Harvard’s Oprah endorsement is a blow to reason

At TIME, Erika Christakis and Nicholas A. Christakis have penned an article criticising Harvard’s endorsement of Oprah Winfrey, with the awarding of an honourary doctorate and as commencement speaker. As their title indicates, “Oprah as Harvard’s Commencement Speaker Is an Endorsement of Phony Science”.

Oprah’s particular brand of celebrity is not a good fit for the values of a university whose motto, Veritas, means truth. Oprah’s passionate advocacy extends, unfortunately, to a hearty embrace of phony science. Critics have taken Oprah to task for years for her energetic shilling on behalf of peddlers of quack medicine. Most notoriously, Oprah’s validation of Jenny McCarthy’s discredited claim that vaccines cause autism has no doubt contributed to much harm through the foolish avoidance of vaccines.

Ms Winfrey does tend to endorse a lot of pseudoscientific nonsense: Rhonda Byrne (who “wrote” The Secret and The Power), Dr Oz, and similar promoters of nonscience and nonsense.

It’s good to see that those working in Harvard, as both writers do, are heavily critical of this decision. [Read more...]