Celebrities tout pseudoscience

October 31, 2013 • 5:18 am

Salon has a new piece by Daniel D’Addario decrying the female celebrities who have turned to touting woo; these include, of course, Jenny McCarthy, Suzanne Somers (who I wasn’t aware was promoting a ton of hormone and pill therapy to forestall aging), but also Mariel Hemingway and Mary Steenburgen, who seem to be pushing less harmful “lifestyle” stuff. (Steenburgen, for instance, had some minor surgery which, she claims, suddenly made her able to play the accordion. That reminds me of the old joke about the guy who was having a hand operation and asked his physician, “Doc, will I be able to play the piano after this operation?” The doc says, “Yes, of course—your hand will be just as flexible as before.” “Great!” replies the patient, “Because I can’t play it now.”)

Somers’s regimen, however, sounds dire:

And, most infamously, there’s Suzanne Somers, the author of some 24 books largely on the topic of wellness; her concept of wellness involves filling the body with hormones in order to fool the body into thinking it is not experiencing menopause. As shown on “Oprah,” Somers takes 60 pills a day, as well as injecting hormones into her vagina and rubbing them into her skin. The one-time “Three’s Company” actress has questioned the efficacy of chemotherapy as she promotes medical treatments not subject to the strict scientific method evaluation as, say, traditional medicine.

Somers, of course, sells the hormones on her site.  She was also invited to write a “Experts” column on Obamacare for the Wall Street Journal, for crying out loud, and did such a bad job that the paper has had to issue three separate corrections (you can read her piece here). What was the WSJ thinking? Well, they’re conservative, of course, and I suppose they thought they’d get attention by getting Chrissy to diss Obama.

We all know about Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccination campaign based on phony research and lies, but she now has a voice on the talk show “The View” (I’ve never watched it), which reaches millions of female viewers.  You’ve also probably seen the “Anti-Vaccine body count” site, which totes up the number of preventable illnesses and deaths that have occurred because of anti-vaxers like McCarthy. Of course the estimate is rough, but here are the figures from a few minutes ago:

Picture 6

Why are these woo-pushers often ageing female actors? D’Addario has an interesting answer, which may well be partly correct:

Would Somers be as passionate about hormone-replacement therapy if she weren’t booked on the sort of talk shows her acting career can no longer get her with every outré statement? If she weren’t enlisted by the Wall Street Journal to write an “Experts” column denouncing Obamacare — one that’s already received three corrections and that substantially misrepresents the government program? (If you’ve noticed that the figures this piece focuses on are exclusively female, that may be because Hollywood didn’t boot out George Clooney — or John Larroquette — once he hit a certain age. Women have fewer opportunities to get attention and income solely from their acting.)

That sort of sexism is almost certainly real, but I’d much prefer that the superannuated actresses tout less harmful stuff (Cindy Crawford is one example, doing skin care informercials that for some reason fascinate me, making me unable to leave the t.v. when they’re on. They’re funny, as they feature a sleazy French doctor who has discovered the “secret of youthful skin” in extracts from cantaloupes. The products are called “Meaningful Beauty” and have LOLzy, faux French names like Crème de Sérum.)

But what McCarthy and Somers do, whatever their reasons, is damaging to others. I can’t imagine that it’s useful to inject hormones into one’s vagina or take 60 pills per day, and Somers is no “expert” on Obamacare.  I’ll let Salon take down the odious McCarthy:

But Somers’ and McCarthy’s statements have real human cost: as Salon wrote in 2009, Somers takes her information from sources “many of whom are neither experts in women’s health or endocrinology, nor board-certified physicians, nor experienced researchers.” McCarthy’s anti-vaccine rhetoric, which has helped to erode the sort of herd immunity that prevents disease outbreak, is based on a discredited medical study retracted by medical journal the Lancet; the talk show host has alleged a coordinated media campaign by vaccine manufactures. Somers’ Wiley Protocol was designed by a self-styled “molecular biologist” who only holds a B.A. in anthropology and has been criticized by medical doctors for lack of proof of efficacy.

Finally, D’Addario speculates about why this Celebrity Woo attracts so much attention:

These actresses’ work lies at the intersection of two uniquely American desires: the love of celebrity and the distrust of academic authority. The reflexive distrust of orthodoxy — as demonstrated by Somers’ dismissal of Obamacare with half-remembered or made-up anecdotes that merit a Journal correction, or by her claims that she knows more than those fuddy-duddy doctors, or McCarthy’s imagining a global conspiracy against the truths she alone can figure out — has been a part of American life since snake-oil wagons rambled through towns. Americans know better than the medical establishment — no wonder TV’s Dr. Oz, with his throw-everything-at-the-wall approach to treatment, is so popular, or why visualizing wealth is a popular thought system despite no non-anecdotal proof it works, or why it’s so easy for some minds to leap to “death panels” when imagining a nationalized healthcare system.

This attitude, expressed by parents who treat their sick kids with prayer rather than conventional medicine, comes up repeatedly in the book I’m reading: When Prayer Fails, by Shawn Francis Peters. (I recommend it as both a good history of spiritual “therapy” and a horrifying account of its damage.) Over and over again you read about these parents and their pastors arguing not only that medicine can’t be trusted, but is in fact a tool of Satan. “God is the best healer,” they say. In the case of McCarthy, it’s close to the same thing: Western medicine is in a conspiracy to hide the autism-inducing effects of vaccines, and no evidence to the contrary will convince her.

The more I hear about this woo, and the anti-science attitudes behind it, the more I see a strong parallel with religiously based woo, including not only creationism but the “prayer therapy” I wrote about yesterday. Both religion and McCarthy-eque woo make empirical claims but distrust real science, tout other ways of healing based completely on “faith,” and depend heavily on celebrities (in the religion case, celebrity “healers” like Oral Roberts). In fact, the more I think about it, the more I see religion as a pseudoscience: for it makes claims about the world and shows many of the characteristics of classic pseudoscience like UFOlogy and Bigfoot-ism; these include truth claims that are often couched in ambiguous language, poor standards of evidence, the adherence to unfalsifiable claims, arguments that the scientific method can’t be used (“you can’t test the supernatural”), the acceptance of questionable data as “proof,” and the rejection of replication, outside verification, and disconfirming data by special pleading. Finally, both pseudoscientific and religious woo have clear emotional motivations.

Yep, religion is a pseudoscience.

h/t:Barry

74 thoughts on “Celebrities tout pseudoscience

  1. Great post, Dr. C.

    I’m loathe to attach any science word to religion, even pseudoscience, as the latter is something admirable to some people.

    (Minor typos… s/b “McCarTHy-eSque “

  2. To the “libertarians” here, this is a perfect example of why we need more regulation, not less. Far too many are too gullable, or lack the common sense to protect themselves against the unscrupulous amongst us. In this day and age of vulture capitalism there are more unscrupulous amongst us then ever before and the simpleton star struck are the lambs being led to slaughter. These pipe dreams are being sold by TV/movie bimbos with little skills but a wink and a smile, think about what the oil industry or outfits like Monsanto “sells” us under the guise of it being “good” for us.

    1. More effective regulation would be so nice. As in well designed and not castrated or warped beyond recognition in order to make it through congress. I’ll keep dreaming.

      I have always found it perplexing that Free Market proponents seem to really believe that their ideal Free Market would remain that way without regulation. Despite all of human history. The benefits of competition can be had without the sacrifices entailed by denying the history of human behavior.

      1. Yes, I never understood how people who say free market capitalism is self regulating through competition never seem to grasp that the goal for any successful capitalist corporation is to eliminate the competition.

        1. What I don’t understand is how they think their vaunted “competition” will involve only well-meaning, totally on the up-and-up tactics that are all about real improvements in either the product or the service.

          I mean, wake up!

          1. What I don’t understand is how they think their vaunted “regulation” will involve only well-meaning, totally on the up-and-up tactics that are all about real improvements in either the product or the service.

            FIFY

              1. I don’t get it. You mean I presented no evidence that laissez-faire types imagine that most competitive tactics will be well-intentioned, with quality and the consumer in mind? Very well, then. I concede that laissez-faire types may be selfish bastards who will take any shortcut to gain profit.

                Also, tu quoque is a fallacy. Are there problems with regulatory legislation? Even if there are, that doesn’t mean that laissez-faire competition is problem free and the only logical alternative.

            1. Sorry to but in, but you are both correct.

              I would like to suggest that neither the capitalists, nor the regulators, have demonstrated any consistent good will, both camps distort the markets for bad ends.

              Nor are they separate interests. There is constant collusion and corruption between all parties, because it is too profitable to avoid. The managerial class that supplies the labor of both the regulators and the businessmen, is a relatively small subset of the population, who tend to stick together socially in many ways, who share most financial interests in common, and who enjoy a revolving door relationship between their institutions.

              Drawing a distinction between regulators and business people is largely a false distinction, and mostly a red herring if your goal is to find the real malfunctions in society.

    2. Sounds simple. But in fact most regulations are written to benefit the corporations at the expense of consumers. And it is corporations, not individuals, that are often shielded by the government from market risks. I could go on and on.

      How do you get “good” people to write the regulations? Wouldn’t it be nice if common law was enforced against corporations!

  3. Excellent post! These women, and many others, are as you write nothing but snake oil salesmen regardless if they actually believe their untruths or fully understand their motivations.

    The whole “beauty” industry is about avoiding the inevitable. In the west, the idea of aging especially for women, is anthitectical to happiness and positive self image.

    This is why it takes so few “popular” spokespeople to create and enforce the herd mentality of a multi-billion dollar industry. All pseudoscience. But it repeat a lie long enough it becomes truth. Just like religion.

    Humans are beautiful regardless of what they may or may not put on their face, go to the gym, eat vegan, etc.

    Cheers ,
    David

  4. One of my oldest dearest friends posts all kinds of pseudoscience crap to Facebook. Besides health claims, she passes along Fukushima misinformation.

    My theory about anti-GMO hysteria isn’t that these people give a crap about public health, but that they want to protect themselves from Monsanto and Big Pharma, and live forever.

    A food nazi I used to work with anticipated being a happy, healthy, active 100-year-old in the future. The fact that extreme longevity seems to be inherited means nothing to her.

    1. @ ladtatheist
      I’m of the mindset of The Who’s Roger Dultry when he stated “hope I die before I get old”, however missing that boat, I find it appalling that a company is making millions/billions of dollars manipulating our food in their labs with no regard to its effects on us, our environment , while fighting tooth and nail to not be required to tell us our food has been messed with in their laboratories. Does that seam hysterical to you? Does it seam right? There is a very good reason many countries will not allow these modified “foods” into their borders.

      1. What’s your evidence that GMO producers don’t care about their effects on us or our environment?

        GMOs typically involve adding one or two proteins to a plant that are well-characterized and tested to be safe (often these proteins already occur in the human food supply, just not in the target species). It sure seems like this should be safer than, say, mutation breeding (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutation_breeding) where random mutant plants are generated, without necessarily knowing exactly what the mutation is or what proteins are affected (so mutation breeding might add proteins that have never been part of the human food supply). Do you agree? Do you think that regulations on mutation breeding should be stricter than regulations on GMOs?

        What is the “very good reason” that many countries don’t allow GMOs?

    2. Facebook has been very demoralizing for me. I’ve been so disheartened to learn what sorts of nonsense people in my life I thought were level-headed are into.

      If I see one more unfounded anti-Obamacare screed or post from RawForBeauty I will scream.

      1. I see a lot of Jesus posts & stuff about chakras from family members. I usually have a smart remark ready. The latest was a cousin who wrote that she saw a psychic and she told her about a guardian angel. Well, a truck lost its tarp on a highway & it hit her windshield but quickly flew off & blinded another couple in a car which resulted in an accident.

        Replies of support ensued but my reply was: I guess your guardian angel really disliked those people that got into the accident. Muhahaha!

      2. Facebook is demoralizing to me as well. It’s astonishing to me the utter crap that seemingly intelligent people embrace. Even more disturbing to me are the people who harbor revolutionary fantasies. Before Facebook I felt like I lived in a stable country but Facebook has actually made me feel pangs of concern about the stability of our democracy. Of course, there is a selection bias here, because people with passion post more. Most of my Facebook “friends” don’t post at all. Who knows what they think.

        You may as well scream now, because there is no end to it.

  5. I remember seeing an interview with Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds & they related how actors & actresses slowly move into obscurity & how devastating that is on them. I suspect that these women, who were popular mostly because of their looks and like attention, don’t really know how else to get attention. In the case of Suzanne Somers, she probably really believes these pills and injections keep her youthful and women watching her think she still looks good for her age so it must work. I find myself almost believing such woo because wouldn’t it be nice if it only took something like a bunch of pills (though 60 seems like way too much work) in order to hold on to youth. It’s so sad that women are valued more greatly for their appearances than who they are and what they have to say. I think most of us women fall victim to it.

    I too like watching the Cindy Crawford skin care shows. I think it’s because you wonder if it’s for real that she worked with this odd doctor fellow.

    Save your brain cells & never watch The View! I think I lost a significant amount of vocabulary and math ability because I watched once!

    1. Yrs ago I knew someone who worked in a hospital near Washington DC. Apparently Debbie Reynolds had a relative who was a patient, and something wasn’t going to DR’s liking. At one point she exploded, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m Debbie Reynolds.”

      Then, Bette Davis related this on Johnny Carson. She’s at a restaurant and hears another woman say to her tablemate, “Look, over at that table – she used to be Bette Davis.” At least, Bette Davis could handle it.

      1. Yeah, must be quite an experience to go from the weird false world of universal adoration to a regular schmo.

  6. My favorite sentence:

    “In fact, the more I think about it, the more I see religion as a pseudoscience: for it makes claims of the world and has many of the characteristics of classic pseudoscience like UFOlogy and Bigfoot-ism.”

    This is in line with what Sam Harris has always maintained: religions are failed sciences.

    1. Agreed. I think this is a good characterization, and highlights what our host often says, that religion is testable because it makes testable claims. It really is no different than any other pseudoscience.

    1. When that polio outbreak was reported I wondered if it would impact the anti-vaccination community. The awfulness resulting from measles outbreaks — a form of plague in its own way — isn’t in institutional memory the same way polio is.

      A student in the class behind me K – 12 was partially partially paralyzed from polio, and I vividly remember an elderly relative’s rest home roommate, confined on his back in an iron lung, watching tv with a mirror attached a foot or so from his face. I still think that may be why I’ve always been claustrophobic.

      If the Syrian polio outbreak is transmitted by air passenger to N. America, I wonder if McCarthy will urgently recommend her viewers to refrain from vaccinating their children against it.

  7. “McCarthy’s imagining a global conspiracy against the truths she alone can figure out.”

    Ironically, she completely trusts the modern application of technology allowing for her recent endorsement of electronic cigarettes.

    1. Oh yes, not even celebrities but politicians as well. Heres a link showing the medical insurance industry using their spokesman in chief Ronnie Reagan to “warn ” us about the “evils” of socialized medicine… The rhetoric is very deep put on your cowshite boots before watching….

      1. I only made it to the 5 minute mark, for the sake of my mood I had to stop there.

        As a liberal socialist I ain’t big on Ronnie. 🙂

        1. sorry for the halloween fright, but the truely scary bit is the fact that we elected this fearmonger… TWICE… Booooo!!! 🙂

              1. I just read the Artist Statement below the Reagan obituary cartoon at the link — can’t disagree with a thing in it, except for the fact that to save space he didn’t list all of the shitty things that could be included in a complete Reagan bio. Tip O’Neill was beguiled by Reagan’s third rate acting skills somehow, which was equal parts appalling and embarrassing to witness, and the Speaker was one of the principal instigators of Democratic Party accommodationism that aided the descent into LooneyRight madness we all endure today. Many national level Dem Party leaders, not least among them Bill Clinton, own a significant share of responsibility for how far to the right the center in this country has shifted. The Hillary option is unlikely to offer much change, either, particularly on neoliberal feudal economic policy. Thanks for the cartoon dissing a President I loathed, I guess, but now I’ve gone from a peaceful morning to all-worked-up.

              2. “. . . the Speaker was one of the principal instigators of Democratic Party accommodationism . . . ”

                Maybe so, but I’d take Tip over Reid in a heartbeat.

  8. Switzerland was to revise its epidemics legislation earlier this year. The revised law proposed compulsory vaccination for risk groups (such as members of the medical professions) in cases of epidemic emergency. Sure enough, the anti-vac gang coalesced to force a referendum. No arguments more substantial than those of Jenny McCarthy’s rant were put forward (albeit by less curvaceous nutcases). The people and cantons voted on Sept. 22. In this most pragmatic and well-medicated oasis of welfare, 40% of the population still didn’t find it beneath the threshold of rationality to vote against the most elementary anti-epidemics precautions. Four hick cantons even rejected the law altogether. (One of them counts the highest density of unlicensed healers and assorted shamans this side of the Himalayas.)

    Re Crème de Sérum:

    Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate, Pentylene Glycol, Castor Isostearate Succinate, Butylene Glycol, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, C30-45 Alkyl Cetearyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Cucumis Melo (Melon) Fruit Extract, Elaesis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Soluble Collagen, Maltooligosyl Glucoside, Decarboxy Carnosine Hcl, Hexapeptide-9, Tripeptide-3, Saccharomyces/Zinc Ferment, Cholesterol, Tocotrienols, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lecithin, Caprylyl Glycol, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Dimethicone, Ethylhexylglycerin, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Hydroxypropyl Guar, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Polysilicone-11, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Hexylene Glycol, Denatured Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance, Phenoxyethanol, Iron Oxides, And Titanium Dioxide.

    Me, I’d take Photoshop any day.

  9. Like a Swedish friend once told me, “Alting beror på mans referensrammar.” Everything depends on one’s frames of reference.

    And in re. that, the View, Oprah, etc, lemme throw this out, possibly sticking my neck out at the same time. Before I recently retired, there was periodically much hand-wringing about the low level of minority (meaning black) representation in grad student applications and faculty/faculty applicants. This was in a broad-spectrum biology dept. There are all sorts of explanations that people like to throw out, but the one I never hear is that in black communities the person considered most learned is most likely to be a/the preacher. And how much science are you ever likely to hear from him?

    Thoughts?

    1. Very good point, these poor kids look up to and seek advice on life from a man who basically has a degree in mother goose and this is the most learned man in their community. Talk about having 2 strikes against you before you ever step up to the plate.

    2. There is very likely some truth in that, but even if there is I think it is a manifestation of the general disadvantaged position that african americans have in our society, still. When life is hard people tend to turn to religion. I think that even if overt racism is completely removed it would still take generations for their behavior to change to where they take, pursue and develop opportunities in the same way a typical caucasian does.

    3. I know you mean well, but I think that reply is a bit, uh, something-ist.

      Nowadays everyone has access to mass communication and there are role models everywhere to be seen. African-Americans have made great inroads into local politics and academic occupations, esp. administrative ones. TV & movie casters often look for minorities to play roles against stereotype; doctors, lawyers, law enforcement officials, statesmen & -women, etc. Nor is it unusual anymore to run into blacks in these professions in daily life. And most of us have heard of Obama… 😀

    4. For posterity, the written (grammar) version should probably be “Allting beror på ens referensramar.”

  10. Celebrity atheists tend to remain fairly low key about their atheism. When was the last time you saw Hugh Laurie, Daniel Radcliffe, or Natalie Portman pushing secularism on a morning talk show? They allude to their non-belief in interviews, move on and that’s it. The most outspoken celebrity skeptic I can think of is Stephen Fry!!

    Christian Science so alarmed novelists Mark Twain and Willa Cather that both wrote full-length books denouncing it (both in the early 20th century). Both authors heavily attacked the personal character of Mary Baker Eddy. Twain’s was a collection of short satirical essays, but Cather’s was a full-blown scholarly critique.
    The ChrSci church went to great lengths to suppress Cather’s book, buying up and destroying thousands of copies- even stealing copies from public libraries- they even tried to stop its reissue in the 1990s.

    Mariel Hemingway seems to be mainly pushing yoga and “holistic living” (often with the help of Oprah) along with ancient Asian philosophies about body-energy-flow. Yoga tends to be attractive to practitioners of alternative medicine, the same folks who push unfounded material such as aromatherapy and chiropracty with minimal or no benefits. Nonetheless yoga does seem to have some authentic health benefits, but at the same time it is a potential source of physical injury. On the one hand, yoga has been shown in reliable studies to benefit drug abusers, reduce sleep anxiety, etc. on the other hand it can cause serious neck or hip injuries or torn muscles. Yoga instructors are !*not*! trained to evaluate students to detect the possible damage certain practices can do to the elderly or pregnant!!

    Hemingway has surely been motivated by her family’s extended history of suicide, alcoholism and mental illness.

    1. Celebrity atheists tend to remain fairly low key about their atheism. When was the last time you saw Hugh Laurie, Daniel Radcliffe, or Natalie Portman pushing secularism on a morning talk show? They allude to their non-belief in interviews, move on and that’s it. The most outspoken celebrity skeptic I can think of is Stephen Fry!!

      It’s probably considered a bad career move. I’d love to see more outspoken rational secular celebs, though.

  11. I think the skin ones are among the worst. They prey on the self esteem issues that come with having a skin condition. Many people with skin problems have not had success with dermatological treatment and are desperate to try anything.

    The male equivalent is probably washed up athletes pushing excercise or lifestyle methods and gadgets. The George Foreman grill and the Taibo guy are the poster children for this.

    1. Daytime TV in the U.S. is filled with commercials for “Ageless Male” brand –and other –testosterone-boosting pills and products for men who cannot face the fact that in their 60s and 70s their hormones have changed. Also there are loads of similar commercials for aging prostate products. Borderline male sports celebs have been on those commercials.

  12. that may be because Hollywood didn’t boot out George Clooney — or John Larroquette — once he hit a certain age.

    True, but those two male actors didn’t stereotype themselves as hot bimbos, either. Some female actors do go on to establish themselves as serious in their later years. Even former bimbos like Farrah Fawcett managed to move forward.

    1. So I suppose that actresses like Glenn Close and Meryl Streep who’ve remarked on their own experiences with ageism in Hollywood should have just played fewer bimbo roles in their early careers?

      1. Meryl Streep has had a phenomenal career as an “old woman”. Don’t know anything about Glenn Close.

        I don’t doubt that women as actors have a harder time as they get older, but it surely helps to start out as a higher caliber actor in the first place.

  13. I once saw a book published in India featuring photographs of practitioners in different yoga positions (or contortions) with notes about what those positions were good for. In one of them the fellow was lying on his stomach and his feet were bent over his back and placed on either side of his chin, and held in place by his hands. Among the benefits listed was the claim that it was a cure for tuberculosis! I can see Yoga as a way to relax and stay limber, but all the other stuff attributed to it is baloney.

  14. her concept of wellness involves filling the body with hormones in order to fool the body into thinking it is not experiencing menopause.

    Ironic for a movement that calls itself “naturopathic.” I forget the context, but at one point a (female) M.D. pointed out to me that your average woman spends approximately 25-30 years of her 85-year lifespan menstruating, and the other 55-60 years not doing so. There’s nothing abnormal about menopause. In terms of years doing it, having no periods is the norm, even for women.

    Still, we can’t lay this entirely at the feet of vain celebrities seeking to extend their youth. Our society does it’s part in telling women they’re s**t if they aren’t young and fruitful.

  15. “…I can’t imagine that it’s useful to inject hormones into one’s vagina… ”

    I don’t know what Sommers pushes, but ob/gyn docs regularly prescribe Premarin brand strogen cream “injections” for some women who are experiencing post-menopausal difficulties. It reconditions tissues and helps with the pain of a condition that is not unlike having raw, cracked, bleeding chapped hands. The injections are not with a needle but with a syringe, to deliver it to the necessary location.

    Unfortunately the production of Premarin involves collection of pregnant mare urine and the conditions under which the horses are (were) kept borders (bordered) on cruelty. The cream is very expensive.

      1. I am not sure how common the problem is so don’t worry too much Diana. I think maybe mostly women who have not given birth vaginally are the ones more likely to experience this, and even then, not everyone does. And it’s not necessarily permanent.

        Also, of course most women know this already –but not many men would so am writing it here to enlighten those who read this– that use of antibiotics for women can upset the normal protective vaginal flora and cause problems like Candida infections that need to be addressed.

  16. There may be a reason why Cindy Crawford isn’t touting such blatant pseudoscience: before she became a model, she was an engineering major at Northwestern.

    Education is the only way to decrease anti-science bias.

  17. Another example: I saw the trailer for The Dallas Buyers’ Club last weekend. It seems to be about a homophobic redneck jackass who discovers a “cure” for HIV being sold in Mexico but illegal in the US. He sticks it to The Man (i.e. the FDA) by importing the drug and selling it via “membership” of a club. Oh, and evolves into a sensitive, gay-friendly redneck jackass in the process.

    It’s just another example of Hollywood favoring feel-good over science, and lends credence to the nonsense spouted McCarthy, Somers et al (and frauds like Stanislaw Burzynski).

  18. Yep, religion is a pseudoscience.

    I think this statement is one way to identify a gnu atheist. We approach God the way it OUGHT to be approached: as a hypothesis. This is not a failure to understand the concept. This is because we’re both taking it seriously and being honest.

    Faith is simply an immunizing strategy, a way to say that dowsing can’t work under controlled conditions after it turns out that uh oh — dowsing can’t work under controlled conditions. If God’s existence was well-supported, they wouldn’t need to wheel in “faith” and pretend it’s the necessary litmus test for being an open-minded person, a moral trial we need to undergo before we’re worthy of learning. As Dan Barker says, “faith is a cop-out.” It’s not intrinsic to the concept of God.

    Bottom line, people think that God exists because they have reasons. They think it explains things. They think they have experiences which suggest it. They think they have intuitions which discover its presence. They think they have arguments which lead to it. They either structure their understanding of the world around it — or they shove it into their understanding of the world because otherwise it’s not complete. It adds something. It’s not an emotion, a desire, an ethical precept, a commitment, a mystery, or anything else which is dragged out for the bait ‘n switch analogies.

    “God exists” is a rational conclusion. But it’s wrong.

    Almost every skeptic is struck at some point by how religious arguments are so strangely similar to the ones for pseudoscience. Not just the same defenses, but defenses of the same sort of claims.

    And almost every atheist is struck at some point by how much pseudoscience arguments resemble ones for religion. Again — same sorts defenses, same sorts of claims.

    1. Because I am cautious, I think I would place religion (that is, the supernatural religious claims which define religion as religion) into the same category as pseudoscience, as opposed to equating the two.

      Pseudoscience is a fuzzy category — and religion is even fuzzier. But the resemblances would group them together, like two species from a common ancestor.

      1. > Pseudoscience is a fuzzy category —
        > and religion is even fuzzier. But
        > the resemblances would group them
        > together, like two species from a
        > common ancestor.

        Both spawned when an Eolithic schizoid
        found that endless toiling he could avoid
        and victuals, sex, prestige still be enjoyed
        when hyperbole and Bos-Scat were employed.

        imo,

      2. Personally I don’t see the value in making religion a “special case” when it comes to pseudoscience. Too much like its special-case hang-up that already exists.

        I think “religion is pseudoscience” is brilliant! Calls it as it is, and can’t be dismissed as rude like calling religion bunk can.

        I’m going to start using is as often as possible.

        1. The reason I want to place religion as a “form of pseudoscience” is that it differs from most other pseudosciences in that it usually avoids trying to go into detail. It is missing the language of science, the explanations which use buzzwords like “quantum” or “vibration” or “biological energy fields.”

          I think that’s because the believers know that once they start trying to explain the mechanisms behind their religious beliefs it’s going to be clear that it’s pseudoscience. They’d have to start babbling like a New Ager (who have a religion (excuse me, a spirituality) which DOES try to use scientific language.) Thus, they wave their hands and hope their hypothesis flies under the radar and passes for something else — like a value, or an experience, or anything other than a truth claim.

          Believers understand that God creates simply through Thought alone, but theists don’t want to say the word “psychokenesis” because that can be addressed. Religion is the sneaky kind of pseudoscience.

  19. These people who preach against science and medicine, obviously don’t know that beauty is only skin deep. After all those pills and hormones they may have acquired a wrinkle-less face, do they ever give a thought about the conditions of the heart, the kidney or the liver? The celebrities were in their carriers, mostly for their looks and not for their education or ability to think rationally. Once they have past their acting days they must stay in the limelight by hook or by crook; and the world is full of gullible people.

    The evangelists will preach against medicine and doctors but will seek treatment when they are sick. When the patient gets well they praise the Lord and when the patient dies, they blame the doctor. The hypocrites!

  20. “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” (Isaac Asimov; sourced at Wikiquote)

    They’ve probably been mentioned here before–possibly even by me–but it can’t hurt to recommend once more some of the key books on anti-intellectualism in America:
    “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” by Richard Hofstadter
    “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman
    “The Age of American Unreason” by Susan Jacoby
    “Idiot America” by Charles P. Pierce

  21. These days, both religion and pop pseudo science may often share the same, or closely related corporate backing, and they are usually marketing a wide portfolio of interrelated products, from media to goods and services to politics and self serving social agendas.

    In other words, Snake Oil Sellers United!

    There’s a buck to be made from the gullible masses. These predators always share an anti-science agenda, because science generates far too many inconvenient conclusions, knowledge that gets in the way of profit when the peons start learning too much “for their own good”, and so science must be suppressed. From “clean coal” to “God loves the Republican Party”, we have to recognize here an overarching, profit driven, corporate sponsored anti-science agenda.

    As a parting example I will point a finger at the Koch brothers, who dabble so widely with their “philanthropic” investments that there’s hardly a sphere of public interest not marred by these tycoons.

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