Friday, 4 January 2008

If Gwyneth Said It, It Must Be True

So, I read in the paper yesterday that the chrity Sense About Science has had to publish a leaflet for the second year in a row warning people not to listen to scientific advice from celebrities and that public should check their facts before making scientific statements.

I find it hard to believe that this is actually serious, but I am regretfully aware that it is. What does it say about the state of our society when people will believe science advice from celebrities? You know, people famous for doing things distinctly other than science? Are we really living in a country so stupid, so gullible that they will take the word of Sarah Beeny or Stella McCartney over a qualified doctor? Apparently, yes.

It boggles the mind that someone would take the statement: "...and up to 60% of what you put on it is absorbed into the system. Lots of skin products use the same petrochemicals as the antifreeze in your car!"From the daughter of one of The Beatles as a fact. Or the piece of gold from Gyneth Paltrow that a vegan diet helps decrease the risk of tumours, or how about Gillian McKeith telling people that obesity runs in families.

Why do people believe this?!

There was a time, centuries ago, when the only people that were famous were those that were excellent at the job they did. Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Isaac Newton, people famous for being the best people that society had to offer. Now, look to even thirty years ago; Malcolm X, Robert De Niro, Stephen Hawking, people famous for being the best society had to offer. Now? Now we have Jade Goody, Paris Hilton or Victoria Beckham, or television "personalities" like McKeith, those cleaning ladies or Gok Wan. As pleasent as these people may be, do they really hold such sway in peoples minds that when they make a statement on more or less anything that it becomes news and truth?

When the actor Gwyneth Paltrow, a person good at acting, makes a statement on tumour prevention, why does anyone pay attention? If a bus driver gave you advice about how to alleviate the risks of heart diesease based on eating organic meat pies, would you believe him? No. Why? Because he's a damn bus driver. It doesn't matter what his theory is, he knows nothing about the subject. So why do people listen to Gwyneth? Because she's famous. Sure they have been crackpots like Uri Geller that appear from time to time, but they are quickly swept back under the dappy coloured carpet from whence they came. But "celebs"? Everything they say seems to be treated as possible fact.

And the real facts? The important stuff? That's relegated to the dull, dusty corners of a website, or the fourteenth page of a newspaper (unless it's something glamourous like a cancer cure or anything to do with drinking or obesity), because what an Oscar winner with a child called Apple is far more knowledgable on cancer prevention than a doctor of radiotherapy is. It's a sad testament to the depths to which our society is plunging into. And the sooner we find a cure for this, the better.

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