A comment on the Crimson story got me poking around (I am not a big Oprah watcher) and now I wonder: Did anyone on the Harvard honorary degrees committee consider the fact that Oprah is a major purveyor of pseudoscience? Four years ago Newsweek did an extensive debunking of pseudo-medicine pandered on her show. She was #1 on Brian Dunning's list of the top 10 purveyors of pseudoscience, citing her as follows: "she promotes the paranormal, psychic powers, new age spiritualism, conspiracy theories, quack celebrity diets, past life regression, angels, ghosts, alternative therapies like acupuncture and homeopathy, anti-vaccination, detoxification, vitamin megadosing, and virtually everything that will distract a human being from making useful progress and informed decisions in life." Or read Martin Gardner's take on Oprah -- and her frequent guest, Harvard's own Dr. Oz.
There is an old formula associated with the Harvard presidency. It has been used in the past by the Senior Fellow as an inaugural incantation: "We ask you to dedicate yourself to the University's paramount purpose - giving a true account of the gift of reason." It goes back to Josiah Quincy, but it is actually a paraphrase of Francis Bacon. I am not sure whether it was used at President Faust's inauguration.
It seems very odd for Harvard to honor such a high profile popularizer of the irrational. I can't square this in my mind, at a time when political and religious nonsense so imperil the rule of reason in this allegedly enlightened democracy and around the world.