A recent question asked what weapons a society would use if magic (specifically a mage) could stop the ignition of gunpowder and similar explosives. It was a different spin on a popular type of question...
You find yourself on a world with no gunpowder...don't ask why...or how you know that there is no gunpowder there just isn't any available to you. (Source)
Over the years we have frequently hosted questions about how to prohibit a branch of science from developing or about the consequences of a branch of science having not developed. It's almost always gunpowder, but let's set that aside for the sake of this discussion.
Because we tend to answer questions from a very heavily science-based perspective (even when the tag isn't used...), our first reaction is often to point out that you can't have a modern society without the branch of science in question. Yes, we could (and probably should) simply take the OP at their word and just answer the question as if it could happen. But that's another story that's been discussed before.
It's also worth noting that in some instances (probably many) either the need for the prohibited branch of science or the consequences is a function of narrative necessity, meaning that the goal is often a reflection of the needs of a yet-to-be-written story and that the answers the OP are seeking would or should be derived from those needs. Nevertheless, it's frequently true that those needs are not explained in the question, making it more difficult to sensibly answer.
Question: What advice can we give to worldbuilders trying to build a world that is crippled by the loss of a specified branch of science?
Possible advice may include, but is not limited to:
- What consequences can be expected when trying to remove a branch of science?
- Can an intelligent species find a way around the lack of a specified branch?
- Does the lack of a specified branch change how people think or behave?
- Does removing a specified branch create an imbalance in the believability of the story?