More dangerous woo from Whole Foods

I was horrified when I went to Whole Foods a while back and found them purveying homeopathic remedies, which is the first inkling I’ve had of a connection between the left and woo (okay, call me naive: I thought the left was smarter!).  Then, I discovered the same kind of quackery being sold to the Birkenstock Set at the famous Davis Food Co-Op in California.

Now another indictment of Whole Foods has appeared on Science-Based Medicine:  a piece by Jann Bellamy called “What Whole Foods Markets doesn’t tell you.” I am hellishly busy today and can’t dilate on it, but that’s okay: it’s short and you can read it for yourself. The gist is that the store sells a magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, that is loaded to the gunwales with alternative medicine, photon therapy, unsupported herbal and vitamin therapies and, worst of all, “natural” cures for cancer that won’t work, in effect contributing to your death.

Does Whole Foods really want to promise their customers health on some aisles and illness and death in others? I don’t think so. I, for one, won’t patronize them any more, and neither, so she says, will Bellamy. I know some of you do, too, but do you really want to fund this kind of nonsense?

Bellamy does add a bit of humor, reproducing a mocked up cover of that horrible magazine taken from The Quackometer:

What-quacks-dont-tell-youh/t: Amy


  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen a lot of left leaning folks fall for the naturalistic fallacy and once they start down that slippery slope, a bunch of screw ups with causation soon follow.

  2. moarscienceplz
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    ” I, for one, won’t patronize them any more, and neither, so she says, will Bellamy. I know some of you do, too, but do you really want to fund this kind of nonsense?”

    No, but Walgreens also sells homeopathy “remedies” and I suspect all the other drug chains do, as well. So who should I choose to fill my scrips?
    I think it’s hopeless to try to find 100% virtuous retailers. Pick the best of a bad lot, and then complain just enough to make the managers think, but not so much that you get labeled as “that wacky customer who always complains about stuff”.

    • Posted April 24, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      That’s the same bind I see.

      Yes, Whole Paycheck has its problems, from the politics of its owners to the quackery in the center aisles.

      But the politics of the Waltons is far worse, the center aisles of Walmart grocery stores are nothing but sugar, and the stuff in the perimeter is lower quality and has an heavier environmental footprint. I don’t think anything at Walmart’s meat and dairy counters is going to even come close to Whole Paycheck’s minimum ethical treatment standards, and Whole Paycheck offers lots of free-range pastured products. One of their egg producers has minimum standards such that most backyard chicken coops don’t meet. And while Whole Foods may carry wacky magazines like this one, Walmart carries World Nut Daily and the like.

      If there was anybody less evil than Whole Paycheck in the neighborhood, I’d patronize them. But I don’t see how it’s an improvement to boycott them in favor of somebody else who has all the same faults and then some, often in spades.


      • eric
        Posted April 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Here is some information on labeling. Some important things to note:
        1. If it’s not a USDA label, the government doesn’t regulate the label’s use. IOW, any special “Whole Foods” guarantee of treatment or quality is no guarantee at all.
        2. The labels “pasture-raised” and “humane” don’t mean anything at all. There are no standards associated with these labels. Producers can slap them on any product they like.
        3. The label “natural” only applies to meat an eggs. If you see it on anything else, its meaningless. Likewise, “no added hormones” is only meaninful on beef. If you see that label on poultry, pork, or goat, the company is intentionally trying to mislead you with an implied promise that their product is better than what you’d find in another store. In reality, no poultry, pork, or goat meat sold in the US has added hormones, so what you’re getting is exactly the same as what you’d buy in a cheaper, less wooey store.

        • Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

          Here’s the egg ranch I was specifically referring to:

          Yes, their claims aren’t regulated by the government, but it’d take quite the conspiracy to fake it.

          And, no, there’s no government regulation (save for fraud / truth in advertising standards / etc.) of Whole Paycheck’s ethical meat standards…but they’ve staked their corporate reputation on it, and it’d be a Pulitzer prize for the journalist who could uncover systematic abuses.

          Is the hope that some journalist David is looking to take down Goliath as good as government standards and inspections? No.

          But is it the least-worst alternative we have? Best I’m aware of.

          …to be fair, you could always raise your own meats yourself, but that’s not a practical alternative for me or the overwhelming portion of the population. Next best would be local ranches with butchers on the premises, but they simply don’t exist. What Whole Paycheck does is the next rung down the ladder, and that’s as high as I personally can climb.


      • Kevin
        Posted April 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        Most every store like Target, Walmart, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Costco, etc. is going to have some stuff (crap) that is of no value to me. And, in some cases, most stores/restaurants make rational consumer choices obscure so profit precedes consumer benefit.

        In particular, whenever one leaves a store with things that one can eat, that person should consider what it is that is being put into that person’s body. With caution, foresight, independent verification, you will avoid many unfortunate and/or useless products and ripoffs.

        • Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

          The simple solution to that problem is to only (or, at least, mostly) only buy things you could grow / harvest / slaughter yourself, or that you could make from such stuff available elsewhere in the store. Buy the package of dried beans instead of the canned cowboy-style spicy ranchero bean-like dip with vegetable protein extended fillers. You don’t have to be anal about it, but if that’s your basic guiding principle you’re not going to do too badly.

          Note: I specified, “simple,” not, “easy.” The two concepts are often, but not necessarily, at odds with each other….



      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 24, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention Walmart’s bullying attitudes toward local governments and its less than ethical treatment of its employees.

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted April 24, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

          On that latter note, there is stuff coming out on how Amazon treats their floor staff in those big warehouses. They are apparently run ragged picking up merchandise, with ever tightening quotas to go faster faster faster. Or be fired.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:49 am | Permalink

            Yeah read an article about it and was shocked. Also, I was dismayed that they took the concepts of Lean process and used it for evil. Lean is supposed to help you identify waste. Ironically, by misusing Lean as they have, they are generating waste with high turnover. The way a company succeeds is to allow for much more self direction. Tyrannically ruling employees is only going to get you so far.

            I try to buy from a Canadian store called Chapters-Indigo for my books whenever I can simply because they seem to treat employees well and when I complained about the misfiling of Darwin’s Doubt, they not only moved it immediately but gave me a $25 gift card as a reward for pointing out the error. When I found it misfiled again, they called me and explained the deal with how it ends up in its wrong spot online but will never be that way in store.

            So, they have won my loyalty – which is a rare thing for a company to do.

          • Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

            Ah, shit…I really didn’t want to read that. Amazon is wonderfully convenient for all sorts of stuff, even dishwasher detergent. I just notice that I’m running low, click a couple buttons on a Web page, and a new box magically shows up on my doorstep a day or two later.

            If I have to give that up because they’re mistreating their employees, that’s really going to suck. Worse, there’re things that’re easy to find on Amazon that you can’t even readily get anywhere else.

            …and then how’m I supposed to know which retailers aren’t fucking over their employees? It’d suck to ditch Amazon just to buy from somebody else who’s just as bad.

            What we really need is effective unions…not that that’s going to happen anytime soon….


        • Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

          Worse, Walmart pushes an huge portion of their expenses onto the general public. Got any idea how many of their employees are on government assistance of some sort, especially including food stamps and Medicaid?

          As far as I’m concerned, companies should be fined twice the cost of payments plus overhead for any of their employees receiving any form of government assistance. It’s their responsibility to pay their employees a living wage, and it’s not my responsibility as a taxpayer to fund their payroll department by making up the difference.


      • JBlilie
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:26 am | Permalink

        Walgreen’s drugstores are not associated with Walmart.

        • Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          I didn’t intend to equate the two; I simply compared Whole Paycheck with what’s perhaps the most popular mass-market alternative.

          Last I checked, Walgreens doesn’t sell groceries….


    • eric
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Its not a major part of the article, but Bellamy notes that Whole Foods doesn’t just sell other companies’ homeopathic cures, they have their own house brand of them. So, they have gone from just middlemen of woo to direct producers of woo.

      That may be a difference between them and other chain stores that you want to pay attention to. Though it really wouldn’t surprise me too much if Walgreens or Safeway did the same thing.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 12:02 am | Permalink

        The fact that their label is on it doesn’t mean they’re “direct producers” in the sense of owning the factory (or farm or fishing fleet). It just means they’ve made a deal with their supplier to put the retailer’s house label on it instead of the producer’s own label. That’s standard practice in the grocery industry.

        • eric
          Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:11 am | Permalink

          I agree with what you’re saying, but on the scale of ethical conduct, selling homeopathic remedies with your own label on them is still lower than simply selling Airborne and Zicam. When you sell your own brand of homeopathic products, you can no longer claim or imply that you’re just a neutral merchant simply passing on products because your customers want them; you are now “in the game,” trying to make a more direct profit out of that specific product.

          • darrelle
            Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:39 am | Permalink

            Absolutely. You are endorsing it with your own brand recognition / reputation.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted April 25, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

            I expect their response would be that some of their customers want less expensive versions of these products, and the house-labeled products fill that need. I don’t see it as ethically different from drugstore chains selling house-labeled pain relievers and decongestants at lower prices.

            Your real objection (and mine) is to that fact that they sell such products at all. In the Whole Foods business model, that’s already an implicit endorsement. But given that they do sell them, offering bargain brands next to premium brands is just business as usual, and does not cause me any additional umbrage.

            Your mileage (obviously) may vary.

  3. DrBrydon
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I love “Homeopaths Can’t Identify Their Own Remedies.” This is a point I’ve made elsewhere: How do the manufacturers of these nostrums do quality control? How do they know that the label matches the contents? They can’t. They should be challenged on this.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      I’ve asked about this. I was told that you could identify them by whether they worked or not. And then I was reminded that they didn’t always work. Or that they worked if you believe they will.

      Whatever works.

      When your entire world view is based on the idea that we create our own realities and that only Consciousness exists, it’s hard to introduce any checks and balances. Though for some strange reason they don’t seem to have any problems going after polluters or corporations with measurements, tests, and statistics. Apparently it’s only when you’re on the side of Righteousness (i.e. “Humility”) that truth takes on such fuzzy and flexible dimensions.

      • Derek Freyberg
        Posted April 24, 2014 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        Mythbusters: “I reject your reality and substitute my own.”
        Though that particular show does actually test.

        • Posted April 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          They should ‘do’ homeopathic medicine, and other woo medicines. It could create quite a stir.
          A while ago they did the experiment: ‘How hard is it to steal candy from a baby?’ That one was hilarious.

      • Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        “Subjectivism poisons everything”.

    • jesse
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I love “Homeopaths Can’t Identify Their Own Remedies” too! I pictured all those little sugar pills spilling on the floor and someone quietly using the broom and dustpan to collect them.

      And did you know that regarding the homeopathic sugar pills, if you TOUCH them with your hands, they are rendered ineffective? You must flick them from the container right to your mouth.

      Adds even more “magic” to the whole affair, doesn’t it.

  4. Sastra
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    What I call the Spiritual Left incorporates their supernatural beliefs into science and politics with more subtlety than the Religious Right, but they’re just as dogmatic and anti-science when you get down to it. A reasonable concern for the environment turns into woo and conspiracy theories; a common sense approach to health and nutrition goes pseudoscientific.

    A local Sustainable Living group in my area seems to be so enmeshed into alternative medicine, God, neo-paganism, and pseudoscience of all kinds that if all you’re interested in is the environmental aspect, then you’re going to feel like a fish out of water.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Very much like religion it has everything to do with marketing a self image in order to stake out and advertise your membership in a group (not necessarily anything wrong with that, pretty normal for humans), and precious little to do with rational assessment of the available evidence or science (big problems with that and also, unfortunately, pretty normal for humans).

    • moarscienceplz
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      I think the Left/Right spectrum has more to do with one’s ability to empathize with people one has never met. I’m not saying Right-wingers can’t care about others, but the amount of care they express seems to be related to how similar they think the other is to themselves.

      Intelligence seems to me to be only weakly correlated with empathy, although greater intelligence probably makes it easier to imagine what another person’s life is like. So I have no trouble accepting that there are Loony Lefties who would happily send homeopathic malaria cures to Africa, just as I have no trouble accepting the existence of someone like Werner von Braun – highly intelligent, but apparently not at all bothered that slave labor was used to make his rockets.

  5. Posted April 24, 2014 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I personally don’t shop at Whole Foods because I can’t see paying 50% more for the dubious – and probably illusionary – advantage of “all natural” or “organic” or “gluten free…”

    It’s nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” for a reason.

  6. Chris
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    This sort of stuff is present on the Left, but I don’t think it’s common there. We sometimes go to Whole Foods, but we don’t go down those new-agey rows. It’s surely not as common as ID or climate change denialism on the Right. Data would be interesting. People do love their superstitions, though.

  7. Chris
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Hehe, most of my friends are of the left/liberal/apathetic politically bent, and a number of them are in to the whole spiritual & all-natural thing. My pretty hardcore materialism rubs some of them up the wrong way sometimes but not in a relationship-killing way. Thankfully none are anti-med…

    Organic is a funny one. I’d prefer that the meat that I eat is well looked after before slaughter but that’s about it.

    Funnily enough, because I’m personally that way inclined politically & socially I can kind of see the attraction to it, as opposed to the religious side. It’s a great example of bias. 🙂

    More on topic, we have similar mags in the UK. **** them. “What Doctors don’t Tell You” has been sold in major outlets. Folks like Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre are doing sterling work in getting the mag taken off the shelves where possible.

    • eric
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Organic is a funny one. I’d prefer that the meat that I eat is well looked after before slaughter but that’s about it.

      I would support better farm animal treatment standards, even if it increased the cost of meat. However, I don’t trust labels in the absence of government (or at least indpendent) regulation. IMO the “organic” label on food means about as much as the “pure spring water” label on bottled water. You’re getting municipal water (i.e. tap water) most of the time. And likewise, with organic fruit and vegetables, you’re just getting the same fruit and veg and paying extra for the sticker.

      • Thanny
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 1:30 am | Permalink

        Anything sold as spring water comes from springs, not municipal water supplies.

        The bottled water sold by the big soda companies isn’t spring water, and isn’t sold as spring water.

        You’ve got the right attitude about bullshit marketing, but you’re going too far in the other direction.

        • eric
          Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:22 am | Permalink

          No, it doesn’t have to come from a spring, it just has to come out of the ground. See here.

          For those who don’t want to read the link, I’ll summarize:

          1. “Spring water” label means it can come from any borehole.
          2. “Glacier water” and “Mountain water” labels are unregulated use. The water can come from anywhere.
          3. The “Poland Spring” that Poland Spring water supposedly comes from dried up in 1967.
          4. Dasani and Aquifina are basically tap water sold at (approximately) a 100-fold markup.
          5. Many many other brands simply don’t tell you where they are getting their water. They may imply it comes from a single spring or source, but that’s all it is, an implication.

          • Boris Molotov
            Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:06 am | Permalink

            Not to mention the countless amount of waste produced by plastic bottles and general harm caused by milking aquafers to fill them.
            The “good” thing to do is demand that your municiple water supply is safe to drink and regulated (which it is in most of the modern world.)
            Talk about a load of crap.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:10 am | Permalink

              I get an odd reverse naturalistic fallacy from some as well wrt water. I have a well. I’ve had people tell me “I wouldn’t drink your water”. I like to point out that I’m peeing in their water. 😀

              • eric
                Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink

                To be fair, they’re peeing in yours too. The difference is ‘natural’ soil filtration (your well) vs. manmade filtration (municipal). But it all comes from the same water cycle, which all pee goes into.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

                Mine is less concentrated than their water.

      • Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        That’s why I buy meats at Whole Paycheck, overpriced as they are.



  8. Ken Elliott
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    In my viewpoint, neither the left is all knowing nor the right pure evil. As Chris Rock has indicated, most of us are liberal about some stuff, and conservative about other stuff. A great shame to me is how Republicans have come to be identified almost exclusively as the religious party. I don’t ever see a viable third party forming that takes the best of both sides, including the exclusion of religion, at least not in my lifetime.

    • Posted April 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      I would be pleased if Democrats were both the party of majority membership — as long as it kept leadership out of the clutches of plutocrats — and the party of complete silence on religion, other than maintaining support of the Establishment Clause. The party is neither, unfortunately, and leadership is currently more traditional GOP goal-oriented than progressive. Greens are closest to my preferences, but alas nowhere near viability as a third party. Greens need to increase in numbers by many tens of millions, maybe 5 or so of them, to exert significant impact on Democratic voters. And then they split ticket support and guarantee Rightie victories. Right Wing voters are far more ideologically monolithic than the rest of us, and that makes for opposition difficult to defeat.

      • jwthomas
        Posted April 24, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

        The Greens are the “leftists” most likely to support woo. How do I know? I used to be one.

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted April 24, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

          If one could imagine a democratic or viable 3rd party candidate with progressive views about the environment, support of science, womens’ right to choose, etc., but they had Deepak Chopra as their spiritual advisor, I would still vote for them. I would roll my eyes, and punch out the chad. I suppose there are plenty who hold conservative views that would rather do without the godbot candidates they have to vote for.

        • Posted April 24, 2014 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

          I don’t know if your experience in your locale is typical of all Greens; if so, that is certainly a negative. However, even if it is a tendency among some or even a majority of all Green activists, the rest of their agenda is superior to GOP and many Democrats, at least as I perceive Democratic Party viewpoint in many states and certainly at the national leadership level where Sanders, Warren, Gillebrand, Grayson are among a few of a pretty small group of actual Progressive legislators who come to mind.

          Besides that, a good chunk of people who vote Democratic and may or may not even be aware of Greens are also into woo (including atheists) and/or some degree of faith belief in supernatural blah-blah-blah shit as well.

          If woo disqualifies so must religion, and no way I go libertarian. So my choices are drop out, emigrate to Uruguay, or make the best of the USA left, such as it presently is.

        • Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          During the last presidential election cycle, the Green Party had a debate with all their primary candidates in Phoenix. It was a small affair in a multipurpose room in a Glendale library, with at most half a dozen candidates on stage and no more than a couple dozen in the audience. I don’t remember why, but I got there early — I think I might even have been the first person to get there, and I got drafted into helping set up not just chairs but the Skype simulcast thingy. And I got to mill around with the candidates, including Jill Stein, who won the nomination and was on the ballot in enough states to have a mathematical chance at winning.

          …and I can tell you that she “gets” it. I honestly, sincerely believe that she would have been the best President of my lifetime.

          I don’t remember the exact phrasing of the question I submitted to the debate itself, but I intended it to be a “dog whistle” sort of question to see how beholden the candidates were to religion. Most of the responses from the candidates were the sort of thing you’d get from a liberal Democrat. One from somebody whose sole purpose for running was to highlight injustices done towards native peoples used it as an excuse to talk about the values of native religions.

          But Jill “got it.” She answered perfectly, in a way that indicated that she would protect freedom from religion as much as she would protect freedom of religion, and that she understood the importance of both.

          So, yes; there are Greens who’re woo-soaked. But not all of them, and quite emphatically not the one most recently chosen (and by an overwhelming margin, I might add) as their standard-bearer.



      • eric
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        My suggestion to the Greens would be to adopt the strategy of the tea partiers – forget the Presidency. Forget even running as a third party. Instead, challenge Democratic party moderates in the primaries. Challenge even incumbents in this manner. A “stretch” goal for the Greens should be 10-20 Congresscritters. That would give them a lot more influence over national policy than they currently have, and it owuld avoid the problem you point out, of throwing the presidency to the GOP by splitting the liberal vote.

  9. Grania Spingies
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Sense About Science is a great resource to send people (or yourself) to if you want to check out the validity of “medical” claims from suspicious sources.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Excellent! Saved it to my Evernote stash of sites I send out to my friends who believe nutty claims too easily.

    • jwthomas
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      The site Quackwatch and the blog
      Science Based Medicine
      should be in everyone’s bookmarks.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:43 am | Permalink

        I get the regular Quack Watch emails which are handy as well.

  10. Posted April 24, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    My wife wanted to do an at home birth really badly. Instead of getting into a head to head argument with her I suggested that she research the mortality rate of at home births vs hospital births, and we’d make a decision based on that.

    Both of our children were born in the hospital.

    • Posted April 24, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Hospital is definitely the way to go. And where is that epidural?

  11. kelskye
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if it would be a worthy goal to fund such a magazine – at least have one issue sitting alongside all those “health” magazines.

    • Posted April 24, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      I was thinking the same thing. I’d buy a subscription, if it were offered. Would be wonderful to be able to immediately ‘smack down’ someone touting some of the BS that they see in some of those ‘Alternative Medicine’ magazines.

      Is there anything like this on the market? (a health magazine designed like the mass market stuff but clearly on the side of scientific method and reproducible results.)

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted April 24, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

        There is Men’s Health magazine, which is probably ‘ok’. It of course focuses on getting a 6 pack, and being good in bed ,and quick, healthy meals. I doubt it has woo in it, more like ‘woo, woo!’, if you get my drift.

  12. Kate Connell
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    How aggravating. It does make it hard to continue supporting a store that is so irresponsible and blatantly dismissive of their customer’s well-being. That being said, it is not surprising, as this magazine is certainly in line with their woo-ish ‘brand’ – natural-this and holistic-that. I tried tw**ting at them and they promptly deleted my post. Nothing rude… I simply asked a question – to no avail! Ahh…

  13. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    People who believe in claptrap should have to live by it.
    When (Not “if”) that means burying their children, scientists should stand around, pointing fingers, laughing and saying “Idiot” and “Child-killing Idiot”
    Sorry, did my sense of humour or subtlety fail? Again?

    • Achrachno
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Subtlety? Where? 🙂

  14. Achrachno
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    This sort of nonsense is widespread and not a peculiarity of the “left” based on my experience.

    The closest market to my house is a Whole Foods knockoff and the owners are very conservative Christians. Bible verses cited on the cash register receipts! (I’ve got to admit that their organic radishes are the best, but I can’t afford more than a small bunch at a time.)

    In another part of town there is a “health food” store that was a purveyor of all sorts of nutty paranoid RW political stuff along with the vitamins and woo. I’ve only been in there once, years ago, so I can’t really say that that’s still true, but it sure used to be.

    I don’t know of any purely “left” woo purveyors around here. Not saying there aren’t any.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      My local organic store is weird too. Has absolutely wonderful foods and things that are harder to find like the rye based high fibre crackers I like. However, interspersed with the good stuff, is the woo stuff and you have to know your BS from your not BS to navigate.

  15. K
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Really?! Breast feeding is woo?!

  16. Larry Cook
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    My experience is that the left is where the woo gets all its support. My friends on Facebook and Twitter vary wildly in their political outlooks. My friends and acquaintances in real life are the same. I’ve never had so many friends that I can afford to eliminate people because they don’t agree with me. I can’t remember one of my conservative friends ever talking about alternative anything. They are mostly unlikely to set foot in Whole Foods because their meals usually involve meat and potatoes, eggs and cheese, and vegetables of course, but they are just as likely to buy frozen and canned as fresh. On the other hand, my liberal friends, some of whom are the wives of my conservative pals, are more likely to be vegetarians and some of them are vegans. Not too many conservative vegans. I have a liberal friend who gives Reiki massages, another who is convinced extraterrestrials are all around us and a whole bunch of them who believe in some undefined “life energy” that can be tapped and manipulated by everything from Reiki to Egyptian Trans-personal Psycho-aromatherapy as well as Aura Therapy and Crystal Therapy. Post after post from them trashes western medicine and touts the most insane ideas. E.G., one post claimed that cancer is the result of having a acidic body and becoming more alkaline would cure almost any cancer. I forget what you had to take to become alkaline, but I know it wasn’t cheap and it probably would be found to be a mixture of baking soda, Tums and Pepcid AC if it was analyzed. It would be entertaining if it weren’t dangerous. I’ve lost quite a few so-called friends by asking them to show me the research or at least tell me where I can find it and by telling them straight out that they were giving their friends very dangerous advice.

    • Dominic
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 1:29 am | Permalink

      Whle conspiracy theorists are on the right…?

      • Larry Cook
        Posted April 27, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        I’ve found conspiracy theorists on both sides. Those who believe the Illuminati are really running the world aren’t conservatives, are they? Right wing woo, it seems to me, consists largely of unhealthy religious beliefs some on the religious right want to force others to comply with and some with that affliction seem ready to use any method they can get away with, so they’re particularly dangerous and there seems to be a lot of them. The truth is that as I think about this subject I’m having trouble coming up with more examples of conservative woo. I don’t consider myself a conservative in general, but I do have some conservative opinions. In other words I have no reason to have an opinion one way or the other. I do know it drives me crazy to hear anyone knocking western medicine, especially the more ridiculous critics who claim Big-Pharma has a cure for cancer but they’re hiding it because they make so much money off of cancer drugs. Those who make unsubstantiated claims like that ought to be quiet and stop making Youtube videos.

  17. Dominic
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    re “Infant mortality twice as likely in home births” on the ‘cover’ – I was a home birth – which explains a few things! 🙂

    • eric
      Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:34 am | Permalink

      Let’s not go overboard here. 2x a very small fraction is still a very small fraction; you’re comparing (IIRC) about 0.1% vs 0.2%. We chose a hospital because we did not think the extra risk worth the benefit, but even so, I would not put home birth proponents in the same woo category as homeopaths or what have you. They aren’t pushing any physics defying absurdity, they’re more like people who want to ride their bikes without a helmet – they choose to accept a higher risk for their comfort.

  18. Posted April 25, 2014 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    The left isn’t smarter (yes, I am a lefty) and that is a good thing. Why? “Regression to the mean”: the larger a group of people, the more it statistically resembles the rest of the population.

    A political movement consisting of smarter than average people would never win an election.

    Unfortunately, science illiteracy is indeed non-partisan.

  19. Cathy Newman
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, WF is the only place in my city where I can find a wide variety of produce. Otherwise I would cut them off completely.

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  1. […] Scientist Jerry Coyne is a bit surprised to find woo-woo (e. g. homeopathic remedies) being sold at Whole Foods. That shouldn’t have surprised […]

  2. […] More dangerous woo from Whole Foods ( […]

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