Faking live demos

23 04 2012

Faking demos is a contentious issue. Different show producers hold different views. This blog believes there is no excuse to *ever* fake a demo.

Some producers believe that a science show is just that, a show. They see no problem with faking a scientific effects because they are putting on a theatrical show and not teaching science. Others believe exactly the opposite. They feel they have a responsibility to always accurately and truthfully represent the science.

Does it matter if demos on stage are faked? It all depends on how the show is presented. Science shows, like magic shows, can be presented in different ways.

Derren Brown puts on an entertaining magic show but never claims to perform supernatural feats.

Derren BrownDubbed a ‘psychological illusionist’ by the Press, Derren Brown is a performer who combines magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship in order to seemingly predict and control human behaviour, as well as performing mind-bending feats of mentalism… While his performances create the illusion that he has some kind of paranormal powers, Derren is a prominent sceptic and a pronounced atheist. www.DerrenBrown.co.uk

Compare this to Psychic Tupak.

Psychic TupakAs you can see, I’m not an ordinary person. Ever since I realized I have the power to predict the future, I knew that anything was possible for me, and I wasn’t wrong. I can predict things that are about to happen… The blood of my Cheyenne ancestors runs through my veins. It has enabled me to predict my own future, and the future of the people around me. As a respected Shaman, I also have the power to transform woes into happiness, problems into solutions, and mysteries into revelations. www.psychictupak.com

Producers who present science shows that claim to be all about science but then fake scientific effects are just like those ‘mediums’ who claim ‘supernatural powers’.

In fact there is an argument to say they are worse. Mediums deal in unprovable quackery. Faked science shows abuse the trust of the audience who understandably assume when something is presented as science it is real.

Derren Brown is massively successful and he is very upfront about what he is performing. The producers of science shows that fake demos could learn a lot from him and his honesty.

Is it really necessary for the producers of such shows to be like Tupak and lie to their audiences? Perhaps if producers of such shows were a little bit more like Derren then, not only would they not be misleading their audiences, they wouldn’t be hampered by having to make things look like they were real. They could just blow stuff up as much as they liked.

But therein lies the rub.

1. Shows that contain no science only exist because they claim the credibility of being scientific. These shows that fake demos have to pretend to be real because they know parents and teachers wouldn’t buy expensive tickets if they didn’t think there was an educational side to the show.

And 2. it is difficult to be as skillful as Derren Brown. It is much easier to hoodwink the gullible with claims of the supernatural than to entertain honestly. And it is much easier to pretend to be a scientist and then fake demos than it is to be entertaining with nothing but real science.

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