"Science is like a blabbermouth who ruins a movie by telling you how it ends! Well, I say there are some things we don't want to know! Important things!"
Most writers are not scientists. Whether it is because they perceive science as cold and emotionless, or because they just disliked science and embraced literature after failing math in high school
is an awfully common philosophy
in the arts community.
The typical theme
is that some sort of advanced scientific research has Gone Horribly Wrong
, creating a monster
, causing an impending natural disaster
and/or a massive government cover-up
. The heroes typically discover the side-effects
of the research and investigate, discover what's going on, and try to stop it.
The antagonist (almost always either corporate
or military/government scientists — and not hot
) refuses to believe
that his work could be so badly flawed and/or immoral
, or simply doesn't care about who gets hurt by it
, insisting that the research is For Science!
They will generally use their influence with the government to make life difficult for the heroes; this can include trying to have them arrested and/or otherwise silenced
, often leading to a shoot-out, jail break, or Chase Scene
In the end, the scientist will be destroyed by his own creation
, the heroes will be proven right, and through their efforts the world will be saved from the horror of science. Sometimes the theme is softened by the presence of The Professor
among the heroes who represents a more reasonable take on the science involved.
This can often come off as a bit hypocritical, particularly when dealing with speculative fiction, as you get an Anvilicious
message of "everything we have so far is good, but we should stop now."
Nearly every Robot War
story is based off of this (except the ones where everything was all right, until humanity screwed it up by being jerks
to the nice robots). There are a few popular current fields as well, like cloning
, genetic engineering
, and surveillance
For obvious reasons, this is played down in series starring a Science Hero
, heroic android, or Robot Buddy
, such as in some anime. It's more likely that there will be a (still obvious) distinction between good and bad scientists. This is usually played up if the heroes are Phlebotinum Rebels
Note that not every work with a Mad Scientist
or a threat borne of science falls under this; it's only the case where Messing With Things You Ought Not To
is blamed for the problems.
The trope rarely makes a distinction between pure science (research) and applied technology (engineering).
Frequently overlaps with Green Aesop
. May be paired with Industrialized Evil
Compare and contrast Cyber Punk
, where the rebel hero goes up against The Man
who maintains control through technology; Post Cyber Punk
tends to embrace new technology
less critically. Typically, you will find there is No Transhumanism Allowed
. See also Harsher in Hindsight
and Seinfeld Is Unfunny
for when a world meant to be portrayed as a Dystopia Twenty Minutes into the Future
bears a curious resemblance to present day
technological advancements that are taken for granted
by the audience.
If the writer is sincere in their belief that Technology Is Evil
, they may thrust the characters into a situation (Closed Circle
, After the End
, etc.) where they must survive without (most of) the technology
, and take the good with the bad; compare Space Amish
. The inverse of this is a Cozy Catastrophe
, where the heroes are able to get General Motors, police and hair salons
up and running again only a few months after America Wins the War
, with similarly unfortunate
implications on the opposite end of the spectrum
, implying that the writer believes in the Status Quo
can have a similar effect if an otherwise futuristic (or even "dystopian"
) technocratic society bears a curious resemblance to when it was written
and problems the society was experiencing at the time.
Any time this trope shows up, you are very likely to find Romanticism Versus Enlightenment
in its wake (and the work will be taking the Romanticist side). Related tropes include the Mad Scientist
, Reluctant Mad Scientist
, The Evil Army
, Government Conspiracy
, Corrupt Corporate Executive
, Government As Villain
, Mr. Exposition
, Technical Pacifist
, and Well-Intentioned Extremist
. The protagonist is often assisted by an Anti-Hero
who used to work for the Mad Scientist
, and frequently has to deal with a Pointy-Haired Boss
. See also Science Is Wrong
. Polar opposite of most stories with a Science Hero
Can be paired with the old slogan "Knowledge is Power, Wisdom
is for serving". When the trope is invoked, Power is bad at best, evil at worst.
See also the Scale of Scientific Sins
as well as Ambition Is Evil
. Not to be confused with Do Not Try This at Home
when Science is Dangerous, cause yeah, sometimes it is.
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- The Aesop of Blue Gender is that humanity should never have advanced beyond an agricultural society.
- Same for Earth Maiden Arjuna.
- Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind, at least in the manga version (which goes longer than the anime), goes back and forth between playing this trope straight & subverting it. On the one hand, the world was destroyed in a nuclear war, on the other, the kindly & wise Big Creepy-Crawlies were actually created through bioengineering and so were the giant killer fungi which are actually helping to purify the Earth. Nausicaa believes that the natural order of life should prevail and that humanity needs to live or die without the benefits or burdens of the old technology.
- The main conflict presented in Steamboy is that though scientists try to help the world there will either be people who want to use it for profit or people who want use it for war. The protagonist's father is under the belief that science can save the world, the grandfather believes he is going too far, and the protagonist is neutral and just wants to make sure London doesn't get destroyed. In the end, though, the moral of the story feels more like 'science can be bad or good depending on how it's used.' Take for example the Steam Castle, which was not originally a weapon, but the world's most advanced amusement park. Then there's Ray's numerous clever uses of the Steamball, like powering flying machines. At the very least, Steamboy manages to avoid being Anvilicious by grace of sheer ambiguity.
- Lex Luthor, Superman's archenemy, has long been a barometer of the great bogeyman of the era: from the 30s through the atomic age, as a mad scientist he played on readers' fears of science run rampant. (Later, he'd be a corporate shark in the '80s and a corrupt politician at the turn of the millennium.) Though from the Silver Age until the Crisis, Superman himself was portrayed as a scientist of great ability (having, at the very least, perfect recall and access to Kryptonian tech), regularly building robots and whatnot. His standard lament to Luthor in those days was his wish that Luthor would go straight and use his brilliance to help mankind instead of being a Jerk Ass.
- Space travel research was banned on Krypton. As a result, there were very few survivors when the planet exploded. Pre-Crisis, at least, the reason it was banned was that an illegal rocket experiment had recently blown up one of their moons. note
- Hoverboy: The Only Hero Protecting You From Science! However, Hoverboy is merely an elaborate hoax. Probably.
- Star Wars
- Subverted by the obvious Mengele analogue in a Boba Fett comic, in which Fett accepted a challenge to wipe out the crew of a
Nazi Imperial flying concentration camp genocide ship. The Mengele-wannabe is asked by his boss what experiment he's doing; Wannabe admits, "I gave up all pretense of science long ago. I do this for pleasure."
- In Knights of the Old Republic there was a Mandalorian Mad Scientist named Demagol who conducted cruel experiments on captured Jedi and on children (including his own daughter) in an effort to imbue future generations of Mandalorian warriors with the ability to use The Force. His name was later adapted to "demagolka", the only word in the Mandalorian language for "war criminal".
- Reed Richards and Doctor Doom can be viewed as symbolizing technology's potential for good or evil, depending on who is wielding it and for what purpose. Reed's a perfect example, as he's often portrayed as the most cold and calculating of the Fantastic Four. For instance, during the superhero civil war, he designed an extradimensional prison camp to hold his fellow superheroes because cold logic told him that forced superhuman registration was the only way to avoid an Armageddon-level disaster. None of the less scientifically-minded members of the team could stand to be a part of it, and Sue - the conscience of the team - eventually convinced him that it was better to essentially be nice and hope for the best than to be mean for a good reason. Taken even further in Ultimate Marvel, where Reed has a full fledged Face-Heel Turn and becomes the de facto Ultimate version of Kang the Conqueror.
- Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog originally averted this in the same fashion as SatAM, from which it derived most of its cast. However, the series seems to have sunk into this as time has gone by.
- In Half-Life: Full Life Consequences, the "Combines" come from science and outer space. And science also makes Gordon Freeman tricked and live and strong and big. However what the fan fiction calls "science" is debatable, since in many cases, it is referred to as a tangible object.
- In Act I of the Legends of Equestria continuity, the main villain is an industrialist who uses his talents to invent new forms of munitions and weaponry. He also tries to murder Celestia, Luna, all their friends, and about half the population of Equestria to get on the throne. After these events, Celestia goes so far as to explicitly declare that technology is evil, and strictly bans its proliferation.
- Any pro-Equestria Conversion Bureau stories, particularly the ones by the very divisive author Chatoyance, have the ponies declare technology evil and the reason why Humans Are the Real Monsters. Anti-TCB stories such as The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum have addressed that the ponies' own use of technology makes this sentiment very hypocritical.
- Mr. X's attempted clone of Mew in Pokeumans was what caused the genetic shockwave that kicked the plot off. It also drove him mad and turned him into a Mewtwo, which didn't help either.
- Inverted in The Last Ringbearer. Mordor is a democratic, highly-enlightened, technology-using human civilisation, and they're the good guys. The Elves, meanwhile, are a bunch of smug, genocidal pricks who want to conquer Arda, enslave or exterminate humanity and stop all progress forever. The whole point of the work is an examination of the War of the Ring from Mordor's point of view.
- Inverted in Avatar; the scientists are all good guys and it's through the scientific approach that they realize they shouldn't interfere with Pandora's ecosystem. The Na'vi god is also a real being, fully examinable and explainable through science. The bad guys are the military and corporates who misuse technology. The movie does not suggest that humans should shift back to hunter-gatherer culture like some supporters and detractors believe. In fact, the supplementary material is pretty adamant that scientific advancement is the only way to rescue Earth from its miserable state, and that research from Pandora is vital to this progress. The message is that aboriginal peoples should not be forced to adapt modern lifestyle against their will, and that horrible consequences caused by environmental exploitation can't be fixed with more exploitation.
- The original The Fly (1958), contrary to popular belief, wasn't so much this trope as 'Science must not be approached with carelessness'. It even compares it to a 'great adventure'. In David Cronenberg's 1986 remake, this motif is absent altogether: just because it went disastrously wrong once doesn't mean that teleportation is irredeemably evil. Though the original still features the scientist destroying the machine at the end, rather than seeing that it works fine if people aren't careless like he was.
- Completely turned around by Darkman, who, admittedly, was hideously deformed in a Freak Lab Accident, but the accident in question was caused by The Mafia. When things are going bad, he reminds himself, "I'm a scientist!"
- The Documentary Of Lies Expelled explicitly compares evolutionary biology to Nazism.
- Inverted by The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, where blunt force could kill the rhedosaurus, but it spread the beast's disease far and wide, and only our heroic scientist can figure out a way to kill the rhedosaurus and the disease. Luckily, and unusually, the army guys are extremely cooperative.
- In the B-Movie Bats, Mad Scientist Dr. McCabe initially justifies creating the rampaging super intelligent omnivorous bats with the words "I'm a scientist! That's what we do!". No one finds this explanation even the slightest bit strange.
- Averted in the original in which sane scientist Dr. Serizawa's Oxygen Destroyer ultimately kills Godzilla at the end. Serizawa is also very careful not to let his invention fall into the wrong hands by dying alongside Godzilla and burning all papers that contain information on the device.
- He's only concerned about the wrong hands in the American version. In the original Japanese version, Serizawa makes no distinction between right hands and wrong hands, saying that humanity's destructive nature will cause the Oxygen Destroyer to become our very undoing if anyone gets a hold of the device.
- Godzilla vs. Destoroyah retroactively questions the use of the Oxygen Destroyer by revealing it led to flesh-eating microbes that can strip organic matter immersed in water in seconds. These evolve into car-sized monsters spewing beams that disintegrate materials that possess oxygen molecules. And finally, these combine into, quite naturally, a flying Kaiju monster with a beam weapon that can kick Godzilla's ass.
The monster verges on raising the radiation levels of the entire planet beyond what life could survive. It also questions whether the doctor's sacrifice was actually heroic as the Oxygen Destroyer was, compared to other methods, less likely to destroy cities or attempt to exterminate the human race.
- Played straight in Godzilla V Biollante in which genetic engineering causes the birth of a giant Godzilla-Rose hybrid monster (Biollante) with a human female soul. On the other hand, the scientists creating the Anti-Nuclear Bacteria is an aversion since it actually is one of the few things that can stop Godzilla, despite the hero's fear that it will create another monster.
- Generally played straight with almost any Godzilla movie that explains the eponymous monster's origins or his reason for attacking. Most often he is the result of the testing of nuclear weapons, which is also the source of his hatred of humankind.
- Bride of Frankenstein inverts this. The reformed Dr. Frankenstein is forced by evil Mad Scientist Dr. Pretorius to return to his old ways. The twist: Early on, Pretorious shows us his collection of tiny humans in glass jars, practically announcing that he's Mephistopheles. To this, Frankenstein replies, horrified, "This isn't science!" Here, sane Science Is Good, and has standards, but Magic Is Bad.
- Event Horizon. At one point the inventor of the gravity warp drive (which turns out to be a pretty evil warp drive) proclaims: "Captain, there's no danger... It's contained behind three magnetic fields, it's perfectly safe!" Oh science, what are you like?
- In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra nanotechnology is the primary villain, both as gray-goo-inducing nanite warheads and as nanite injections that create superhuman flunkies for Cobra. There are many scientists involved in Cobra, and apparently, scientists can't be trusted: Rex switches sides because they have nanotechnology.
- The Time Machine (2002). Near the start of the movie, the protagonist's friend asks him whether humanity's progress will ever go too far; the protagonist replies, "no such thing."
He later has to admit that he was wrong — when, in the future, he sees the Moon shattered into little pieces by atomic bombs. Earlier, when the protagonist returned to the past to try and save his girlfriend, she was killed by a malfunctioning automobile (just as the protagonist stopped being fascinated with it because it was "just a machine," and not worth taking his attention off of his love).
In the distant future, the Eloi are peaceful, good people with very primitive technology; the evil, ugly Morlocks have an industrial society Beneath the Earth. They also have a Big Bad with a giant brain who is especially good at engineering, and at being evil.
And in the climax of the movie, the protagonist destroys the industrial Morlocks — by blowing up his machine in their lair (commenting on its loss with, again, "it's just a machine"). The only positive portrayal science or technology get in the film is with the generally helpful holographic librarian (who somehow survives hundreds of thousands of years and is shown reading books to children at the end). But his main function is to keep memories of the past (and, presumably, its follies) alive, not to represent or aid progress.
The 1960 version doesn't go this far, having more of an anti-war message. Essentially, the 1960 film's message is "science is bad when it's being used to build bigger and more terrible weapons, but it's good when it's being used for peaceful, idealistic purposes like inventing time machines" — which makes sense when you consider the movie was made at the height of the Cold War arms race.
- 9 averts this. Science is what created the construction robot, but it was the government and military that put it to evil use. The scientist who created the robot then sacrificed his own soul so that life, in some fashion, could carry on.
- Dr. Carrington in The Thing from Another World is a complete moron who continues to insist in the face of increasingly overwhelming evidence that the alien the base is dealing with is an intelligent and peaceful being, and repeatedly endangers everyone's lives trying to communicate with it.
- In Rocky IV the cold, emotionless Russian boxer Ivan Drago is shown training in a cartoonishly high-tech facility that measures his every exertion while government technicians look on, meanwhile virtuous American Rocky trains on a farm by cutting down trees, lifting bales of hay, and running with a yoke on his shoulders. Guess who wins.
- Also a case of Science Marches On as it turns out the techniques used there are not as effective as traditional training. Right now most sports training is the traditional ways mixed with a scientifically calculated diet and time table.
- Pick a Sy Fy Channel Original Movie, any Syfy Channel Original Movie. The plot is as follows: "Oh no! Science Is Bad and inevitably results in giant insects! Explosions are the only thing that can rectify the wages of man's hubris! Better call John Rhys-Davies, Lance Henriksen, Bruce Boxleitner and/or Dean Cain."
- The first Mimic film plays this awfully straight. In order to combat an epidemic that's killing the world's children, scientists create a strain of mutant cockroach. Unfortunately, years after they're released (and successfully end the epidemic) these cockroaches grow to be about six feet tall and able to mimic (and eat) humans. Cue the scientists babbling nonsense lines like "We changed their DNA, we don't know what we did!" and other characters repeatedly saying what basically amounts to "They tampered in God's domain." As if the scientists should have foreseen the consequences of their mutant cockroach strain and done nothing to end the epidemic in the first place.
- At least RIFT seems to think so in Transcendence. The head of the group uses the first brain uploading experiment which involved a monkey on why brain uploading is evil. "It just screamed."
- The American folk tale of John Henry tells of the man's victory in a hammerin' race against a steam-powered hammer. He wins, but the effort kills him. He dies with the old-fashioned hammer still in his hand.
- In the series Divergent most of the bad guys comes from the Erudite faction, the faction for scientists and knowledge-seeker. Most of the Erudite characters that we see is evil even Caleb turns out to be a traitor. Bad things that happens in the books (e.g. the Abnegation Genocide) results from Erudite's evil, evil plans and it's implied they have a hand in corrupting members from other factions to their cause. Even the author admits her book's anti-intellectual slant 
- This is not the point of Frankenstein. In the novel by Mary Shelley, the point of the story is that Frankenstein brought a creature into the world and allowed it to turn to evil by treating it like a monster. However, this is the point of every film adaptation of the story, which almost always deliver an Anvilicious Aesop. With the surprising exception of the Mel Brooks parody Young Frankenstein, in which the eponymous scientist succeeds where his ancestor failed by accepting his creation like a loving father. When a group of his colleagues recoil in horror at the creature, he admonishes them "We are not children! We are scientists!", and the only real flaw in his creation (its permanently child-like, limited mind) is fixed by another scientific procedure, which Frankenstein risks his life to carry out. Stephen Jay Gould wrote one essay as a good-natured correction to people who thought Frankenstein was based around this, pointing out that while Shelley admits that being too excessive in a pursuit is usually a bad thing, all her examples were political.
- In Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels, some of the natives regard the newly rediscovered supercomputer as evil and try to destroy or discredit it, either through superstition or fear of change. The planet was originally settled by people who only wanted to leave their dependence on technology behind, not to form a Luddite civilization. In time this meant they lost all but the most basic stuff needed for survival, and because of this they suffered. It was eventually returning to the technological state which saved them, when they found AI which gave them access to all the tech the colonists planned on having, but lost.
- The Lord of the Rings
- The trope is played straight in the opposition between Saruman (Science/Knowledge) and Gandalf (Wisdom). Saruman even mentions his slogan in book two: "Knowledge, Rule, Order!" All the while, Gandalf warns against swerving from the "path of Wisdom". Saruman is clearly meant to be a Faustian figure, entering a deal with the devil for greater knowledge.
Gandalf: He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.
- Tolkien himself was personally fond of the trope, and invokes it in "Tree And Leaf", and in his poem "Mythopoeia":
The dark abyss to where their progress tends, if by Godīs mercy, Progress ever ends...
- And then there is AulŽ, Vala for all makers, craftsmen and scientists (Sauron and Saruman were both Maiar under him).
- HP Lovecraft goes a step further, though it's not just science; H.P. Lovecraft's stories had a recurring theme that ''wanting to know more about the world'' would inevitably lead to insanity and corruption. Lovecraft had a love-hate relationship with science. On one hand he was delighted and inspired by its discoveries, but on the other he found it horribly formulaic and unimaginative (complaints he also had about mainstream religion). His short story, Silver Key sums up his less than flattering thoughts towards all forms of mainstream thinking.
- Oryx and Crake has more than a hint of this.
- Every book by Michael Crichton, a good deal of which got a lot of people interested in science. Crichton himself averts this trope in that he was a big proponent of science and more science education. Chrichton's point is generally more along the lines of: science is good if used for something like feeding people or helping the sick, i.e. something benign and obvious. But like anything one must also have the common sense to use it with restraint. Being "pro-science" is one thing, not having the two brain cells needed to stop and say "Gee, I wonder if something could go wrong if we genetically engineer dinosaurs?" is another. Also to note, in most of his novels, what is decried is not the science in and of itself, but rushed science used for no other reasons than to make a quick buck. Find a way to clone dinosaurs? Make a theme park. Finds a way to time travel? Use it to make a theme park. Find a way to make nanobots autonomously intelligent? Use it to get results you can sell faster.
- Maximum Ride loves this. No scientist character is ever good. Nothing science ever accomplishes is ever for the good.
- The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne concludes with the aesop that people shouldn't attempt to play God by improving on nature
- In the novel Feed by M.T. Anderson, having essentially an internet hookup directly into your brain lets you look up anything instantly, so no one ever bothers to really learn or remember anything, becoming imbeciles with the attention span of gnats.
- This is one of the main messages of Ceremony, along with "White people are evil beings created by witcherey to destroy the world''
- The War of the Worlds, has a touch of this. Wells's Martians are clearly designed as his projection of what man himself might evolve into, given enough time: little more than bodiless brains, helpless if separated from their machines. Wells may have viewed this fate as inevitable for mankind.
- Although most of his later novels were much more pro-technology, Jules Verne's early novel Paris in the Twentieth Century portrays a cold, sterile future where artistic and humanistic pursuits have been all but abandoned in favor of technology as an answer to all human problems. The main character, a poet, can find neither work nor sympathy, and dies starving in the streets.
- This tends to be a characteristic of many Stephen King novels, including his magnum opus (the The Dark Tower series). We have
- The Great Old Ones from the Dark Tower series, who are explicitly described as being "deceived by the false light of science", replacing the magic with their own imperfect science and technology, then killing themselves off with weapons that leave the world a polluted, ruined mess.
- The superflu from The Stand. which escapes a government lab and kills off 99.4% of the world's population—the creators designed it to make sure an antivirus could never be made. The mini-series implies that Flagg may have had a role in the release of it, but the book itself describes it as a series of foul-ups and technical errors. Flagg is specifically described by Glen Bateman as "the last magician of rational thought" (!) and he gives an impassioned defense of the concept that they should not be so quick to recreate the technological civilization that created things like nukes and bio-engineered germs in the first place.
So I suppose we start building the whole sorry mess up again... using her as magnetic north
- In the words of Jean Baudrillard in The Procession of Simulacra, "Science never sacrifices itself. It is always murderous." He didn't think science was inherently bad, despite that quote.
- In the last Empire from the Ashes book, the world religion of the planet Pardal centers entirely around the suppression of scientific progress, while at the same time worshiping an ancient defense computer as the voice of God.
- In the Safehold series the need for the deliberately Lost Colony to revert to a pre-industrial technology level to avoid the omnicidal Gbaba was an unfortunate necessity. Word of God is that this trope is part of the thinking behind Langhorne and Bedard's alteration of the original plan to make sure that a technological society doesn't arise again.
- Most movie versions of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (as stated in the Film section) emphasize the evils of technology versus a pastoral existence, but neglect his central thesis: the alienation of the working class resulting in an elite that neither knows nor cares how the comfort in which it lives is produced. Wells, a socialist, was not arguing against technology but against the exploitation of the working class in Victorian England. Indeed, most of Wells' body of work, especially The Shape Of Things To Come, is very pro-science and technology, focusing more on how humanity must mature socially in step with its scientific progress.
- In Aleksandr Mazin's Time For Change duology, nature itself follows this trope, with catastrophes striking out against many types of scientific research in a seemingly unrelated manner. For example, the first recorded catastrophe was a massive tsunami that flooded New York. The link was an attempt by NASA to see if it is possible to give birth in orbit. After that, the International Committee for Prevention of Illegal Scientific Research (AKA Aladdin) is created in order to enforce the ban. They recruit the scientists and soldiers and equip them with the latest technology allowed by law. They become so powerful that only a few nations can go against them, including Russia, China, and possibly US.
- In the second novel, The Morning of Judgment Day, the Chinese defy the ban and launch a manned mission to Mars. During a historic speech televised throughout the world, another catastrophe hits, causing any Chinese-speaking person listening to the broadcast to go deaf. The protagonist's father parallels this to the Tower of Babel part of The Bible, where man attempts to reach the heavens, and suggests that humans may have to stay on Earth for good.
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: The book show us both sides of this question: In almost all the book, The Professor Aronnax, a Wide-Eyed Idealist expert on marine life is shown all the good things the Nautilus can accomplish (scientific discoveries, exploration of the South Pole, treasure hunting, etc). Only after The Reveal, that the Nautilus is used as a terrible (for the standards of the 19th century) Weapon of Mass Destruction, Aronnaxís Heel Realization lets him know that those good things canít justify the terrible violence.
- The 2nd and 3rd Dinotopia books were quite Anvilicious about this, although they were more anti-technology than anti-science, since the protagonist himself was a scientist (although more of a naturalist, really).
- The Tripods used this, but as a pretense of the antagonists rather than an actual theme of the work. The Masters gave the appearance that they blamed science and technology for humankind's evilness, thus pushing humanity back to the middle ages with the Caps. (ie sending the Science Is Bad message through the caps.) It was really to stifle creativity and independent thinking and make humans easier to subdue.
- In the 1990 extended edition of Nightfall, a scientist tells a priest that he's proven how the apocalypse his religion predicted would come to passnote . The priest throws a fit because the scientist "destroyed the mystery" or somesuch.
- In Larry Niven's Known Space books, all scientific research on Earth must be approved by the government. Violating this can result in a death sentence.
- Played with in American Gods. The New Gods represent different facets of America's modern, technologically advanced culture, but for a while we are led to sympathize more for the primitive — and seemingly more benevolent — Old Gods. Over the course of the story, however, we come to learn that a not insignificant number of the Old Gods were violent, bloodthirsty monsters in their time, and some of the New Gods are not as eager for conquest as they first appear.
- In Those That Wake, after seeing what technology did to the city, Laura grows to believe science is bad by the second book.
- Ape and Essence has a sequence symbolically representing World War III, in which three Albert Einsteins are enslaved by baboons for the patriotic purpose of developing and unleashing Synthetic Plagues that kill everyone, including the Einsteins, whose dying protests are that they "never did any harm to anybody" and "lived only for Truth." Thus is enacted "the death, by suicide, of twentieth-century science."
Live Action TV
- Smallville. Any scientific research is bad in that show. Example: One episode features a drug which can heal fatal gunshot wounds in moments. However, it makes the user rather cranky for a certain period of time. Various ERs could probably get around that by tranquilizing the patients for a while!
- A recurring theme in The Outer Limits. It is the basis for the plot of many (though not all) of its episodes. A prominent episode involves a trial in the Twenty Minutes into the Future United States, which has forsaken technology and banned teaching science under the penalty of death. A 20th century scientist develops Time Travel and goes to the future only to be arrested for breaking the ban. She goes before the Supreme Court and argues to repeal the ban, as a plague will wipe out most of humanity in the near future if technological research is not restarted. Another time traveler arrives to argue for the opposite, as humanity's expansion to the stars will eventually cause us to piss off an advanced alien race and lead to our destruction. In the end, they send the second time traveler to the past and agree to repeal the ban, only for the second guy's fusion bomb to activate and wipe out Washington, DC.
- In Doctor Who, science is usually the cause of evil, and science (in the form of the Doctor) usually saves the day. Whether or not it uses this trope depends on the specific episode.
- Joss Whedon has said the idea behind the Initiative from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was to create a conflict between science and magic, and when that happens, magic eventually kicks science's ass. The Initiative goes on recon to study the habits of vampires and captures them so they can do further tests, all to better understand how they work and how they can best be contained. Buffy just stakes 'em. Guess which works better? Actually, given how many apocalypses Buffy and her friends have actively started and how many monsters she's let go on their merry way because of teenage laziness or stupidity, and given that the Initiative's work only went wrong as a direct result of getting involved with the Slayer... the moral may not actually be what Whedon intended there.
- Star Trek, despite being the best-known Speculative Fiction series, often dipped its toe into this trope. Worked on a sort of sliding scale, where the level of science the Federation had at that particular point in the episode was the exact right amount and trying to advance beyond that was just asking for the technological equivalent of not being able to get away with a damn thing. Offscreen advance of science: good. Onscreen advance of science: bad.
- The Original Series episode which most directly addresses this is "The Way to Eden" (the infamous "space hippie" one). Dr. Sevrin's followers want to abandon technology and return to a pastoral existence. Between his Vulcan half's admiration for their (ahem, technical!) pacifism, and his human half's submerged longing for exactly that sort of simple life, Spock of all people ends up sympathizing with them. He's deeply disappointed when their leader turns out to be nuts.
- Voyager's take on the Q is interesting. TNG had previously established that the Q believed humans might one day develop into a civilization comparable to themselves (and were not very pleased about it); yet, in Voyager, most of the all-but-omnipotent Q are shown to be bored half out of their minds, because life offers no challenges any more.
- Averted in Roddenberry's novelization of the first movie, which claims that most of humanity outside of Starfleet is actually going a transhumanist route, forming into massminds and such. Kirk, as narrator, regards this as a generally good thing and chides himself for being old-fashioned. However, this claim is not supported anywhere else in Trek canon.
- In TOS, Bunny-Ears Lawyer Sam Cogley's speech in "Court Martial" about liking his book collection better than his computer, even though he admits it can display any of their contents instantly.
- The TOS episode "The Ultimate Computer" is a great example of this trope, combined with a little Ludd Was Right. The Enterprise is testing a brand-new computer that could automate starships completely, making crews and captains all but obsolete. A.I. Is a Crapshoot, things go south fast, and our heroes must pull the plug and save the day, but not before the sorrowful moments where Kirk faces the thought he may become obsolete. The scientist who designed the computer also turns out to be insane at the end, just to drive the point home.
- In the DS9 episode "Paradise," the neo-Luddite colonist Alixus deliberately stranded her colony ship and used a duonetic field to disable electromagnetic technology, forcing them all to live as Space Amish. Her control over her fellow colonists was so great that even after O'Brien disabled the field generator and Sisko bucked her authority, they still wanted to live like she had been forcing them to live.
- The episode in many ways was a deconstruction of this trope. It is implied that the people think they are happier on this paradise less because their lives are actually better, but more because of Stockholm Syndrome. Work for food is hard, many have died during the winters, and diseases can only be cured by finding the right root or fungus. All of these problems has been literally eradicated on any Federation planet.
- Fringe seems to take a stance of science being both bad and good, since its used to both cause and help solve the Freaky Mystery of the Week! The Grey and Gray Morality of the show seems to imply that science can accomplish good things, but at the cost of other good things, and the scientist's mileage may vary as to whether the accomplishments are worth the cost. This is especially obvious when comparing and contrasting Walter and Walternate; each crosses lines that the other will not. For example, Walter is willing to experiment on children while Walternate is not, but Walternate is willing to trap people alive in amber while Walter is not.
- While the Stargate series mostly avert this, the Stargate Atlantis episode "Trinity," wherein McKay finds an abandoned Ancient experiment to produce limitless energy, it's repeatedly suggested that he is getting in over his head (The Ancients did not complete the program, and it went rather wrong). Despite constant protestations that this is a field they are simply not ready for, McKay continues. In the end he ends up destroying about five-sixths of a solar system (it's not an exact science). While the episode plays the aesop straight, a later episode has a solution to the problems from the first time, and the attempt is assisted by an Asgard, the most technologically advanced race who will talk with humanity.
- On an episode of CSI: NY, this trope is used to demonize the science of Genetics. It starts off with a supposed dead man being stolen from the back of the van that was bringing it to the morgue. Then the body is dumped in the river, fished out and then found to be alive... brain dead, but alive. They find their way to a genetics research lab that's making goats produce silk in their milk and rats grow ears on their backs. The scientist in charge explains the benefits of it (silk in bulk, replacing a lost body part) but the cops just remark about how weird it is and when they leave remark that it's wrong. The main character going so far as to say progress was great, "but should've stopped."
Turns out the genetics lab induced human hibernation on the victim, which the victim was involved in voluntarily and by accident the vic took too much of the mixture they created too fast. He ran out choking and collapsed. They stole him from the van thinking he was alive, thought he was dead when they couldn't revive him and dumped him before they got in more trouble for their unethical experiments. When confronted by this news the head scientist can only remark about his delight that it worked and lists off all the benefits like prolonged space travel and how he will be famous.
The second suspect tries to tell the cops how putting them away will "shut the door on the future" as no one else knows the formula but them, but to the cops the complicated issue is simple, they committed attempted murder (even though they thought the guy was already dead) and are going to jail. It's not "robot apocalypse" or "mutant monster" worthy, but it still denotes the same thing: science is weird... and bad.
- Eleventh Hour generally runs on this trope, as should be expected of a show about a duo that takes down people who apply new technology unethically. However, it does at times depict the potential good that can be done with stem cells, genetic engineering and the like.
- Most of the new Battlestar Galactica avoids this, but the finale takes a great big swerve into Writer on Board territory. First, everybody decides to chuck their technology — including, one assumes, their various medical advances — and revert to hunter-gatherer barbarism in the hopes that their descendants will do better. Have fun rediscovering penicillin a couple hundred thousand years in the future, humanity! Second, Ron Moore confirms that, after a thoughtful examination of how difficult it is to break the cycle of revenge, he chucked the metaphor and explained that he's scared of our new Japanese robot overlords.
- An episode of The Colbert Report featured Stephen interviewing the author of a book about robots and AI. The author pointed out that the West is largely wary of AI (see 2001) while the East (especially Japan) generally sees AI as a positive thing (see Astro Boy).
- Stephen often says things like "I'm no fan of science," but seemed entirely keen on one specific form when hearing about a superlaser that concentrated laser beams into a small area to produce the temperatures and pressures of a star:
: We have our own Death Star! (Cue rain of black balloons and a big "WE HAVE OUR OWN DEATH STAR" sign flashing in the foreground)
- Stephen Colbert's views on science can be summed up as this. Cool Science = Good, Boring Science = Bad.
- An inversion in an episode of Sliders the gang ends up sliding to a world where all new technology was banned after the end of World War II. This world's version of Quinn was killed by polio, and they convince Quinn's dad that technology is not bad and would have saved his son. He helps them to repair their timer with his dead son's illegal technology. The local Evil Corporation decides to steal the timer as they have been creating technology in secret so they can corner the market once the ban is lifted.
- Dark Science Empire Deathdark, the villain group of Dai Sentai Goggle Five, revolve around using science for evil things. It's also informed that they helped the invention of sword so it can be used to kill. Ouch.
- LOST played with this trope with Dharma Initiative being the "we will do it no matter what" side. Taken to the logical conclusion in season's 5 finale where they continue to drill over a pocket of electromagnetic energy, although they know that in-universe EM is a bad, explosive thing.
- This is the basic philosophy behind the Consortium in Eureka.
- The entire 01011001 album by the metal opera group Ayreon. See the song "Unnatural Selection" for a particularly anvilicious example.
- System of a Down's "Science" is entirely devoted to explaining in detail how Science Is Bad and has "failed us," as "spirit moves through all things." Performed on electric instruments.
- Styx's album Kilroy Was Here includes some brief diatribes, not against science per se, but against technology:
The problem's plain to see
Too much technology
Machines to rule our lives
— Mr. Roboto
- The Aquabats!' song "The Cat with Two Heads!" is about a scientist who creates the eponymous two-headed feline, only for it to escape from captivity and go on a vengeful rampage against its creator.
- The song Good Technology by Red Guitars doesn't necessarily condemn technology, but does lampshade its absurdities and moral ambiguities. The last verse sums it up:
Sometimes I wonder what it is all about
There's lots of leisure time to sit and work it out
There's a TV show I've got to see
Good, good, good, good, good, good technology
- Played first at straight, but later averted in Sepultura's Biotech Is Godzilla.
Bio-technology ain't what's so bad
Like all technology, it's in the wrong hands
Cut-throat corporations don't give a damn
When lots of people die from what they've made
- The song "La concubine de l'hemoglobine" ("The concubine of Hemoglobin") by French rapper MC Solar: unbridled science entails war and wholesale destruction:
Science sans conscience (science without conscience)
egale science de l'inconscience (equals science of the unconscious)
Elle se fout du progres mais souhaite la progression (it cares not of progress but wishes the progression)
De tous les processus qui menent a l'elimination (of all processes that lead to elimination)
- Nitin Sawhney's piece "Street Guru" features some random dude's bitchy platitutes over various things in modern life. On technology:
I think there's going to be a backlash against technology. You know, I don't know what's gonna cause it. I hope it won't be any environmental disaster shit, you know, for sure for my kids that wanna live a better life.... You know sometimes it's good just to go in the woods and just go hiking and get back in touch with yourself and nature. You know, then you come back here and you realize that this is like, better. Ludicious all this emphasis on technology and 50 different internet devices and shit and internet devices you can put in your pocket. Sometimes I feel threatened by it but you know, that's the future and I am a man of the past. I'm a low-tech man in a high-tech world there ain't shit I can do about it... You know, what's going on we can't use our brains: It's being a person. You know it's being a fucking person man!
- Zager & Evans "In The Year 2525."
- "Cursed Be Iron" by Turisas appears to condemn iron-working, but is probably a metaphor for military technology or the misapplication of technology. It includes the demand that iron "Come and view thine evil doings/ And amend this flood of damage", seemingly avoiding the idea that science or technology are inherently bad.
- "White Coats" by New Model Army appears to fit this trope, although it can be interpreted as criticising science when practiced without foresight or ethics, particularly given that it was written during an apparently self-destructive US-Soviet nuclear arms race- "Those last few days at Jonestown ain't got nothing on this ".
- "Internet Killed The Video Star" by The Limousines has a repeated lyric "The kids are disco dancing, they're tired of rock n' roll/don't bother telling them that drum machine ain't got no soul." Though, this appears to be less of an overt science diss, so much as commentary on the modern youth culture failing to give enough credit to yester-year artists and musicians.
- The Insane Clown Posse's infamous song Miracles (about appreciating the majesty of everything around you) suddenly includes the lines "And I don't want to talk to a scientist/Y'all motherfuckers lying and getting me pissed," which makes the song sound more like it's accusing science of sucking the mystery out of everything.
- Subverted in a strange and depressing sort of way by Arch Oboler's Lights Out radio short "Chicken Heart" (as made famous by Bill Cosby); the scientist responsible for creating the spreading, cancerous blob of chicken muscle knows exactly how to stop the monster, but he can't get the authorities to drop the hammer in time or with enough force. If only they'd known about the monster-retardant properties of Jell-O.
- Averted in Dino Attack RPG. While the main antagonists are a science-based organization, they actually started off with good intentions, researching the Maelstrom in an attempt to keep it from obliterating the universe, and they only lost sight of their original goal when the Maelstrom started controlling their leader; after Dr. Cyborg took over as their new leader, they returned to their original goal. Additionally, a large percentage of the Dino Attack Team consists of scientists including Einstein, Fuchs, Crusher, and Reptile, all of whom are "good" scientists whose research is beneficial to the team.
Stand Up Comedy
- Parodied by comedian Patton Oswalt in his standup routine where he lambasts science for allowing a couple in their sixties to conceive due to it being horrifying, Ending with the line "Hey, we made cancer airborne and contagious. You're welcome. We're science, we're all about could, not should". This, however, is an exception in that quite a few of his other routines exalt the virtues of science and progress, however.
- Steve Reich's "video opera" Three Tales, an Author Filibuster-filled work that centres around the crash of the airship Hindenberg, the nuclear test at Bikini Atoll, and Dolly the cloned sheep.
- Ink City has attracted plenty of scientists, including Heloise, Dr. Chipotle Jr., Megamind, GLaDOS and Caroline. There are also characters who want to use science to analyze and control the unpredictable residents, like Trevor.
- Mew believes that all science is inheritly evil, and that scientists are soulless monsters. Due to this, she sees nothing wrong with subjecting them to A Fate Worse Than Death.
- Averted in the actual Pokemon canon where Mewtwo, who has far more reason to hate science, uses the same cloning technology that created him.
- The Rise of the Steam Soul from The Wanderer's Library, though it's not science per se.