Science for the People: Celebrity & Science

sftpThis week we’re looking at how famous personalities influence public opinion about science and pseudoscience. Health law professor Timothy Caulfield returns to talk about his new book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash. We’ll also speak to Conservation and Development professor Daniel Brockington about his research on celebrities and charitable advocacy.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

Dr. Oz likes to defend his promotion of woonackery on the grounds that he is trying to be encouraging and provide motivational crutches via unproven alternative therapies to supplement health treatments that actually work (like, reducing calories and exercising for weight loss). He claims to be very offended when scam artists use his actual words to sell the unproven cures he promotes. You see, Dr. Oz doesn’t directly sell snake oil, nor does he endorse specific brands, directly.

What he is really saying is that the cost of providing inaccurate and deceptive medical advice is a worthwhile sacrifice if it allows him to be rich and famous. I mean, come on, y’all, according to CDC statistics you were probably going to get fat and stay fat anyway. Why should he suffer?

In a rare bit of wonderful from a Congressional committee, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) calls him on his “blarney”:

“I don’t get why you say this stuff, because you know it’s not true,” said McCaskill. “So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?” – “Dr. Oz Grilled by Senator Over ‘Miracle’ Weight Loss Claims” by Chris Morran – The Consumerist

Hat tip to Leonid Kruglyak

xkcd: Clinically Studied Ingredient

xkcd by Randall Munroe

Just One Baby – Why We Vaccinate

For me, 5 February is Dana McCaffery Day. I originally wrote this in 2010 to explain how much her brief time in this world meant to me, even though I had never met her. I stand by every word, and even more so by every feeling, still today. I also choose to remember Dana’s birthday – the remembrance of her coming into her own being – as a celebration of a meaningful life, though I so desperately wish her life could have been as mundane as the rest of us.

Just One Baby

from Bad Astronomy
Today is the first anniversary of Dana Elizabeth McCaffery‘s birth. Unfortunately, Dana cannot join us in celebrating her birthday. Dana was killed by pertussis, or whooping cough. At under a month of age, Dana could not be vaccinated against pertussis and had to rely on herd immunity. Unfortunately, thanks in large part to the efforts of the anti-vaccination movement, immunity levels in Dana’s region of Australia were far below the herd immunity level necessary to protect those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborn children. Continue reading “Just One Baby – Why We Vaccinate”

Dream a little dream of me, in which “me” = science

I had a dream the other night. Not that kind of dream. It was about SCIENCE!

The situation in the dream was that a snake oil salesman, played by an aged Tim Matheson, was trying to sell my high school athletic department a drink powder that would give us enhanced strength if we drank only a drop. He would demonstrate this claim with some bogus “strength” tests, such as having us pull his clasped hands apart with apparent ease after consuming the miracle beverage. Continue reading “Dream a little dream of me, in which “me” = science”