At last: scientists as the heroes

Contagion (film)
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There are two defined role for scientists in the movies: either as evil geniuses under the control of even more evil corporate interests, or naive fools who love technology more than humanity.

But, at last, there is a mainstream film – which I watched yesterday – which portrays scientists as heroes (with frailties too) and the conspiracy theorists as the venal.

Contagion is not a film full of joy – instead it tells of how a novel virus kills perhaps 2 – 5% of humanity. But it is a film that takes care to place science and scientific advance in its true context.

I am not an epidemiologist so I cannot give any detailed commentary on the scientific detail, but I know enough to recognise the message: we need more enlightenment, not less.

I avoided going to see this movie when it was on in cinemas because it got such mixed reviews: but having now watched it I wonder if that is because it was so challenging – Gwyneth Paltrow, the first actor we see on screen, is dead within five minutes – she’s not the only big name to die either – and inside ten we watch her skull being opened for an autopsy and, of course, I wonder how many film reviewers have a science degree?

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