It turns out that Star Trek’s much vaunted “Prime Directive” of non-interference did not come out on top. More Americans (34%) believe we should make contact with these aliens and do what we can to help them, with 29% feeling we should apply Starfleet General Order #1 and simply leave them alone. Much less popular were the more aggressive approaches, with 5% approving of what you might call the Cardassian philosophy of enslaving the aliens, and even less popular was the idea of extermination, with only 3% backing this more Klingon view. See below for the full question and results.
YouGov conducted the same poll with people in the UK and the results were slightly different. The British public is more amenable to the Prime Directive approach, which came out on top with 37% support, with 36% backing benign interference. The two more aggressive approaches (enslavement and extermination) only received a combined 3% support.
It is striking that less than 40% of Americans and Brits back the the idea of the Prime Directive. While Star Trek has shown that in the future there were some critics to this approach of non-interference, and while certainly there were periodic violations, the rule was generally taken very seriously. It may be that this was only due to learning the dangers of getting involved before a civilization is ready to travel the stars.
Even with the best of intentions there can always be unforeseen consequences, possibly resulting in a Gangster Planet or even Space Nazis. And this isn’t isolated to Star Trek’s Prime timeline; we saw the new crew of the USS Enterprise inadvertently destroy/create a religion after saving a species from extinction in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Keep up with all the Star Trek in the zeitgeist here at TrekMovie.com.