Pseudoscience: It’s Not Just for Ignorant Bumkins

Via a tweet from the Statistician to the Stars: Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience.

Ya think?

Probioitic Acidophilus Liquid Strawberry <p>Contains a natural balance of specially selected strains of acidophilic cultures</p><p>Each serving provides over 20 billion "friendly" organisms for intestinal health◊**</p><p>Nutritionally supports healthy digestion**</p><p>Helps maintain a favorable environment for the absorption of nutrients**</p><p>Contributes to healthy immune function**</p><p class="disclaime
This is the first thing that came up when I googled ‘probiotics’. Just love this company’s name: Puritan’s Pride. So now we’ve got the hard-core witch-burning Calvinists telling us what our bodies need? Stay fit until you either burn for eternity or enjoy utterly unmerited eternal bliss?

I once mentioned that anyone concerned with protecting the scientific integrity of evolutionary theory would be at least as upset with X-Men stories as with Creationism. As this essay points out, it’s a difference in clientele: Creationism is promoted by those who are sufficiently and officially other, while my friends and I shop at Whole Foods (that’s the hypothetical ‘my friends and I’ – I think I’ve been in a Whole Foods once in my life) and catch X-Men: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Physics at the multiplex.

 If scientific accuracy in the public sphere is your jam, is there really that much of a difference between Creation Museum founder Ken Ham, who seems to have made a career marketing pseudoscience about the origins of the world, and John Mackey, a founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, who seems to have made a career, in part, out of marketing pseudoscience about health?

Well, no—there isn’t really much difference, if the promulgation of pseudoscience in the public sphere is, strictly speaking, the only issue at play. By the total lack of outrage over Whole Foods’ existence, and by the total saturation of outrage over the Creation Museum, it’s clear that strict scientific accuracy in the public sphere isn’t quite as important to many of us as we might believe. Just ask all those scientists in the aisles of my local Whole Foods.

So, why do many of us perceive Whole Foods and the Creation Museum so differently? The most common liberal answer to that question isn’t quite correct: namely, that creationists harm society in a way that homeopaths don’t. I’m not saying that homeopathy is especially harmful; I’m saying that creationism may be relatively harmless. In isolation, unless you’re a biologist, your thoughts on creation don’t matter terribly much to your fellow citizens; and unless you’re a physician, your reliance on Sacred Healing Food to cure all ills is your own business.

No has yet to explain why Creationists are a threat to all that is good and true, while the hemp-wearing, women-studies majoring consumers of probiotics are not. Creationists are very unlikely to sit on the local state university board making funding and hiring decisions, while people who think – and teach their students – that science is nothing more than a tool of patriarchal oppression most certainly do, and are not shy about using their power against any enemies – like, say, scientists with enough integrity to challenge their stupid fantasies.

So, to recap: Academics and their sycophants bravely go after Creationists, who have very little power to do much of anything to their lives and livelihoods, to the applause of their peers. These same people give a complete pass to those among their peers who promote even more egregious pseudoscience and anti-science in the various ‘studies’ departments and elsewhere on campus, but who do have the ability to damage their careers and livelihoods.

I’m unconvinced by claims such folks are motivated by a love of science.

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

3 thoughts on “Pseudoscience: It’s Not Just for Ignorant Bumkins”

  1. Excellent post. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, of course. The same progressive movement that decries “creationism,” however one defines that, also opposes genetically engineered crops that offer the best hope of reducing hunger throughout the world. The trendy, patchouli-wearing, yoga-attending housewife who buys organic milk at Whole Foods to avoid consuming the hormones given to cattle probably takes a hormone-laden contraceptive throughout the month to avoid motherhood. The anti-vaccination movement, while it includes its fair share of conservatives and independents, has or had among its most vocal proponents such luminaries of the left as Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carey, John Kerry, and John F. Kennedy, Jr. (Even Obama said the anti-vaccination viewpoint “deserves study,” so apparently the science is settled only on matters of anthropogenic global warming.) The same branch of the political spectrum that cries foul at the logical viewpoint that all contingent things require one non-contingent being evince beliefs in astrology, yoga as a way to harness spiritual energy, spiritual energy being present in rocks and crystals, and even that some people have the power of the “Evil Eye” at rates twice that of conservatives (http://www.pewforum.org/2009/12/09/many-americans-mix-multiple-faiths/)

    1. Had to get some coffee and rediscover my will to live before responding. Yep, it’s bad out there.

      As a native Californian, and pushing 30 years as a resident of the San Francisco area, it has long blown my mind that people think that being a liberal Democrat is some sort of inoculation against believing utterly stupid hooey. Why is it, then, that the concentration places to have your chakras adjusted, for example, parallels the concentration of liberal Democrats?

      Maybe I should take a field trip to the Berkeley Whole Foods and do a survey? It would be a hoot.

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