Pete Evans Is Not “Controversial”. He Is Wrong

Let's call Evans' anti-science talk what it is.

Pete Evans supported an anti-vaxxer podcast

Here is a partial list of things that celebrity chef Pete Evans knows something about: writing cookbooks; selling cookbooks; eating some food and then solemnly nodding for the cameras; smiling in promotional photographs, judging other people’s cooking. Here’s a list of things he doesn’t know a lot about: science.

This is not necessarily a problem. All of us have massive gaps in our knowledge, even the very best and the very brightest. Immanuel Kant, one of the most influential philosophers of the last two hundred years, reckoned that the more hours you slept, the younger that you would die, which is extremely, profoundly incorrect.

But here’s the difference between Kant and Evans — Kant kept his views on sleep to himself and his journal. Evans, meanwhile, has spent the last few years pushing a radical, incoherent and genuinely dangerous anti-science doctrine to his viewers.

He’s narrated a crank documentary that purports to show that the paleo diet can cure autism and cancer; he’s railed against sunscreen; and he’s spruiked a bone broth for children that doctors condemned as legitimately life-threatening.

Now Evans, who does not trust the fluoridisation of water, but does believe in whatever activated almonds are, has pushed a podcast called Living 4D to his sizeable Facebook following, calling it “important” and arguing that it raises questions.

The podcast is hosted by Paul Chek, an anti-vaxxer who makes blurry Youtube videos in which he rails against government control, sometimes while not wearing a shirt, and the specific episode Evans promoted features Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, whose greatest claim to fame is that she once had a speaking tour of Australia cancelled due to public outcry.

On the podcast, Tenpenny and Chek talk about the “synergistic toxicity” of vaccines, Tenpenny calls vaccine programs “filthy” and claims that they have no basis in science (a lie), and later, that unvaccinated children are smarter than vaccinated children (another lie). At one point, Chek tells Tenpenny that she is putting herself at “quite a risk”, speaking out against vaccines.

It is tempting to dismiss Chek, Tenpenny and Evans for enabling them as harmless cranks — no different from your average Youtube conspiracist. But that is not what these people are. By pushing an anti-science agenda that increases the risk of influenza, disease and death, and that gives parents of children with disabilities unfair hope in unsupported methods, the trio are enacting genuine harm.

Evans and his ilk aren’t “controversial” or “subversive.” They are wrong.