You're a motorcycle, Arcee. Shouldn't you know how to build a motorcycle engine? Arcee:
You're a human, Jack. Can you build me a small intestine?
Mechanical Lifeforms are a race of robots or robot-like creatures that are also considered a honest-to-goodness species of living things. They're just like your everyday living organisms, except they happen to have metal for skin, wires for nerves, and so on. They're often silicon-based
These may be robotic animals, plants, micro-organisms, or sapient creatures. If they are sapient, they would never wish to Become a Real Boy
because, as far as they can see, they are as real as that boy
The origin of such creatures is best left unexplained - they were never built by another race (well, that anyone knows of), and if they were, it would be treated as a very
shocking revelation, due to the audience accepting their mechanical nature as-is. And should any creators arrive to cart them back, expect them to react just the same as humans would (i.e. much anger, denial, violence, and maybe a speech or two about free will).
Contrast Organic Technology
, which are machines that happen to be organic in nature. Also see Mechanical Monster
and Mechanical Evolution
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- Commercials for Omega wristwatches depict the interior of a watch as an entire mechanical world, complete with clockwork people, animals, vehicles, trees, etc.
- A few car commercials have featured robotic horses or greyhounds racing along as symbolic stand-ins for the cars they're selling.
Anime and Manga
- The Mecha in Zoids don't just look like giant animals. They also live in the wild and somehow give birth as well. There's a picture book called the Zoids Bible which shows the zoids originally evolved from a planet seeded with zoid cores, going through eras of evolution uncannily similar to those of life on our own planet; the zoids as we see them on the show are post-domestication. The Backstory is actually a lot more sinister. Natural wild zoid are mostly reasonably sized (sometimes they're large but nowhere as large as their current form). Their giant mechanical body? It's manufactured specifically for war purposes; Wild Zoid are captured and transplanted on those robots as cores....
- The characters from Machine Robo, which bizarrely has humanoid robots and mech-like robots in the same series.
- The Rune-Gods from Magic Knight Rayearth. Though they're more like Energy Beings clad in suits of armor than robots. There's even an episode in season 2 where a pilot of a true Humongous Mecha tries to scan one of them and is baffled because he can't see any moving parts inside.
- Tekkamen in their transformed states in Space Knight Tekkaman Blade seem to be actually made of Powered Armor. Occasionally, when it's dramatic, they retain scars into their human forms.
- Digimon: The "Metal Empire" digimon includes cyborgs and guys wearing metal armor; nevertheless, their numbers primarily consist of full on robots, from the gear-like Hagurumon to the Giant Mecha given form, Machinedramon.
- Of course, since they're all sentient computer data, all Digimon are this regardless of their form.
- GaoGaiGar really messed around with this trope. First, there's Guy Shishioh, who's a traditional cyborg. The Zonders, Zonderians and 31 Primevals are also worth noting: the Zonders and Zonderians are organic beings that are transformed into some sort of techna-organic lifeform via exposure to Elementary Particle Z-O, which is released by Zonder Metal. They also have completely transformable bodies, and can assimilate metal, to the point where they can even move through it. The Primevals are the same. They just happen to have the ability to assimilate anything, not just humans. Then you've got Evoluders...
- Special credit goes to the Zonderian, Penchinon: it is later revealed that, aside from being a Zonderian, he is actually the A-I system for the J-Ark.
- The Neuroi in Strike Witches are a mixture of this and Starfish Aliens, as they take forms ranging from rockets and experimental aircraft to humanoid designs, flying manta rays and six-limbed turtles.
- The villains in the new Galaxy Express manga and Eternal Fantasy are a race of these. (The old ones were mechanized humans.)
- The titular Blue from Blue Drop. It's entirely mechanical and is (re)made of nanomachine, but it moves and acts like a mechanical whale.
- Angel Sanctuary: Rosiel is a mechanical vampire angel-thingy as the complete opposite of his sister, Alexiel. YHWH also counts. And no, it's never explained how exactly this works.
- The titular Super Robots from Getter Robo tend to verge on this as the series goes on.
- Vividred Operation, Spiritual Successor to Strike Witches, has this in regard to its primary antagonists The Alone. Unlike Neuroi though, Alones actually have biological parts.
- SD Gundam Force and other SD Gundam gag shorts feature chibi robots living alongside humans.
- Shippu Iron Leaguer is about robots playing sports.
- In Magic: The Gathering:
- The Mirrodin plane that the Planeswalker Karn created has plenty of these. Probably because Karn himself was one of these before he became a planeswalker.
- Phyrexia was inhabited by mechanical lifeforms, even before Yawgmoth took control of it.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!:
- Ancient Gears are an entire Archetype of these.
- Most Monster Cards with the Machine type are either this, or Cyborgs.
- NYC Mech features an entire world populated entirely by robots, who look and act exactly like people.
- At least one version of DC's Legion of Super-Heroes includes Robotica, a planet inhabited by a robot civilization, as well as the Linsnarians, a species of techno-organic people. In the cartoon version, the Coluan race (organic in the comics) is a civilization of humanoid robots not unlike the Linsnarians.
- Marvel has the Phalanx (and a related race, the Technarchy), which has recently been taken over by Ultron, easily the most evil robot on Earth. Additionally, the Transformers sort of exist in Marvel continuity as part of their own timeline.
- At least one of them exists in Empowered's verse. She has the shape of an attractive human woman and is anatomically correct. One of the Superhomeys sleeps with her, and her nanites turn him into a mecha.
- The Marvel Universe has several.
- * The Celestials are technically Energy Beings, but they need to use Humongous Mecha bodies to interact with anything.
- Fantastic Four: The Thing once befriended a robot named Torgo from the planet Mekka; Mekka's organic population had died out in a disaster long ago, but their robot servants had survived and gone on to build a civilization of their own.
- Warlock's people the Technarchs presumably started out getting built by somebody, but they haven't answered to anybody else in a very, very long time.
- Quasar once fought a being called Skeletron, last survivor of an ancient race of robots called the Tugentine Techenium; he claimed that his race once tyrannized a huge chunk of Marvel space, but the organic races of that era united to destroy them.
- One of Aaron Stack the Machine Man's earliest foes was Ten-For, an agent of a race of robotic conquerors called the Autocrons.
- And there's even been a couple crossovers with Transformers, a franchise revolving around a race of Transforming Mecha from the planet Cybertron; see the Toys section for more on that.
- The alien Malev robots in Magnus Robot Fighter.
- One specimen appears in one issue of Paperinik New Adventures. The comic doesn't give an explanation (only theories) about how such lifeforms and subsequent civilizations started... but one about how it ended.
Films — Animated
- Robots: The robots from the computer-animated movie. They've formed their own society, and humans are nowhere to be seen or mentioned.
- Cars. Even all the animals in their world are also vehicles: we have farm and construction equipment standing in for cattle, tiny VW Beetles for insects, toy cars for dogs/cats/rodents, remote control aircraft for birds, and model trains for snakes.
- The Iron Giant. He can heal himself and he eats metal to live. His "stomach" even starts growling if he goes too long without food.
- In 9, the sackdolls are mechanical lifeforms imbued with the spirit of their creator.
Films — Live-Action
- Many of Stanislaw Lem's short story collections explore this notion, notably The Cyberiad and Mortal Engines.
- In Peace on Earth and The Invincible by Lem self-replicating robots did "evolved away". In The Invinsible, the pinnacle of mechanical evolution is The Swarm of nano-machines, which is destructive of any other lifeform, organic or mechanical.
- Terry Pratchett's novel The Dark Side of the Sun has an entire planet, Laoth, covered in artificial robotic life. Trees with solar panel leaves, tiny mechanical insects that eat other tiny mechanical insects, and talking robot horses.
- Code Of The Lifemaker has a whole robot ecosystem. An autonomous alien mining colony Goes Horribly Wrong, developing into an elaborate ecosystem on Saturn's moon Titan. There are power-generator trees, mechanical animals up to and including intelligent, civilized forms (humans call them Taloids, they call themselves "robeings"—or a word translated as "robeings", since they actually communicate via ultrasound burstsnote ) and factories as "farms" and birthing places, as well as electricity-based food. Being on Titan, there are hydrocarbon seas and an assortment of organic compounds, which the Taloids/robeings use to make tools and vehicles. They also have a form of civilization, with remarkable resemblances to late medieval Europe and particularly late medieval Italy (a Catholic-like church, feuding city states, a scientist ostracized for suggesting that the world is round, and one state with a ruler famous for supporting the arts and sciences) that has recently undergone a scientific revolution, invented the gun, and is about to get hit with a major religious upheaval on account of First Contact.
- The Gaijin from Stephen Baxter's Manifold: Space. Extra points for being a naturally-evolved species. Characters first wonder who built them, but later travel to their home-planet (named 0-0-0-0) and observe an organism that was probably to the aliens what a chimp is to us—a metal crab.
- Terry Bisson's They're Made of Meat is a short story which is entirely dialogue by aliens discussing their latest discovery: The messages they've recently encountered have originated from a planet which they're currently investigating, and it appears to originate from, well, meat. The creatures are made of meat. Not creatures that are part meat, not creatures that go through a meat phase, but creatures who live their entire (horribly short) lives in a stage of complete and utter meat. What's more, the messages are made by - you know how you can make a sound by hitting one piece of meat against another? They send out whole messages made entirely of meat-flapping sounds. Ghastly. They're talking about humans.
- Arthur C. Clarke's short story Crusade is very similar, but the machines go further in their disgust and decide to wipe out the meat-creatures. Here they're explicitly rather than implicitly machines, and the exception that decides to destroy the rule.
- The Young Wizards series has the mobiles, computer wizards (that is, computers which are wizards) whose bodies are made almost entirely from silicon. There's traces of other elements too, which are apparently necessary for the forming and destruction of chemical bonds which give the mobiles energy.
- ...whose motherboard, the planet from which they were created, was already sentient (although completely lacking in sensory apparatus) before a certain wizard-on-Ordeal started messing with things. Also, the mobiles in question are unutterably adorable.
- Said Wizard on Ordeal also pretty much counts as the entire race's mother/father due to this. A Power That Be actually pretty much calls her that.
- In Iain M. Banks's Culture novels, the Culture rates any lifeform, biological or machine, at a given level of intelligence to be a sapient creature, including the Minds that operate ships and colonies and run the Culture itself, Drones (for whom the word "robot is inadequate) and some spacesuits. And some weapons.
- Gregory Benford's Galactic Center novels include "mechs" which are implied to have evolved from self replicating von neumann machines. Left to their own devices after their biological creators destroyed themselves, errors and changes have occured in their templates over the millenia until their original functions were replaced by sentient self-direction. They seem to fear biological life to the point of genocide.
- In the Animorphs books, the Chee are a race of fully sentient robots who were created by a long-extinct species of sapient dogs, the Pemalites. They hid on Earth after the Pemalites were hunted to extinction and use holograms to pass as humans; The Animorphs consider them sentient, but while whales are sentient enough that the Drode can't kill them, he can destroy the Chee because "they're robots".
- The Precursors in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey went through a stage of this as a part of their self-guided evolution, before going onward into energy beings.
- Both played straight and then inverted in a novel by German SF author Walter Ernsting (a.k.a. Clark Darlton) in which a human expedition not only makes first contact with an ancient peaceful robot civilization but discovers that humanity itself evolved from an experimental line of organic androids once created by said robots.
- Striking Steel by Lyubov and Yevgeny Lukin featured replicating "antipersonnel complexes". One side in the interplanetary war deployed them, but with generations the sum of the tolerable limits falls out of the friend-or-foe compatibility. So the whole planet was quickly stoneaged by mini-robot swarms, each blasting to crumbles anything metallic it "see" moving save close relatives, and assimilating metal that doesn't move. Survivors adapted to such circumstances and developed some... quirks. The protagonist got there alive only because his suit and parachute were radar-invisible, after his shuttle's ECM was proven not cool enough.
- The Bolo Tanks are treated this way by their author, and they certainly meet the criteria, even if it has lacklustre representation from the characters in the books. One of the major themes is the disconnect between how they are treated in-universe and the fact that from the reader's objective perspective they are clearly the most honorable beings in the setting.
- The unexpected occurrence of this trope is the theme of Phillip K. Dick's short story "The Second Variety".
- Warhammer 40,000: In the Ravenor series of books, a hive world (urban planet) is infested with robotic ravens of uncertain origin, known as The Unkindness, whose role appears to be simply to clean up rubbish from the ecosystem. However, it later transpires that a secret society knows how to control them, using them to kill their enemies and strip their bodies down to skeletons.
- Gene Wolfe's The Urth of the New Sun has an interesting variant: Sidero is clearly some kind of mechanical man, but it turns out that his particular type of robot evolved out of spacesuits with built-in artificial intelligence.
- The Inhibitors from Revelation Space were organic lifeforms that became sentient, self-replicating machines millions of years ago.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium (inspired by Master of Orion), the Meklar are Lizard Folk who have replaced most of their organs with mechanical parts, including integrated weapons (plasma cannons and stunners in the chest plates). They are also superb unarmed combatants, given their machine-like reflexes. Their leader is known as the Perfect One, presumably because he replaced as much of his body as he could. A human sect views the Meklar as the most perfect beings in the universe and attempts to cyborgify themselves.
- An interesting case in Isaac Asimov's short story "Victory Unintentional", where humans send three highly-durable robots to the surface of Jupiter in order to study the Jovians (an advanced race that evolved on the planet), who wish to destroy humanity. After a series of mishaps, during which the aliens note the robots' durability, they sue for peace. The robots realize that they never told the Jovians that they were artificial lifeforms. The Jovians simply assumed that all humans are extremely tough mechanical organisms.
- Early Marvel Comics character Doctor Druid once pulled this scam intentionally. He's a telepath, so he sat inside a gigantic crane with a wrecking ball and communicated telepathically with the alien invaders while slamming the wrecking ball into their ship. Fearing they would face an entire planet of such beings, they retreated.
- Bill the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Robot Slaves by Harry Harrison has the titular character end up on a planet locked in a civil war between two factions of mechanical lifeforms. According to one of the leaders, they have naturally evolved on the planet from primordial oil pools, although this doesn't stop them from building new ones.
- According to the poem Nothing in Heaven Functions as It Ought, everyone who goes to Hell is turned into one of these. It's much less cool then it sounds, since they're still in Hell.
- In the book All Tomorrows by Nemo Ramjet, a species of genetically engineered humans known as Ruin Haunters "evolves" itself into robots known as Gravital as their planet's sun begins to expand. They have no real definite shape and have human-level intelligence, individual personalities and opinions (having evolved from an organic human species). Although explained as not being "evil" they "simply did not acknowledge the life of their organic cousins", and began wiping out all life in the galaxy. They ruled with an iron tentacle for 50 million years. Eventually they wage war with insect-like human space-gods and are defeated. Afterwards, they simply become "normal" citizens of the New Empire but are usually discriminated due to the "sins of their fathers".
- The dolls of The Dollmaker are an odd example. They're more golem than robot (although The Knife has clockwork parts), though they are defined as sentient beings with free will.
Live Action TV
- In Star Trek: The Original Series, the episode "I, Mudd" has an entire planet of androids that created new members as needed (e.g. the extra 500 Stellas).
- The Replicators of Stargate SG-1 are a big nasty planet-eating Hive Mind of Mechanical Lifeforms. Also Asurans.
- Battlestar Galactica: The Cylons (which stands for CYbernetic Lifeform Node), especially in the new series where they are going organic. A bit different to some of the other entries as they make the transition from machine to living race within the timeframe of the setting. Interestingly no one on the Battlestar Galactica, no matter how much they hate the crazy toasters, ever seems to question the fact that they are alive and sentient.
- There was a lot of questioning this early in the series that went on all the way to the second season, with statements like "you have programming, not a soul", or "you can't rape a machine". Only after the occupation of New Caprica the general populace has had enough experience of the Cylons to realize that they are really people, even though machine people mostly considered somewhat unfairly, but for a fairly good reason (almost destroying the human civilization), evil.
- What's more, the Cylons can reproduce biologically. The current generation have only done so once and not amongst themselves - rather producing a Half-Human Hybrid - but their forebears, the Thirteenth Tribe, reproduced amongst their own people all the time - resulting in a self-sustaining purely Cylon population: Cylon kids, Cylon grannies, Cylon aunts, etc. - until they built their own robots and got almost wiped out.
- The Original Series Cylons were Lizard Folk who turned themselves into robots. Unlike most who do this, they still act just like any normal race, only they happen to be robots.
- In the Expanded Universe novels, they go on to have a civil war between the all-mechanical Cylons and the partly-organic Cylons. This gets them off the Colonials' backs for a while, but they fear that whichever side wins will be that much stronger when the war ends and they turn their attention back to humanity.
- The Engines in Engine Sentai Go-onger are mechanical lifeforms from a parallel universe.
- And the Guardian Beasts in Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger are actually ancient gods that for some reason look like Humongous Mecha with cockpits and everything.
- The Power Animals of Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger are (not entirely) mechanical lifeform nature spirits. Their bodies are formed from the Earth itself. They just look like robots because they use metals for their skins.
- Seijuu Sentai Gingaman. And the Power Rangers counterparts of Gingaman and Gaoranger, Lost Galaxy and Wild Force, keep these qualities (Zyuranger's counterpart, the first season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, on the other hand, turned the gods into "magical" giant robots with some degree of sentience - how much was never really explored, though they act on their own at times, and one episode had the Sabertooth Tiger Zord showing Trini the way to something needed to break the Monster of the Week's spell. Just one more area where MMPR kept the line between the tech and magic components of the same powers and equipment vague.)
- Though the mechanical characters in Thomas the Tank Engine know that they are artificial and even talk about being built by humans, they still fit this definition:
- The engines mention, often to other motorized characters, like cars or helicopters, that they don't want to be anything other than locomotives.
- There are a few sets of 'twin' engines that are canonically referred to as brothers.
- When the issue crops up, the steam-powered and diesel-powered engines appear to be considered two separate races. (Electric locomotives haven't come up yet.) Early stories even had noticeable Fantastic Racism between the two, tied closely to the source of a lot of Ascended Fridge Horror. (Long Story.) Perhaps mercifully, this has since been quietly buried.
- The original books also had sentient coaches and freight wagons, and the mind boggles at where Diesel or Electric Multiple Units would fit into all this. note
- In short? This franchise gets really, really weird if you think about it too hard and we suggest applying the MST3K Mantra for the sake of your mental health.
- The Machine People in the Rifts Phase World setting.
- Alternity: The mechalus from TSR's short lived game are an alien race that merged with machines at some point in their history. Essentially, each mechalus is born as a cyborg, pre-implanted with Nanotechnology from its family line. They were later adapted for the d20 Modern book d20 Future, under the name "aleerin".
- Eberron's warforged are sentient artificial humanoids who were mass-produced by humans to fight in the Last War. Their bodies are a combination of metal, stone and wood, though feats can upgrade the material to Mithril or Adamantium for better armor. After the war, they must now try to fit into society and find a new purpose to their lives. They do not eat, drink or breath, and are immune to a variety of debilitating effects. They are also immortal and voluntarily suffer from The Fog of Ages to avoid going insane from an overload of memories.
- Dungeons & Dragons: The modrons, clockwork beings from Mechanus, the Plane of Law in the Planescape setting. It's debatable whether they're actually mechanical, though, since they're basically the spiritual embodiment of Law in the same sense that angels represent Good and demons Evil. Supplanted by the Inevitables for third edition, who are more clearly robotic in nature (visible gears and whatnot).
- KULT has the symbiotic lifeforms called Techrones. Aside from that, any mechanic equipment can be a vile lifeform in disguise.
- Subverted in Warhammer 40,000 — Necrons are undead robots, having turned to such in their quest for immortality. And now some of them want to turn back because they figured immortality isn't so awesome after all. Make of that what you will.
- Transformers contains the most popular examples of this trope. Most versions of the race's origin even hold that they were created by Primus, either a Sufficiently Advanced Alien or an actual god depending on who you ask. Starting with Beast Wars, Transformers even have souls, called "sparks".
- In the original cartoon, however, the Quintessons (themselves either mechanical or cybernetic) built Cybertron as a factory to produce robot slaves (non-transforming proto-Transformers). The robots rebelled, and kicked the Quintessons off Cybertron. Millions of years later, the Transformers have forgotten all about them, but the Quintessons still want their planet back. This has since been left out of almost all the following continuities, mostly in favour of the Primus origin. Notably, the Transformers Aligned Universe does feature the Quintessons as part of Cybertronian history, but that rather than building them for slave labour, they were an outside alien race who merely enslaved the already existing Cybertronian race and then lied about being their creators before they were rebelled against and kicked off-planet.
- In the comics, their original backstory was that they evolved from naturally occurring gears, levers and pulleys. Uh... yeeeeeah. This was eventually quietly forgotten in favor of the Primus origin, in which the Transformers were to be his trump card against his Evil Counterpart, Unicron.
- Oddly, this is superficially similar to an origin provided in an obscure text story from a Japanese magazine. Basically, Cybertron was once a space station that developed sentience, absorbed materials from throughout the galaxy, and eventually changed itself into a planet with robot inhabitants.
- Transformers Prime goes into depth about their nature, when the Autobots meet the main human cast for the first time, Raf asks "So, if you guys are robots, who made you?" Ratchet is actually insulted by the implication that they were manufactured.
- A humorous moment in "Masters and Students" has Jack trying to work on a regular motorcycle and Arcee (a motorcycle Transformer) is referring to parts as "doohickey." As Jack points out the irony that she doesn't know how a motorcycle works she asked if he could replicate a small intestine.
- "Operation Bumblebee" has Starscream flat out state that what they have is more biology than machinery, as when Bumblebee gets his T-Cog stolen (Transformation Cog) it is stated that it is basically an organ and Ratchet can't just make a replacement from junkyard scrap. Given that some parts can be replaced, though, (Starscream gets a new arm at one point) it's probably akin to human prothetics where things like limbs can get replacements but internal organs are a lot harder to do.
- Another episode of the original series involved a Decepticon and an Autobot ending up with each others transformation cogs. They had to be precisely adjusted in order to work properly (having only allowed unstable, partial transformation before the adjustments), which conforms to the idea that they function similarly to organs.
- Things like surface plating appear to be fairly easily replicated and replaced. The "cosmic rust" incident began with Megatron having his chest plating damaged by a high speed projectile and Starscream telling him after they got back to base that a replacement would be fabricated "when they get around to it".
- They even have genetic material, cybonucleic acid (CNA). No, the name doesn't make sense, lay off. The concept of Mechanical Lifeforms having a "genetic" method of reproduction; however, does. This has even been done in Real Life with digital creatures.
- There are, actually, lots of ways for Transformers to reproduce. It varies between continuities.
- BIONICLE features biomechanical beings of a variety of different races living inside the body of Mata Nui, who in turn is a living Humongous Mecha around the size of Chouginga Gurren Lagann.
- The Machine Men from Rice Boy actually grow as they age. One of them nearly dies from poisoning.
- Some of the backstory provided in "Order of Tales" indicates that they even evolved from a more primitive rock-based form to their metallic, mechanical appearance in the present-day of the setting.
- Homestuck has quite a few examples. One of them is Jade's dreambot, which acts as a surrogate body when she's asleep. Another is Liv Tyler the Rabbit, who is at least semi-sentient. Aradia's soul remains inside a robotic body for much of the Hivebent Arc. In addition, Dirk's Autoresponder is a computerized copy of his brain that lives inside of a pair of glasses.
- The TicTocs of Gunnerkrigg Court aren't revealed to be robots until one of them gets autopsied. It then takes root in the ground and starts growing. Did we mention that, aside from making their distinctive tic-toc noise, they look like birds?
- The precursors to the Court's modern robots are part this and part golem as well. Kat does what is effectively heart surgery on one.
- Sluggy Freelance: The inflatable Dig Bots. They're self-replicating, have their own nightclubs, malls, religion, and fast food restaurants. They've even got a movie theatre where they play an edited version of Up that is much more sympathetic to their balloon brethren.
- Only Human has humanity replaced with robots and humans who converted to robots. Humanity is thought to be extinct until little girl named Ely is found.
- The series of daylogs on Everything2 following Moloch36 and his days in shaft thirteen, level ninety-nine. First can be found here.
- Orion's Arm features many "Mechanosystems" both Terragen and Xenosophont in origin. Including one named Stanislaw.
- The artist Extvia on deviantart has this in his SYNC series, with nanotech-based anthros.
- The Animal Mechanicals world is entirely populated by these, including the titular Animals, all designed to look like kid's building blocks.
- Futurama: Professor Farnsworth unwittingly creates some. The life-forms evolve so fast that, within a few days, they put him on trial for promoting creationism.