Whole Foods and the Flat-Earthers

Are you a scientist? During last week’s commencement address, President Barack Obama derided Republicans who demure “I’m not a scientist” as they deny climate change. “I’m not a scientist either,” the President confessed, “but we’ve got some good ones at NASA,” and apparently their overwhelming agreement that climate change is occurring, anthropogenic, and alarming is convincing enough for him. It’s not for climate deniers, of course, and POTUS is hardly alone in his contempt for those who dismiss the scientific evidence of climate change. And the climate deniers are often the same folks who question evolution and think school curriculum ought to include creationism, which seems an awful lot like saying we should teach kids the world is flat. Who wouldn’t disdain such backwards, destructive thinking? And yet.

Thanks to science, medicine, and the socialist horror that is Obamacare, or, as I like to call it, the Affordable Care Act, my co-publisher and husband, Mark Bailey, got a shiny new hip yesterday. Because of Big Pharma and those cut- and pill-happy doctors, Mark got a groovy metal joint with only minimal anesthesia, and walked down a hall on it a mere six hours after surgery. He had the same procedure on his other hip five years ago, but this time he gets to benefit from some pharmaceutical breakthroughs and improved best practices. After decades as the go-to post-operative blood-thinner, coumadin is stepping aside for a new generation of drugs that require no monitoring or diet restrictions. Decades and dollars of research means Mark will take the super-cool Xarelto every day for three weeks, eating all the spinach salads he’d like, and since he won’t need to have any home health visits to check his blood, we’ll probably head to Torrey sometime next week for some desert convalescing. New evidence has shown that some of the strict movement restrictions he had to observe five years ago don’t improve outcomes, so we won’t need to freak out if he bends his leg beyond 90 degrees when he gets out of a chair or a car. These improvements in care don’t happen by themselves; they happen because of SCIENCE: developing and testing a research question by gathering data and analyzing it to produce evidence. Brilliant.

So who, besides those heads-in-the-sand climate deniers, could possibly eschew the life- and limb-saving evidence brought to you by SCIENCE? Only right wing nuts are closed-minded enough to reject SCIENCE. And yet…My local Whole Foods has an entire “pharmacy” section full of pseudo-medicine: pills, powders, and potions that are devoid of evidence of safety or efficacy. If you need, say, pain or allergy relief, you can forget about finding real over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or loratadine (Claritin), drugs that though easily available have been scientifically proven to work. Of course, you’ll also find just what you don’t need even if you’re not suffering from an illness or medical condition. With enticing labeling and Big Organic marketing power, Whole Foods has convinced millions of otherwise reasonable and educated people that “organic” means healthier and “gluten free” means good for them despite the utter lack of evidence or whether or not they are among the up to two percent of the population with celiac disease or the up to six percent  who have an actual allergy or sensitivity to the ubiquitous, harmless, and deliciousness-making protein. And feeling relief at finding a store full of GMO-free foods, really means relieving oneself of understanding what GMO means (altering a genome using genetic engineering techniques rather than cross-breeding plants or animals, which is the genome altering we have been doing for 10,000 years), what the benefits are (say, alleviating blindness and death due to vitamin A deficiency in the developing world), and what the health risks are (none).

Of course, shopping at Whole Foods seems a harmless albeit expensive privilege, as demonstrated in this short, astute clip: No victim here but the happy willing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UFc1pr2yUU  And yet…The clamor for Whole Foods chic, for what is considered “natural,” helps fuel baseless, expensive taxpayer-funded research into useless treatments, which often result in people foregoing or postponing real medicine in favor of woo. Though his early death was unquestionably tragic, Steve Jobs actually won the pancreatic cancer lottery when he was diagnosed with a rare form with a high cure rate. But he rejected prompt medical treatment in favor of veganism and supplements until his cancer was advanced and deadly. In far too many states, measles and pertussis (whooping cough) are making horrible comebacks as people avoid a perceived though unfounded threat, thanks in part to arguments that really reduce to this:


Whole Foods, beloved of upper-income lefties across the country, promotes science denying, flat-earth thinking that betrays the privilege of its customers and only faintly separates them from the science deniers they condemn. Unless the moon landing really was a hoax, the word’s not benefiting from either flat-earth camp.


About kirstenallen

I am editorial director and publisher at Torrey House Press, a nonprofit literary press publishing fiction and creative nonfiction books that promote conservation through literature. I have a master’s in public health and previously worked at the Utah Department of Health in maternal and child health. In my previous lives, I taught piano, taught English composition at a computer science college, and raised two kids. Today, I live with my spouse, Mark Bailey, in Salt Lake City and Torrey, Utah. I blog about wild lands, medicine and pseudo-medicine, and books and publishing.

Posted on June 18, 2014, in Medicine & Pseudo-Medicine and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. if i had only known i would not have had my kids vaccinated!

    more seriously, our own Senator Hatch is a chief supporter of non-tested supplements.

    my best to Mark: gute Besserung!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Orrin’s hideous Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 is a woo’s fiercest cancer with no cure. Alas, Hatch is hardly alone in legislating magic. I’ll pass along the wishes to Mark. Thanks, Scott!


  3. Well said. Being in the tea business, I tangle with this constantly. Almost every day, I have to explain to people that what they heard on Dr. Oz or Oprah about tea and herbal concoctions is usually hearsay at best. Even the information that comes from proper double-blind studies is often so narrowly-focused that it’s hard to apply to the real world.


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