Sense About Science, an independent charitable trust set up to promote science in public, has released its third annual “celebrity audit”. The document details the claims of those in the public eye in relation to science, and highlights that celebs all too often don’t have their facts straight. Whether you like it or not, celebrities hold power in our society, so we should really encourage them to get their science right.
During the US presidential campaign I praised both Obama and McCain for their views on science, but it seems that they have both linked the MMR vaccine with autism – a big no-no. Despite the controversy around the vaccine, it has been shown again and again to be safe. Obama said of autism:
“Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”
Sorry Mr President-Elect, you may be the saviour of the world, but that’s just not good enough. Continuing in America, Scientologist wacko Tom Cruise hit out against psychiatry in a video leaked to the internet:
“Psychiatry doesn’t work. [...] When you study the effects it’s a crime against humanity.”
This is despite the millions of people helped by psychiatry. Really, when you release movies like Mission Impossible III, I don’t think you have any right to throw the phrase “crime against humanity” around lightly…
Over in the UK, it seems our celebrity chefs have been doing their parts to muddy the scientific waters. Nigella Lawson has been supporting the Mind Meal, said by the charity Mind to help people with mental health problems. The Domestic Goddess said:
“The Mind Meal is an excellent idea – good, simple food that can help you to feel different about life”
Dietitian Catherine Collins suggests that the “specialist allergy foods and expensive ingredients” are “an unnecessary expense”, and not worth promoting.
Meanwhile, Delia Smith wants to cut out sugar from our nation’s diet in order to curb obesity. In contrast, Lisa Miles, senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation says that sugar is actually an important part of a balanced diet, and is found naturally in foods such as fruit and milk. She also says that the causes of obesity are “much more complex”.
Sense About Science suggest that any celebrities looking for scientific advice would do well to call them first. I don’t think we should discourage famous people from speaking out on science, but I do think they should know what they’re talking about!