Welcome to “Biodynamics is a Hoax.” I created this blog to offer an alternative view to Biodynamics and to engage the Biodynamic community in debate over the merits and efficacy of Biodynamic farming. I challenge any Biodynamic farmer or supporter to defend the writings of Rudolf Steiner. I submit that if you believe in science you cannot believe in Biodynamics, and the corollary is just as true, if you believe in Biodynamics you cannot believe in science. As you can tell by the title I believe that Biodynamics is a hoax and deserves the same level of respect the scientific community has for witchcraft, voodoo and astrology.
Austrian Philosopher Rudolf Steiner gave a series of lectures and discussions on Agriculture in June 1924 to a group of several hundred of his anthroposophical followers in Koberwitz, Poland. Steiner had never been a farmer, yet he delivered these lectures on Agriculture which became the foundation for Biodynamics. In recent years Biodynamics has been embraced by an ever widening group of vineyardists and wineries around the world. Some of the world’s most renowned wineries farm Biodynamically and many consider Biodynamics to be the “Rolls Royce” of organic farming.
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. Future postings will endeavor to expose Biodynamics as the hoax and fraud that I believe it to be.
Note: This is an introductory post and comments are closed. Please feel free to comment on recent posts. – -Stu
Lord Kelvin, one of the foremost scientists of his time, proved thermodynamically through careful heat loss calculations and its current temperature, that the earth could not possibly be more than 100,000 years old, a disproof of Darwin’s evolutionary picture. His calculations were valid, but he was unaware of the earth’s internal heat source: radioactivity. He ended up looking like a chump.
Theories don’t have persons associated with them. A man can be brilliant and still be dead wrong, or a lunatic charlatan and still provide value by seeding an idea. Galileo, Beethoven, Kepler, Thelonius Monk, Luis Alverez, Charles Ives – were all considered fools and madmen in their time, and perhaps they were.
You claim to box the debate into your three choices. Checkmate, right? But there is a fourth possibility you continue to ignore, despite my urging. We can decide to tolerate uncertainty and wait for more data. We can see how the experiment plays out.
Your unshakable faith in the human mind’s capacity to unravel and explain our world is to be respected as long as it is tolerant of other unsubstantiated faith systems and does no harm. Personally, I have more doubts than you do that we mortals can ever grasp the simple mysteries that reside in the wonderful wines you make. I think you should grant me that liberty.
I am not anti-science. Done properly, I am all for rational inquiry, conducted with passion and humility. I am, however, anti-smug.
At this point in your crusade, is there any possibility you could be persuaded to simply chill out?
Trying to equate Steiner with the great scientific minds of the past like Kelvin, Galileo and Kepler is ridiculous, and I’m mystified why you include musicians in that sentence. I was listening to Thelonius Monk 45 years ago, but so what and exactly what has he got to do with Rudolf Steiner? Back to Kelvin, Galileo and Kepler, these men worked in the real world, did careful real world research to help them unravel the mysteries of our world. Their research was founded in reality and from that reality they discovered truths about our universe. I don’t understand how or why Alverez fits into this equation – he is a renowned modern scientist.
Steiner has nothing in common with these men, he was nothing like them. There is no body of research that Steiner and Biodynamic supporters can turn to; there is only a series of lectures riddled with whacky notions about how our world operates. Steiner was not a farmer, and he didn’t do careful observations or experiments. Instead, he claims to have relied on intuition, perception and knowledge of the spirit world. Almost all of Steiner’s theories and convictions as laid out in his lectures are in direct opposition to known scientific principals.
Have any of his theories or recommendations worked? He claimed that a healthy plant can ward off disease like mildew – wrong. Biodynamic growers get mildew just like anyone else. Does skinning mice and burning their skins to make a pepper ash work to avoid further mice infestations? Nope, that doesn’t work either. As far as I know not a single Biodynamic grower has ever followed Steiner’s direct recommendation to ash Phylloxera and spread it around the vineyards in order to kill Phylloxera. His recommendations for pest control are complete failures. Does spraying teas on the vineyards prevent mildew? Nope, that doesn’t work either. So what does work for the Biodynamic farmer? IMO, nothing works but old fashioned elbow grease, composting and the use of naturally produced pesticides.
You are a man of science, you can look at Galileo’s drawings and marvel at his inquiring mind trying to understand our universe. There is a body of evidence that shows a trail of inquiry for most of the great scientific discoveries. Many of the great scientific discoveries were the result of a life time of hard work. Fleming was already considered a brilliant man when he happened upon his contaminated experiment and discovered penicillin. Then look at Steiner’s history.
You claim I am blind to the possibilities of uncertainty, that future data may prove the efficacy of Biodynamics. Yes, you are correct, but not because I blindly reject all uncertainty as a philosophy of life. I reject your fourth option because I’ve used my judgment, my experience and my knowledge to look into Steiner and Biodynamics and have found not a scintilla of evidence anywhere within Steiner, not even the slightest ray of light or hope that Steiner isn’t just gobbledy-gook and that he was a fraud and Biodynamics is a complete waste of time, energy and resources – in short a hoax. You may call that arrogant, but I call it using good judgment. Contrast that to Acupuncture. I’m skeptical, it’s not my field of knowledge, tried it once with poor results, but it has existed for thousands of years. I’m willing to wait, be patient and see what shakes out.
We agree that some mysteries are good and if the mystery of wine is ever uncovered, I hope I am long gone.
Clark, I believe you’re out in left field on this one. Few would argue that, in figuring out the mysteries of the universe, science has the best track record (IMO the only track record). You cherry-pick instances in which that seemingly isn’t the case to advance the oft-used rhetoric of “there are some things that science just can’t explain.”
You say “We can decide to tolerate uncertainty and wait for more data. We can see how the experiment plays out.” This is nothing more than a euphemism for religion, to believe in something before you have a good reason for doing so. Besides, there aren’t any experiments going on with BD now are there? You’re certainly not advocating hard-core science to support BD.
Ask yourself one question, do you want to believe?
In your article specifically, and in your other writings generally, you anthropomorphize “science” to critique it, and use its failings as evidence of its limitations. You have to admit that this points to a profound misunderstanding of “science.” It’s misapplication, wrong turns, and erroneous conclusions reflect more the executioner rather than the process.
From your article: “Objective truth is a child’s myth, and the nature of reality is a question the profs will always dodge.” This is a not-so-subtle way of saying that the pursuit (of truth) is worthless so why try in the first place. You can’t really believe this.
Science has no predetermined conclusion and no axe to grind. You seem to be happy with the BD conclusion, and look for evidence after the fact to support it.
Meant to say “Few would argue that, in figuring out the mysteries of the universe, science doesn’t have the best track record…”
I have been reading the posts and comments on this site for a few months now and, like many others, I am still waiting for you to clearly demonstrate how Steiner was involved in actively deceiving – hoaxing – anyone.
Until you do, the whole premise of this site is flawed.
If you’d called the site ‘Biodynamics is bollocks’ or ‘Biodynamics is bullshit’, fine. There is plenty to discuss in BD, and I think that healthy, respectful debate can be very beneficial – I share Clark Smith’s sentiment expressed in the final sentence of his recent article: ‘In coming together Biodynamics will benefit from scientific scrutiny, but more importantly, science itself may be induced to learn how to ask better questions’.
But is BD a hoax? Is it? Really?
I challenge you to prove it. Prove that Steiner was a fraud.
Steiner held séances and spoke to the dead – doesn’t that qualify as both a con artists and a fraud. Steiner lectured that Atlanteans, inhabitants of the lost continent of Atlantis, were so strong willed as to be able to re-grow lost appendages, they could know the composition of rocks just by touching them and they traveled around the world in airships powered by the energy of germinating seeds. Again, this is shear fantasy that he lectured as factual – here is more proof that he was a fraud. If he took money for his lectures, which I believe he did, but don’t know for certain, then he was also a con-artist and a cheat. Now you might want to argue that Steiner was delusional and thus wasn’t a fraud under our legal system because he was insane, but that’s up to you. I’m very interested in your response, please let me know.
As to why I think Biodynmacs is a hoax scroll down the opening page and at the bottom of each page you’ll see “previous page” keep going until you get to the following titles and again after reading them tell me what you think.
“What is my big toe made of” – June 4
“YOU WOULDN’T LET YOUR KID’S SCHOOL TEACH THIS” – about June 13
“If Biodynamics stops mildew and other diseases, sign m up!” – June 20
“Why Steiner was a fraud, Part I” – July 9
Stu, finding quotes from Steiner that demonstrate to a non-Anthrosophical audience that his ideas were whacky is easy because most of what he says IS whacky – as he observed himself during the lectures: “To our modern way of thinking, this all sounds quite insane” (Rudolf Steiner, Agriculture, 1924).
It doesn’t prove he was a fraud. Where’s the smoking gun – the letters home that run along the lines of “Had them all fooled today at Koberwitz. Almost started giggling when I told them about the stirring-for-an-hour bit … They’re all lapping it up. Still, they’re paying me enough, so I figure I need to come up with some particularly imaginative bullshit. Yours, Rudi.”
We both agree that Steiner’s AGRICULTURE is whacky, yet you move on to accept and embrace Steiner and I’m repelled in horror that people, like you, are being duped into believing fantasies. I believe if the foundation upon which a “belief” is based is flawed, then all that flows from that belief is also flawed. Such is the case with Steiner and Biodynamics. Steiner’s book AGRICULTURE is laughably and embarrassingly wrong; it’s a pile of nonsense and cow manure. I believe in science, the scientific method and man’s quest to find truth. Do you believe, like Steiner, that science can only go so far and that perception and intuition show the real path to truth?
You are a major supporter and promoter of Biodynamic farming and familiar with Steiner’s writings so help me understand how you can ignore Steiner holding séances and claiming to have spoken with the dead? This one fact alone is sufficient proof for me (the smoking gun) that Rudolf Steiner was a fraud – what am I missing? If that isn’t enough, Steiner lectured and wrote repeatedly on Atlantis, Lemuria and Egypt and the “evolution of the human organism.” All these books and lectures were not presented as theories or hypothesis: they were presented as fact, and facts that Steiner had personal and intimate knowledge about. These “facts” about the Lemurians and Atlantians were so specific as to defy credulity, yet book after book and continuing on with his lectures Steiner continued to repeat this fraudulent charade.
By no means have I read all that Steiner has written, but the lectures and books that I have make up a large body of evidence that I believe most people would agree demonstrates that Steiner created his works out of whole cloth and thus I call him a fraud. With AGRICULTURE he even admits that it was his intuition and perception that allowed the truth to be revealed to him.
I see three options in labeling Steiner: The first is what Steiner wrote in AGRICULTURE and what he wrote about the evolution of the human organism is true. Through intuition, and perception and his “spiritual science” Steiner did move beyond, way beyond science thus making Steiner the single most important human ever to exist on this planet. If you accept Steiner and Biodynamics, then I submit you must embrace this option. The second alternative is that Steiner was a fake, a fraud, a charlatan, whatever, with an imagination of towering proportions – my view. The third is that Steiner was deluded, insane, or at least mentally deranged, again, with an imagination of towering proportions. I’m willing to consider this as an option, but I don’t think it will make you any happier with me.
This Max Allen?
Seems to me, Max, that the flaws in Steiner’s philosophies stand out like a hound’s gonads.
How effective would sacrificing a virgin to the gods of the field would be?
Stu, correction for last post;
How effective do you believe sacrificing a virgin to the gods of the field would be?
Thank you very much. I went to the site and was LOL – it’s a very funny and cool site, too bad about the subject matter. It took me a moment or two to connect the dots to Max Allen and his comment – better yet. As to the virgins – instead of sacrificing them wouldn’t it be better to have them stomp the grapes during harvest – that might be more fun than going to a Biodynamics Fair down under.
Max, the burden of proof rests not with Stu, or any other rational thinker who questions the incredibly dubious claims of biodynamics.
It rests with those that make the extraordinary claims. That it has some efficacy beyond that of good management practices.
Like it’s close relation, homeopathy, BD claims to use modalities that are not measurable by any known means.
You show us how it is done, we are all ears, and you are on the short list for a Nobel.
Now you should check this out…more stupid Europeans 🙂
A German University dedicated to Biodynamics…what the heck.
It’s a great link.
Re biodynamics at Kassel uni:
The professor’s chair in biodynamics is being axed as far as I can understand.
Biodynamics debunked by Paul Maeder. Read how he spent 21 years proving it in this pear reviewed paper published in Sience Magazine, 31 May 2002, Maeder et al., 296 (5573): 1694-1697
*peer (lol pear)
I feel this website brings some good discussion to the table about the practice of biodynamic viticulture even though much of it is a rightful assault on the ludicrous ideas of Rudolf Steiner rather than the practices themselves.
From my understanding biodynamics is about a complete agricultural system. Someone who practices viticulture, which is a monoculture, cannot truly practice biodynamics. I also understand that true anthroposophy regards alcohol as a poison of mankind; it phases me how you can grow grapes via a monoculture to produce alcohol for human consumption and be biodynamic.
I would also like to comment on the ‘chemicals’ people are worried about in wine. Alcohol is a poison, hydrogen sulphide is a poison, sulphur dioxide is a poison, methanol is a poison, ethyl carbamate is a poison, all of which are present in all wines, biodynamic or conventional. There is a huge range of poison in wine yet we still drink it. Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are just another potential source of poison though with proper withholding periods their presence in wine is minimised. This is the same for copper which is typically used in organic growing but which is also detrimental to soil quality over the medium-longer term. This is not to mention the addition of copper before bottling that many wines today contain. I might also add that without nitrogen addition to vineyards and the slow breaking down of biodynamic compost to provide a N source to vines musts are likely to contain lower yeast assimiable nitrogen. This means increased use of diammonium phosphate (allowed in BD winemaking) therefore raising the chance of ethyl carbamate production even more than conventional wines (obviously I have no evidence of this but I would not be surprised!)
Finally, I am of the opinion that sustainable farming is the way of the future. If all of the world’s vineyards were to turn biodynamic over night does anyone seriously see a sustainable wine trade? I suggest wine volumes would be down by huge percentage, wine prices would increase astronomically which would leave consumers faced with $25/l Ch. Cardboard. Sustainability includes all faucets of the wine industry, not just the soil.
I work in the wine industry, and have done so for years, before which I was an informed consumer. Let’s all please be aware that wine is a marketer’s dream cake come true and biodynamics is the icing and cream that marketers dream wettly of even more.
I do believe in a faith but one that allows for rational thinking. I feel biodynamics does not allow ‘common’ sense to succeed over religiousness. I also think religious science is also as bigoted.
If science is the only road for agriculture, and you use “the force” from star wars as an example of make believe fantasy. My questions are; do you still believe in the mysteries of science? Or does science have no mysteries? do you believe in the power of positive thinking, prayer and hope? I see your point and get what your saying. We can say the same thing about the preacher standing at the pulpit too. People need to believe in something. You obviously believe in science and want more people to be objective and be a bit more grounded. Reading your words about biodynamics is like reading the words of an athiest in regards to god. Using the “witch hunt” example was a good example of when self righteousness gets out of hand. I see your point that alot of people who are in the biodynamic circles see their actions as “the right thing to do”, therefore, many become self righteous about biodynamics and feel they are doing the “right” thing, so conventional farming must be the “wrong thing”. I can see how biodynamics, like religeon can create this belief of “I’m right, therefore everything else is wrong.” I really do see your point.
Will biodynamics turn into a Jihad type blow up the abortion clinics and kill the doctors? Possibly. Keep up the good work on maintaining the balance.
BTW, I’ve been farming grapes in California for the past couple of decades as well as other crops. I am a farmer first who because of farming, believes in God, I pray, believe in angels, dont have any answers to the mysteries of science, but know they exist. As for Biodynamics, I try and avoid the dogma, but appreciate the intention. As for Rudolf Steiner, I don’t get why people follow the guy like he is the vicar to the Pope’s garden. I find his following somewhat weird and a bit oculltish. Why don’t more people in biodynamics evolve forward, looking to advance in the dreams of Steiner instead of falling back on the works and words of a clarevoyant who was around almost 100 years ago?
I enjoy the blog!
Thank you for a very provocative comment. I’ll try to respond as best as I’m able. Of course there are still mysteries of science, and I expect them to exist for a very long time. I do not believe in the power of prayer, positive thinking and hope that will thwart the ultimate success of cancer killing us. Science may one day succeed, but not yet. When I started this blog a good friend told me that the discussion would ultimately become religious. I’d hoped he was wrong, now I’m not so sure. I don’t agree that people need something, such as a God or organized religion to believe in. I am a spiritual person; I believe in doing good, and for many years I’ve thought that there should be a church where the only commandment is “do good.” I also believe that more people have been killed in the name of God than any other reason. Any God that has allowed the persecution and the genocide that have occurred just in the 20th Century is not any God that I want to be involved with.
Your comments about how Biodynamics spins off this religious fervor are very perceptive. There is also a larger discussion here of course concerning the environmental movement and religion. Rudolf Steiner has propelled Biodynamic farming into the 21st century, but I believe the movement’s adherence to his beliefs will hold it back from becoming mainstream.
you’re a good laugh…
Finally someone points out the obvious! Thank you!! Cheers, Dan Tudor, Winemaker, Tudor Wines
I just found your site and I thought I might get some straight talk on a subject. Others in the industry of marketing wines have not been very informative about my questions.
I come at this from a different angle than most of your readers. I am a consumer of wine and a hobby farmer at home. I have recently started buying biodynamic and organic wines because I desire to not ingest fungicides and pesticides in my wine. You may have seen this information:
Click to access Message_in_a_Bottle.pdf
I understand that organic farmers are allowed to use certain “natural” pesticides. I am not sure what their practices are in the vineyard. The study above did not cover these. Do organic or biodynamic producers use anything that could create a health issue in the final product?
If you wish to avoid these chemicals, are you better of with biodynamic wine or organic wine? If you don’t care about a certifications or how the wine was farmed and just care about avoiding any chemicals that could be a health issue, how can you identify the wines that are least likely to have problems?
As a California farmer of wine grapes I am not familiar with European pesticide regulations and practices. It is my understanding that for American agriculture any organic pesticide, herbicide or fungicide that is organic approved is also approved for Biodynamic growers.
Thank you for the PAN link; I was not familiar with it and did review it. Unfortunately, I don’t think much of it, in fact, I wouldn’t waste my time with it. It’s clear to me that PAN has an agenda, and is manipulating the tests and results to further that agenda – ignore them. A very simple example of what I mean; an honest experimentation would have required an equal selection of conventional wines tested with an equal number or organic wines, yet there were 34 test bottles from conventional wines and only 6 test bottles from organic wine. Whatever is the real truth about chemicals in European wine, you won’t find anything of value coming out of that PAN propagadena.
The climate in California is very different than in Europe and our viticulture uses very little chemicals. I am aware of a study some several years ago that found no detectable pesticides in California wine. I will try to locate a copy and post it. My own vineyard practices are very simple: we use glyphosate (Round-Up) for the weeds and Sulfur dust with the occasional use of a systemic fungicide for mildew,
Still yet an older 2003 summary of a study from Switzerland comparing organic with overspray to non-organic:
Click to access wyss-et-al-2003-verunreinigung-biowein-2003-en.pdf
After searching the internet in general, I have no doubt that fungicides are transfering into wine after there application to the grapes. What climate differnces in Europe makes it more chalenging than California to grow w/o fungicides.
The Salem Whitch Hunt is perhaps a good example, but
it is cited one of the wrong ways round: the tolerant one were those who believed that there was not such thing as witchcraft. Here are you moving from facts to
faith, which appears to be exactly the contrary of your blog. Off topic ? may be but I would put it like this: instead of judging the method why don’t we judge the results ? One of the great Barolo producers (by conventional agriculture) said once, when people were speaking about barriques. “I do not care if they make it in a coffee-brewer, as long as the result is a good Barolo.” As wine lover and a wine merchant I would put the stress on the result. If the winemaker goes about his cellar in sequins and drags, is for me not relevant. Whether cow horn if influential or not
is also not relevant. Somewhere downtown in Rome there is a temple dedicated to All Gods. As long as the citizen paid taxes they were free to worship whom they liked. As long as the wine in the bottle is soundly made, tastes good and fulfill the scopes a good wine bottle should, the rest is for me non relevant. It is for you and I admire and respect your dedication to the subject. Still: let us let the wine speak its language.
The reason that California and UC Davis revolutionized the wine industry is because they used controlled rational methodology. The end result (of good wine) is nice but not as significant in the bigger scheme as understanding the reality. For the future of our industry in a changing world, winemakers should try to be scientists and not witches. Biodynamics is pure hand waving wizardry that sane people should find embarrassing.
What’s the harm. I mean even if BD was a hoax, it still is an innocent one. Who gets hurt ? why all the hostility ? Personally I would prefer an as cleanly as possible produced wine at any time. End of story.
By the way: many wines from organically grown grapes show high rests of heavy metals (copper) and higher content of sulfites as compared with traditionally and (conscentiously) grown grapes.
Thi is a subject which rarely gets attention whenever
people are talking about BD and organic growing of grapes.
I used to be like you – live and let live, what’s the harm if some wackos pray to the universal cosmic origin of the far-off spirit world and bury cow horns under the autumnal equinox to channel those cosmic forces downward into our earth and thus giving “life” to our soils? You ask what’s the harm and who gets hurt? Well for one, you do, because you accept the fantasy called Biodynamics which is a make believe world with no earthly connection to our functioning, real, material word. I don’t want to live in a society that can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Is Star Wars real? Does the force really exist? Like you, the members of Salem Massachusetts were tolerant of those who believed in witches – no harm no foul – that’s your position right? Right, unless you were the widow with property that another man wanted – he called you out as a witch, you got burned at the stake and he got the property. While this is a rather dramatic example, it is our actual history of what happens when a society substitutes fantasy for knowledge of the real world.
Unfortunately, I cannot comment about the heavy metals in organically grown grapes because I’m not familiar with that research.
I’m not a fervent believer in BD, but I’m passionate about wine. I’ve seen bad and good from both sides if this argument. My concern is that if you’re spending time worrying about what others believe in you’re not spending time worrying what you believe in. I don’t know you, I’d guess you make wine. But I’d also guess that if you’re spending all this time trying to prove “Biodynamics Is A Hoax” then you’re not spending time trying to make the best wine you can. Fair enough, it’s your opinion and your call.
But I’d ask you this, is biodynamics the worst thing happening in the wine industry in your region? Is your cynicism best used to lambast BD practitioners & and followers?
Stu (from Down Under)
Great name BTW and with the proper spelling!
I believe in speaking out on issues that are important to my industry and my society and exposing ignorance is high on that list. I view this blog as my civic duty, my good turn for my society. Besides the introduction you might read two posts that directly deal with why I’m doing this blog: 1) June 16, High noon in the 21st Century 2) June 29, Why is Biodynamics Harmful.
A part of the wine industry has always been slinging BS, but IMHO, the BS meter has been red-lining lately with Biodynamics, natural wine, high alcohol and now we have “authentic” wines whatever that is.
You say you’re not a fervent believer in Biodynamics, but having read my latest post do you accept what Steiner says as valid? Do you accept that cow horns channel cosmic forces from the universe and are thus capable of energizing our soils?
Stu, thanks for sticking your neck out once again and giving us all some very interesting reading. As someone who has some metaphysical beliefs myself, I am not opposed to the possibility that some kinds of energies that can’t be physically measured can influence farming or anything else for that matter.
Having said that, it has to make some kind of sense and it has to be testable and provable in some way. Even when James Van Praugh sees the dead and tells the family what they say, the family has some basis for deciding whether or not it makes sense and whether or not Van Praugh could have known what he is saying thereby lending at least some proof to his psychic impressions. I just don’t see that with Biodynamics.
A friend who is a vineyard manager said a BD consultant had a 50 acre vineyard set up for them using BD principles and after 3 years it totally failed, whereupon the BD consultant said the supervisor “didn’t believe” it could work and that was the problem. Shouldn’t you tell someone that it all depends on your “beliefs” BEFORE you plant out the vineyard and let people decide if that is how they want to go?
BD makes no sense to me whatsoever, and I think the name itself sounds scientific when it is not and that furthers the confusion.
I think it’s ironic that this discussion is really one of a wealthy, privileged minority that isn’t concerned about food for survival. It’s not a coincidence that the abundance of nutrition in our culture correlates with how humankind values scientific progress.
Most of our history dealt with searching for our next meal. The biggest cause of death centered on nutrition – disease due to the lack of it or fighting amongst ourselves for it.
For most of us, our distant relatives were subsistence farmers. Imagine them having this silly discussion whether they spend enough time in their farms or not. They were looking for anything to get them out of their fields. Only in this day and age with our abundant wealth do we romanticize “getting back to nature.” Imagine that your only source of sustenance came from BD farmed crops and that of your neighbor cam from modern farming methods. You’d abandon BD in a heart beat.
I’ll take scientific progress over romanticized fiction any day of the week.
Modern agriculture is thought to have fully developed after the last major ice age where humans stopped wandering around looking for food and settlements became common. Cultivation could be relied upon barring the odd biblical disaster.
Astronomy was used to predict when to plant crops when they could determine what we now know as spring was arriving and cultivating different species of plants which times were they best suited to grow.
Astronomy was also used in the same way for seafaring communities for navigation. When certain fish important to the communities survival were likely to be more plentiful and such.
What has now been termed “biodynamic cultivation” is just the same thing we have used throughout the millennium but with adjustments the same as our predecessors made adjustments to their soil and crops. They just didn’t have a name for it.
Whenever someone says they don’t understand it, I tell them to pick up a farmers almanac. Since Ben Franklin put Poor Richards in publication many years ago, it wasn’t just to write another book. People were immigrating to the new world and while they understood the systems in the lands they came from, the new world was different and they didn’t have years and years to figure their crops out. BioD is just another version of the farmers almanac with ancient treatments documented for a modern society.
It’s nothing new, nothing surprising, my family which is American Indian always were taught how to plant crops according to the stars with some old fashioned myths & legends with astrology mixed in.
I even remember when my father layed our circular driveway with large man sized sandstone, lining up all the stones so the sun would tell us when the solstices and other key dates occurred.
So, BioD is nothing new, it’s foundations has been around a very long time. And man survived and flourished using the stars to plant crops without using poisons to produce them. It’s extremely effective and it’s up to man to look back to our history, which is something mankind has a very hard time doing for some reason, and rediscover it’s efficiency.
Astronomy has indeed been used for a long time in many facets of life. Astrology has not. BD incorporates elements of astrology, not astronomy. The elements of BD have only been around for about 90 years, when Steiner gave his lectures on agriculture. That he hints at ancient “wisdom” is just an illusion. It’s like a movie “based” on actual events. It’s stylized fiction.
Humankind did perform most of its farming organically for practically all of its history. In fact, it spent too much time farming because it was very inefficient, with A LOT of waste due to rot. I’d imagine you’re grateful that we live long, healthy lives due to cheap, plentiful, and healthy food available anywhere?
Astronomy & Astrology are about as old as each other, documentation around 3000 BC with various forms from different societies. And those societies practicing both consecutively. With Astronomy there was Astrology or vice versa how you view world history. Which obviously you missed in high school and college.
If you have never put spade to earth I don’t expect anyone to understand or really have a valid view of the many different styles of agriculture which there are more than just the Monsanto v Organic v Biodynamic argument.
I think my comment on understanding our history truly applies to you because of your comment regarding inefficiency. It wasn’t inefficient, but people 100 years ago weren’t too busy texting their friend or looking up whats on the TV tonight. They were working.
But I can tell you, it’s extremely efficient. I grew up eating fresh crops during 8 months out of the year and lovely canned goods during the winter months. If we had extra we traded with neighbors or simply put out a table with a “Free Veg” sign on it. Trust me there are no leftovers.
It’s the matter of a capitalistic society where convenience matters more than a quality of life, which is where the blur is. Whether you think it’s quality of life having cheap, but chemically altered produce or healthy but marginally and I do mean marginally more expensive produce.
What I don’t understand if you say there was a lot of waste due to rot. There really wasn’t a lot of rot, communities used their food, preserved their food to get through winters, fed their livestock, traded at the markets and didn’t let it rot like we do today.
So, the argument is you say it was inefficient with a lot of rot, but at the same time, the reason farmers go with these modern practices is to produce a lot of volume, so your comment is, pardon the quasi pun, rubbish.
I don’t think you have any kind of understanding about agriculture, have never grown anything except maybe the odd house plant and if you are a farmer, you and your type scare the shit out of me. Because you speak with absolute ignorance of agriculture.
BioD is a little more nutty than farming by an astronomical time line. By the way, nowadays we have calendars and thermometers. BioD is Steiner’s crazy idea and therefore it has not been around a long time unless you want to speak in general terms and just add some superstitious nonsense to the calendared farming techniques.
The mildew problems this year in Biodynamic vineyards says everything about the falsehoods and misrepresentations of Biodynamic practitioners.
The famous Biodynamic consultant in our area has always claimed that after farming 4 or 5 years Biodynamically, a Biodynamic vineyard is so resilient and healthy that no fungicides are needed. Well, the Biodynamic vineyards are full of mildew and will suffer heavy losses. The Sustainably Farmed vineyards, if they have kept up, will be fine. Where did the ” etheric energy” go which was created by all of the vortex stirring? Where are the results from the magic preparations 500 through 508? Why doesn’t stuffing weeds into deer bladders work and spraying a homeopathic solution on the vineyard work?
This year has proved Biodynamics to be the hoax that Saint Stu has tried to explain to everyone.
Thank you, Stu, for stepping forward and telling the world about this marketing driven hoax. You have been attacked personally for trying to help the world. Few people have listened. Alexander Payne should make a movie about you. This world needs more heros like you to standup and speak when others are silent.
I hope Clark Smith is still reading this blog.
I cannot believe somebody took the time to create a website as stupid as this.
We’re all entitled to our stupid endeavors.
I am a viticultural consultant in Napa County for ~1200Ac of conventional, organic, and bio-dynamic vineyards this growing season. As of today, I am stunned at the amount of mildew that is showing up my BD vineyards, and to a lesser extent, my organic vineyards. This year many farmers will rethink their choice to be Biodynamic…as they see their blocks fail due to late mildew.
BD is easy in a year that cooperates with producing a high quality vintage. 90% of BD is simply being a good, conscientious farmer. Faith-based farming will have a reckoning come September.
Stu: Skeptical inquiry into biodynamics or any other philosophy is healthy, but I don’t think you are giving biodynamics a fair hearing. Biodynamics and anthroposophy are not anti-science. In fact, they accept all valid science and hope science will discover more truths. They just acknowledge that current science (and philosophy) are limited and cannot explain everything, at least not yet.
For instance, current science can not find a biological explanation for the soul — does that prove we don’t have one? Current science and philosophy can’t figure out what happens to our soul (if we have one) when we die — does that prove there is no “life” after death? Science also tells us that nature never wastes matter or energy but merely transforms it — so perhaps our soul must survive death? What happens to our soul, our self identity, when we die? Steiner says that the answer is obvious if we just better observe the natural world around us. He is not saying “trust me;” he is saying “look with me.”
Unlike most religions, anthroposophy claims not to require a leap of faith but, rather, careful observation. Steiner claims to find evidence of higher worlds in our world. He looks at plants and animals and claims to know their true nature and what they will be after they “die.” He says, like many other mystics in the past, that these matters can become obvious to us if we study and meditate and observe long and hard enough.
Read Steiner’s early work if you want to understand his respect for science, particularly his work on Goethe. Like Goethe, Steiner believed in keen observation of the world. His essay “Practical Training in Thought” explains some of the difficulties in seeing fully.
Perhaps Steiner (and Goethe) just see more than most of us do?
My reading of Steiner is that he belittled science at every opportunity for not being up to the task (see my earlier post of June 15, “Steiner rejected modern Science”). I agree that Steiner lectured that science was “limited,” but that limitation was the drudgery of the rigorous scientific method – experimentation, peer review, replication, and proof; Steiner was unencumbered by such worldly realities, he was free to use his perception, intuition and his “spiritual science” to arrive at his uncontestable “truths,” which in my opinion is code for “his imagination” and thus is fraudulent.
If you want to use the soul as a comparison, then you need to concede that Biodynamics is a religion, because you cannot compare a faith-based belief of the soul with the practical real world manual for farming that Steiner preached in his 1924 lectures. If you and other supporters are willing to concede that Biodynamics is a faith-based religion, then I will fold my tent and go away – you and they have every right to your beliefs, but you do not have the right to impose a belief system on the rest of us as a reality-based method for farming.
Steiner never once provided “evidence” for any of his outlandish truths and yet when I attack those truths (like Atlantean airships), you all vanish from the face of the universe. Can you really say with a straight face that through perception, intuition and contemplation Steiner arrived at a level of knowledge, that no other human has ever been able to achieve? If what you and supporters of Steiner say is true, then Steiner is the single most important person to have ever lived on this planet.
Stu: Thanks for the reply.
Steiner may be the most sophisticated huckster this planet has seen to date but, my point is, you will therefore have to work harder to convincingly debunk him. After reading your website, I think the jury is still out on biodynamics. Perhaps we can make better wine by more carefully observing our grapes?
Goethe might be the single most important person to have ever lived on this planet. I think you need to show on your website that you understand Goethe and Steiner’s central claims about the limitations of modern science before criticizing their approach to agriculture. Read Steiner’s biography of Goethe and the essay I previously suggested. It’s too easy to poke fun at Steiner’s more colorful recommendations while not addressing his core claims — that it’s possible to find scientific evidence of the next world through careful observation of this world.
I would like to delete the word “most” from the first sentence of the third paragraph of my last post; it creates an unintended ambiguity.
Absent a more thorough rebuttal of the core philosophy behind biodynamics, I will keep experimenting and observing.
However we farm and by whatever name we choose to call it, observing the grapes will always help us to make better wine – we agree. We also agree that it’s very easy to make fun of Steiner’s writings, but I part ways with you when it comes to Steiner, science and the “other” world. My world is the physical world – tangible, touchable, seeable, and testable – my spiritual world is mine and mine only – belief w/o proof. The first is science the second is religion – parallel tracks that never intersect. I see Biodynamics as a religion; Can you shed any light on why Biodynamic supporters are unwilling to do so?
You’re claim is that Steiner and Goethe were careful observers of the physical world and that gave them insights to the “other” world. If true, this knowledge is exclusive to them and makes them uniquely important to this world, why do you think that so few folks have not joined their band wagon?
And as I asked Bill:
Is Steiner correct about Biodynamic farming practices controlling Phylloxera and Downy Mildew?
Do you use Sulfur dust, which a petro-chemical by-product?
Is Steiner correct about the yellow color in the plant kingdom coming from the planet Jupiter?
Is Steiner correct about the Red color in the plant kingdom coming from the planet Mars?
Do you really think that burning the European Grapevine moth during the sign of the Bull and then spreading it’s ashes over the vineyard will really eradicate this new exotic pest?
I don’t/can’t understand your suspension of disbelief for such ridiculousness.
BTW, would you like me to change “most” to “many” or something else – easy to do?
A note to wine geeks researching Biodynamics
What percent of Steiner’s writings pertain to agriculture?
My estimate is about one quarter of one percent. Probably more like one tenth of one percent or much less.
Why is it that Biodynamics is best understood by those who know little about it: “we don’t know how it works, but it does”. I see this statement on websites touting crystals that cure illness and pyramids which can deflect the damaging effects of cell tower transmissions. It is the resort of new age sound bites: they are as satisfying as potato chips, they may taste good but you better check the ingredients before you consider them nutritional.
If you wish to sip Steiner like a fine port after dinner, it is your prerogative. If, like a farmer, you wish to test Steiner’s product like most of us test grapes before harvest, then avoid taking berry samples from the edges and end of rows or the last two rows (Steiner gave the “biodynamic” lectures in the 1924, he died in 1925) and take samples throughout the vineyard block to achieve a random unbiased and representative sample. The greater the sample the more representative it will be.
Take a sample of Steiner’s lifetime writings and lectures, and I challenge everyone to waste their time doing this. However most unbiased people will find Steiner unreadable. So there will be no sample taken at all. A few dedicated people will actually take the sample, and will think the undefined terms and phrases were actually defined somewhere in the writing (not much is defined nor is much explained in Steiner’s writings). Read Steiner and ask yourself, was he able to know all by entering the spirit world? Or, using Occum’s razor, is the best explanation that Steiner was simply delusional? You decide.
Thanks for this, Stuart. Of course, you realize that no less a scientist than Sting himself disagrees with you. It takes courage to stand up against the Police.
[I’m french, sorry for my english]I can see no difference here with what is going on with some of the BD people : it is like a deaf guy signing to a blind person. Stu is not open to any debate and seems to have very fixed and purely materialistic ideas. I work with BD in an experimental way and anyone doing know that the results are there. Many scientific experiments have been done (FiBL DOC test for instance) that show how BD has an effect on soil structure and soil biology. We can’t deny that, I’ve seen it myself on my garden and on many farms. It’s just a fact, an observation, no matter what are the background of the method behind it. Please look at facts first, not at the spiritual basis of it which we are at first not able to judge.
It’s so easy to criticize. But please just go in the fields and look at the soil of BD farms that work well : that is one of the best proof of its efficiency.
Do you like rice ? do the Emoto rice experiment yourself (http://www.positive-thinking-principles.com/positive-thinking-power.html). I’m doing it at the moment in my appartment and (of course) it’s working and there is no doubt about it. It is a fact. It is not rational, but it is there. If then you start not to trust what you see because it doesn’t fit in your conceptual understanding of how things should be, then you’re a believer and not a scientist…
If you’re not open to the world’s facts, you’re lying to yourself. Just observe: truth is in front of our eyes, truth is in the phenomenon itself, as Goethe said.
Have a good one!
Nature is all there is. Being stuck on “purely materialistic ideas” is also called “being grounded in reality”.
As we head into the July 4th weekend, I just want to wish everyone a great holiday with family and friends. We have had our fun sparring, yet I want to thank everyone, particularly Stu, for the gentlemanly tone that has prevailed. I reckon we have all learned something.
Thank you for that lovely comment. All the best and have a wonderful July 4th weekend.
Thanks Stu glad to elaborate,
I would say the core of the farming plan is the “Albrecht system”, with the emphasis on long term soil fertility management. We use organics and BD to help us achieve our short and long term fertility goals. With respect to changing soil, you can change structure, but not texture as this would be cost prohibitive. Structure, and CEC can be enhanced with increasesd organic matter, and fostering soil biologics.
Toxic Rescue chemistry would be pesticides derived from man made organic synthesis. For the sake of not being sued, I shall not name names, but you may know a few pesticides like this. An example of a metabolic disorder, Cancer. Whether one leads to another depends on many factors. There have been studies done linking one to the other. Of course we know of some pesticides that are purportedly safe enough to drink. So I have been told.
Incidentally, I have listened to lectures Given By Clark, and he is a very sharp fellow. I fancy him a true man of science. I am glad he is neither accepting nor refuting Steiner, but keeping an open mind about it. I would be in that camp. After all how long did it take for us to accept E=MC squared? We may be talking about Quantum agriculture next. So hopefully Stu you saved some of that LSD that allows one to see the sun rise from the west, as it will help with our quantum agriculture studies.
Lets drink some great wine on the 4th, and celebrate our good fortune to debate this and other interesting topics.
First of all, BD proponents keep using the shallow argument that “Steiner was right about Waldorf Schools ergo Biodynamics has merit.” It is possible to be correct about one thing and wrong about another.
Second of all, the educational community is as fed up with Waldorf and its self-proclaimed success as we are of BD. The fact that kids aren’t allowed to read until 4th grade and mythology is taught as history has the educaitonal community upset that they receive public funds. I know graduates from Waldorf schools who claim that the only thing they were qualified to do after a Waldorf education was be a Waldorf teacher. Please don’t take my word for it. Here, again, is a website of former Waldorf students trying to keep public funding away from what they perceive to be a religious organization.
Let’s stop using Waldorf to defend BD.
For heaven’s sake; this is not my argument at all. I am asking for an evaluation of BD on its current (or future) merits rather than its origins. This is exactly what you have just done concerning Waldorf. Good for you. Now do the same for BD instead of trying to discredit it based on its origins.
I am not a BD proponent. I am a proponent of rational argument, and am merely trying to provide rudimentary instruction in that area.
Regarding your great alma mater, which is also mine, many of us are not quite so happy as you seem to be with the education we received there or with the current state in which the industry finds itself economically, theoretically and environmentally as a result of blind faith in the directives from UCD. Much of the enology taught at Davis simply isn’t correct in some very fundamental ways, about which I have written extensively (see http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=columns_article&content=70108&columns_id=92&ctitle=The%20Solution%20Problem%3A%20Overcoming%20Enology). The petrochemical monoculture which led to flavorless mechanically harvested tomatoes and widespread AXR-1 plantation might have gone better if a little more humility accompanied their recommendations.
I could go on at great length in this vein, but let’s not get sidetracked. My point is that the popularity of BD is a symptom of a group of winegrowers who have lost faith in prosperity through the pundits at UCD. You don’t seem to have seen the cracks in that dogma, but that doesn’t make you superior to folks who are trying out another church.
Your claim is absolutely false that the “petrochemical monoculture” had anything to do with recommendation to plant AXR#1 by UC Davis. I was grad student there when Professor Lloyd Lider, and I believe with the help of Professor Kas Kasimatis reached the decision to recommend AXR#1. Professor Lider was one of my main Professors and I remember having a very lengthy discussion with him on this very topic. There were many experimental varietal plots established around California by the university sometime around the 1880’ or early 1890s. Lloyd found that some of those plots still existed and studied the varieties that were there, including AXR#1. He discovered that some of those almost 100 year old vines were surviving with Phylloxera present in the soil. At that time, California had only one type of Phylloxera which was a non-winged form. Of course, they knew about the literature from South Africa that AXR#1 had failed, but from correspondence with South Africa they were confident that the California version of Phylloxera was not the same as in South Africa and/or Europe. As I’m sure you know, AXR#1 rooted well, grafted well, suppressed virus interaction, was a relatively virus free selection, was moderately vigorous, set good crops and was an overall high quality rootstock. The problem was that the “A” of AXR#1 stood for Aramon which is Vitis Vinifera and thus susceptible to some or even most forms of Phylloxera. BTW, Davis did not have the funds to research why it was that California had the non-winged form and not the more usual winged form.
It was Professor Lider and not some “petrochemical monoculture” that was the lead decision maker to recommend AXR#1. I tend to think that given the information available at the time, it was the right decision, but many think otherwise – and they may be right. Of course, we all know that it failed starting in the mid-1980s due to either a mutation or the introduction of a new strain. If there was an effort to discover how it arrived or whether it mutated I was never aware of the results.
I realize I was trying to cram a lot into a few words in an attempt to avoid a big sideshow debate about Davis, more proper for a separate blog. However, trotting out your great education as a trump card in this debate struck me as uncouth, and seemed to go tho the heart of the faith-based issues we have been discussing.
“Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket, and do not pull it out and strike it merely to show you have one. If you are asked what o’clock it is, tell it, but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman.”
-Lord Chesterfield, statesman and writer (1694-1773)
Yours is a good statement of what took place, and I agree that AXR1 was a decent recommendation. The problem arose when everybody and their dog planted the top recommendation, so that when the manure hit the fan, the resulting monoculture led to devastating results.
This is a good example of the difficulty today’s science has in thinking in terms of system consequences. Davis has tended to be more clever than wise. Almost no good idea in agriculture works well if everybody does it.
That’s not entirely their fault — it’s our mass faith in their holiness that gets us in trouble. By the same token, nobody would be complaining about global Parkerism if there were so many people slavishly following his advice. He offers pretty good advice, but causes deleterious consequences for prices and styles when there are too many fans.
In the ’70’s, monoculture was so engrained as to be indistinguishable from agriculture. We used to snicker at the oldtime polyculture practices of the old world and roll our eyes at field blend plantings here. Modern ag grows one crop, and the cleaner the better. First you clear the land, then you methyl bromide every living thing, then you plant your sterilized, virus-free cuttings, then you start spraying to eliminate any weeds or insects. James Cook and Lloyd Lider (both of whom I adored) were both big proponents of petrochemicals and both initially opposed Integrated Pest Management initiatives as looney and dangerous.
In Davis’ defense, they are now very much engaged in sustainable thinking, though primarily on the wine production side. Still it must be admitted that they are taming the beast they themselves helped sire. I think it’s reasonable criticism that the AXR1 monocultural was a vulnerability they might have seen in advance.
I’d concur that Hans has given us a reasonable boil down of scientific methodology, though the word really is a noun. The faith part comes in proscribing against other methods. As I have said over and over, the scientific method is extremely limited. Today’s science is very primitive in certain areas I’ve already listed: poor predictability of consequences in complex systems, a tendency toward linear thinking, and a sluggishness to shift paradigms.
I don’t know where Steiner got his system. I have to agree that his derivation does not appear scientific. But we cannot use that fact to invalidate other systems simply because they are otherwise derived.
According to Darwin, life itself was developed by the winnowing of chance mutations; it seems to me that this process is what is now going on with BD. Hans and Stu surely would not argue that living systems have no validity because their origins are not rationally arrived at, nor would they label life as a religion or a hoax.
Ever since Lamarckianism was discredited, evolutionary theory itself tells us that origins are generally without any organized basis, and then what works, works. Simple as that.
The only reason I keep commenting is that I’m distressed at how little science is understood. Science is so often shanghaied in support of causes for which it has nothing to offer. This discussion is one case in point. Cut it out, guys.
Come on, you know very well where Steiner got his system – he made it up and he admits it! Of course, he calls it intuition and perception, but those are just synonyms for “made up.” When are you going to cross the Rubicon and call a spade a spade?
You claim science is limited and primitive – I don’t necessarily agree, but let’s say you’re right – what’s better, Steiner’s intuition and perception or the messiness that is science? When are you going to cross the Rubicon and make a real decision? Here’s what I said to the nuttyfrenchman and it applies to you too:
“I believe that with education, knowledge and real world experience there are certain issues that are so egregiously silly that the BS meter goes over the top and, IMO, that is Biodynamics to a smelly tee. I ask you, does every theory deserve your respect? What if I said I hiked to the top of Mt. St. Helena last night and dropped some great acid and as the sun came up I realized that it rose in the West? Now, you didn’t see the sun rise this morning so isn’t it possible that just this once it came up in the West? After all, you didn’t see it rise in the East, and science can’t explain everything.”
Wouldn’t you call me out on that statement – I would hope you would – where’s the difference with Steiner? Use that brain of yours; if Steiner is correct, that makes him the most important human ever to have lived on this earth, because we will have to rewrite ALL that we know about science and this universe.
Lastly, I really don’t understand your comment about science being shanghaied during this discussion. Tell me where I’m off base in my direction on this issue: 1) Biodynamics make claims of superiority that I’m skeptical about 2) I call them out, in an admittedly theatrical way, to put-up or shut-up 3) They/you avoid direct engagement over what Steiner lectured and they/you hide behind a screen with an argument that says something to the effect—I just don’t understand science’s limitations, however, if I were more enlightened, I too would be able to see past this screen where science can’t go, and understand why Biodynamics “might” be true. I may not be the brightest bulb in the world, but I had a good education at the greatest public university in the world – what am I missing – my BS meter is redlining?
Please don’t ascribe to my comments any defense whatsoever of Steiner. I completely agree with your assessment of the apparent
I’m not trying to defend Steiner. I’m trying to defend due process, trying to defend true science against you hacks who want to disguise your personal assessments, the limits of your own imagination concerning what is plausible and call it science. It isn’t.
As I explained in my analogy to life’s origins, BD doesn’t have to have rational origins to manifest a working system today or tomorrow. What Steiner may have claimed is utterly unrelated to the functionality of the system as it stands now.
Time will tell. Since BD exists in a complex realm (farming ecology) which is not among the very limited number of phenomena which are simple enough (such as elementary particle collisions) to yield to a fundamental mechanistic analysis, we have to evaluate its efficacy through experiment. This is going to take time to play out, after which we can make measures of BD vs other farming systems and see how things turned out with regard to any parameters we choose: economics, wine quality, market acceptance, biodiversity, soil health, etc..
Steiner does indeed seem aggregiously silly. But that didn’t stop him from founding what turned out to be a pretty good school system.
I am perfectly happy to grant that you are probably right in your assessments about Steiner, but much less so about BD’s eventual efficacy. The two simply aren’t related; lots of perfectly valid systems get founded by screwballs. Just because they’re nuts doesn’t make them wrong, and even if they are, they can still get a useful ball rolling. I just don’t know how BD will play out, and neither do you.
You have perfectly reasonable opinions. I just wish you would stop claiming scientific validation for them. It’s a realm of inquiry, not certainty. I’ll cross your Rubicon if you’ll cross mine.
Dear Perplexed, I think of science as a verb, where scientists study the natural world and then propose explanations based on the evidence in their work. To me, you seem to view “science” as a noun with which you can equate with religion, Lutheriaism, Islam, Hinduism or Biodynamics. Science is evidence based, religion is faith based. Science can compile verifiable evidence that can be repeated by others. We may not know whether we asked “the best question”, but at least we can expect to get the same answer. If the answer ever comes out differently, then we should try and figure out how to make the initial question better, until the answers are consistent.
Steiner did not obtain any evidence for his “preparations” to treat compost and to apply to fields. Steiner invented these preparations, they did not come from ancient Egypt or some mystical place such as Atlantis or Lemuria. Steiner did not propose an explanation based on field experiments , as he never conducted experiments. Steiner generated thousands of explanations from his “clairvoyance”. He claimed he could enter the spirit world and obtain whatever information anyone could ask for, and no science was necessary, but that he was certain anything he said was unquestionably verifiable.
Clark makes the point that Steiner could get lucky and guess correctly, so we cannot say Steiner is wrong universally,and it is unfair to make fun of for example, to keep mice out of our agricultural fields by skinning mice and burning their skins when certain constellations are overhead, and spreading the ashes on our fields. I’d love to see any evidence for that! We can expect the random guessing on Steiner’s part could only produce random correct guesses.
Chemical companies (and isn’t everything a chemical?) produce lifesaving products and life destroying products. Sometimes they become legally liable for their errors. They maintain their businesses by trying not to increase their liability, but to continue to sell products, like this iPad I am typing on. I heart it.
“Fairies wear (farm) boots, you have to believe me.”
Thanks for providing this interesting forum on BD. As a wine maker and grower of Napa Valley wines for the last 27 years I can say that I have seen many farming models. I developed a definition of our farm plan coining it Dynamic Terrior – The integration of soil, climate, topography, and farmer that fosters or degrades the unique characters of the place where the farm commodity is grown. In wine growing, we strive to foster the sense of place to improve grape quality in the hopes that this will translate into quality wine beverage. There are many tools in our Craftsman tool box to achieve these goals. I should preface that we are certified organic and Demeter certified grown on all of our 170 acres,so our tools are limited to these paradigms. That being said, we reserve the right to use the aspects of biodynamics that have helped us to build on our successes. I have seen first hand some amazing results from the use of BD preps. I also like the idea that BD recognizes the farm as a living organism, and that every farm has a given set of resources that are combined to create quality farm products. I also believe that there is no substitute for a farm plan that incorporates long term soil fertility management as measured over time by measuring increased organic matter. There are some who say in this blog that biodynamics exhausts soils over time, and I submit that if one is not looking at long term soil fertility and not augmnenting with mined materials and trace minerals, then you will deplete your soils with BD. I would also say that the long term use of toxic rescue chemistry will get you there just as fast with the probability of some metabolic disorders to boot. I can say having farmed both ways that our current farm plan has been the most rewarding.
With respect to Steiners writings, I do not believe they had invented LSD in his time. Must have been magic mushrooms. Most enlightening.
I’ve known of the work at Sinskey for some time. Reading between the lines, would I be correct in assuming that you use Biodynamics as you core farming system, and then modify it as you deem appropriate to your individual circumstances?
Also, I remember discussing soil science with Professor Jim Cook at Davis, about long-term effects of soil amendments and additives. His belief was that soil cannot be altered or changed from its inherent condition, except in the short run. I offered that wherever we’d had very large slash piles (fifteen feet high, after reclaiming our vineyards from the forest) the cover crop was better, the vines grew better and I had soil samples that showed higher Ph, more Calcium and Magnesium, more Phosphorus, more Potassium, better Cation Exchange. But Cook was right, after several years those areas that had once been so easily discernable, gradually lost the influence of all those additives and blended into the rest of the vineyard.
Would you define “toxic rescue chemistry” and “metabolic disorders” and why one leads to the other.
Ah, I see you know how to use Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitation If you were to read past the first page, you would come across the problem I alluded to:
“Several decades after the discovery of general relativity it was realized that general relativity is incompatible with quantum mechanics. It is possible to describe gravity in the framework of quantum field theory like the other fundamental forces, such that the attractive force of gravity arises due to exchange of virtual gravitons, in the same way as the electromagnetic force arises from exchange of virtual photons. This reproduces general relativity in the classical limit. However, this approach fails at short distances of the order of the Planck length, where a more complete theory of quantum gravity (or a new approach to quantum mechanics) is required. Many believe the complete theory to be string theory, or more currently M-theory, and, on the other hand, it may be a background independent theory such as loop quantum gravity or causal dynamical triangulation.”
If you read through the initial section you quoted, you will see that the test of the various theories (none yet perfected) is whether the theory is accurately descriptive, not whether its fundamentals explain the phenomenon in reality (whatever that is). Science is primarily useful for its predictive rather than its epistemological value. This was Galileo’s Mistake (a book by Wade Rowland also worth reading).
The point I was trying to make is that science does not explain the world – it mostly simply models it. Paradigms shift and schools of thought come and go – Aristotle replaced by Newton replaced by Einstein replaced by quantum theory replaced perhaps by string theory. Most of what we think is scientific fact is really faith-based.
Regarding truth in advertising, I should think anyone with a pulse knows BD is an experimental technique, and I have never encountered any practitioner who claims to know its mechanisms. I scarcely think their factual claims rise to the level of the standard horse hockey all us wineries, critics, bloggers, distributors and merchants pump out. Good luck finding a winery or grower that doesn’t “represent their products as higher quality and/or produced in a more beneficial way to the environment.” For sheer spin value, the wine industry is hard to top.
Haha…Wikipedia yes but I was pulling from an introductory lecture of mine which was re-purposed as an editorial contributions to that, and other, physics entries on the site, back when I still believed it to be a worthy use of time. Regardless, the fact that relativity theory breaks down at a microscopic particle level does not invalidate the proofs surrounding gravitational force and its role in our universe. But this is a topic for another blog, perhaps you or I should start that one?
What is relevant to this site is your last paragraph, which I generally agree with, however the actors you fail to mention are consumers. While many (most?) vineyard and winery owners who practice Biodynamics may understand it to be experimental, judging by some of the comments posted by others on this site there are at least a few who are ‘true believers’. Clearly there are examples of growers and vintners who fall in this camp (the impetus for Stu creating this blog in the first place). And there are definitely consumers who buy into it based on the label which assures them that an ‘independent’ and ‘reputable’ 3rd party has given its seal of approval.
I agree with you that “for sheer spin value” in the agricultural products world the wine industry tops most, if not all. But that does not change the fact that Biodynamics labeling crosses the line into fraudulent marketing territory.
“…reality (whatever that is)”
Am I to understand that you take a post-modern relativistic view of reality? Reality is based on perception and so on? If so, why do you even have discussions with people? If you can’t state that there is a way that things exist independent of perception then what is the point of debate except mental masturbation?
“Most of what we think is scientific fact is really faith-based.”
This statement is the foundational defense of faith-heads and modern philosophers to fend off the cognitive dissonance that occurs when the power of scientific inquiry begins to impinge on their superstitions.
I feel you are just here for the dance of the discussion. You have no interest in coming to a conclusion.
Thanks for the questions. I agree that farming is a tough business, which is why the things we spend our time and money on should really work. Would you prefer to “think” these odd things work, or would you like to “know” that they work – or not? Take a look at my June 11 post which I labeled “Everyone that eats a carrot today will die!” which deals with anecdotal evidence. Emotions have no place in making farming decisions, cost, efficacy and safety should rule.
My friends all have various opinions on which clones they like, but are their opinions really valid when it comes to my decision of which clone I should use? Will clone 7 that a grower likes in Rutherford with irrigation on 101-14 be the right clone for a dry farmed mountain vineyard on 1103 Paulson? Do you really want to commit $30,000/acre and be stuck for 30 years with the wrong clone because Bob thinks clone 7 is a good one?
Have you used the tea spray for any length of time and does it prevent mildew? If it does fine, go for it. My neighbor farms Biodynamically and she followed the party line and ended up with a horrible case of mildew. You mentioned the large number of financially struggling farmers, so do you think it a wise farming decision to risk your crop by using an unproven tea spray. Don’t you think that we would all be using that tea spray if it really worked? Will the Demeter organization guarantee that this tea spray works and what will you say to your banker if it doesn’t and the winery rejects your grapes? Sorry to be such a pessimist, but that’s what I’ve learned in almost 40 years of farming wine grapes – be a skeptic.
This is a good post. It gets down to local brass tacks. This is the level of discussion I have been hoping for.
Your blanket dismissal of BD’s value based on discrediting Steiner is not as persuasive. The relevance of the Waldorf school is that its current status has about as much to do with Steiner as the way we run our country has with Thomas Jefferson’s vision. It’s reasonable to poke fun at what Steiner said, but BD’s true value will only be apparent when it has been given a reasonable run. Relatively smart people are taking a flyer, and if they can get a little marketing boost for their trouble, what the heck?
Against this you have argued that it does positive harm. But that logical path is a mare’s nest. You are going to have to hold a lot of other systems to the same standard, including your own, and others you haven’t chosen to rail against. Precision viticulture, petrochemical farming and GMO’s, all of which, though they began with much more plausible stories, have, in the view of many, done considerably more harm to the environment and the economy.
BD is, indeed, almost a religion. In my view, it should not be entitled to the special freedoms afforded true religions, and practitioners should pay taxes. Other than that, it is clearly faith-based — I would say that in the sense you meant it, it’s close enough to a religion that you should indeed stand down.
But so is science, at least as humans practice it. I am not equating the two, but it is a difference of degree, nowhere near as black and white as you profess. Faith in science is evidence-based; almost never is there a firm theoretical basis for how things work.
Take gravity, for example. It obviously exists and I have faith it will continue according to the inverse square law, but the strange fact is that no theory exists of its mechanism. I hold gravity as a proven truth, clearly observable. But it really isn’t – it could be different in other zones of the cosmos or in other times.
Einstein’s ravings about there being no way to tell the time sequence of distant events sounds quite looney to many even today, but that belief is an inevitable outgrowth of general relativity. In the face of all this, real scientists, while passionate, are also humble, and make room for the gut instincts of others. If BD is a passing fad, it will discredit itself without your help, locally farm by farm.
You stated above that: “Take gravity, for example. It obviously exists and I have faith it will continue according to the inverse square law, but the strange fact is that no theory exists of its mechanism. I hold gravity as a proven truth, clearly observable. But it really isn’t – it could be different in other zones of the cosmos or in other times.”
Just so I am clear, you are referring to the gravity that most of us understand to be one of the four fundamental interactions, or forces, in nature, are you not? If so, then you would admit that it is the force which attracts objects of mass to one another, correct? If so, there is a theory explaining this fundamental force- relativity. Please straighten me out if I am mistaken. And to address your last sentence in that quote (“it could be different in other zones of the cosmos or in other times.”), well we do not exist in other zones of the cosmos or in other times. We exist here and now, in a place and time where certain scientific theories have been proven, and replicated independently by others, and I believe this cuts right to the heart of Stu’s entire argument, but I will not put words in his mouth.
One last thing, speaking of the heart of the argument, nobody posting here, the author included, has stated that farmers cannot or should not practice Biodynamic techniques, just that there should be truth in advertising. Absent of scientific proof, nobody should represent their wine grapes or finished wine to be of a higher quality and/or produced in a more beneficial way to the environment than that of other farming paradigms.
Truth in labeling and advertising- that’s all. Otherwise the additional value (read: dollars, euros, etc.) realized by the producer of Biodynamic wine based on these spurious claims is the result of a fraud and worse has quite possibly deprived an honest merchant and equally good steward of the land his/her due.
Why does it matter if it’s scientifically verifiable if the result is of quality? Farming’s a tough business in general, so why not accept that some farmers want/need to use these seemingly odd techniques in order to emotionally justify actually being a farmer. I personally feel way better spraying compost tea than myclobutanil, So long as the c.t. keeps the mildew away.
Again, if it works for the farmer’s purposes, it’s a good thing. And if BD can move a farmer toward this end, then all the better, because there’s an awful lot of farmers struggling financially and emotionally out there.
I agree with Stu, religious ideas are corrosive to science because they blind people to the real explanations we need to improve wine and grapes.
Steiner is sole authority for Biodynamic farming, and there are no new “preparations” beside those that Steiner espoused in 1924, they are set in stone, the stone of an infallible Professor Steiner.
So to make light of the approach of Biodynamics, this is how we might compare these different approaches:
1. Abele (1978) applied compost compounds to both anaerobically stored and aerated slurry and found no significant effects of the biodynamic compounds on the chemical composition of the slurries compared with the controls.
2. It has been privately revealed to Professor Steiner that stinging nettle takes away the “iron effect”.
3. Michael Fields Agricultural Institute graduates have a strong inner conviction that yarrow compounds enable the soil to take up cosmic radiation.
4.Amigo Bob has been brought up to have total and undying faith that oak bark chopped up and put inside the skull of a domestic animal skull supplies calcium in an ideal form.
5. Demeter Biodynamic Trade Association has promulgated an official dogma binding all loyal Biodynamic farmers that stuffing yarrow into deer urinary bladders significantly improves compost.
We need more of 1. and less of the others.
Thanks to Richard Dawkins.
“I agree with Stu, religious ideas are corrosive to science because they blind people to the real explanations…”
Wow, that is a statement of faith, faith in science that is being financed by the very corporations that devised the products being tested. We’ve never witnessed suppression of non-desirable results in the chemical/medical fields before, so I guess I just gotta believe them?
Have you ever considered just going to a copetent bd practitione or consultant and just speak ‘man to man’ about how it works and what is behind it?
I appreciate that there are issues around your livlihood and so on, but why not just muster some good-will and take a step?
I have spoken to several Biodynamic growers and they know less about Steiner and the theory of Biodynamics than I do. In each case they had not read Steiner, they all thought it sounded better than organic and that was cool with them. I know what’s behind Biodynamics because I’ve read all of Steiners lectures and discussions that are the foundation for Biodynamics, it’s all there in black and white. I started this blog because I feel America is becoming more and more ignorant about science and I realized that Biodynamics is the perfect poster child that illistrates that problem. This has nothing to do with my livelihood.
Steiner created Spirtitual Science, which is in direct opposition to modern science, they are not compatable with each other. I have three questions for you. 1) Do you believe that Atlanteans flew airships powered by organic, seed germenating power? 2) Do you reject modern Science as Steiner did? 3) Have you read Steiner’s lectures on Agriculture?
I’m sorry to have to disagree with you so fundamentally here, but anthroposophy is not in opposition to science.
Anthroposophy represents the intensification of the scientific discipline into the soul and spiritual realm, the inner life of the human being.
You and I, as scientific thinkers, can reasonably expect that if we set out on a road of scientific thought, we should sooner or later make a discovery, and our view of the world and thus ourselves may be subtly transfomed in a way that we can know is true and real. In a way, we ourselves can recapitulate, the recent centuries of profound change in our Human society, every time we strive to bring the scientific spirit into our cognition, with no less astounding results.
Basically, what I am saying is that science is transformative by it’s very nature, and not about status quos, comfortable ideas, or things staying just as they were before, i.e. your ideas about living things.
The fundamental step behind biodynamics might be seen as the recognition that the plant is not a machine,i.e. we do the vegetable kingdom an injustice when we try to clothe it conceptually in ideas taken wholly from the mineral kingdom below it, which could be described as an entirely mechanistic language.
I am a scientific pedant.
1) It’s possible- yes I believe in atlanteans.
2) I do not reject science, niether did Rudolf Steiner. I love science and give it big hugs.
3) No, I havent read the lectures, but have heard descriptions from various people, also I have attended various talks by people who have done research into the mathematization/geometry involved in bd.
Wishing I was in Clifornia,
We do disagree. It’s clear from reading Steiner that he had nothing but contempt for modern Science and that Spiritual Science was the only way he could con his disciples. Please read my post for both June 4 and June 13 where I quote Steiner from his lectures that became the bases for Biodynamics and tell me if you agree or disagree with those quotes. My position is what Steiner claims as truth, via Spiritual Science, cannot possibly co-exist with modern science.
You believe in Atlanteans, but do you also accept as truth Steiner’s contention that the Atlanteans, and I quote: “They constructed airships which were not propelled by inorganic forces, such as coal, but by the use of organic, germinating power of plants.” I submit to you that there are only two positions on that quote: 1st) Steiner is a liar and a fraud – my position or 2) Steiner is the single most important person to ever live on this plant because he alone knows about the Atlanteans when no one else even knows if Atlantis ever existed. Oh, did I forget this quote too: “The Atlanteans had a much more mobile body, and, especially in their early times, a very powerful will. They were able, for instance, to replace a lost limb; they could make plants grow, and so on. … Their sense-organs were more strongly developed: they could distinguish different metals by touch, just as we can distinguish smells.” If you accept that Steiner is speaking the truth then I guess you would be in the #2 camp, and again, we would disagree.
I suggest that before you accept Biodynamics as the second coming of Christ you get Steiner’s book on AGRICULTURE and read it for yourself.
If we try to test Biodynamics, we need to be conscious of results based on biases and manipulations. When judging studies of the effectiveness of Biodynamic farming, who is doing the testing. Do they have a financial interest in the outcome? There are many organic and Biodynamic, like Rodale and Michael Fields who depend on getting positive results, or not publicizing negative results.
And the there is the problem of testing wine. The variables from weather and winemaking are wide. Some regions such as my area of eastern Paso Robles have seen decreasing yields based on increasing sodium levels. Do we know what we are measuring? And vineyards may be poor choices for any clear tests. Would it be much easier to test annual crops rather than vineyards? Soils are often not consistent in vineyards. Genetic variations between vines can effect the results.
Has Biodynamics farming, by harnessing the cosmic and etheric powers of the universe made a clear and breathtaking change in wine quality? Can we taste through 10 wines and say clearly these wines are enhanced by Biodynamics? No. Not a person has yet been able to pick out the Biodynamic wines from organic or sustainable or conventionally grown wines.
Some people may point to DRC and say the quality is derived from Biodynamics, however Biodynamics does not prevent them from having very poor vintages.
I would really like to see reproducible tests showing clearly that Biodynamics over and over has positive effects.
I would like to see those tests conducted such that no one knew which fields were receiving real Biodynamic preparations. This is very important to prevent prejudice from effecting the results. In every test I have seen, everyone knew which was the Biodynamic field. Clark could come up with a proper method of testing.
I’ve pretty much lost all my air on this topic – maybe one day your grandson will be able to relate to you in his own words the benefits of a Steiner education – or maybe he will become a “survivor” – but I think it is important to let differing opinions on farming, education, health, winemaking be free to let individuals choose the systems they want to practice and learn from – “live and let live” …
Thanks for caring.
While I think that Biodynamic farmers are wrong and the entire movement is harmful to our culture and I wish it didn’t exitst, you/they have every right to make a choice and farm via Rudolf Steiner. I would never advocate you not having the right to choose how you wish to farm. The flip side is I have the same right to advocate my position; that I believe Biodynamics is a hoax.
It is my grandson’s parents who decided where he attends school. My beef and focus is with Biodynamics and Steiner. I don’t have the energy to research the Waldorf School system. You are right that Steiner is responsible for both, but again my focus is on Biodynamics, others can and are going after the Waldorf School system – but not me.
That having been said, is it impossible for you to stay on topic and answer a question. Do you reject science as Steiner did or not? Why won’t you answer such a straight forward question? Maybe I should employ Spiritual Science and let my intuition tell me the truth as to why you refuse to do so?
Talk about a non sequitur – you really sand bagged me with the grandson going to the Waldorf school – don’t you want to have a better place for your children to grow up than in this Steiner based system? And if it isn’t mainstream how did he wind up there?
How again do you separate out his Anthroposophic views in BD from Waldorf ? Steiner is responsible for both and as you have said their “isn’t a scintilla of truth in any of his writings?”
You really make me laugh!!!
Waldo,your verbosity is irrelevant. Put your money where your mouth is.
How exactly is does BD work?
By what process does it do what it is claimed to do?
Here is the mission statement at the top of this blog:
“I challenge any Biodynamic farmer or supporter to defend the writings of Rudolf Steiner.”
I am a supporter of BD farmers and have unequivocally demonstrated that Steiner’s writings can be defended – many of his ideas are really treasured a by a growing segment of the international educational movement –
why can Stu throw out such a preposterous challenge as to say in such broad terms that he has concluded by reading some of the texts online that this man is evil and heinous a fraud – and I’m gonna tell you why – and then go on to admittedly cut and paste text that he thinks is Chinese and can’t possibly mean anything to anyone because he can’t interpret it with his superior knowledge of science and because he says so – well Stu did you ever try to get together with Bob Canard or Phil Coturri and ask them about this stuff from a place of true inquiry? How about Amigo Bob? These guys really know this stuff and are Googleable.
Why would you slam the founder of your grandchild’s school? Don’t you trust the judgment of your child to allow such a decision? Go ahead try to attack this slippery slope- it is the conundrum you have boxed yourself into.
Fail, Waldo, Fail.
Of course you don’t want to go there with Waldorf because it is a proven success – it has become a mainstream educational system and I think that threatens you –
In your own words “I conclude that Rudolf Steiner was a complete nutcase, a flimflam man with a tremendous imagination ….his books, writings and lectures should be catalogued under “science fiction” because there is not a scintilla of truth in any of his writings.“
Thats a pretty broad stoke of the pen – I took up your challenge to defend the writings of Rudolf Steiner and I’ve proven you wrong – there is a substantial movement of Waldorf and BD advocates that know their is truth despite your proclamations –
Sonoma has a great school called Summerfield (Santa Rosa) that you should visit if you really do want to have your mind changed about these issues.
But i have to ask what is your end game here? Do you want to go on Fox news with this? – to gain fame as the crotchety old winemaker that did his best to defame Rudolf Steiner because he was mad at the BD competition? Is that how you plan to differentiate yourself – your marketing plan?
Wouldn’t you rather just make a legendary Riesling that speaks for itself because you did something original – different from your peers. Something that speaks to your spirit? Don’t you have better ways to spend your time than being the dogma hunter?
Once again you refuse to answer any direct questions regarding Biodynamics and Steiner. Is it impossible for you or any Biodynamic supporter to stay on topic and respond to a simple, direct question? Why can’t you answer if you believe in science or not, why are you afraid to answer?
Waldo, you make me laugh!!! As I said in an earlier reply, unlike Biodynamics, at least with the Waldorf School Steiner had some level of familiarity because he was once a child and a student. Also, I wouldn’t characterize the Waldorf School as mainstream. Oh, did I forget to tell you, my grandson goes to a Waldorf school! Let me point out that the name of this blog is Biodynamics Is A Hoax, not that the Waldorf school system is a hoax. While it’s true both were created by Steiner, it’s my understanding that Steiner had little to do with the running of the schools.
You ask what my end game is? Fair question. When I conceived this blog my goal was to provide an alternative view of Biodynamics, to bring a skeptic’s view to the outrageous claims made by the practitioners, but as to an end game, I didn’t have one. But that’s changed, unless someone can convince me that I’m wrong, I want to discredit Biodynamics as the hoax that I see it to be and embarrass those wineries which use Biodynamics as a marketing tool. Up to now, you included, no one has countered with any serious arguments supporting Biodynamics.
Thank you for your compliment about our Riesling. Why do I care about Biodynamics? Because I believe in my culture and my society and I want a better place for my children to grow up. I don’t want my children to live in a society that can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. I’m not complacent, I’m not apathetic – I engage, I stand up for the rights of others, and I call a spade a spade, and when I think there is something wrong then I stand up and try to change it. If you want to call me a Boy Scout, then I’m guilty as charged and proud of it. Biodynamics is just such a wrong and in a future post I will thoroughly lay out why a belief in Biodynamics is harmful to our society and why being tolerant is also dangerous.
The threat to our culture is when people either believe or are tolerant of a group that attempts to substitute fantasy for reality. If Biodynamic supporters want to call Biodynamics a religion, that’s fine with me. Everyone has the right to whatever belief system they want, and as I’ve said many times, if Biodynamics is willing to be a religion then I’ll fold my tent and go away. Until then, I will continue to challenge any movement that tries to bring a faith-based farming paradigm into the real world and then claim superiority and immunity from criticism.
Reading with interest, but want to insert a little side-note. Steiner was indeed very closely involved with the first waldorf school — but it was up and running only in the last few years of his life. The lectures and the questions-and-answers sessions he held with the faculty at this waldorf school still, to this day, constitute the reference material waldorf teachers and waldorf teacher students consult. It’s from this material they derive their practices.
I would also say about Waldo’s argument — which basically is: look at waldorf, it works, ergo: there must be something to biodynamics — that it falls flat. There’s plenty of criticism of waldorf education around. It certainly isn’t the success its proponents claim it to be.
However, waldorf is criticized on the same ground that Stuart questions biodynamics: that its proponents have failed to show, in a scientifically acceptable manner, that their methods work.
(And Steiner was once a child — but he was an exceptional child. And his creation of waldorf education happened many years later, and he based his ideas on his ‘spiritual science’. Waldorf school wouldn’t have suited him at all. He was way too intellectual, way too early.)
If Monsanto had a broad spectrum pre-emergence application to wipe Steiner’s teachings off the map – would you use it to end this discussion? kill it dead – get it out of your way – are you so positive that there is nothing to be gained from this seed germinating – is that the way you approach agriculture?
Thanks for your participation in this discussion. But honestly I just don’t understand your last reply. I was hoping you would respond to my questions so that I could have better understanding of your position. These are sincere questions that get to the very heart of this debate. I just don’t understand how my farming practices could have any bearing on your answer. However, in a nutshell, l believe and practice “sustainable farming.”
I am glad that “sustainable” is your motto – what does that mean?
What am I supposed to do here with the box you so eagerly want to catch me in – your mind is closed – you have decided – I will not be able to explain to you that maybe there is a connection between monthly moon cycles and fertility and that the entire plant and its plant life is influenced by these rhythms, seasons, changes – do you not know that? Do you have a sister, mother, wife, daughter to ask about such questions – is it completely fallacious to think that these systems are not worth studying in the natural world and seeing if you can notice the relationships and try to collaborate with this phenomenon? Is that really such a stupid idea?
I don’t understand your hestiation, Steiner rejected science when he created the bases of Biodynamics. Let me rephrase the question: Do you reject science as Steiner did? The Box that I refer to is the conundrum that a belief in Science and Biodynamics at the same time is not possilbe, they are mutually exclusive. Steiner rejected all of the known science and rewrote it to suit himself when he created Anthroposophy and his “Spirtual Science.” This all came to him via his intuition – read his lectures!
Yes, I accept that there is a gravitatioal pull on earth by the moon and the son, that is science. BTW, gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental forces or interactions – but so what?
Check out the links on the first page for the UC Sustainable Agriculture site.
In my opinion, both Hans and Waldo are veering from insightful discourse. If we’re going to talk about the issues, personalities are not relevant on either side.
The topics at hand, i.e. what BD (or the Waldorf system) accomplishes as currently practiced, and what if anything can be discerned scientifically about the effects of those practices, has no more to do with Steiner’s random utterances than Kepler’s nutty occult opinions had on his calculations.
Let’s all calm down and address the subject at hand, if indeed there is anything more to be said at this stage.
I agree, but we’ve all gone off topic at times; it’s a passionate debate. I’d rather stay away from the Waldorf school, since I don’t know much about it. Also, I will grant the Waldorf system one concession – unlike Biodynamics, Steiner was once a child and a student and thus had personal experience with education. Please take a look at my questions for Waldo, which does bring us back on topic. BTW, this program seems to limit the number of responses to a comment, so you have to hunt around for our various responses.
And Clark, you are right about the burden of proof discussion being unnecessary. Forget the periodic chart, lets try it from a different angle:
The Benziners smile into the camera, graciously purloining atrocities against the environment as they cash in on the ignorant.
Sounds a bit extreme, doesn’t it? But tell me, how can a farming practice using the bodies of animals to “energize” crops give lip service to caring for the world and the environment? Biodynamic farming is stuffing yarrow into a deer’s urine bladder…Oak bark stuffed into the skull of a domestic animal…Dandelions stuffed into the peritoneum of a cow. Everybody, please pause for a moment. How extreme is the reference to the Benzingers in this paragraph? Animal body parts? Can you consider the nature of what is being done? Where is our humanity? Are we too timid to confront the likes of the Benzingers? Is humanity stuck in the dark ages? Just how are Biodynamic farmers getting in touch with nature? Maybe Biodynamic farmers’ actions fail to care about life in the first place. Biodynamic farmers show disrespect to every animal on earth. Biodynamics is a grotesque rebuke to the concept of love, peace, whole earth, and the environment. The entire green movement is insulted by Biodynamic practices of this sort.
Clark, you could help this discussion with your chemistry background by addressing, for example, what your thoughts are on the formation of nitrogen from calcium or potassium using hydrogen as in Steiner’s Lecture 5. What do you think about the formation of silica in plants by an undiscovered basic element in Steiner’s Lecture 5? These can be tested. Are these statements correct or feasible in physics and biology?
Or Steiner’s statement that stinging nettle compound takes away the “iron effect” in the topsoil and makes the soil “reasonable” (this is in Lecture 5). Clark, what is an “iron effect”? Could you address as a chemist if iron stress and toxicity have been observed where an excessive uptake of iron has taken place and under what conditions?
Clark, how can we measure the degree that soil is “reasonable”. Is it nitrogen fixation, activity of microbes, does it have anything to do with the delivery of nutrients to the plant? What is the effect of stinging nettles on soil-biological processes or is there a chemical reaction between stinging nettle and iron compounds? If so, does it work the way Steiner says?
Or Clark, do we back away from the few data points that Steiner has given us to analyze and avoid addressing these specifics. Give it a free pass with a statement that we do not know everything? Even if these statements make every physics and biology text book invalid. The conversion of basic elements is not observed by biological process. You would need high energy radiation like a nuclear reaction. How flexible are you Clark on the mass of elements being constant? Maybe it would work if you sprinkled the ashes of a mouse on it.
Looking for a close place to respond. I will try and find out about this program and see what I can do to correct the problem.
However, I’m sorry but I fail to see any connection between your answer and my farming practices. They are two seaparate stand alone issues.
While the debate over biodynamics rages on this is what’s really happening:
Thanks for the link. While we may or maynot agree on GMOs, I think the discussion about GMOs is much more important to our society. Just one of the dangers of Biodynamics is that it is distracting clutter from more important issues of our time. BTW, I haven’t forgotten your request for my farming principles.
Stu – again for some reason I can’t reply to the above Hans section – I too am curious about your farming principles – it will help me answer your conundrum.
Finally, someone is taking this on. I cover this in the plant phys course that I teach and I start out as though this is a valid practice. It only takes a few minutes before the students start to raise hands and look at me as though I have finally cracked.
But I am sure that eventually there will be a “Center for Biodynamics” at some university.
Well, I have to admit that sentence is not my best work. Sorry ’bout that; it was late.
Still, I’m not following this burden-of-proof discussion. I’ve never heard any BD practitioner claim to understand how the sytem works, nor make any claims about magic, nor try to shove their ideas down my throat. They mostly seem bored with conventional wine and want to try something new. They have simply chosen to try out the practice, play around a little, and invite wine lovers, including winegrowers, to observe the results, see what happens.
That’s what I plan to do. Hard to get so rialed up about it. What the heck, let ’em play. Jeez.
They do have an interesting site and seem to be giving back to the community, always good, but I don’t think it’s on point with regard to Biodynamics. What am I missing?
You are using a wide paint brush. Check this site out:
(many Phd.’s and other legit university science-type geeks are involved here.)
Can any of the BD proponents actually cut to the chase and explain EXACTLY how it is alleged to work, and by what mechanisms?
If you must use the word energy, try to do so in its correct context, that is, measurable work capacity.
Energy is not a floating mystical cloud.
THE BURDEN OF PROOF RESTS WITH YOU.
The term “energy” has many, many meanings in common English. Its meaning in scientific english is clearer and narrower, but that isn’t the language we are speaking. Commin English meanings are determined by usage only. Thus a prevalent usage cannot by defitnition be incorrect.
That said, frankly I too get frustrated wondering what he hell people are talking about when they employ this term. Yet I too employ novel uses of the word, for example to speak of the energy that good acidity imparts to the mid palate or minerality imparts to the finish.
Concerning burden of proof, I do not see there is any trial going on here. The stakes are merely acceptance via articulated mechanism to science based skeptics, not any economic or civil consequence. Credible evidence to satisfy that inquiry will be long in coming. Meantime, I have merely been trying to point out that the current absence of positive evidence does not in and of itself constitute negative evidence. Here’s anothr quote from my RG interview:
Randall offers that when an aesthetic is in flux, bullshit and genius naturally coexist.
We discussed the phenomenon of Josko Gravner, a Friuli celebrity winemaker who makes hundred-dollar sulfite-free whites fermented in amphorae buried in the ground, full of aldehyde, VA and browning. Like Jackson Polluck, he has attracted a ravenous following as well as a healthy collection of skeptics. Neither of us is ready to make up our minds about this fellow.
Is Randall a visionary or a charlatan? “In a quantum universe, you can be both. Like the L.A. waiter who says he’s an actor. He’s a total fraud, right? Then later on, he turns out to be Sean Penn.”
The tough part to swallow is not that BD proponents say “I do these things and they work for my farm”, it is that they say that “I do these things and they work because of magic of Biodynamics.” The first can be explained any number of ways including simple confirmation-bias or vintage variation. The second statement involves ignoring the laws of physics and testible scientific fact. I can accept that Randall thinks his vines look healthier (though, having once worked for him, I doubt he has ever personally stirred a “preparation”), there just is no evidence that magic is responsible.
A very prolix way not to answer a question, Clark.
As for this sentence;
“The stakes are merely acceptance via articulated mechanism to science based skeptics, not any economic or civil consequence.”
it only qualifies you for a career in politics, or the public service.
the proponents of BD are making an extraordinary claim,(that BD actually has some effect) thus the burden of proof is theirs.
a) Do you have any?
b) Can any of the BD proponents actually cut to the chase and explain EXACTLY how it is alleged to work, and by what mechanisms?
Aesthetics are a much different issue than Science. With Gravner, the issue is simple – do you like his wine? Would you buy another bottle of it? There’s no assertions about “Spiritual Science” or doing things at different phases of the moon because the tides affect water transportation in the plant, or whether turning cow skulls clockwise vs. counter-clockwise will affect the fertility of the soil or about being “Beyond Organic” – it’s about “my wine is tasty, and it’s not like what you’re getting from everybody else out there.”
My brother-in-law was an actor, and there are lots of actors in Hollywood waiting tables or making films or whatever. The trick is becoming a _paid_ actor. And the next trick is doing that again, and again, and again…
Clark certainly has a strong scientific mind and I agree with his take – UC Davis needs to bend with the overwhelming evidence that there is more to be learned about winemaking than creating laboratory sterile “correctly” made wines
Hans in Pocket – (I like what my spell checker did with your moniker) – I apparently don’t have as many Anthroposophic Press titles on my bookshelf because as in your words “I obviously dont’ know anything about Steiner and neither does anyone else on this comment page” – but you do know that he was a student of Goethe’s (Faust) work and spent years as a caretaker of his scientific papers – particularly studying and explaining his theories about light and color and that he had a great fascination about Egyptian myths because he thought they were a worthy culture that had a great and powerful knowledge that has been lost and would be very helpful today.
What do you say about the some 1000 international Waldorf schools – a movement that has nearly 100 years of traction and is considered a model for the emerging charter schools – especially for its sensitive and holistic approach early school education? Hans let me ask you how did you attain your scholarly knowledge on this subject and how did you form such deep seeded opinions – from blogs and wikipedia articles? – Have you ever attempted BD farming or do you have actual experience with Waldorf schools?
Steiner might have surfed the astral plane but there are multitudes of very grounded people that somehow have been able to find kernels of truth in the countess writings and talks that he gave during his life. Like Stu said – its tough sledding but educators have sifted through the myriad of these teachings to create curriculums that do not involve riding unicorns to the school or playing with the Dragon’s in the shed – but it is nice to have a little magic in the day (woowoo).
When was the last time you saw children that can play for hours and hours without the use or need of a computer, TV or Gameboy, ipod console? It’s because they learn BeoWolf in the original english, are taught how to write in Hieroglyphics, make furniture out of wood with their own hands, draw sketches in museums, study Homer, the old testament, create handmade notebooks, drawings, maps, knit, play the recorder, sing, climb mountains, farm, mold out of clay, read German and French, paint buildings make fences, sweep barns, cook food for fifty, then do the dishes, compost lunch scraps, have weekly forums, sing opera, play in string quartets, perform large scale Shakespearean plays with sets they create, study the Golden Mean, physics, calculate fractals and Mandelbrot sets, sew, hand bind books, use fountain pens with unlined paper, learn slide rulers, play lacrosse, fencing, basketball, soccer, field hockey, American handball, and dance Eurythmy.
It teaches people to notice natural patterns, symbiotic relationships, compassion, self sufficiency, and produces well rounded people. Some 85-90% of Waldorf school graduates go onto higher education – many of them to top tiered universities – and on to becoming CEO’s, lawyers, doctors, educators, scientists, architects, biologists, economists, military officers, government officials, financial captains of industry – people with prominent positions of power and wonderfully reasonable folk. They don’t care if you tell them that Steiner ate lunch with Sweeny Todd every time he was in London, and he thought the Leprechaun’s in the Lemurian period were spoiled brats – they know better than to be distracted by this sort of stuff.
Larry in no way am I saying that you need to drink the Steiner cool-aid to be in touch with the earth – and I am not saying that petroleum products aren’t used – most tractors are still run on diesel, (although horses and bio-diesel are also options) this keyboard is made from decayed dinosaurs – that’s not the point – its about accountability – at the end of the day you still have to sign your own scorecard and only you and your maker knows exactly what it was you did today to lessen the impact from your personal activities.
I began by saying that it is unfortunate that BD has been so publicly associated with the wine industry and one of the reasons is the monocultural aspect of grape growing and its profit driven nature – but there are still in N. CA remnants of those old vine varietals relics left over from Italian immigrants that are dry farmed on hillsides in the midst of walnut trees – head pruned goblet style that don’t require lots of sulfuring because it is pruned to create an airflow – producing low yields of sublime fruit – full of mineral terroir characteristics. I don’t know what type of grapes you farm but that’s the type of stuff I like.
You asked how I obtained information about Biodynamics. I listened to winemakers talk about it. So I wanted to know about it since I have a vineyard and make wine. I read the Agricultural Lectures. These surprised me. Steiner says preposterous things there. Most of the positive postings on Biodynamics would cease should the writers actually read the lectures. (lecture 8- tomatoes make cancer worse, lecture 4 discussion-use cow horns from your own district who have been in the area for three or four years…Biodynamic practitioners usually ignore the actual recommendations in the actual lectures!). I wondered how Steiner could say such outlandish things. So I read his Autobiography, which he died before he finished. In it, he reveals how he lost friends when he told them he communicated with the dead. That he was a tutor for children, went from job to job without distinguishing himself. He never farmed, and was generally ignored. Philosophers he met and revealed his spirit world were not impresses by him or his ideas. There is no good biography on Steiner, although I read Greg Ahern’s book. I then started reading Steiner. It is very difficult to read Steiner, as he is so imprecise, as if he was just making it all up as he went. He claimed to know all there is. Really! The past, the future. Unfortunately, he gets so many things wrong about history, anthropology, geology, his books and lectures are identical to the Agricultural Lectures: a bazaar of crazy thoughts. Finally I wanted to understand how this silly man gained prominence. So I studied how he was found by the Theosophy movement and that was an incredible journey through the history of some of the most outrageous people, I would classify them as con artists. Steiner bought into the beliefs of the Theosophists, who were responsible for the initial interest generating books and talks which introduced eastern religions to general public. The scandals of the Theosophists are legendary, and their self destruction created the opening for this half baked philosopher to gain a foothold in the fertile spiritual climate of the area of Germany. I read in this area for three years, tracing down these outrageous prevaricators. Steiner was the most respectable of the Theosophists, and tried to distance himself and claimed not to know much in order to remain out of it. He did though, tow the party line and held some of their manipulations, or gave lip service to them. I even read Edward Bulwer Lytton’s novels which were the initial spark that produced the bonfire of eastern religion in our culture and elsewhere. Books included collected letters between Steiner and second wife Maria, collections of Steiner’s letters to his buddy General Moltke (WWI German military general-as in millions and millions of dead people and Steiner supports the German war, is disappointed Germany lost, and wishes for Germany to rise again against ugly America. I stopped reading Steiner, there is nothing there, in my opinion, just unlimited dribble which are unusable. Read the Agricultural lectures, read any of his writings and ask yourself: how does Steiner know this and what evidence is there. Be careful to find out who did studies on the effectiveness of Biodynamic farming. There are many commercial interests with much at stake in squeezing out some proof of Steiner’s preparations. Think in terms of the oil industry trying to discredit global warming, or snack food companies trying to show salt and sugar processed foods are fine to eat. Thee are many people living off of this
phenomena, and like the oil and gas industry, they are not going away without a fight.
Hans you picked this fight and your credibility as a Steiner scholar is laughable – you read his autobiography and some of his lectures online and can spout off like your some sort of expert witness on this subject – well your not going to get picked up by the prosecution’s trial team – especially with the off the wall way you unhinged on the Benziger’s – do you know them? Do you feel good smearing their family name? You really do have your hands in your pocket –
Here is the website for the Waldorf Schools of North America – http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/ – call, email them and let the know of all the research you have been doing and how foolish they are and how dangerous a person Steiner was – presumably the WSNA must know nothing about the Theosophists and Mdm Blavatsky and Leadbetter or that this guy was a lunatic – how could they allow teachings based on anything connected with this nonsense especially being taught to small children?
Just the fact that Steiner was blacklisted by Hitler (Mephistopheles himself) is good enough for me that he was onto something – but it is still curious the way you have engulfed yourself in this topic – spent so many hours searching for something – without reaching out to actual practitioners looking for some guidance on this complicated subject – sorry to say but it makes me think that maybe your ancestors answered the call to goosestep in the mother land with one hand in their pockets and the other one doing the seig heil? You are an energy suck – MF is that an appropriate use of the word? Your ill considered ways on this blog have been very fascist, wrong headed and your words tell mountains about you.
Alice Feiring identified the real problem with BD in the wine industry a few years ago – http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=departments_opinionanalysis&content=49697
Demeter Association the certifying body of BD hasn’t protected their trademark to the word “Biodynamics” rigorously enough – especially from its most marketing minded proponents and has allowed the BD group of wineries to decide on standards – marketing uses and claims – label requirements – and has allowed this situation to ferment into this ugly hoax site.
What percentage of your overall wine production needs to be BD so that you don’t confuse the consumer to thinking that your whole label is really farmed or vinified this way? One would think that Demeter would at least insist on complete transparency for the consumer such as requiring information about PPM sulfites added – enzymes, yeasts strains, acidification, etc. instead the “fox is watching over the hen house” –
A similar thing has happened with Joly’s – Charter of Quality for the Return to Terroir tastings – it’s “star rating system” has been diluted over time to allow in producers that have shown little if any of the original production requirements – presumably to prevent it from being a lonely club on one.
Robotic and simplistic statements from $8hr tasting room employees about racking by the moon and speaking about skull and crossbones stuff that they don’t understand isn’t good messaging for BD nor is Sensitive Crystallization from someone that looks forward to one day stirring a preparation.
But what is worst is the gas guzzling claim that BD is the “Rolls Royce of agriculture” and it shouldn’t be tolerated – at the very least in this Prius new world shouldn’t it be the “Tesla”
– http://tinyurl.com/29leuhn – but he was just another crazy scientist that communicated with Martian’s – how could you take any of Tesla’s theories seriously?
Here’s a good video on the subject – http://video-lab.org/?p=305
For some reason the program won’t let me respond directly to you’re 2:54 pm comment, so I’m on the response section to Hans. If you wouldn’t mind a few questions, since you’re a Biodynamics supporter.
Is this debate really just a religious vs science issue – two parallel tracks that can never merge?
Hans and I think alike and we both look at Steiner’s lectures and can only see fantasy. There’s no question, that for me to accept Steiner I would have to reject all the sciences including Astronomy, Botany, Biology, zoology, physiology, human anatomy, plant propagation, plant pathology. I can’t do that and I can’t understand how anyone can both accept Steiner and accept modern science. What can you say to Hans and myself to make us understand how you reconcile Steiner’s fanciful view of the real world and you’re belief in biodynamic.
Also, I believe that if the foundation of Biodynamic is false (Steiner’s lectures) then all things that flow from those lectures must also be false. I don’t understand how anyone can get out of that box, except through faith. Can you help me understand that conundrum?
Interesting website of former Waldorf students against Waldorf schools:
They call themselves “survivors”.
I see you have fallen victim to Godwin’s Law.
We all know what that means for your argument.
So how exacty does BD work?
That link again.
I am not concerned with Biodynamics. I have no position on BD, except to observe that it has not quickly collapsed under its own weight, and has not proven a financial disaster for its practitioners. I am concerned that science is properly used and understood.
I am not sympathetic to BD. I am simply unsympathetic to the Mr.Know-It-All’s who want to co-opt science as some kind of moral high ground while disregarding its precepts.
I have no basis for placing a probability of “likely wrong” on Steiner. We have scant evidence either way. Granted, we have no functional explanations. Big deal. Richard Feinman was fond of pointing out that we have no working explanation of fluid flow in a pipe. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur. In fact we know next to nothing about our own bodies, to say nothing of our profound ignorance of brain function.
We have mud to sling on the man’s persona. That doesn’t make him incorrect. Kepler’s disreputable occult views trumped his exquisite mathematics and as a result held astronomy back fifty years.
None of this is in any way relevant to an estimate of likelihood of the efficacy of Steiner’s instructions. It’s all prejudicial, and would never pass the basic rules of legal evidence.
As for truth, there is no such thing in science. It is science’s nature that any prevailing theory requires revision as inquiry progresses. That’s the nature of scientific revolution and paradigm shift. Nothing is ever classified as truth, only theory tentatively accepted based on current evidence. The rest is the politics of acceptance.
I would further observe that there are many realms fundamentally unreconcilable with science. For example, we know the math that constitutes major and minor chords, but this is no explanation of why a major chord evokes cheerfulness and a minor chord melancholy. That’s fundamentally mysterious, because it resides in the shared software of the human integrative psyche. Somebody formulate for me the perfect hot-and-sour soup. If we ever will get a handle on this sort of thing, it certainly will happen no time soon, and I am inclined to suspect that such explanation is outside the realm of scientific inquiry.
I suspect that wine behaves similarly — that the nonlinear points of harmonious balance we blend to and share with our customers are strongly shared but fundamentally mysterious. If not, I don’t expect any useful blending formulations to come along in my lifetime.
I’ve seen plenty of evidence to satisfy me of the existence of a shared aesthetic is critical to the making of great music, great cuisine and great wine. Rather than to depend on a simplistic aroma wheel level of sensory understanding, I think I’d just as soon sell insurance.
Concerning BD, am I truly the only person in this conversation willing to admit I don’t know anything and am willing to wait for some time-on-the-court to pass before rushing to evaluation?
Maybe ask your buddies Benziger and Grahm to admit that they don’t know if BD works. That would be fair.
Universally among the winemaker and grower clients I have worked with, no one claims to understand how BD works. Even Joly makes fun of the quartz prep by pointing out that Avogadro’s number tells us the dilution has no actual material in it.
I asked Randall such questions for the interview I published in the May Wines and Vines http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=columns_article&content=73698&columns_id=92&ctitle=Grahm%27s%20Prophecies%20Come%20to%20Fruition
His answers cast some light on the nature of the practice and its benefits:
Dancing to Demeter
When I check in with Randall on how the biodynamic experiment is going, I find him enthusiastic about the results he is getting but tenuous as to how it all works. Who can say if the horn silica preparation 501 is stimulating photosynthesis and decreasing water requirement? He is beyond the stage of practicing a clear act of faith, but there is no real controlled experiment, so he is without persuasive evidence. “You really have to take the whole biodynamic practice and observe its effects over a reasonable length of time to get a sense of its efficacy. Vines farmed biodynamically have generally appeared much healthier (apart from the years when they haven’t).”
He does not rule out the possibility that in some circumstances, certified organic practices may be more appropriate. Sometimes it’s hard to get a sense of which practice is the more appropriate, perhaps because of how well balanced the soils are to begin with. “You can’t serve two masters. Terroir is my one unshakable belief. The biodynamic practice for me needs to serve terroir, not the other way around. There are some compaction issues in Soledad which seem to be working against what we are accomplishing with biodynamic practice. Aubert de Villaine feels that for some of his vineyards, organic works better than BD, which is less interventionist. If you begin with things in reasonable balance, you are free to use BD’s lighter hand.
“Biodynamics is really a spiritual journey which focuses on the practitioner himself. To be totally honest, I have not myself been sufficiently involved in our farming practice to consider myself personally transformed, except at a certain intellectual remove. I am hoping to remedy that with the new property. Subordinating my ego to a larger ideal is not something that comes particularly easy to me. If I am not out myself stirring the preps, I will be deeply disappointed in myself.”
Straw man argument, indeed. Science doesn’t actually “do” anything. Science didn’t develop and drop the bomb on Hiroshima – Truman did. Science is just a tool, and you can’t blame the gun for the homicide. In the case of ladybugs, my intent was to point out what the tool FAILED to do, which was to predict holistic consequences. Science itself is not incapable of such predictions, but in its current infant state, its power to do so is very limited, and we need to be cognisant of that weakness.
Similarly, the practices of BD don’t seem properly attacked by a reductionist argument about the efficacy of any particular aspect. The language and apparent actions certainly seem suspect, and any honest practitioner will cop to the fact that they don’t understand it either.
Kosher winemaking practice as laid out in Leviticus enjoins that goyem shall not be permitted to look upon the wine. This sounds pretty ridiculous, but it led to the practice of sealing containers, which is a good thing. What BD may accomplish is not necessarily explained by its rhetoric. If nothing else, it cetainly forces the practitioner to pay WAY more attention to what’s going on in his farm.
To me the only useful evaluation science can employ is of the condition and economic viability of a well established BD wine farm in toto – carbon footprint, market penetration, physical, mental and spiritual health of the family that runs it, etc., in comparison to their conventional neighbors. Meantime the jury needs simply to wait for the case to be presented.
I don’t understand. Are you saying that it doesn’t matter to you that Steiner is likely wrong, even delusiional in what he wrote, but that you intuitively like/agree (are tolerant of) with some aspects of Biodynamics especially because you’ve become suspect of current science?
Wouldn’t you agree that for every valid truth early man discovered, there likely was overwhelming failure due to trail and error? I would also offer that there are no truths that early man discovered that couldn’t eventually be squared with science.
Again, let me ask – isn’t your position on Biodynamics more appropriate to religion than a real world farming paradigm?
Thank you Clark for your excellent post.
Scientifically speaking, we cannot assume the following is foolishness: stuffing weeds inside animal body parts, letting them rot, and then applying them in a homeopathic spray on crops.
Steiner’s preparations, which are the basis of biodynamic farming, are all basically similar to the above.
Strictly speaking, we cannot reject the efficacy of such preparations absolutely. We can ask what is the mechanism by which such preparation might work. I believe science has removed attention from homeopathy since diluting a substance does not increase a substance’s strength. It is possible, but as far as I know, homeopathy is infinitesimally improbable.
The use of animal body parts in homeopathic preparations cannot be rejected as conferring benefits. It is possible. Traditional Chinese Medicine is practiced by millions and continues to deplete the world of tigers, rhino, and other hapless animals.
Science does formulate theories, such as gravity and evolution. We can look at what scientific theories we have available to us and ask whether or not Steiner’s homeopathic preparations fit within such theories.
If the preparations do not operate within our current theories, the we should look to what mechanism might be. What is the mechanism of Steiner’s preparations? If they are homeopathic, then they are invalid. If they involve etheric energy, which is unknown to science, then they are improbable in the extreme. We would need some striking evidence for a claim of this magnitude.
Practically speaking, the preparations resemble in every way the work of a shaman. We know where these preparations came from: Steiner made them up and presented them to a group of farmers who believed that Steiner had special powers that allowed him to know the past and the future. There is nothing unusual about the preparations in the sence that medicine men have offered this type of magic to mankind for thousands of years.
Thank you for reminding us that, technically speaking, such magic may actually work. We stand corrected and humbled.
Waldo’s above post can be summed up in this on sentence.
“The so called scientific community’s absolute knowledge that something doesn’t exist because you can’t see or detect it is just as wrong as any other fanatic. ”
The ol’ “science as a religion” mantra that the proponents of woo are so fond of carting out, despite it being a dead equine with the flesh flayed from it’s stinking carcass.
Science is based on evidence. Religion is not.
How about the reason you cannot see or detect something is that based on the fundamental laws of the universe, it in all likely hood does not exist. Like the Easter bunny. And various other figures from myth and legend.
I understand faith, and I also understand the scientific method. Clearly, Waldo doesn’t so well.
Confirmed in this beauty.
“I would rather put my faith in the all-knowing natural process of the earth than the scientific community at Cargill, DowAgro and Scott Labs. The hubris of these companies to produce such risky products and to sell them as harmless will surely bear itself out with time.”
Here we have the naturalistic fallacy;
and big Chem/pharma conspiracy theory.
Waldo, here is an example of the level of logic employed by the BD crowd.
“I have a dragon in my shed that makes my crops better with magic.”
Can I see it?
“No, its invisible”
Can I feel it?
“No, it isn’t here right now”
If I throw flour on the floor, will it leave foot prints?
“No, it floats”
So it makes you crops better how?
“With it’s dragon magic”
Where is the evidence?
“I have a dragon in my garden shed”
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” – Carl Sagan.
-you have completely (conveniently?)
ignored the quote you included:
“The hubris of these companies to produce such risky products
and to sell them as harmless will surely bear itself out with time.”
Correct, rob, but it is absence of evidence.
Sagan would be the first to consign BD to its own heap of bovine ordure, were he still with us.
I didn’t ignore the passage you refer to.
you may observe this line of text in my previous post;
“..and big Chem/pharma conspiracy theory.”
While my sentiments are with you in that the origins of BD are pretty shady, and as fond as I am of Stu personally, I am disappointed in the smug, self-assured tone of this blog. As someone who knows a little about science, let me play Devil’s advocate and challenge some statements here, not so much to support Steiner but more to strengthen true science by pointing out what it is not.
Your arguments are largely circular: BD seems absurd, and therefore why investigate? Our inability to imagine the mechanisms of biodynamics does not by itself constitute proof of its invalidity, and neither does a smear campaign regarding its founder.
Say it’s the 18th century, you’re Isaac Newton, and I tell you I’ve got a box that can pull invisible waves out of the air and show us pictures and voices from people in other parts of the world and from other times. Yeah, right. Say you can discredit my credentials: does that make the claim less accurate, or just less credible?
It is this very complacency which has by its nature created alternatives to scientific progress such as the BD movement, out of shear frustration with its limitations and its lack of imagination.
The only thing I can see that really distinguishes the process which established BD from science is that the latter has a well organized system of verifiable inquiry. But this is not as cut-and-dried a recommendation as one might suppose. As practiced in the last 100 years, this inquiry is based on arbitrary and often inapplicable statistical assumptions. It also is better suited to elucidating simple, linear, analytical phenomena than evaluating whole systems, particularly human responses to intricate stimuli such as a glass of wine.
Science’s focus on isolated problems rather than systems thinking has led to a lot of problems. A pill for this, a pill for that, with no notion of the impact for this particular person’s body as a whole. The USDA importation of Asian ladybugs has been a disaster for the wine industry from Ohio to Niagara. Need I go on?
Yet science is not fundamentally reductionist; all areas of inquiry are, in theory, fair game, even astrology, voodoo and biodynamics. In winemaking, UCDavis would do well to abandon its outdated solution chemistry paradigm and to give at least tentative credibility to phenomena such as minerality, aromatic integration and profundity.
Overconfidence in science as a repository of truth, despite its inability to tackle currently vexing problems like balancing a sustainable ecosystem or turning a $30 Pinot into a $50 Pinot, has driven some very smart people such as Randall Grahm and the Benzigers to try another way. Just as Western medicine has a theory of disease but not one of wellness, scientific winemaking has stumbled badly by trying to dissect wine. It’s great for fixing defects, but has no advice for increasing wines soulfulness, harmony or even longevity.
Having solved the easy problems, our current scientific practice is no longer the engine of progress in these areas – it is the caboose. It will fall to scientists in the future to evaluate the efficacy of BD systems wrought by true believers rather than to second guess now in an area where our methods have no predictive traction.
1. Science didn’t bring the Asian ladybug to America, bureaucrats did. Talk about a straw-man argument.
2. In order for science to be properly motivated to investigate something the claims should be somewhat reasonable and testable. How do we test if the location of Venus makes Wednesday a “Root Day”?
3. What, exactly, would be the curriculum for a “wine profundity” class?
Clearly Biodynamics has had an open playing field with no opposition or alternative view for some time. This blog is finally bringing the biodynamic crowd to task for years of unsubstantiated claims. I’m sorry you find this forum smug, that was not my intention, nor do I agree with your supposition. It is my intention to provide a platform for a serious discussion about the efficacy of Biodynamics and have a little fun with Steiner and his beliefs at the same time.
I have used Steiner’s own words to expose him for the fraud that I believe him to be. I also agree with the words that others have suggested to describe Steiner such as “delusional,” “lunatic,” and/or “swindler.” What words would you use to describe him? Have I mis-quoted Steiner? Have I have taken his words out of context?
Clark, have you read Steiner and do you believe what he says and if so, why? How do you square what Steiner says in his lectures with what we know of the real world? Your comment seems to imply that we should take Steiner on “faith” that he might be right because it is an alternative view which we should be tolerant of even if Steiner is nuts? Isn’t that what religion is all about?
The directions my arguments are taking are quite simple:
1) Is what Steiner says in his lectures believable?
2) Does Steiner present evidence, history or research to support his claims?
3) How does Steiner arrive at the basic theories for Biodynamics?
4) If Steiner is not believable, then Biodynamics is based on falsehoods and is thus false and should be abandoned.
5) Challenge every unsupportive calm made by Biodynamic supporters.
6) Use facts and truth to embarrass Biodynamic farming into oblivion or have the supporters of Anthroposophy,Steiner and Biodynamics admit that it is a religion so we can all move onto to something else.
I hate like hell to defend the devil, but Jeez, Stu, calm down.
I love ya, guy, but your logical daisy chain is fallacious. Steiner’s believability has nothing to do with his veracity. It’s embarrassing that you think otherwise.
All you say about Steiner may well be right. All I know is the Waldorf School persists, many love it, and I am quite fond of some of the children who are products of the system.
I support your view that BD is a religion, a faith-based system which does not attempt to explain how it works. Gee, sounds like trickle-down Reagonomics. But didn’t you have a dream when you founded your vineyard and took insane directions against other peoples’ better judgment which turned out to work out okay for you?
Like it or not, believability is unrelated to falsehood. Throughout history, lots of incredibly weird stuff has turned out to be true. Luis Alvarez’s hypothesis of an extraterrestrial event – an asteroid impact which wiped out the dinosaurs – languished in disrepute for decades until it suddenly became mainstream accepted science five years ago.
Conversely, lots of plausible stuff has proven to be crap. Newton’s beautiful F=ma, after toppling the Catholic Church’s cosmology by virtue of its elegantly simple arithmetical solution of planetary orbits, has proven in the end to be an uninteresting special case of a relativistical theory so complex and weird as to be utterly without seductive power. More to the point, the dominance of Newtonian thinking, which persists to this day (including in our dialog), seeks to abandon, in the bargain, morality as irrelevant. Oops.
It simply is not necessary for any winegrowing system to pass your credibility sniff test in order for it to be useful and valid. I say this without reference to the details of the merits. I agree that BD smells weird, but that’s no test. The limits of ones imagination as a ruler of credibility won’t do – that’s really just intellectual bigotry.
I recommend you have a beer with a lawyer buddy. Imagine yourself in a court of law. You want to place the burden of proof on Steiner, but the burden to discredit really is on you. You cannot meet this burden through a smear campaign on Steiner’s credibility. Neither will a failure to comprehend BD’s mechanisms suffice. You are going to have to show that this practice produces a real harm, such as poorer wines, ecological damage, economic inviability, or vineyard deterioration.
Stu, I am not your enemy. I don’t support BD, although I am also a great friend to the Benzigers and to Randall Grahm, and I feel their courageous commitments to this experiment deserve honor. I also expect these men have the common sense to abandon the practice when and if it crashes and burns. If in the meantime they prosper and presence an interesting discussion, God bless them.
There is every likelihood that these poor souls are misguided. Whether or no, they have got a puff of political wind in their sails which is propelling them to explore new lands, the poor wretches. We should wish them the best on their voyage of exploration, and not begrudge them the possible marketing advantages their intriguing journey may impart, given its dangers, for we will all benefit from the lessons they win at their own cost.
Meantime, chill out, Sir Dude. You have been an explorer in the past, and you ought to honor this next generation of lunatics.
Waldo, you do not know much about Steiner. In fact, I see little evidence that contributors know much of anything about Steiner. Steiner did not spend a lifetime studying ancient traditions in order to assemble biodynamics. That is a major misunderstanding of the man.
Steiner gave hundreds of lectures. On every subject imaginable. And if you read them you will realize he could go on and on saying absolutely crazy things. That is important to know if you just read the agricultural lectures by themselves. Those were just one set of ideas he pulled right out of the air.
One lecture he went on about Jesus. You see, Steiner decided there were actually two people named Jesus, however one was the reincarnation of Zoraster. He went on and on about that.
Another lecture Steiner would talk about Atlantis. If you believe Atlantis existed, then don’t bother looking for it on Google Earth, because there is no evidence for it on the ocean floor maps.
A lecture about Lemuria. ( it was believed to be near Asia but has since sunk out of most imagination.
Lecture about the future where around 5733 or so humans will have evolved tentacles and float thru the air. Steiner did not understand geologic time, nor that humans have existed for 90,000 to possibly 200,000 years in our present form approximately.
He lectured about races of people on other planets in our solar system.
He lectured about what color to paint your kitchen.
He went on and on on every possible subject, most of which resembles Nostradamas more than a man who knew anything about his subject matter.
He loved Ritters Remedies. I have a copy and it is full of cures such as: rub turpentine on your chest to cure illness.
To take Steiner’s biodynamic ideas as separate from his other simply outrageous statements seems to be ignoring the enormity of his errors. That is not to say that everything he lectured about was mistaken, because he lectured so mush, hundreds and hundreds of lectures, sometimes he is reasonable. But often he is constantly using vague, undefined phrases, which could mean just about anything or nothing.
Where did he get his insights in order to provide such valuable information? He says that he simply entered the spirit world and the truth was revealed to him. Never an experiment, never at a loss if you wanted him to tell you what to name your child, or how the element mercury got on planet earth (a collision with the planet mercury, which by the way, contains hardly any mercury, Steiner just did not know this.
Basically, he was believed to be an expert on everything because he had access to the spirit world. Remember, during his period of history, the was great interest in seances, contacting the dead, and spirit rapping (the spirit raps on the table during the seance).
I think an understanding of Steiner’s personal history, the surprising manner in which he obtained prominence, the adoration of his followers, his and their deeply held belief that Steiner could see the entire past (he thought Darwin wrong) and our entire future. The audacity of his claims to know everything there is to be known is what makes his statements which undermine the basis of this quasi religion of biodynamics.
I think its great you are presenting this challenge Stu. As a food crop horticulturist and academic, I’ve been pondering the phenomenon of biodynamics, and the larger issue of science and faith, for a long time. Science is a tool for challenging our beliefs. If administered properly, it can provide insights that can boost, or diminish our confidence in what we believe. I find it naive and cowardly that anyone would be unwilling to challenge their beliefs. And I haven’t found a better tool yet than science for revealing the truth about our beliefs.
Biodynamics is a symptom of a larger problem in western culture of people being willing to believe just about anything without giving it proper scrutiny. This phenomena I like to call “Disneyfication”. Disney leads the way in “indoctrinating” us in falsehood, from the earliest stages of childhood. It attacks the roots of our understanding of the nature of the biosphere, which many people fail to interact with in any meaningful way. From childhood to adulthood, Disney, in the pursuit of shareholder satisfaction, will sell anything, and many of us will absorb it like truth. So its no surprise that the Disney-like practice of biodynamics has captured the imagination (no minds available) of western culture.
I like what Waldo said.
Purity in our food is a must!
I feel every producer should fully disclose what they are putting into their food products. They have every right to discuss what they are doing but full disclosure is a must. How can a true follower of Biodynamics do anything less?
Stu, this blog is frightful to me not because it is questioning the scientific base of what biodynamic farming is, not because it is exposing large disingenuous wineries that are charlatan’s of the industry (20 plus years as conventional then all of a sudden are “beyond organic” – Bonny Doon – Benziger), not because it is showing that Rudolf Steiner was beyond the pale with an overextended imagination, or because it dares to quash the latest tastemaker trend … it saddens me because it is downright mean spirited and hurtful to people that have gained great insight into the human condition from places like the Waldorf school or performing Eurythmy – it is throwing the baby out with the bath water.
It is unfortunate that Biodynamics has become so publicly associated with the wine industry – a business fraught with fraud, pettiness, huge egos, misrepresentation, perverted market ups and profit margins on par with the drug trade. This is a recent phenomenon mostly brought on by marketing types that saw an untapped gold mine of rich mythology to exploit.
Most practitioners of BD do not flaunt the fact that it is superior in its methods to other types of agriculture. For the most part the people that have been at it for any stretch of time have been humbly and quietly doing this work because they know in their hearts and minds that the petrochemical solutions to farming are not sustainable and harmful to the earth and ultimately to people.
Rudolf Steiner is probably rolling in his grave to see how his teachings have been misappropriated in ways he never imagined. He was approached to come up with a way to help ranchers and farmers who had been hooked into using the munition chemicals left over from WW1 – and the newly emerging science based farming methods of NPK – Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium – the three primary nutrients in any fertilizer. In a generation, these peasant farmers of Europe saw yields that were unbelievable – Brobdingnag proportioned fruits and vegetables. But with it came the downside of compromised immune systems of plant life that had evolved so quickly and unnaturally that they had no way to deal with the new pests and diseases that also fed on this bounty.
Steiner (while not a farmer himself and probably not a drinker) gave his BD series of lectures after a lifetime of studying ancient traditions and understanding how small inputs can have large influences. His ultimate goal was to teach these farmers and ranchers ways to reintroduce healing properties into their soils so that they could attain the balance which had been robbed by these unnatural inputs. Composting, cover cropping, soil conservation, were the keystones of these talks. The best one could strive for was a farming system that was akin to the forests that surrounded the fields – the forests didn’t need human intervention to achieve perfection – the plants figured it out for themselves. The forest floor was biologically rich in all of the minerals it needed to self regulate its life.
At its core Steiner was trying to get farmers to produce a patchwork quilt of fields that would in effect create a network of healthy soils and spread over acres together – outside inputs would become unnecessary – as this system eventually would co-opt and triumph over the chemically polluted areas.
He didn’t stand forth with tablets set in stone like Moses fresh from the mountain top. He encouraged the farmers to experiment with these theories and to systematically test the results. BD is not as dogmatic and rigid as the skeptics here portray – preparation recipes for 501-507 are merely guidelines and it is a evolving practice that has its variants of practitioners much like the Catholic church has in it’s flock.
While this may seem a Utopian acid trip induced fantasy – it was accepted and implemented by these attendee’s because they knew that something had to be done to correct the Pandora’s Box of synthesized products that had sickened their fields and threatened their very existence. One could say this was the birth of the back to nature movement.
I think the biggest elephant in the chat room is the question of mysticism and its place in our matter of fact culture. I find it disingenuous for people to call into doubt someone’s beliefs because the science doesn’t bear it out. The so called scientific community’s absolute knowledge that something doesn’t exist because you can’t see or detect it is just as wrong as any other fanatic.
How can you look up into the night sky and not think that there is a whole world of unknowns out there. Other life forms, planets, solar systems, discoveries that are truly mind blowing. I believe our addiction to petrochemicals, plastics, and all of the unnatural additives we consume are just beginning to reveal its true risks.
Our reverence for food has been lost – the importance of recognizing that what we consume has implications beyond merely the physical realm. There was a time when the hunt was celebrated, the flesh of the animal considered a sacrament, an offering – yes this is spiritual stuff – but all cultures thirst for this. We have lost the communal table where eating in groups was time honored and regulating the intake of our food and drink. The days when your grandmother would cook all day producing clean, pure food unadulterated by additives is a memory.
We have developed into a culture continuously eating alone in cars and have produced a sick society. We are directly effected by poisonous products and the long term implications are staggeringly important. We are seeing it now in America with the cumulative impact of GMO corn and it’s McDonald’s based homogenous Frankenfoods – the obesity epidemic is churning out Type II diabetes patients hourly, autoimmune disorders, ADD, oncology, coronary disease, its a long list. These foodlike products neither nourish nor taste good and it is inimical to the natural process of furthering the human species.
I would rather put my faith in the all-knowing natural process of the earth than the scientific community at Cargill, DowAgro and Scott Labs. The hubris of these companies to produce such risky products and to sell them as harmless will surely bear itself out with time.
Is BD belief based? Yes. Is it perfect? No, but it does challenge the paradigm that chemical company’s have created which is equally based in belief – that all problems have science based solutions. This type of equation doesn’t put into play all the interconnectivity of all the factors and creates greater risks than the problems solved.
Take for example the massive catastrophe created by BP playing out right now in the Gulf of Mexico. The greatest minds on the earth are trying to figure out a way to plug this geyser from turning it into the Dead Sea. We as a people have developed a great faith our technological abilities to solve problems, and that faith have proved incorrect in this scenario.
Stu your anger and frustrations pertaining to BD are better directed at these unethical business practices and dubious marketing schemes by your competitors. Obviously this esoteric theory threatens you to create this forum for such nasty comments. You come off as a bully and insecure in your own beliefs. Tilling rows in a Hazmat suit, spraying petrochemically laden products – pesticides, mildewcides, fungicides, adding sulfuric acids to the must and running out of the cellar to prevent from getting dosed, can you honestly say that these practices are safe?
Sorry friend. All BD and organic growers on the west coast use plenty of petrochemicals. The two most important NOP “allowed” synthetic fungicides for Powdery Mildew control are sulfur and petroleum oil (mineral oil). Both are by-products of crude oil refining. All BD and organic growers use these products many times during the growing season or they would lose their crop to Powdery Mildew. End of story.
In rainy climates like the eastern US, Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Northern Italy, New Zealand, where Downy Mildew is a serious problem….All BD and organic growers use copper fungicides for Downy control. Every one. Copper, as a metal is a soil toxin that never breakdown but accumulates, building up to 200, 300, 400, 2,000 mg/kg in the top 10 cm of soil. It damages the soil microflora and drives out earthworms.
Stu is not mean, he is truthful. so far these folks have been given a free ride to spin their marketing stories. Many of us are just sick and tired of BD and organic growers pretending that they don’t use synthetic, petroleum-based fungicides. They do. They all do.
The typical citizen doesn’t have time to figure all this out, so Stu and others are doing this service for them.
If you think only BD growers has a reverence for the earth, shame on you. I have farmed grapes for 30 years and am a soil microbiologist. Because I am not BD, I have lost my connection to the earth and food?
sorry, not all bd farmers use oil or copper, I know no local bd growers who do use them.
So, you think Stu is right (at least partly so) but he hurt your feelings?
You need to grow a pair!
Please define what your growing practices are in regards to viticulture.
Tony: I will be happy to respond with a great deal of specifics in a future post but I’m traveling right now. Thanks for the comment. More later.
Enzo Nastasi, renowned biodynamic writer, was said to tell a biodynamic farmer that the crops in one particular field didn’t grow particularly well because of the trolls. And he wasn’t joking. The farmer too, believed him. Elemental beings are a huge influence in anthroposophical farming.
Biodynamics does not work – that is if you are referring to the efficacy of the preparations used, because of a lack of proof. Tests are unimpressive.
Biodynamic farmers are so emotionally vested in the veracity of Biodynamics. It has religious belief rather than rational thinking system based on the word of one man. It was invented by one man in 1924. How infinite and wise Steiner must have been. I have never become personally acquainted with anybody like that. In fact, i thought this sort of blind obedience to a man no longer satisfies the minds in 2010. Authority is no longer taken for truth. There is no rational basis for Steiner and his ” preparations”. These preparations are ignorant and unthinking superstitions. It is a thousand times more likely that Steiner was mistaken or self deluded by the rapture his audiences held for him, and that he was satisfying their demands. He did this often. The week he made the agricultural lectures he was conversing with the dead and the written record of this communication with the dead that week is documented. What is more likely? Those entrepreneurs are selling biodynamics and making money off of it. Other entrepreneurs are using it to sell their wine by claiming to be special. For others it is vanity, a short cut to claiming superiority for themselves.
To properly test biodynamics, a third party should prepare the preparations and have some farms use fake preparations, keeping secret which farms got the real ones.
Thanks for the comment and very well said. I’m getting savaged for being mean spirited on Wineberserkers.com, yet not one of Biodynamic defenders will respond to my direct quotes from Steiner. By attacking me they avoid the real issue.
As a winegrower for 16 years I know what my vines respond to intuitively. Using compost and promoting microbial activity in soil is never a bad idea, and using compost to that end will have an effect on vigor and fertility.
I do believe after reading a few of Steiner’s lectures that he was a charlatan and a whack-job.
Let’s just assume, for a minute, though, that BD is 100% effective for what it was designed to do: promote ripeness in a cold, Northern European climate. Even if this was true, it’s completely antithetical to what we, as New World viticulturists are trying to accomplish–to DELAY ripening and increase hangtime. So even if BD is spot on (and the Easter Bunny is real), it doesn’t seem to have any use in the New World.
I see BD and Mormonism in the same light: batshit philosophies, invented by con men, but philosphies never the less that can rarely (and perhaps spuriously) lead to balanced, friendly families and balanced, delicious wines. But I expect without BD and Mormonism the families and vineyards in question would be just as nice and just as delicious.
I suppose you could be right, but not likely -it reminds me of one definition of infinity – when monkeys sitting at typewriters create all the works of Shakespeare.
Composting is good for the topsoil, yet it is not an exclusive tool of Biodynamic farming. However, I doubt that you can compost your entire vineyard from a source contained within your property, as Biodynamics suggests should happen within a “closed” system. Also, in my experience composting is very short term and unless it is repeated regularly the effects disappear wihtin a very few short years.
No Stu, you are not asking for validation of superiority by bd farmers, you are calling the system a hoax. A lie, basically a complete fallacy. Yet it works. It works here and at hundreds of other farms around the world. I, nor any bd farmer I know has claimed superiority over organic. Now I would dismiss claims of sustainable as green washing. When the list of best practices seems to leave almost nothing out, and company’s such as Monsanto brand themselves as “leaders in sustainable agriculture” the real statement is that sustainable is a hoax.
I guess you haven’t seen Mike Benziger extolling the virtures of Biodyanmic farming as “the Rolls Royce” of organic farming and Philippe Armenier (a biodynamic consultant) claiming that only biodynamic soils are “alive” and that Biodynamic vines are healthier and thus can fend off disease and bugs in a way that non-biodynamic vines can’t and that he also claims that the wines made from Biodynamically grown grapes have a purer expression of place and thus are better.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the biodynamic crowed is claiming superiority.
No Perplexed, the reason “it works” is because good BD growers practice good viticulture and protect their vines from disease by using the necessary synthetic fungicides. Like sulfur, petroleum oil and copper (in rainy climates). All synthetics my friend. Sulfur isn’t mined, it is a by-product of crude oil refining and is very much chemically-processed.
The extra practices (composts and teas) do not make “it work”. Good viticulture and fungicides make it work.
While i’ll admit good viticulture is paramount, I have yet to meet a local bd farmer who uses oil or copper, and that’s in the northwest. Extended periods between sulfur applications yet no mildew, things none of us would have tried without bd practices. And sure sulfur may be processed, but the toxicity level, reentry period, protective clothing, and price are far lower than the alternatives. What are you proposing that is a less toxic alternative? Let’s hear your spray program
Perplexed. Please take a look at the Oregon Live “allowed” Pesticide List you can access from this page:
On it you will see a coherent comparison of some features of different fungicide options other than sulfur for Powdery Mildew.
As for Re-entry: sulfur is 24 hours, as opposed to 12 hours for numerous alternatives, eg–quinoxyfen, or even 4 hours for paraffinic (petroleum) oil. As for Personal Protection Equipment as per label requirements:
sulfur use requires shoes, socks, long pants, chemcial resistant gloves and eye protection. Quinoxyfen, the same except no eye protection. That is because sulfur is a serious membrane irritant and would do damage to one’s eyes if splashed in them. Other materials, not the case.
As for not knowing any BD grower who uses copper, that is because Downy Mildew isn’t endemic to the West Coast and copper would be unnecessary.
In rainy Europe, the eastern US and New Zealand, copper is the only fungicide available to BD and organic growers, despite very “soft” alternatives being available.
If you travel a little more or study the viticulture of the world you will findout what I say is true.
This represents the fungicide usage pattern for virtually all organic and BD growers in rainy climates in Europe, the US and New Zealand.
Direct from the Domaine Huet website.
“After 10 years of experience, I find the results achieved to be extremely encouraging. Having applied the method described (Biodynamics) above to our vines, we find that they are in perfect health, they do not suffer from mildew, nor oidium, nor mites or vine pests and this without using any chemicals.”
“The only products we use to protect the vines are the Bordeaux mixture (made by adding slaked lime to a copper sulfate Soilution), sulphur powder, and plant-based preparations such as horsetail, nettle and yarrow.”
On one page their vines are perfectly healthy with no disease using no fungicides. On another page they claim they use “only” copper and sulfur for disease protection. Well, what else does one need?
As you can see, very famous European BD producers acknowledge the use of copper and sulfur. Even Joly admits it on his website for Coulee de Serrant. You have to search for it , but it is there—copper and sulfur.
here is the link i forgot. D’oh!
Good for you Stuart. BD has all the efficacy of sacrificing virgins to the gods of the field. How would that go as a marketing ploy, do you think?
The burden of proof lies(no pun intended)well and truly with the BD camp. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Thus far, they have failed to produce anything remotely resembling actual scientific evidence.
Here is another excellent take-down of the whole silliness.
Any winemker who espoused this medieval primitivism should consider handing back their science degree (should they have one).
Great link and right on the mark.
I think what you are doing is based on good questions and a pretty sound instinct. There are those who talk something up when and because there is little authentic knowledge behind their hyperbole. Everyone knows someone like this and BD wine experts do not seem to be exempt.
I have been accumulating results of using the BD preparations and other BD practices for some years, partially to bring standard scientific peer scrutiny to the practice and partially to enable a fuller picture of the preparations to emerge so that there is a chance of being successful with their use. (See, for instance, http://www.considera.org/501 ) All the information is cited to its source. There is a mixture of anecdote and formal trials. Some evidence is more convincing, whilst other stuff does not add significant weight to the debate.
However, I do think that there is some stuff that is genuinely noteworthy. Perhaps the most recent is not from the BD stable and for that reason is less tainted by suggestions of faith in Rudolf Steiner’s every utterance. This is the result of tests by the Entomological Research Institute of Faisalabad, who work with the Cotton Research Institute and a few Government bodies to evaluate new candidates for registration as effective and approved ‘pesticides’. In 2008 and 2009 this ‘candidate’ was tested against the usual neonicotinoid and a water control for dealing with mealy bug. The control set the bench mark against which the other two preparations were tested for mortality of adult and nymph mealy bugs. Both gave relative mortality ratings within 72 hours of around 99%. I have the exact figures if you are interested. The candidate that kept up with the neonicotinoid was homeopathic, way way beyond the Avagadro threshold (200C – 500C).
As I said, the candidate – now called ‘Ventage’ in Pakistan – is not a BD prep but if it is robust research (the evaluating institutions are well regarded) then it seems to be an instance of disinterested testimony upon a subject which is not considered susceptible to the placebo effect. There are several such studies. You can read the extensive literature via the ‘Resources’ tab and considera.org showing both ‘in vitro’ and field studies. You can also find out about the thousands of hectares of pip and stone fruit in New Zealand – some BD, some organic, but much that is neither – which uses potentised BD preps to keep frosts off the flowering trees, or to stop fruit from splitting in the maturation phase etc etc. Perhaps this is some of the evidence for which you have been asking
Bringing this research back to BD it suggests that the extreme dilution of the preparations might not be so mad after all, and that anyone who suggested this in 1924 might not necessarily be behind the scientific curve but, at least conceivably, ahead of it.
One could leave it there and see if the research stands up to scrutiny and the tests of time and the market place. One could say that the boot is now on the other foot and the burden of proof is no longer on the shoulders of those who use such potentisation – homeopaths and biodynamic practitioners. However, that would daft because, having gathered this information, only the brain-dead would not have their own questions.
OK – so then there’s a whole heap of questions that would follow, such as: ‘How the hell does this function then?’ I have spent years worrying at this one and I have to admit that if BD is right then our modern science will have re-evaluate some of its assumptions. The primary assumption that would need to be dug up and checked over would be that life is a special case of matter. I think that our culture assumes that life will ultimately be explained by physics. Physics is the basic discipline of our culture. This has rescued us from the superstitious and intellectually slovenly.
If that assumption is indeed the one underpinning our current orthodoxy, and if the research mentioned above is robust and does challenge the orthodoxy, is there a likely alternative that doesn’t rely on faith? (Richard Dawkins, a clear thinker and seemingly sincere seeker after truth, said that if homeopathy is a genuine discipline then he would need to discover the new law of physics that it has uncovered.) I think there is – possibly. I think we can take our rational mind into these areas.
One of the routes I am taking is, oddly enough, geometry in the slipstream of George Adams and Nick Thomas. Adams invited us to consider 3D space in a way that seems to have been left relatively unexplored. He points out that we have followed Euclid and co into thinking of space as made up of points (atoms etc) but 3D space can equally be considered in terms of planes. (Stick with me here – it may be worth it.) So a straight line is the shortest distance between two points (don’t throw in great circles and relativity here – it is not helpful yet). But clearly it is also the intersection of two planes – ie the floor and the wall. Three points define a plane and three planes define a point (wall, wall and floor for example.) This interchanging of points and planes was known as a geometricians oddity for centuries, and called the principle of duality. ie that every form in 3D space, the one hard wired into our semi-circular canals, can be understood as well from the point of view of planes as from the point of view of points. So what? Our culture has followed the former – centres of gravity, electrical and magnetic poles etc. However, it would be just as legitimate to consider planes as the ultimate building block. (Actually it seems to work best if both are considered. For instance, Nick Thomas’ work uses this perspective to offer good mathematically generated explanations for some of the enigmas of quantum physics such as the single photon experiments. But back to the agriculture …)
The contention I (and Adams – see his 1961 address to the British Homeopathic Society) am working on is that the process of potentisation can be understood from this planar perspective. Just create a vortex in water (stir some a clear sided jug) and drop in some ink to reveal how the body of the water is moving and you will see the planes there. Furthermore, I would follow Adams with his postulate that the forces from the periphery inwards, the planar forces that work in ‘counterspace’, are active in living tissues. Their activity distinguishes the living from that which is just matter. Our culture is superb at the point-wise understanding which is appropriate to dead stuff, but the lack of a robust and genuine approach to life and all its manifestations is symptomatic of only considering one side of space. Our culture is great at mechanisms but crap at organisms and this is part of the reason. Seen in this light is no accident that the ecological decline goes hand in hand with our technological mastery, but you are a farmer and you know the issues that arise if we treat our land just a like a test tube or a machine.
This is not very satisfying in this inadequate late-night spiel but I think that if you look into this, many questions that I suspect will arise in the modern mind are addressed.
If this long string of ‘ifs’ is a valid trail then BD finds some intellectual legitimacy. The practice is another thing. My experience is that it is no guarantee of success. Just because you can imagine space inside out, or if you can suspend disbelief long enough to spread insignificant amounts of horn manure around your fields doesn’t make you a good grower. But I think it behoves you, Stu, is disprove BD scientifically or chill a bit. It’s not consistent to unscientifically dismiss something as not being scientific. Sure there’s ‘believers’, there’s those trying to get a market premium, and all sorts of sharks out there. This does not need a well-funded research team to demonstrate to anyone. But I’m leaving the door open to the possibility that RS was on to something, and if he was it’s very important cutting-edge science too. I’m still up for investigating whether Steiner was adding some really important tools to those already in the bag of a conscientious farmer.
For that reason I applaud your blog if only because I hear you calling for less noisy and pious BS and more robust thinking and trials.
Hmm – sorry it got so long.
“If you believe in science you cannot believe in Biodynamics, and the corollary is just as true, if you believe in Biodynamics you cannot believe in science.”
Alternatively, you might believe that science is mostly right but often either wrong or incomplete; and that biodynamics is likewise. Black/white … is always a dangerous, and lazy, argument.
Science is always incomplete, because science is never satisfied with present knowledge, and thus, is always a skeptic and always testing. Compare that to Biodynamics which is both rigid and satisfied that Steiner provided “all” the answers.
I don’t get it. We’ve been growing grapes bd for 6 years, yeah there’s some hokeyness to it, but my farming costs have dropped 43% with no loss in yields. We’ve never advertised being bd, never marketed it, just do it for our personal choices. Sure I’ve see bd vineyards with mildew, but I’ve also seen plenty of conventional vineyards loaded with mildew. I don’t attack other farmers for their beliefs, as I don’t attack other religions for theirs. Seems to me a bit of fundamentalism on both sides with very little open-minded acceptance. Yeah we can find fault with a lot of Steiner’s directions, but I’ve also been doing this long enough to see “soft” chemicals pulled from the market every few years. Doesn’t seem to be much difference, either way you are accepting someone else’s opinion on how to do it (at least with bd it isn’t the chemical company’s opinion). And yes, I would rather live in a world with a little magic than one without any magic.
I’m just asking that the Biodynamic folks validate their claim of superiority. Is that too much to ask?
You farming costs have dropped 43%? Let’s see, you still have to hire labor for pruning, brush pulling, tying, leaf pulling, catch wire raising, picking, etc., still have to fuel and maintain your tractor(s), still have to protect your vines from Mildew using fungicides, still have to control weeds, still have to do all the things you did before, and you are spending time and money making homeopathic composts and applying them……..so delineate for us the area of operation(s) where the 43% savings is coming from, please.
Cut out leaf pulling, applying 30% less water (that’s alot less electricity), one micronized sulpher spray, no weed sprays, no pesticides, one mower pass, no chemical suits, delays due to re-entry, less tractor passes, or chemical disposal. Added up, but trying to have a discussion with this crowd is as fun as talking with any fundamentalist. I’ll continue to farm as I see fit, and I hope you do also. Sure isn’t any fun in here.
Great post on a very polarising subject. I will be reading along to see how this all plays out.
Let me get this straight, your position is that your boy, Rudolf Steiner, the man who invented Anthroposophy and lectured to his supporters that the origin of our planet includes the following quote: “The Atlanteans had a much more mobile body, and especially in their early times, a very powerful will. They were able, for instance, to replace a lost limb; they could make plants grow, and so on. Thus they exercised a powerful influence over nature. Their sense-organs were more strongly developed: they could distinguish different metals by touch, just as we can distinguish smells. … They constructed airships which were not propelled by inorganic forces, such as coal, but by the use of organic, germinating power of plants” (Steiner’s August 31, 1906 lecture) should only be considered “unconventional, eccentric, and unproven” – you’ve got to be joking?
Some of my most hallucinating, acid-dropping stoned out-of-their-minds friends from the 60’s couldn’t come even close to this level of imagination.
You seem to be missing the point. No matter how outlandish Steiner’s ideas were, there are four basic possibilities (although the truth could lie somewhere in between):
1. Steiner was a fraud (which means he knowingly lied to his audience)
2. Steiner was mentally ill and delusional, which is why his ideas were so outlandish.
3. Steiner was sane, but had an over-active imagination and became convinced that his imaginations were real.
4. Steiner was right.
(If you think this list is incomplete, feel free to ammend it.)
Now, you have proposed #1, that Steiner knowingly lied to his audience. I challenge you to present any evidence for this claim.
Based on my study of the subject, I would say there is precious little evidence for either #1 or #2 (no pun intended). If Steiner were mentally ill, for instance, there would presumably have been some evidence in his behaviour.
So, although, as I said at the beginning, the truth might lie somewhere in between, I think that on the whole #3 and #4 are the only viable explanations. Since I gather you’re not about to consider #4 seriously, that leaves you with #3, that Steiner Steiner was sane, but had an over-active imagination and became convinced that his imaginations were real.
Unless you can come up with more evidence for #1, perhaps “Biodynamics is Delusional” would be a better name for the blog. 😉
PS: As for the quote you provided about the Atlanteans, you say that it demonstrates imagination. I agree. I also think that it is unconventional, eccentric, and unproven. I do not see any reason to label it “fraudulent.” Do you?
(I meant to delete the first sentence of my last post, as it was frivolous.)
Steiner was a loner much of his life. He had few if any friends growing up as evidenced by his autobiography. He was ignored by the philosophers he was able to meet. Interestingly, Mrs. Nietzsche hated him. Isn’t that odd? I think, when he was given a chance to speak to a large audience, even if it might be a room full of communist laborers, he must have felt good about it. I do not know this, I am just assuming it. He may well have been delusional to a certain extent, considering the conversations with the dead that scared off friends. I would call him deluded, maybe of the grandiose type. Not to the extent of seriously disturbed, but enough to let him keep on doing deluded things. For example, his followers kept asking him to tell them what to name their children, and he complied. James Randy, the magician tells me Steiner designed many houses in the area of Germany. I think of him as a lonely guy, a little deluded by solitude, and overwhelmed by attention, and ready to please. Sadly he died without his second wife at his side. She was off putting on performances, which she must have thought were more important that tending to her dying mate, as she said she was not a good nurse. I hope my wife holds my hand when I am dying. That is a time that I want those near to me as clos
Sorry, Interested, but I hit the wrong key. I do not agree with your rather mathematical approach to Steiner. One, two three four. I do not find life that way. Life is far too messy, contradictory, one moment we are sane, the next we are screaming at the driver in front of us. Steiner was part fraud, part sane, part delusional, part right. To prove he was one to the exclusion of the others is not of the world I live in. I believe that Biodynamics as per Demeter, is fraud like. They must have read his works, and know his history and where he got some of his ideas. They take money selling it. And many wineries use it to sell their wine, sadly. Where is our honesty? Where is history? Where do we find ourselves in this world? Why is being human so messy.
As for what words I would use, I would simply say that Steiner’s methods and ideas were completely unconventional, eccentric, and unproven. These words serve to describe what we now about the situation neutrally and accurately.
Had Steiner been a student I would not be so harsh on him for repeating falsehoods taught to him about our material world. But Steiner was the teacher and the head of the movement and was willing to tell others how best to farm their land, when he himself had never farmed.
By the very fact that he was at the lectern, he represented that he was an expert on these subjects which he was not! Steiner either knew that what he was saying was false and thus he was a fraud, or he actually believed what he said which makes him delusional and that implies a certain level of insanity. Whatever his state of mind, his actions clearly fall within the definition of fraud and his efforts to convert those to his beliefs validates the use of the word “hoax.” Additional terms that would apply to Steiner could be: quack, charlatan, faker, imposter and swindler. Yes, swindler – because of his movement Steiner became famous and wealthy by duping the gullible public.
Thanks for your reply. If Steiner was delusional and/or insane, I’m having trouble seeing how it would be valid to call him a “fraud”. Is there any evidence that he claimed credentials that he didn’t have? Did he claim expertise in agronomy, for instance? No matter how you look at it, words like “fraud” and “hoax” imply some sort of malevolent mischief, whereas I don’t see any evidence that Steiner didn’t actually believe what he said. But if there is evidence to the contrary, I would readily change my view.
Also, what sort of evidence is there that Steiner became wealthy through his work?
I’m just using the words “fraud” and “hoax” as they are defined in the dictionary. If you don’t like those names what would you call it? Also, there is no way around the fact that Steiner gave a series of lectures on agriculture to people who wanted to know how to become better farmers – he represented himself as having superior knowledge to the point that others should listen to him, which they did.
On the question of whether Steiner was being deceptive (which is what the words “fraud” and “hoax” imply), perhaps, to make things simple, you could point to a specific example of something that he said that was deceptive.
Do you really think the people who attended the Agriculture Course were expecting to hear from a conventional agronomist? In the lectures Steiner makes it clear that he is speaking not as a farmer or natural scientist, but as a “spiritual scientist”. Evidently the people in the audience still wanted to listen to him.
In what way, specifically, do you think he misrepresented himself?
One thing to keep in mind, the farmers that gathered at Steiner’s Koberwitz lectures weren’t “regular farmers” seeking a scientifically sound and tested methodology.
These farmers were already believers in Steiner’s Anthroposophy and were explicitly looking for his advice in the realm of “spiritual science” which Steiner gave to them.
Demeter (and to some extent Nicolas Joly) are really the driving force behind the modern incarnation of Biodynamics and its marketing to “regular farmers” as a viable and scientifically sound method of agriculture.
I can address the issue of Steiner altering his positions to please his audience. And then I would like to speak to the historical fraud in the movement that Steiner attached himself.
As to changing positions: Steiner says to hand stir, but when confronted with complaints addressing the difficulty of hand stirring, Steiner backtracks and supposes machine stirring would be ok, but hand stirring is preferred. When confronted, Steiner was willing to soften his dictates.
Steiner was asked to apply his clairvoyance to things of interest to his German followers and this can be seen in his early days giving talks on Christ, and to satisfy his followers who wanted to hear about biblical issues. Steiner conformed, and this seemed to happen against his personal preferences. Many of the early lectures have biblical themes as he established himself as leader of the decomposing Theosophical Society.
This is where fraud is explicit. The Theosophical Society leadership, who appointed Steiner to lead the German division, was self-destructing: leaders accused each other of the faking of occult phenomena. Top leaders fought each other for control of this new “cult” with it’s attendant dues paying members. The German region members would in a few years later in Dornach build the Goetheanum with its 1,500 seat auditorium. So I hope you can see much was at stake as to who became the next leader. The mendacity of the Theosophical leaders greatly exceeds that of Goober and Mae trying to take control of Big Daddy’s 28,000 acres in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This was not just fighting with corporate lawyers, but fabricating letters from god like Tibetans who were at the center of the Theosophy movement and it is interesting to note that Steiner recognized the Brothers as legitimate in letters between Steiner and his 2nd wife Maria. We believe the Tibetan “gods” were created by Blavatsky and bases on the novel Zanoni, writter by Lord Edward Bulwer Lytton. The theme of fabrication turns up often in these historical roots of Steiner and the future Biodynamic lectures. In fact, there is similarity between the writings of Helen Blavatsky and Leadbeater with those of Steiner. You should know that Blatvatsky ran a seance fraud in Cairo until the scam blew up and she had to leave Egypt. She was not exactly white as the Lotus she claimed to be, and is considered one of history’s greatest frauds. The calamitous con she maintained in India is world class and self destructed in a bonfire of accusations. Unfortunately, Steiner celebrated White Lotus Day, showing his respect for Blavatsky, or worse, showing that he could tow the party line in order to partake in power within Theosophist leadership. Either way, respecting a major fraudster, or lusting after power, it is not a high point of Steiner. White Lotus Day was the remembrance day of Blavatsky’s death. Blavatsky, who founded Theosophy with the pedophile Charles Leadbeater (I know you must think I am making this stuff up, but the historical truth is well documented and knowledge of which is missing from this discussion of Steiner). But back to the letters. Letters from these “gods” would show up directing where the leadership would go, usually to the one fabricating the letter. These crass power plays undercut the Theosophical movement. Steiner did not write any of the fake letters from the “gods”, but wrote and said enough to be on record to having believed in them at one point, indicating a failure of his ability to know truth through the Spirit world. Steiner always tried to claim he had nothing to do with Leadbeater, as that gentleman faced legal difficulties and accusations of pedophilia from parents of young acolytes, even the father of Krisnamurti. Yes, Krisnamurti is tied up in all of this. In fact, Steiner was revolted by Leadbeater’s claim that Krisnamurti was the second coming of Christ. With the Theosophical leaders embarrassing themselves, Steiner quickly toured Germany to establish himself as the new leader, grabbing the helm of the German part of the ship. Steiner could not use the name “Theosophical” Society so he came up with “Anthroposophical” Society.
Just a further note on letters, read Steiner’s General Moltke letters if you want to know more of Steiner’s conversations with dead people. Yes, Steiner conversed with dead people throughout his life, scaring off friends. In these letters between Steiner and the dead general, in other words, letters fabricated by Steiner, Steiner regrets Germany’s unfortunate loss of WWI, and optimistically wishes for Germany to rise up once again. Steiner’s spiritual science failed again, It seems. You would not think to find the founder of Biodynamics to be mourning Germany’s loss of the war and spending his time communicating with the head of the German army where 15 million people had died, and many more would die.
Interesting blog! I have a somewhat tangential question, but I think it’s possibly important: Doesn’t the word “hoax” imply deliberate deception? You’ve also called Steiner a “fraud”, which even more clearly connotes deliberate deception. But, even if you were right that his ideas are faulty, why assume deception as opposed to, say, delusion? (If he believed everything he said, for example, it wouldn’t, by definition, be fraud or hoax.) Is there any evidence to suggest he was actually engaging in a hoax?
This isn’t just a technicality, in my view. I think it’s important for various reasons. For one thing, if you call someone a “fraud” without evidence, it suggests some sort of bias. From a scientific perspective, the relevant issue is the soundness (or lack thereof) of his ideas, which is a separate issue from whether or not he was deliberately deceiving people.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this — once the tractor’s fixed 🙂
As for BD I think the main problem associated with it is the unsubstantiated hype on the part of proponents. Other than that, if one is willing to do the work and take the risks, that is up to them. There is however the element of higher labor costs and costs associated with reduced yields in difficult years. When those costs are passed on to consumers as justifiable due the general superiority of BD, then we get into a problem area. It appears that subjective evaluation of the quality of the product determines any given customers willingness to pay. I can’t see that adequately controlled experimentation to come up with more objective answers is possible. So believers are likely to continue to believe and doubters to doubt.
As far as “sustainable” goes, I still am not convinced that concentrated synthetic inputs brought from offsite really can be seen as a part of sustainability. Part of that has to do with mono crop farming. I don’t think a truly sustainable situation is a mono crop or mostly mono crop operation. To me sustainable would be a diverse poly crop farm laid out in ways that maximize natures processes in such a way that few if any external sources of input are deemed necessary. The sustainability needs to extend beyond the property line.
At the moment agricultural machinery is fossil fueled, that isn’t sustainable for
several important reasons. We might be able to develop biofueled machinery
that can be part of a carbon neutral cycle of use, or we may develop electrically powered machines that are recharged via solar, wind and hydro methods that are even cleaner.
Science is an essential part of understanding our universe, human developed technology however has a very poor track record when it comes to long term sustainability, since most of it comes from one way extraction and consumption. To be doing well 500 years from now we’re going to have to find ways to do a lot less extracting and consuming and waste producing and a lot more renewing and recycling.
Couple of points: I believe that comparative trials are possible and should be attempted, but I would anticipate several attempts before getting the right methodology. Patience will be a virtue. Sorry, but defined sustainable farming does not equate to “concentrated synthetic inputs”. Also, there are many examples in Europe of vineyards in continuous cultivation since the days of Rome, so sustainability is possible. With continuous improvements to BMPs the percentage of farms that can achieve sustainability will be a much greater percentage of the whole than organic farming can achieve.
Whatever farming paradigm succeeds into the future, one component of that success must be economic viability. It seems to me, that many small parcels are simply too small to succeed economically with the small family farm concept with a very diverse poly crop concept. Yes, the gentleman farmer will always be with us, but it’s not a viable long-term strategy.
Once upon a time there was a nice man who had a post office in rural North Carolina and he was the only person in town who could read. People gathered every Sunday in the Post Office and he read them the weekly paper published in Washington. He would start at the top of the paper and read every story, even the advertisements and when he tired he would mark the page and commence the next Sunday. You can imagine that the papers came faster than he could read, and it was about 1817 when he read to his audience about the War of 1812. The moment he got to that, every one of them jumped up and offered to volunteer. All of which shows that they were patriotic people, but a little slow, and somewhat behind the times.*
I know of no studies comparing Biodynamic farming with traditional, organic or sustainable farming. I wish there were. I was once told that because Biodynamic farming is a belief based paradigm they don’t believe in comparison trials because the experimenters won’t be believers and thus Biodynamics won’t work.
It is the biodynamic crowd that is claiming superiority with healthier soils, healthier plants, a more true expression of place and as being the “Rolls Royce of organic farming.” My job as a skeptic is simply to say “PROVE IT.”
I like to think that there are four different farming paradigms being practiced today. Traditional is old fashioned, moving slowly into the 21st century. Organic is OK but mainly limited to only one environmental issue – no-pesticide use. Susstainable is the most comprehensive because it creates a paradigm that deals with Best Management Practices (BMP) which are constantly changing and improving, Integrated Pest Management, economic sustainability, minimal use of fertilzers, pesticides but not prohibition. For instance, we grape growers in Napa Valley are facing a few terrible pests which need to be dealt with, such as the European grape vine moth, the grassy winged sharpshooter and the grapevine mealy bug. In short, sustainable agriculture requires farming in such an environmentally sensitive manner that 500-1000 years from now that farm is still productive and economically viable.
Hope this helps.
This is a good one – although a bit old and only one. As you know in science only one evidence is not much.
Could you please comment this one: J. R. Reeve, L. Carpenter-Boggs, J. P. Reganold, A. L. York, G. McGourty, and L. P. McCloskey
Soil and Winegrape Quality in Biodynamically and Organically Managed Vineyards
Am. J. Enol. Vitic., December 1, 2005; 56(4): 367 – 376. They found that biodynamically treated winegrapes had significantly higher (p < 0.05) Brix and notably higher (p < 0.1) total phenols and total anthocyanins in 2003 (so only in one year of two) than 'only' organically treated.
I know it is also only one, but it shows that there still is work to be done in research. I agree with you that there are different aspects in winegrowing and what is good for one is perhaps not the same to the other. However, stating one as hoax or fraud needs evidence, which good research can create.
Many studies have been done in Europe, but the research papers have yet to be translated to English. I found this one comparing conventional, organic, and biodynamic grain fields. Comparisons of Conventional, Organic, and Biodynamic Methods W. Goldstein (MFAI), W. Barber (MFAI), L. Carpenter-Boggs (WSU), D. Dalsoren (UWM), C. Koopmans (Bolk Inst.) http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBsQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fmichaelfieldsaginst.org%2Fwork%2Feducation%2Fbiodynamics%2Fcomparison.pdf&ei=fc0VTLqzKtWKnQeSweH8Cw&usg=AFQjCNE5gRL7dA2j5bKlQxg2FCYZktxp6g
I don’t believe it was published in a peer-reviewed journal. This study showed that the “biodynamic growth regulators” had a “yield stabilizing effect.” The authors of this paper cite comparison studies carried out in Switzerland, Germany, and Sweden.
I agree – there is more work to be done in research of biodynamic farming, and I look forward to what can be learned.
The Michael Fields study was conducted by a biodynamic farm which has a financial interest in a positive outcome. They apparently sell biodynamic type consulting services. The founders of this organization came from Germany. This farm is so committed to Biodynamics and Steiner that they have constructed a large building copying the style of architecture that Steiner used. Look on the Michael Fields web site and the photo of what must have cost more than a million dollars and has a striking resemblance to Steiner’s Dornach Ruth Zinniker, a biodynamic farmer formerly of Germany, reconnected with her European friends, Christopher and Martina Mann in 1974. Ruth encouraged the Mann’s to purchase a small farm near the Zinniker Farm, furthering their mutual goal of increasing biodynamic farming in the United States. The Mann’s purchased several hundred acres and farmsteads over the next several years which are now stewarded by Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and host an organic dairy, vegetable and flower incubator operations, research fields and student training gardens.
Michael Fields received its nonprofit status in 1984 was operated independent of the farm. It began its activities by organizing conferences, educational workshops and cultural events. The first conference in 1984 was for biodynamic farmers and held in what we now call the “white barn” where a stage was built for artistic performances. The white barn now houses our New Farmer Foundation Year students throughout their terms here. An artistically unique office building was built in 1989 with offices, kitchen, research lab, and conference center which houses Michael Fields today.
Michael Fields was founded based on the ideals of biodynamic, ecologically-sound farming, enlivened cultural values and creating opportunities for young people to enter into agriculture to address the serious decline in the quality of crops, the rise of plant diseases, soil health and the environmental impacts on the landscape at-large by recognizing the spiritual and human aspects of farming.
“It’s not just science. It’s not just business. There’s a spiritual and ethical dimension to this. Whether we live in a city, whether or not we derive an income from the land, few of us pause to consider how vital to us are such matters as how much our food is grown, and by whom, whether growing food is a profitable enterprise, the fertility of the soil, the purity of water, the conservation of Earth’s resources, and the sustainability of agriculture;” by John Hall, Director, Farming Systems.. This is no normal farm. Read their web site and you find this is from their history:
Ruth Zinniker, a biodynamic farmer formerly of Germany, reconnected with her European friends, Christopher and Martina Mann in 1974. Ruth encouraged the Mann’s to purchase a small farm near the Zinniker Farm, furthering their mutual goal of increasing biodynamic farming in the United States. The Mann’s purchased several hundred acres and farmsteads over the next several years which are now stewarded by Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and host an organic dairy, vegetable and flower incubator operations, research fields and student training gardens.
Michael Fields received its nonprofit status in 1984 was operated independent of the farm. It began its activities by organizing conferences, educational workshops and cultural events. The first conference in 1984 was for biodynamic farmers and held in what we now call the “white barn” where a stage was built for artistic performances. The white barn now houses our New Farmer Foundation Year students throughout their terms here. An artistically unique office building was built in 1989 with offices, kitchen, research lab, and conference center which houses Michael Fields today.
Michael Fields was founded based on the ideals of biodynamic, ecologically-sound farming, enlivened cultural values and creating opportunities for young people to enter into agriculture to address the serious decline in the quality of crops, the rise of plant diseases, soil health and the environmental impacts on the landscape at-large by recognizing the spiritual and human aspects of farming.
“It’s not just science. It’s not just business. There’s a spiritual and ethical dimension to this. Whether we live in a city, whether or not we derive an income from the land, few of us pause to consider how vital to us are such matters as how much our food is grown, and by whom, whether growing food is a profitable enterprise, the fertility of the soil, the purity of water, the conservation of Earth’s resources, and the sustainability of agriculture;” by John Hall, Director, Farming Systems.
Further to the study you cite, the some of the authors are from MFAI,that is Michael Fields Agriculture Institute, a committed Biodynamic enterprise selling services. Another author is from Bolk Institute about which you can find the following quote on their web site: Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality LNV
Respondent: Margreet Hofstede, Organic Sector manager
“The Louis Bolk Institute’s expertise on organic agriculture research is unique. Their subject matter expertise on themes such as soil fertility, plant breeding, human health and animal welfare is particularly strong. I find it refreshing that they tell a different tale, that they have the guts to do research in a fundamentally different way. Even if you do not always agree with their approach, the fact that it exists has broadened my horizon and deepened my knowledge of organic agriculture and sustainability in general – and I value that.”
I do not consider this quote to be a ringing endorsement of Bolk, which itself sells organic consulting services.
These entities have financial interests in this study. Entrepreneurs selling Biodynamics need positive outcome studies to show their clients. In this case, they appear to have made their own.
Thank you for the link to that ASEV paper from December 2005. I read it while flying to NY Sunday. If you don’t mind, I will review the entire paper in a new post within the next few weeks.
You believe in science. Could you please show some reviewed scientific research where ‘traditional’ farming and biodynamics has been compared. Is there any scientific proof to your words. Are there studies that show ‘traditional’ is better than biodynamics?
Eva, do you mean “traditional” as in “conventional”? The only studies I’ve heard of tend to compare biodynamic farming to normal organic farming techniques. Here is an article from a soil science journal, which should fit your requirements of published peer reviewed research:
“No significant differences were found between soils fertilized with biodynamic vs. nonbiodynamic compost. ”
“Organic management enhanced soil biological activity, but additional use of the biodynamic preparations did not significantly affect the soil biotic parameters tested.”
I looked at your link and the document seems very incomplete, almost an abstract or executive summary and with no date.
The full article in HTML or PDF format is linked to in the right-hand column of my previous link. Here is a direct link to the HTML full article text:
Thanks for creating this blog Stu. I hope it helps people see reason.
I believe that Biodynamics is for people who don’t understand science, or those that want to sell wine to people who don’t understand science.
Sustainability is better than Organic farming.
Try explaining Sustainable Viticulture to a customer. It takes 30 minutes. Far easier to say “I’m biodynamic” and watch them nod wisely. Such has been the power of the marketing.
Thank you for this excellent blog! I don’t think the wine drinking public has any idea of what biodynamics is. It has often been described beyond organics, but, as you mention, requires a mindset that is similar in belief to astrology more than anything else.
I am also bothered by many of the wine producers, particularly Spanish and Italian, that nod their head and say yes they are biodynamically farming when they are not even practicing its principals but want to ride on the coattails of its gaining popularity in the US.
What a find! I came across this page through a facebook comment by Tom Wark. I’ve spent the last 3 months researching Biodynamics and Steiner for a school research paper.
I came to this paper with your exact same perspective and while diving into the world of BD hasn’t “converted” me, I do think that a “blind disregard” of BD is no better than a blind adherence it to. While a lot of BD is nothing but mystical BS, there may be some worthwhile elements that organic viticulture can adopt.
One element that BD has right is that 98% organic is 100% unorganic. For millions of years old growth forest have existed “organically” without the aid of fertilizers or herbicides and pesticides to keep pests in check.
Why? Because once you disrupt the natural checks and balances of nature, you’ve already committed yourself to an endless cycle of playing catch. You need to fertilizer because you’ve sapped the soil of its ability to replenish. You need pesticides because you removed a particular food source of a predator that also happened to preyed on your pest, etc.
Now while BD talks about the “balance” of cosmic forces and such being in play, I don’t think they actually realize that what they are talking about is basic ecology and microbiology of nature’s soil and food web. I’ll take the role of bacteria, archae and fungi over Venus and the Zodiac any day. THAT has scientific merit which is worth exploring, scientifically. We don’t have to buy into BD’s mysticism in order to see some of the underlying elements may offer more than just a “anecdotal” relationship.
I’ve spent forty years farming wine grapes and I’ve read Steiner in his original words (translated) – it is not a blind disregard for the subject. I bring experience, education, and critical thought to this subject and my conclusion is that Rudolf Steiner is a fraud and Biodynamics is a hoax. It’s your right to disagree, but would you be OK with your children being taught what Steiner lectured to his disciples as the truth?
There are 6 billion people in this world and the Garden of Eden is no more. Man’s very existence is disruptive to the balance of nature, because man is part of nature. I find it interesting that so many people paint and photograph nature with the animals in a pristine landscape, but with no people in it. When did people become so evil that they don’t belong in nature?!
I’m not sure which of the good points of Biodynamics you are referring to, but I would suspect that they are modifications made to Steiner’s lectures in order to make Biodynamics more in tune with the modern world.
I apologize if I come across somewhat harsh – the tractor broke down today and I was elbow deep in grease and wrenches. Which gives me an idea – here’s what it’s like to be a farmer in the real world.
Wednesday I started servicing our crawler tractor, a TD-6 62 series made in 1958. I changed the oil and fuel filters, checked the oil in the transmission, bottom rollers. After adjusting the tracks,as I came to the top right idler I discovered it was shot. After many phone calls and several trips I was able to get enough parts plus using the existing thrust washer and make up a new idler and installed it. As I was adjusting the brakes from under the tractor I noticed that the steering drum moved in a way it shouldn’t have. Both sides show movement up and down and side to side – very bad. Tomorrow, with the help of a mechanic (and friend), we will tear out the entire top side of the tractor, remove both steering drums and brake bands and hope (futile I think) that we don’t have do a complete overhaul of the final drives. Our parts supplier thinks he may have all the parts necessary, but if not, then we’ll have to do a national search for the parts, but whatever the case, it will be expensive and time consuming.
Welcome to my world of farming.
Thanks for the reply Stu! Your experience and insight is well regarded. And no, I wouldn’t want my kids going anywhere near a Waldorf school but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want their regular schools to adopt some of the successful techniques that Waldorf has used. (Such as teaching foreign languages in early elementary). However, there have been FAR more critical, scientific study of education methods then there have been devoted to Biodynamics.
My statement for a blind disregard relates more to the idea of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” The idea that because the origin of something is so outrageous, pseudoscientific and cloaked in mystical that there can not possibly be any worthwhile element to extract from that. But history is littered with examples where things that originated in mystical backgrounds turned out to have some solid science behind the basic concept.
Have you ever read Diarmuid Jeffreys book “Aspirin”? Back in 3,000 BC the Ancient Sumerians believed that gnawing on the bark of a willow tree helped relieved pain because the willow contained “spirits” that were the archenemy of the “demons” who caused pain in people.
Centuries later the more scientifically minded Hippocrates also began recommending willow bark for pain, though likely he wasn’t doing it for the same “mystical” reasons of combating demons that the Sumerians where. He just knew that somehow it worked. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the acetylsalicylic acid behind aspirin was isolated from the willow bark that we figured exactly how it worked and….what do you know, it has nothing to do with demons!
But the funny thing is, if everyone with a scientific bent just dismissed the willow bark’s potential because of its “demon-chasing” background, then we never would have progressed very far.
My contention is simply this, people’s approach to BD should not be blind adherence to the words and works of Steiner/Demeter because there is clear pseudoscience and mystical BS behind a lot of it. However, I think it is equally misguided to dismiss everything BD related because of its “demon chasing background”, so to speak.
We know that BD proponents won’t stray from the Demeter tenets or look underneath the mysticism for the science and reason behind what actually works. Therefore, I think it is ultimately up to US, those who are scientifically inclined, to not blindly disregard BD methods but to look for the science and reason behind what actually works.
I’ve heard the “nature doesn’t need fertilizer” argument but it is a spurious argument because we don’t harvest the trees and weeds in the forest every year. Vineyards wouldn’t need inputs if we didn’t remove the grapes. . .but since we take the grapes which contain nutrients originating from the soil, we need to add nutrients back to the soil or we would deplete it.
Actually Zeke it is more the monoculture aspect rather than the harvest. Things are harvested “naturally” in nature all the time.
In fact grapevines have always “harvested” but in the wild it is usually the birds and the animals. The whole reason why fruit evolved was to be a harvest vessel for the plant’s seed and transported to a new location, nutrients and all, for propagation.
Sure things are harvested naturally all the time but they often don’t leave a 10 foot radius from their source. Anyone with a single fruit tree, hardly a monoculture, can attest to the annoying amounts of decaying fruit and bird droppings around the base of the tree. Even if only 50% of the nutrients return to the soil by way of fallen fruit or bird fertilizer, that is far more than what we leave behind when we remove all clusters from the site.
Stuart, I applaud you for the courage and integrity to swim against the tide and state your true thoughts about biodynamic wine. I am sure you are aware it is probably not the best business decision. But promoting truth is more important than a few bucks, and who knows, maybe a few of us will help out by better supporting your wines.
A little over three years ago I wrote a long comment in finewinemag.com after visiting Benziger. I am particularly bothered by hypocrisy and as a grape grower it was easy to see flim flam combined with careless farming. Have they removed the pressure and chemical treated end posts yet? Not sure you could even get certified organic with them. Like you, their hype got me riled up.
This subject goes beyond whether biodynamic is fact or fantasy. It’s an interesting exploration from a historical, philosophical, sociological, psychological, religious, and marketing perspective as well as whether or not it has anything to do with intelligent farming. I hope you get into it all.
Historically, movements like these come at times of uncertainty and unrest. The invention of ammonia production and the circumstances that faced the backward, rural, family farmers in Germany are interesting and enlightening vis a vis Rudolf Steiner. So are fears of environmental catastrophe and global warming today.
The similarities between the arguments for “intelligent design” and “biodynamic farming” are intriguing. So are the proponents. (Science can’t explain everything, but we can.) Or the subject of Natural Law both as it relates to the Church and among philosophers. (David Hume would be on your side; the Church, sorry.) The spread of biodynamic wine (and press releases) after we found out Parker bought into it and there was money to be made.
From a farming perspective I think it is illustrative to look at what the world would be like if there were no man-made fertilizer and everyone practiced Steiner’s principles. Just consider 50% of the nitrogen in our bodies is man-made. Certainly, at least half the world would starve despite all the worlds rainforests cut down to make more farm land. It’s interesting to run the numbers on wheat, rice or corn when 2/3 of the acreage is fallowed.
Unfortunately, regarding a debate there cannot be a rational one. On one side is spirituality. On the other science. When someone believes the horn of a steer confers a magic and unknown power to animal excrement which can be transferred to a plant or that there is a magic, unknown property in bacteria-made ammonia that makes the nitrogen-hydrogen bonds in it different than those in man-made ammonia, there’s not much point in arguing.
But do it anyway.
When most of my children were little they would come home from school and say “Daddy, what’s the worst thing for our environment” and I’d say 6 billion people – it’s us.
I couldn’t agree more with your comments. Also, I love your mention of pressure treated endposts and stakes – an area that I hadn’t thought of. BTW, it’s a family rumor (not proven) that we are related to Thomas Hume, David’s brother.
Thanks for the comment – you’ve added a lot.
You seem to be inter-mixing science with faith – a no-win, no-win situation. If Biodynamic supporters would be willing to admit that their support for Biodynamics is a faith based religion, then I’ll pack my bags and move on. Whether I agree with them or not, everyone has a right to believe what they want when it comes to a religous faith.
What makes this different is that the Biodynamic crowd are making specious claims about our material world which I believe to be false. Just because the truths of our material world may be difficult to come by, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
…”You seem to be inter-mixing science with faith.”…
You miss my point. We ARE Homo Suggestibilis! The people you find fault with are no different from any kook who “believes” an absurd reality into existence. NOBODY is immune. We create reality. Now, you are free to find fault with other peoples idea of what is real and what isn’t, but it’s irrelevant. Try telling a fundamentalist Christian that the earth is “scientifically proven” to be 4.5 billion years old and not 6-10,000. See if he/she cares. See what your “proof” gets you. We ARE the suggestible ape out of necessity. The truth of our existence is to horrible to contemplate. The ONLY thing each and every human culture, society or group ever studied has in common is paranormal belief. It’s a given when dealing with humans. Sentient beings simply cannot cope unaided with their ultimate insignificance. Your issue is mild compared to most. Trivial when compared to, lets say, Allah wanting people either Muslim or dead. No?
I don’t understand why this surprises you. Reality is as plastic as silly putty for humans. What right do YOU have to dictate what is real and what is quackery?
As fate would have it I posted a little piece about this very subject only this morning on http://levelsofillusion.wordpress.com/
I coined the phrase “Homo Suggestibilis” as a title.
I am an amateur cultural (cross) anthropologist residing and observing in perhaps the wackiest part of America. An ENTIRE City dedicated to fostering the idea that the earth is 6000 years old and children once rode upon dinosaurs backs. Its economic engine is the largest evangelical christian (so called) university on the planet. Jesus is sighted all over town on an every day basis. Gay people are prayed straight and, as a result, NO gay people live here. Democrats cannot “really” be christians and environmentalism is a hoax when considered in the light of the undisputed fact that “The Rapture” is due any day now…. Any day now.
feel free to comment at “my” sight.
Life is mostly grey and messy. Here’s an example of where chemical fertilizers should be viewed in a good light. I consider my single most important farming goal at Smith-Madrone is the prevention of soil erosion. I believe that the single most important soil erosion prevention method is an active and vigorous growing cover crop. When we replant a vineyard and we’ve torn the soil wide open, the threat of erosion is at its greatest. Erosion prevention includes the use of rice straw, underground drain pipes, seeding with the right plants, etc. and because our mountain soils are acidic and low in phosphorous I apply either 16-20-0, 11-52-0 or even a combination of 0-45-0 and Calcium Nitrate (15.5-0-0) to insure that the all important vigorous cover crop succeeds . BTW, once the vineyard is established and the right seeds take hold I no longer need to apply the fertilizer. Which would you prefer – purity and possible erosion or a somewhat grey, but practical response and a better environment?
Yes, I am using Steiner’s own words to hoist him and Biodynamics on their own petards. There is great stuff in his early lectures about Anthroposophy, Spiritual Science and especially his lecture about the “Progress of Mankind …” which includes the Atlanteans airships’ which were propelled by using organic, germinating power of plants. If the foundation upon which Biodynamics is flawed, then the resulting paradigm that flows from that must also be flawed.
Thanks for your work, Stu, just came across this site through a link from one of your fellow skeptical bloggers. I hope you’ve seen our papers on the subject of BD; if not, shoot me an email!
Thank you for your reply Stu.
Basicly you only have the knowledge of Biodanymic farming which was written by Steiner and you are basicly basing the ‘biodynamic is a hoax’ thing on Steiners writings alone and thus judging Steiner being a crazy person and comparing hes writings a rather good writer Timothy Leary.
Though I might be rather early on stating stuff like this and you might have some really good fact based arguments in your upcoming blog posts.
Untill then this is just a opinnion and god bless we have right to have them! 🙂
Thank you for creating this blog!
Hopefully this will bring debate over biodynamic vs. other methods of growing and perhaps we will all learn something new!
But I must ask. Have you tried biodynamics yourself in any way?
One of my immediate neighbors is farming biodynamically and she once had the worst case of mildew I have ever seen.
As the skeptic it’s not my job to prove the assertions claimed by the biodynamic crowd – that’s their job. So no, I have not farmed Biodynamically, nor do I ever intend to.
Hallelujah, Brother Stu!
Go get ’em!
Just for perspective on your own practices re farming, can you talk some about
that? I’m a supporter of what I’ll call, organic farming in general. I’m a supporter of integrating, to the greatest extent economically possible, farming practices with the local ecology or biosystem. I think there are an infinite variety of choices and techniques and practices that farmers can pursue in being organic. It seems that the BD thing took hold in Europe first and especially with wine. I see it as partly a European cultural thing and partly as a result of a game of one-upmanship among competitive producers who felt the need to not only not be outdone but also to be seen as uncompromising in their dedication. It also seemed to acquire marketing value above just “organic”. I don’t care if people decide to do it, but I don’t think it deserves exalted status.
You make some good points. The reason Biodynamics has flared up in wine and not in rutabagas is because of the valued added marketing. A upgrade in your wine price can be substantial to the bottom line.
And then there’s the “what are you doing to differentiate yourself from all the other wineries out there,” trying to find that little bite of sunlight to shine on your new wine brand.
Personally, I believe in sustainable farming. To me this is the whole megillah. It means that you intend to care for the farm so that it can be successfully farmed for 500 years. This allows the continual upgrades of your Best Management Practices (BMP). It encourages Integrated Pest Management systems (IPM) natural responses to insect infestation. But it also allows flexibllity to control such destructive pests as the European grape moth, the grapevine mealybug and the Grassy winged sharpshooter. It encourages the minimal use of petro-chemical fertilizes, but isn’t so dogmatic to ban use when needed.
I have nothing against organic, and I mostly am supportive especially in the short term, and as a temporary attempt to move into a more environmentally friendly farming paradigm. I just don’t see it as a long-term viable farming strategy, because it doesn’t address the long-term.
In a future post I will be very specific about how we farm, why and what I think is important.
Thanks. I more or less had that sense of what your philosophy is and for the most part I would not take issue. I don’t think that you’ll be able to convince me that petro-chemical fertilizers are ever needed and “minimal” is not a well defined term. That’s an example of the top of the slippery slope.
I look forward to future posts.
The banner at the top of the blog seems to be from the famed Michelson-Morley experiment era when science nearly communed with divinity, and recordkeeping created statistically significant problems for veracity. Theorists and mathematicians then apparently tried to fit theory to fact, as often happened in the era circ. 1864; though admittedly physicists continue to try to grasp what it was Einstein did by building upon that basis and that experiment.
The banner was the idea of my web designer, and I’m pretty sure she had fun with it and didn’t adapt it from anything. Tell me more if you think it’s related to something!
Hi, Stu, I think the design work is germane in the banner, and that it illustrates the topic of the blog, in what may be a humorous way. There is a nearly devout tenor to the writing about the experiment I referenced; for example, see the following page of one well known author’s articles’ abstracts:
If I sing to the vines
So no one will hear
At a full moon
Will the brix be just right?
Only the blogs know.
And the wine maker.
Love it! I make it a point of principle never to buy Biodynamic wines. It’s bad enough that science and reason are attacked by the religious right but to be undermined by the new-age left isn’t fair! You may have already seen these but I found these articles about Biodynamics thoughtful and entertaining.
I agree with you about the attacks on science, yet I love wine and simply couldn’t not buy/try a wine just because I disagree with the vintner’s thoughts, ideas or politics. And thanks for the links.
Oh, I’ll try the wine if it’s poured. I just won’t spend my money on it.
Stu, thank you so much for starting this blog, and hopefully clearing out some of the hooey associated with all of this.
If you want to know what “positive contribution to this beautiful world” Stu has made, try his wine.
I hope in later postings you might be able to please clarify why you think it’s a hoax, rather than a delusion or a con trick.
That’s the whole point of during this blog, which I know will take some time. However, I would have thought that Steiner’s “delusional” view of how the human body functions would have been a good beginning (see the June 4 “What is my big toe made of” comment). Afterall, Biodynamics is based on these lectures by Rudolf Steiner, and believe me, there is a lot more of this type of material coming your way.
debunking quackery is an act of civic hygiene, it’s a positive contribution.
Thanks for the interest and comments. No question that Steiner is very clever and smart. I will answer your questions at length with future postings, but the short answer is that Biodynamics is gaining acceptance and I find the whole business dangerous to our society and culture, because they believe in fantasies and the occult instead of reality. In addition, they are claiming superiority to other farming paradigms and with the current zeitgeist for all things green, the wine writing community tends to be supportive of them.
I agree completely. The global embrace of “green” is just huge at the moment. I often think to myself that humanity is in an “green era” these 40 years or so. And that in the future we will look back on the now and wonder why we were so deperately gullible to embrace “green goodness” in the face of the science that currently refutes it. I for one, have a couple of examples in my past where I was certain that homeopathics worked. Now, I can see that I was so desperate to believe that it worked that it was a placebo effect of sorts. Biodynamics really is the epitamy of paying more for less. I don’t by organic let alone biodynamic products but it took me years to see through the con.
and may we also ask:
why do you care?
and what has been your
positive contribution to
this beautiful world??
@rob: a quick look at the main site navigation would have provided you with this link to “Who is Writing This”:
Said page lists a fairly impressive number of “positive contributions” to this beautiful world. Also, our humble narrator seems to have a most excellent and honest-looking beard… so one must automatically assume maximum credibility.
I’ll leave it to Stuart to explain exactly why he cares, but I suspect it has something to do with a deep attachment to reality, and a desire to see people stop wasting their time on nonsensical magic potions.
Stuart is correct for a number of reasons. Here is my letter to Stuart and I hope that this will put to rest any refuting remarks that may come up from this discussion. I was a bio-dynamic farmer (ag/hort) in new zealand for 13 years. I did my university thesis on the development of one bio-dynamic farm. It was a descriptive case study that analysed interview data from the country’s best know biodynamic farmer, and he was also the manager of the farm where I lived for all those years.
So my knowledge of bio-dynamics is good. Why you may ask did someone walk away and turn their back of bio-dynamics after adhering to it for so long? Well, let me tell you.
It is well known that Steiner was connected to the Theosphical Society. His personal beliefs included but were not limited to belief in divine forces of nature that cannot be seen with the eyes, belief in angels and a belief in a spirit world that lives all around us. In short, Steiner believed he could see spirits. Cottingsley Fairies anyone??? 🙂
It is therefore not surprising that he would create a farming system based on the unseen influences of the cosmos.
Someone here mentioned the concept of “peasant farming” and I would have to agree with that. Not only is bio-dynamics immeasurable by current scientific standards, biodynamic farmers have made a committment to adhere to this farming system that chooses not to use modern scientific advances. Peasants had none either. The bio-dynamic preparations are the tip of the iceberg in terms of the practices being used on these farms. Livestock rates are very low because composting, organic fertilisers and the BD preps have no positive influence on grass growth. The quality of the grass is low and this leads to calving troubles, lower grass to meat conversions etc. In terms of fruit and vegetable crops, the human labor (which must be volunteer based to be profitable) is used in mindless hours of picking bugs off plants and spreading compost around gardens and trees. All of the fruit and veg at our farm were undersized and had a short shelf life. Any good ones were held up as examples and were more of a fluke year than anything to do with the farming method.
On top of that, once a farmer goes bio-dynamic, it takes about 7 years before his soils are completely depleted of nutrient balance. By then, he has been ranting and raving to others about how great the system is and how much money he is saving without all those horrible NPK combos. However, when the fertility finally is exhausted, he has to stick to the story he has been telling or face a huge embarrassment. It’s at this point that he starts cheating. I won’t say anymore than that.
Stuart is right. But he won’t convince the BD practitioners to admit it. So many of them have wasted years of thier lives on this and anthroposophical beliefs that they can’t stop now and admit to being wrong. They are so blinded by the “goodness of being seen to be good and special in spiritual and environmental ways”, that they can’t see the reality of science anymore.
Well done stuart. this is a great blog to have.