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Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience

whole foods

Why are some kinds of pseudoscience more equal than others?

Note: I go to Whole Foods all the time. Besides the wu-wu health food products (easy to ignore, just walk past the hemp socks, alpaca mittens, re-washable sanitary napkins, and organic teas) they also happen to have the most fabulous meat section, loaded with pork, lamb, beef, sausage, bacon…and their pastries, confections, the mountains of desserts, Whole Foods doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a 21st century high-carb hog heaven.  It’s not a health-food store, it’s an Apocalyptic Temple of Carnivore Decadence.

Also Whole Foods’ founder, John Mackey, isn’t your garden-variety Establishment Liberal Democrat, he’s a firebrand, a government-regulation resisting whacko Libertarian. It’s fair to say Whole Foods‘ contradictions represent American diversity, wishful thinking, and self-delusion as accurately as any corporate consumer experience you can find.

For The Daily BeastMichael Schulson writes:

 If you want to write about spiritually-motivated pseudoscience in America, you head to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. It’s like a Law of Journalism. The museum has inspired hundreds of book chapters and articles (some of them, admittedly, mine) since it opened up in 2007. The place is like media magnet. And our nation’s liberal, coastal journalists are so many piles of iron fillings.

“…a significant portion of what Whole Foods sells is based on simple pseudoscience. And sometimes that can spill over into outright anti-science…”

But you don’t have to schlep all the way to Kentucky in order to visit America’s greatest shrine to pseudoscience. In fact, that shrine is a 15-minute trip away from most American urbanites.

I’m talking, of course, about Whole Foods Market. From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort (more on that later), Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares. And if you want a sense of how weird, and how fraught, the relationship between science, politics, and commerce is in our modern world, then there’s really no better place to go. Because anti-science isn’t just a religious, conservative phenomenon—and the way in which it crosses cultural lines can tell us a lot about why places like the Creation Museum inspire so much rage, while places like Whole Foods don’t.

My own local Whole Foods is just a block away from the campus of Duke University. Like almost everything else near downtown Durham, N.C., it’s visited by a predominantly liberal clientele that skews academic, with more science PhDs per capita than a Mensa convention.

Still, there’s a lot in your average Whole Foods that’s resolutely pseudoscientific. The homeopathy section has plenty of Latin words and mathematical terms, but many of its remedies are so diluted that, statistically speaking, they may not contain a single molecule of the substance they purport to deliver. The book section—yep, Whole Foods sells books—boasts many M.D.’s among its authors, along with titles like The Coconut Oil Miracle and Herbal Medicine, Healing, and Cancer, which was written by a theologian and based on what the author calls the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System.

You can buy chocolate with “a meld of rich goji berries and ashwagandha root to strengthen your immune system,” and bottles of ChlorOxygen chlorophyll concentrate, which “builds better blood.” There’s cereal with the kind of ingredients that are “made in a kitchen—not in a lab,” and tea designed to heal the human heart.

Nearby are eight full shelves of probiotics—live bacteria intended to improve general health. I invited a biologist friend who studies human gut bacteria to come take a look with me. She read the healing claims printed on a handful of bottles and frowned. “This is bullshit,” she said, and went off to buy some vegetables….

Read the rest…

The Daily Beast

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One Comment on “Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience”

  1. Wayne says:

    You ask a funny question. Why are some forms of ‘science’ considered Science, and others quackery. I have never understood that.

    Wayne
    Luvsiesous.com


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