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I'm creating a futuristic dystopia in which a religious sect decides to shun advancements in technology and science.

The reason for this is that science has evolved in ethically questionable ways. What are some plausible areas of science that (a) could potentially evolve in the near future, and (b) are questionable enough for a religious sect to ban science on ethical grounds?

Here are some ideas I'm thinking of, wondering if any of them are plausible and if they could be developed further. (I’m only looking for one specific area of unethical advancement, but these are some of the areas I’ve been considering):

  • Crossbreeding species to create animals that are better workers (oxen/donkeys used for plowing, camels for transportation) or better food sources (sheep/goats for milk, cows with richer meat, etc.)
  • Use of GMOs in fruits/vegetables/other plant sources, affecting biodiversity and harming human health and animal ecosystems
  • Synthetic pheromones being artificially produced and marketed for human use
  • Advancements in AI requiring testing on human brains (live volunteers or subjects selected by force)
  • Using CRISPR to make "designer babies" according to parents' specifications
  • Designing powerful hydrogen bombs or other weapons that could be used for the wrong reasons

Edit: when I say religious sect, I’m referring to a widespread, widely-accepted religion such as Christianity or Islam. It doesn’t need to be the entire religious population that shuns science, but should include at least the more right-wing, strictly observant ones.

The kind of shunning I’m talking about is one where they decide science/technological has reached such an unethical place that they would totally ban the use of technology, including cars and electricity, and might prohibit going for medical treatment or further scientific progress. In other words, a complete a return to primitiveness.

What could cause a huge membership of a recognized religion to turn away from technology and science?

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    $\begingroup$ There are quite a few religious sects which shun advancements in human knowledge. They don't need a reasonable reason. For example, wasn't there in the news recently a large number of articles about lots of Americans rejecting vaccination? (And anyway, there is chasm between what reasonable people think about ethics and what various religious sects teach about ethics. The point being that what a religious sect considers a sin does not have to be considered unethical by people who are not acculturated to that sect; for example, some well known sects forbid eating pork and drinking beer.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Dec 25, 2022 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ 1) Human-animal chimeras 2) (More) Extreme body modification 3) Artificial wombs 4) Brain-computer interfaces 5) New, highly addictive but physiologically harmless drugs 6) Mass sterilisation 7) Advanced sex toys / VR. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Commented Dec 25, 2022 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ We have a strict one question per post policy. You're asking us to assess 6 separate ideas. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 1:24
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    $\begingroup$ VTC: this is a brainstorming question, without the possibility of one best answer, and necessarily the winning answer will be chosen by whim. It is an interesting question, but not appropriate for the StackExchange platform. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ Q: "What are some plausible areas of science that (a) could potentially evolve in the near future, and (b) are questionable enough for a religious sect to ban science on ethical grounds?". A: ALL of them!! I don't think there exists a single technology on Earth that hasn't been misused. $\endgroup$
    – Stef
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 10:38

4 Answers 4

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Expansion of human intelligence

We have roughly 5-10 years before genetic modification is relatively routine, at least for medical conditions. If safety was not a concern, the average university research facility could, relatively simply, modify babies or adult humans. We are starting to see brain implants, which might be 25 years away. We are figuring out more genes that are correlated with intelligence every month.

And, we have a social and economic push to get smarter and better at working.

So, of course, we'll start modifying people for that, and it's likely to be a problem . It could create a whole class of very similarly minded people. New social stratas, splitting the modified from the unmodified. Mass psychosis when the brain implants hit an interesting bug.

It's pretty easy for a religious organization to treat this as a problem. It "goes against god", "deprives people of their souls", or any number of other claims. And, what's nice from a story perspective, is that they might have a bit of a point, just not completely.

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Anything that messes with consciousness, creating animal/human hybrids, cloning/resurrecting deceased humans with computers or artificial biological bodies, the list goes on.

Another massive category in and of itself could be screwing with the human mind, like using artificial intelligence to slowly and imperceptibly manipulate them, using brain implants to change its chemistry and thus the person, using pheromones and aerosolized hormones to change the behavior of large groups of people, I.E. crowd control.

Possibly being able to torture artificial minds, leaving them in states of unending pain or psychotic breakdown, mass extinction of animals and plants, all sorts of horrible things.

Ill add more if I think of anything.

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My interpretation of your question is that you want a whole society or culture to reject science as a method of discovering new knowledge, despite this culture knowing about the scientific method and knowing that it is effective. If your culture's development is pre-scientific method then there is no need to explain why they don't do science, and if the religious sect is just a fringe group with no significant power over the society then you can just borrow the explanation given by any real-world science-rejecting fringe group.


In my opinion, it's far more plausible for a culture to reject science not because of its controversial successes, but because of its impactful failures. When we say "science" we really mean two different things:

  • The scientific method, i.e. that we formulate falsifiable hypotheses and keep the ones that withstand our attempts at falsifying them.
  • The scientific community, i.e. the culture of scientific researchers who conduct, administer and secure funding for scientific research.

However, many people outside of the scientific community will easily conflate those two things together as just "science". So, suppose there is a series of major and consequential failures and scandals involving significant parts of the scientific community. The society as a whole might reject the scientific method itself on the basis that this method is what led to those failures and scandals.

So, in your society's living memory, there were a significant number of high-profile scientists and research projects who got caught doing things like:

  • Publishing fake results for personal gain
  • Treating research participants negligently, allowing them to be harmed
  • Embezzling public funds allocated for their research

Additionally, you can have a few instances where the scientists weren't necessarily malicious but the consequences were still bad:

  • Substances get approved as safe for consumption, but they turn out to be very harmful after large numbers of people consume them
  • Dangerous equipment or materials get stolen and used for evil by others
  • Scientists tasked with predicting catastrophes miss some, missing the opportunity to respond in advance (e.g. by evacuating people from a danger zone)

If these scandals and failures affect many different fields of research, even those whose research is not inherently controversial, the society might plausibly decide they are better off not trusting scientists or their methods and processes.

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  • Cryostasis: In order to preserve living being at the moment for any possible reasons, we freeze them now and then, when we want to wake them up, we defreeze them back. Feels like an unethical way of skipping time.
  • Time Travel: Using Time Machine device to travel to any certain point in time for whatever reason that is. Quite cheating, isn't it?
  • Memory Alteration: Did something embarrassing when you were 14? No problem. Need to take a rocket science exam tomorrow? Guess what -- We can do that too.
  • Genetic Modification: Well, other answers already explained it in details. For me, Genetically Engineered Catgirls are totally fine.
  • Cyberpunk: When biotech fails, cybertech arises. Some of your organs are failing? Replace them with a hardware, easy.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Is it going to ultimately eliminate all humans and conquer the world? Who knows. Let's ask ChatGPT.
  • Virtual Reality: You can always live inside a virtual world where you can interact with anything you want while just minimally keeping your body alive. Almost like living the dream the whole time. Think about it.
  • Consciousness Transfer: Your body can no longer live any further, but journey does not have to end here. Pay us, and you shall continue living in a body of your choice.
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