"The chances against anything manlike on Mars are a million to one."
Scientists are human beings, too. And human beings are often wrong
. The problem comes when a character that is mentioned to be a respected, intelligent individual
(or sometimes an Absentminded Professor
) is called on to state or decides to make a comment on how unlikely it is that an impending and usually bad event will occur. They usually dismiss any possibility of disaster by stating extremely low odds
that it will happen, and laugh off holders of an opposing viewpoint as "crazy" or "minsinformed" even if they may in fact be a respected colleague
and not just an eccentric, insane or paranoid person
who also happens to be right. Point is, nobody can sway him once he's publicly declared that there is, without a doubt, no life on Mars
. If they do
notice anything wrong, they will likely dismiss it as Within Parameters
Because the character is held in high regard, everyone listens to them and stops panicking, just in time for the disaster to happen anyway. The character who initially stated these odds often gets involved in the thick of it, quickly changing their mind. This individual may or may not survive. As for their earlier statement, it becomes Hilarious in Hindsight
, and they may or may not be called out
If they die in the ensuing cataclysm, it may be as the result of a Death by Irony
or Too Dumb to Live
. In this role they often function as a Red Shirt
or a demonstration that Anyone Can Die
. If they survive, they sometimes play the role of the Idiot Hero
or Ditzy Genius
, or rarely The Professor
. The character is usually depicted as naive at worst, and is usually genuinely intelligent but out of his or her league. A Stupid Scientist
is almost never outright evil
The Stupid Scientist
can be seen as related to Tempting Fate
and they usually demonstrate some form of Genre Blindness
. They can also be contrasted with The Cassandra
, in that both herald the event, but the difference is that the Stupid Scientist denies the disaster and is widely believed while the Cassandra says that it will happen and is completely ignored. The opposite trope is an Ignored Expert
, a scientist who tries to warn everyone of danger but is disbelieved. More sensible or recurring Stupid Scientists can be promoted to Agent Scully
An Einstein Sue
will often be faced with one of these, so they can show them up.
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- The Doctor from The Stupiders, who not only didn't notice the extreme side effects of his work on the population of Earth, but suggested he should "fix" any so-called issues by creating more of what caused the problem to begin with!
- The quoted example is from The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Ogilvy, a "well-known astronomer", says that to the narrator at the beginning of the book, right when Martian cylinders are heading to Earth. Nice. To be fair, however, Ogilvy is trying to be rational, and at that point in the story he may be more accurately described personality-wise as an Agent Scully.
- The irony is also somewhat undercut by the beings that invade not being very manlike. "Not very manlike" is not the same thing as being non-existent, unintelligent or friendly...
- In HP Lovecraft's Cosmic Horror Story "The Whisperer In Darkness", the main character denies the existence of alien life. Naturally he finds out that aliens do, in fact, exist, especially when they disembody and replace one of his friends. Or not
- He also walks straight into the most obvious trap ever devised, even giving a lengthy monologue over how it can't possibly be a dangerous situation. Fortunately the aliens are just as stupid, and do nothing besides drug his coffee which he doesn't drink, giving him a chance to realize what an idiot he was and run away.
- UK weatherman Michael Fish became infamous in 1987 by reporting that "Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way... well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't!" a few hours before the appearance of the worst storm in the area since 1703. (Technically he was right, in that it didn't meet the exact definition of a hurricane, but this was cold comfort to anyone in its path.)
- More generally, the Meteorological Office initially underestimated the impact of the storm because they had only a few scattered weather reports from ships in its path,note who were mostly on the outer edges of the storm... because everyone not on the outer edges of the storm had taken one look at their barometers and gotten out of there while the going was good. Nobody realised what this meant until a land-based weather station reported in with readings from near the centre of the storm, by which time it was too late.