Live long and prosper through inherent optimism

March 1, 2014 

Gene Roddenberry, creator of "Star Trek," was a member of the American Humanist Association.

One of the things that made "Star Trek" so popular was its positive humanist vision of the future.

The show was ahead of its time and crossed racial and gender barriers by writing characters who weren't limited in their societal roles or in who they could love.

One of the many areas of modern life influenced by the show is the field of medicine.

The vision of medicine presented in "Star Trek" included vaccinations that didn't puncture the skin. It also featured scanning machines that could find out what was wrong with you without having to do invasive surgery.

A lot of modern medical technologies, such as ultrasound, have been developed because fans of "Star Trek" decided to make that technology real.


Because the benefits to that imagined technology were so great it was worth the effort to make it real.

Humanism is inherently optimistic, which is why I am always confused when people tell me that just because I don't believe in supernaturalism, I must be pessimistic.

I'm not pessimistic.

I'm an optimist.

What makes humanistic optimism so powerful is that even though it's imaginary it isn't based on fantasy; it's firmly grounded in reality.

Being a skeptic and rejecting supernaturalism is an incredible act of optimism.

Want to know why?

Because it means I have a firm belief in our ability to figure things out and to solve our problems and make things better.

I don't give up and wish for a magical solution.

I make good things happen through intelligence and hard work. This idea that we can improve ourselves and improve how we do things requires imagination and vision and a willingness to reject the status quo on occasion.

And that's the ultimate lesson of "Star Trek." If we work hard enough and we apply our intelligence and we don't give in to superstition or the naysayers, we may just figure things out, like the fact epilepsy isn't caused by demonic possession, or that we can use ultrasound to see inside a body without cutting it open.

This reality-based approach to medicine has been so wildly successful; it's amazing that people still seek out supernatural solutions when they have a medical problem.

Which brings me to the famous Vulcan salute: "Live Long and Prosper."

If there ever were to be a Humanist motto, that would be it. To live long and prosper we need science, intelligence, health and humor. To quote the great Roddenberry: "This life is full of

delight. You should enjoy the pleasure and delight and stick it to 'them' now and then."

Jennifer Hancock, a humanist educator and the author of several books, is on the web at and on Twitter@jenthehumanist. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members

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