Mad Engineers

Mad Engineers January 28, 2013

A friend shared this cartoon on Facebook. Given the importance of the caricature of the mad scientist in a lot of science fiction, often used to warn of the dangers of scientists “playing God,” the cartoon usefully highlights that the caricature does not fit well with the description of the individuals as scientists. Some fit, but many more do not. Where the Engineers in Prometheus fit into this is an interesting question.

I am reminded of the Doctor Who episode “The Underwater Menace” in which a “mad scientist” named Prof. Zaroff wishes to crack the Earth into pieces. When the Doctor asks him why he wants to do that, he doesn't have a good answer. If he were a mad scientist, an experiment that by definition can yield no results to the scientist ought to be of little or no interest.

In connection with the distinction between mad scientists and mad engineers, let me also note that scientists reject things like young-earth creationism, while some of the key proponents of that sort of nonsense over the years have been engineers.

Mad engineers, perhaps?


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  • arcseconds

    I saw something pretty similar to this, except not, I think, in cartoon form, on the door of a philosophy of science grad student a few years’ back.  5 minutes on google only comes up with this cartoon, though. 

    I recall there being more questions of the “are you doing mad science activity X” kind, too. 

  •  “I’m a doctor, Jim…not a mad scientist!”  – Leonard H. ‘Bones’ McCoy

  • Craig Wright

    It is interesting that some of those who try to pin down dates for the second coming are engineers  also.

  • Mark Matson

    Sadly, I have know scientists that were proponents of young -earth creation.  Indeed, some science PhD students at Duke!! 

    It is interesting to me, in fact, that this often happens in physical sciences (physics, chemistry), but I have never known a biologist to hold this position.  Maybe strictly my luck-of-the-draw.