I’m a huge fan of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (TBBT), mainly because I’m a lifelong geek, but also because it is one of the better written shows on TV (a low standard indeed). The four main male characters are researchers at Cal Tech, although, as the show keeps mentioning, three have Ph.D.’s, and one only has a Masters from MIT. TBBT also amuses me because I was one of those characters, seemingly clueless about the opposite sex, more interested in games and Star Trek than in anything else, and spending hours in a lab doing obscure experiments. And I dressed that poorly too! TBBT just reminds me of my life. And I still love Star Trek (though Enterprise annoyed me).
This morning, I saw that Orac posted an article about my favorite show, and I kind of ignored it since I assumed he was going to give glowing reviews about it. The title of his article, “Say it ain’t so Amy Farrah Fowler”, is a reference to one of the characters who is a Ph.D. level neurobiologist, played by Mayim Bialik, who actually has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. It’s kind of cool that one of the geeky scientists on the show is an actual geeky scientist.
Unfortunately, I ended up reading the article (and over 100 comments), and now I’m annoyed. Bialik’s real-world views betray her science background, since she seems to embrace some pseudoscientific garbage.
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.
And homeopathy. How can someone with a Ph.D. from a world renowned university (and frankly, a world renowned neuroscience program) buy into homeopathy, which is just water!
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.
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And Dr. Bialik, Ph.D. buys into the whole anti-vaccine lunacy.
She’s also a big fan of antivaccine apologist Dr. Jay Gordon and antivaccine pediatrician Dr. Bob Sears. She completely gushes about them on her Facebook page because Dr. Jay apparently wrote the foreword to her book on attachment parenting entitled Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way and Dr. Sears wrote a blurb for her.
OK, I’m willing to concede that just because she has a Ph.D. in neurobiology, that doesn’t mean she actually understands immunology. Except that a well rounded education in biology, generally means that you have a more than simple understanding of immunology.
Or basic chemistry or physics. Except that it takes 2 or 3 years of chemistry and physics just to get accepted into most graduate schools
I generally ignore the backgrounds of most actors and actresses on TV. I avoid anything by Jenny McCarthy because her body of work (pun intended) is not exactly Oscar-winning. But other than that, it would be impossible to keep a list of the various peccadilloes, religious choices, and/or crimes of each actor or actress. I’d stay at home reading blogs all day long instead. But I had a certain standard for a TV show that uses a science fact checker, and had guest appearances from some great scientists like George Smoot and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
I am disappointed by Bialik’s attitudes towards science, not because of the show (I’ll still watch), but because she should have the skills to read journal articles that debunk almost all of her beliefs (and I haven’t dug into the travesty of attachment therapy). I’m also critical of how she got a Ph.D. from UCLA and doesn’t appear to have the scientific thinking skills that is expected of Ph.D.’s.
Thanks Orac for ruining my favorite show.