Rock Stars: Woo Magnets?

by endlesspsych

By Keir Liddle

The Insane Clown Posse’s track “Miracles” is a catchy wee ditty that recently captured the imagination of scientists and skeptics mainly for a line asking:

“Fucking magnets, how do they work?”
Followed by the statement: “I don’t want to talk to a scientist, y’all MF lying and getting me pissed!”

Band Member Josepth Bruce said ofa the song  that the lyrics discuss…

“things […] [that] may not be actual miracles. They may have scientific facts explaining them away. But nonetheless, these things are still incredible […] and they should be appreciated.”

The general sentiment of which seems reasonable, but nonetheless carries on a long tradition of artists, musicians and generally ‘creative types’ criticising science for “unweaving the rainbow” – which I have often considered to be a grossly unfair accusation. As Feynman says:

“I have a friend who’s an artist, and he sometimes takes a view which I don’t agree with. He’ll hold up a flower and say, “Look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. But then he’ll say, “I, as an artist, can see how beautiful a flower is. But you, as a scientist, take it all apart and it becomes dull.” I think he’s kind of nutty. […] There are all kinds of interesting questions that come from a knowledge of science, which only adds to the excitement and mystery and awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

However, as well as the rejection of science on aesthetic grounds several rock stars have also rejected science and embraced woo.

Arguably, it all started with the Beatles and the Maharishi’s Mahesh Yogi – who became the fab four’s guru in the late 60’s. Introducing the world to transcendental meditation, he also started the TM-Sidhi program which offered to teach students levitation, but really taught them how to hop with their legs crossed (or ‘yogic flying’, if you like). The trend that associates musicians and woo shows no real signs of abating any time soon. With people like Beck, Sonny Bono and Isaac Hayes members of Scientology’s super adventure club, and the likes of Madonna mad for Kabbalah, it seems musicians (and other celebrities) are prone to seek ing some sort of spiritual comfort outside the mainstream.

Sometimes, a star’s rejection or misunderstanding of science can come as a bit of a suprise: take the recent diatribes posted by legendary Queen guitarist and scientist Brian May on the subject of animal rights, or this statement on climate change from a Times Online interview:

Most of my most knowledgeable scientist friends don’t believe that global warming exists. I have still not seen any proof that the planet is increasing in temperature, or that we have a hand in determining such changes. I do think the concept has led to some good changes, such as an increased awareness of how wasteful we are. But lots of people are cashing in on the carbon industry, distracting us from more important issues, such as how to treat animals.

I have no idea who Brian’s “knowledgeable science friends” are – at a guess they are probably cranks. Brian also proposes (somewhat unrealistically) that we replace animal testing with a combination of in-vitro testing and computer modelling. Although many of his objections to animal testing are ethically and morally based, and thus perfectly valid, suggesting we are anywhere near the stage where we can truly leave behind animal testing on scientific grounds is not. It remains a necessary evil if we want modern biomedical research to continue.

Billy Corgan, of Smashing Pumpkins fame has proclaimed that the swine flu virus just maybe, perhaps, could be, man-made…

I would suggest however that it is possible the virus is not a naturally occurring virus. I have read reports from people who say (as doctors) that there is evidence to suggest this virus was created by man; to call it Swine Flu is then a misnomer, as it really is Swine Flu plus some other stuff stitched together. These doctors said such genetic mutation was impossible in nature.

“I have read reports”: well, there are no links in that particular post, but he does mention links he has been sending of late… However, these must be housed somewhere other than the blog this story is published on. Apparently Billy did his “research” on anti-vaccine crank sites and quack sites, if the links he’s posted are any indication; links to articles like The Goal of Every H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine: Immunotoxicity, Neurotoxicity and Sterility or The Threat of Mandatory Vaccinations.

Nate Mendel, bassist with the Foo Fighters, has expressed support for AIDS denialist ideas, and even went as far as to organise a benefit gig for Christine Maggiore (an AIDS sufferer, herself; now deceased – her denialism may have cost her life as she reject anti-retroviral drugs) and her non-profit AIDS denialist charity “Alive and Well AIDS Alternatives”. The charity, still active today, advocates the following:

  • HIV tests are inaccurate.
  • AIDS is not a major problem in Africa.
  • Pregnant women should not take antiretroviral medication to prevent HIV transmission to their children.
  • The syndrome of AIDS in fact results from malnutrition, mental stress, AZT, recreational drug use among gay men, or other causes.
  • The mainstream scientific community’s efforts to promote AIDS awareness and develop effective treatments are examples of fearmongering and are compromised by ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

All of which is, as I am sure you will agree, highly dangerous scaremongering.

While we have to accept that not every musician can be open to woo (Tim Minchin, for example), we could perhaps hope that rock stars in future take heed of at least one of the Insane Clown Posse’s lyrics:

If magic is all we ever known then it’s easy to miss what really goes on