I rather like Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Unfortunately, I seldom get to watch, mainly because I usually show up at work sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 AM, and I don’t like watching more than a few minutes of video on my computer.
However, Hugh Laurie, star of House, was interviewed by Conan and revealed himself to be not unlike me in that he’s definitely a booster of reason and science in medicine over irrationality and dubious “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) therapies. In fact, his attitude towards CAM appears to be not at all unlike that of the character he plays on House. Check out the interview. (If you want to watch, the relevant part of the interview begins at about 23:50 into the show.)
For those who might have problems playing Internet video, I’ve found a transcript:
From Late Night with Conan O’Brien Tuesday, December 9, 2008
CONAN O’BRIEN: We have something in common, which is… I believe your father is a doctor and my father is a doctor. And so you’re playing a doctor now, and I’m curious. Did you learn anything from your father? Is there anything from growing up with a doctor in the family that helped you with the role?
HUGH LAURIE: In a way, yes. I mean, not, not…Not to do with the character, but to do with my attitude toward medicine. Because I admired my father so much, I grew up with this immense reverence for Western Medicine. I think it’s about the noblest calling there is.
I don’t know about you, but I have no patience with the sort of bog-sucking crystals and the herbs and all that sort of stuff. I’m a great believer in antibiotics and anesthetics. These are great things that have saved millions of lives.
(GESTURES TOWARD AUDIENCE)
You know half the people who are here wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for antibiotics.
CONAN: I am the same way. Whenever something is wrong with me, and someone says, “There’s a tree root that you can hold against your head and then think good thoughts,”
CONAN: I push them aside and go to a pharmacy.
HUGH: Right, me too!
CONAN: I want actual medicine.
HUGH: I want actual medicine, little white pills. Yeah. Because when people try to persuade you of this alternative course because its an ancient medicine, its an ancient therapy. ”It’s two thousand years old.” But two thousand years ago people died at twenty!
HUGH: It’s no recommendation!
CONAN: If they made it to twenty, it was, “Hey old man! Hey old timer!”
HUGH: Let’s have some more of that tree bark! But, no.
Yes, I definitely grew up with that. And that made me (I suppose) sympathize with the — Is it left brain or right brain? I don’t know which side it is — But that sort of logical, scientific side of the character, which I do greatly admire. For all his cynicism, sarcasm, etc. etc., I love his belief in reason. It is his religion. I definitely got that from my father.
I knew there was a reason that I liked Hugh Laurie. I haven’t really watched House much during the last couple of seasons (it seemed to be getting too formulaic), but maybe I should give it another try.
In any case, it’s great to see two major stars being straight up skeptical about unscientific medical claims. You don’t see that very often. Unfortunately, what you do see far more often are stars like Oprah Winfrey, whose appetite for woo has become legendary and made her arguably the most influential promoter of unscientific medical practices in the media. I wonder if Hugh Laurie’s ever been on her show, and if he has would his contact with Oprah result in the credulous heads of every audience member exploding?