January 17, 2018
When the sitting president is someone who traffics in conspiracy theories and pseudoscience while denigrating women and marginalized minorities, it's easy to get excited about an eloquent, charismatic potential challenger for the next election. Such was the case when Oprah Winfrey took the stage at the Golden Globes ceremony with a stirring and inspiring speech, a speech that launched a thousand articles about the prospects for Oprah 2020.
But as we'll see this week, Winfrey is not necessarily the friend the reality-based community is looking for, as her vast media empire has incubated and launched the careers of an army of pseudoscience-peddling hucksters, ranging from those profiting off misplaced hope and magical thinking to truly dangerous antiscience medical stances. We'll also see how a recent law in California reversed some of the damage done by the anti-vaccine pseudoscience promoted on Winfrey's show by the likes of Jenny McCarthy.
The problems with Winfrey as a potential president, however, shouldn't detract from the importance of a speech in celebration of women's empowerment at a crucial moment. This is especially true when one considers the horrific state of affairs for women in many parts of the world, such as Nepal and Ghana, where we'll see how belief in dangerous superstitions force many women and girls into untenable and even deadly situations.
It's a good thing that equality for all is of foremost concern to young Americans, and we'll look at new survey data showing what groups our up-and-coming generation perceives to be the most subject to discrimination. Perceptions do not always equate to reality, of course, and that's part of why our own Richard Dawkins will give us reason to reexamine the implications of the phrase "beyond a reasonable doubt."
There was a lot of doubt about how tens of millions of Aztecs died after the coming of the Spanish to Mexico in the 16th century. But thanks to some intrepid researchers and a few exhumed skeletons, it may soon be time to file charges against a microorganism that may have decimated an empire.
Robyn E. Blumner
President & CEO, Center for Inquiry
Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science