Created By: pyroclastic on April 13, 2011 Last Edited By: pyroclastic on April 14, 2015

Monastic Scientists

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Trope
The scientists (though they'll be called something else) in a world all belong to an organization that functions pretty much like a religious order, with features like a distinctive dress code, years of strictly regimented study, cloisters segregated from regular society, and vows of chastity. But, they're devoted to science for the sake of science, and are usually pretty disdainful of religion and the supernatural. Sometimes works as a parody of modern academic life.

Very Loosely Based on a True Story, since in the Middle Ages "scholar" and "monk" were practically synonymous. But medieval monks were, at least in theory, concerned with God first and Science second.


Examples

Literature
  • Anathem depicts a world in which all scientific inquiry is carried out by cloistered savants who may only interact with the outside world every one, ten, hundred or thousand years. They're also forbidden from making any invention beyond a certain level of sophistication
  • The Maesters of A Song of Ice and Fire fit this trope perfectly, and even manage to exist alongside, and often opposed to, the more conventional religious order of "septons."
  • The Sword Of The Spirits trilogy by John Christopher (Samuel Youd). The Seers are a monastic priestly class that interprets the will of the "Spirits". However, they are actually scientists who want to bring back the use of technology.
  • Discworld wizards are pretty close to this. Unseen University is inspired by Oxbridge and there are some parallels with the British scientists of the Scientific Revolution, along with some students who are outright parallels to modern geeks. Wizards have an semi-official celibacy rule in play because the seventh son of a seventh son of a wizard will be a Physical God/Person of Mass Destruction, although they also tend to be celibate for Nerds Are Virgins reasons.
  • In Jeanne Du Prau's The City of Ember, a reclusive team of engineers and scientists, seeing signs of a coming apocalypse, design, build and stockpile an underground city called Ember, and people it with 200 select individuals to live and procreate there for 200 years. These architects of Ember are called "the Builders" in an Ember that no longer remembers its origins.

Tabletop Games
  • The Adeptus Mechanicus in Warhammer 40,000 are the only people allowed to work on technology. They are also secluded on their own worlds and worship their separate Machine God.

Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • April 13, 2011
    Arivne
    Literature
    • The Sword of the Spirits trilogy by John Christopher (Samuel Youd). The Seers are a monastic priestly class that interprets the will of the "Spirits". However, they are actually scientists who want to bring back the use of technology.
  • April 13, 2011
    Augustine
    The Adeptus Mechanicus in Warhammer 40,000 are the only people allowed to work on technology. They are also secluded on their own worlds and worship their separate Machine God.
  • April 14, 2011
    dalek955
    The alchemists from Fullmetal Alchemist tended to be like this, especially the state-employed ones.
  • April 2, 2012
    pyroclastic
    Came across this from a year ago. Bumping.
  • April 2, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    The film Van Helsing has an entire workshop staffed by such people, providing weapons and gadgets for Van Helsing and others to use. This where he gets his Dracula briefing from the cardinal and picks up his sidekick.
  • April 2, 2012
    DmM
  • April 2, 2012
    Koveras
    This has had a very real prototype during the so-called European Dark Ages, when after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Benedictine (and similar) Christian monasteries preserved the scientific achievements of the Ancient Grome pretty much single-handedly. It wasn't until Constantinople fell and the Byzantine scientists fled to the West en masse that Western science made a full recovery and became possible outside of the monasteries.
  • April 2, 2012
    DmM
    Very true. Not to mention the Islamic universities, which were essentially medieval theoretic physics labs with religious overtones
  • April 2, 2012
    aurora369
    In A Stainless Steel Rat is Born, the internally chronologically first The Stainless Steel Rat novel, an order of "The Black Monks" is described. They are "as religious as my hat" (quote Bishop), and hold all technological secrets of a backwater slaver planet.
  • April 2, 2012
    Jordan
    Discworld wizards are pretty close to this. Unseen University is inspired by Oxbridge and there are some parallels with the British scientists of the Scientific Revolution, along with some students who are outright parallels to modern geeks. Wizards have an semi-official celibacy rule in play because the seventh son of a seventh son of a wizard will be a Physical God/ Person Of Mass Destruction, although they also tend to be celibate for Nerds Are Virgins reasons.
  • April 2, 2015
    Chabal2
    ^ Eighth son of an eighth son.
  • April 3, 2015
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Sorted examples by media and added media section titles.
      • Namespaced, italicized and Blue Linked work names.
      • Blue Linked (Physical God, Person Of Mass Destruction, Nerds Are Virgins).
  • April 3, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Literature
    • Jeanne Du Prau wrote The City Of Ember as the first in a series, detailing how a reclusive team of engineers and scientists, seeing signs of a coming apocalypse, designed, built and stockpiled an underground city called Ember, and peopled it with 200 select individuals who would live and procreate there for 200 years. These architects of Ember are called "the Builders" in an Ember that no longer remembers its origins.
  • April 14, 2015
    robinjohnson
    • The magical establishment of Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell is made up of isolated, curmudgeonly academics who meet to discuss magic without anyone having practised it in centuries. When Mr Norrell starts using magic to actually do things, they consider it a gross insult.
  • April 14, 2015
    LadyEvil
    • The Professor from Gilligans Island is Oblivious To Love, believing kissing is just a good way to spread germs. He's also the only one on the island who doesn't have a roommate.
  • April 14, 2015
    Joesolo
    It's a bit odd to specifically make this about non-religious scientists when you named it after the monks who did some much for scientific knowledge. If anything cut the non-religious part from the description, and you can list Gregor Mendel, Nicolaus Copernicus, ect. And that's not even mentioning the Jesuits, who practically invented Seismology and made massive advances in other sciences.
  • April 14, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ agree
  • April 14, 2015
    SolipSchism
    This example is not exactly scientists; they're more philosophers, but their entire order is based around the absolute supremacy of causality as the driving force in the universe; they are disdainful of superstition and magic, and have spent 4,000 years studying and breeding for intelligence and reflexes. The result is a combination of Awesomeness By Analysis and Charles Atlas Superpower. (Although to be fair, they are slightly physiologically different from humans after 4,000 years of isolation. It's noted at one point that it's very difficult for them to reproduce with normal humans, and all but one of the children produced by such a pairing in the series turn out physically or mentally abnormal.note )

    Literature:
    • At the beginning of the Second Apocalypse, the Dunyain are a monastic sect who hid themselves away in an isolated fortress at the end of the Apocalypse, 4,000 years before the events of the series. For that entire time, they have been training and studying and breeding their members for intelligence and reflexes, and they make a particular point of studying human emotions and their causes and manifestations. (In one flashback, Kellhus remembers using neuropuncture to induce emotions in a captive who had had his face peeled off, so that Kellhus could study the facial expressions associated with various emotions, and the muscles used to display those expressions.) When Kellhus encounters "normal" society, he finds that he is able to play their emotions like a fiddle, and he milks that ability for all it's worth.

    EDIT: That's supposed to be "Dunyain" with a circumflex over the "U". It will display correctly on a wiki page and should display correctly in a YKTTW write-up, it just glitches in comments.
  • April 14, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Literature
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=z6tf2u3cv12yxpxgnfy3gsug