The Simpsons Co-Creator and Acupuncture for His Dog
The Simpsons is a universe unto its own. The impact the show has had on the television industry can not be understated. As a cultural force, its tentacles stretch far and wide in to many aspects of our society. Art, music, philosophy, economics, grammar, mathematics, and science (to name just a few spheres of human endeavors) have all been touched by this unique show in ways no other television program has ever achieved.
Matt Groening, the original creator of The Simpsons, is a favorite among fans of science and skepticism. Tidbits of science information, from the subtle to the obvious, are a permanent thread in The Simpsons tapestry (not to mention his other marvelous creation, Futurama, where his full-on science-nerd and science-fiction-geek is omnipresent in every episode.) In fact, when asked which of all The Simpson’s 575 broadcasted episodes was his favorite, it was “Lisa The Skeptic”, featuring the late Stephen Jay Gould. Suffice it to say, when skeptics think of The Simpsons, they think of the show as an ally in their camp, and a champion of both science and skepticism.
In this context, and in the headlines this week, it grieves me to learn that Groening’s close collaborator, the late Sam Simon, embraced the practice of acupuncture. And not just acupuncture – acupuncture for his beloved dog, Columbo.
Simon lost his battle with colon cancer this past March at the age of 59. Among the belongings in his estate were Columbo, a dog he rescued (for which Sam should be highly praised!), and a personal fortune reported to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter, they have published a lengthy article delving into Simon’s will and the estate Simon left behind, with a special emphasis on Columbo the dog, the couple who adopted Columbo after Simon’s death, and the funds required to keep Columbo living in the lifestyle it (and it’s former owner) had become accustomed. Hence the regular re-occurring acupuncture treatment for Columbo. From the article:
In what’s emerging as one of the most peculiar estate battles in recent Hollywood history, the couple claims they’ve been left high and dry by the trust of the late Simpsons co-creator and animal rights philanthropist Sam Simon, their close friend who bequeathed them his troubled rescue dog after his death in March at 59 from colon cancer. The trouble is that the Kilmers got the dog but not the funds they say Simon verbally had promised them to maintain Columbo’s estimated $140,000 annual medical and therapeutic care regimen that includes, in only-in-L.A. style, twice-a-week acupuncture that costs $3,640 per month. Simon, whose fortune is said to be worth several hundred million dollars, paid for this regimen until he died.
The part about the acupuncture is almost an aside, yet it is an eye-opener to Simon’s philosophy on medicine, both for himself and for Columbo. Regarding the acupuncture for animals, The SkeptVet diplomatically explains:
In animals, there is no reliable, high-quality research evidence for the benefits of acupuncture. The studies that have been done have found both positive and negative results, but the poor quality and lack of replication make the existing evidence insufficient to recommend acupuncture therapy.
Regarding Simon’s own health, sure enough he turned to alternative remedies and treatments in his fight against cancer. From an interview conducted by Ecorazzi.com not long before his death, Simon said the following:
“I do everything. I’m juicing; I’m on homeopathic medicine; I’m doing trampoline therapy; I’ve got a faith healer; I’ve got essiac tea; I’ve got everything going here, including traditional therapy. If I’m cured, I’m going to tell the doctors it was the crystals.” [Laughs]
And from the the documentary The Sam Simon Story, he opens himself up to a “treatment” from an Indian faith healer:
“I’m not sure how much I believe in faith healers, but I’m not sure how much I believe in chemo either.”
While Simon did not abandon his chemotherapy and other science-based treatments for his cancer, his willingness to co-mingle his health care with unproven and unscientific methods – coupled with this same approach for his dog – is indicative (and unfortunately, not uncommon for people suffering with cancer) of a philosophy inconsistent with science-based medicine.
Coming from the great mind of one of the key figures behind The Simpsons, it is more than a little disappointing to read.