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Antirationalist critique or fifth column of scientism? Challenges from Doctor Who to the mad scientist trope (2011)

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  • Publication: Public Understanding of Science
  • Date: v. 20, no. 4 (2011)
  • Author: Lindy Orthia
  • Page: 525-542
  • Language: English
  • Abstract: Much of the public understanding of science literature dealing with fictional scientists claims that scientist villains by their nature embody an antiscience critique. I characterize this claim and its founding assumptions as the "mad scientist" trope. I show how scientist villain characters from the science fiction television series Doctor Who undermine the trope via the programme's use of rhetorical strategies similar to Gilbert and Mulkay's empiricist and contingent repertoires, which define and patrol the boundaries between "science" and "non-science." I discuss three such strategies, including the literal framing of scientist villains as "mad." All three strategies exclude the characters from science, relieve science of responsibility for their villainy, and overtly or covertly contribute to the delivery of pro-science messages consistent with rationalist scientism. I focus on scientist villains from the most popular era of Doctor Who, the mid 1970s, when the show embraced the gothic horror genre.


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  • APA 6th ed.: Orthia, Lindy (v. 20, no. 4 (2011)). Antirationalist critique or fifth column of scientism? Challenges from Doctor Who to the mad scientist trope. Public Understanding of Science p. 525-542.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Orthia, Lindy. "Antirationalist critique or fifth column of scientism? Challenges from Doctor Who to the mad scientist trope." Public Understanding of Science [add city] v. 20, no. 4 (2011), 525-542. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Orthia, Lindy. "Antirationalist critique or fifth column of scientism? Challenges from Doctor Who to the mad scientist trope." Public Understanding of Science, edition, sec., v. 20, no. 4 (2011)
  • Turabian: Orthia, Lindy. "Antirationalist critique or fifth column of scientism? Challenges from Doctor Who to the mad scientist trope." Public Understanding of Science, v. 20, no. 4 (2011), section, 525-542 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Antirationalist critique or fifth column of scientism? Challenges from Doctor Who to the mad scientist trope | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Antirationalist_critique_or_fifth_column_of_scientism%3F_Challenges_from_Doctor_Who_to_the_mad_scientist_trope | work=Public Understanding of Science | pages=525-542 | date=v. 20, no. 4 (2011) | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 November 2017 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Antirationalist critique or fifth column of scientism? Challenges from Doctor Who to the mad scientist trope | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Antirationalist_critique_or_fifth_column_of_scientism%3F_Challenges_from_Doctor_Who_to_the_mad_scientist_trope | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 November 2017}}</ref>