Is the Prime Directive Just?

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I think this question is too given to speculation to make for a good debate, but it still interests me.

Basically, Star Trek's heroes must abide by the Prime Directive, an order that forbids them from interfering in the affairs of primitive civilizations. Hardcore fans could probably argue it's more complicated than that, but let's assume it is this simple for the sake of this thread.

I suppose you could make two basic arguments in favor of the Prime Directive: an argument from utility and an argument from principle.

The argument from utility would contend that interference in alien cultures - no matter how benevolent in intention - will likely backfire and cause more problems than it solves.

The argument from principle would contend that interference in alien cultures is wrong simply because a species has a collective right to self-determination and unfettered development. According to this line of thought, there is something intrinsically desirable about a species charting its course without the guidance/influence of extraterrestrials.

But, if one were to adopt a policy of strict non-interference vis a vis primitive alien civilizations, one would commit oneself to the following:
-Permitting genocides and highly destructive wars.
-Permitting plagues, disease, general poor health and misery
-Permitting extinction events

It seems that although the Prime Directive has good intentions, it could result in unjust outcomes, at least some of the time.
The prime directive is one of those things that started out with good intentions but got pushed to the extremes as it developed over time. It's purpose is to protect the integrity of a civilization, but - originally - not at the expense of its existence:

SPOCK: Captain, our Prime Directive of non-interference.
KIRK: That refers to a living, growing culture. Do you think this one is?
TOS, Return of the Archons

Clearly, Kirk saw that the existence of a society takes precedence over its development. After all, if a society doesn't exist, it can't develop to begin with!

Somehow this principle got lost, and Starfleet Captains considered the prime directive to forbid interference even to save a civilization from extinction (even if said interference could perform without the civilizations knowledge!)

Inactive is still a moral decision, and the decision to led an entire civilization die is an immoral one.
--> @drafterman
I appreciate your reply. For the Archons episode, I just figured Kirk was creating a loophole for the sake of the plot. I never took Kirk's (frequent) circumventions of the Prime Directive seriously, at least not in any philosophical sense.

Stepping aside from direct examples from Star Trek, what do you think about strict non-interference? You said that allowing a civilization to die is immoral. I agree. What about less clear cut situations?

For example, what if a technologically superior alien race had come across Earth while the Black Plague was ravaging humanity - would it have been morally justified for them to unobtrusively intervene by deploying an airborne cure to the disease?

What if technologically superior aliens had encountered Earth in the midst of WWII? Would they have been justified in forcibly ending the hostilities, in order to save lives?
I think it only extends to events likely to bring about the end of that civilization. So those events wouldn’t qualify.
--> @Jeff_Goldblum
Permitting genocides etc.

Based on the assumption that primitive alien civilisations are likely to develop in exactly the same way as human civilisation.

Which is a fair assumption I suppose. Universal constants and all.

Though based on these simple criteria, it would also be fair to assume that other universal civilisations are unlikely to be any more or less developed than our own.

Nonetheless, meddling in other peoples affairs does seem to be a human par for the course. 

So the Prime Directive would no doubt be interpreted to suit.

Beam me up Scotty.
--> @zedvictor4
Based on the assumption that primitive alien civilisations are likely to develop in exactly the same way as human civilisation.

Which is a fair assumption I suppose. Universal constants and all.

Though based on these simple criteria, it would also be fair to assume that other universal civilisations are unlikely to be any more or less developed than our own.

Even if we assume aliens generally develop like us, there is good reason to expect we'd encounter extraterrestrials vastly more advanced and vastly less advanced than us. Human civilization is about 10,000 years old, which is like the blink of an eye on the cosmic timescale. Considered from this perspective, the odds that we would encounter aliens on par with our technological advancement actually seems low. What an incredible coincidence it would be if, in a galaxy that is billions of years old, we found aliens that were in the same basic place as us, technologically speaking.
--> @Jeff_Goldblum
Though:
If all matter began and then evolved simultaneously.  

But:
Is everything a chance one off event. Or is everything purposeful and perhaps sequential?

if there is purpose and sequence, then maybe the universe only requires us.




--> @Jeff_Goldblum
My first thoughts of the "Prime Directive" were 4 Robotic laws.  My bad.  Either way the following ---in bold---  applies in both cases.

....."Well, my MIRI colleague Luke Muehlhauser summarized it well when he said that problems often move from philosophy, to math, to engineering," Helm says. "Philosophy often asks useful questions, but usually in such an imprecise way that no one can ever know whether or not a new contribution to an answer represents progress. If we can reformulate the important philosophical problems related to intelligence, identity, and value into precise enough math that it can be wrong or not, then I think we can build models that will be able to be successfully built on, and one day be useful as input for real world engineering."

.....Helm calls it a true hard problem of science and philosophy, but that progress is still possible right now: "I'm skeptical that philosophy can solve it alone though since it seems to have failed for 3,000 years to make significant progress on its own. But we also can't just start attempting to program and engineer our way out of things with the sparse understanding we have now. Lots of additional theoretical research is still required."

I.e. I like Spocks approach more than I do Kirks, however, both have to be taken into account ---accounting ergo math---.

Kirk will respond impulsively from his gut of what is the correct thing to do.

The more complicated the situation the more philosophical, theoretical, and mathematical considerations must go into any violation of a human made "prime directive".  Desperate times call for desperated measures i..e the prime directive may be overridden depending on circumstances.

Remember it is human policy/directive and not a cosmic physical law/principle.

Statistical maths --via super-commputers--   can better gauge{ run } many outcomes{ scenarios } of action or inaction by the more superiorly engineered civilization. Once their run, then Kirk or a committee can reconsider action{ interference } or no-action, or many possible varibles of action{ interference }.

--> @Jeff_Goldblum
The Prime Directive is foolhardy. If they develop naturally, they could turn into a bloodthirsty militaristic civilization which develops spaceflight and then starts attacking everybody else. If somebody had been around the block to rehabilitate the Klingons 2000 years prior to the start of the series a butt ton of death could've been prevented.
In addition, the Prime Directive does not prevent the Klingons or Romulans from intervening in a primitive civilization. Their intervention would doubtlessly be much worse so the humane thing would be for the Federation to make sure first contact happened on their benevolent terms.