Experimental Error: Don’t Try This at Home

From Science:

RubenExperimentalerror_160x160_jpg In the terrible 2004 film Godsend, Robert De Niro plays a sinister obstetrician who helps a couple clone their dead son but secretly manipulates “intangibles” in the fetus so that the new child will show traits of his own dead son, who happened to be evil. While uncovering this well-thought-out and plausible scheme, the boy's father (Greg Kinnear) interviews a nanny the obstetrician once hired. “He was a doctor?” the father asks, and she replies, “A baby doctor, yeah.” Then she leans closer and whispers her suspicion: “Only … he seemed more like a scientist to me.”

For me, as a scientist, when I watched the movie, those words weren't exactly the ominous bombshell the screenwriter probably intended. It was as though the nanny had said, “Only … he sometimes ate Corn Flakes.” Her comment made me consider how the public views scientists — and how universal that perception must be for a screenwriter to presume that “scientist” is a zinger of an insult. (Maybe I should try that sometime. “Hey, jerk! Your mother is a synthetic chemist!”) We are distrusted, feared, but most of all, misunderstood. We work, after all, in one of the only two professions that idiomatically follow the word “mad” — the other such profession being “hatter.”

More here.