Alice Roberts: Can Science Make Me Perfect?

She mentions your book and suppose bad design in this article.

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I see no ad hominem there. It is not as much about @NLENTS book as much as it is about a ridiculous thought experiment by another scientist. Honestly, I think Ann has a point here.

and @patrick - ah, now I remember. The name didn’t register. Funny thing about that documentary… I and a couple others were interviewed about problems with the human body - the production company flew me over to London and did the interview over a whole afternoon in the absolutely spectacular museum of pathology. Then when they turned things over to the BBC, they decided to cut ALL of the background interviews and just go right into the “perfect human body” story itself. I’ve done enough media work to know that your segment is sometimes cut, but I took almost a week off of work and flew to London for it! (I ended up giving a bunch of talks while I was there, so it was still productive, but still) Anyway, had I appeared in the special, I suppose I’d have caught even more ire. I agree with @swamidass that the thought experiment is a little ridiculous, but what I’ll never understand is why the DI feels like they need to come out swinging all the time. It’s like they think every song is about them.


So, for reference, the video for this is here. The description from YouTube says.

Anatomist Alice Roberts embarks on an audacious scientific stunt - to rebuild her own body from scratch, editing out errors left behind by evolution; to create the perfect body.

So Ann’s points are good here. She says…

The article at Live Science was probably meant to be humorous, and it was. The picture of the “ideal” human woman is funny — a bug-eyed elf on spring-loaded legs with a built in baby bag. The elf ears I might keep. Lothlórien! But as for the rest, the take-home message is confused: We are the product of a messy half-baked process called evolution; we are obviously not the product of design. The message is that a designed human would have the best of all features combined, with no flaws. Here, says Dr. Roberts, let’s show you how it’s done.

Honestly, Dr. Robert’s vision here is more scary, than inspiring or funny. She found the uncanny valley, and decided to call it a work of art. Honestly, it is well described as a “stunt”, but I do not see any science here. It also works against our natural instincts in what it means to be human.

Honestly, it makes DI’s point for them too. The bad design arguments are arguing against a straw man version of design. It isn’t really coherent. We should focus on making arguments (explanations really) for evolutionary science, not going into “design” arguments of our own. When we do that, we are really leaving science.

In this case, I think some empathy is in order towards the public, even if we dislike DI. This BBC effort really seems to be very poor journalism. This is what you say:

The issue I see in this is not with you @NLENTS, but with the reporters. Apparently they obtained good scientific information from you guys, and then they dropped it for a stunt that can just alienates the public from scientists. Some one needed to call that out, and insist that reporters do better.

If scientists like us won’t, do it, that creates a vacuum. DI will fill that vacuum.

The answer hear might be for us to do a better job communicating with the public, and calling out reporters that turn science into a stunt like this.

I also see little scientific value in this exercise. But it was for a TV program, it’s entertainment. I don’t see why anyone gets their knickers in a twist over it.

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I don’t personally really care. I can tell you that a lot of people in the public are put off by it, and not just religious audiences. @NLENTS, as scientists, we have the advantage of being able to see what is and isn’t science in this. The public just sees this as our agenda.

I don’t see that as our job at all. Calling out misinformation, sure. This was just a silly “what if” documentary. I don’t see the point of critiquing the science in Avatar, Star Trek, etc., either. It’s entertainment, presented as entertainment. If she tries to get this into a peer-reviewed, call me, until then, who cares? Of course DI responded because that’s what they do - they are purely reactionary.

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Yes. I agree on that.

I see your point.

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And I see yours. :slight_smile:

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And I raise you two points to call.

I’ve got three threes.


There are different categories of entertainment. IMHO this one missed the mark for whatever it was aiming at and ended up as comic relief/satire…
people can choose to entertain their audience any way they want… but if science itself is the joke…

Perhaps it’s should bother people whose prestige depends on science. Especially if this was not what was intended to be communicated.
It was quite ridiculous.

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Alice is good on archaeology: we first spotted her as the one with the bright red hair digging on Time Team( and with the baby in the marsupial pouch…:grinning:). She does an excellent annual review of the hottest archaeological stories here, with the expertise of a biologist.

However, as soon as a clever woman (in particular) gets on TV, she’s marketed as a “personality” - Alice recently did a series on ancient British cities, and of course they had to have her dressed up to be dunked as a mediaeval scold (can’t remember where), corseted to do a minuet in Bath, and so on. She was outside her comfort zone and dumbed down at the behest of some producer.

This programme I deliberately missed.

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So she is a celebrity scientist? Interesting.

Oh my. Someone needs to rescue her. Or at least get her a better agent.

Dye your hair red, Josh, and we’ll have you up there with her…