Sense About Science is a charitable organization that equips people to make sense of science and evidence.
Since 2006, they have reviewed the misinformed science claims that celebrities have made – about diets, cancer, magnets, radiation, and more. Many of these claims promote theories, therapies and campaigns that make no scientific sense and are not backed by legitimate scientific evidence. Sense About Science then works with scientists to respond to these claims, helping the celebrities to realize where they are going wrong and helping the public make sense of these often strange claims.
A few of the highlights from the report include:
1) Jersey Shore’s Snooki’s remark that the oceans are salty due to an abundance of whale sperm… Snooki, that would have to be a lot of sperm to make the entire ocean salty.
2) Bill O’Reilly, US TV host and political commentator reference to the tides: “In my opinion – alright? Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in.” Bill, try “the moon’s gravitational force.”
3) Michelle Bachman, member of the US House of Representatives and Republican Presidential Candidate, told journalists: “There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given the [HPV] vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences.” In reality, there is no evidence to suggest that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation or that there are dangerous consequences. Cervical cancer, however, does cause deaths. The vaccination program in the UK is forecast to save 400 lives per year.
Why is the report relevant and important?
Tracey Brown, Managing Director at Sense About Science for the Guardian UK explains:
“Celebrity claims have a particular kind of reach. They boast a large share of high-impact broadcast and social media followed by the longevity of weekly and monthly magazines which then float around indefinitely in doctors’ waiting rooms. Once uttered, their views go viral and global, and it is hard to mount an effective response, especially on subjects like vaccine safety. It’s tempting to dismiss celebrity comments on science and health, but their views travel far and wide and, once uttered, a celebrity cancer prevention idea or environmental claim is hard to reverse. At a time when celebrities dominate the public realm, the pressure for sound science and evidence must keep pace.“