The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry weighs in on the biggest fad in winemaking going today: Biodynamic farming. One assumes by the name that biodynamics must be a good thing… but what does it really mean? The CSI folks dig deeper, outlining something that even includes astrological analysis that is “set against a complex background cosmogony that makes the whole process not unlike a quasi-religious movement.”
From the intriguing (and lengthy) piece:
Steiner’s agricultural lectures are, to put it mildly, not an easy read. They are marked by clear falsehoods, digressions, and odd fantasies. He recommends such techniques as combating parasites “by means of concentration, or the like” (Steiner 2004, p. 84). He says that certain insect pests are spontaneously created by “cosmic influences” (p. 115) and that eating potatoes “is one of the factors that have made men and animals materialistic” (p. 149). He tells us, “most of our illnesses arise” when our “astral body” is “connected more intensely with the physical (or with any one of its organs) than it should normally be” (pp. 116-17). In contrast, “in the true sense of the word a plant cannot be diseased”; plants only appear to be diseased when “Moon-influences in the soil . . . become too strong” (pp. 117-18). He also describes baroque fantasies of a human history that spanned “epochs . . . on the earth when such things were known and applied in the widest sense”6 (p. 120). And on and on, ad nauseam. It is good to keep this material in the back of our minds when considering his forays into agriculture.
Next time you meet a biodynamic winemaker, ask what methods they are using to manipulate the energy fields around the vines! Inquiring minds want to know!
But seriously, of course, many biodynamic wines are great, and I’m sure not all modern biodynamicists (is that a word?) rely on holistic methods in their vineyard management but are genuinely exploring positive environmental policies. Still, the origins of biodynamics is pretty fascinating stuff.