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What can scientists learn from Victor Frankenstein?

Sat, September 2, 11:00am to 12:30pm, Sheraton Boston, Floor: 3, Jefferson


Reflecting the dangers of irresponsible science and technology, Frankenstein quickly became a mythic story that still feels fresh and relevant in the twentieth century. In contemporary culture, the Frankenstein myth remains a convenient resource for framing science and scientists in a negative way. We argue that understanding how the Frankenstein myth shapes the way people perceive science is crucial in the effort to understand the sometimes negative reactions towards certain sciences and technologies, particularly biosciences and biotechnologies, and their impact on society and environment. Drawing on the results from interviews with scientists, we argue that Frankenstein may serve as a lens for understanding how people think about science and technology, that in turn could help the scientific community interact with the public as well as communicate about their work more effectively. Since the Frankenstein myth offers a plethora of metaphors for conceptualizing or misunderstanding science, scientists should rely on those concepts and use them to build a better relationship with the public. Tainted by the Frankenstein myth, scientists may find it difficult to interact with the public effectively and create a better public image of science. We argue that scientists could make a real progress in making their scientific work more transparent for the public if they embraced, rather than denied the Frankenstein image.