Friday, April 15, 2011

Ben Goldacre om vitenskap, kosmetikkindustrien og Barbie

Just like the national lottery, the cosmetics industry is playing on people's dreams, and people are free to waste their money. I can very happily view posh cosmetics – and other forms of quackery – as a special, self-administered, voluntary tax on people who don't understand science properly. I would also be the first to agree that people don't buy expensive cosmetics simply because they have a belief in their efficacy, because it's 'a bit more complicated than that': these are luzury goods, a status items, and they are bought for all kinds of interesting reasons.
But it's not entirely morally neutral. Firstly, the manufacturers of these products sell shortcuts to smokers and the obese; they sell the idea that a healthy body can be attained by using expensive potions, rather than simple old-fashioned exercise and eating your greens. This is a recurring theme throughout the world of bad science.
More than that, these adverts sell a dubious world view. They sell the idea that science is not about the delicate relationship between evidence and theory. They suggest, instead, with all the might of their international advertising budgets, their Microcellular Complexes, their Neutrillium XY, their Tenseur Peptidique Végétal and the rest, that science is about impenetrable nonsense involving equations, molecules, sciencey diagrims, sweeping didactic statements from authority figures in white coats, and that this sciencey-sounding stuff might just as well be made up, concocted, confabulated out of thin air, in order to make money. They sell the idea that science is incomprehensible, with all their might, and they sell this idea mainly to attractive young women, who are dissappointingly underrepresented in the sciences.  
In fact, they sell the world view of 'Teen Talk Barbie' from Mattel, who shipped with a sweet little voice circuit inside her so she could say things like, 'Math class is tough!', 'I love shopping!' and 'Will we ever have enough clothes?' when you pressed her buttons. In December 1992 the feminist direct-action Barbie Liberation Organization switched the voice circuits of hundreds of Teen Talk Barbies and GI Joe dolls in American shops. On Christmas Day Barbie said 'Dead men tell no lies' in a nice assertive voice, and the boys got soldiers under the tree telling them 'Math class is tough!' and asking 'Wanna go shopping?'

(Fra boka Bad Science. Ben Goldacre finnes også her. Han er fin.) 

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