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In my universe there is a human civilization that is advanced enough to have computers, computer networks, and robots, however they have a relatively rudimentary knowledge of medicine/biology.

They know enough to administer first aid, do basic surgery and provide vaccination. But they have no knowledge of DNA and know very little about human, animal and plant life on a cellular level.

How might I explain this logically?

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    $\begingroup$ It's not too far-fetched to assume this sort of scenario happened. The transistor and micro-chip being invented before a solid grasp on genetics and biology is formed isn't too far fetched. The thing is, when you have the technology to create something like a microchip, it becomes increasingly difficult to not notice that cells exist. In fact, I'm pretty sure vaccinations, one of the things you mention this society knows about, should require some basic awareness of cellular life, though I could be wrong. $\endgroup$ – TUSF May 4 '16 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ Well, vaccinations, first aid and surgery all came before we knew about DNA, for surgery a long time before. However the quality and success of all of them has dramatically improved overtime with better knowledge. It is unlikely that their technology keeps progressing and noone tries to use it in medicine etc, and curiosity is often directed towards the way we and our world works $\endgroup$ – Erik vanDoren May 4 '16 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ @TUSF they know cells exist, but just don't know enough of it structure to have discovered DNA $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure May 4 '16 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ maybe they just dont have any illnesses or short lifespan that would make medicine redundant $\endgroup$ – BlueWizard May 8 '16 at 18:13
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Dumb Luck

In our world electronics started with vacuum tubes. Mott described the field effect in the 1930s but nobody made a transistor. Babbage and Ada Lovelace invented the fundamentals of computing in the Victorian era but had only mechanical devices.

Try an alternative time line. Shift the industrial revolution (or just railways) forwards a few decades. Let Faraday arrive twenty years earlier and invent the electromechanical relay. This is seized on by a brilliant railway engineer for signalling with relay logic and electromechanical actuators in place of iron rods. Babbage realizes a working digital computer using relay logic instead of breaking his heart on purely mechanical devices and is hailed as a genius.

Now the second bit of luck. Somebody playing around with crystals and electricity discovers the point contact diode and then thinks to see if one point could influence another one nearby. It can, and faster than he knows how to measure. And this discovery becomes known to a wealthy manufacturer of electromechanical computing devices who sees the potential and throws lots of money into R&D, Edison-style.

Soon the need to break codes drives the development of epitaxial transistors and integrated circuits, but this is WW1 not WW2. The scientists still don't properly understand how transistors work, but it doesn't stop them being refined. It's irrelevant, but let's be optimistic: the war ends faster with less death because of the code breakers.

So here we are in the 1920s with digital computers equal to our 1970s. And there won't be a German hyperinflation and Hitler will become known to a few as an artist of somewhat limited talent.

Medicine and biology haven't had any similar luck. If you want to slow things down further, Darwin and Wallace are regarded as cranks, Lamark as a genius, and Mendel got promoted before he ever did those experiments on peas.

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  • $\begingroup$ Lamarck got most of his points right. Darwin basically replaced a single word in Lamarcks thesis and is considered a genius. Darwin is really cool but 95% of it was already though of by Remark. Also our modern evolution theory does combine a lot of stuff that darwin didnt knew of. He didnt knew that genes exist or how they transfer $\endgroup$ – BlueWizard May 8 '16 at 18:16
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Your best bet is probably to go with a religious reason why this aspect of science is ignored.

If your civilization fervently believes in Creationism, their Church may well discourage the study of medicine as it might threaten their teachings.

Furthermore, this religion might place a very high emphasis on being reborn, so maybe trying to cure people who are too ill is actually seen as keeping them from reaching Heaven, and being reborn.

If they are devout/fanatical enough about their beliefs this will guarantee that biology will be seen as a sort of necessary evil, and few people will want to know much about this aspect of science.

Of course, some suspension of disbelief is required, as a civilization that is interested in scientific pursuit is unlikely to embrace this kind of blind obedience, but you can make it work of course.

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    $\begingroup$ If this human civilization is ad advanced as claimed in the question in the other sciences, those eventually would have challenged a Creationist theology. I don't think biology is the only science that challenges that theology and thus I don't believe a religious motivation would be the most likely and convincing reason here. $\endgroup$ – shiningcartoonist May 4 '16 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Shiningcartoonist - depends how tight a reign the Church keeps on its people. Humans are curious by nature, and intelligent individuals want to tackle important problems such as disease and viruses. It is basically impossible that no one would study cells and biology because it would help solve so many of the world's problems. Thus, the only way for them not to bother is not to want to, or not see it as a big priority. And if you fervently believe that death is just another phase in your existence then disease running rampant might not bother you that much. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ Taboo/religion is a likely cause. I doubt a suspension of belief is even needed, considering how religion is still very present in our our civilization. Roman Church maintained a strong pressure on some domains of science : should they have focus on biology instead of astronomy, we may have hard time getting rid of a fly today... $\endgroup$ – Uriel May 4 '16 at 20:37
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They are a warrior race and would rather die on the battle field than in their bed.

A good example of this is the Klingons from Star trek, they have very advanced machines but their knowledge/willingness to save a dying crew mate isnt very great, at the earlier episodes there was very little know about a klingongs bioligy (this may not be true for later eipisodes but my memory of them is hazy) so if their crew mate was injured and couldnt go back into battle, rather than letting them die they would kill him in a ritual way (Klingon death ritual, you can find info on this by googling it, I would post a link but access to it seems to be blocked at work)

For their limited knowledge of biology you could say that all they need to know is what organ to I need to rupture to kill my opponent or where is the soft spot that I need to hit to win. For plant life all they need to know "is it edible or not and if I feed it to someone will it kill them?", this could be seen as very dishonorable as they are killing their opponent directly, if there is any punishment I leave it up to your imagenation.

Their technology could have advanced from basic smithing and as technology develops they move from melee combat to archery to crude explosives to guns and so-forth. With this progression its unlikely they would have devloped computers and other technology a the same time we would have but if you have them at a more adavaned stage in their life it wouldnt be hard to see computer/networks and possibly robots.

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Loss of Knowledge

Since it hasn't been covered, and it seems pretty obvious, what if they had that information but lost it? A very effective dies ease could have wiped out most doctors before a vaccine was created. Maybe it is a long since dystopian society were such information was lost. (Akin to the fall of Rome.)

Gains of Knowledge

Perhaps they were gifted the electronic technology by some superior alien race or human society, so they know how it works and can use it but don't have the medical technology they might have developed on their own.

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  • $\begingroup$ @XanderTheZenon another very good answer $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure May 5 '16 at 14:55
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Maybe they are so adapt to their environment that they don't get sick. Maybe they can regenerate - if they break their arm, it either heals itself or they grow a new one.

If that would be the case, they would have little interest in medicine and biology.

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  • $\begingroup$ 'Maybe they are so adapt to their environment that they don't get sick. " I like this idea. "Maybe they can regenerate - if they break their arm" This doesn't make sense. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure May 4 '16 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ @BryanMcClure Why not? Lizards grow new tails, sharks replace their teeth, etc, etc. It's not that uncommon... $\endgroup$ – ventsyv May 4 '16 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ Because there supposed to be humans on a alternative earth. While they might have some biological differences because of being on a alternative earth, there overall biology is the same. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure May 4 '16 at 21:09
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Accidents


Since technology and medicine are far different practices it isn't entirely unbelievable that, similar to the discovery of penicillin, that the culture accidentally discovers medicinal plants and animals and don't bother asking why it works. They don't need to it just does.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure you could throttle back human curiosity to such a degree without some other reason keeping them from researching biology in more detail. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM he never said they were human, but I see your point $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b May 4 '16 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ @TrEs-2b Actually, OP does state (even in the first revision of the question) "a human civilization". $\endgroup$ – a CVn May 5 '16 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I see that know... $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b May 5 '16 at 16:25
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Two things.

First of all, the things we know are based upon what we want to know. There are lots of people who know about calculus but are dullards when it comes to easy stuff like baseball. The ancient Egyptians were much better, apparently, at moving rocks than they were at electronics; we can't duplicate their feats with our machines (probably we could, but that's the point: we have tried, just didn't try hard enough.)

But why wouldn't we want to know about biology? Religion might consider it sacred, or just far too advanced. We might just not think too much of medicine, or we might have some kind of cultural thing about not going too far in protecting sick life. Maybe our herbalists actually know what they're doing, and we just leave it at that.

Or maybe doctors are even more revered, and just don't really care to let us know that they don't know everything. So we don't learn anything!

The second: what we know is based upon what our scientists want to know, and what their talents and work focuses on. What if there were a rash of electronics and mathematics supergeniuses. Nikola Tesla threw us probably a few hundred years further than we would have been, and he did have to fight some funding/ cultural problems. What would have happened if he'd been a team of three people functioning on his level, with unlimited funding? (And as Dr. Richard Bandler joked, what if he had learned to fast-forward his mental simulations?) Might we be in the 23rd century of electronics and the 20th century in biology?

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