It feels odd. There is now one other hack on the planet (at Daily Beast) who asks questions like this:
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.
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.
(Update: My goodness, 441 comments as of 11:28 am EST. So far as I got, reading, Whole Foods is a conservative plot. … [Fetch the IRS?] )
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.
Michael Shulson’s definitely worth a read, though he doesn’t seem to see that there is no True Centre of science. On the contrary, there are many questions that few ask because they are afraid of the financial, career, or philosophical consequences of trafficking in evidence that does not support the establishment view on a given question. And the “rage vs. stage” phenomenon Shulson notes is known elsewhere as corrupt journalism. But we all knew that.
The unasked questions are of course the interesting ones, and quite often the ones that advance science. This is certainly true in fields Uncommon Descent covers (see, for example, The Science Fictions series at your fingertips).
It is doubtless also true of questions around food. That is, there may be lots of French-for-fertilizer in the whole foods movement, but only the dominance of Big Pharma in medicine could create a situation where more attention is paid to a few doses of a single drug, when treating illness, than to the outcome of four decades of eating large quantities of specific substances several times a day. it would therefore be useful to know whether, on the whole, people who strive to follow a balanced diet (which sometimes results in getting scammed) have worse or better health than people who live on the best-selling fast food choices. I’ll pay attention to any well-conducted research in the area, otherwise the jury is out around here on whole foods. – O’Leary for News*
See also: Our moral and intellectual superiors ask, should creationists be (allowed to be) scientists (The creationist was the only guy who even wondered what exactly was in a given, nearly incomprehensible chart, advancing the current received opinion, and guess ruddy what?)
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* For the record: I try to follow the Canada Food Guide and do not make efforts to find whole foods.