Biblical Fear of Knowledge Permeates Modern Western Storytelling

Here is one way in which comic books misrepresent the real world.

The average archnemesis in the story book hero world is an evil sorceror, a mad scientist, or some other kind of fiendish schemer. What they have in common is that they are intelligent. The “heroes” they are up against are often good-natured oafs who save the day (and get the girl) by flexing their muscles.

​​So intelligence is shown as evil and might is shown as being right (not in an entitled sort of way, but in a moral sort of way). This, as Isaac Asimov points out in his essay ‘Sword And Sorcery’, is a dubious proposition. We do not live in a world where strong people are nice and smart people are evil. But then most comic books must necessarily oversimplify the universe for their stories to make easy sense.

In American cinema too, we find evidence of such anti-intelligence ways. Scientists routinely make “forbidden” discoveries which then explode out of control and ruin everything. Jurassic Park, Godzilla (the one with Mathew Broderick), World War Z, I Am Legend, are all cases in point. The message being sent out is the same old (insert ominous spooky music here) ‘some doors should never be opened’.

Perhaps the theme is Biblical — Adam and Eve and the fruit of forbidden knowledge. The idea that knowledge is dangerous and that powers beyond our understanding (a very confusing god in this case) will punish us if we try to explore too much. The idea that we should know our place and stay within our limits.

​​1-3VGW-O20A4wol0_9zN4PSAThe catastrophe caused by these scientists is then averted (or survived) by the familiar old musclebound hero. When he is not musclebound, he is a chastened scientist who is haunted by guilt. He chants “what have we done?” and “god will never forgive us” in a never-ending loop.

​​In the real world, scientific advances make everything possible. And this includes the making of the aforementioned comics and movies. While I do not believe that the world owes science anything resembling devotion, popular literature’s obsession with scientific evilry does make us look like we have our priorities upside down.

I think that an ideal human society would exult in its intelligence, not live in fear of it. It will appreciate the human condition at its best — brave, imaginative, and kind. Not at its worst — self-centered, submissive, and frightened of itself.

#adam-and-eve, #bible, #christian-mythology, #forbidden-knowledge, #knowledge