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SKEPTOID BLOG:

Skeptoid Celebrity Honorable Mentions

by Stephen Propatier

April 3, 2013

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Donate In Skeptoid Episode 349, Brian covered his list of top 10 pro-science celebrities. He limited himself to a narrow band of celebrities/organizations that fulfilled a reasonable requirement. "Note that I chose not to include people whose profession is science or who are otherwise famous because of their work in that area. I also didn't include celebrities who simply go out and support some existing cause or charity, or who later went back and completed a science degree and said "Yay, I support science," or who serve as spokespeople for existing pro-science organizations. Those are all well and good, but I wanted to instead focus on the those who built reputations in the entertainment industry, but then chose to proactively become movers and shakers by creating resources and truly challenging the public on their own terms."I have no disagreements with the list. I do think that he excluded some celebrities that, although imperfect, fit the bill as pro-science. I thought it would be nice to review some of these celebrities and why I think they deserve recognition. I am not going to list them in any particular order.
  • Amanda Peet. " is an American actress, who has appeared on film, stage, and television. After studying with Uta Hagen atColumbia University, Peet began her career in television commercials, and progressed to small roles on television, before making her film debut in 1995. Featured roles in films such as the 2000 comedy film The Whole Nine Yards brought her wider recognition.[1]She has appeared in a variety of films, including the 2001 comedy Saving Silverman, the 2003 romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give, the 2003 psychological thriller film Identity, the 2005 action-thriller Syriana, the 2006 comedy-drama remake Griffin & Phoenix, the 2007 romantic comedy The Ex, the 2008 science fiction film The X-Files: I Want to Believe and the 2009 disaster adventure drama 2012. She has also appeared in the 1999 drama series Jack & Jill and the 2006 drama series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." What I find to be most compelling about Amanda is not her box office work, rather her work with vaccines. "In 2008, Peet volunteered to be a spokeswoman for Every Child By Two (ECBT), a non-profit organization that advocates childhood vaccination." Peet began working with the group after becoming concerned by the "amount of misinformation floating around" [about vaccines], particularly in Hollywood. As you might expect she has received some flack for promoting that agenda in the very Anti-Vax environment of Hollywood. She has garnered some negative press for her position about vaccinations and her vociferous comments. Despite that she remains an unwavering advocate for vaccinating children. For this reason she has made my list.

  • The MythBusters. "MythBusters is a science entertainment TV program created and produced by Australia's Beyond Television Productions[1] for the Discovery Channel. The series is transmitted by numerous international broadcasters, including SBS Australia, 7mate Australia, and other Discovery channels worldwide. The show's hosts, special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, use elements of the scientific method to test the validity of rumors, myths, movie scenes, adages, Internet videos, and news stories." Most people readily recognize this science entertainment program. I think that the MythBusters program as a whole is "list worthy". This includes the creator, Peter Rees, the entire production staff, and the science and technology division. In my opinion they have helped expand critical thinking, science methodology, and scientific testing. Especially in children and young people. Even the venerated NOVA program, headed by Carl Sagan did not have the popularity that MythBusters has garnered. MythBusters is also multinational. The popularity of MythBusters on television gives me hope that critical thinking and science has a chance in the entertainment business. In addition I would like to recognize, in particular, Adam Savage. He supports secular science, skepticism, and critical thinking with the fame he has garnered.

  • Joel McHale host of The Soup. "It is a weekly tv-series; it is a revamped version of Talk Soup that focuses on recaps of various pop culture and television show moments of the week. The show is hosted by comedian Joel McHale, who provides sarcastic and biting commentary on the various clips." The writers and host Joel McHale satirically mocks and ridicules programming from all over the world. He often provides biting commentary on scam/sham advertising. He ruthlessly mocks pseudoscience programming like; ghost hunters, finding bigfoot, and Dr. Oz(even though Dr. Oz was a guest on the show). I have included a YouTube clip. Joel McHale Rips Finding bigfoot. I recommend it for a good skeptical laugh. There is no one else who shines a skeptical and entertaining look on a week's worth of woo programming in one half hour. Although the soup is not a science focus show it does introduce critical thinking weekly. The Pop Culture aspect reminds me of Skeptoid.

  • Bill Nye. William Sanford "Bill" Nye (born November 27, 1955),[2] popularly known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, is an American science educator, comedian, television host, actor, writer, and scientist[3] who began his career as a mechanical engineer at Boeing. He is best known as the host of the Disney/PBS children's science show Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993—98) and for his many subsequent appearances in popular media as a science educator. Given the criteria, I can see what made Brian leave him off. Certainly he does not have the star power that Alan Alda has. Still for a generation of kids he was the "Mister Wizard" for that generation. He continues to be a recognized celebrity and science advocate. The contributions of science knowledge for a generation and his continued advocacy deserves a spot on my list.

  • Tom Hanks "is an American actor, producer, writer, and director. Hanks is known for his roles in Apollo 13, Big,That Thing You Do!, The Green Mile, You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, Charlie Wilson's War, Catch Me If You Can, Forrest Gump, Cast Away, A League of Their Own, The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, as well as animated films like the Toy Story film series, The Polar Express, and The Simpsons Movie." We all have some blind spots when it comes to science and Mr. Hanks has his. I included him on my list because of his enthusiastic support of the US space program and the manned space program. This needs all the help it can get.

  • Brian May."most widely known as the guitarist, songwriter and occasional singer of the rock band Queen." I had to put him on the list. Because I am impressed that any legendary rock band member got a doctorate in astrophysics(That is not a diploma mill).

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson "is an American astrophysicist and science communicator." I think he is rather unfairly compared to Carl Sagan. Still he is the most charismatic scientist/science promoter since Sagan.

  • PBS. "The Public Broadcasting Service is a non-profit public broadcasting television network in the United States, with 354 member television stations which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia" Sure it is a network, and not a celebrity. Plus all TV in the US promotes and sells pseudoscience on some level. Still, PBS is the only entity that consistently tries to present accurate science. It is by far the best TV outlet for math and scientific children's shows. It personally impressed me by not removing certain science and evolution programming during considerable religious/conservative pressure in 2005.

That is about it for my "honorable mentions". When I heard episode 349 I was surprised that at least some of these were not included. All "best of lists" are incomplete for any individual person. On balance this group makes the cut for me. Do you have a favorite that was passed over?

Unfortunately I will be unable to make NECSS this weekend due to family commitments. I hope anyone who goes has a good time.

by Stephen Propatier

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