a psychological play

"Wrong thinking is punishable, right thinking will be quickly rewarded.
  You will find it an effective combination."
                                        Telosian trainer,
                                        from Star Trek pilot episode
                                        written by Gene Roddenbury

Just now I watched a rerun of the original Star Trek pilot, which I believe
was entitled "The Mission". I was struck by a couple of things. First, I
was struck by the degree of parallel between its plot and that of my
favorite SF movie of all time, Forbidden Planet. Secondly, it was really
very well plotted, standing up among the best of the many Star Trek (+
spinoff) episodes. But the reason I'm writing about it to this list is
because its plot involved, with particular clarity, a theme which run
strongly through the original Star Trek series, and a factor which I
believe was a significant contributor to its success. (I must admit I miss
it from more recent series writing.)

The theme I'm talking about, of course, was the theme of tension between
autonomy and behavioral control. The aliens who capture the captain of the
Enterprise put him in a blatently Behaviorist control experiment, and his
unwillingness to be coaxed by the delivery of his strongest fantasies, nor
intimideated by the infliction of his worst nightmares, made for his
ultimate release from this captivity. Thus this stands as a work of art
which paints the tension our culture has been wrestling with between our
reward/punishment manipulation models of scientific psychology, and our
good sense that autonomy is genuine in a manner which overrides this
apparent advancement.

One of the greatest difficulties in this has been the sense that we face a
decison between science--and certain enslavement--or a freedom of ignorant
arbitrariness. Bill Powers' PCT theories are, in my evaluation, a major
step in dissolution of this dichotomy. At last we have a means of
acknowledging the importance of autonomy by means of detailed scientific
reasoning, not "mere" tradition and predisposition. Thus we find rational
counter to the widespread notion that science implies the farming of human

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Tracy Bruce Harms tbh@tesser.com
Boulder, Colorado


   "There is only one way I can see for fallible, ignorant human beings
   to live in accord with their own real natures and that is to discard
   forever the principle of controlling each other's behavior, dropping
   even the *desire* to control other people, and seeing at every level
   the fallacy in the logic that leads to such a desire."
                                                   William T. Powers