Maybe Hollywood doesn't produce great scientists

As the furor over Hollywood kingpin Harvey Weinstein's sexual exploits floods the media, I say it is time to let those dust balls of deviancy provide another lesson in the foolishness of celebrity worship.  Mr. Weinstein is rapidly losing his endorsement by the Hollywood crowd, which he had brought to star status.

Want to sell something, anything?  Product placement and endorsement are a lucrative activity for Hollywood's media darlings and a successful sales strategy for manufacturers.  But why?  It would seem to be obvious that the endorsement, however sincere in its presentation, is a paid for performance.  "Trust me, I am a Hollywood celebrity"…no?  Perhaps the answer lies in the observations of Nobel Prize-winner Richard Thaler on human behavior, rational and otherwise.  People tend to believe what they want to hear; put off less pleasurable activities, even those in their best long-term interest; and eschew   going publicly against the norms of the crowd.

Promoting fears of man-made climate change has become the side occupation for some of Hollywood's leading stars.  Why should the public care what actor X has to say on the topic?  Should they be swayed by what an actor says?  A consideration of what acting and movie-making entails provides a hint.  

Hollywood can be said to be in the professional business of lying and suspending rational thought.  In a sense, actors and directors are professional liars – they work to make seem real a work of fantasy.  They work diligently to make you accept what you see on the screen as a reality, although it is an illusion of someone else's making.  Actor X is adjudged a star if he is able to take the words of someone else, the script, and deliver a performance on screen that fools us into believing that that actor is the fictitious character.  No original thinking is necessary; the actor is parroting the ideas of someone else.

So when Hollywood produces film showing Manhattan sinking beneath the ocean, or actor X steps out of character and portrays a scientific concern for the climate and attributes climate catastrophes to human activities, remember that they are  both in the business of fantasy.  Climate reality is best left in the hands of those trained in the pertinent scientific fields. 

Charles G. Battig, M.S., M.D., Heartland Institute policy expert on environment; VA-Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE).  His website is