I was intrigued by yesterday’s news story on Sense About Science, the public information charity who has produced a leaflet aimed specifically about celebrities, in the hope of persuading them not to talk rubbish in public. They’re distributing it around celebrity-infested places, but if you’re not a celebrity yourself you can download it from their website.
It’s an admirable attempt by an admirable charity, to reach people who could potentially have a lot of influence but who probably don’t read Bad Science regularly. I can’t help thinking that they would have had more effect distributing it to celebrities’ agents, rather than the celebrities themselves. Moreover, I think that a lot of media organisations overestimate the level of influence that celebrities in particular (and the media in general) have on your average person.
Furthermore, are any celebrities who read the leaflet going to believe it? Apart from being recognisable, they’re generally fairly average people. Not particularly clever, not particularly smart, maybe more charismatic than the average,* but on the whole fairly ordinary at heart.** They’re not scientists, and they’re not going to realise how little they know about science, because, as a general rule, the less you know on a subject, the less you realise just how little you know. The less you know about scientific ideas, the worse things you’re likely to say along the lines of “natural things are chemical-free”, or “green plants are healthy because chlorophyll will oxygenate your blood”,*** and the less likely you are to believe the truth on the topic.
* this is starting to sound like an RPG statsfest, I know
** despite what some of them may think.