The Enemy Within – Good, Evil, and the Human Condition

It is probably no surprise to anyone looking around here that I’d be easily classified as a nerd or geeky type. What may surprise some though, is that I’ve never really watched Star Trek before. I’ve seen at least one of the movies that came out from the Star Trek: The New Generation era, but that’s about it. Being interesting in giving it a try, I decided to start watching Star Trek on Netflix. So far it’s been pretty interesting, but the episode I just watched made me think more than usual.

Star TrekThe episode was “The Enemy Within” and the premise is that there is a teleporter malfunction, (there is always some kind of malfunction or disease isn’t there?) that causes Captain Kirk to be divided into two. At first they don’t realize the dynamics of what exactly happened, but they come to learn that Kirk has been divided between his good and evil sides. So they have to find this evil side of Kirk, find a way to get them put back together, and get the teleporter working again so that they can save the crew that is stranded on a planet that gets deadly cold during the night.

How this division takes place is interesting. The good side has empathy, intelligence, love, but as time goes on the good Kirk loses his ability to make clear decisions on issues. The evil side is constantly afraid, violent, aggressive, and the decisions he makes are clear, but neglects the safety of others or are for his own base desires. Kirk’s good side reels at the evil that once lurked within that is now out in plain view. However, Spock makes the observation that Kirk is not Kirk without both of these sides.

The good Kirk may have logic, love, and emotion, but lacks the decisiveness needed to be the captain. Spock then concludes that this decisiveness must come from his evil side, just like his courage must come from the good side since his evil side is so easily frightened and always on edge. Basically, what Spock concludes is that we need both good and evil in us to be who we are. This dialogue and the theme of the episode made me think about the topic of good and evil regarding us humans. Here are some of the questions that the episode made me ponder.

The first question really has to do with us as a society. Do we believe the idea that we’re part evil and part good? I realize that Star Trek is a product of the sixties and not today so there will be differences, but it still makes me wonder if we hold this view in the general culture today? You don’t hear much talk about evil unless you’re talking about terrorists, murderers, or rapists except for maybe the occasional political jab about evil liberals or conservatives. I hear a lot of people say they think that people are generally good maybe even primarily good, but not a whole lot on inherent evilness at least outside Christian circles. Even then the evil inside isn’t usually as focused on as the evil we perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be on the outside. It seems that often evil is minimized or externalized. Evil is due to society, religion, or perhaps mental health issues, it seems to be rarely identified as something naturally within us.

The second question is one I haven’t really pondered before. Are there good things about me that are only able to be known due to the part of me that is evil? Just like decisiveness was a trait that came from Kirk’s evil side and courage was something that came from interacting with the fear present in the evil side, do we have similar instances? I don’t know as if I have any answers here, but I can think of one general example. Self-control as being a positive attribute at least according to the Bible speaks of something positive that comes from interacting with a side of us that doesn’t want to be under control.

Any other thoughts on the matter tend to flow something like this, I’ll use worry as an example. Is worry part of me that is evil? If it is, how does it shape who I am? Are their positive things that come out of it? Are the things that I may think positive actually positive? This line of questioning may be kind of helpful, but is hardly foolproof. Let’s say worry is part of evil, for sake of argument. It probably does shape who I am. I tend to be cautious with decision making, I don’t put myself out there that much, and I try to trust in God. Now are these good things? Trying to trust in God could be considered good if you think that trusting in God is good, which I do. The others well I’m not so sure. Is it possible that I’m overcautious and don’t trust God as much as I should? Does my worry about putting myself out there hinder the good I could be doing? So as you can see such self-examination isn’t necessarily easy or completely cut and dry.

The last question is about how this view of being half good and half evil interacts with the Bible. In other words does the Bible present the idea that we are both good and evil, and that we must be good and evil to be fully human? It seems to me that the answer is both yes and no. It seems to me that we are both good and evil. If we’re going to compare to the Bible, then we have to understand the greatest good in the Bible is to follow God. Now, as you read the Bible this also includes how we treat other human beings, but of first importance is following God. Star Trek is going primarily with the how they treat others and act in relation to the crew and circumstances, so the focuses are a bit different. But anyhow, I’d say you can read the Bible and see men and women who do good, both in the sense of how they try to follow God and how they treat others. None of these are presented as perfect, except Jesus, but there is the capability for good.

At the same time, evil is also present in many of the people of the Bible. You can see Abraham lying out of worry; Moses disobeying God out of anger, frustration, and maybe even pride; David who succumbed to lust, and resorted to lying and murder to cover it up and those are just some of the more well known figures. So it seems correct that there is a certain goodness to man, but also an evil that is constantly present as well. So it is in this sense I agree with the idea that we are a mixture of good and evil. It seems impossible to think of humans as only one or the other, at least in practical terms. I would also say that being a Christian means coming to grips with the fact that we are both good and evil.

The previous argument is why I answer yes, but there is also a way in which I must answer no. As a Christian I do believe that there will come a time when human beings will be free of their evil and be fully good. It seems that we are still considered to be humans at that point, so while it is currently impossible to be a human that is not a mix of good and evil, it doesn’t seem like one must be that way to be human. We may not be able to see or even imagine what that looks like in this life, but it is a hope that I hold to for the future. That one day the evil that I hold inside will be vanquished once and for all. So it is for this reason I also answer no. It doesn’t seem that it is always going to be the reality that humans are part good and part evil, even if that is the current reality.

So these are the thoughts that I had stewing around from an episode of Star Trek. What do you think of these questions? Have you own thoughts to add? Agree with me? Disagree? Feel free to leave any comments on the matter below.



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