Why Whole Foods Pseudoscience Gets A Free Pass
    By Hank Campbell | June 11th 2014 05:30 AM | 17 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    American science media is constantly going on about evolution and climate change deniers - sometimes even inventing assaults on evolution that don't exist - but when it comes to quasi-religious beliefs about energy and medical science, we get a whole slew of rationalizations about how people just don't trust corporations, or they have ethical issues or whatever.

    And then there's food. The intellectual food obfuscation in order to avoid discussing the obvious demographic that embrace food pseudoscience is truly dizzying. American Shamanism is alive and well and its temples are in a Whole Foods store.

    I'm kind of a food guy. If my wife did not have veto power, nothing my family eats would be grown, killed, cleaned, processed and cooked by anyone except me. But I have only been in a Whole Foods once. I couldn't really find anything to buy (but you can - see 5 Things You're Not Crazy For Buying At Whole Foods). In the one near me they have a gigantic deli section but the actual food section is rather small, though the building is huge.

    What else will you find, besides a  hot lunch? Homeopathy, of course. There is a reason a prominent, wealthy homeopath was an early sponsor of the California initiative to put warning labels on GMO foods (see Californians Shoot Down The Food Temperance Movement) - because the voting and scientific beliefs are quite similar and California is home to both, with anti-vaccine beliefs thrown in for good measure. The book section is also chock full of 'positive thinking' and 'miracle vegetable' tomes.

    Can reading this book prevent cancer? Just as surely as a fad diet will. 

    Writing in The Daily Beast, Michael Schulson uses as a comparison the Creation Museum in Kentucky and how it is invoked time and again as proof that right-wing religious people are anti-science while the nonsensical beliefs of people who spend money at a Whole Foods gets a free pass.

    It's worse than that, the Whole Foods demographic benefits from an intentional cover-up, and in a way, the Creation Museum in Kentucky got that benefit too - but for a different reason. That reason being because it would have made a Democrat look bad. As recounted in Science Left Behind (Public Affairs 2012 - now in paperback), the Governor who helped fund that museum was handed the science media rationalization that his endorsement, and spending taxpayer money on it, was about jobs - not his being anti-science. Yet in Louisiana when the legislature drafted a bill that would have allowed the possibility of teaching Creationism in schools, somehow the Governor of that state was blamed. What was the difference? Bobby Jindal is a Republican.

    Schulson notes that he can't figure out why Whole Foods shoppers get a free pass. I can answer that for him; 81 percent of counties with a Whole Foods vote Democrat and the percentage of Democrats in science media is even higher than that.

    You can bet that people in counties where there is a Cracker Barrel don't get that kid gloves treatment about their anti-science beliefs.


    Michael Martinez
    It has nothing at all to do with your article but your statistic about counties with Whole Foods stores reminds me that demographic targeting in marketing is a rare instance where "Correlation equals causation", although clearly not in the usual sense.
    I like their vegan peanut butter cookies, though.  I have been known to drive 10 minutes out of my way just to buy some.
    I won't let store-bought jelly in the house. And I make my own butter in a mason jar. I get the value of good food. I am just not an anti-science hippie about it, like most Whole Food shoppers are.
    Josh Bloom
    JeezNo wonder you don't have any money.

    Josh Bloom
    Oh, people would pay for my jelly. They would pay a lot. But I am an artiste.
    Michael Martinez
    I go there for the cookies, not to socialize.  They dress funny there (but they might say the same thing about me, so we're even).
    I once bought a Pi at Whole Foods.  I never could get the right number of slices to work out.
    Schulson notes that he can't figure out why Whole Foods shoppers get a free pass. I can answer that for him; 81 percent of counties with a Whole Foods vote Democrat and the percentage of Democrats in science media is even higher than that.
    As the resident angry Black+American Indian+ White person here.... that's not the only demo that stands out to me. I haven't looked at numbers but it seems to me that places like Lincoln Park (which has two one in boystown and one will soon be near DePaul University, and Oak Park. There is definitely a component not just of race but of age and values.  At least here in NE Illinois that seems to be the case. whole foods is the 4th horseman of gentrification. (

    I can't think of one non gentrified, non gentrifying predominantly non-white and older neighborhood that has a Whole Foods.  The closest I see to that around here is one which will open in Englewood... in the center of a 13 acre housing development that no one now living in Englewood could afford. 

    To make it plain, advertisers want large numbers of upper middle class white hipsters and yuppies between 18 and 34 to buy their products.   The media is fueled by advertising dollars.  Tell those people that eating "organic corn" and "gluten free organic cookies" are just a big waste of money ( that they are suckers for buying it) and they will flip their lids.  They will call you an ignorant uneducated person who does not care about health and the environment etc. etc ad nauseum. 

    An outlet which is honest and objective about Whole Foods and that hipster demo will get a boycott or worse. 

    I'm not kidding.... these are the type of folks who once banned a brand of hummus for it's perceived affinity in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Sociologists flip that around. Rather than admitting that Whole Foods looks for a nexus of rich, white, anti-science liberals to put its stores, they will claim that Wal-Mart increases crime. :)

    I suppose it is a good example of the new gentrification. In this part of California, all it needs is a Google shuttle dropping people off.
     Black+American Indian+ White person here
    As I was originally a white, male, Republican, Catholic, raised in the South I call your three stereotypes and raise you two!
    Josh Bloom
    BTW, when I heard that Whole Fools (sic) was dropping Chobani yogurt because it contained milk from cows that had eaten GM corn (and if there is dumber "science" than this I haven't ever seen it) I started buying the stuff, simply as a protest. Never tried it before.Well, it is delicious and I'm now completely hooked on it.
    Take that Whole Foods and your customers. Bunch of dilettantes. 
    Josh Bloom
    Well, Chobani does not think much of science either:

    Josh Bloom
    I know, but I blame Whole Foods more.I just have this image in my head of their shoppers hearing the news that Chobani used milk from GM-fed cows and making a mad dash for the exits, trampling all over each other in a way that would make the Rodney King riots look like tea time at Buckingham Palace.
    Josh Bloom
    Maybe it's why the zany Vermont people exempted cows fed GM feed from labeling. The guy behind Just Label It runs a $300 million organic yogurt company so they can still sell milk to him that way.
    Michael Martinez
    I'm still trying to figure out how ANY domesticated agricultural product is NOT genetically modified.  Didn't our ancestors select for size, shape, texture, taste, and color?
    They did it by trial and error, or nature did it randomly using high-energy cosmic rays. It is the precise nature of science that freaks them out. 

    That's why it's weird they use Franken- as a prefix. Frankenstein was a hybrid, not a GMO. Environmentalists love hybrids.
    You're missing the point. Whole Foods has yummy stuff. However, they're owned by a libertarian. Haven't shopped there in years and prefer Wegmans and a community co-op for the household's food supplies.

    The Whole Foods I used to frequent was managed by a Republican and frequented by non-aligned voters. Do you realize that there used to be a majority of Republicans in the suburbs? The change to no party and Democrats has been recent and due to increased lunacy in the Republican party.

    Funny. I've never seen a hippie at a Whole Foods. In fact I'd expect security would haul them out for dress code violation.

    Since your knowledge of politics is abysmal, why don't you blog on science?

    I said anti-science hippies, they have as little in common with original hippies as modern day progressives have with Teddy Roosevelt. Hippies hated government and laws and labels, anti-science hippies spend lavishly on lobbyists to get more of them, hippies were poor, anti-science hippies are rich, progressive elites. And so on.

    I agree that hippies, like most Americans, would never be seen in a Whole Foods, for one reason you list; the founder is to the right of Ayn Rand and figured out how to exploit the gullibility of wealthy dumb consumers.
    Michael Martinez
    I grew up in the hippie era and I do see them at Whole Foods from time to time.  I'm not sure if anyone else there does.  Maybe that would make a good movie.
    Josh Bloom
    Dunno, but it sure made my favorite TV showAnd many other's. Hint: it's on AMC and destroyed all the competition in its time slot last season. And lotsa people get bit.
    Josh Bloom