Bully for Science

5 July 2012

I’ve been watching lots of science demonstrations lately as part of work on Prove Your World, and I’ve started to notice a recurring theme: scientists are bullies.

As a case in point, take a look at the video above. It follows the typical demonstration video, where the “scientist” is always in control, and the lovely volunteer is distracted and teased. When she expresses concern for her safety, those concerns are downplayed and mocked. There are times when she is visibly uncomfortable, but that apparently makes for good television.

Granted, you could argue that this is not science but rather entertainment, and it follows the same form as magic shows and comedy routines, but this is what’s often presented as science. It reinforces common stereotypes: scientists don’t smile; scientists decide what is true and what is not; scientists are smarter than you. So just give them your lunch money or else.

At least those are the thoughts floating in the back of my mind after watching dozens of videos. I’d love to hear what others think.