From The Character of Science

The Character of Science: Episode 2 Heroes and Villains

The Character of Science podcast is produced by our Engagement and Society team

The Character of Science: Episode 2 Heroes and Villains

21st July 2022

Focusing on the 2013 film Ex Machina and the 2015 film The Martian, we will discuss what effect the simplistic representations of scientists in popular culture as either heroes or as villains has on the publics’ view of science.

Jon Roberts is joined by Dr Stuart Vyse , psychologist and writer, consulting editor for Skeptical Inquirer magazine where he also writes the ‘Behavior & Belief’ column, author of ‘Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition’ and ‘Superstition: A Very Short Introduction,’ and Dr Kanta Dihal, a senior research fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge, where she leads the Global AI Narratives and Decolonizing AI research projects.

About the podcast series:

Jon Roberts (Podcast presenter) describes the aim of the podcast, as follows:

“This is a podcast on how we can use science-fiction TV/movies as a barometer for how we feel about science. In each episode, our guests touch on the implications of fiction becoming reality, and how movies can be used to communicate the science that is changing our world.”

The 4 episode series attempts to explore how pop culture can get people outside of academia talking about genomics. In doing so, Jon and his guests tackle some of the more challenging ethical questions that science fiction on the big-screen raises:

Prenatal testing, eugenics, the creation of a genes-based caste system

The commercialisation, and subsequent potential for the ghettoisation of genetics

Should there be limits to what a scientist can do?

Does accuracy matter in how science is portrayed in fictional films?

Related Link:


Robarts L, Roberts J (2022) Heroes and Villains (Episode 2), The Character of Science, podcast. 21 July