Biodynamics Is A Hoax…Amen?
Over the past few years, one corner of the “Culture Wars” has been dedicated to the debate over the utility of religion and whether or not faith has been beneficial to mankind. Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, all considered “New Atheists” for the new and aggressive way they have gone after religion, have been on the attack while a slew of defenders of the faith have taken up the challenged.
The ongoing debate is a fascinating one that naturally touches on the nexus of science and faith, history, quantum mechanics, epistemology, morals and ethics. But as always, the way this debate is carried out, the language that is used and the characters at the center of the debate are also part of the show.
I could not stop mulling the debate between faith and reason when I was alerted to, and read through, a new blog called “Biodynamics is a Hoax“.
This new blog could have easily been named “Faith Versus Reason”. Anyone familiar with the tenets of Biodynamic Farming and its founder, Rudolf Steiner, should immediately recognize the similarities between the debate over the faith vs. reason and the debate over Biodynamics vs. non faith-based farming. The person behind “Biodynamics is a Hoax” certainly understands this similarity and certainly has a position.
I want to quote Stu Smith, founder and owner of Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery and author of this new blog, somewhat extensively to provide readers with no doubt as to where he stands (as if the title of his blog alone wasn’t enough):
“Yet, after reading Steiner, I conclude that Rudolf Steiner was a
complete nutcase, a flimflam man with a tremendous imagination, a
combination if you will, of an LSD-dropping Timothy Leary with the
showmanship of a P.T. Barnum. His books, writings and lectures should
be catalogued under “science fiction” because there is not a scintilla
of truth in any of his writings. Reading Steiner is tough sledding
because it makes no sense in our real world, yet when viewed as
“science fiction” masquerading as some sort of Jim Jones new age cult
you are forced to admit that Steiner was extremely clever and creative
in actually making this stuff up. Unfortunately, it is quite sad that
someone—anyone—would actually believe in this hoax and profoundly
disturbing that the Biodynamic movement is gaining ground.”
There are a number of extremely smart and successful and deep thinking people who have adopted the methods of biodynamicism that Smith labels “Science Fiction”. Knowing Stu a little bit and having read other things he has written and having some understanding of the commitment and determination he brings to the causes he champions, those biodynamic supporters will need to bring their A-game smarts and deep thoughts with them if they choose to lift up the gauntlet that Stu has thrown down.
But I hope they do pick up the gauntlet if only because I want to see the style with which they swing it.
One of the more sophisticated arguments of the “New Atheists” who have been attacking religion and faith is that religious moderates, who may have nothing more than a passing interest in a faith they adopted perhaps only out of cultural familiarity, give the more dangerous, extreme and fundamentalist defenders of the faith cover for their often easy willingness to follow the letter of their Canon as they blow up human beings in order to find their way to heaven or attempt to shove homosexuals into a moral ghetto crafted with Iron Age philosophical bricks.
Where Biodynamics is concerned, I’m sort of like those religious moderates. I’ve always said that while biodynamics looks very much to me like faith masquerading as science, I nonetheless appreciate that this “farming” method brings the farmer closer to his vineyard—which can’t be a bad thing.
Am I giving cover to charlatans in my laissez-faire view of biodynamics? I just may be. And I don’t like the way that sounds.
So, I’m going to keep reading “Biodynamics is a Hoax” with the willingness to throw off my moderation on the issue and fall into Stu’s “New Atheist” camp on this issue if he can (or wants) to convince folks like me that my shoulder shrugging on the issue may be detrimental in the long run.
If you are interested in the more heady and esoteric debates within the wine industry or if you are interested in seeing how a really good, smart and committed polemicist goes about his business, or if you are interested in biodynamics or even a practitioner, I highly recommend Stu Smith’s “Biodynamics is a Hoax.”