Recently, on television, a sitcom star from the eighties debated an expert in cancer research on the merits of modern medicine’s approach to fighting cancer. The star was Suzanne Somers, who played the ditzy blonde third of “Three’s Company”, a half hour comedy that ended in 1984. Somers has since penned a number of self help books, acted as the spokeswoman for “The Thighmaster”, and currently advocates medical treatments criticized by numerous credible sources, including the American Cancer Society.
This isn’t intellectual snobbery. You don’t have to have an advanced degree to appreciate that you should be listening to the American Cancer Society, over Suzanne Somers. Right?
People do listen to Suzanne Somers’ advice on their health. Why is that? Everyone has an opinion, but not all are equal weight. I’m with Science on this. I’m always with Science.
DNA, the very building block of life. One of the many things not discovered by a TV personality.
If I push you over, your ass will hit the ground. How long that takes, and how hard you land, is predictable, measurable, and consistent. Age, race, language, spirituality, political views, language, ideology, your entire belief system, is irrelevant. If I push you over, your ass will accelerate towards the ground at exactly the same speed regardless of what you believe. It works the same for every person and thing, in every place. Gravity doesn’t care what you believe. That’s a reality we all share. That’s Science.
Human life expectancy has more than doubled in the last hundred years. Science did that. Not ancient wisdom, not good parenting, not herbal remedies, not belief or religion, it was Science and modern medicine that doubled the amount of time people get to listen to fools on television.
Jenny McCarthy was Playboy Playmate™ of the year in 1993. That’s how she became well known. She went on to host a dating game show on MTV, then acting roles, and wrote several books. She’s beautiful and funny, no doubt. She also has opinions that contradict Science.
Jenny McCarthy says there is a link between vaccinations and Autism. She claims the vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella, which has prevented the deaths of an estimated 1.4 Million people ((http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16528234)), causes Autism. She knows this because of her experience as a mother, as proof she cites studies which the Scientific community have thoroughly discredited.
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” – Isaac Asimov
My nephew has Autism. Great kid. You don’t have to spend much time with him before you understand there’s lots more of him locked inside. You get this because his disorder ebbs and flows. It’s like a thing that fights him.
My sister and her husband are intelligent people, educated intelligent people who have an autistic son. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to hear advise from well meaning people prefaced with, “I saw Jenny McCarthy on Oprah, and she says, …”. I’d find it difficult to be patient.
No one knows what causes Autism, it’s likely not one thing. It’s a multi layered problem that requires expertise ranging from Nutritionists to Neuroscientists. Research is going on all over the world, but there are still more questions than answers. Science doesn’t have the answer to Autism, but I can assure you, neither does Jenny McCarthy.
It’s going to take many people, so much smarter than you or I, working hard in universities, laboratories, and hospitals, to find the keys needed to loosen the grip of my nephew’s disorder. People doing that work aren’t getting famous or rich, and they may or may not be pretty. There are not many Scientist working on treatments for Autism, or Cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or any disease, that would qualify to pose for Playboy magazine, or host a dating game show on MTV. But luckily, those aren’t relevant qualifications for doing advanced medical research.
Value the opinion of talk show hosts and models at your peril. At all our peril, really, because ignorance has an impact. Childhood diseases we thought we eradicated are making a come back, and becoming immune to the few antibiotics we have to treat them, because people are choosing not to vaccinate their kids based on fear and the opinion of someone who’s qualifications end at being lovely.
There are answers to Autism. People practicing good Science, will find them. The problems we face are complex, and the scope of human knowledge is vast. Solutions can not be found if we abandon facts, evidence, and rational thought as crucial to their discovery, or put our faith in people who should be eliminated from the discussion through the application of common sense. I suggest, as a good solid guideline for adult life, that you do not take medical advise from a Playmate™.
Autism – Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
The danger of Science denial – Michael Specter (TED Video)
MEASLES, MUMPS, AND RUBELLA VACCINATION AND AUTISM – New England Journal of Medicine – evidence points to no link
Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism – Institute of Medicine: No connection between MMR vacines or thimerosal and autism
NY TImes – Three separate trials determine that thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury, does not cause autism.
Responding to a fourth trial judgment that dismisses a connection between vaccinations and autism, advocacy group Autism Speaks, who has previously supported the idea of a connection, released a statement: “While we have great empathy for all parents of children with autism, it is important to keep in mind that, given the present state of the science, the proven benefits of vaccinating a child to protect them against serious diseases far outweigh the hypothesized risk that vaccinations might cause autism,”