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Creating Life Is Bad
aka: Playing God
"He created an angel just for himself, he gave her beauty he gave her life, but she couldn't live without a soul..."
In many lores and settings, humans creating life (especially intelligent life
) are not awesome
, and the act of creation does most certainly not
make them valid Gods
. On the contrary, the act is considered to be a foul act of hubris, often referred to as Playing God. Even if the character doesn't claim to be (like) one
The creation of autonomous, independent, and above all intelligent
life has long been the exclusive purvey of the divine. Just about every creation myth has the creation of animal and then sapient life forms as the second or third thing done; right after space/time but before waffles. Even assuming there is no god, the odds of it happening are such that it is a secular miracle not to be taken lightly. Thus this trope, where Creating Life Is Bad
This archetypal plot probably emerged due to how artificial lifeforms might invoke an effect similar to the Uncanny Valley
Subtrope of Creating Life
. Contrast it's other subtropes: Creating Life Is Awesome
, Creating Life Is Unforeseen
, Instant A.I., Just Add Water
and Deity of Human Origin
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Anime and Manga
- The Homunculi created by Father in Fullmetal Alchemist. He's some form of homunculus himself, who was created by Hohenheim's master so that he could reveal the secret of immortality to their king.
- Tucker attempts to create life in the 2003 anime version as a way to circumvent the normal problems with using alchemy for resurrections. It ends up creating a Soulless Shell of his deceased daughter Nina, but Tucker has gone too insane at the time to realize it's a failure.
- On a larger note, every alchemist who tries human transmutation, creating life, as a way of resurrecting the dead suffer this in the 2003 anime as it is these attempts that create homonculi in that continuity. Greed implies that Team Evil has had several of them up through the ages, with himself and Envy being the oldest at the moment.
- Project Fate in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. The clone is fine, integrating thoroughly with society and finding love. It's the creator of the clone who goes Ax-Crazy.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! had a being known as "The Lifemaker" and "The Mage of the Beginning", who was the Big Bad before Negi's father Nagi kicked his butt. At the very least, he seems to have created current Big Bad Fate, and it's hinted that he might have been responsible for creating the Magic World.
- Recent chapters seem to confirm this; or at least imply it as strongly as possible without actually saying it.
- Interestingly, it isn't his creation of life in the first place that's portrayed as being objectively "wrong", but his behaving as if he has the authority to do with that life as he pleases that is wrong.
- In Pokémon: The First Movie, the first part alludes to many failed attempts to Create Life, with Mewtwo being the lone survivor. The Mad Scientist Dr. Fuji only agreed to attempt a clone of Mew in order to get funding for the project. It's true purpose was to bring the good doctor's daughter, Amber/Ai, back from the dead. Ends with them suceeding in creating the world's most powerful Pokemon.
- Zombie Loan has a character who creates golems out of zombie parts. They're not very nice.
- One of them is nice, and rather woobie-ish. She doesn't last long.
- Type Blue Mu from Toward the Terra manga have ability to create living organism from organic matter via telekinesis. Tony uses this power to show Artella they still can have children, even if doctors have said otherwise.
- In Dragon Ball, Dr. Gero/Android 20 creates Androids 16, 17, 18, and Cell. Androids 17 and 18 rebel and kill him, while Cell reaches his perfect form, threatens to destroy the universe, and ultimately kills Goku
- In the Silver Age Superman comics, this formed part of Lex Luthor's origin. Young Lex Luthor was an aspiring scientist who resided in Smallville, the hometown of Superboy. Luthor saved Superboy from a chance encounter with Kryptonite. In gratitude Superboy built Luthor a laboratory, where weeks later he manages to create an artificial form of life. Grateful in turn to Superboy, Luthor created an antidote for Kryptonite poisoning. However, an accidental fire broke out in Luthor's lab. Superboy used his super-breath to extinguish the flames, inadvertently spilling chemicals which caused Luthor to go bald; in the process, he also destroyed Luthor's artificial life form. Believing Superboy intentionally destroyed his discoveries, Luthor attributed his actions to jealousy and vowed revenge.
- In the Post-Crisis Pocket Universe, though, because Superboy died before Lex Luthor had a chance to meet him, Lex was able to complete the creation of an artificial lifeform, which ended up becoming the Matrix form of Supergirl.
- The title character from Omega The Unknown was created to be a real Übermensch by an ancient race of aliens.
- Gargamel in The Smurfs created Smurfette as a weapon to destroy the Smurfs, with that purpose being more apparent in the Animated Adaptation and in the film series. When Papa Smurf turned her into a real Smurf, Gargamel in the comic books abandoned the idea of creating any similar life forms, while Gargamel of the cartoon show tried it again by creating a giant named Doofus, and Gargamel of the film series created the Naughties in The Smurfs 2 with the intention of them being turned into Smurfs so he could extract their essence to power his magic, create more Naughties to turn into Smurfs, and gain enough power for world domination and total destruction of the Smurfs.
- A major part of the Fourth Movement of With Strings Attached. Brox discovers a spell that will turn inorganic items into living creatures; she wants to use it to repopulate Baravada with monsters for the skahs to kill. To that end, she mind-controls Paul, who seems to be able to boost spells well beyond their parameters, and teaches him the spell so he can boost it and then channel it through the Vasyn, which will boost it exponentially.
- The Psyche Master of Empath: The Luckiest Smurf became the creator of his own Master Race, the morally-ambiguous Psyches.
- Star Wars: Darth Plagueis, which is to say, the Emperor's original teacher, was this trope At least, according to him. Go watch Palpatine's monologue on the subject in Episode III for more detail.
- Also, the creation of the clone army is arguably this with the clones eventually making The Empire possible.
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course, has Dr. Frank N Furter creating a sentient (Though, not that bright) playmate named Rocky.
- The silent film The Golem features the creation of the Golem of Prague. The eventual rebellion of the Golem is already forecast by the warning the Rabbi finds in his book: "If you have brought the dead to life through magic, beware of that life."
- In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Doctor McCoy is outraged at the implications of the Genesis Project, though in his case, it was for the same reasons that David was concerned about working with Starfleet on the project: While Genesis was designed to create life, it's method of doing so could also make it the most devastatingly powerful weapon ever created. Indeed, it is shown in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home that the creation of the Genesis Device had caused increased tensions between the Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, who had similar concerns.
- Igor focused on playing with and inverting this trope; the title character was trying to be bad in creating Eva, only for her to turn out as a Gentle Giant who's later instrumental in the Character Development of the entire twisted society.
- Subverted in Dark Lord of Derkholm. The protagonist Derk is a wizard who specializes in creating creatures like winged pigs and horses, intelligent, talking pigeons, and enormous partially-human griffins. To all the other wizards, Derk is considered a freak and somewhat disturbed, and most of them either don't "get" his projects or think they're weird. However, he takes great pride in them, and considers his five intelligent, talking griffins to be every bit his children as much as his biological son and daughter. Derk is shown to be sympathetic AND generally in the right.
- Frankenstein's Monster, probably the Trope Codifier of this in modern thought. Genetic engineering controversies are very likely to invoke the Frankenstein's Monster archetype in arguments (an example is how genetically-modified foods are referred to as "frankenfoods"). In-universe, he was not beautiful, though he was meant to be so:
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same color as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips.
- The original novel doesn't precisely explain how the Creature is brought to life, but it implies very clearly that the Phlebotinum used was a modern day equivalent to the alchemist's elixir of life. Victor does mention though that he is being specifically vague because he doesn't want anyone replicating his experiment.
- Arguably Jurassic Park, though there is also the interpretation that it wasn't Hammond returning the dinosaurs to life that was the problem, but his belief they could be controlled.
- Explored in the Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel Heritage, in which a scientist who has become obsessed with becoming the first to produce a perfect human clone has resorted to murder to further his ends, including causing the death of one of the Doctor's old companions. When the Doctor confronts the scientist, he reveals that the scientist actually isn't the first to discover human cloning — but the secret has always been forgotten. Not, interestingly enough, because cloning is somehow 'unnatural', but because in trying to create life artificially the people involved forget how precious life is, no matter how it is created, and end up treating it as a disposable commodity — just as the scientist has done. Upon being confronted with both the futility of his life's work and precisely what a monster he's ultimately let himself become, the scientist doesn't react well.
- In Otherland, this is Mr. Sellars' dark secret, explaining his obsession with Otherland. He created virtual reality lifeforms as a forcibly accelerated "hothouse" experiment, and then panicked when his playthings were stolen by the Other.
- Urtho, Mage of Silence (from the Mercedes Lackey book The Black Gryphon) actually does this quite well; his creations love him, and honor him long past his death.
- In the Dragonlance saga, in the second set of novels ("Legends," I think), Raistlin tries to create life in his tower lab. It's not a very big point in the book, and he's not very successful, but there are pitiful, slithery things in the tower that he created. This is probably done to illustrate his evilness and his ambition—the major plot of the trilogy is that he's trying to become a god, after all.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, what Professor Maxon is up to. In the opening, he is disposing of one that died, and goes on a long ocean voyage to repair his nerves. Alas, it works, and he decides to try again, and even marry off his daughter to one.
He believed that he had reached an unalterable decision never again to meddle with the mighty, awe inspiring secrets of creation; but with returning health and balance he found himself viewing his recent triumph with feelings of renewed hope and anticipation.
- the trope also appears in his John Carter of Mars novel Synthetic Men of Mars, in which Ras Thavas creates the Hormads; nigh-invulnerable artificial life forms that promptly rebel against him and plan to conquer all of Barsoom.
- It's toyed with in the backstory of Galaxy of Fear. On Kiva two scientists delving into the creation of life accidentally unleashed a World-Wrecking Wave that killed everything on the planet but them. The heroic one considers it My Greatest Failure and a Gone Horribly Wrong - but the villainous one had been aware that this would happen and convinced the heroic one it would be fine just because he wanted to see it. Whether the creation itself is good or evil is never said.
- Zig-zagged in The Silmarillion. Aulë, the patron archangel of smithing, craftsmanship, etc., gets impatient for Men and Elves to show up and decides to make some people of his own, the Dwarves. Unfortunately, he lacks the power and authority to do so, and the Dwarves are empty shells without free will. At first it looks like Ilúvatar (God, more or less) will condemn him for this, but ultimately he stops Aulë from destroying his creations and breathes true life into them instead. Opinions vary on the moral of this, but it seems to be that you must take responsibility for what you create and not destroy it just because it turns out differently than you expect, and/or that what you create ultimately belongs to God, not to you as its creator.
- The ur-viles, artificial life-forms created by the Demondim in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, believe this- they consider their own existence to be an abomination against the natural order, and serve Lord Foul out of a combination of Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life and Death Seeker (since their bargain with Foul is that if they serve him well enough, he'll destroy them). However, in the Second and Third Chronicles, the ur-viles reevaluate their life choices and decide that there are better ways to deal with their situation, and pull a collective Heel-Face Turn.
Live Action TV
- The Cylons were created by man...
- The immortal Flint in Star Trek: The Original Series created an android who went on to achieve proper sentience...and then died as she couldn't deal with her newfound emotions. He doesn't revel in the fact that he created new life, which is impressive all by itself. Bear in mind this is about 75 years before Data was created and you'll appreciate why this is slightly unrealistic.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the evil overlords known as The Founders created the Vorta and the Jem'Hadar.
- The Greeed in Kamen Rider OOO were created 800 years ago by human scientists out of human desire forged into Medals. They were just non-sentient entities until the humans thought it was a bright idea to destroy one of each of their Core Medals, which caused them to go out of control and try to devour everything in their path to fill the void it left.
- The second episode of the first season of Fringe is all about immoral attempts to create humans in labs. One such created human is active, and needs to consume parts of human brains to stay young. The episode ends with An Aesop where the main scientist guy babbles about how we scientists must always remember the boundary between our domain and God's, no matter how easy it is to forget.
- Blutengel's song "The Oxidizing Angel" twists the Frankenstein myth a bit: the created woman is exquisitely beautiful, and unlike Frankenstein's original monster, her creator doesn't abandon her. However, while she has a mind, she does not have a soul, and this is utterly traumatic for her. Her creator, being selfishly in love with her, refuses her plea to kill her, driving her to kill him instead.
- The game Promethean: The Created, loosely based on Frankenstein. Each of the major lineages of Prometheans was created because somebody started channeling the Divine Fire and decided to create life, either for purposes of companionship, servitude, just rule, an idea of what was happening on "the other side," or just plain because. Every promethean is essentially a walking Came Back Wrong on many levels. Humans instinctively hate them, they rot the environment, and are prone to cause destruction. They have to earn a soul and become fully human to end the karmic pain from merely existing.
- In Genius The Transgression, creating life is one of the first things you can learn. Creating intelligent life is a bit tougher, although any two-bit Mad Scientist could create shambling zombies to handle really menial tasks.
- The Eberron Campaign Setting has artificial life in the form of living constructs called warforged. It's unlikely their creators ever intended to create truly sapient life, though.
- There are two forms of this in Edelweiss. The first is apparently not that big of a deal, creating plants spontaneously. The second is the extremely difficult task of creating a homunculus. One of the heroines is a homunculus created accidentally in an attempt to revive a girl who died. She Came Back Wrong, but in a good way.
- According to the characters of the first Mana Khemia, alchemy is a science (as opposed to black magic) because it can't be used to create life. Turns out it can.
- Geneforge is all over this, since your Mons come from genetic engineering. The relationship between serviles and humans is repeatedly paralleled to institutionalizes slavery in America (albeit with an open race war starting in the third game.) This can even work its way into gameplay—you might find yourself unwilling to make a drakon if the MP requirement means you'll have to dissolve that Fyora you've been keeping around for ten levels.
- In Return To Krondor, The necromancers encountered throughout the game turn out to be doing this. The sewer monsters were humans that were transformed into green beasts with poisoned claws that could make eggs if a male one and female one came together. It is possible to transform one of them back to a human via an alchemical catalyst. Also, in the middle of the game, it is possible to encounter a two-headed red beast that seems to be similar to an Air Elemental but this one can inflict fire damage. Jazhara comments that that thing was an abomination. That creature may have been one of the experiments conducted by Sidi's necromancers.
- In Baldur's Gate II, the PC wakes up in the dungeon of the wizard Jon Irenicus and has to fight his way out. Some of the things he encounters suggest that Irenicus was trying to create life in that dungeon. Most prominently, one can stumble upon a clone of an elven lady, apparently abandoned and gone crazy there. When you find out who the original is, that abandonement serves to underline just how lacking in empathy Irenicus has become: she was the love of his life, who turned against him when he tried to grab power. Several pods are said to hold other clones... though not all pods hold created life: one who begs you to let him die states that he was a servant who was put in there until Irenicus could get around to healing him.
- In Solatorobo: Red the Hunter the hybrids were created by Baion and Merveille, two of them are Omnicidal Maniacs and the third is the hero. Merveille really feels bad about it though.
- Also, the Juno recreated the entire world population after wiping it clean, thanks to humans destroying the planet with their wars.
- SHODAN in System Shock is seen performing a variety of biological mutation experiments on Citadel Station, intending to have these violently insane mutants, once perfected, replace humanity. The pod they are on is jettisoned partway through the game, but said pod shows up again in the sequel, its inhabitants having evolved into a Hive Mind race known as "The Many", which plans on assimilating humanity into itself. One character mentions that SHODAN should never again be allowed to play God... not just because of the horrific results, but also because "she's far too good at it."
- Subverted in The Dr. Steel Show, Episode 2. Doctor Steel begins to excitedly scream "It's working!" as his doll-robot experiment begins to walk around - only to have it stop when he runs out of quarters.
- Coldstone, a sort of cyborg zombie gargoyle made from the shattered pieces of three long-dead gargoyles and animated through both science and sorcery, probably counts. Xanatos, watching him twitch, smiles hugely and shouts "It's ALIVE! ALIIIVE! I've ALWAYS wanted to say that."
- Rudy Tabootie of ChalkZone makes it a rule not to create any living creatures in the Zone.
- It isn't exactly the moral, but this seems to be the gist that Adventure Time gives off. The episode "Too Young" focused on the kingdom being taken over by Princess Bubblegum's first failed experiment- Lemongrab, a mentally disturbed manchild. The second was Goliad. Although Goliad was made properly, she was corrupted after getting the wrong idea about power, and she went completely batshit and tried to kill everyone. However, a third creation, Stormo, didn't seem to have any issues physically, mentally, or morally.
- Aside from those mistakes, Bubblegum actually has a pretty good track record. Her creations populate the Candy Kingdom, which, while not exactly normal, is pretty nice overall. On the other hand, leaving her candy life formula where Lemongrab could find it was not a wise move .
- In the eyes of the Lemongrabs, this trope is averted, as they think that Creating Life Is Awesome. When Princess Bubblegum actually starts being nice to them, they begin referring to her as "Mother Princess" and "Mommy," and actually enjoy the fact that she made them and gave them life. The earls also see themselves as being dads to the strange-looking lemon creatures they create, and are overjoyed to finally have "more family." The Lemon Children appear to be hideous abominations, but the Lemongrabs think of them as their adorable toddler-aged children.
- In The Simpsons episode "HOMR", the scientists say they can't play God with Homer's intelligence.
Homer: You do nothing but play God, and I think your octo-parrot would agree.
Octo-Parrot: Rawk! Polly shouldn't be!
- In real life this philosophy is called Antinatalism and has pretty much the same reasoning as outlined above. Followers of Antinatalism argue that only the person in question has the right to determine whether or not they should exist, not their parents, and that creating them without consent (which by definition is impossible without a time machine) is thus playing god with that persons life.