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Science Friction tells the stories of scientists who have been misrepresented and edited out of context on television. This brilliant documentary by director Emery Emery gives them a chance to rebut the misquotes in their own words and make corrections to what the various shows presented. Numerous examples are given of scientists having been hired as experts to speak on what they believe will be a legitimate documentary program, film, or talk show. Instead, they are either asked to say something they know is false in the interest of sensationalizing a topic, or they are edited so that it appears they are promoting some unexplained phenomenon. This is for supposed documentaries with titles like Strange Evidence. Since they are working for the producer who hired them, they feel some pressure to comply or go along with the misleading edits.

One case is the experience of Jonathan Davis, a Marine Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. He was invited by Discovery’s Shark Week to speak about sharks on camera for a show called “Voodoo Shark.” Though he didn’t know that was its title. Near the end of the interview, they surprised him with questions about a mythical monster shark called the Rooken. He wasn’t aware of this myth and said so. Still, when the show aired, his statements were edited out of context. The narrator introduced him with “[Jonathan Davis’s team] believes that if there is a monster shark entering Lake Pontchartrain, it would likely be sticking to this area.” He said nothing like that.

“…stories of scientists who have been misrepresented and edited out of context on television.”

One of the most egregious purveyors of snake oil featured in Science Friction is Dr. Oz (proper name: Mehmet Cengiz Öz), a celebrated thoracic surgeon turned full-time huckster for “alternative medicine” and many other scams. In fact, he’s been called to testify before Congress on his behavior. Senator Claire McCaskill told him that “the scientific community is almost monolithic against you” for airing segments on weight loss products that are later cited in advertisements. She concludes that Oz plays a role, intentional or not, in perpetuating these scams and that she is “concerned that you are melding medical advice, news, and entertainment in a way that harms consumers.” He is shown bringing scientists on the show and ambushing them with pseudo-science.

What the scientists sometimes miss is that their presence and subsequent failure to debunk an idea for a mob of true believers will add credence to the proceedings. Oz invites the experts to be a personification of Big Science and a foil for whatever outlandish idea he is hawking that day. Of course, what he’s really selling is advertising for the show, and he is wildly successful at that.

Science Friction (2022)

Directed and Written: Emery Emery

Starring: Scott Mardis, Richard Dawkins, Ben Radford, Bradley Hindman, Emily Bailey, Dr. Zubin Damania, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

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"…good science asks more questions than it answers."

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  1. Science Explains says:

    Yes, watch it 👍 on Tubi or Amazon Prime

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