When this story broke, my mind went straight to the debate between Archer and Phlox in the Enterprise episode that set the stage for the introduction of the prime directive. If you replace Phlox’s cure with Chau’s religious faith, and you think of Archer as a dogmatic religious leader instead of a starship captain, the analogy works pretty well, I think.
The prime directive, as far as I can tell, is nothing more than the sci-fi version of non-interventionism (which critics often mischaracterize as isolationism). Personally, I’m a big fan of non-interventionism, which of course means I’m also a big fan of the prime directive (though I’d argue that some exceptions can and should be made). But not a lot of people are, as evidenced by the foreign policies of virtually every major political power on the planet. The libertarians have been pushing for non-interventionism for years, yet they are rarely taken seriously despite the mounting evidence that things almost never work out the way one would hope when one society interferes in the affairs of another. So maybe this is actually a lesson we won’t learn until we develop interstellar travel and experience the sting of a cosmic mistake that finally forces us to acknowledge the inherent risks of sticking our noses where they don’t belong.
Anyways, as far as Chau and his beliefs are concerned, I have conflicting feelings. On the one hand, I’ve always been sympathetic to religious people and feel inclined to defend them pretty frequently. The way I see it, if your faith brings you comfort and joy, then I’m happy you’ve found that comfort and joy, and I refuse to judge or look down on anyone who chooses to live that life. And if you want to “spread the word” to others, you should feel free to do so as long as the people to whom you’re preaching are open to hearing what you have to say.
I also believe that the development of religion was a necessary, natural, and unavoidable step in the evolution of humanity, though that’s another topic for a different day.
On the other hand, your love and appreciation for whichever religion you follow is not a legitimate excuse to put others in harm’s way, or to ignore their desire to be left alone. In that respect, the Chau family’s statement strikes the wrong chord. I’m sure that Chau meant well, and he likely wasn’t aware of the potential ramifications of his decisions, but the notion that the Sentinelese are in any way responsible for this mess is just absurd. I appreciate that his family is suffering, and Chau himself certainly didn’t deserve to die for his decision, but this situation is what it is because he made a terrible choice that has put the future of the entire Sentinelese tribe in jeopardy. His family can choose not to acknowledge that if they want, but their decision to try and turn this around on the tribe is just so completely wrong, IMO. The same can be said for any Christian blogger who would dare try to demonize the Sentinelese for wanting to defend themselves from a perceived outside threat. In fact, those bloggers anger me more than anyone else in this story because they have the benefit of hindsight, yet they’re still defending an indefensible decision.
In any case, I just hope the Sentinelese survive this. They’re the biggest victims in all of this, after all.