For some reason, celebrities love to pretend they’re scientists — though not the ones who know anything about science, like Lisa Kudrow from Friends (Bachelor’s in biology) or strongman Dolph “Ivan Drago” Lundgren (Master’s in chemical engineering, Fulbright scholarship to MIT). Nope, those people keep their well-founded scientific opinions to themselves, leaving it up to their uneducated colleagues to make statements they feel must be right, because they’re celebrities. Here are five celebrities who took positions on science and health they should have left alone…
Gwyneth Paltrow – The Sun Can’t Hurt You!
In the August issue of Cosmopolitan UK, Paltrow took a stand against the idea that the sun can harm you. “We’re human beings and the sun is the sun – how can it be bad for you?” she asked, in what we suppose she intended to be a rhetorical question. “I don’t think anything that is natural can be bad for you,” she went on. We suppose no one in her entourage wanted to clue her into the existence of tornadoes, poison ivy, or brown recluse spiders.
Megan Fox – Drink Vinegar to Lose Weight
Most celebrity science ideas begin with weight loss, since celebrities are in the business of providing unrealistic expectations about human bodies. So it’s no surprise when a celeb comes up with a “revolutionary” idea about how to lose weight other than “burn more calories per day than you take in.” In Fox’s case, it’s the old drinking-vinegar-for-no-scientific-purpose ruse, which of course has also been encouraged by Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas. Both claim it’s a “detox,” which of course is what your liver is for. Surprisingly, vinegar does not do anything to encourage liver function.
Suzanne Somers – Anti-Chemotherapy
Four years ago, after Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer — an awful illness we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies — Somers (who herself survived breast cancer and really should know better) said, “They took a beautiful man and put poison in his body. Why couldn’t they have built him up nutritionally and gotten rid of the toxins?” The sad answer, as anyone who knows someone who’s fought cancer is already aware, is that they were trying to save Swayze’s life and alternative treatments aren’t necessarily proven to be wholly effective. Swayze himself said as much to Barbara Walters. Taking aim at the natural-therapy brigade, he pointed out, “If anybody had that cure out there like so many people swear to me they do, you’d be two things: you’d be very rich, and you’d be very famous. Otherwise, shut up.”
Jenny McCarthy – Vaccine Denialism
McCarthy’s opposition to vaccination is based on the research of now-no-longer-Dr. Andrew Wakefield, whose anti-vaccination research was deemed fraudulent, and who was himself found by the UK General Medical Council to have carried out his research “dishonestly and irresponsibly.” That hasn’t stopped her from leading the charge to discourage parents from vaccinating children (despite no evidence that vaccinations are harmful, and ample evidence that the diseases they prevent are). For her efforts, she’s been awarded the “Jenny McCarthy Bodycount” website, which keeps track of the number of people who died from illnesses previously preventable by vaccines.
Foo Fighters – HIV Denialism (possibly recanted?)
Perhaps the strangest medical position we’ve heard celebrities take was Dave Grohl’s band Foo Fighters, who supported the idea that HIV is a harmless virus in no way related to AIDS (considered to be flatly wrong by the scientific community). In 2000, Foo Fighters organized a benefit for the Alive and Well HIV-denialist foundation, distributing literature by HIV-denialist Christine Maggiore (untrained in medicine or science), who gave a speech to the audience. In a sad twist, Maggiore died of AIDS in 2008, three years after the death from AIDS of her three-year-old daughter, whom she breast-fed and refused to take antiretroviral drugs to protect from HIV transmission. Also in 2008, the Foo Fighters removed references to the Alive and Well foundation from their website, though no member has gone on record to recant their support for the organization.