Andrew Wakefield and Elle Macpherson – woo attracts woo while we laugh

Celebrity romances rank with soccer, Game of Thrones, and iPhone vs. Android as the things I couldn’t care less about. I wouldn’t know anything about anyone. But, there are exceptions, like when the USA is actually in the World Cup. When I see stories about Andrew Wakefield and Elle Macpherson, I cannot stop myself. I have to read about it, and I have to make fun of it.

Now, most of us know all about one of the greatest scientific frauds of the past 100 years – Mr. Andrew Wakefield and his false, and ultimately retracted, claims that somehow the MMR vaccine was linked to autism spectrum disorder. Of course, there is a mountain of affirmative evidence that has refuted the claim of a link between the vaccine and autism. That’s settled science, except, of course, in the minds of Wakefield sycophants who believe otherwise. 

Wakefield is a pathetic defrocked doctor who seems to have created wealth by leading the charge of the “vaccines causes autism” lie through fraudumentaries, a bromance with Donald Trump, and defending the mistreatment of an autistic child. Wakefield is a vile human being whose lies may have lead to numerous measles outbreaks which have killed innocent children. If I were named King of Earth for just one hour, I would order the imprisonment of Wakefield in the first minute of my rule.

Since I have no such power, the best I can do is to laugh and mock Wakefield as many times as I can. And, what better way to do that than with the fledgling romance of Andrew Wakefield and Elle Macpherson.

Wait. Don’t you know who Elle Macpherson is?

Macpherson is an Australian supermodel whose claim to fame was appearing in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues – porn for American males back before it became readily available on the internet. Since the half-life of a supermodel is rather short, Macpherson wisely (or not, depending on your scientific point of view) invested in various business ventures. Through her earnings and investments, she has become a very wealthy person.

Recently, the tabloids were breathless with stories that Andrew Wakefield and Elle Macpherson were snogging. Or in a romantic relationship. Or something else.

To quote the Daily Mail story (not exactly near the top of British journalism):

Model Elle Macpherson has been pictured kissing a former British doctor who was the driving force of the anti-vaxxer movement.

The 54-year-old was seen locking lips with Andrew Wakefield, 61, at Glaser’s organic farm in Miami on Friday.

It comes just over a year after she was awarded $53 million in cash and a $26 million home during her divorce from billionaire Jeffrey Soffer.

Wakefield is a former doctor and researcher who spawned the modern anti-vaccination movement with widely discredited research, claiming that the MMR jab causes autism and bowel disease.

Admittedly, because I just don’t follow every story about Wakefield, unlike his slobbering Neanderthal acolytes, I assumed he was “happily” married to his physician wife Carmel.

A source told MailOnline that he separated from his wife Carmel in 2017 and first started seeing Elle in late 2017 after they met at an event in Orlando.

Andrew and Carmel – who is also a doctor – met in the late 1970s while training at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London.

Medicine ran in both families – both have parents who were doctors and brothers who later went into the profession. They have four children – three boys and a girl.

Well, this is news to me. Maybe Dr. Carmel Wakefield will renounce the beliefs of her husband, get their four children fully vaccinated, and we will all jump for joy. Stop. I’m dreaming again – Carmel stood by Andrew throughout his anti-vaccine nonsense.

But let’s get back to the budding romance. First of all, shopping for organic produce? He just can’t stay away from pseudoscience – organic foods are a huge waste of money for nearly no health benefit. But we’re not here to ridicule people who buy organic food, we’re here to mock Andrew Wakefield and Elle Macpherson.

Not only does Wakefield rely upon woo for his vaccine beliefs and organic foods, he seems to have found a perfect woo-match with Elle Macpherson. Because I have no interest in the comings and goings of Macpherson, I didn’t know much about her, certainly anything about her level of pseudoscientific beliefs.

The scathing Orac, in his article about the woo-couple, pointed to an article in Jezebel:

Macpherson has been professionally known as The Body, for having a body people like to photograph; she’s now the co-founder and public face of a wellness business called WelleCo that sells things like plant protein powder and what they call “elixirs.” Wakefield is known as a walking one-man public health crisis, for his continued insistence that vaccines cause autism. His claims have gotten more dire over the years: he now insists that “80 percent of American boys” will have autism in 15 years, a claim I have personally heard him make on several occasions.

And it is actually newsworthy that Macpherson and Wakefield are dating: One of the core aims of the anti-vaccine movement is spreading their message far and wide with the help of celebrity support. If the relationship lasts, Macpherson could be instrumental in introducing Wakefield and his ideas to a whole new world of monied and influential people—people who are, like her, concerned with the somewhat spongy and ever-more-profitable concept of “wellness.”

Macpherson is also a proponent of “alkaline diets” which has got to be some of the silliest pseudoscientific drivel found on the internet. People have this ridiculous belief that you can change the pH of your body simply through diet.

Hang on, I need to laugh for a few moments. Oops, I snorted some of my coffee.

Short of dying or having some serious and deadly chronic disease, you cannot change the pH of your blood. The pH of blood runs about 7.34–7.45 in healthy human beings. It’s slightly alkaline (very slightly), and controlled in a very narrow range. The balance between the acid and base of human blood is called acid-base homeostasis.

Essentially, the acid-base balance is tightly regulated by chemical buffers in the blood, the lungs, and the kidneys. These organs work together in a very complex manner, with numerous feedback loops, to maintain the blood pH. For example, the lungs can expel more or less carbon dioxide to produce or reduce bicarbonate, which buffers acids. The kidneys help in the same process.

Even a slight deviation in that narrow pH range can mean death. If you consume something alkaline, it would be buffered by the high acidity of the stomach almost immediately.

I guess that the woo-pushing Wakefield would, of course, be drawn to an attractive woman who shared his beliefs in pseudoscience.

I’m sure the anti-vaccine religion is ecstatic. Lacking any shred of scientific evidence supporting Wakefield’s nonsense, the anti-vaccine religion relishes celebrity endorsements. And more and more celebrities may jump on board to Wakefield’s lies merely because he is associated romantically with Macpherson.

From my point of view, I have never cared about celebrity opinions on anything except their own work. And since that will be biased, I probably would ignore that too.

Jenny McCarthy. Robert DeNiro. Robert F Kennedy Jr. And many more. They have no background in vaccines. They have never done research on vaccines. They don’t know anything about epidemiology, public health, virology, microbiology, physiology. They are no Paul Offit, who has spent his life researching vaccines, and who invented a vaccine that saves 250,000 lives a year. Offit is my rock star of vaccines, but he actually has published evidence supporting his statements.

We have no knowledge of what Elle Macpherson thinks about vaccines, although given her pushing alkaline woo, we can probably guess. As the Jezebel article notes:

We don’t know if Macpherson is a vaccine “skeptic” herself (I have reached out to WelleCo for comment on that subject and will update should I hear back). What we do know, though, is that celebrities have an unfortunately large impact on how people think of vaccines: The last round of widespread anti-vaccine sentiment in the early 2000s was fanned by the gusty winds of Jenny McCarthy, who is still, to this day, part of the brigade claiming that vaccines are unsafe.

2014 study by academics J. Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood on medical conspiracy theories among Americans found that 20 percent of the people surveyed agreed that physicians “still want to vaccinate children even though they know such vaccines to be dangerous.” The study also found that people who believe in medical conspiracy theories are less likely to consult a family doctor. They were more likely to report relying instead on friends, family, the internet or celebrities for advice, including TV doctors like Dr. Oz.

Why do 20% of Americans think that celebrities or the internet is where they need to get rational information about vaccines? I know learning about all aspects of vaccines is difficult, trust me I know, but these people are putting children at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases based on Jenny McCarthy, or maybe Macpherson.

The Jezebel article wraps it up with this pointed comment:

All of this is probably an extreme overreaction to some photos of Wakefield and Macpherson snogging at a farmer’s market, but given the enormous measles outbreak in Europe right now and the fact that some California schools still have “dangerously low” vaccination rates due to anti-vaccine parents, a small amount of freaking out is perhaps warranted.

The loquacious Orac, in his summary of this story, wrote:

So it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Macpherson is herself antivaccine, given that she’s swallowed the alkaline diet, hook, line, and sinker. Even if she isn’t antivaccine, she could be another celebrity “in” for Wakefield to insinuate himself into communities of famous people to spread his pernicious message. Unfortunately, he is quite good at that. There’s a fine (and sometimes nonexistent) line between “wellness” and antivaccine views.

I don’t want to hear about celebrity opinions on politics, climate change, organic foods, or anything else. Certainly, their opinions about vaccines mean nothing to me, even if they fully vaccinate their children (although I might watch their movies or listen to their music, just to be supportive).

If Andrew Wakefield and Elle Macpherson end up being THE anti-vaccine romance, well, I hope it doesn’t matter. But the anti-vaccine world, seduced by false authorities and celebrities will probably jump all over it. And mockery will continue.

 

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!