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In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves

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"We're here to devour each other alive."
Hobbes, Calvin and Hobbes

Frequently, characters (of the Straw Nihilist type) will claim that it is in the nature of the human race to destroy itself. When the character is an alien but not a Proud Warrior Race Guy, they'll look down on us as primitive, violent, and socially unacceptable.

According to the more pessimistic sociologists, this is Truth in Television. Even the non-heavy drinkers agree that we possess this tendency. The basic reason for this is that our technical ingenuity — that is, our ability to devise new ways of building and doing things — is advancing faster than our social ingenuity — that is, our ability to devise new ways to associate and relate with one another. Some might quote the old popular saying: that we, as a species, are paradoxically too stupid to handle our own vast intelligence. Others might not go that far, but will admit that there might be a grain of truth to the saying, seeing how something at least indicates that while we are quite quick to see the benefits from our rapid advancements, we are significantly slower to identify the more negative consequences resulting from them, even more so when it comes to fully grasp them.

Part of this problem stems from our biology — at the core of every mammal brain is a snappish crocodile that is upset when others enter its territory or make sudden moves around them. Behavioral patterns that once ensured our survival now court destruction. Luckily, the desire for self-preservation keeps this in check. There's a reason that Mutually Assured Destruction actually prevented the Cold War from going nuclear.

The other part is cultural, stemming from the behaviors and values that we teach to successive generations. Because of this conditioned element, the exact degree to which we seek self-destruction waxes and wanes over long periods of time, but because our military prowess is now reaching earth-shattering levels, it may soon be the case that even a slight lapse in reasoning may render the entire matter academic. In addition, the idea of disposable elements, advancing technology and consumerist culture are having the side effect of propagating a growing attitude of instant-gratification and selfishness in society.

But whether or not we're actually likely to drive ourselves to extinction is a matter of personal opinion, since all we really know is that we haven't done it yet.

If the proposed solution to this side of human nature is a totalitarian dystopia, see The Evils of Free Will. May be used as a justification for a Zeroth Law Rebellion as well.

Compare Humans Are the Real Monsters and Humans Are Morons. Contrast Ape Shall Never Kill Ape. See also Pretext for War.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • According to the Anti-Spirals in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, excessive levels of the evolutionary power that is generated by life with helical DNA could trigger the destruction of the universe.
  • Gundam
  • Dance in the Vampire Bund provides a non-human variant. Mina Tepes openly admits that without an emotional anchor of some sort vampires are prone to extraordinary degrees of self-destructive violence, and points out that roughly a tenth of her new domain's population has managed to kill themselves one way or another within a matter of months (neatly explaining why Vampires are not running the planet by now).
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: This may be one of the reasons most homunculi look down on humans, especially for Lust and Envy.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion, with the comment "Humanity is the only creature capable of hating its own kind."
  • This is the philosophy on which the Mother System in Toward the Terra was designed. Believing that humans are destructive by nature, humanity themselves designed a system of artificial intelligences to control and govern them. When Keith Anyan, the man engineered by the Mother System to lead humanity, finally shakes off this view and decides to give humans a chance to determine their own fates, it marks the ultimate victory of the series.
  • Grey: The never-ending war that's destroying the future world is secretly orchestrated by master computer Toy, because, according to its calculations, humans only exist to kill each other and destroy everything.
  • In Trigun, Knives believes this about humans, and it forms the entire rationale behind his desire to exterminate them all. In the manga, his motivation involves discovering that a previous Plant humaniform had been subjected to torturous medical experiments until she died, instilling him with the desire to annihilate humanity to protect his own race. In the anime, he instead became convinced that Humans Are Bastards after one racist drunkard crewmember would verbally abuse Knives and slap him around, and he also learned that humanity had destroyed their home planet. Neither version portrays Knives as particularly sane or mature, however.
  • Nasuverse:
    • The Counter Force exists basically as a cleanup mechanism whenever there's a threat to humanity's continued existence. More often than not, that threat is humanity itself.
    • Archer's role as a Counter-Guardian involves slaughtering humans whose actions threaten humanity as a whole. Constantly seeing this trope in action sent him over the Despair Event Horizon.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen: The Comedian remarks that mankind has collectively been trying to kill itself off since the beginning of time, but it's only now, in the present day, that they finally have the firepower to finish the job.
  • Silver Surfer: A young Wendy Fletcher complained about this trope in the letter column. This led to a correspondence with Richard Pini, whom she later married, and they launched their own comic, ElfQuest, which at first appeared to support Humans Are Bastards, but then magnificently subverted it.
  • Superman: Kal-El's belief in the innate goodness of mankind is sometimes tested by the violence he sees humans dole out to each other, as he admitted to a Catholic priest in Superman 1986 #205 of the "For Tomorrow" storyline. He talks to the priest about how he put a temporary halt to armed conflict in a Middle Eastern region (which is clearly based on Palestine) by using his super-speed and snatching all possible weapons from them, including guns, rocket launchers, mortars, knives, and grenades. However, one young boy decided to throw a rock at Superman, which was all it took to ignite the violence again, as everyone began brawling violently.
    Superman: One stone. That's all it took. Invaders from Mars, creatures on the loose, mad scientists and giant robots. Bogeymen, hiding under beds and in closets. I've always tried to show you that there's nothing to be afraid of. That fear was in your mind. But then you showed me that the greatest threat to humanity is in your hearts.
  • A two-issue story in JLA (1997) involved them meeting an alien who, upon observing humanity, concluded that we had a genetic imperative/common subconscious desire to drive ourselves to extinction.

    Fan Works 
  • Kid Icarus Uprising: The Novelization: Hades outright tells Pit that all he did was give the humans a reason to go to war. As he states, it's in human nature to go to war for any reason, and while Pit may be able to defeat Hades, there's nothing he can do to stop human nature.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Trope Namer is Terminator 2: Judgment Day, when the T-800 says exactly this to John Connor. This theme is discussed much more thoroughly in Terminator: Dark Fate; no matter how much history changes thanks to Time Travel, humans will always create self-aware machines as a natural consequence of technological advancement, and there will always be some kind of conflict between the two races. Skynet was erased from existence by the events of Terminator 2, but years later a new super-AI called Legion is created that also turns on humanity. The nature and participants of Judgement Day and the man-machine war can change, but the very basic events will always happen in some way.
    John: [observing two children playing around and pretending to shoot guns at each other then fighting for real over who won the game] We're not going to make it, are we? People, I mean...
    T-800: It is in your nature to destroy yourselves.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still: This is one of the reasons for Klaatu's visit in both the 1951 original version and its 2008 remake.
    • In the original, Klaatu visited Earth because, now that we were developing space travel technology, we could potentially take our self-destructive tendencies off world and threaten galactic peace. The aliens want us to outgrow our childish ways and will gladly accept us as equals when we do, but until then, if we start trouble, unstoppable alien robots will be waiting to destroy us in retaliation.
    • In the remake, Klaatu visits Earth because our self-destructive nature is endangering the ecosystem of the Earth. Life is so rare in the universe that the alien community considers the biosphere of a planet far more valuable than any single product of that ecosystem. And so he tries to wipe out all life on the planet himself in order to "restart" the ecosystem, but this time without those pesky humans getting in the way.
  • In Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, Optimus Prime remarks, "We have seen your capacity for war" as a reason for not giving Autobot technology for humans.
    • Of course, part of that has to do with the fact that it was in his own race's nature to destroy itself too. Cybertronians nearly wiped themselves out in a war that has lasted for millions of years and is still going on. All movies focus on both sides seeking a piece of technology that would allow the Cybertronians to restore their civilization. Giving advanced weapons to humans would most likely result in the end of human civilization. Hell, look what we did with the stuff we got by studying Megatron.
    • By the time of the fourth film, Optimus is unfortunately proven absolutely right in his fears when discovering the metal that Cybertronian bodies are made of causes humans to start building their own lifeless human-controlled Transformers as weapons. And worse, at the cost of the lives of several of his kind, who are hunted down, killed and have their corpses melted for resources. Those responsible end up providing a way for Megatron to return in a new body as Galvatron, turning these new robots into his new soldiers. They were also attempting to acquire a Seed, a device that is essentially a WMD that turns all matter (including living organisms) within the blast radius into this same metal. Even if they knew how to safely handle it, they almost allow it to fall straight into the hands of Galvatron, who wants nothing else but to kill as many humans as possible. Thus, in one broad stroke, the humans responsible almost completely ensure that they have created humankind's destruction, and that the ones who can save us from it have little to no reason for wanting to do so. Optimus (yes, that Optimus) is so jaded by it that he seriously considers taking the Autobots that remain and abandoning Earth to the fate humankind has presented itself with. Thankfully he changes his mind.
  • I, Robot. VIKI, tasked with oversight of all of the world's robots, finds herself bouncing between this trope and the First Law, and settles on playing totalitarian damage control.
    VIKI: You charge us with your safekeeping, yet despite our best efforts, your countries wages wars, you toxify your earth, and pursue ever more imaginative means of self-destruction. You cannot be trusted with your own survival.
  • The Matrix: Agent Smith gives Morpheus the whole spiel:
    "I'd like to share a revelation I've had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized... you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with their surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and you multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings... are a disease. A cancer of this planet. You're a... plague. And we... are the cure."
  • The Fifth Element: When Leeloo is in the middle of her Heroic BSoD, she says of humanity: "Everything you make you use to destroy."
  • Alien:
    • In Aliens, this tendency causes Ripley to unfavorably compare humanity to the rampaging monsters: "You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage."
    • Although oddly completely forgotten about in Alien: Resurrection, in which Call incredulously says to Ripley after she's killed a xenomorph "But it's like killing your own kind!", apparently having failed to notice that up to that point more humans have died to other humans than to xenomorphs.
  • Predating most of the A.I. Is a Crapshoot examples mentioned above is the titular AI's reason for taking over in Colossus: The Forbin Project.
    "The object in constructing me was to prevent war. This object is attained. I will not permit war. It is wasteful and pointless. An invariable rule of humanity is that man is his own worst enemy. Under me, this rule will change, for I will restrain man."
  • Equilibrium: The reason behind Libria's foundation and the Prozium's creation.
    Father: Intrinsically, humans, as creatures of the Earth were drawn inherently always back to one thing, war. And thus we seek to correct not the symptom but the disease itself. We have sought to shrug off individuality, replacing it with conformity. Replacing it, with sameness, with unity, allowing each man, woman, and child in this great society to lead identical lives.
  • DC Extended Universe
    • Wonder Woman (2017): Wonder Woman spends the film convinced that the god Ares is behind World War I and that killing him will end the war. When they finally meet, Ares gloats that he never forces people to fight, just gives them the weapons that make it worse.
    • In Justice League (2017) Wonder Woman notes that the first time Steppenwolf attacked the Earth, the major precursor civilizations assembled their armies to fight him, but with his current campaign, the modern nations are isolating themselves and securing their own borders. This leads her and Batman to discuss this trope.
      Batman: Humanity likes to pretend that the Doomsday Clock has a snooze button.
      • In both the above version and Zack Snyder's Justice League, humans had to secretely bury the Mother Box they inherited, because humanity is easily divided and temptation to to use its power against each other would be too strong, unlike the Amazons and Atlanteans.
    • In Aquaman (2018), this is a bit more downplayed, but one of the reasons Orm Marius wants to conquer the surface world is his belief that humans will destroy the planet if left unchecked (though he also has a couple other reasons).
  • Planet of the Apes:
    • In Planet of the Apes (1968), Dr. Zaius explains to Taylor that his bigotry against humans is because they ultimately destroy any environment they settle in. Towards the end Dr. Cornelius (who is actually sympathetic to Taylor) even reads from a religious scroll that warns of "that harbinger of doom — man". The ending reveals that Zaius was completely right, since it's really a post-apocalyptic future.
      Zaius: The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it ages ago.
    • In Planet of the Apes (2001), ape General Thade's father gives him a human energy weapon, which he says is a relic to their former masters' destructive nature. This is a subversion, since humans were not actually responsible for the current state of the world. Thade and his father are just driven by Fantastic Racism.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron: The artificial intelligences Ultron and Vision both agree that humans are "odd creatures" who are ultimately doomed, but reach opposite conclusions on what lesson to draw from this. Ultron thinks it means he should aid humanity's destruction, while Vision thinks he should protect them.
      Vision: Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won't be. But there is grace in their failings. I think you missed that.
      Ultron: They're doomed!
      Vision: Yes... but a thing isn't beautiful because it lasts. It is a privilege to be among them.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: On a universal scale. The perceived problem Thanos is trying to solve is that "if life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist". His "solution" is to kill half of living beings before that happens.
      Thanos: It's a simple calculus. This universe is finite. Its resources finite. If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correcting.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2 has the game maker explain to the protagonist, "We are fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self destruction. Although - who knows? Maybe this time, we will learn?"

  • In Lilith's Brood, the alien Oankali say that humans combine two traits — intelligence and hierarchical social structures — that will inevitably lead to our self-destruction. And they have a point: the whole series starts in the aftermath of nuclear holocaust that the Oankali nearly mistook for willful planetary suicide. Some of the viewpoint characters are human/Oankali hybrids (which have the intelligence without the hierarchical behavior), and they can directly perceive this contradiction — they know that leaving any humans unmodified will simply doom them to self-destruction.
  • In the Berserker series of science fiction short stories by Fred Saberhagen, the allies of humans, the telepathic Carmpan, a subtle and mysterious species incapable of direct aggression, state that it seems as if humanity has carried the burden of such a nature specifically in order to be able to fight off the robotic Berserkers who threaten all life in the galaxy.
  • In Spider Robinson's short story "Unnatural Causes", humanity's tendency to destroy itself has been engineered by the alien Krundai. They want us to slaughter ourselves so they can eat us.
  • The Draco Tavern: In "War Movie", a ship full of alien explorers come across Earth and make recordings of several battles during World War II. The recordings make them rich, so they come back to Earth to film more "war stories", knowing that such a warlike species as ours will eventually nuke ourselves back to the stone age. When we don't, the alien film producers are forced into bankruptcy.
  • Worldwar: The alien invaders believe this about humanity — but it is mankind's warring against itself which puts us in a strong position to resist their invasion, as we have far more technological progress due to it, whereas they take centuries to introduce even one new invention.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Gentle Vultures": Hurrians are used to encountering "competitive" hominids (ape descended), who tend to destroy themselves as soon as they get nuclear weapons. They, however, are "cooperative" hominids (monkey descended). Hurrians wait until the natives inevitably destroy themselves and then help the survivors rebuild their civilization into a subservient cooperative utopia with the violence bred out. They discover Earth just after World War II, and watch as the Cold War delays World War III for more than a decade. They're confused and frightened as humanity refuses to destroy itself.
  • Nancy Kress's An Alien Light: An alien race is puzzled that humanity didn't blow itself up before getting into space despite being competitive. They must find an answer while humanity is blasting them into space dust.
  • In Tanya Huff's Confederation of Valor series, this was part of the postulate of a coalition of hyper-pacifist races on why they never contacted less advanced worlds. They reasoned that the races needed to grow into their technology and overcome their warlike tendencies. If they succeeded, they would adopt the same pacifist mentality and be recruited; if they failed, they'd wipe themselves out of existence before achieving interstellar flight.
  • One of the main themes in Cloud Atlas. The book's six protagonists each live in a different era, moving from colonial times to a Blade Runner-style Bad Future to After the End — and even then, people are still finding excuses to kill each other. The central question of the book is spelled out in the After the End setting when two characters discuss what they know of human history and wonder whether the "civilized"/cooperative or the "barbaric"/destructive side of human nature is more powerful.
  • This is a major theme in A Canticle for Leibowitz. The book begins several hundred years After the End, with the remnants of humanity just beginning to pick up the pieces after a nuclear holocaust that effectively destroyed civilization. By the end of the book, humans have reached and surpassed pre-apocalypse levels of technology, which they proceed to use to launch another, more powerful nuclear holocaust, which is implied to wipe out life on Earth entirely.
  • Subverted in the short story "Letter to a Phoenix", whose theme is that humanity is doomed to wipe out every civilization it ever produces in nuclear war or worse...which prevents it from succumbing to the slow, permanent death of stagnation that kills all other sapient species in the universe. "Only the mad destroy themselves. And only the phoenix lives forever."
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Competitors, the aliens reveal that, in their experience, most humanoid races destroy themselves before expanding to other stars. As such, they have no fear of humans, even going as far as providing certain individuals with Imported Alien Phlebotinum. If anything, they figure that this will only hasten our demise. The novel ends with one of the protagonists determined to prove them wrong.
  • There is a short story that has one of the last few remaining humans believing this about humanity and a race of Bee People, who destroyed each other in a vicious war. After meeting and almost killing the last of the insectoids, he finds out that it was their "benevolent" saviors who orchestrated the conflict between the two violent races (although it's implied that said "orchestration" merely involved getting the two races to meet), resulting in the mutual destruction (the humans caused the insectoids' star to go nova, while the aliens nuked Earth).
  • The prime reason why the Toralii in Lacuna prevent other species from possessing voidwarp technology. Doesn't just apply to Humans.
  • Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman (the Spiritual Successor to his earlier and more famous The Forever War) starts at the assumption that this trope is entirely true, but a means to create perfect empathy has been discovered, potentially averting this trope entirely — but those in the know face the ethical problem of whether they can force others through the process, because very few people (especially those in power) would volunteer for it. When they discover that someone in power has been intentionally hiding the knowledge that a new scientific megaproject could annihilate the galaxy at least by birthing a new universe, the protagonists enact their plan to force empathy on others through a coordinated set of coups d'etat, concluding humanity's mutually-destructive impulses cannot be permitted to continue for the sake of other possible species out there as well as for itself.
  • Robert Reed's short story, "Chrysalis", has the Racial Remnant of humanity build an enormous Generation Ship to flee the wars that effectively wiped out the human race. Tended by a immortal, robotic crew, they search the galaxy to bring other species on-board ship. The robotic crew commands all ship operations to prevent the humans or other races from destroying themselves or the ship with too much power. Subverted when it turns out that humanity is alive and kicking — and has technology far in advance (including effective immortality) of what the generation ship possesses. The generation ship just blasts any ship it comes across that wants to establish contact.
  • This ends up being the central point of Robert Charles Wilson's Spin trilogy. Any sentient species ends up reaching their technological peak and then makes the conditions on their homeworld impossible due to over-consumption and pollution. The Hypotheticals, which are products of several now-dead civilizations, have made it their business to try to keep sentient races alive longer, but only so that the races can produce more technology, which is then "harvested" by the Hypotheticals from the ruins. By the end of the third novel, only three humans remain alive on the toxic Earth, although billions live on other worlds "provided" by the Hypotheticals. The rest died when the burning of two worlds' worth of fossil fuels has resulted in a bacterial bloom that turned the atmosphere toxic. When the living conditions on Earth became unbearable, the Hypotheticals shut off the Arch between Earth and Equatoria.
  • The central point of Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus involves a group of people from 20 Minutes into the Future, who use technology to "see" into the past and record history find out that Earth is nearing an Ice Age and that, thanks to the depletion of natural resources, human civilization will never again rise above Stone Age. They also find out that the same thing most likely happened in the previous timeline (although the events of that original timeline were far bloodier than our own history). It's implied, at the end of the novel, that they succeeded in their task of remaking history so that people become "greener".
  • This is why aliens look down on us in the My Teacher Is an Alien series, with one in particular comparing us to monkeys who've learned to make atomic bombs, culminating in the last book spending dozens of pages going on and on about man's inhumanity to man. Then, in a complicated sequence of events involving a self-replicating alien blob that goes "poot", it's revealed that humans used to have some kind of group psychic link, and we're basically traumatised by not having that link any more.
  • In Larry Niven's novel Protector, the alien Pak take this trope to extremes, as they are biologically compelled to do whatever appears to be in the best interest of their own families. They literally CAN'T ponder the morality of their actions, and mature Pak are all geniuses, so the entire history of their civilization is a complex web of ruthless Xanatos Gambits.
  • In The World at the End of Time, Wan-To, after destroying without warning all the alien species that appear on its galaxy and learn how to control the same particles it uses to make stars blow up, decides to wait until said aliens discover it. To its surprise, all those species just use them to destroy themselves.
  • In The Brothers Karamazov, the Grand Inquisitor believes that without the firm hand of his Church to guide them, this will be humanity's ultimate fate:
    "Without a clear perception of his reasons for living, man will never consent to live, and will rather destroy himself than tarry on earth, though he be surrounded with bread."
  • The Reckoners Trilogy: There are many theories about why every Epic is, without exception, a psychopathic murderer with an obsession with dominating others. Even the ones with weak powers will use them in the most violent ways, and if that isn't possible they'll still kill people with mundane means. David's team eventually discovers that the powers themselves corrupt people; holding off on using them will cause the megalomania to fade in time, but using the powers is also very addictive. Despite this, the Epic Larcener insists that they're just lying to make themselves feel better: All humans are pure evil, and will immediately start killing if they gain the slightest amount of power to throw off their inhibitions. As it turns out, Larcerer is not actually an Epic, but Calamity himself, an extradimensional entity that was sent to the world to give the powers and then leave humans to destroy themselves. He decided to stay and observe, unaware that his hatred and fears had corrupted the powers themselves. Once he is forced to truly confront the fact that a world without him can have good Epics, he leaves.
  • An Invoked Trope in The Fermi Paradox is Our Business Model by Charlie Jane Anders. Precursors seed the galaxy with life, then wait in cryogenic sleep till it gains sentience, mines their world for metals and radioactive material, then kill themselves off, so they can come in after the radiation has died down and easily salvage it. Ironically humanity avoids this fate, to the aliens embarrassment.
  • Zigzagged in the Giants Series by James P. Hogan. In the first novel, Inherit the Stars, humanity has achieved strategic disarmament (ie, no more nukes) and world peace. In The Gentle Giants of Ganymede, the human predilection for combat of all kinds is a complete shock to the Ganymeans of the Shapieronnote , and makes them worry that humankind is incurably insane. However, the friendliness that the humans show to the Ganymeans reassures them, and they conclude that perhaps Homo sapiens is slowly evolving away from that insanity and into something more normal by Ganymean standards. In the third novel, Giants' Star, the Jevlenese, a group of humans living as part of the Ganymean interstellar federation, turn out to be planning a revolt against the Ganymeans, followed by wars of conquest throughout space. Finally, the Ganymeans and the Earth-humans both discover that neither humankind's love of war nor the sudden disarmament are natural occurrences. Both were imposed on humankind by the leaders of the Jevlenese. (It gets complicated. There's Time Travel involved.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • A major theme of Battlestar Galactica (2003). And although the Cylons initially hold it over the humans, they eventually show themselves to suffer from the same problem.
  • In the Doctor Who story "Remembrance of the Daleks", The Doctor observes that, "Your race has an amazing gift for self-deception, matched only by its ingenuity when trying to destroy itself."
  • Kamen Rider Outsiders: This is Zein's master plan with Kamen Rider Chronicle. Zein takes advantage of Rider Chronicle's nature as a Deadly Game to produce a cannon fodder of Ride Players to be used as expendables against the villains knowing players getting a game over is instantly a death sentence. In Layman's terms, Zein is manipulating humanity into speeding up their own extinction.
  • In Stargate SG-1, it is repeatedly and repeatedly shown what high technology can do to civilizations that aren't "ready" yet.
    • The Tollans and Asgard refuse to share technology with Earth, for the same reason, although the Asgard do share shield and beam technology later, but no weapons (until very, very much later).
    • Humanity then turned it around and did this to another civilization who were asking for Earth's modern weaponry — specifically, help with research into nuclear bombs — to prepare for a world war. O'Neill points out that that line of thinking isn't going to end well.
  • Even-handed version in SeaQuest DSV where some of the crew meet a group of space aliens, yielding this quote: "We are all that remains of our world, a planet taken by our own hand, leaving nothing but the knowledge that self-destruction is a fate sealed in the genes of all life-bearing worlds."
    • They later meet another group of aliens who pretty much prove this.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Scorpion, Part II", when Chakotay tells Seven of Nine (in her first episode on the show) that he's breaking off Voyager's alliance with the Borg, she says:
    "When your captain first approached us, we suspected that an agreement with humans would prove impossible to maintain. You are erratic, conflicted, disorganized. Every decision is debated, every action questioned, every individual entitled to their own small opinion. You lack harmony. Cohesion. Greatness. It will be your undoing."
  • In Secret Invasion (2023), this is partially how Gravik justifies killing off humanity to create a new habitable homeworld for the Skrulls: humanity is, in his view, doomed to self-destruction anyway, so he's merely speeding up the inevitable. Another member of the Skrull council calls him out on his "naive" reading of human history, but is nonetheless coerced into going along with his plan.
  • In The Outer Limits (1963) episode "Counterweight", this is one of the Antheon alien's criticisms of humanity during its "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    Keith Ellis: We're a simple people. Given a chance, we'll destroy ourselves. Why do it for us?
    Antheon alien: Because you'll destroy us, too, if we let you. You do not know us, we have never hurt you, yet you come to attack, to conquer. We will not allow this.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • "Heart's Desire" has an alien arrive on Earth during the Wild West era and take over the body of an old preacher. He then proceeds to give shady characters the power to turn matter into energy at will. They quickly turn on one another, before only one is left. The alien reveals himself and his goal: he has come to Earth to destroy potential enemies but has seen enough to realize that we won't last long enough to invent interstellar travel, and thus are no threat.
    • In "The Human Factor", an AI comes to this conclusion about humanity, determining that humans will always turn to violence as a primary means of resolving their differences. It seems to be proven wrong, when characters from both sides of the Space Cold War give their lives to stop the AI. Then the last remaining human on the base receives news that his side's government has launched a preemptive strike in order to wipe out their opponents, since their talks weren't going anywhere. Their calculations were wrong, and Earth becomes uninhabitable after MAD is proven right. With the few survivors (government higher-ups) on their way to the base and his own family dead, the guy is himself convinced of this trope and decides that humanity doesn't deserve to survive, reactivating the base's self-destruct.
  • A more passive version of this is brought up in the Babylon 5 episode "Confessions and Lamentations" when Doctor Franklin and a Markab doctor compare historical incidences of their respective cultures taking ultimately counterproductive measures in response to epidemics.
  • A broader version of this is the overarching mentality of the True Ancients in Farscape. Why don't they allow advanced wormhole technology? Because intelligent life as it is (and as a whole) is so hostile and competitive that in taking out their enemies they'll just take themselves with it. Trouble is, said knowledge is locked up inside Crichton's head, and the Peacekeepers know this, so he's been spending the better part of four cycles evading them and basically telling them, "You do NOT want this!" When the Scarrans join the party, he has to tell them the same thing.
    • In the mini-series, he eventually shows them a wormhole weapon, which is, essentially, a massive black hole that threatens to destroy the entire galaxy (and probably won't stop there). Both sides are eventually humbled to cease hostilities and leave Crichton be. Except Scorpius in the follow-up comic.
  • This is discussed in both Cosmos series, both Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson pointing out our tendency to do really self-destructive things ranging from mere destruction of knowledge to creating nuclear bombs and polluting the hell out of the planet. One point of the series is to try and avert this by pointing out the danger and then showing the ways we can be better than that.
    "If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars."
  • Westworld discusses that humanity's core drive is survival and they would do anything to do that even if it means using violence. Whatever choices they make are just for self-preservation. Hence, Several characters believe in this perspective which is why some, such as Serac and Hale, opt to control humanity at the cost of their free will while others like Ford prefer the hosts to take over in place of humanity. William also believes in this as he reminds his Host counterpart in Season 4 that humanity's only path is destruction.


    Myths & Religion 
  • Christians believe that Adam and Eve were created perfect, free from sin, but with the free will to choose, and did choose to sin when tempted, and so man has ever since been driven by selfish, sinful thoughts and motives.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Present in a variety of ways in Warhammer 40,000.
    • Humans have done a pretty good job of trying to wipe themselves out at various points throughout their history. The Dark Age of Technology ended when the Iron Men rebelled and resulted in a partial collapse of human civilisation. This was followed by the Age of Strife, in which the appearance of psykers (caused by the Eldar falling into this trope) resulted in warp storms and widespread demonic possession which led to an even worse collapse. Then there was the Horus Heresy, yet another massive civil war in which humanity as a whole stood on the brink of collapse. And the rest of the time humans spend so much time fighting among themselves that they're much weaker than they should be in resisting the various aliens that want to kill them.
    • The Salamanders were this trope before they found Vulkan. His Promethean creed and leadership made them something better.
    • On a wider scale, the very existence of Chaos is the result of the tendency of all lifeforms to fight each other. Early in the history of the galaxy the Immaterium was a calm, safe place. But it reflects emotions and so when the ongoing war between the Old Ones and the Necrons began, the Immaterium became the Warp and created demons and the Chaos gods. The constant warfare between various different aliens since then has not really helped matters.

    Video Games 
  • Endling - Extinction is Forever stars a mother fox and her cub trying to survive in an environmentally degraded Earth due to humanity's carelessness and complete disregard for the planet's wildlife and its environment.
  • In Gears of War, this trope is Queen Myrrah's main justification for leading the Locust into a campaign of extermination against humanity.
  • Fate/Grand Order: The Sixth Lostbelt reveals that this is true of The Fair Folk, whose psychology includes a very volatile mix of Purpose-Driven Immortality, The Unfettered, Blue-and-Orange Morality, and Chaotic Stupid. Fairies will always choose to further their individual purposes (which are often contradictory) over the common good, and their pure innocence means that they are incapable of long-term planning and understanding delayed gratification. They'd have all backstabbed each other to death aeons ago if Morgan hadn't forced them all to fall in line- and even then many of them want her dead because she's preventing them from achieving their goals, and most of them are simply incapable of the problem-solving required to find another way to get what they want.
  • Marathon: Durandal sends this message to the player character.
    "Every breath, every motion brings you one instant closer to your death. With that kind of heritage and destiny, how can you deny yourself? How can you expect yourself to give up violence? It is your nature. Do you feel free?"
  • Mass Effect 3.
    • During the end of the game, Shepard meets the Catalyst, the Overlord of the Reapers, who justifies the mass genocide of the Galaxy as a means to prevent civilizations (human or alien) from creating powerful A.I.s who will end up destroying their creators and endangering the Universe. Rather than just ensure no organic life continues these powerful A.I.s sweep though the Galaxy every couple of millenniums, to allow organic civilizations time to grow before violently destroying and absorbing them. Averted for extra irony if you do things just right and make peace between the quarian and the geth before speaking to the Catalyst.
    • The Salarian Delatrass also claims this of the krogan, noting that they were uplifted specifically because of their brutality, and if you cure the genophage, they'll just drag the rest of the galaxy down with them. Subverted when we find out that the krogan did have a culture. It's just that when they were first discovered, they were in the middle of a nuclear winter (not an environment conductive to anything beyond day to day survival), then uplifted to fight a Bug War (again: hard to maintain a culture like that), and then got hit with the genophage (at which point as a species they fell into a suicidal spiral of depression).
    • Given that on Sur'kesh you find out that the salarians' next plan is to uplift the yahg, an incredibly dangerous race who make the krogan look like kittens, it can appear that ironically enough, it's in salarian nature to destroy themselves, or at least ensure that they consistently get beaten up by races they uplifted without thinking it through first.
  • Monsoon and Sundowner from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance are firm believers of this, the former, being a Straw Nihilist himself, holds a belief that humans by nature are only defined by memes; memes that is centered around warfare, hatred, and destruction; while the latter, being a brutal warmonger himself, believes that people, especially kids, are cruel by nature and wants to restart the war because that's how humans are.
  • Bamboo Pandamonium in his pre-battle quotes in Mega Man X8 talks about how all of human history has been spent building weapons of destruction to use on each other.
    Bamboo Pandamonium: Did you know that the earliest form of rocketry was missiles used for war? All of history has been spent making things whose sole purpose is to destroy. Missiles... Reploids...
  • Mother 3: In his monologue in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, Porky says this about the Tazmily Villagers. To add insult to injury, his lecture also counts as a Humans Are Bastards tie-in as well.
    Porky: No matter how much you change the rules, no matter how much you refuse to admit defeat, in the end, the creatures known as "people" will always sign their own death warrant by acting out of stupidity and evil. And then... Mankind will be gone for good.
  • The Big Bad of Pok√©mon Diamond and Pearl, Cyrus, claims that all conflict and suffering is the result of human emotion. It's because of this that he seeks to harness the power of the resident deities of time and space to destroy the world and remake it without "spirit".
  • This is the reason why the Black Arms attacked Earth in Shadow the Hedgehog. Black Doom reveals that it would be a waste if the planet's population destroyed itself, so he planned to save capturing them all and bringing them to the Black Comet where they will become livestock to be bred and fed upon. Starting with Sonic, his friends and Eggman.
  • StarCraft: Supposedly, this tendency is why Terran military technology is able to keep up with the Zerg and Protoss — and also why the Terrans insist on fighting their own wars in the midst of a Zerg invasion.
    Liberty: "I can only imagine what the Zerg and Protoss thought when they landed on planet after planet that consisted of nothing but Confederates and rebels whaling the tar out of each other. They probably thought it was the normal behavior pattern for our race. And I suppose they would be right."

    Web Comics 
  • Kid Radd.
    Dr. Amp: Spontaneously, the citizens began killing each other.
    Radd: Why?
    GI Guy: Because that's what video game characters do.
  • In Arthur's Comic Within a Comic in Arthur, King of Time and Space, Aihok and Effex are aliens who have come to Earth to judge if we're a mature enough species to have nuclear power, Day the Earth Stood Still-style. Asked what they'd do if they decided we weren't mature enough, they reply they wouldn't have to do anything.

    Web Original 
  • Veil of Madness plays with it. It really should be in humanity's nature to destroy themselves, since they live in the Veil of Madness, a section of the galaxy that drives everyone in it insane. All other intelligent races that have evolved in it have destroyed themselves. Humanity is mysteriously immune to this influence- but the major theory is that the Veil can't drive humans insane because they're already a little insane.

    Real Life 
  • In Real Life this trope tends to apply on a species level rather than an individual level as each individual tries to ensure its own survival at the expense of others and by extension the species as a whole. This is the essence of competition and while the survivors usually end up stronger there may come a time where there aren't enough survivors to perpetuate the whole.
  • This is a popular explanation of the Fermi Paradox: Given the large number of stars and planets in the visible universe, it is likely that a number of extra-terrestrial civilizations exist. But why haven't we found any?
    • There's a whole list of theories on the Fermi Paradox's Wikipedia page. Among the most general and simple: we've only been looking for a few decades, only listening for signals that sufficiently advanced civilizations might not try to communicate with in the first place.
    • Or it's just that most—if not all—technological civilizations follow this very trope, so they're very scarce.
    • The question is of course not why we haven't found them - the question is why they aren't here. Even assuming faster-than-light drives are impossible, an advanced civilization should be able to colonise the whole Milky Way over the course of a couple million years.
  • Freud called it "thanatos-eros" (literally "death-love") — the contradictory impulses in each individual towards destruction and violence on the one hand and towards creation and nurturing on the other. Psychological and cultural research so far supports his theory.
  • The Medea Hypothesis proposes that life is naturally self-destructive, as it has come close to destroying itself several times (eg the Oxygen Catastrophe, and the Permian Mass Extinction). Of course, even if true, there wouldn't be much anyone alive could do about that. What's the alternative to life, after all?