Sunday, March 08, 2009

Biodynamics - Rudolf Steiner and his gullible followers

Click for more on my bioregion
Bellingen is known for its beauty, its alternative lifestyles (far less radical than before, but a rump of progressive thought still remains), and, sadly, an enormous amount of gullibility regarding New Age mumbo jumbo.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but don't say that in this burgh.

For 30 years I have had many, many people in Bellingen sing me the praises of that Austrian charlatan, Rudolf Steiner. In fact, this district has its own large Steiner school (a pity for our children, if it is indeed still a Steiner school, as it was so founded), and our village has a Rudolf Steiner shop.

One aspect of Steiner's crackpot philosophy, if we might dignify his delusions with that term, includes the principle of biodynamic horticulture and agriculture. I've known many people in Bellingen who go out of their way to pay exorbitant prices for foods grown using the biodynamic 'method'. For 30 years I've politely told them they were throwing good money after bad, but my rational advice invariably falls on deaf ears.

A special magic potion is necessarily prepared to grow food the biodynamic way.

The potion consists of nine ingredients (or preparations, as Steiner described them), numbered 500 through to 508. Here are their descriptions and the instructions -- remember, these are Steiner's instructions, not some joke that I made up:

500: A humus mixture prepared by stuffing cow manure into the horn of a cow and buried into the ground, 40-60 cm below the surface, in the autumn and left to decompose during the winter.
501: Crushed powdered quartz prepared by stuffing it into a horn of a cow and buried into the ground in spring and taken out in autumn. It can be mixed with 500 but usually prepared on its own (mixture of 1 tablespoon of quartz powder to 250 litres of water) The mixture is sprayed under very low pressure over the crop during the wet season. It should be sprayed on an overcast day.

Both 500 and 501 are used on fields by stirring the contents of a horn in 40-60 litres of water for an hour and whirling it in different directions every second minute.

502: Yarrow blossoms stuffed into urinary bladders from Red Deer, placed in the sun during summer, buried in earth during winter and retrieved in the spring.
503: Chamomile blossoms stuffed into small intestines from cattle buried in humus-rich earth in the autumn and retrieved in the spring.
504: Stinging nettle plants in full bloom stuffed together underground surrounded on all sides by peat for a year.
505: Oak bark chopped in small pieces, placed inside the skull of a domesticated animal, surrounded by peat and buried in earth in a place where lots of rain water runs by.
506: Dandelion flowers stuffed into the peritoneum of cattle and buried in earth during winter and retrieved in the spring.
507: Valerian flowers extracted into water.
508: Horsetail.

One to three grams (a teaspoon) of each preparation is added to a dung heap by digging 50 cm deep holes with a distance of 2 meters from each other, except for the 507 preparation, which is stirred into 5 litres of water and sprayed over the entire compost surface. All preparations are thus used in homeopathic quantities, and the only intent is to strengthen the life forces of the farm.

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Read more and listen to a podcast (Skeptoid #26: 'The Magic of Biodynamics') about this goofy fraud believed in by so many people -- sadly, many of them adults in the population of Bellingen. Holy shit, these people have the vote!

More on Steiner at The Skeptic's Dictionary

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12 Comments:

Blogger Fignatz said...

Hey Pip, re 502: If I manage to get some yarrow blossoms, but no urinary bladders from Red Deer, do you think stuffing the blossoms into an empty Red Bull can would work?

4:31 PM  
Blogger Pip said...

Haha! Fignatz, you always have a good comeback line.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'tis a full moon tomorrow.
for flowering plants plant seed 4 days after> more flower, less seed.
;]

10:11 AM  
Blogger Pip said...

There could well be something in that, and I don't deny it. (But it's a far cry from burying cow's horns and similar hocus pocus.)

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, he sure did spend a lot of time writing about something he thinks is hocus pocus...

4:25 PM  
Blogger Pip said...

Quite a few people do. Steiner, mad though he probably was, had a large and willing audience of gullible people bankrolling him, so he had plenty of time to write.

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's such a pity that when I googled Bellingen this rubbish comes up on the first page.You sound like a bit of a crack pot yourself.Why are you in Bellingen? It seems to me you have a personal problem with someone or someone's in the Steiner world at Bellingen and they have held up the mirror for you.Don't like what you see?? If it was someone like Hitler you were having a go at I could understand but Steiner.....you've got no leg to stand on. The problem lies in the interpretations and individual personalities of the so called gullibles. A shame you have to publish such nonsense!Waste your energy burying the cow horns, you will be pleasantly surprised.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Pip said...

No wonder you remain anonymous.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow what a comeback!

11:11 PM  
Blogger Pip said...

I strive to please.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Tony Norse said...

I bumped into Steiner's biodynamics whilst on a fact-finding year of research for my recent novel. It's nothing more than organic with a magical mystery twist - and an off-the-wall twist, at that. Not unlike homeopathy, there is no solid evidence pointing to positive results. Anecdotal "evidence" is meaningless but people have always sold and bought snake oil so we should probably not be surprised.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Pip Wilson said...

Yeah, I intend to do more pn it in the Hoaxes and frauds page at Wilson's Almanac. Suggestions (via wilsonsalmanac@gmail.com) welcomed.

7:55 AM  

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