The Next Generation…
Terry Dashner…………Faith Fellowship Church PO Box 1586 Broken Arrow, OK 74013
Consider this. Star Trek: The Next Generation wrapped up its final season in May 1994. Although The Next Generation was an updated version of 1960s Star Trek series, its producers went beyond Star Trek’s: “Space—the final frontier” theme and exploited a new philosophy of emerging generation: postmodernism. What is postmodernism, anyway?
In his book entitled, A Primer on Postmodernism (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1996), Stanley J. Grenz states: “Like modern fiction in general, original Star Trek series reflected many aspects of Enlightenment project and of late modernity. The crew of Enterprise included persons of various nationalities working together for common benefit of humankind. They were epitome of modern universalist anthropology. The message was obvious: we are all human, and we must overcome our differences and join forces in order to complete our mandate, quest for certain, objective knowledge of entire universe of which space looms as ‘the final frontier.’”
Interesting. As you might recall from world history class 101, birth of modern era is usually placed at dawn of Enlightenment (18th century). Building on Renaissance, Enlightenment elevated man to center of world. During this time French philosopher, Rene Descartes, turned western philosophy upside-down, literally. He focused on doubt, which led him to conclude that existence of thinking self is first truth that doubt cannot deny (Grenz, page 3). Isaac Newton later provided scientific framework for modernity, picturing physical world as a machine laws and regularity of which could be discerned by human mind.
Moreover, it became goal of human intellectual quest to unlock secrets of universe in order to master nature for human benefit and create a better world. This quest led to modernity characteristic of twentieth century, which has sought to bring rational management to life in order to improve human existence through technology (Grenz, page 3). In other words, universe is ruled by laws, perceived by human intellect; therefore, educate humankind and knowledge will usher in a new age of enlightened men. Knowledge is power.
Then again, postmodernism represents a rejection of Enlightenment project and foundational assumptions upon which it was built. Modernity has been under attack since German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), told us that God was dead. In eschewing Enlightenment myth of inevitable progress, postmodernism replaces optimism of last century with a gnawing pessimism. Gone is belief that every day, in every way, we are getting better and better. To postmodernist, knowledge is not objective. There are many paths to knowledge besides reason, including emotions and intuition. The world is not simply an objective given that is ‘out there,’ waiting to be discovered and known; reality is relative, indeterminate, and participatory (Grenz, page 7). Wow. That’s heavy stuff.