Monday, February 24, 2014

One Man's Garbage Is Another Man's Treasure

Why is it that some forms of "superstition" or pseudoscience are scorned, ridiculed, and attacked, while other forms are perfectly acceptable in polite company?  I guess the answer depends on who's doing the scorning, ridiculing, attacking, and accepting:
Still: a significant portion of what Whole Foods sells is based on simple pseudoscience. And sometimes that can spill over into outright anti-science (think What Doctors Don’t Tell You, or Whole Foods’ overblown GMO campaign, which could merit its own article). 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.

The danger is when these ideas get tied up with other, more politically muscular ideologies. Creationism often does, of course—that’s when we should worry. But as vaccine skeptics start to prompt public health crises, and GMO opponents block projects that could save lives in the developing world, it’s fair to ask how much we can disentangle Whole Foods’ pseudoscientific wares from very real, very worrying antiscientific outbursts.  link
I don't post this to disparage Whole Foods--heck, I may go there once a year or so.  And I've written favorably about John Mackey on this blog before.  Mainly I post it as a dig on people who frequent Whole Foods--and you know exactly what kind of people I'm talking about :-)


maxutils said...

Absolutely. Shopping at whole food is pretty much the same thing as setting money on fire ... Most communities have farmer's markets, and your going to get fresher produced there, at a fraction of the price. I believe Sacramento has 4... The one thing I will give them ... their meat and seafood are hands down the best you can buy, and if I want something special, that's where I go... but, yes, it is a placce who's parking lot teems with SUVs, and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a pair of yoga pants or headband...

Ellen K said...

A recent study showed that there was little difference in nutritional value in produce bought at your local big grocery chain than Sprouts or Whole Foods. It's like buying a Rolex over a Timex-they both do the job, but one impresses other people.