So what is a ‘scientist’ anyway? Part 2.

Guest post by: StephS

Part 2

Perhaps one of the most neglected populations of these people that do science being criminals. Of course, many ‘mad’ or ‘evil’ scientists are criminals but science is still often their profession. I’m talking about non-conventional, or at least non-professional scientists. Perhaps the perfect example of this is Tyler Durden in Fight Club. Tyler uses science to make soap. This is nothing that out of the ordinary, but he steals fat from the liposuction clinic, makes soap in the house and sells it at exorbitant prices to exclusive stores. He deals with the science, not as a professional chemist, but as a businessman. It’s a quick, easy and ironic way to make money. So where does Tyler fit into the stereotypes?

Let’s start with the stereotypes in Weingart et al (2003). Ok, so Tyler probably is a maniac, but he’s not a power maniac, and he’s not using his science to be a maniac. Nor is he an unethical genius. He may be unethical, and he sure is smart, he’s by no means a genius in the realms of science. He’s just making soap! I concede that Tyler is a threat to human health due to his violence, and maybe human fat soap might have health issues associated with it. But let’s face it, Tyler isn’t ‘pursuing the quest for new knowledge’ in science (p279 Weingart et al 2003). Marshall (2009) discusses geeks, but neither does Tyler fit this stereotype.

Now we’ll move onto the seven scientist stereotypes (Haynes 2003), he’s not an evil alchemist, he’s certainly not the noble scientist, he’s no fool, he’s not inhuman in his research (partially because he doesn’t actually do any research), he’s not an adventurer either. Nor is he the helpless scientist. The only stereotype he comes remotely close to is the ‘mad, bad, dangerous scientist’ stereotype, and even then only because of the fact that Tyler is slightly mad, certainly bad and a dangerous person (after all it’s dangerous to be around someone who encourages you to fight that often). But when you compare it to the actual definition, he’s not trying to destroy the world and he does have a code of morality, although his morality probably can be debated. I guess it’s also needless to mention that he doesn’t fit marginalisation of women scientists in film (Flicker 2003), but let’s leave no stone unturned.

So if the criminal Tyler Durden in Fight Club doesn’t fit the stereotype, what other criminals in fiction have been left out? After all, it’s often not their profession, maybe it’s just for a bit of quick cash, or to feed an addiction, or maybe the simply ‘do science’ to cover their tracks. I don’t think these types of characters really fit into the current stereotypes. The question is, should they be classed as a scientist, or not?

This entry was posted in science and fiction, SCOM2003. Bookmark the permalink.