Jun 19 2017

Biodynamic Farming and Other Nonsense

biodynamic1It seems that for every major practice in the world there is someone who will add an unnecessary layer of woo or pseudoscience. This is generally done for marketing, appealing to the emotions, which I guess is the underlying problem – that there is a market for feel-good pseudoscience. Sometimes the practice is philosophy-based, but that is just a way of saying that the pseudoscience is embedded in the culture.

Yoga is a good example. Start with stretching and exercise and mix in gratuitous woo. Massage is similar – there’s nothing wrong with getting a good massage, and it can relax tight muscles. Too often, however, they feel the need to talk about releasing toxins or activating your chi.

In other cases the process is the reverse, the pseudoscience came first and real science is just a patina on top to help make it more palatable. Naturopathy is a good example of this – it is based almost entirely on various pseudoscientific practices, like homeopathy, water cures, and nutritional pseudoscience. They throw in, however, some common-sense advice about diet and exercise and market themselves as lifestyle practitioners. They are defined, however, by the pseudoscience. You also can’t trust what they say, right or wrong, because they do not have a science-based quality control filter in place. So any given bit of advice can be complete nonsense.

Biodynamic Farming

Biodynamic farming actually fits both of these models of pseudoscience simultaneously. It started its existence as a (mostly) pure pseudoscience. The notion was to farm according to the natural cycles, but this included astrology, herbalism, sympathetic magic, and homeopathic principles. Certain planting had to be done under the proper phase of the moon and astrological sign, for example.

Also at the core of the practice are certain preparations, such as grinding quartz crystal, burying in a cow horn over the summer, then spreading the result on a field. There is a lot of placing herbs and manure into the various parts of a cow and burying it for a season to two.

In addition biodynamic farming advocates certain practices which are considered “organic.” In fact, the modern organic movement evolved out of biodynamic farming. These practices include limiting off-farm inputs, crop rotation, and not using artificial chemicals.

Now, apparently, biodynamic farming is on the rise, because organic pseudoscience is not enough for those who require grade A extra concentrated pseudoscience.  A modern biodynamic farm is organic plus extra stuff, like using the magical extracts and more severely limiting inputs. Astrology, apparently, is optional. So now we have a combination of philosophy-based farming practices that may contribute to sustainability, and others that are pure magic.

But even the sustainable practices, like with organic farming, are not really sustainable. They can only exist as boutique farming for people with more money than scientific literacy. For example, the Guardian article begins:

When John Chester, a filmmaker from California, quit his job to become a farmer, he didn’t do it out of a desire to “feed the world”. Instead, he says: “I’m trying to feed my neighbors – and if everyone did that, we would be able to replicate this.”

Um, no. Everybody can’t do that. We are already using about half the land on Earth for farming, and there really isn’t any more. I also don’t think people really want to go back to a time when 30% of the workforce were farming. Even organic farming, which allows for more off-farm inputs, like manure, can’t feed the world. Organic farming uses 20-40% more land than conventional farming, and there basically isn’t enough manure to go around.

This also gets to a fundamental logical problem with biodynamic farming. The farm is designed like a closed system. That’s fine if all you want to do is subsistence farming, but if you actually want to produce food for other people to eat then by definition the system cannot be closed. You want to take a lot of nutrients away from the farm (that’s the whole point), which means those nutrients have to be put back from somewhere off the farm.

In reality the biodynamic farming standard allows for 50% of nitrogen inputs to come from off-farm. They would have to. So why partially adhere to a principle that makes no sense, so you have to deviate from it just to survive?

In fact we need to think of the Earth as an entire system (it’s not closed because we have input from the sun). We need to think of the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, water use, and food production and distribution as a world-wide system. These small farms pretending to be detached from the world are just feeding those who can afford a premium for food which has no health or environmental advantage but which scratches an indulgent philosophical itch. They are buying the gratuitous layer of pseudoscience on top, sometimes because they just want to feel special, but sometimes also because they are guilted into thinking they need to in order to provide the best for their family.

I care more about the latter group – people who really can’t afford the premium but have been convinced that their family’s health will benefit by purchasing organic or now even biodynamic produce.

Generally speaking we can’t afford the gratuitous layer of pseudoscience which is mostly there for marketing, or exploitation. This is true generally, but increasingly true in food production. It is also true in fields like medicine, where the economic strain is significant and increasing. Billions are wasted on worthless services or products, and even more on dealing with the consequences of relying on worthless pseudoscience.

There is often real direct harm, but often the downside of pseudoscience is just wasted resources and decreased efficiency. To a significant degree our collective quality of life is determined by the efficiency with which we expend our resources. Pseudosciences like biodynamic farming are a cancer on civilization, sapping our resources and opportunities, slowing our advance, and lowering our quality of life.


40 responses so far

40 thoughts on “Biodynamic Farming and Other Nonsense”

  1. What does it say when Jeff Bezos wants to buy Whole Nonsense?

  2. Tervuren says:

    We follow cycles in our gardening. Living in Northern NY, in the Adirondacks, we have to wait till June to plant cold weather plants like spinach. As we often have snow by Halloween, we harvest early. No magic, just fit the crops to the microclimate.

  3. Sylak says:

    The problem with yoga is not that woo was inserted after, but it was in from its inception and long tradition. It’s part of spiritual belief and practice. They just happen to have come up with great exercise that csn be relaxing. Of course, eastern mysticism is popular and exotic for westerners. Luckily for me my friend and yoga teacher is 98% woo free. He does mention energy, but more in a way that it mean “feel the sensation is your body”. He teach Vinyassa yoga, which is that your are alternating between poses constantly and times like on your respirations. But, he does have other teachers working for him he is studio and one teach Shivananda. Its a cult form of yoga. He promotes and teach Ayurveda and lot of BS. My friend fortunately doesn’t buy most of it (of course a little, but he his human after all). The yoga culture is a great example how woo is soe attractive to people. That’s unfortunate, because it’s a pretty cool exercise and vinyassa is not easy and make You work muscles you didn’t know you had lol.

  4. FosterBoondoggle says:

    “In reality the biodynamic farming standard allows for 50% of nitrogen inputs to come from off-farm. They would have to. So why partially adhere to a principle that makes no sense, so you have to deviate from it just to survive?”

    Given the well-documented observation that something like 60% or more of the N in human diets originates in the Haber-Bosch process (i.e., artificial fertilizer), there’s clearly an even bigger problem with the notion that bio/organic methods can entirely replace conventional ones, short of reverting to a planet with 40% of the current population. I’ve yet to see a serious analysis of closed-system organic production that makes a convincing case that adequate food can be grown with only “naturally” fixed nitrogen. That’s in addition to the land-use issue.

    Because the motivation for bio/organic production is so transparently emotionally driven rather than evidence-based, anything involving cold hard numbers is plainly too unpleasant to contend with.

  5. BBBlue says:

    What does it say when Jeff Bezos wants to buy Whole Nonsense?

    I think it says that Mr. Bezos wants to establish a physical presence in upscale neighborhoods where Amazon can do same-day delivery of a wide variety of premium products. Whether he buys into the woo are not, it makes business sense.

    Who was that old time criminal when asked why he robs banks said: “Because that’s where the money is”? Retailers target upscale shoppers because that it where the money is. They may have started out as an ideology or philosophy and a very niche market, but retailers and many farmers soon capitalized on the economic opportunities represented by biodynamic and organic products. I don’t know a single retailer who doesn’t want to increase average basket value, margins, and the traffic of people with money in their pocket in their stores.

    Business people are doing what business people do. What concerns me the most is not that there are price tiers, its that the organic industry is saying that the lower, non-organic price tiers are bad. The benefits of a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables would help low-income folks the most, and they are being told that what they can afford will harm them. If the producers and sellers of biodynamic products have found a legal way to separate fools from their money, then so be it, but scaring the economically disadvantaged away from healthy and wholesome products they can afford is unconscionable.

  6. varcher says:

    I think it says that Mr. Bezos wants to establish a physical presence in upscale neighborhoods where Amazon can do same-day delivery of a wide variety of premium products. Whether he buys into the woo are not, it makes business sense.

    Yes. Bezos hasn’t made a mystery that he wants to develop the Amazon Go fast-shop model as quickly as possible, and getting 350+ prime retail locations is the way to go.

  7. Orion39 says:

    Steve — I’ve been hearing a lot about how we’re using almost all available farming land. I’m curious; Do you think we should significantly cut down on how much meat we consume? Obviously this wouldn’t solve the issue, but it seems logical that it would help because so much food we produce goes straight back to feeding cattle. Apologies if you’ve already written about this before. I’m fairly new to this blog.

  8. Sarah says:

    I have my doubts that vegan outreach efforts will penetrate significantly more than they do naturally. Most people in the West have already heard about it and decided – maybe we could trim a few more with data about land use, but probably not many.

  9. Sarah says:

    What I think will probably make the difference is technology – artificially grown alternatives.

    Of course, that depends on the natural crowd buying into them

  10. Orion – Cattle are a big land user. They use about 10 times the land per calorie produced than other meats. Dairy, poultry, and pork use more land than staple crops, but are are much less than beef. So, shifting away from beef to other meats and more plants in the diet could have a huge impact. There are also some gains to be made in decreasing food waste. And we also need to optimize productivity.

    I am hoping also that vat-grown meat continues to improve and can be mass produced.

  11. MosBen says:

    Vat grown meat will hopefully play a big part in our food future, because while shifting away from beef to chicken or pork, and reducing meat consumption overall in a person’s diet, is a good thing, I’d be skeptical that any reduction efforts that Western nations could make would balance out the increasing demand for meat coming from developing nations. We talk a lot about how to feed the 12 billion global population that we’re headed towards, but as more people rise out of poverty they’re going to want to increase their meat consumption, and there’s just not enough land for that to happen. Either having fake meat or having herds on Mars will be necessary.

    Actually, as I was typing this I started wondering if you could design some kind of massive multi-story building for raising and slaughtering livestock vertically. Just the thought of what that would look like brings to mind some rather dystopian visions, but if we can make a downhill ski resort in the desert maybe we can make a building with several vertically stacked pastures.

  12. My concern is the further entrenchment of organic dishonesty via Amazon’s move. Best case scenario is that organic foods will be deemphasized at Whole Foods over time. If one day they represent organic for what it actually is they could rename the new policy Whole Truth.

  13. jakethecat says:

    On the topic of land use for meat production, much of northern Australia consists of vast cattle stations (ranches to you folks in the USA) where the cattle free range in the scrub and are mustered annually.
    This land is not much good for anything else owing to the low rainfall and lack of available opportunities to develop irrigation schemes. Even where I live in the southern state of Victoria most beef is grass fed on non irrigated farms, yet “greenies” here keep harping on how much water it takes to produce a kilogram of beef. They neglect to mention that most of it comes from the sky.

  14. dang says:

    MosBen – You can find a critique of vertical farming on counterpunch.org. “The Vertical Farm Scam” from 2012. Personally, I don’t know enough to judge, but the author brings up objections that sound reasonable.

  15. Sylak says:

    Yes, that’s one logical evidence based reason to go vegan. We were vegetarian for a while my girlfriend and I, but due to her food disorder issues, we now have no restrictions. But we but eat meat that often, fish and chicken mostly. Not only it will be better for the environment but also for health. Just cutting meat help. There’s so much of other good stuff to eat anyway.

  16. Sylak says:

    Vat grown everything for the win! Meat is of course the obvious one, but to grown some vegetables “flesh” could be possible. Maybe to use in soup ot things that don’t require to have the shape of the vegetable, just the taste and nutrients. Could this also be worth it?

  17. Sarah says:

    I know people who were involved in vertical farming and got out of it because it was a losing game. Just way too inefficient.

    All that feed for the cattle has gotta come from somewhere.

  18. Noah Tahl says:

    @ MosBen

    Actually, as I was typing this I started wondering if you could design some kind of massive multi-story building for raising and slaughtering livestock vertically. . .


  19. MosBen says:

    Dang, that’s a good article that I had not read before. Thanks! That said, I’d still be interested in seeing an updated proposal for vertical farming in 2017. Solar panels and efficient building design have improved in the last 5 years. It’s not impossible that we would eventually figure out a way to make it cost effective. And ultimately that what that article is getting at: vertical farming would be so complicated that it would be too expensive to be practical, but as we have more and more people and no more agricultural land what we’re willing to pay to increase food production will rise.

  20. BBBlue says:

    Heavens to Betsy, there may be a tiny touch of skepticism among the biodynamic crowd.

    Although Demeter likens the biodynamic preparations to “homeopathic remedies” on its website, Candelario argues that the terms “alchemy, astrology, and homeopathy” are not mentioned in the Demeter standard. “We are certainly not in the business of certifying people’s spirituality,” she says. “However, the standard does not represent all of the ways farmers practice biodynamic agriculture, just like one type of yoga (let’s say Ashtanga) does not describe the entirety of what yoga may mean to the yoga movement.” https://www.cornucopia.org/2017/03/biodynamic-farming-real/

    Demeter Association Inc.: http://www.demeter-usa.org/

  21. Insomniac says:

    I happen to be very skeptical of these alternatives approaches, since they most often fail to give evidence for whatever advantages they boast about. However, it’s too bad that there are no sources available in this article to back up some of the claims made. I know prodiving them can be time consuming, but these points are definitely coming from somewhere.

  22. Bill Openthalt says:

    Just a few random thoughts.

    Vertical farming has serious water issues, unless one can find a way to recover the water lost by the plants (as is done in the glasshouses in Spain). I suppose that’s how they do it in James Blish’s “Cities in Flight”.

    Going vegetarian isn’t obvious, because eating a balanced diet is far more difficult. The Indian government (actually, the “Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy”) has issued a booklet with advice for pregnant women telling them to “shun meat, eggs and lustful thoughts of sex” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/20/indian-government-pregnant-women-meat-eggs-lustful-thoughts-sex). Poultry and beef aren’t just meat, but also eggs and dairy, also high-protein foodstuffs (and not considered to be vegetarian in Hindu culture).

    From “The Spruce”:

    Can you imagine how a cow feels as she delivers her offspring just for a person to rob her of it to see what sex it is: if male – to kill then and there, or keep as veal for a few months; if female: to use for further dairy production and more baby calves to kill for rennet. My cheese-oholic friends who refuse to accept this terrible fact, being in denial, say that no way do artisan cheese makers do this.

    This person probably thinks “Chicken Run” is a documentary.

    The BBC has an article (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170612-the-consequences-if-the-world-decided-to-go-meat-free) titled “The consequences if the world decided to go meat-free” that starts with the following astute observation:

    If vegetarianism was adopted by everyone by 2050, the world would have about seven million fewer deaths every year – and veganism would bring that up to eight million.

    As if vegetarians have eternal life.

    However, it does mention that not all land used as rangeland can be converted to farmland. But what to think of this paragraph:

    Repurposing former pastures into native habitats and forests would alleviate climate change and bring back lost biodiversity, including larger herbivores such as buffalo, and predators such as wolves, all of which were previously pushed out or killed in order to keep cattle.

    I guess those additional 7 to 8 million of people don’t need to be fed.

    Of course, without the large numbers of animals kept for dairy and slaughter, there would be no animal manure, which means we could see a roaring trade in humanure, or even a poo-futures market 🙂 . I cannot wait to refit the Burj Khalifa with waterless composting toilets. Anyone interested in investing in my start-up?

  23. Macam14 says:

    Steven, thank you very much for weighing in on this topic. I appreciate your analysis of biodynamic farming, including some of its dubious claims and the credulity and emotionality which help drive its growing demand.

    On the other hand, I believe that if one studies Steiner’s foundational works (e.g. The Philosophy of Freedom) and biography (e.g. the one by Gary Lachman), one can see that he was an earnest individual and a careful and creative thinker, and that his often provocative ideas and suggestions deserve neither to be swallowed whole (as implied by the attitude of too many of his followers) nor rejected wholesale (as is tempting and convenient for his critics). If one reads his statements in context — about farming, medicine, education, the arts, etc. — and compares that with how his thinking on these topics is generally represented today, one will often find surprising details, perspectives, and qualifications which have been omitted or covered over by tradition. (One will probably also find some nonsense — stemming from a combination of his own errors in thinking/perception/description, stenographers’ errors, translators’ errors, editors’ errors, and one’s own shortcomings in understanding or perspective. Critics will tend to fault Steiner, while followers will tend to fault themselves, if they notice a contradiction at all.)

    Moreover, the science Steiner endeavored to establish — a science which would complement the physical sciences by applying the same rigor of thinking and observation (and eventually, I would imagine, social verification analogous to peer review) to aspects of reality for which our sensitive and willed attention is the only suitable instrument — has been, from what I can tell, very inadequately developed by most of his students (especially to the degree they act as followers), and is ignored by most of his critics. In my opinion this is a crucial hindrance to the appropriate understanding and application of his thoughts and indications on a wide range of topics today.

    What has till now developed, then, under the title of “biodynamic farming”, is surely inadequate and open to many criticisms, including the ones you’ve brought. I hope they will stimulate reflection and dialogue in/among/with biodynamic farmers and consumers. While I don’t blame you or any skeptic for assuming, based on appearances, that the heart of biodynamics is “(mostly) pure pseudoscience,” what I’ve learned about Steiner and especially his philosophical work makes me suspect that there is more to his indications than has yet been widely understood or put into practice. Certainly the mysteries of life and our place in the universe still far exceed what our impressive physical and technological sciences have yet been able to penetrate. There may well be some mysteries which can only be penetrated by a different (but related) method. (The writings of Henri Bortoft, e.g. Taking Apperance Seriously, seem to me quite suggestive in this regard.)

  24. Npsychdoc says:

    “Um, no. Everybody can’t do that. We are already using about half the land on Earth for farming, and there really isn’t any more. I also don’t think people really want to go back to a time when 30% of the workforce were farming.”

    I don’t disagree with much about the post, but I’m weary of the notion that there should continue be less humans who have zero knowledge of where their food comes from, rather than more who are capable of producing something useful. An exclusively local agriculture is risky for obvious reasons. Though on the other hand over-reliance on supermarket food linked to cheap oil also scares me…what happens when oil is no longer cheap? I happen to live in a rich (think fertility not $$) agricultural area and enjoy going to the supermarket very little.

    The conventional vs organic nonsense drives me nuts. My neighbor raises beef cattle and had to jump through absurd hoops to be labeled certified organic, and now cant buy surplus crops for feed from other neighboring farms if they aren’t certified. Not sure how that is helping our local economy.

  25. Teaser says:


    I wish you could have a discussion with Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin.


    In regards to your yoga smackdown…..science is your yoga. You find synergy with the universe and derive a sense of unity when you are immersed in science. Science is your woo.

  26. Macam – I largely agree, that’s why I did not go after Steiner. I read some of his stuff and he tried to be scientific.

    I think of him like Freud – ideological adherence to purely Frueudian ideas now would be pseudoscience. But Freud was just getting started in a new field and was more cautious than many now realize.

    I don’t make Steiner for the abuse of his ideas now. The world is also very different now.

  27. Regarding the Mother Jones article – pretty much reinforces everything I said. The revolution sounds like a recipe for mass starvation. I guess that would solve the problem.

  28. RickK says:

    “Science is your woo.”

    I just love reading quotes like that over a global digital communications network.

  29. BBBlue says:

    I must admit that I have a rather superficial understanding of biodynamic farming shaped by the biodynamic snake oil peddlers I have run across, but now that I understand the whole burying the horn thing better, I find that biodynamic snake oil peddlers may be no different than conventional snake oil peddlers. Credulous conventional farmers use soil inoculants based on some pretty thin evidence too. The only difference may be packaging.

  30. Nidwin says:


    Dr Novella didn’t smack down yoga but criticized the spiritual nonsense that comes with it.

    Yoga as a sport or physical exercise is fine but when the yoga and alt med world start to promote it as complementary medicine/cure, we do have a problem. Rugby, as is yoga, is fine as a sport but nobody in his right mind is going to promote any medical value for it.

  31. Npsychdoc says:

    Steven, the criticism of Salatin seems off the cuff. You really think vat grown meat or CAFOs are a better alternative to what he is doing? What are the real, total costs of meat in terms of inputs and outputs with CAFOs versus what Salatin and similar folks are doing?

    @Nidwin – How do you define the “medical value” of things that people have done for many years that promote overall well being. Yoga is one of those and if folks are MOTIVATED to do this in part because of the sense of spiritual meaning they get from it, then it is of value. For example, have you ever tried to get a diabetic to change their diet? I’m sorry but showing them a solid journal article is not motivating for most people. Enjoying a good meal that’s easy or even enjoyable to make – then you have a change that’s of “medical value.” God forbid they pray before they eat it, because that would just ruin everything.

  32. BBBlue says:

    Npsychdoc- Your argument is similar to one often made related to placebo effect: “As long as it makes someone feel better, what difference does it make?” The problem is that when people believe in magic, they can justify anything, and be made to believe in just about anything.

  33. Teaser says:

    Yoga – The art of unbiased observation: “Dhyana is non-judgemental,non-presumptous observation of that object”.

    That statement reads like the “make observations” phase of the scientific method.

    From Wikipedia

    6. Dhāraṇā[edit]
    Main article: Dharana
    Dharana (Sanskrit: धारणा) means concentration, introspective focus and one-pointedness of mind. The root of word is dhṛ (धृ), which has a meaning of “to hold, maintain, keep”.[62]

    Dharana as the sixth limb of yoga, is holding one’s mind onto a particular inner state, subject or topic of one’s mind.[63] The mind (not sensory organ) is fixed on a mantra, or one’s breath/navel/tip of tongue/any place, or an object one wants to observe, or a concept/idea in one’s mind.[64][65] Fixing the mind means one-pointed focus, without drifting of mind, and without jumping from one topic to another.[64]

    7. Dhyāna[edit]
    Main article: Dhyana in Hinduism
    Dhyana (Sanskrit: ध्यान) literally means “contemplation, reflection” and “profound, abstract meditation”.[66]

    Dhyana is contemplating, reflecting on whatever Dharana has focused on. If in the sixth limb of yoga one focused on a personal deity, Dhyana is its contemplation. If the concentration was on one object, Dhyana is non-judgmental, non-presumptuous observation of that object.[67] If the focus was on a concept/idea, Dhyana is contemplating that concept/idea in all its aspects, forms and consequences. Dhyana is uninterrupted train of thought, current of cognition, flow of awareness.[65]

    Dhyana is integrally related to Dharana, one leads to other. Dharana is a state of mind, Dhyana the process of mind. Dhyana is distinct from Dharana in that the meditator becomes actively engaged with its focus. Patanjali defines contemplation (Dhyana) as the mind process, where the mind is fixed on something, and then there is “a course of uniform modification of knowledge”.[68] Adi Shankara, in his commentary on Yoga Sutras, distinguishes Dhyana from Dharana, by explaining Dhyana as the yoga state when there is only the “stream of continuous thought about the object, uninterrupted by other thoughts of different kind for the same object”; Dharana, states Shankara, is focussed on one object, but aware of its many aspects and ideas about the same object. Shankara gives the example of a yogin in a state of dharana on morning sun may be aware of its brilliance, color and orbit; the yogin in dhyana state contemplates on sun’s orbit alone for example, without being interrupted by its color, brilliance or other related ideas.[69]

  34. Teaser says:


    “I just love reading quotes like that over a global digital communications network.”

    You love reading quotes on the internet?

  35. Npsychdoc says:

    BBBlue – in my practice, I’m keen on what motivates people to make changes for the better, which is pretty damn hard. I clearly advocate evidence based medicine/therapies in my practice and spend a lot of time educating my patients on the topic…but rarely does this conversation actually change their behavior. I’m very careful not to mix speculation or BS with EBM. Its BS when you try to package a placebo within an evidence based therapy, like the crap that goes on in EMDR for trauma. That said, there are times when the placebo effect can be useful, but at that point the issue becomes informed consent. EMDR is BS either way, let me be clear about that.

    Let me be clear – I’m not saying “As long as it makes someone feel better, what difference does it make?” I am saying that understanding ones motivation and affections are pretty damn important when it comes to behavior change in healthcare, and needs to be considered appropriately. Sure, this can be manipulated for the worse, as in the EMDR example.

    I just find it hilarious, and naïve almost when folks say stuff like, “well, yoga is fine as long as you’re not spiritual about it.” Its fine if it is, its fine if its not. Let folks make their own investment in their health without trying to micromanage why they are doing it.

    And to this: “The problem is that when people believe in magic, they can justify anything, and be made to believe in just about anything.”

    Yep, sure, I agree. And how much control do you think you have over what others believe, or even your own? I follow this blog primarily b/c of the posts on cognitive bias, which are well done. Like I said, I spend a solid portion of my work week giving informed consent, talking to patient’s about EBM, outcomes, behavior changes in exercise, diet, sleep. Showing them graphs, articles, etc. The rational appeal gets very little traction, its understanding motivation and affections and integrating it with that where I get traction. People come to me with all kinds of beliefs, and I work with it rather than against it. That’s called the real world of heath care.

  36. BBBlue says:

    Npsychdoc- I take your point, but I think you are misrepresenting mine and Steve’s. I understand Steve to be saying that he condemns pseudoscience when used to promote or exploit, not that one shouldn’t be sensitive to individual motivations or try to perform some sort of conversion therapy before every social or professional interaction. Of course one has to deal with those who believe in magic in a positive, constructive way during one-on-one encounters, but when such people cross the line and attempt to convince others to believe in magic too, especially when they do so for profit, they become fair game for criticism.

  37. BillyJoe7 says:


    “talking to patient’s about EBM”

    You might be interested in this website: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org

    Unlike EBM, SBM takes prior probability into account, thereby building on existing knowledge instead of starting from scratch with each new clinical trial.
    EBM says further clinical trials are needed to establish the efficacy of homoeopathy.
    SBM says its bunk (i.e. Plausibility is zero; no clinical trials are justified)

  38. Nidwin says:


    I understand your point of view and I respect it but there’s a but and a big one. I’m not going to elaborate on all the known negative aspects of the woo as there are plenty of resources available everywhere, including on this site.

    I, and some others that were able to find each other on the “web”, are actually victims of this entire pseudo spiritual qi-prana-chi-justnameit stuff. We’re trying to get a bit of attention from the scientific community but are put in the same garbage bag as the pseudos so the attention we’re getting is zero. Every time I read a scientific paper debunking all that crap again and again something in me dies because as opposed to the “spirituals” our stuff is real. We don’t ask for big scientific research, just some opinions or possible answers from a scientific point of view. And if it wasn’t enough we also have to deal with the pseudos who can’t help it to push their crap in our direction even when we tell them that we aren’t interrested in chi-pra-psy-reiki-… .

  39. Npsychdoc says:

    @BillyJoe7 – I’m aware of the distinction. Probabilities and base rates are part of my work-ups, in fact I have smartphrases built into my notes with these. Some patients find them informative and/or reassuring, and others want to ignore them. e.g Chronic Lyme folks are often impossible to have a discussion with from a SBM perspective, and most often we simply part ways. I try to do this as respectfully as possible. Theres also a concerning amount of iatrogenic stuff going on in concussion patients

  40. Npsychdoc says:

    @ BBBlue – I agree about the tone with respect to individual “autonomy” versus a peddler. Sounds like we’re mostly on the same page

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