Respectful Insolence

Oprah and Jenny McCarthy: A woo too far

OprahLast week I wrote a bit about what I’ve been tempted to call Oprah’s War on Science but settled for the title of a documentary called The Oprah Effect. The reason, as I have mentioned before, is that arguably there is no single person who does more to promote pseudoscientific and dubious health practices than does Oprah Winfrey. I was happy to learn that more people are questioning Oprah’s promotion of outright quackery than I recall ever having seen before.

It wasn’t always so. Oprah Winfrey is an extremely powerful media figure, having been the host of the highest rated syndicated talk show in television history, her self-named The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show has been running for nearly 23 years, with over 3,000 episodes. Winfrey is so famous that she is one of those rare celebrities who is known instantly by just her first name. Say “Oprah,” and virtually everyone will know to whom you’re referring, and her show is often colloquially known as simply Oprah. Given this unprecedented level of success, which has made Oprah a billionaire and a ubiquitous presence on TV, her own magazine, her own satellite radio station, and, soon, her own cable channel, Oprah has developed a media empire that few single individuals can match or beat. Indeed Rupert Murdoch is the only person that I can think of who likely has a wider reach than Oprah. Personally, I have no problem with Oprah’s level of success. Clearly, she is a very talented and savvy TV host and businesswoman. What I do have a problem with is Oprah’s frequent promotion of of woo in general and antivaccine views in particular.

Unfortunately, a frequent topic of this blog has been the anti-vaccine movement, personified these days by celebrity spokesmodel for Generation Rescue Jenny McCarthy and her dimmer than dim boyfriend comedian and actor Jim Carrey. Together they spew antivaccine nonsense so ignorant and stupid that it represents a burning black hole of dumb, which simultaneously sucks all intelligence past its event horizon and burns out the neurons of anyone with any intelligence forced to be exposed to it. Unfortunately, the antivaccine movement is a topic that is unlikely to go away. I’ve often wondered and speculated why the anti-scientific emotion-based notion that vaccines somehow must cause autism persists in spite of mountains of evidence to the contrary, but I think the question goes much deeper than that because it’s not just about vaccines. The anti-vaccine movement is but one of the most visible components of a much deeper problem in our public discourse, a problem that values feelings and personal experience over evidence, compelling stories and anecdotes over science. These tendencies reached their apogee since the fall of 2007, when Oprah invited Jenny McCarthy on her show to promote her first book about “curing” autism. Since then, McCarthy has become a frequent guest and, most recently and disturbingly, Oprah has inked a deal with McCarthy to do various media projects and her own television show. Unfortunately, McCarthy is only the latest and most visible example, however, Oprah’s promotion of pseudoscience.

Over the years, Oprah has promoted a wide variety of dubious medical practices, pseudoscience, and mysticism on her show. Indeed, just this week, NEWSWEEK ran a long article (excerpts of which I will quote but which you should read in its gloriously lengthy entirety) entitled Live Your Best Life Ever! Wish Away Cancer! Get A Lunchtime Face-Lift! Eradicate Autism! Turn Back The Clock! Thin Your Thighs! Cure Menopause! Harness Positive Energy! Erase Wrinkles! Banish Obesity! Live Your Best Life Ever! It’s an awesome title for an awesome article in that it reveals just how forcefully Oprah and her credulous belief in New Age nonsense are reflected in her show. The article starts with the example of Suzanne Somers, whom I’ve mentioned before because of her belief that alternative medicine cured her of her breast cancer:

In January, Oprah Winfrey invited Suzanne Somers on her show to share her unusual secrets to staying young. Each morning, the 62-year-old actress and self-help author rubs a potent estrogen cream into the skin on her arm. She smears progesterone on her other arm two weeks a month. And once a day, she uses a syringe to inject estrogen directly into her vagina. The idea is to use these unregulated “bio-identical” hormones to restore her levels back to what they were when she was in her 30s, thus fooling her body into thinking she’s a younger woman. According to Somers, the hormones, which are synthesized from plants instead of the usual mare’s urine (disgusting but true), are all natural and, unlike conventional hormones, virtually risk-free (not even close to true, but we’ll get to that in a minute).

Next come the pills. She swallows 60 vitamins and other preparations every day. “I take about 40 supplements in the morning,” she told Oprah, “and then, before I go to bed, I try to remember … to start taking the last 20.” She didn’t go into it on the show, but in her books she says that she also starts each day by giving herself injections of human growth hormone, vitamin B12 and vitamin B complex. In addition, she wears “nanotechnology patches” to help her sleep, lose weight and promote “overall detoxification.” If she drinks wine, she goes to her doctor to rejuvenate her liver with an intravenous drip of vitamin C. If she’s exposed to cigarette smoke, she has her blood chemically cleaned with chelation therapy. In the time that’s left over, she eats right and exercises, and relieves stress by standing on her head. Somers makes astounding claims about the ability of hormones to treat almost anything that ails the female body. She believes they block disease and will double her life span. “I know I look like some kind of freak and fanatic,” she said. “But I want to be there until I’m 110, and I’m going to do what I have to do to get there.”

That was apparently good enough for Oprah. “Many people write Suzanne off as a quackadoo,” she said. “But she just might be a pioneer.” Oprah acknowledged that Somers’s claims “have been met with relentless criticism” from doctors. Several times during the show she gave physicians an opportunity to dispute what Somers was saying. But it wasn’t quite a fair fight. The doctors who raised these concerns were seated down in the audience and had to wait to be called on. Somers sat onstage next to Oprah, who defended her from attack. “Suzanne swears by bioidenticals and refuses to keep quiet. She’ll take on anyone, including any doctor who questions her.”

I was actually amazed to read this. I’ve known for a while that Suzanne Somers promotes so-called “bioidentical hormones,” which is the sort of nonsense quack-friendly journals like JPANDS publish. I also warned that it is the height of stupidity for a woman who has survived breast cancer to pump herself full of estrogen in the futile and pathetic quest to reclaim her lost youth. It’s just begging for a recurrence of her breast cancer, and Somers epitomizes the cliche of “I’d rather be lucky than good.” Either that, or her cancer was estrogen receptor-negative, but even in that case it’s definitely pushing her luck to be bathing in “bioidentical” estrogens. Be that as it may, “good” Somers is not with respect to science and medicine, but lucky she is. Although I was aware of Somers’ promotion of bioidentical hormones at doses designed to boost her estrogen levels to what they were in her 20s, but I had been blissfully unaware of all the other quackery she promotes, including the multiple supplements, the “nanotechnology patches,” the vitamin C drips, and the chelation therapy. Perhaps it is because I’ve never read any of her books or watched any of her videos and somehow I was fortunate enough to miss her appearance on Oprah, mainly because I don’t watch Oprah.

More recently, Somers has been promoting stem cell quackery. (Yes, indeed, when I want to learn about the latest stem cell science, Suzanne Somers is exactly the person to whom I’d look.) In any case, Suzanne Somers promotes medical advice and practices that could be dangerous to women, and Oprah is totally down with them. Moreover, it’s her show. She is the star and the driving force behind it. Her opinion is all that matters:

On Oprah’s show, there is one opinion more equal than others; and by the end of the program there was no doubt where Oprah herself stood on the issue. She told her audience that she found Somers’s bestselling books on bioidentical hormones “fascinating” and said “every woman should read” what she has to say. She didn’t stop there. Oprah said that although she has never had a hot flash, after reading Somers she decided to go on bioidenticals herself. “After one day on bioidentical estrogen, I felt the veil lift,” she wrote in O, The Oprah Magazine. “After three days, the sky was bluer, my brain was no longer fuzzy, my memory was sharper. I was literally singing and had a skip in my step.” On the show, Oprah had her own word of warning for the medical establishment: “We have the right to demand a better quality of life for ourselves,” she said. “And that’s what doctors have got to learn to start respecting.”

That statement epitomizes the attitude that infuses The Oprah Winfrey Show when it comes to medical issues and science. Anecdotes trump science, and scientists should “respect” pseudoscience because of feelings and a desire for “quality of life.” Indeed, thees are exactly the attitudes that permeate the CAM movement and the antivaccine movement. It’s therefore not surprising that Oprah would be drawn to them, especially since she clearly does not have the critical thinking skills necessary to recognize that what Somers offers is a risky false promise. What’s especially sad is that it doesn’t take sharply honed critical thinking skills recognize Suzanne Somers’ woo for the quackery it is. Clearly, critical thinking and science do not matter to Oprah.

Here’s also what matters to Oprah:

Somers says it’s mainstream doctors who need to get their facts straight. “The problem is that our medical schools do not teach this,” she said in a February interview with NEWSWEEK. She believes doctors, scientists and the media are all in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry. “Billions are spent on marketing drugs, and these companies also support academic research.” Free from these entanglements, Somers can see things clearly. “I have spent thousands of hours on this. I’ve written 18 books on health. I know my stuff.”

No, Somers most definitely does not “know her stuff.” In fact, she “knows her stuff” about as much as Jenny McCarthy does. Every bit as much as Jenny McCarthy, Suzanne Somers is to science and critical thinking what Torquemada was to heretics. Indeed, Suzanne Somers is so ignorant and stupid that she gives Jenny McCarthy a serious run for her money in the brain dead department. Writing books is no guarantee that she “knows her stuff,” particularly given that she clearly does not understand science and cherry picks references to support her viewpoint, ignoring those that do not. Like Jenny McCarthy (more on her later), Somers also suffers from the arrogance of ignorance, in which she thinks her Google University and self-taught knowledge trump the understanding of scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying such questions deeply. Again, Oprah is drawn to this sort of thinking because it reinforces her message of “empowerment” and her apparent distrust of medical authorities. Truly, she is the perfect representative for the science-free attitudes that have allowed the rise of so much pseudoscience in medicine.

Speaking of bioidentical hormones, another favorite and frequent guest on Oprah is Dr. Christiane Northrup, a woo-friendly gynecologist who has some very strange views about the vagina and has advocated using qi gong to increase “energy flow” (i.e., qi) to the vagina and cure all manner of “female” ills. Supposedly a bit of qi in one’s cooch will also result in most excellent orgasms, at least, if we are to believe Dr. Northrup. Dr. Harriet Hall has done a detailed examination of Dr. Northrup’s views. It turns out that Dr. Northrup is also very much “skeptical” of vaccination, in particular the HPV vaccine. She’s even gone so far as to parrot antivaccine propaganda about the VAERS database, as I’ve detailed earlier. Not only that, but she is a germ theory denialist, who has credulously also parroted the myth that Louis Pasteur “recanted” on his deathbed. But I had no idea of just how into woo Dr. Northrup is until I read this NEWSWEEK article:

Northrup holds a special place in Oprah’s constellation of regular guests. A Dartmouth-educated ob-gyn, she stresses alternative therapies and unseen connections between the soul and the body that she believes conventional doctors overlook, but that she can see. She has written about how she has used Tarot cards to help diagnose her own illnesses. (On her Web site, she sells her own “Women’s Wisdom Healing Cards.”) In other words, she gets right to the center of Oprah’s search for hidden mystical meanings. Oprah says she reads Northrup’s menopause book “just like it’s the Bible. It’s the book next to my bed. I read the Bible. I read that book.”

Oprah found Dr. Northrup when she “blew out her thyroid,” and Dr. Northrup promotes a wide variety of pseudoscience with regard to thyroid disease:

But Northrup believes thyroid problems can also be the result of something else. As she explains in her book, “in many women, thyroid dysfunction develops because of an energy blockage in the throat region, the result of a lifetime of ‘swallowing’ words one is aching to say.”

Until most recently, the low point of Oprah’s malign influence came when she fell under the spell of The Secret. I’ve already castigated The Secret before, as have others. Of course, the truly despicable aspect of The Secret is that a consequence of its teachings is not that people bring good things to themselves with their thoughts but the flip side, too: That people bring evil to themselves with their own thoughts and that it is their fault. In other words, if you get cancer, AIDS, or other serious and possibly fatal diseases, it’s your fault for not being “positive” enough. If you’re not rich, it’s your fault for not being “positive” enough. If you are a failure in life, it’s your fault for not “believing” hard enough.

The NEWSWEEK article describes how this sort of magical thinking came to its toxic conclusion when people started actually believing Oprah’s advice:

The message got through. In March 2007, the month after the first two shows on The Secret, Oprah invited a woman named Kim Tinkham on the program. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and her doctors were urging surgery and chemotherapy. But Tinkham wrote Oprah to say that she had decided to forgo this treatment and instead use The Secret to cure herself. On the show, Oprah seemed genuinely alarmed that Tinkham had taken her endorsement of The Secret so seriously. “When my staff brought this letter to me, I wanted to talk to her,” Oprah told the audience. “I said, get her in here, OK?” On air, Oprah urged the woman to listen to her doctors. “I don’t think that you should ignore all of the advantages of medical science and try to, through your own mind now because you saw a Secret tape, heal yourself,” she said. A few weeks earlier, Oprah could not say enough in praise of The Secret as the guiding philosophy of her life. Now she said that people had somehow gotten the wrong idea. “I think that part of the mistake in translation of The Secret is that it’s used to now answer every question in the world. It is not the answer to all questions,” she instructed. “I just wanted to say it’s a tool. It is not the answer to everything.” The Law of Attraction was just one law of many that guide the universe. “Although I live my life that way,” Oprah said, “I think it has its flaws.”

Actually, it’s wrong to think that Tinkham tried to use The Secret to heal her breast cancer. I’ve discussed Kim Tinkham’s case twice before, and it turns out that she is under the care of a quack named Dr. Young who believes that tumors are all an “acid” and that “alkalinization” will cure all disease. However, it’s clear that The Secret did have quite a bit to do with Tinkham’s rejection of conventional therapy, and Oprah’s promotion of The Secret definitely influenced her. Either Oprah doesn’t know her own power, or she does not want to take responsibility for the promotion of quackery. Yet, promote quackery is what she does. Moreover, she is now promoting it through her surrogates.

One area where the NEWSWEEK article gets it wrong is here:

Right about now is when you might be asking, is there anything Oprah gets right? In fact, there is. For one, she gives excellent diet and fitness tips. Two of her longest-serving resident experts, Dr. Mehmet Oz and trainer Bob Greene, routinely offer sound, high-quality advice to Oprah and her audience on how to lose weight and improve overall health. For the most part, it is free of the usual diet-industry hype, perhaps because so many of her viewers are on to those scams by now. Oz’s and Greene’s philosophy amounts to: eat nutritious foods, and exercise.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is, of course, another of Oprah’s famous pseudoscience-loving proteges is Mehmet Oz. Regular readers may recall that I don’t think too much of him because of his elsewhere promotion of CAM as “prevention” and his advocacy for hijacking President Obama’s agenda for health care reform to get the government to pay for CAM. His advice on Oprah tends to be mostly sound, but Oz, like Andrew Weil, frequently mixes science-based medicine with woo. He’s also a very famous advocate for CAM who has shown up with Dean Ornish, Mark Hyman, and Andrew Weil at the recent Institute of Medicine woo-fest designed to influence the Obama Administration’s health care policy. He also–surprise! surprise!–is a pitchman for a company that sells information from a dubious test its readers take to pharamceutical companies in order to allow them to send targeted ads to them.

He is also presently poised to get his own show in the fall, thanks to Oprah.

It may well be that McCarthy is, to paraphrase the title of an excellent book about Operation Market Garden during World War II by Cornelius Ryan (later made into a movie), a woo too far. For it is Oprah’s inking of a deal with Jenny McCarthy to develop a number of media efforts, including one of the most inane blogs I’ve ever seen and a television show that has focused the attention of the mainstream media on Oprah’s promotion of quackery. McCarthy’s promotion of antivaccine propaganda and pseudoscience is, quite simply, so egregious and such a threat to public health that even the Oprah-friendly media (or perhaps the Oprah frightened media) have become alarmed, given her statements that, if she ever had another child, she would not vaccinated. The NEWSWEEK article even notes her statement that

I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their fucking fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s shit. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.

In both of the recent articles criticizing Oprah for her promotion of pseudoscience, reporters tried to get a statement from Oprah. This is what they got. First, I reiterate her response from the article on the Oprah Effect:

Asked if Oprah or her show endorses McCarthy’s views, a representative for Oprah’s program said, “We don’t take positions on the opinions of our guests. Rather, we offer a platform for guests to share their first-person stories in an effort to inform the audience and put a human face on topics relevant to them.” When McCarthy’s views have been discussed on the air, statements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics saying that there’s no scientific evidence of a vaccine-autism link have been read.

And from the NEWSWEEK story:

She declined to be interviewed for this article, but in a statement she said, “The guests we feature often share their first-person stories in an effort to inform the audience and put a human face on topics relevant to them. I’ve been saying for years that people are responsible for their actions and their own well-being. I believe my viewers understand the medical information presented on the show is just that–information–not an endorsement or prescription. Rather, my intention is for our viewers to take the information and engage in a dialogue with their medical practitioners about what may be right for them.”

The first-person story that, as Oprah says, puts “a human face on topics” is an important part of the show’s success. Perhaps Oprah’s most attractive quality, and one that sets her apart from other daytime hosts, is that she abhors the celebration of victimhood. She succeeded despite a childhood of abuse, and her own experience left her with very little tolerance for people who indulge in self-pity or blame cruel fate for their troubles. She often features regular people or, even better, celebrities, who have met challenges in their lives.

In other words, Oprah washes her hands of any responsibility for spreading misinformation. She also values “self-empowerment” apparently above all else. That would be all well and good, except that she mistakes the story of someone like Jenny McCarthy, who claims to have, through being a “warrior mother,” to have overcome her son’s autism and turned herself into an “autism advocate.” It matters not to Oprah that McCarthy’s claims are based on pseudoscience, autism quackery, and anti-vaccine pseudoscience. All that matters is that Jenny McCarthy appears to have “triumphed” over the odds for the sake of her son. The compelling personal story of empowerment trumps science, and the only “balance” she feels compelled to provide is a dry statement from the CDC and AAP.

But it’s more than just anti-vaccine advocates, Suzanne Somers, and Dr. Northrup. As the article points out, there is much, much more that is wrong about the medicine discussed on Oprah:

All this dreary talk of measles and cancer and thyroids. Wouldn’t you rather “Stop the Clock on Aging!” Hear about “The Latest Age-Defying Breakthroughs!” Get the skinny on the miracle “Lunchtime Face-Lift Which Means No Cutting and No Down Time!” These are all teaser lines Oprah has recited on her show. Oprah hasn’t had plastic surgery herself, and she has aired the cautionary tales of desperate, youth-obsessed women who ruined their faces with too many procedures. Yet she seems fascinated with the subject and has been among the first to promote the newest treatments. In 2004, Oprah debuted a new “groundbreaking” procedure on the show called a thread lift. Her guest, dermatologist Karyn Grossman, called it “pretty much as close as you can get to a face-lift without actually cutting.”

It turns out that this procedure doesn’t work and rapidly fell into disrepute among plastic surgeons.

The bottom line is that, whatever good Oprah may have done with her money, when it comes to medicine and science, on balance she does far more ill than good. Her intentions may be the best in the world, but that is only why she is the living embodiment of the the belief that feelings trump science, and as such she has no mental filter of critical thinking to keep out pseudoscience and quackery. Couple that with her great influence and power, and the result is the Oprah-fication of the popular discourse about medicine in the media, as epitomized by the “tell both sides” imbalance seen on shows like The Doctors. Indeed, Oprah is one of the most potent forces in American for the undermining of critical thinking and science-based medicine in existence. The Huffington Post may promote a lot of quackery, but when it comes to influence in the media Oprah is the Queen of All Media.

Unfortunately, given the infiltration of quackery into academic medicine, I’m having a hard time determining if Oprah is a symptom or one of the causes of the rise of pseudoscience and quackery over science-based medicine. Perhaps it’s equal measures of both, each feeding off of the other.

Comments

  1. #1 Mu
    June 1, 2009

    I guess the way to fight is is to wait for the next unfortunate measles fatality, and run adds with the names of all the companies that have advertised on Oprah’s anti-vaccine shows, superimposed over a dead child. Tasteless, but the only way to save the rest of the innocents is to hit Oprah were it hurts. If advertising on her show exposes companies to bad publicity, they will let her know quick and decisively.

  2. #2 justawriter
    June 1, 2009
  3. #3 Becca Stareyes
    June 1, 2009

    You know, if Oprah is so big on ‘first-person’ stories, why doesn’t she invite my mother on the show? Mom raised three kids, two on the autistic spectrum, half the time as a single parent. Most of what she did was ‘find experts to help, educate self, get expert to talk to the school and advise the teachers and special ed folks there, and help coordinate school, home and therapist activities’.

    We were all vaccinated, too. Then again, Mom’s a nurse’s aide, so she knows at least something about medicine.

    Yeah, I realize an actual working-class middle-aged woman is probably less photogenic than a former Playboy model. But, if Oprah is so committed to telling ‘both sides’ of the story, why not bring on parents that practice both sides, rather than play the narrative of poor mommy versus the dismissing arrogant experts? (Let alone doing something actually in line with the facts…)

  4. #4 Pablo
    June 1, 2009

    Jeez, while Suzanne Sommers complains about “Big Pharma” she is sure doing her part to subsidize the supplement companies. But I’m sure they only have her best interests at heart…

    BTW, I love the “I’ve spent hours on this stuff” comment. Full time medical researchers will put in thousands of hours A YEAR on this stuff, and have done it for their whole adult lives. Who is she trying to impress?

  5. #5 Michael Simpson
    June 1, 2009

    @Pablo

    Like you, I get so tired of that “Big Pharma is doing….(fill in the blank).” The supplement industry makes more money in a vile, unethical industry that essentially used the US Congress to remove FDA oversight.

    @Orac

    You’re brave for taking on Oprah. But she is worshipped like a supernatural being, and it’s good that you’ve attempted to take her down a few notches. She’s a charlatan, and I hope more see it.

  6. #6 Interrobang
    June 1, 2009

    I was referring years ago to Oprah as a “celebrity germophobe,” but I had absolutely no inkling she’d ever get this bad. Even about 10 years ago one couldn’t help but headdesk over her promotion of antibacterial this and that and the other thing; I wonder how many strains of antibiotic-resistant bug there are out there because Oprah is terrified of disease?

  7. #7 Sastra
    June 1, 2009

    I think another factor at work here is a rather bizarre form of “difference feminism” which aggressively advocates for ‘listening to women’s voices’ and recognizing women’s ‘special ways of knowing,’ so that there’s a more holistic balance between male rationality and female intuition. Personal anecdotes and subjective truths take on the status of Inviolable Feminine Wisdom, to be attacked at your peril. Come back at pseudoscience with statistics and reasoned argument, and you’re not being respectful of someone’s “truth.” Women need to be empowered, not subjugated and marginalized: whether or not they’re full of sh*t in any particular matter seems secondary to the empowerment agenda.

    I think we especially need outspoken skeptical doctors like Harriet Hall to diffuse the assumption that this is all about men not wanting women to be heard, and dismissing their experiences just because they’re women. Most women actually have been in that situation at some time, so that people like Oprah and her guests can feed into their distaste for it. You’re supposed to be able to relate to Jenny McCarthy being told she’s wrong by all the medical experts (when she’s really right!), because nobody believed you that time when you said the car was making a funny sound, and then it broke.

  8. #8 Jud
    June 1, 2009

    Though I’m very distressed by Oprah’s promotion of Jenny McCarthy’s and others’ anti-vaccine propaganda (and this may eventually become the most damaging woo inflicted by Oprah and her minions on a credulous public), what may cause more short-term damage in our current culture is her notions about diet.

    My wife has recorded two Oprah shows for me to watch.

    In one of these, Oprah helped promote semi-starvation as a means to longevity. While semi-starvation does have well confirmed effects with regard to longevity, in our current thin-worshipping culture it is nitroglycerin, particularly for teens.

    In the other, various exotic places around the world were promoted as having higher-than-normal populations of centenarians and active seniors, owing to foods credited with near-magical properties. (The “evidence” presented was always anecdotal and never reliably confirmed – anyone remember from 20 years ago or so the reputed yogurt-eating, vodka-swilling centenarians of Soviet Georgia? Oprah’s show was very reminiscent of that now-discredited story.) I am sure various scams and unhealthy dietary habits are already occurring as a result of Oprah’s publicity.

    On both these shows, Dr. Oz was doing much more than just standing by – he was enthusiastically talking about how much younger and healthier all these people were physically than would be typical for their “true” ages. (In the case of people he’d never met before from exotic lands, Dr. Oz had no apparent means of knowing what their chronological ages were. Each person’s unconfirmed statement as to his or her age was simply treated as fact.)

  9. #9 Ryan
    June 1, 2009

    I think Oprah, like Suzanne and many others, are afraid of death and will do anything they think will avoid it. If people came to terms with their own mortality, the need for all of this woo woo crap would go away.

  10. #10 Arnold T Pants
    June 1, 2009

    It amazes me how people who tout “natural” processes and allowing your body to heal itself feel that the body needs giant, daily of various supplements to function properly, not to mention chelation, coffee enemas, and daily vaginal estrogen injections (that thought makes me hurt, and I don’t even possess such anatomy).

    Why doesn’t anybody simply ask: “And what’s THIS guy trying to sell?”

  11. #11 PsyberDave
    June 1, 2009

    If you think of a factually incorrect idea as a virus, you can imagine people like Jenny and Oprah spreading viruses. The threat to society isn’t simply that the Jenny and Oprah viruses are being disseminated, but that the populace has not been adequately vaccinated against them.

    If more people were critical thinkers and better educated, people like Jenny and Oprah wouldn’t be as much of a threat.

  12. #12 Pablo
    June 1, 2009

    Why doesn’t anybody simply ask: “And what’s THIS guy trying to sell?”

    Really. Let’s see, your regular doctor, more or less salaried, is in the lap of Big Pharma because, you know, those pharmaceutical reps will take them out for dinner once a month or so and give them free pens (oh sure, some get the fancy retreats and stuff, but most don’t). But folks like JB Handley, Suzanne Sommers, and Jenny McCarthy? They aren’t like that, no. They are just selling their books to help us, apparently.

  13. #13 Ranson
    June 1, 2009

    While semi-starvation does have well confirmed effects with regard to longevity in rodents

    Fixed that for you.

  14. #14 Tsu Dho Nimh
    June 1, 2009

    the truly despicable aspect of The Secret is that a consequence of its teachings is not that people bring good things to themselves with their thoughts but the flip side, too: That people bring evil to themselves with their own thoughts and that it is their fault.

    Oprah Winfrey has stated that she was molested by her cousin, her uncle, and a family friend, starting when she was nine years old …. so what sort of negative thoughts can a 9 year old girl have that attracted bad things like being sexually abused by three people?

  15. #15 Jennifer B. Phillips (aka Danio)
    June 1, 2009

    I think we especially need outspoken skeptical doctors like Harriet Hall to diffuse the assumption that this is all about men not wanting women to be heard, and dismissing their experiences just because they’re women.

    I absolutely agree in principal. We need doctors like Harriet, and like Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s medical expert, to be more outspoken on a national level. However, my experiences at the local level indicate that this will be a rather daunting task.

    When my skeptical sisters and I have taken issue with the anti-vaxers, homeopathy afficionados, etc. in our community (Eugene, Oregon is pretty much woo ground zero), we’ve been consistently turned back with comments like “Oh, well, you’re married to a doctor–of course you have to toe the party line”, or various other statements implying that because our view is derived from trafficking with the patriarchy (or my case being educated within the patriarchal realm of SCIENCE), it is summarily invalidated. Moreover, those of us who hold such views are to be pitied for not having the courage or wherewithal to break away from our penis-wielding enslavers.

    Poor Harriet Hall is reviled in these quarters for being as outspoken as she is, and I think Dr. Snyderman is probably plotting her course through the minefield very carefully, balancing her informed opinions on the validity of all the pseudoscience on which she must report/inform against the risk of alienating viewers if she comes down too hard on the much loved purveyors of this woo.

    More weight on our end of the see-saw would be welcome, for sure.

  16. #16 Anthro
    June 1, 2009

    Thanks, Ranson, for adding that, because I had the same thought. This is a good example of using studies without any real knowledge of the material.

    The thing I notice about all of this is how it mirrors religion. So many people quit the church because “they just want money” (and myriad other reasons) and then they get into New Age, et. al., and spend all their money on books, retreats, “practitioners” and supplements! I think whoever said that these people fear death and need to come to terms with their mortality, hit the proverbial nail on the head.

  17. #17 Elaine
    June 1, 2009

    I just read another good magazine article this morning. I was in the vet’s office waiting for my dog, and was reading the June issue of Reader’s Digest. There is an article about “celebrity science” which debunks Oprah’s bio-identical hormones and Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccinery. So word is getting out there, I hope.

  18. #18 ESPness
    June 1, 2009

    Just remember, Oprah’s crap is being exported all over the world, even here in New Zealand. – What did we ever do to you?

  19. #19 Chris
    June 1, 2009

    ESPness, you gave us Ray Comfort, with his obsession with bananas.

  20. #20 North of 49
    June 1, 2009

    Yes to what Ryan and Anthro said about fear of death being a huge factor in the embrace of woo. One can see it in the membership of outfits like IONS (Institute of Noetic Sciences, Edgar Mitchell’s brainchild) — it’s almost entirely retirees. “Closer to the end than the beginning,” as Colonel Nicholson said.

    Often they’ve left organized religion and latched onto New Age beliefs for their spirituality fix. They fall in love with Deepak Chopra, Matsuro Emoto, Eckhard Tolle, and anything that claims to be “quantum”, “Eastern”, “ancient” or “natural”. They’re suckers for anything that hints at a soul (they’re dualists, naturally), because a soul means there must be life after death.

    Anyone remember The Secret Life of Plants back in the Seventies? That’s back. Plants (allegedly) show fear-reactions on a polygraph, which means plants have feelings, which means plants have souls, which means every living thing has a soul, which means people have souls, which means everything is connected and isn’t it wonderful, tra-la-la. (We so ARE going to live forever. Yay.)

    Which would be harmless enough except for all the aforementioned leeches that feed off the fear. In my fantasy world of a sane society, these two-legged vermin would be stripped of their assets and put to life at hard labour for crimes against humanity. Oprah too, unless she recanted and used her considerable influence to promote science-based medicine and critical thinking.

    One last word on Mehmet Oz and Andrew Weil. Oz wears the surgical greens. Weil has that too-perfect Mosaic beard. To anyone with media training those are obvious props, obvious products of an image makeover. When any advice-giver goes to that much trouble to put on a false front, they’re hiding something.

  21. #21 DLC
    June 1, 2009

    Why yes, I don’t wish to die. I am in fact afraid of it.
    But this doesn’t mean I’m going to start running around like a decapitated chicken looking for ways to avoid death, or that I’m going to run to religion, the secret, quackery, woo or whatever. I refuse to throw reason out the window in search of a way out of the inevitable meeting with the grim reaper.

    For North of 49 @20: I agree about (the appropriately named) Dr. Oz and his surgical greens. Anybody who wears scrubs outside a hospital is either too lazy to change, in too much of a hurry to change, or wearing a costume for television. As Dr Oz is on television on a show he has ample time to prepare for, it’s fairly safe to say he is wearing a costume.

  22. #22 XD
    June 2, 2009

    Not completely on topic, but I thought you’d be interested in this:

    The UK’s Daily Mail is pretty much its worst paper. A right-wing, sensationalist tabloid, its reach is as vast as its quality of journalism is low. So, when I saw a link to one of its stories headlined “From ‘hell on two legs’ to a miracle: How revolutionary therapy cured my son of autism“, I immediately assumed it was the sort of super-woo that would warrant a good dose of respectful insolence.

    How wrong I was!

    The teen in question (Luke) developed a viral infection as an infant, and consequently the symptoms of Asperger syndrome. The “revolutionary therapy” was really just CBT (as far as I can work out). From the article:

    So as Jan, 51, stands in her kitchen, enjoying the still-unfamiliar air of calm, and describes her charming, articulate boy, who has just passed his driving test, as a ‘miracle on two legs’, it doesn’t seem like an overstatement.

    Luke, however, has a more logical explanation. ‘I do look back on the person I was two years ago and think: “Wow, what a difference!” But it’s not a miracle,’ he says. ‘I haven’t been cured. I’m still autistic, I have all the same problems. But I’m dealing with them.

    ‘Wanting to be normal – whatever “normal” is – has been my motivation. But if you’re like me, you can’t become normal on your own. I tried and failed. You need the right kind of help, to retrain your brain and override your instincts.’

    Now, you’ve got to understand that the Mail could have gone with a sensationalist story about someone with AS being “cured” with snake oil or crystals, and their cognitively challenged readers would have lapped it up. The fact that they didn’t might be a sign that the tide is turning.

  23. #23 Tess
    June 2, 2009

    “We have the right to demand a better quality of life for ourselves,” she said. “And that’s what doctors have got to learn to start respecting.”

    What?!

    I would love to think that I could keep the body that I have now with a simple medical intervention. But I don’t see how Oprah can conclude that
    a) The medical establishment is keeping this intervention from women to disempower them
    b) That they have the right to demand it from doctors.

    A junkie doesn’t have the right to demand that doctor’s prescribe him opiate-like painkillers because they make him feel better. I don’t have the right to demand Adderall to help me stay up and studying. A smoker doesn’t have the right to demand to be prescribed the contraceptive pill.

    Just as a child has to defer to the adult who says they can’t have candy, I am quite happy to defer to a doctor in regards to my health.

  24. #24 juliaA
    June 2, 2009

    Re: Oprah’s danger and arrogance:
    when he 2 year old dog died from choking on a ball here is what she said “This dog lived every moment as though it were her last.” Winfrey says she “got the message” to slow down and catch her breath when Gracie died. “I don’t believe in accidents,” says the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show. “I know for sure that everything in life happens to help us live.”

    so the dog died just for her to get some insight? Really self-centered, ya think?!

  25. #25 epador
    June 2, 2009

    I wear scrubs in an OP clinic miles from the nearest hospital, and don’t consider myself lazy or wearing a costume.

    But I digress.

    If there were only published scientific data to apply to political woo (which comes in all denominations and colors of the rainbow), we could add more critical thinking to politics. Instead we have Oprah, Rush and Al (Franken or Gore, you choose).

  26. #26 bparton
    June 2, 2009

    Just wanted to confirm that Somers had estrogen positive breast cancer. I watched her on television extensively and read the interviews in magazines when she first made it public that she had cancer. She turned her breast cancer into a huge pubicity stunt and multi-million dollar industry afterwards. In one early interview, she explained that she had refused Tamoxifen because estrogen “just seems like such a normal, healthy thing.” I was diagnosed with the same type of cancer around the same time she was, and I was infuriated at her irresponsible pandering of HRT and the fact that she refused chemotherapy. Over the years, she has absolutely outdone herself when it come to sheer idiocy – she has had uterine cancer since her breast cancer. Gee, wonder why?

    Her latest book has engendered great interest on breastcancer.org on the part of ignorant women who are more concerned about being grouchy and having hot flashes than dying a horrendous death from breast cancer. Many of these women have early stage cancer that is sure to become incurable because they believe drinking milk thistle and taking compounded “bioidenticals” are a healthy thing and the medical profession is bought and sold by the evil pharmaceutical companies. More should be said about Suzanne Somers – in fact, I don’t think the medical community could possibly say too much about her idiocy.

  27. #27 bparton
    June 2, 2009

    Just wanted to confirm that Somers had estrogen positive breast cancer. I watched her on television extensively and read the interviews in magazines when she first made it public that she had cancer. She turned her breast cancer into a huge pubicity stunt and multi-million dollar industry afterwards. In one early interview, she explained that she had refused Tamoxifen because estrogen “just seems like such a normal, healthy thing.” I was diagnosed with the same type of cancer around the same time she was, and I was infuriated at her irresponsible pandering of HRT and the fact that she refused chemotherapy. Over the years, she has absolutely outdone herself when it come to sheer idiocy – she has had uterine cancer since her breast cancer. Gee, wonder why?

    Her latest book has engendered great interest on breastcancer.org on the part of ignorant women who are more concerned about being grouchy and having hot flashes than dying a horrendous death from breast cancer. Many of these women have early stage cancer that is sure to become incurable because they believe drinking thistle milk and taking compounded “bioidenticals” are a healthy thing and the medical profession is bought and sold by the evil pharmaceutical companies. More should be said about Suzanne Somers – in fact, I don’t think the medical community could possibly say too much about her idiocy. Suzanne Somers is a very, very dangerous, stupid woman whose blatherings make no sense whatsoever – who in their right mind would take her seriously when she advocates taking human growth hormone, for pete’s sake? The unfortunate answer is, lots of women who apparently don’t have even a high school level understanding of biology. Anyway, thanks for mentioning her and I hope to see more blogs about her specifically.

  28. #28 bparton
    June 2, 2009

    Just wanted to confirm that Somers had estrogen positive breast cancer. I watched her on television extensively and read the interviews in magazines when she first made it public that she had cancer. She turned her breast cancer into a huge pubicity stunt and multi-million dollar industry afterwards. In one early interview, she explained that she had refused Tamoxifen because estrogen “just seems like such a normal, healthy thing.” I was diagnosed with the same type of cancer around the same time she was, and I was infuriated at her irresponsible pandering of HRT and the fact that she refused chemotherapy. Over the years, she has absolutely outdone herself when it come to sheer idiocy – she has had uterine cancer since her breast cancer. Gee, wonder why?

    Her latest book has engendered great interest on breastcancer.org on the part of ignorant women who are more concerned about being grouchy and having hot flashes than dying a horrendous death from breast cancer. Many of these women have early stage cancer that is sure to become incurable because they believe drinking thistle milk and taking compounded “bioidenticals” are a healthy thing and the medical profession is bought and sold by the evil pharmaceutical companies. More should be said about Suzanne Somers – in fact, I don’t think the medical community could possibly say too much about her idiocy. Suzanne Somers is a very, very dangerous, stupid woman whose blatherings make no sense whatsoever – who in their right mind would take her seriously when she advocates taking human growth hormone, for pete’s sake? The unfortunate answer is, lots of women who apparently don’t have even a high school level understanding of biology. Anyway, thanks for mentioning her and I hope to see more blogs about her specifically.

  29. #29 bparton
    June 2, 2009

    Just wanted to confirm that Somers had estrogen positive breast cancer. I watched her on television extensively and read the interviews in magazines when she first made it public that she had cancer. She turned her breast cancer into a huge pubicity stunt and multi-million dollar industry afterwards. In one early interview, she explained that she had refused Tamoxifen because estrogen “just seems like such a natural, healthy thing.” She also boasted about refusing chemotherapy because the didn’t believe it was necessary. I was diagnosed with the same type of cancer around the same time she was, and I was infuriated at her irresponsible publicity campaign all OVER the place, tauting herself as a hero and a victim, stating how horrendous the pain of radiation therapy was (BULL HOCKEY!), and bragging about how she she refused chemotherapy. Over the years, she has absolutely outdone herself when it comes to writing books custom-tailored to supporting her surmisals. She has since that time had uterine cancer. Gee, wonder why? I have also heard, but have seen no confirmation on her part, that she has melanoma. Guess that’s because she believes that suntans are “just such a natural, healthy thing.”

    Her latest book has engendered great interest on the breastcancer.org forum among ignorant women who are more concerned about being grouchy and having hot flashes than dying a horrendous death from breast cancer. Many of these women have early stage cancer that is sure to become incurable because they believe drinking thistle milk and taking compounded “bioidenticals” are a healthy thing and the medical profession is bought and sold by the evil pharmaceutical companies. More should be said about Suzanne Somers – in fact, I don’t think the medical community could possibly say too much about her promotion of her own self-styled woo. She is a very, very dangerous, stupid woman whose blatherings make no sense whatsoever – who in their right mind would take her seriously when she advocates taking human growth hormone, for pete’s sake? The unfortunate answer is, lots of women who are too naive and ignorant to see Somers as the money-grubbing, publicity-seeking ass she really is.

  30. #30 bparton
    June 2, 2009

    Just wanted to confirm that Somers had estrogen positive breast cancer. I watched her on television extensively and read the interviews in magazines when she first made it public that she had cancer. She turned her breast cancer into a huge pubicity stunt and multi-million dollar industry afterwards. In one early interview, she explained that she had refused Tamoxifen because estrogen “just seems like such a natural, healthy thing.” She also boasted about refusing chemotherapy because the didn’t believe it was necessary. I was diagnosed with the same type of cancer around the same time she was, and I was infuriated at her irresponsible publicity campaign all OVER the place, tauting herself as a hero and a victim, stating how horrendous the pain of radiation therapy was (BULL HOCKEY!), and bragging about how she she refused chemotherapy. Over the years, she has absolutely outdone herself when it comes to writing books custom-tailored to supporting her surmisals. She has since that time had uterine cancer. Gee, wonder why? I have also heard, but have seen no confirmation on her part, that she has melanoma. Guess that’s because she believes that suntans are “just such a natural, healthy thing.”

    Her latest book has engendered great interest on the breastcancer.org forum among ignorant women who are more concerned about being grouchy and having hot flashes than dying a horrendous death from breast cancer. Many of these women have early stage cancer that is sure to become incurable because they believe drinking thistle milk and taking compounded “bioidenticals” are a healthy thing and the medical profession is bought and sold by the evil pharmaceutical companies. More should be said about Suzanne Somers – in fact, I don’t think the medical community could possibly say too much about her promotion of her own self-styled woo. She is a very, very dangerous, stupid woman whose blatherings make no sense whatsoever – who in their right mind would take her seriously when she advocates taking human growth hormone, for pete’s sake? The unfortunate answer is, lots of women who are too naive and ignorant to see Somers as the money-grubbing, publicity-seeking ass she really is.

  31. #31 bparton
    June 2, 2009

    Ooops – sorry for the multiple posts! How embarrassing! Could someone please delete all but the last??

    Rackafrackin’ internet software.

  32. #32 Chris
    June 2, 2009

    Next time read the error message.

    Now my question is why this error is happening here and not on some other ScienceBlogs, like Denialism?

  33. #33 Patient
    June 2, 2009

    “Unfortunately, given the infiltration of quackery into academic medicine, I’m having a hard time determining if Oprah is a symptom or one of the causes of the rise of pseudoscience and quackery over science-based medicine. Perhaps it’s equal measures of both, each feeding off of the other.”

    Extremely thoughtful writing Orac. I applaud you in your never ending battle to “keep it real”. I am in the “symptom” camp, rather than the “cause” one, only because I feel that Oprah, Jenny and their ilk are only giving the people what they want, rather than the other way around. People are desperate to find relief from their suffering and many also are looking for an easy way out without having to do chemo, without having to do the hard work of listening to their doctors and taking medicines that they fear will give them a host of side effects.

    One has to consider the very real fact that for many conditions such as a broken bone or a bacterial infection, medicine is exceptionally good at providing care. No one, even Jenny or Oprah would go to a reiki master after breaking their leg. They would go to a hospital. Yet somehow, when faced with cancer, or another “hard to treat illness” all bets are off and people are willing to buy into the most hairbrained idiocy in order to avoid what?

    “What” is the root of the problem I believe. Medicine has made great strides in treatment of many diseases but has lost something in the translation when it comes to things that have no clear causes or cures. When the going gets tough, the tough (and the not so tough) get going—right into the arms of the woo masters, because medicine is not offering them options that they can stomach or there is mistrust, or some other reason. I claim no expertise here, I am merely pointing out that there remains a “what” or a group of “whats” that have to be identified and addressed by the medical profession. These “whats” whatever they turn out to be, are driving people away from science and rational thinking. I don’t fault science for this entirely, but I do think that there is an attitude problem with many doctors and researchers. Many fail to communicate well enough to the people that they are supposed to be helping. Many are looking in the wrong place for research due to career concerns, perish or publish, or other internal factors. Some remained tied to a molecule or treatment that they KNOW is not the answer for many people, and make a career out of it rather than strive for a more difficult solution that can have detrimental effects on their personal career or institutional funding. These concerns, coupled with the fact that media makes science look foolish on a daily basis with the schizophrenic “eat this” and then “don’t eat this” stories, gives the public the impression that medicine and scientists “don’t know what they are doing”.

    The perceptions of science and medicine then become adversarial, and people take refuge in the fringes because they have lost hope and don’t know what else to do.

    You can also add people like Dr. Weil, Dr. Northrop, Dr. Amen and a host of other self-serving “medical professionals” that publish books that confound and confuse the average consumer with contrary information. These people do the most damage to the medical profession by claiming some kind of “superior knowledge” outside of the mainstream–sending people far away from their own doctors and traditional medicine. A climate of doctor mistrust is established, and then the door is open to invite any alternatives no matter how preposterous.
    I wonder if many of these “book publishing doctors” really believe in the oath that they took to “first do no harm”.

    My hope is that science and medicine will come to acknowledge some failings on their part and seek to find solutions to the very real problem of what to do with people who can’t find relief for their medical issues from “traditional” medicine. THAT would go a long way toward restoring the faith of the public in science and lead a path toward less reliance on fringe medicine.

  34. #34 Pablo
    June 2, 2009

    I get it all the time in pharyngula, too

  35. #35 bparton
    June 2, 2009

    I did read the error messages. All of them except the last one said the message did not post due to heavy activity and to try again in a few minutes, hence the multiple posts.

    Orac, et al –

    Here is a link to what Somers says about bioidenticals, etc. Notice she says she refused Tamoxifen:

    http://health.usnews.com/blogs/on-women/2009/03/25/why-suzanne-somers-loves-bioidentical-hormones.html

  36. #36 Mu
    June 2, 2009

    That link is amazing, their “balance expert” is a professor of CAM – and he still takes her apart for saying nonsense.

  37. #37 gpmtrixie
    June 2, 2009

    Just got my Newsweek in the mail today and this is actually the cover story. The cover has a wild picture of Oprah and the title: “Crazy Talk: Oprah, Wacky Cures and You”. You go Newsweek, take on Queen Oprah!

  38. #38 bparton454
    June 2, 2009

    Mu –

    You can certainly tell Suzanne Somers never took a course in logic or science. She was busy then with American Grafitti. One thing for sure, though, she has a lot of natural business acumen. She’s selling everything from sweetener to a facemaster on her website: http://www.suzannesomers.com/

  39. #39 Nashville
    June 3, 2009

    “Supposedly a bit of qi in one’s cooch will also result in most excellent orgasms” Ha!… Insert joke about my “manhood” being synonymous with “qi” here…wait for laughter…hang head in shame for making joke and the total lack of laughter…sigh.

    Perhaps showing one’s “cooch” makes one an expert on science and health, as Jenny and Suzanne have both posed for Playboy and are now totally scientists. I am trying to convince my wife of this (she could become a nuclear physicist or something like that if she posed for Hustler, or nucular physicist depending on your American political party affiliation) but she’s all about integrity and what not. Chicks!…once again hang head in shame.

    I was previously unfamiliar (as I don’t watch Oprah either) with the level of bat sh*t crazy associated with Ms. Somers. It is so big I guess it would be more akin to elephant sh*t crazy. I don’t know who is the greater threat: McCarthy, whose crass insensitivity equates children with autism as soulless (read the article if you doubt this) and recommends experimentation on autistic children or Somers, whose desperate need for unnatural youth could lead older women to risk cancer in some futile attempt to capture what they once had. McCarthy recommends something akin to torture while Somers advises for something akin to self mutilation. Hmmmm.

    I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I once thought myself a somewhat “alternative” mind. I had this nutty idea that all people could be beautiful, even if they were disabled or older. People were worthy of my respect and love and more so their own self respect and love. Apparently the “alternative” community disagrees with me. I guess I got it wrong.

    To be an “alternative” thinker I must be paranoid (It’s all a conspiracy between dozens of industries, educational institutions and millions upon millions of Americans), hateful (I must especially hate the disabled or the aging), ignorant (I read it and I agree with it thus it is the absolute truth) and obstinate (I don’t care what the evidence is, this is my truth and nothing will change that). It must be a very sad world when all you see is ugliness in yourself and your family.

    Hopefully each of these women (and Oprah) will realize just how worthy and beautiful they are and how happy they could be if they just learned to love themselves and those around them. But all I can do is hope.

  40. #40 Daniel J. Andrews
    June 3, 2009

    Injecting botox into children

    http://tinyurl.com/pta92y

    Botox for children (good for warrior moms too, apparently), but in the children’s case it is as a treatment for cerebral palsy. Wonder how the AofA will spin this. Caveat: That link is a health and fitness news source that sometimes gets things wrong, so reader beware.

    Regarding error messages…I post on several SB sites (some well read, some not so well read), and I receive the same message every time I post. It appears to be a SB hivemind glitch…uhh..feature…rather than a specific blog feature. :)

  41. #41 The Crack Emcee
    June 4, 2009

    “Given the infiltration of quackery into academic medicine, I’m having a hard time determining if Oprah is a symptom or one of the causes of the rise of pseudoscience and quackery over science-based medicine. Perhaps it’s equal measures of both, each feeding off of the other.”

    Jesus Christ, Orac, why don’t you just finger cultism and get it over with? (All these baby steps are a waste of time.)

  42. #42 Danimal
    June 4, 2009

    Orac, I do not know if you have seen this, but it appears the you and PZ made Newsweek’s blog.
    http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thehumancondition/archive/2009/06/02/hey-did-you-hear-we-took-on-oprah.aspx

  43. #43 Militant Agnostic
    June 4, 2009

    If they give Oprah an enema when she dies, they can bury her in a shoe box.

  44. #44 Vanessa
    June 5, 2009

    It’s comforting that the mainstream media is largely crashing down on Oprah and Jenny too. I haven’t seen the Oprah show probably since high school 20 some years ago (when my friends and I were transfixed by the story of the woman whose surgeon ex-husband sewed her lady area closed. And….still fascinated by that story.)

    Ironically then, I wouldn’t even know any of this stuff was happening without skeptic blogs and the negative media. Hopefully this proactive reporting will keep the anti-vax movement from taking off here like it evidently has in parts of Australia and Wales. Even educated people get sucked in to this pseudoscience crap. A friend of mine told me recently she was investigating bio-identical hormones after she saw Suzanne on some shopping channel. Why would you get healthcare advice from some chick on HSN who is famous for being a 70′s sitcom star? Jesus.

  45. #45 Kelly
    June 5, 2009

    For those who want to avoid death and are looking for a celebrity to look up to, might I suggest Voldemort?

  46. #46 Erik
    June 23, 2009

    ‘”After one day on bioidentical estrogen, I felt the veil lift,” she wrote in O, The Oprah Magazine. “After three days, the sky was bluer, my brain was no longer fuzzy, my memory was sharper. I was literally singing and had a skip in my step.”‘

    Umm…doesn’t cocaine do the same thing?

  47. #47 DJ
    November 13, 2009

    I accidentally came across this site and I am disgusted by almost all the anti Oprah anti suzanne comments, some are downright embarassing for the person posting. The author of this even uses a term “cooch” for the vagina! Sad, but there are many other sites that are rallying for these women and seem to have smarter more upbeat comments. So I easily shrugged this site off. good luck wasting your time making negative comments. A woman has a right to do whatever she wishes, give them a break! I am much more worried about all the doctors making surgical mistakes and even causing death…go in for a minor problem, never come out of the hospital alive! Now that is scary

  48. #48 snerd
    November 13, 2009

    The author of this even uses a term “cooch” for the vagina!

    Unlike the anatomically correct word, which is Vajayjay apparently.

  49. #49 Betina
    December 1, 2009

    autism vaccines jenny mccarthy oprah….
    The good news is that more and more people are learning that Jenny McCarthy is a total con artist. She reminds me of people who try and high jack the civil rights movement for some other cause. She’s highjacked the autism label to raise awareness and money for Jenny and Jim, while marching with mothers and fathers who think she’s thinkning of them. Some of the most evil people are the most charasmatic and convincing…and it’s a real shame that so many people have fallen for her limited short term experience with adversity and think she’s representing them. Me thinks MCCarth and Care Bare Jim must smoke a whole lotta weed…..oh, but that’s okay…it’s from “mother earth” which would jive with jenny’s Children of the New Earth Fantanic Belief. As for Carrey, Jimmy Boy has gone bad. Does anyone real believe these two get down? It’s all publicity. It’s like Madonna and Angie adopting kids from Africa when both are obviously total nut jobs who shouldn’t even have kids, but I guess it doesn’t matter sine nannies raise them anyway….

  50. #50 Jenn Montera
    December 13, 2009

    Oprah and Jenny McCarthy share the same strange belief as these quacks: The Hicks…..whom you can see what they believe at:
    http://www.abrahamhickslawofattraction.com/lawofattractionstore/…/DVD-TAR.html – The Hicks, like McCarthy and Oprah, think they are morally and intellectually superior to you and I. Yes, they will have us believe that if we are depressed, anxious, have kids with autism who haven’t been “cured” or “healed” or “recovered” , are fat, poor, middle class, etc…well, it’s simply because we aren’t “thinking” the right thoughts, which will, of course, is because if we think the right thoughts, this will force the Universe to agree with us…as says Jenny in her books about autism….oh, if life were only that simple…I guess it is when you never had a kid with actual autism to begin with, and the kid you claimed was autistic, was “suddenly cured” and then you hit the talk show circuits, interviewed with mags and marched in a green vaccine thing and then wrote another book and infuse truth with lies and then align yourself with other parents who really have troubles, and then call them your troubles too, as to gain sympathy and feign as if you’ve been through something…and you’ve got a nanny, maid, personal chef, 1000mg of prozac and a bunch of botox (is she marching for green botox shots?) in your head, fifteen people on your payroll making sure your finances are okay, and weeeeeeee…..it’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood, a wonderful day, won’t you be my…it’s all gooooooooodddddddddd…just believe……anyone want to sign my book?

  51. #51 jan
    August 12, 2011

    Probably all true re Suzanne -however you are not offering any scientifically sound counter arguments for her claims-merely abuse, so unfortunately that makes you loose credibility.

  52. #52 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 12, 2011

    Really, Jan – it took 2 years to come up with that zinger?

  53. #53 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 13, 2011

    Probably all true re Suzanne -however you are not offering any scientifically sound counter arguments for her claims-merely abuse, so unfortunately that makes you loose credibility.

    On the contrary, correctly reacting to where the burden of proof lies is very sound science.  Do you think that just making a claim gives it scientific credibility?  If not, then why should it be necessary to muster “scientifically sound counter arguments” to counter arguments that have no trace of scientific soundness themselves?  The burden of proof is on the person making an extraordinary claim to support it, and it’s irrational to demand that someone refuting that claim needs to observe all sorts of scientific rigor that the person making the claim did not.

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