Friday, August 18, 2017

New Agers and Fundamentalists

 Two anti-establishment, anti-science publicists: David Wolfe and Ken Ham both challenge the establishment with their radically different version of "science". 

I have recently become acquainted with the name David "Avocado" Wolfe, a new age alternative concepts salesman and pundit. According to his Wiki page his ideas revolve around the following subject areas (most of  which I quote directly from Wiki):

1. Nutrition, in particular organic food and raw foodism
2. Kirlian photography
3. He promotes a variety of conspiracy theories
3 . He promotes a diet based on raw plants, stating that this has a "detoxification" effect.
4. He advocates that people with cancer take dietary supplements instead of getting medical treatment, which he describes as “largely a fraud".
5. He believes that "chemtrails" exist and are harmful to people and animals.
6. He has considered cocoa to be one of several "superfoods"
7. He says that deer antler spray is "levitational" and an "androgenic force", which he promotes and sells.
8. He claims that mushrooms have an "advanced intelligence and consciousness". He has stated that mushroom spores can "levitate off the planet" and believes they are trying to "get to the center of the sun". He has stated that mushroom spores originally came from "distant planets" and were "carried by cosmic winds or meteors into the Earth's atmosphere", stating "the preliminary work develops as the mushroom mycelium sets itself up to network and nourish multi-celled carbohydrate-forming organisms". He has also stated that the mushrooms that grow in trees are "medicinal mushrooms".
9. He believes vaccines are dangerous and may not work.
10. He believes that the Earth is flat and that gravity is a hoax. (see also here for this one)

It has only recently become clear to me that these new agers have a lot in common with Christian fundamentalists, not only in their attitude to the scientific establishment but also in some of the theories they promulgate. The list above has an overlap with ideas that do the rounds among Christian fundamentalists Viz: Nutrition and supplements as the right way to treat cancer, conspiracy theories such as the chem-trail conspiracy, anti vaccination concepts and flat earthism are all alternative "theories" I have seen promoted by Christian fundamentalists.  In particular, one fundamentalist of my acquaintance has, on one occasion or another, promoted the millennium bug conspiracy, the chem-trail conspiracy, anti-vaxing, young earthism and also proclaims that the standard medical treatment of cancer is fraud and should be replaced by treatment using diet and supplements. Significantly this same person was a one time new ager who promoted new age ideas and new age diets.  

The common theme running through both subcultures seems to be disaffection with and rejection of the academic establishment, in particular the scientific establishment. But in spite of this overlap it is ironic that Christian fundamentalists and new agers would otherwise not see eye to eye; far from it in fact. 

An important question is this; how do these fundamentalists and new agers know all this alternative stuff? Do they have alternative research departments scientifically testing their ideas and remedies? More likely, however, is that they have conspiracy theory generating pundits who join the data dots in bizarre and convoluted ways. These constructions may seem arbitrary but they primarily serve an important purpose for the disaffected and alienated; they furnish an argued platform on which the deep disillusionment with established authority can find a home and provide the pretexts needed to espouse an opposing world view to challenge the  powers that be. 

The take home lesson here is that whatever is at the bottom of the malaise afflicting people as diverse as new agers and Christian fundies there are, nevertheless, significant commonalities*.  I am not really sure what  it is about our society that causes of this general disaffection; perhaps it's a rebellion against the apparent demystification and desanctification of the cosmos. After all, H. G. Wells once wrote:

Science is a match that man has just got alight. He thought he was in a room - in moments of devotion, a temple - and that this light would be reflected from and display walls inscribed with wonderful secrets and pillars carved with philosophical systems wrought into harmony. It is a curious sensation, now that the preliminary splutter is over and the flame burns up clear, to see his hands lit and just a glimpse of himself and the patch he stands on visible, and around him, in place of all that human comfort and beauty he anticipated - darkness still

On that basis it is no surprise there is a reaction against a science that is easy to interpret in nihilistic and post modern terms (See also here). But in the final analysis this nihilism and postmodernism undermines the very science on which nihilistic and postmodern claims are based (See here).

* An interesting question arises in connection with climate change: Christian fundies tend to see climate change science, as they do old earth theory, as a conspiracy of establishment control, whereas in contrast, I would expect new agers to be pro green energy. But either way both use the subject as a stick with which to beat the establishment: Fundamentalists will accuse the establishment of lying over it and the new agers will accuse the techno-industrial establishment  as being the cause of it. 

No comments: