I started this blog just six weeks ago and to my surprise a friend in America sent me a message over the weekend saying I was being quoted on US TV news. I could think of only one word in the entire English language that was appropriate under the circumstances.
I try to write about science – specifically plague and pestilence as that’s my area of dubious expertise – but I keep getting drawn to the Dark Side. The problem is I encounter so much Utter, Utter Bollocks (µ²B) masquerading as ‘science’ so frequently that sometimes I can’t resist having a go at it. And this weekend I couldn’t help myself. Really.
So, who do you trust for medical advice? Former Playboy model or medic?
For those of you unfamiliar with Jenny McCarthy she is a former Playboy nude model who is now a presenter on the long-running ABC talk show, The View. She is a prominent public figure in the USA and not just for exposing her gravity-defying embonpoint and pudenda to anyone willing to pony up the appropriate amount of cash; her former beaux include Jim Carrey and apparently she now stepping out with that fellow intellectual heavyweight, Donnie Wahlberg.
I have nothing against Ms McCarthy making a living either getting her tits out or babbling inanely on the television. My issue – apparently shared by many others – is Ms McCarthy’s publicly stated view that vaccines cause autism as well as a whole bunch of other pseudoscientific nonsense.
More on that later. Anyway, Ms McCarthy posed the question “What is the most important personality trait you look for in a mate? Reply using #JennyAsks” So I did. Several times. And so did a lot of other people. I don’t think Ms McCarthy’s peroxide-addled brain could have possibly conceived the storm she inadvertently provoked. Among my favourites were:
The last one refers to a site that has tracked preventable deaths since Ms McCarthy started her anti vaccine nonsense. My comment that my ideal mate would be:
…was the one that was picked up.
Seriously, Clostridium botulinum toxin (sold as Botox®) is the most potent bacterial toxin known. But no, it’s the vaccines that are toxic. And breathing in a mist of nicotine is as fresh as mountain air.
I also suggested I might like someone working on a vaccine against dumb bimbos committing infanticide by proxy (I further suggested she ask someone to look up the big words).
For all the fun there is a serious point here that I’ve written about before here and elsewhere; the first time during a measles outbreak in Wales – an event now being repeated in New York for the same reasons.
The media are rubbish at reporting science and the fallacy of false balance is rife: this is where journalists believe that if an expert in a field is giving an opinion they need to balance that with an opposing view – which of necessity is usually from either some nutter or someone with impressive-sounding credentials, but in a different field. I say ‘of necessity’ because science progresses by consensus. A true expert in any scientific discipline is unlikely to expound a radically opposing view to the consensus in the media.
That said, scientists do have form for not helping here; look at Linus Pauling. Two Nobel prizes so he thought he could busk his way into medicine and the biological sciences resulting in millions being wasted on fruitless research into Vitamin C. “Well, Linus says so, there must be something to it”. Spot the logical fallacy. Answers on a postcard, please.
But this is far worse. This is someone watched by three million people a week on TV with a wider audience in the Antivaccine Bat Shit Crazy Tin Foil Hat Brigade who peddles dangerous pseudoscience that results in preventable child deaths. ABC seems to be happy to give prime airtime to her irrational, refractory ignorance and aren’t worried that she is immune to scientific data.
…with one of their companies indirectly contributing to children being sacrificed on the altar of TV ratings.
Perhaps their next blockbuster will feature Minnie Mouse as a Crack Ho taking it up the Gary from Goofy. Can’t wait.