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2008 Celebrities and Science Review Image

2008 Celebrities and Science Review

It’s that time of the year when Sense About Science asks scientists to review what celebrities have said about science and medicine, from detox and special diets to chemicals, MMR and radiation.

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Scientists have responded to celebrities including: Kelly Osbourne on avoiding cancer risks, Tom Cruise on psychiatry, Demi Moore’s promotion of detoxing with leeches, Ivanka Trump and ‘spit’ parties, Amanda Peet defending MMR, Mariah Carey’s use of Einstein’s equation, Jenny McCarthy misunderstanding MMR, Nigella Lawson on special diets, Delia Smith on sugar addiction, Carole Caplin on food supplements and more! Scientists also couldn’t resist a response to US presidential candidates on the subjects of the MMR vaccine and fruit fly research.

While UK celebs have improved and are taking more care when discussing science and medicine, their international counterparts haven’t done so well.  Sense About Science’s files are still too full of examples of pseudo-scientific claims.

We’ve also discovered this year that the subjects have changed:  the most common misconception of the last couple of years was how products or food can be ‘chemical free’, something which doesn’t appear this year. References to the effectiveness of detox have however remained steady. New topics appear too, including genetic testing, psychiatry, maths and international celebrities have resurrected inaccurate claims about the MMR vaccine.  There have been big improvements amongst the UK celebs in medicine and health and nutrition and food production.

We don’t expect people to know everything about science; the problem comes when they don’t consider checking it or asking a few questions before they speak out. With the internet, and 24-hour news media, celebrities’ misleading claims travel widely. They add disproportionately to the stock of misinformation that we all then have to wade through to make sense of a subject. A little checking goes a long way.” Ellen Raphael, director UK, Sense About Science

Media coverage

The Times  Don’t take health tips from celebs if you know what’s good for you

The Independent  Scientific illiteracy all the rage among the glitterati

NME  Mariah Carey told off by Scientists for E=MC2 claims

The Financial Times  Atlantic Divide Opens on Celebrity Science

The Guardian  Mariah Carey Officially Rubbish at Maths

bbc.co.uk Stars ‘Misleading’ About Science

Channel 4 News Warning Over Celebs’ Health Advice

The Telegraph Celebrities Attacked by Science Charity for ‘Offering Bad Science Tips’

Author: Sense About Science

Document type: Celebrities and Science review

Published: 30 December 2008

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