The Sense about Science report looks at the dumbest things celebrities have said over the past year—on the subjects of physics, medicine, and so on. Medicine is the one area in which it is easiest to make a fool of oneself.
For the top example, we have the world’s biggest celebrity saying something stupid about autism. Ladies and gentlemen, our very own Barack Obama:
We’ve seen just skyrocketing autism rates. 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.
John McCain backs Obama up, so this is not a “D” versus “R” thing.
Contrast what the big boys are saying with the statement by actress Amanda Peet, who showed us her awe-inspiring talents in The Whole Nine Yards:
Fourteen studies have been conducted (both here in the US and abroad), and these tests are reproducible; no matter where they are administered, or who is funding them, the conclusion is the same: there is no association between autism and vaccines.
Wait…an actress knowing more than about-to-be and an almost-was president? Strange world.
The real reason autism rates are rising is that people are more aware of the disease and so it is diagnosed more often. According to Michael Fitzpatrick, a guy who actually studies this stuff:
The presidential candidates are correct in that there is an apparent increase in the number of cases of autism. However, authoritative studies confirm that the apparent rise is attributable to increased public and professional awareness of the condition and to widening definitions of autistic spectrum disorders.
So how about my Nobel prize?
Well, we’d all like to see the rates of diseases decrease, right? One sure fire, guaranteed method to accomplish this is to ban all advertising, public service announcements, and public discussions of health problems!
Yes! Once people don’t know what they might have, they’ll cease going to the doctor to find out if they really do have it. It’s sublime! It’s genius!
No other medical treatment or public health measure will ever have the effect my scheme will. Disease rates will plummet across the board; every major and minor disease will show tremendous drop offs.
My brilliant idea, developed using the same logic as our esteemed leaders, since it will cause disease rates to fall to all time lows, will surely win me the prize.
See you in Oslo (or wherever it is they hand those things out).