Jun 23 2017

NASA Slams Goop

Body-Vibes_10-2Recently I have been vacillating between two different views of humanity. On the one hand, we all share a core neuropsychology. We are all struggling to get through life with our humble meat machines, complete with cognitive biases, flawed perception and memory, and irrational tendencies.

On the other hand, it often seems like there are fundamentally different kinds of people in the world. I guess it depends on whether you focus on what we have in common, or what separates us. Articles like this make it difficult not to focus on the latter.

This has been circulating recently so you probably have already seen it – Paltrow’s wretched hive of scum and quackery she calls Goop is promoting a product called Body Vibes. This is the bottom of the barrel of pure pseudoscientific nonsense wrapped in holistic bling. The claims are also nothing new – your body has an energy frequency, and our little sticker (or bracelet, amulet, fez, whatever) will balance your energy vibrations and cure what ails you.

This time they pulled the whole, “Using NASA technology” bit (something about carbon fibers from NASA spacesuits) prompting Gizmodo to contact NASA with a predictable response.  They report:

“A representative from NASA’s spacewalk office told Gizmodo that they “do not have any conductive carbon material lining the spacesuits.” Spacesuits are actually made of synthetic polymers, spandex, and other materials that serve a purpose beyond making their wearer look like a resident of Nightmare Coachella.

“Gizmodo has asked Body Vibes to provide us with the peer-reviewed research that supports their claim that their “astronaut” stickers have any impact on the human body. We’ve also asked Body Vibes and Goop for their response to NASA’s assertion that they definitely do not use a “carbonate material” to line their spacesuits. So far, no luck on either front.”

In response Goop pulled the claim about NASA from their website while they check into it.

This is all obvious nonsense and nothing even remotely scientifically interesting. What is interesting is how people can believe even for an instant that wearing a tiny sticker on their arm will affect their health. I really try to get inside the mind of people who will spend $120 for a package of stupid-looking stickers and think they are going to balance their vibrations.

I may be able to grasp it in the abstract – they basically know nothing about science, words like “energy” make their eyes glaze over, and they find the lifestyle that is being sold to them emotionally appealing. But what this shows is that, despite our neurological and psychological similarities, education and habits of thought can have a profound effect on individuals.

I don’t like the whole, “There are two kinds of people in this world,” thing. People are much more complex and multifarious than any simple dichotomy. But at times it does seem like there are two kinds of people – NASA people and Goop people.

NASA people care about understanding how the world actually works. It’s important, because the stakes can be high (especially if you are trying to send people to the Moon). But even on Earth, we make decisions about our health, about the environment, and how to solve our problems. Understanding logic, science, and having a core dedication to a valid process of evaluating claims is key to this decision-making. Facts matter to NASA people. We are offended by brazen deception, a wanton disregard for facts, and blatant pseudoscience.

Goop people don’t seem to live in this world. Facts are whatever feels good. Philosophy and spirituality trump evidence and logic. In the extreme view, facts are oppressive. They are only a means for one person to exert dominance over another. Facts are mean – they are something to be denigrated because they get in the way of a feel-good holistic approach to life. Goop people don’t try to understand the world, they just impose their philosophy on it.

In Goop world you can put a tiny plastic sticker on your arm and it will give you energy, improve your focus, and promote healing (but don’t leave it on too long or it will leave a mark on your skin). Don’t worry about the details – something about energy and vibrations. Even better, you can wear the sticker as a badge of how fashionably hip you are. You are unconventional, open-minded, and have the kind of disposable income that makes you a target for every charlatan and woo-peddler.

I am definitely NASA people. I really try to be fair and kind to Goop people, and on a personal level I think I am. I still keep in mind that we are all people, and mostly the products of our biology and our environment. (There is also a lot more to people than just NASA vs Goop.) I try to take a nurturing approach – perhaps some Goop people have a little NASA person inside them. But I can be kind to the people without holding my punches when it comes to the claims and the philosophy. Disregarding facts and science is misguided and dangerous, and causes untold harm.

Things like vibration stickers remind me of how wide the divide can be between NASA people and Goop people. It also reminds me of how Goop people victimize themselves and each other. We have to do better.


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