Here’ some positive news. A new campaign has started to appeal to celebrities, Sense about Science. It has its own celebrity backer, Derren Brown, who has written recently about the dangers of sensationalist science reporting in the press. How dangerous are some of the claims being made?
Homeopathy is not just useless, it is worse than useless in the case of malaria because it dupes people into thinking that they are protected when they are not. I was shocked that there was such willingness to give advice and sell products that would leave people exposed to a highly dangerous disease…
Beforehand I suspected that one or two homeopaths might offer pills to protect against malaria, but it turned out that ten out of ten were guilty of such irresponsible practice. This makes me think that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way homeopaths are regulated.Simon Singh
The danger is magnified when celebrities attract attention to what they think is a good cause. The willingness for celebrities to try and do their bit was one of the major segments of the series Brass Eye.
You can also watch celebrities tackle the menace of Cake. If you’ve not heard of Cake it is not a natural drug but, as Bernard Manning described, a made-up drug from the Czech Republic. No-one doubts the sincerity of someone like Noel Edmonds, who explained that Cake stimulated the part of the brain known as “Shatner’s Bassoon” which alters the users sense of time. “Sounds like fun, but tell that to the Czech boy run over by a tram. He thought he had two weeks to cross the street.” But if people like Tania Bryer can tell a camera that inverted clouds are raining upwards into space and causing drought, then there is cause for concern about the damage a well-meaning spokesman can cause.
I think an advisory panel where public speakers can get another point of view before committing themselves to what might be dangerous nonsense is a good thing. It would mean that campaigns about genuinely important matters do get a better chance to be put before the public.