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Bad evolution

Here’s a list of 10 execrable versions of evolution from the popular media. I’m not too impressed with the list: it cheats. There are two examples from the Star Trek franchise (if you’re going to open it up to individual episodes rather than the whole schmeer, the whole list would get devoured by ST), two examples from Dr Who (ditto), two very obscure examples from the Disney channel and pulp fiction, one comic book example — and it’s not the X-Men, which is dismissed as being just genetics, not evolution — Planet of the Apes, The Creature from the Black Lagoon (???), and Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio. What, that’s it?

Where’s Prometheus? Avatar? All those stories that predict humans evolve into frail little people with bulging domed heads? Any SyFy channel schlock that uses the word?

I’m afraid if we were to trash any genre that abuses the concept of evolution, just about all of them would go.

Comments

  1. omnicrom says

    Frankly PZ if you’d seen Threshold you’d understand why it made the list even after the Interplanetary crossbreeding thing Star Trek has. Threshold was a truly heinous assault on the senses.

    Also I’m disappointed by the fact it contains only American and European shows. No love for Kamen Rider Agito? I mean I love the show but the show as a series, but it suggests that Humans are going to “evolve” into transforming supermen because a dead god wanted to piss off his brother. It’s a goofy hodge-podge of Creationism and Sci-Fi evolution.

  2. David Marjanović says

    (I don’t like the picture, though. The critter was probably about as terrestrial as a catfish.)

  3. fredbloggs says

    These aren’t the worst crimes committed against reality though – it is science fiction after all. SF would be really dull without (for example) faster-than-light travel.

    Re Star Trek – humanoids were there from the start. Given a galaxy populated by humanoids is clearly BS, I suppose you have to rationalise it, however badly.

  4. Amphiox says

    Frankly, Greg Bear’s novel seems really out of place compared to the rest of that list.

  5. Ben P says

    Threshold was a truly heinous assault on the senses.

    I was going to say, why’d they include Threshold, but leave out “Genesis” in The Next Generation, which also deals with “Introns” and was profoundly silly.

    A torpedo firing goes wrong and Picard and Data leave the ship. Data leaves his pregnant cat, Spot, behind. A hypochondriac comes into sickbay and is treated by Crusher with T-Cells which “activate” his “dormant genes.” This also activates his “introns” which, through some poorly explained mechanism” create a virus that causes de-evolution among the ship’s crew. Data and Picard return several days later and discover the Enterpise adrift, Worf has turned into some sort of poison sack-having proto-klingon predator, who wants to mate with Troi. Troi is a fish-person with gills, Riker is a neanderthal, the Cat Spot has devolved into an Iguana, but that still had kittens, because…reasons. Picard becomes infected and Data suggests he might devolve into a lemur or marmoset.

    As the crew continues to go to hell in a handbasket, Data synthesizes a retrovirus that will reverse the effects of the T-Cell virus. This returns everyone to their original state within a matter of hours.

  6. opposablethumbs says

    Let me see, how long did it take for humans to split into morlocks and eloi … just over 800,000 years, right? Is that long enough? :-)

  7. Ben P says

    Frankly, Greg Bear’s novel seems really out of place compared to the rest of that list.

    I thought the one that didn’t necessarily make sense was planet of the Apes. Ignoring the silly costumes of the 70’s, I don’t really recall much discussion of evolution, but I thought several of the follow up films had clearly established the “Humans genetically modified apes to be super intelligent and Apes take over” storyline.

    Not exactly plausible, but it doesn’t depend on a complete misunderstanding of evolution to come about.

  8. Amphiox says

    Let me see, how long did it take for humans to split into morlocks and eloi … just over 800,000 years, right? Is that long enough? :-)

    In real life that was long enough for humans to split into Neanderthals, Denisovans, Sapiens, and (maybe, probably not) Hobbits.

    And of course, the originals (Heidelbergs, probably) lingered for quit a bit of that 800,000 stretch too.

  9. says

    And then there’s this (from Aping the Dinosaurs)

    Do you remember that famous scene at the end of “Planet of the Apes” when the Charlton Heston character finally realises that he is not in some far, alien planet but (gasp!) really on Earth when he sees a large chunk of pretty-well intact Statue of Liberty thrusting out of the sand?

    Anyway that was a really effective image—the unmistakeable icon of New York in the wilderness. But of course, as with most really effective images it was completely wrong. What it showed us was just about impossible. I don’t know how much you know about the structure of the Statue of Liberty or, for that matter, about the chronology of the Planet of the Apes but let me assure you that the one is a flimsy shell over a hollow framework and the other is about two thousand years and I’ll leave you to guess which one is which.

  10. Menyambal --- son of a son of a bachelor says

    I happened upon a bit of Star Trek: Voyager where the computer ran a simulation of dinosaur evolution. It popped up a very human-looking dino, which proved the newly-encountered aliens were from Earth, long, long ago. I shut it off before I saw how that played out or was justified.

    (I remembered that it was Captain Janeway, and even her name, but I had to Google to find out it was the Voyager series. I am not a Trek fan.)

  11. Ben P says

    In real life that was long enough for humans to split into Neanderthals, Denisovans, Sapiens, and (maybe, probably not) Hobbits.

    And of course, the originals (Heidelbergs, probably) lingered for quit a bit of that 800,000 stretch too.

    Well, I think you’d also have to take into account how dramatic the forcing is. You can often see evolution in a reasonably short period of time where there are dramatic forces that wipe out big chunks of the population.

    If, hypothetically, a group of humans were forced to live in caves (like the Morlocks) without illumination or modern technology, I bet you’d see significant changes within a much shorter time frame.

  12. says

    PZ:
    Actually, you can count the X-Men. Though its usually in reference to genetics, the X-Men and mutants in general are called “homo superior” and often considered the next step in human evolution (the cause of which is usually attributed to the development of nuclear technology)

  13. ChasCPeterson says

    a large chunk of pretty-well intact Statue of Liberty thrusting out of the sand

    …dwarfed by the huge sea-cliff of eroded sedimentary rock right next to it

  14. David Marjanović says

    Frankly, Greg Bear’s novel seems really out of place compared to the rest of that list.

    Nope. It’s so fractally wrong, it hurts.

    Even a bit further off topic it’s fractally wrong. We’re not the 100 % descendants of Neandertalers, only up to 4 %; and at the end [spoiler alert!], the newborn of “the next species” speaks – I’d expect slower development from an (of course!) smarter human species, not faster, and definitely not so laughably fast.

    As the crew continues to go to hell in a handbasket, Data synthesizes a retrovirus that will reverse the effects of the T-Cell virus. This returns everyone to their original state within a matter of hours.

    Except for Troi, who has suffocated rather painfully, because her gills have dried out in the meantime. Right?

    Ah, well, I guess she already had lungs, too.

    …dwarfed by the huge sea-cliff of eroded sedimentary rock right next to it

    Gah.

  15. ChasCPeterson says

    Gotta love the internet.
    Here‘s the famous scene in questiuon; in a final bit of total wrongness, it turns out that those cliffs are typical of its filming locatiuon…Malibu, California.

  16. Amphiox says

    but let me assure you that the one is a flimsy shell over a hollow framework and the other is about two thousand years and I’ll leave you to guess which one is which.

    Well, you see, sometime in the PotA future chronology, after the present day but before the nuclear war, future humans decided to, well, upgrade the Statue of Liberty. They kept the outer shape because of its iconic status, but replaced the interior with some sort of unobtanium….

  17. zmidponk says

    To be fair to Star Trek, it’s only really the species that get significant amounts of screen time that are humanoid, and that originally was because that cut the special effects budget down a bit. However, some of their non-humanoid aliens do require some fairly large levels of suspension of disbelief to swallow (like the Dikironium cloud creature – a vampire-like sapient cloud of gas).

  18. justawriter says

    I don’t know how they could forget The X-Files. Sentient viruses, anyone?

  19. Amphiox says

    Nope. It’s so fractally wrong, it hurts.

    It just seems to me that he was doing a wrong-headed extrapolation of one aspect, which at the time of writing was fairly new and speculative, of evolutionary theory, whereas all the others blew it completely before even getting past the base fundamentals that have already been known for 100+ years….

  20. Amphiox says

    Also, the others were all from pretty widely known mass-consumption sci-fi, while Bear’s novels target a much more narrow audience.

  21. says

    In partial defence of Doctor Who it’s always been cheerfully indifferent to scientific credibility, whilst being, most of the time, a very pro-science and pro-scientists programme. On the other hand Star Trek – or rather TNG and its successors – wants you to think it’s a scientifically informed TV show in spite of being stuffed to the gills with new age wank.

    I wish the supposedly gritty and realistic Battlestar Galactica reboot would come in for a little more stick. It’s full of absolute howlers.

  22. says

    Except for Troi, who has suffocated rather painfully, because her gills have dried out in the meantime. Right?

    She spent most of the episode in her bathtub.

    She had the right idea, frankly.

  23. Becca Stareyes says

    Well, I guess if you’re writing an article like this, you have to narrow it down somehow and are probably going to pick favorite cases, or different cases, so you don’t do ten variants of ‘humans will probably not evolve into Eloi’ or ‘evolution is not directional’.

    You’d also want to go for things most people would have seen. Though picking popular recent films like Prometheus and Avatar* or the new film with Will Smith and son would seem smart for that reason.

    * I actually recall an interview where someone noted that biologically speaking the Na’vi didn’t fit with the rest of Pandora but they stuck with four-limbed and human-like sexual dimorphic aliens to draw in the movie goers.

  24. David Marjanović says

    She spent most of the episode in her bathtub.

    She had the right idea, frankly.

    Oh. Smart. :-)

  25. Muz says

    I can’t get too mad at The Time Machine for evolving us into waif-ish little creatures with large heads (and burly caveman types). It did so much to present geological time scales, in ways which I think no one has bothered with in time travel since, that it’s still awesome.

  26. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    let me present Mutant Generations, a great filk song from an album that I highly recommend.

    Seconded. Lot’s of fun filk of Kanef’s on that one.

  27. Pierce R. Butler says

    Why omit the MTV “Teen Wolf” show advertised so energetically on this very blog?

  28. timberwoof says

    The great number of errors in the presentation of evolution in science fiction lends itself better to a list of errors commonly made. I can think of three off the top of my head that Star Trek made many times:

    One is the wrong idea of a chain of evolution. This turned up in the episode about the virus that made people devolve. Spiders were not our ancestors, so there’s no way a human could devolve into one.

    The second is that changes in DNA can cause changes in the person’s physical form. PZMyers has explained very well in ScienceBlogs why it doesn’t work that way.

    The third was the bit about how DNA spread all over the galaxy long ago explains why there are so many humanoids. Again, as PZMyers explained so well, evolution is not goal-directed.

    There are many more basic errors; they’d make a much more interesting and informative list. Or even a book …

  29. tbp1 says

    How about Eureka? I love the characters, and I like it that in general it actually celebrates smart people, but the “science” is often at Roadrunner physics level. If even I can spot the howlers, they’re pretty bad.

  30. says

    I’m pretty sure this was written before Prometheus came out, as it mentions Rise of the Planet of the Apes as being forthcoming.

  31. says

    I’m a Trek fan, but I know the show’s full of nonsense. A lot of soft sci-fi (space opera?) shows work by way of the writer wanting some particular weird thing to happen, and then they try to shoehorn science to explain said weird thing. It’s kind of like fantasy, only you have to do slightly more homework than “A Wizard Did It.”

    Doctor Who has a lot more fun with it, and if someone points out that X contradicts known science, the Doctor has the convenient excuse that he’s a super-advanced alien who knows better science, but he can’t explain in detail because he has to quickly come up with a clever way to turn the Monster of the Week’s power against itself before it steals their faces or something. It’s a mad, mad setting, and you just have to go with the flow of madness to enjoy it.

    If you’re wondering how he eats or breathes, or other science facts, just repeat to yourself ‘it’s just a show’ and relax.

    Of course, it can be fun and educational to deconstruct the bad science, too. Sometimes using a scientific concept as a plot device, even badly, can at least get a person curious about the reality if they hadn’t heard of it before. Of course, there’s harder sci-fi out there for people who don’t like their science softened for the sake of fantastic elements. We could certainly afford to have more hard sci-fi out there.

    That said, we can all headdesk over the people who assume sci-fi tropes are based in truth or take it for granted that any randomly chosen sci-fi is an accurate prediction of the future.

  32. says

    and it’s not the X-Men, which is dismissed as being just genetics, not evolution

    lolwut. I just bought the first issue of the new X-men series with an all-female team; and the fist two pages of it are dedicated solely to completely butchering the concept of evolution: they have two “sibling” single-celled organisms, one male one female, evolve into super-intelligent hive-of-single-celled-organisms; teleologically.

  33. says

    actually, i got it wrong; it’s not even a hive; it’s just one (male) super-intelligent bacterium and its sibling, the other (female) super-intelligent bacterium.

    that’s what evolution looks like in the X-men. :-p

  34. says

    Didn’t Kevin Costner evolve gills in Waterworld? That’s what my memory tells me. I’d look it up on IMDb, but then I’d be reading about Waterworld.

  35. benco says

    I always saw Prometheus as more of a failure of thermodynamics than evolution. The only thing that really was “evolution” as opposed to bogus alien technology was the entire, “Alien melts sometime in the past on earth and now there are humans” bit at the beginning.

  36. Amphiox says

    In the fictional universe of Prometheus, biology is intelligently designed. Evolutionary principles can be violated and remain self-consistent with the narrative because the things described haven’t evolved. They are intelligently designed, and the designer could have engineered in ways to subvert/block evolutionary mechanisms. (The designers are also jerkasses and idiots….)

    The fact that the whole mess makes no sense whatsoever is due to the fact that intelligent design makes no sense whatsoever.

    It is in fact completely self-consistent with its own stated basic principles. Incoherent, yes, but self-consistent in its incoherence.

  37. Amphiox says

    Of course, Darwin’s Radio isn’t the first time Greg Bear attempted to put biology into his fiction and mangled out.

    Consider the plots of Blood Music, Eon, and the biology parts of Forge of God and Anvil of Stars….

  38. poolboy says

    PLANET OF THE APES: The original implied explanation was that the virus that killed off the worlds population of dogs (as well as other animals?) mutated the apes genome, causing extreme mutations that turned out remarkably beneficial. As well as being bred by humans.

  39. karpad says

    Wait, DOOMSDAY is their “bad evolution in comic books” example?
    not “Darwin,” the X-man with the power of “adaptation,” who “evolves” new traits and abilities on the spot as needed (who you might remember as “The Black Guy who Dies in X-men First Class”)
    Not anything X-men related at all. Not Apocalypse, not the X-gene, not Mister Sinister and his friends.
    Not anything related in any way to The High Evolutionary, where literally every appearance he makes is a new depth of WTFery for “evolution.”

    While I can’t come up with anything equally egregious from DC off the top of my head, I’m sure they exist. Vandal Savage probably did some incredibly stupid “evolution” plot. I know the Green Lantern Corps is full of life forms who “evolved” traits that serve narrative convenience or character design imagery more than any possibly developed biological function. But really, “a thing that by SCIENCE! is manipulated into being killed, then rendered immune to the thing that killed it before” isn’t that outlandish by comparison. Hell, Doomsday isn’t even the only DC character that describes: The Shaggy Man was a similar biological experiment Sasquatch monster that was killed and then gets better.

    But then, the Star Trek example also completely ignored “Borg Adaptation.” Which is also pretty awful.

  40. lostintime says

    The science of X-Men:
    Because genes, mutants can read minds, bend metal, fly and control the weather!

  41. neuralobserver says

    Perusing pop culture sci-fi stories that touch on evolution, did anyone check out the episode of the original 1960’s Outer Limits, The Sixth Finger? Any thoughts on that one?

  42. dannysichel says

    ” I actually recall an interview where someone noted that biologically speaking the Na’vi didn’t fit with the rest of Pandora but they stuck with four-limbed and human-like sexual dimorphic aliens to draw in the movie goers.”

    the reason the Na’vi don’t fit in with the rest of the Pandoran biota is that they didn’t evolve; the planetary sapience genengineered them from scratch so they could interact with humans.

    The Na’vi are the planet’s avatars.

  43. says

    Avatar gave the weakest of nods to the glaring inconsistency of the Na’vi having 4 limbs, by including a monkey-like creature with bifurcated forelimbs, in an effort to suggest the Na’vi forelimbs were fused from two ancestral limbs.

    What it really does is draw attention to the fact that they were aware of the problem and chose to wave it away rather than deal with it.

    They could have given the Na’vi some sort of vestigial 3rd pair of limbs without seriously detracting from their humanoidness, and not set up such a stark difference in body pattern from the 6-limb rule they themselves set for Pandora’s biology.

  44. says

    X-men seems to want there to be some nuclear reaction going on everywhere in a parallel dimension (universe) where that mutant gene just sets the mutants up as some conduit for tapping into it. Wish they’d actually commit to something like that instead of just this loose “A human can produce as much energy as an entire power station… somehow” stuff that’s somehow unleashed in a bajillion different ways, or stop trying to inject science at all.

  45. vaiyt says

    In the comics, mutants were once revealed to come about as a result of the Celestials tampering with life on Earth (along with several other planets), with the final objective of breeding a new generation of cosmic beings.

  46. loopyj says

    What always drove me nuts about the original Planet of the Apes was the complete nonsense of humans losing language.

  47. says

    Aw, but if you’re going to dump on ST for their “all alien species can interbreed” thing, you gotta at least give props to Deep Space Nine, the first show that admitted two wildly different species (Klingon and Trill) just might have some difficulty reproducing. (Granted, that was just to add that extra bit of angst when Jadzia died just when she and Worf were going to have a baby omg, because her own death wasn’t terrible and pointless enough, I guess. No, I’m not still irritated about it, why do you ask? Or that they decided to replace her with the most obnoxious and useless character since Fred on Angel, but whatever. I’m over it, really.)

    Since I’ve already exposed what a ridiculous ST geek I am (not my fault, I was doomed from birth–literally, actually, my mom was already having contractions every two minutes with me when they went and watched Wrath of Khan in the theater, because she was taking too long to dilate and the hospital told her to go walk around for a few hours before coming back) I just gotta add: the whole “universal deliberate alien panspermia” thing gets a lot more coverage in the books. I think it’s pretty much established canon at this point. Peter David did some interesting stuff with the notion, including introducing us to the alien race (“The Prometheans”) when his Mary Sue original character Captain Calhoun meets them.

    What gets me is how the godlike aliens (Apollo, or even the Q) can interbreed with humans, but I suppose that’s easy to handwave with “magic”.

  48. David Marjanović says

    Enterprise, finally, establishes as canon that humans and Vulcans can’t interbreed just so, they need all kinds of unspecified molecular genetic trickery.

    But they still both have DNA, with the same four bases, and so do Rigellians and everyone else who isn’t an energy being *ragepuke*.

  49. says

    @ justawriter #25

    OMG the X-files. SO MUCH WRONG.

    Y’know, I wasn’t allowed to watch X-files for several years because my folks thought that a) their attitude towards religion was downright blasphemous (their words) and b) too much sciency “evolution” talk. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

  50. Amphiox says

    They could have given the Na’vi some sort of vestigial 3rd pair of limbs without seriously detracting from their humanoidness, and not set up such a stark difference in body pattern from the 6-limb rule they themselves set for Pandora’s biology.

    They could have given the Na’vi wings. That would not have detracted from their “humanoid”-ness one bit, and even if vestigial and useless it would have tripled the coolness factor AND have been completely consistent evolutionarily on multiple levels.

    A failure of imagination all around.

  51. WhiteHatLurker says

    I was thinking of “Threshold” when I started reading this. Glad to see it made the cut.
    I am of the opinion that these aren’t worth considering in any depth whatsoever. It’s fiction folks! Enjoy it for what it is.

    Though, as for the interspecies births – T’Pol and Trip had the first interspecies baby in the “Trek” universe. I’m surprised no one mentioned the baby Jesus in this connection – it’ll make him cry to know that.

    However, one more or less positive came from reading this story & its comments. I did look up “A sound of thunder” – the trailer implies that this is pretty far from Asimov’s original story. I can’t see why anyone would want to watch that. Now I won’t be tempted to see it.

  52. Amphiox says

    But they still both have DNA, with the same four bases, and so do Rigellians and everyone else who isn’t an energy being *ragepuke*.

    I could see an argument made that for carbon/water based lifeforms DNA could be the most common genetic molecule due to certain laws of chemistry giving it certain competitive advantages over other potential genetic molecules, such that abiogenetic/evolutionary processes are most likely to settle onto DNA (just as an argument could be made that for large, complex, multicellular carbon/water life, oxygen respiration would be the most likely and common form of respiration).

    But I would expect in a setting with a large number of diverse alien lifeforms presented, to see at least a handful of counterexamples, of DNA with different bases, and at least one example of a genetic molecule that is not DNA.

    (In fact, if one would get down to the details enough, I would more easily accept a sci-fi setting presenting a convergence in evolution of the shapes of biological molecules among organisms descending from independent abiogeneses, rather than their sequence or individual monomeric building blocks, since it is the shape that determines the function)

  53. Zdeno Czarnowiejski says

    Guys, guys. Let’s leave behind the ridiculous episode of ST:Voyager – Threshold. Please, don’t tell me you don’t understand what ST is about. You’re all to clever for not knowing that it’s about us, right now. Breeding between different kind of aliens in ST is not about scientific accuracy, it’s about racism and how ridiculous it is. Different kind of aliens are just different kind of people in ST.

  54. zaoldyeck says

    In partial defence of Doctor Who it’s always been cheerfully indifferent to scientific credibility, whilst being, most of the time, a very pro-science and pro-scientists programme. On the other hand Star Trek – or rather TNG and its successors – wants you to think it’s a scientifically informed TV show in spite of being stuffed to the gills with new age wank.”

    To be fair to TNG, however, they did get one idea right central to the potential for human evolution and especially space exploration. Any species which is capable of reaching the stars MUST have solved much of their violent or self-destructive tendencies. They must have come together and learned to put aside their differences as a species, humanity is a collective.

    Humanity has one of two choices, work out our differences and take to the stars, or die fighting over a small rock in a big universe.

  55. Nick Gotts says

    The third was the bit about how DNA spread all over the galaxy long ago explains why there are so many humanoids.

    Iain M. Banks has left the pan-galatic prevalence of humanoids unexplained in his Culture novels – unless he explains it in The Hydrogen Sonata, which I haven’t read. Given the wider background – of a galaxy full of intelligent beings for the past several billion years – a programme of planting humans on hundreds of suitable planets would be a feasible explanation, but probably he’s just not bothered.

    These aren’t the worst crimes committed against reality though – it is science fiction after all. SF would be really dull without (for example) faster-than-light travel.

    I disagree; I think the regularity with which FTL travel is invoked (almost always without taking into account that this implies time-travel and mangled causality) is a failure of the imagination: it’s the impossibility of FTL travel or information transfer that makes the galaxy really big.

  56. chrislawson says

    Amphiox: Blood Music was pretty good science, and a great story. I’m not sure what your objection to it is. Darwin’s Radio though was complete mush, and especially disappointing from a writer generally regarded to be on the hard-science end of the spectrum.

    Nick Gotts: Banks has never tried to explain the general humanoid nature of his multi-species Culture, but he does have plenty of non-humanoids as well. I think it is one of the strengths of his work that he doesn’t try to explain everything, only what’s essential to the story at hand. I would guess, if Banks was forced to answer the question, that he sees humanoid shape as just one of many common intelligent life forms due to a type of convergent evolution. I don’t believe he has ever had two aliens interbreed (and if he did, I imagine he would invoke the prodigious genetic/biological technology available to the Culture rather than assume two aliens could bump DNA). And I highly recommend The Hydrogen Sonata. I think it’s up there with the best of the Culture novels.

    Nick Gotts #2: FTL is generally hand-waved to allow the plot to work on interstellar scales and usually the implications are ignored because the author is interested in pursuing other interests, but the problem with Darwin’s Radio is that the entire book is a very serious exploration of a very silly idea.

    zaoldyeck: Much as I’d like to agree with you, I think it’s wishful thinking to believe that any particular technological development will only be achieved by ultra-cooperative pacifists…even in the ST universe there were an awful lot of violent/aggressive space-faring civilisations.

  57. zaoldyeck says

    Oh I was careful not to say pacifists. I for example believe the Borg is a perfectly accurate representation of a potential species. Rather I said they removed self-destructive tendencies, they have (by and large) agreed to place the needs of the species at least equal to the needs of the individual.

    It’s simply not feasible to harness the resources needed to travel gallactic distances without at the very least utalizing the full resources of your planet. For that, you can’t have petty squabbles over land.

    The borg agressivly assymalate other species, they will take any lifeform and use it to adapt their own abilities. It’s a perfectly reasonable model for a species to take to space, but I’d still fight like hell to avoid becoming a part of it.

    I just cannot fathom how it’s possible for a species to colonize space on a large scale without first eliminating their own risk of self-anhilation. As I said, we can either take to the stars, or forever fight over a small rock.

  58. WharGarbl says

    @Tom Foss
    #68
    Pokemon probably can get a pass on account of:
    A. Being a cartoon.
    B. Probably in a completely different universe running on probably completely different rules.

  59. Amphiox says

    Blood Music was pretty good science, and a great story. I’m not sure what your objection to it is.

    Hey, I loved Blood Music (I loved all the books I listed in that post). But the biology and physics presented therein were ludicrous.

  60. WharGarbl says

    Evolution, radiation, it’s all just “hand-waves” to explain strange stuffs.
    X-Men? Evolution.
    Hulk? Radiation.

    Now-a-day, it’s “Nano-machines son!”

  61. Amphiox says

    JMS was once asked why he didn’t have more “realistic” non-humanoid aliens on Babylon 5, after an episode where they did in fact try to present such a non-humanoid alien.

    His reply was succintly “we don’t have the special effects budget for that”.

  62. omnicrom says

    The whole list, this whole comment thread, and not one mention of the #1 worst offender, Pokémon?

    Well like I said in comment 1 the list and the people here seem to be most focused on American and European media. Not really surprising though.

    And for Pokemon the problem seems to be from language, the Japanese word used is “Shinka” which can also mean “Advance” or “Grow”. “Evolve” here is therefore used in the colloquial and non-scientific sense, what’s happening is actually more akin to Metamorphosis which actually makes Pokemon completely unrepresentative of a different bit of Biology.

  63. David Marjanović says

    the problem with Darwin’s Radio is that the entire book is a very serious exploration of a very silly idea

    Very well said!

    And for Pokemon the problem seems to be from language, the Japanese word used is “Shinka” which can also mean “Advance” or “Grow”.

    *facepalm*

    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*

    I hate these translators.

  64. unclefrogy says

    it is pretty plain to me that the majority of at least the people I have talked to and most (maybe all?) really do not understand what evolution even means in its most simple form as a word let alone any specifics on the life process.
    They are attached to the word without the understanding. What SF does would more accurately have to be called almost anything else, mutating sometimes, morphing most often but mostly just magic explained with sciencey word salad.
    The humanoid aliens and monsters are the the stuff of dreams strange distortions of our subconscious perceptions of our selves done most often by a guy in a rubber suit. Now of course with better puppets and or cartons. Maybe our cultural experience with scientific understanding of reality is too new to make truly realistic alien natures.
    I would be interested if anyone knows of any that did “get it right” by some degree.
    uncle frogy

  65. omnicrom says

    *facepalm*

    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*

    I hate these translators.

    Welcome to Being A Fan Of Japanese Media 101. Though it isn’t just the Japanese language, a professor of mine loves to say that all translators are traitors. Good translation is a real nightmare to do because there’s no way of getting it right, you try translating words that have no real analogue or represent cultural ideas that Native English Speakers aren’t aware of or have connotations in one language that don’t carry over into another.

  66. Amphiox says

    I hate these translators.

    But don’t forget, the bard really was spoony! They checked!