Rumination: Portrayal of Scientists and Scientific Research in Recent Fiction
Over the past several years I’ve read a few novels wherein one, or more, of the main characters is a scientist and the plot involves the conduct of scientific research. I am so struck by the negative portrayal of scientists and scientific research in these works that I feel I must raise the issue of the portrayal of science in our contemporary culture. The novels I am referring to are: 1) Solar by Ian McEwan, 2) Micro by Michael Crichton, and 3) State of Wonder by Anne Patchett. In each of these we see scientists riding roughshod over the people in their midst, for the sake of either lucre or glory, or for the sake of a greater human good. These are Machiavellian characters, venal, egotistical, and scornful. Worst of all, for all their character flaws, they never seem to accomplish that ‘greater good’ they seem to use an excuse for their otherwise reprehensible conduct. If these novels represent a more general perception of scientists as ‘evil’ geniuses, then it seems that the scientific research community needs a complete publicity rehab and makeover.