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Forbes on “Stars Vs. Science” once again the autism community looks bad

Posted Jan 15 2010 2:27pm

Forbes Magazine has an article, Stars Vs. Science, From Jenny McCarthy to Tom Cruise, some Hollywood hot shots are leading a war against modern science. The opening paragraph is pretty telling about the tone:

When the medical journal Pediatrics released a consensus report early this year concluding that autistic children do not benefit from special diets, ABC News’ Diane Sawyer knew just whom to call. Jenny McCarthy, former MTV game host, nude model and now mother of an autistic son Evan, enthusiastically denounced the study. “Until doctors start listening to our anecdotal evidence, which is it’s working, it’s going to take so many more years for these kids to get better,” she opined

Or, you can just take a look a the URL—science-jenny-mccarthy-business-healthcare-hollywood-autism.html

Once again, the Autism community takes it on the chin that our representative in the public eye is, well, in a league of her own when it comes to understanding science. Even though the story is about celebrities and science in general, autism plays a big part in the story as a whole. Take a look at the celebrities that were selected for the “slideshow”

Of course, there are Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey (click to enlarge and read the caption):

Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Carrey have been trying to shake loose the anti-vaccine image for a while. It doesn’t appear to be working. From the article:

But some of the best-known celebrities use their soap boxes to spread scientifically dubious—and potentially harmful—messages. Jenny McCarthy believes vaccines cause autism, despite numerous studies to the contrary. She campaigns against child vaccines that have been shown to save lives. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control reported that measles outbreaks had spiked because more parents were deciding to leave their children unvaccinated, thanks to the burgeoning anti-vaccine movement.

Others who made the cut? Arriana Hufffington, of the Huffington Post, (again. click to enlarge):

It is worth reading the caption to that one. Dr. Rahul Parikh is quoted from his Salon.com piece, The Huffington Post is crazy about your health, Why bogus treatments and crackpot medical theories dominate “The Internet Newspaper”.

The quote:

But Huffington has distorted science and facts…fairness and accuracy in health and medicine take a back seat to sensationalism and self-promotion

In his piece, Dr. Parikh had noted the Huffington Post blogs by “David Kirby, Jenny McCarthy’s pediatrician Jay Gordon and detox advocate Dierdre Imus” and also spends a considerable amount of time discussing a piece by Jim Carrey.

The Forbes piece also discusses Oprah Winfrey (click to enlarge):

Once again, autism is prominent in the description given by Forbes.

I’m sure some readers will assume I’m putting this up to embarrass these celbrities. Yeah, like being in Forbes is so low profile that LBRB is going to be the embarrassment for Oprah and company. No, this is just another vent of anger. Anger that the autism community is once again seen by the public as the home to people who are “leading a war against modern science.” Tell me how that helps us advocate.

One notable entry outside of autism is Bill Maher. (click to enlarge)

I bring this up because Forbes notes that Bill Maher has been discussed by “quack busting doctor-blogger David Gorski”. That’s the same guy you can find on Science Based Medicine,

The article does seem to be following a recent trend: they aren’t looking for “balance” by quoting groups from the anti-science side. Instead, qutoes are had by:

William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt School of Medicine:

“These are folks who really don’t have the best information, but because they are vocal and well organized their message has gotten out” [as a result] “around the country pediatricians and their staffs are having to spend more and more time persuading parents to have their kids vaccinated in a timely fashion. It is an enormous problem.”

Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch.org

“Talk shows don’ t pay any attention to whether the advice on their program will kill people. ... Producers consider it entertainment,” he says, adding: “Never take health advice from a talk show.”

and

Dr. Paul Offit of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:

Why do celebrities feel the need to spout off on medical or scientific matters? Because they’ve excelled in one field, stars “think they’re an expert in many things,” says the vaccine expert Offit. “That part doesn’t bother me. It’s the part that we listen that bothers me.”

I’m inclined to agree with Dr. Offit. It is the part that we listen to celebrities when they talk about things far outside their expertise that bothers me.

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