David Edgerton wants scientists to be more vocal in opposing hare-brained innovations that stand little or no chance of success (Nature 471, 27–29; 2011).

I agree that we place too high a value on innovation for its own sake, but fail to see what this has to do with Luddism. The objection of the Luddites was not to money being wasted on machines that would not work. On the contrary, the machines that the Luddites tried to destroy worked only too well.

The lesson to be learned from Luddism is both more important and more sophisticated: when evaluating the worth of an innovation, we should be concerned with its wider social implications, as well as its narrowly economic ones. In other words, scientists should have consciences.