In many increasingly secular Western countries, faith in religion seems to be losing ground to faith in science. Although in itself worrying for some, I think both would find much more problematic the rise in the last decade of faith in celebrity. Taking these stars of the sports field, airwaves and silver screen as our aspirational role models for all we wish to do and be, it seems impossible not to listen and take to heart what they say. It’s just a shame it equally seems impossible to be in the public eye and not endorse a position a considerable distance from the mainstream. The celebrity converts to scientology and other ‘unconventional’ religions are already well documented, and now, as we move into 2011, Sense About Science (SAS) have released their annual list of dubious endorsements made by the stars in the world of science.
Mocking Cheryl Cole’s ‘blood-group specific’ diet regime, Sarah Harding’s practice of sprinkling charcoal dust on her food, David Beckham’s Power Balance bracelet or Alex Reid’s ‘sperm-reabsorption’ before a fight may raise a smile for those of a more scientific mien, but with the extensive media coverage each of these would have received, the dissemination (no pun intended) of such ideas will have already occurred. And as Ben Goldacre proved with his book ‘Bad Science’, there will always be a scientist on hand to back up the most esoteric of claims, so even when trying to debunk such ‘myths’, to the public it will often just appear as a playground fight between two opposing teams. The unwashed masses have always looked to others for guidance, be it from religious leaders or men of science; unfortunately, those doing most of the guiding as 2010 comes to a close seem to be those most in need of guidance themselves.
Alan G. Padgett