Battle of Britain

What follows below is the version of the page as it existed on January 6, 2003.  I have created these back-ups for the sake of historical accuracy, since my site and its pages will continue to evolve long after StarDestroyer.Net's attempted "attack on [my] credibility" is forgotten.


The "Survivors" Fallacy


One common poor argument that pro-Wars debaters will use is to reference the Next Generation episode "The Survivors".

In this episode, a virtually omnipotent being who had chosen to live among humans was the only survivor of an attack on a remote Earth colony by a race known as the Husnock. Having taken the form of a human named Kevin Uxbridge, the being had fallen in love with and married a human wife, killed by the Husnock. Normally a pacifistic being, the rage overcame him, and he destroyed all of the Husnock everywhere with only a thought.

When the Enterprise arrives and begins snooping around, Uxbridge tries to force them away by producing an image of a Husnock warship which fires on the Enterprise:

Worf : "The vessel is firing jacketed streams of streams of positrons
and anti-protons. Equivalent firepower: forty megawatts. Shields are
holding."
[Vessel fires again]
Worf : "Again, forty megawatts. No damage."
Riker : "Well if that's the best they can do this should last about five minutes."

A second engagement occurs later in the episode:

Worf : "Shields are down. Captain, they hit us with four hundred
gigawatts of particle energy!"
Picard : "Damage?"
Worf : "Superficial. But I am having trouble reassembling the shields."
[Vessel fires again]
Worf : "Shields down. There is thermal damage to the hull."
Data : "The warship is capable of striking us with far more powerful
bursts."

Some unscrupulous debaters try to claim that this event shows a maximum shield strength of 400 gigawatts for the Galaxy Class. In other words, anything more than about .23 tons of TNT per second will overload the shields and bring them down. That's less than a photon grenade!

This is obviously silly. First, "gigawatts of particle energy" is a peculiar phrase that can refer to kinetic energy of the particles, particle charge, and other things. Second, no one else including the Empire fires jacketed streams of antimatter, and the only other time we saw antimatter fired like that was when the Enterprise-D used an antimatter spread to confound Borg sensors in "Best of Both Worlds". Of course, this assumes that the Husnock image was still firing the jacketed streams of antimatter the second time around. Third, Worf spoke of reassembling the shields, a phrase not heard before or since, and certainly not during occasions when shields were overwhelmed by raw firepower. (In other words, the weapon may have demonstrated some sort of peculiar scrambling effect, but this is not certain.)

Also curious is the use of jacketed antimatter in space. Why would you want to do a thing like that? Sure, you're in orbit, but it isn't like there is so much free-floating matter up there that the weapon will fail. Perhaps the jacketing was some sort of electromagnetic containment, with matter interlaced in the jacket so the two would combine upon impact. We simply do not know what the yield of the two combining on the shields would be, though it would probably be rather like a photon torpedo, if less efficient. However, the Husnock beam weapons were far larger than a torpedo, so unless the jacketing was tremendous, that would have been a huge amount of matter and antimatter.

Fourth, most weapons that can bring down the shields can produce devastating damage to a ship's hull, as well. That was not the case here. The shields fell, but a direct hit from the same weapon only produced thermal damage to the hull. No breaches, no casualties. If the 400GW weapons was the same as the 40MW weapon, then it was *antimatter* hitting the hull! And all that happened was minor thermal effects? No, whatever this weapon was, it clearly had shield depleting properties.

Of course, over and above all of that is the fifth, and most incontrovertible, proof of the fallacy. This was a weapon fired by an image of a ship, created by an omnipotent being. This being had proven himself capable of fooling sensors in various capacities. Since it was the construct of a being of "disguise and false surroundings", one can hardly bank on the reality of the event. A dog's flatulence could bring down shields, so long as there was an omnipotent being wishing it to be so.

This ship is an illusion.

A few thoughts, with assumptions noted:

Also, it is worth noting that the Husnock were probably a technologically unsophisticated race. Uxbridge states that he killed their entire race, and numbers them at 50 billion. Well, we're not too far off from ten billion, and a few easy-to-colonize worlds plus our "reproductive proclivity" would allow for rapid gains in population counts. Of course, we don't know what the Husnock were like in that area . . . they might have reproduced more quickly or more slowly.

The main argument for a lack of technological sophistication is this: they fired antimatter at targets. When you're shooting a shielded target, antimatter isn't going to do any better than matter. Assuming Uxbridge had his image of the Husnock realistically constructed during the 40MW first engagement, this suggests that the Husnock were used to unshielded targets. In other words, they were used to shooting at either undefended planets and colonies, or unshielded starships.

Remember, it was only after Picard made it clear he wasn't leaving that Uxbridge had the Husnock represented as guys wielding big guns, with weapons capable of more powerful bursts. Sure, their ships were large and scary-looking, but so is a Star Destroyer . . .  bigger obviously isn't always better.


Thanks to G. Kennedy for the Husnock pictures from the episode.


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