Bad Astronomy

Celebrity engorgements

Why do people listen to celebrities? Why?

OK, I hate rhetorical questions, and we know the answer anyway: evolutionary pressures acting on a tribal group of protohumans instilled in us an instinctive need to listen to authority figures, and that’s been short-circuited in our recently-developed upper brains which causes us to reverse the authority-is-famous connection to be famous-is-authority.

But still. Yeesh. Jenny McCarthy is an expert in vaccines? Marie Osmond is a nutritional dietician? William Shatner reserves his own hotel rooms?

Every now and again, a little snark is called for, which is why I love love love this column in The Guardian by Marina Hyde smacking down the celebrity authority figure. This is must-read stuff:

We shall come to her latest discoveries shortly, but by way of background, do recall that Gwyneth [Paltrow] has formerly claimed that eating “biological foods” can prevent cancer, reminding us that starring in Iron Man and maintaining a glittering career in clinical research are not mutually exclusive. Then we have Madonna, who has cited the extraordinary healing powers of Kabbalah water, which costs $4 a bottle, is said to have had energy injected into it, and may or may not have been blessed by the former insurance salesman who dreamed up her religion.

… And then there’s [fashion designer] Stella [McCartney], who launched her organic skincare range with the warning that “lots of skin products use the same petrochemicals as the antifreeze in your car!”, and is one of those celebrities who thinks they eat “chemical-free” food and use “chemical-free” products. I beg you not to tell her that water and trees are made of chemicals. The shock could finish her off.

Awesome. I heartily endorse this column, and remember: I’m not just a scientist, I play one on TV.

Tip o’ the $3500 Les Croix (dearie) jewel-encrusted pillbox propeller beanie to Skepchick.