If you’re a fan of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (TBBT), a show about five highly educated geek/hipsters (and all doing scientific research as their career, which makes me happy that my career choice ended up as a great TV show) and the girl next door who is in love with one of the highly educated geek/hipsters. One of the main characters is Amy Farrah Fowler, who is a Ph.D. level neurobiologist who has a complicated relationship with one of the male characters on the show. At this point, you’d be wondering if I was hallucinating, because how could Amy Farrah Fowler be a twin of Jenny McCarthy, let alone an evil twin?
But there’s a method to my madness. Or logic.
Unless you were studying meltwater lakes in the Arctic (an overhyped and incorrect story, by the way), you probably knew that the former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy was chosen by ABC TV (in the USA) to be a co-host on the daytime talk show, The View. Let’s just say that this has not been met positively by much of the skeptical, pro-science blogging and journalism community. In fact, from what I’ve read, hardly anyone but the vaccine denier lunatic fringe is happy about her choice a co-host.
Dr. Fowler is played by the actress Mayim Bialik, who is not only a fairly accomplished actress, starring in two successful TV series (Blossom being the other), but during a break from acting she went to college and graduate school, and earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from an academically elite university, UCLA (the University of California at Los Angeles). In other words, Dr. Bialik is everything that Jenny McCarthy is not–she is a successful actress with fairly good comedic abilities, she is extremely well educated at a real university (as opposed to Jenny McCarthy’s claim of being educated at the University of Google), and, as far as I know, Bialik has not posed nude for Playboy, though I suppose that being featured in Playboy is not an indicator of intellect.
To be honest, I thought it would be great to see a young, well educated woman succeeding on a hit TV show. Moreover, she gets to play a young, well-educated, albeit somewhat more nerdy, dopplegänger of her real life self on TBBT.
So you’re asking, exactly how can she be an evil twin of the uneducated, unsuccessful, Playboy-shilling, McCarthy?
Probably, it’s because of Bialik’s views on vaccines:
Children today get about four times as many vaccines as the average 35-year-old did when we were kids. Besides visiting the CDC website and finding out who gets diseases the medical establishment vaccinates for (and why and where and when), here are the books we used to research each vaccine and discuss each with several doctors before deciding what was right for our family.
And she raves about antivaccine hawkers, Drs. Jay Gordon (who Jenny McCarthy just adores) and Bob Sears, who base their vaccine denialism on the worst science possible. Here’s some comments she’s made on Facebook about Gordon and Sears:
re the intro to my book: dr. jay gordon is an LA pediatrician who has a small practice with a lot of AP celebrity clients (jenny mc carthy being the most vocal). he was the first EVER male IBCLC (lactation consultant), he is a pediatric nutritionist and author of AP books himself (good nights is a great cosleeping one). but the most incredible AP news of the day is that we got a spectacular insanely positive blurb of support from MARTHA AND DR SEARS. i cried when i read it. seriously.
Orac, the famed snarky physician who enjoys demolishing junk medicine, posted an article about Bialik last year. He wrote:
Unfortunately (in this case at least), actors aren’t their characters, and even more unfortunately Bialik isn’t anything like Amy Farrah Fowler, at least when it comes to science. Whereas Amy Farrah Fowler is scientific to the point of having difficulty functioning in “normal” society, Bialik I just learned from commenter yesterday, is heavily into the woo. How heavily? Well, it should tell you a lot that she’s a celebrity spokesperson for the Holistic Moms Network. What is the Holistic Moms Network? Actually, the name should say it all to you. Picture the sort of organization that would name itself the Holistic Moms Network, turn it up to 11, and then multiply it by another 11, and you have an idea. The Holistic Moms Network is a cesspit of “natural” parenting, where “natural” apparently means embracing every form of “natural” woo known to humans.
But that’s not all. If there’s one more thing that should tell you all you need to know about the Holistic Moms Network approach to science-based medicine, then take a look at its sponsors: Boiron (manufacturer of the homeopathic remedy for flu known as Oscillococcinum), the Center for Homeopathic Education (and I bet it is homeopathic too), the National Center for Homeopathy, and a whole bunch of other purveyors of woo and quackery.
Oh, wait. This is more than just vaccines. She’s into homeopathy too? Exactly how did she write a dissertation for her Ph.D.? In fact, her dissertation is about a rare genetic disease, Prader-Willi Syndrome which manifests itself with various neurological and neuromuscular deficits. Frankly, brilliant work. So, she does this incredibly important research, and then thinks homeopathy, which is just water, can do anything but quench a thirst? I don’t like science deniers, but when one has worked so hard to get a real science education at world-class institution (my number one complaint about the vast bulk of science deniers who are too fat and too lazy to do real science and real research), I’ve got to assume that they didn’t pay attention in class. Except she wrote a dissertation (and no, it’s almost impossible to fake a dissertation at a real grad school–you’re forced to make an oral defense of your dissertation to faculty and grad students, who relish the opportunity to make you look foolish). Without speaking to her personally, I have no clue why she’s antivaccine and pro-homeopathy.
The thing is that the vast majority of peer-reviewed articles in high impact factor journals strongly support the safety and efficacy of vaccines. These are published and available to anyone, and because Bialik didn’t write her dissertation in a vacuum, apparently there are over 300 citations in her dissertation, she is most capable of reading scientific journals at a level well beyond most people. It’s not like she has the limited intellect and education of the ignoramus Jenny McCarthy, Bialik appears to be, by any meaningful standard, a brilliant scientist. There is no excuse for her to embrace an anti-vaccination viewpoint.
But it’s much more than being able to read scientific journals. She must also have had some coursework in immunology, which would tell her immediately that there is just no such thing as “too many vaccinations” for a child. They are overwhelmed by pathogens and allergens every single day. Thousands, if not millions, in just a few hours of breathing. She also would have taken physics, and known that homeopathy is about as close to impossible as we can state in science. It would violate all the basics of quantum mechanics, physical chemistry, and who knows what else to invent a plausible mechanism for homeopathy. Talk about violating Occam’s razor.
Of course, on the other hand, Dr. Bialik may be one of those scientists who is an expert in one narrow field, and is clueless about all others. Or she belongs to the wealthy elite of Los Angeles who are antivaccine because of the group’s New Age medicine beliefs, that a few supplements, good diet, and expensive bottled water will prevent all diseases. This part of LA is where parents send their kids to $25,000 a year schools to be amongst kids of the same ilk, 80% aren’t vaccinated. I’m sure they’ll change their minds when a measles or whooping cough epidemic hits.
Amy Farrah Fowler is the evil version of Jenny McCarthy. She’s smarter. More serious. More professional. More successful (as an actress). And it’s possible Bialik’s antivaccine message could be more impactful than the Playboy cover girl could ever be.