Beyond the Woo – Why David Wolfe & Co. Are Detrimental to Society

In my last piece I discussed the methods David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe uses to attract followers, and spread his quackery. As I was writing it, I remember feeling overwhelmed with anger and a sense of disbelief thinking about how many people subscribe to his BS and how many people’s life choices are influenced by him – so much so, that I feel I didn’t properly explain why I believe David Wolfe and con-artists like him are so detrimental to society and would now like to take this opportunity to do so.

How his profit-seeking agenda physically inflicts damage

Vaccines

Whilst it might be infuriating thinking about how much money he makes, it is even worse to think about the effect this has on his audience. Actively discouraging parents from vaccinating their children not only puts children at risk of preventable diseases (such as Measles, Hepatitis A and B, Polio …. the list goes on and on) but also puts those individuals at risk that rely on herd immunity to stay healthy. This is why I find the following statement on David Wolfe’s website so problematic:

 

“If you choose to avoid vaccinating yourself and your family, that is your choice, and it should always remain your choice. To force others to vaccinate themselves and their families is a violation of our basic human right to protect ourselves and our families from danger.”

 

Here, Wolfe is clearly participating in a debate he knows nothing about which, given his social media following, can be very damaging to many people. This document discusses the conflict of rights between the child’s right to ‘the highest attainable standard of health’ and the parents right to ‘respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or guardians […] to provide […] appropriate direction and guidance’ – making it clear that UK law does not see things as simply as Wolfe does when he gives people legal advice on his website. Furthermore, he doesn’t seem to understand that many innocent people are affected by one’s decision not to vaccinate, demonstrating his narrow mindedness, and selfishness when promoting his controversial opinions. For those readers who believe that vaccines cause autism here is a link to 107 credible scentific studies that show no link between vaccines, and autism.

 

Anti-chemotherapy

Beyond vaccines, he also promotes ‘alternative’ cancer treatments by claiming things like “Ginger is 10,000 times stronger than chemotherapy” and similarly unbelievable stuff. By discouraging the use of treatments that have been shown to be effective again and again he is demonstrating a cockish narrow mindedness, by essentially telling people to eat ginger and turmeric instead of getting treatment for a potentially deadly condition. Furthermore he demonstrates a phenomenal misunderstanding of how medical research works by believing that conclusions drawn from studies in laboratory conditions can easily be extrapolated into the real world. This brilliant little article talks about the fallacy that antioxidants help prevent cancer (something Wolfe clearly buys into) but more importantly also talks about the difficulties of drawing conclusions from medical studies – I would strongly recommend taking the time to read it.

 

I wonder whether he feels even slightly bad? Or whether he has ever considered this at all? I find it appalling, especially when you see things like this; seen on the YADA Facebook page (another quackery promoting page) on Thursday 3rd August 2016:
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Since he isn’t directly profiting from his stance on cancer treatments by selling cancer fighting ginger (yet?), the agenda seems purely ideological – going in line with what he presumes many of his followers believe. By advocating against vaccines and conventio13310406_10153525916256512_5843750420213278974_nnal cancer treatments he appears trustworthy to people who hold anti vaccination and/or ‘nature has a cure for everything’ beliefs. This trust makes his more advanced quackery such as the ‘David Wolfe Nutrition Certificate’ more marketable, which he then of course profits from.

 

The main point I’m making here is that David Wolfe & Co. have the potential to seriously harm a lot of people as a result of their immense social media presence advocating for people to use ‘medicines’ which have not been scientifically verified to have any effect.

 

Repercussions

 

For dietitians

Wolfe markets himself as a nutritionist who is decorated with honours from prestigious universities (claims I have debunked before), which has a direct impact on the field of food science. Anybody can claim to be a nutritionist since it is not a legally defined profession. Genuine food scientists are called dietitians, and in order to become a dietitian you have to undergo a large amount of actual science based training. Unfortunately these terms are often confused and/or used interchangeably. This not only enables unqualified individuals to pose as genuine scientists, but through that tarnishes the reputation of an entire science based field. As a result many people seek advice and help from people calling themselves nutritionists, whose advice usually includes following a diet unsupported by science and buying homeopathic sugar pills as a remedy for pretty much anything.

 

For genuine eco-activism

David Wolfe helps run (or rather, lends his name to) several eco-friendly projects across the globe- such as The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. For him this makes sense as it is a way to further self promote to an audience more inclined to buy into his marketing techniques – it is a way for him to expand his ‘Avocado’ brand which has become so recognisable on the internet. The problem here is that lending this brand name to any legitimate project will generally draw a lot of scepticism (at best) due to association with his anti-science beliefs.

 

This brings me to a more general issue of why people like David Wolfe are so detrimental to any genuine and evidence based movement. There are many things wrong in the society we live in today – multinational corporations and pharmaceutical companies often hold enough power to influence government policy, or to just write it themselves. This, among other factors, fosters a distrust of government and institutional knowledge – and rightfully so. We have to constantly strive for improvement, which can only be attained by being sceptical of everything and thus by questioning the established norms. But Wolfe & Co are delegitimising any attempts to raise concerns about real issues by plastering their brand all over the internet, resulting in any objections to the norm being associated with quackery and conspiracy theories that have been debunked many times.In this way he is quite literally the boy who cried Wolfe. Through guilt by association, legitimate social and environmental movements which challenge the status quo are dismissed offhand without the political consideration they need to affect society.

 

I would like to finish by a quote by South Park character Stan Marsh, who is criticising John Edward for pretending to be psychic and giving people false hopes. I find this quote applies quite nicely to David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe and other like him:

 

“… the big questions in life are tough: Why are we here? Where are we from? Where are we going? But if people believe in asshole douchey liars like you, we’re never gonna find the real answer to those questions. You aren’t just lying, you’re slowing down the progress of all mankind, you douche!”

 

For people who will inevitably disagree and attack my position because they believe I’m paid off by ‘Big Pharma’ or Monsanto, I would like to include the following credible scientific papers:

 

This one being on the viability of conspirational beliefs. The investigators use mathematical modeling to show that conspiracy theories often regurgitated – such as vaccines causing autism – are unviable because of the scale, money and effort involved in keeping things secret in today society. It’s incompatible with human psychology.

 

This one which advises reader on how to spot fraudulent health research.

 

And finally this article discussing the argument from shill – “the new logical fallacy”. Short, yet powerful, it talks about being accused of being paid in scientific debates – as I, inevitably, will.

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23 Comments on “Beyond the Woo – Why David Wolfe & Co. Are Detrimental to Society

  1. Good article. One small thing: Autism has not yet been proven to be a genetic condition. Genetics is only one of many causes being considered and researched. If you wish to be taken seriously as a source of information debunking someone like David Wolfe, it’s probably a good idea to ensure that all your claims are fact based too. 🙂
    http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/causes/

  2. The thing that pains me most with vaccine/autism people like Wolfe is the way they are saying Autism is the worst possible thing ever.

    I have quite a few Autistic friends, and those on other parts of that spectrum, and they aren’t lesser people. They’re not broken. They’re not stupid. They’re not awful people.

    They live exactly the same as everyone else. Sometimes the way they see the world is different to how others see things, but in that way they often see things others would miss too.

    I have had friends say to me, “When I see all this nonsense about vaccines and autism, I feel upset, because it us like they are attacking my existence, saying that I am broken or unworthy. It is genuinely hurtful.”

    I find all of that completely unacceptable. If you think your child would be better off with no guard against severe, disabling and even deadly diseases, than for them to risk having autism, you are not ready to have a child. You are supposed to love and support them unconditionally and provide care and safety.

  3. You should do an article on Lamar Price. He called me a child of Satan for disagreeing with him on vaccines, chemotherapy and insulin

    1. And the moon landing is fake too ! Also more importantly have you heard the evil zionists are in fact lizard people? Crazy world. Crazy comment.

  4. It’s worth asking why people turn to the ‘woo’. It’s often the result of getting seriously injured from western medicine or watching it happen to someone you love. O know far too many people who have experienced serious harm from taking medications as prescribed for everything from Crohn’s disease to epilepsy. To imply that people searching for alternatives are simple minded is shortsighted. If western medicine published all trials and put patients first, medication would be more helpful than harmful and fewer people would turn to the ‘woo’.
    https://www.ted.com/talks/ben_goldacre_what_doctors_don_t_know_about_the_drugs_they_prescribe?language=en

    1. I’m in no way advocating that western medicine has all the answers, or that it is flawless- absolutely not. My message is that when someone is advocating any sort of treatment to other people, that treatment has to have been shown to be effective through clinical studies. I’m not saying we should ban Goji berries or anything else people want to eat to treat their ailment, but it is wrong to promote or try to sell treatments to others that have not beens shown to be effective. Despite the many problems our (the western) medical system has- statistically speaking we’re still much much better off with it than without it, even taking into account all the errors made my physicians. The same can not be said for Woo treatments.

      If an individual believes that eating ginger cured their cancer, then thats great and they can go on believing that. but it is wrong to tell other people to rely on it, and even wronger (yes, I’ve made that a word now) to make money off their vulnerable condition

      1. “My message is that when someone is advocating any sort of treatment to other people, that treatment has to have been shown to be effective through clinical studies.” Yes. Did you watch the TED talk I linked to? There are far too many clinical studies that don’t show the desired outcomes that go unpublished. It’s not enough to judge a medication, or treatment, or supplement based only on the trials chosen for publication. All trials must be published. That’s my first point. My second point is, the people paying for clinical trials have no incentive to look into these simple remedies. There’s not a lot of money in goji berries. So how do we go about getting the clinical evidence that supports or dismisses their efficacy? It’s easy to call out the ‘woo’ without really examining the systemic failures that lead to its appeal.

        1. First of all thanks for your comments, you really are making me think..
          I agree with you on that ALL clinical studies need to be published to minimise the effect bias plays in the way we interpret results. That problem needs to be addressed. Also I agree with your point that it is the failures of western medicine that drive people towards alternatives, and therefore the situation would be helped by improving the way we conduct medicinal trials. In my piece above I really did not intend on sounding like I’m hyping up western medicine, but instead it was meant as an attack on Woo. I’ve written an extensive answer to another very valid criticism below- please read for a better explanation on my stance.

          Also even though its true that there isn’t much money in Goji berries, or marijuana.. most of our western medicine is derived from plants. Many of the medicines we use today were developed by learning what plants indigenous people’ across the world used to treat certain ailments, isolating the beneficial compounds, and re- working them into more effective medicines. In that way all of our medicine is based on natural remedies. This also means that there IS money to be made off pretty much anything, even cannabis- by isolating the cannaboids, synthesising a pill containing these, and BAM you can sell it for extortionate amounts of money. I’m not saying this is a good thing by any means- I just see it as an argument against the the notion that natural remedies are being suppressed by Big Pharma.

  5. You can blame one guy for making money out of that, but denying Western Medicine does the same is a very incomplete view. Also what do you do with alternate medicine testimonies? You can try to call them liars or paid trolls, but real people know real people who have been cured let’s say… In Mexico… And that doesn’t have much to do with your fight against public figures…
    Also one thing on Chemo… Seriously if it was efficient and safe, cancer would already be eradicated and we wouldn’t need to keep researching or to turn towards alternate cures!…

    1. I find yours, and Terri’s critique above fully substantiated and if anything its making me consider writing another piece on this topic because it seems I have been misunderstood slightly.

      I’m not against alternative medicines, and like Terri already pointed it is the failures of our western medicine that drive people to seek alternatives- not stupidity. I believe we should all do whatever we think is right to treat ourselves. If we find a treatment- for example acupuncture- to work for a given condition (a friend of mine uses it to treat her epilepsy because conventional treatments prescribed had too many negative side effects) then it would be ridiculous to stop, based on the fact that some study has found it to be ineffective. She might even tell her friends suffering from various ailments to try it out, since it worked so well for her. This does not entitle her to advise against conventional treatments for other people, based purely on the fact that they haven’t worked in her case. She understands that science (especially medicine) works on a statistical basis, meaning that things we ‘prove’ to be effective are in fact effective only MOST of the time (meaning not ALL of the time) since every individual is different. This means that it’s no surprise that conventional treatments sometimes do not work, and in those cases it makes so much sense to look for other treatments.
      If Wolfe & Co choose to go against conventional treatments that is fine, and they can write books about how well its worked for them- possibly encouraging others to try them IN THE CASE THAT CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT DOES NOT WORK. This is very different from discouraging people from treatments in the first place, and making money off their vulnerability.

      Furthermore In my article I appear to hype up western medicine a lot more than it deserves credit. I know there are huge problems with our medicine- for example our cancer ‘treatments’ are really shit- relying on killing cells indiscriminately, and hoping the cancer dies quicker than the person. I don’t claim this to be efficient , all I’m saying that that many studies have found it to be better than doing nothing against your cancer. The same can not be said for any alternative treatments. If people want to ingest cannabis oil as a treatment, again, that is completely fine. If they want to stop their chemo because their cannabis treatment is seemingly working that’s also fine. But again its a different matter entirely to campaign against chemo just because something different has worked for you and a few friends- that’s not how medicine works.

      I’m aware there’s a huge problem in the way that pharmaceutical companies make money by selling expensive treatments to sick people, and also by selling anything else to healthy people. And that is something we desperately need to address. This problem is independent of the Woo though.
      I would like to point out though that at least these companies are making such profits off things that have been shown to be effective- as opposed to Wolfe & Co which make money out of things that haven’t even been shown to be effective.

  6. The concern is on multiple fronts.
    1) There is a financial motive to vaccinate people. huge investment in vaccine development and sales. And too many cases of bad vaccines and or unnecessary vaccines put out for public consumption in order too make profits at the public expense. Therefore there is very good reason for concern. Furthermore everything easily manipulated so what can we trust? multinational corporations have earned a bad reputation and big money corrupts even well intending people. Shiv Chopra’s most compelling credential is he isn’t getting played for his anti industry views. I’m sure he could do very well financially if he joined the multinational side. One is very ignorant if they think the vaccine developers are in it for humanitarian reasons first and profit second. So scepticism is necessary.

    2) drug and specifically vaccine resistance. Even if some benefit exists short term in the long term we are far worse off because we are just making the disease stronger and so ourselves weaker. It is a fight we can’t win but again a profit incentive prevents better strategies being developed. Better strategies being not living in high density w so much global trade that an outbreak is certain. Not to mention environmental degradation. How can we be healthy living in such an unnatural environment where only the most nasty things can survive and so there population multiply do to lack of competition for resources because all the Beneficial organisms are being destroyed. Our best strategy is a natural balance. Long term we can’t exist going against nature, we need to understand how nature work and come up with natural strategies, symbiotic strategies, not destructive strategies. Long term vaccines are destructive, resistant super bugs are created and far worse consequences arise than if we did nothing. If we can’t come up with a sustainable strategy we are better of leaving things as they are rather than making them worse.

  7. It is not simply pointing out the contradictions and fallacies of Wolfe positions that make your article compelling, it is your factual, unemotional, logical almost scientific deconstruction that contrasts his whole persona. He abandons facts/science and favors simplistic, emotional responses to topics that are either beyond the understanding of his followers, or beyond their desire to make the effort to validate. He is truly a false prophet perfectly designed for social media.

    I appreciated your comment about feeling anger and disbelief…. I too have a strong emotional response when I see people post his – what is the word here – lies? It doesn’t seem strong enough.

    I am not a scientist. I do revere the work they do in nearly every scientific field. It is the atomic blocks of our collective knowledge. . The scientific method is paramount. His assault on the integrity of our scientists and medical community is not just offerensive to individuals in those communities, but to our whole society.

  8. DW does not profit from memes and videos. Most is balanced and fun. It’s pure value for readers. The Ginger article was based around a study done. He did not claim this. Your smears, exaggerations, conspiracies and over analyses are most fascinating…(shook).

  9. I’m going to say this one time for the intelligent impaired! When you have a relative that works for the CDC you find out a ton of stuff that the public will never know! Not just about vaccines but a number of other things. Yes, they many studies on the direct correlation between vaccines and autism. The key words are DIRECT CORRELATION. See they did it like that so they wouldn’t have to show the studies that say vaccines like the MMR do cause brain encephalitis and brain encephalitis causes autism! They don’t do the study about the other stuff vaccines cause. The CDC won’t but many other creditable scientist have! You should read up on it! Let’s talk about the immunocompromised. Those are the ones who have weakened immune systems due to things like autoimmune diseases, cancers and well being an infant. Those children can not be around your vaccinated child because the mmr sheds. The live virus that is injected into your child and btw, only has a 40% chance of working, sheds those live viruses. It’s amazing what doing serious research and educated yourself on BOTH sides can do! There is so much you don’t know. Just for the record. I have 2 children. My 17 year old son was vaccinated and got sick quite a few times growing up. He did get chicken pox. Even though he was vaccinated from it. I remember having them and did what my parents did for me. He got through it. So did 5 of his vaccinated classmates. My daugher is 8 and she started to get vaccines at birth but after one shot she blew up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade float and almost died!! She is allergic to a bunch of the crap they put in them. So she has never received another one. We get a form from the state every year. Her school is really nice about it. Last year 19 kids just in her class and 57 in her grade got struck down with flu and pneumonia. Something they had all been vaccinated from. She didn’t get sick at all! In fact the only illness she’s ever had (besides allergies) was food poisoning from a restaurant.

    Here is the last thing. If your so convinced that vaccines are so great then what are you afraid of?? If your child is vaccinated then they should be safe. Right? Nope! You’re afraid of the “just in case it doesn’t work” obviously you’re smart enough to know that vaccines fail! A lot!! They also wear off. I don’t judge if you do vaccinate or you don’t. It may help. It may not. Stop being so hateful and judgy! Most kids that get sick from things like Measles and chicken pox have been vaccinated! It’s really up to you what you want to do. However, they do cause many problems. And decades ago. The CDC instructed doctors not to report vaccine related illness or death. That is why only 10% of vaccine related illnesses and deaths get reported and that’s a FACT!! Weather you like it or not! Denying something because it makes you feel better doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

  10. Uh-oh. Here’s a conspiracy theory for you. DW is a big pharma plant, designed to discredit legitimate protest organisations with his over-the-top ridiculousness.
    😉

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