Science versus Progress YKTTW Discussion

Science versus Progress
Scientists find themselves opposing "The March of Progress" for some reason.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-01-17 23:18:17 sponsor: Xtifr (last reply: 2013-02-02 16:24:00)

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We generally think of science as a basis for technology, and hence progress, but sometimes it just gets in the way. Those pesky archeologists don't want your new building to bury their dig site, and those biologists don't want your car park to wipe out the last ruby-nosed tree slug. In extreme cases, a scientist will discover that your wonderful new technology may destroy the world.

This is a common conflict trope which can be played many ways. Sometimes its the heartless industrialists who don't care about nature or knowledge, but other times, it's the crazy tree-huggers who are standing in the way of people who genuinely want to help the community. And sometimes, it's just an unfortunate situation with no real good guys or bad guys.

But it usually boils down to economics versus abstract knowledge.


  • Medicine Man is about biologists working to find a cure for cancer in a plant that only grows in a small area of the rainforest, before that part of the rainforest is bulldozed.
  • In Jurassic Park, one scientist uses advanced mathematics to prove that the whole venture is doomed to be a disaster before it even starts.

  • In Little Fuzzy, the Chartered Zarathustra company does not want to hear that "fuzzies" are sapient, because that would throw a spanner in their plans to exploit the planet Zarathustra for its natural resources.
  • In The Engines Of God, the only possible habitable planet that doesn't already have a living sapient species has archeological ruins of an extinct one. Earth's situation is getting increasingly desperate, and the people who want to terraform the planet have just won a major court case against the archeologists who want to preserve and study the ruins.
  • Discussed in Tom Holt's Wish You Were Here: Lawyer Cal Dieb is scouting Lake Chicopee for some developer clients, and when he spots an otter, he begins to worry that it may be an endangered species, which could put the whole development plan at risk. A quick call back to the office assuages his fears. (As it turns out, the otter isn't an otter, and is actually a much greater threat to him, personally, than any endangered creature could be.)

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of Bones, when a womanizing archeologist who is checking a potential building site for possible bronze-age ruins turns up dead, the owner of the site becomes an obvious suspect.
  • Exploited on Parks and Recreation, when Leslie Snope plants some Native American artifacts on a building site so that that the developers won't be able to build there.
  • In several cases the team from Time Team has had to survey and excavate an archaeological or historical site because the land it's on is being developed.

Western Animation
  • In an episode of The Simpsons Lisa protests the building of a new mall because there hasn't been a proper archeological survey of the area yet, so she and some classmates do it themselves. She finds what the town thinks is an angel skeleton.

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