Nothing drives me crazier than people being taken by scam artists.
It hurts my heart.
Many websites are out there spreading disinformation. Dr Joe Dispenza’s website with this meme provides a good example.
When a guru like Dr Joe Dispenza quotes nutrition wisdom, he appeals to an audience that is attracted to healthy living but also prone to magical thinking. That just by eating right, you will have the health you want. This may sound true but hamstrings helpless people into thinking that they are personally responsible for the ill health they have.
If you follow some basic media literacy rules, you can never go wrong. I don’t systemtically seek to discredit nutrition information, but I do use my hacks consistently. Once I have enough information, I make a decision to read the information or not.
I recently posted another blog that talks about some nutrition “Red Flags” but today I will dig a little deeper when Dr Joe Dispenza quotes nutrition in this meme posted.
Using logic to confuse: Dr Joe Dispenza quotes “bring the body back to homeostasis”
Although I believe I was born skeptical, I was given a quick reminder by my 13-year-old about critical thinking.
He came home from school and said, “Jack is looking at Anne, but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married, but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?”
My answer, which was wrong, was, “I don’t know. I don’t think I have enough information?”
Then he proceeded to tell me “Mom… you got to think critically! The answer is YES!”
The answer is to the above question is yes for reasons of logic, that in fact, a married person is looking at another married person. Whether or not Anne is married, (which is irrelevant) someone who is married is looking at a married person (If Anne is married then Jack is looking at her, if she is unmarried then she is looking at George)… but this kind of logical thinking is not required to sort out nutrition facts from fiction.
Misinformation often sounds logical. The reason misinformation often rings true is that often many true facts are placed close together with misinformation and which makes the misinformation more convincing. We all agree that nutrition is important, so by appealing to that common knowledge, misinformation is spread by interjecting nonsense with common sense. When reading with a critical eye, look for how the case is being built with many true indisputable facts.
Steps to Determine Legitimacy of Nutrition Information
Step 1: Look for Technical/Scientific Word used Incorrectly
A true scientist would not use the scientific word homeostasis in the quote “… the importance nutrition plays to bring back homeostasis.” Since most people have a vague understanding of what homeostasis means; the statement rings true. The logical flaw when Dr Joe Dispenza quotes this is he implies that the body is not already in a state of homeostasis and that we must act upon our body externally to bring it back to homeostasis, which is not true.
The definition of homeostasis is the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes. We are not able to externally regulate our homeostasis like our internal organs can and that are specially designed by nature to keep the body in homeostasis.
When we do weird things to our body, like drink alkaline water, do juice or intermittent fasts or avoid carbohydrates, the body has processes to keep our body functioning as it should because of homeostasis, not in spite of it.
This is contradictory to the underlying context when Dr Joe Dispenza quotes “bring the body back into homeostasis” This is not using the word homeostasis as it is meant. As an organism, operating under usual circumstances, when free of catastrophic illness like diabetes, renal dysfunction, uncontrolled bleeding or an extensive burn our body functions are naturally homeostatic.
If the reader does not know the correct definition of every word in an article, an author can confuse the reader and in cases like this, this is intentional. Looking at word choice can suss out misinformation. Watch out for the red flag when technical or scientific words are used that are not fully understood by the audience, nor defined by the author.
Step 2: Evaluate the Source
We often forget the source of the facts we learn.
Studies show that we store factual data and source data differently and when under memory pressure, we tend to remember the facts but not the source of the information. So if am reading the information presented as facts, even though I know that the source is unreliable, then I may forget that the facts are made up.
This can catch people in embarrassing situations, where Google can easily be called upon to settle differences. To avoid this have a mental habit of always evaluating the source of information before reading a single word of the information and just “say no” to junk information. That’s when you find yourself talking about the dwarf that birthed the giant, that you read in the Enquirer with the same conviction as if you read it in the Sunday Times.
1. Seek the credentials of the author or guru
Having a Dr as a title does not make a person an expert in all subjects. In this case, Dr Joe is not a physician, nor has any training in medicine nor nutrition. He is a chiropractor with a bachelor of science degree. He claims to have some post-graduate training but no credentials in the subjects of neuroscience and neuroplasticity, quantitative electroencephalogram (QEEG) measurements, epigenetics, mind-body medicine, and brain/heart coherence. Given this information, I would suspect that he is more likely a post-graduate drop-out rather than an expert that does not deserve people’s money or attention.
2. Legitimacy of institutions backing the information
Dr Joe claims to be a researcher. The next question that should come to your mind is “At which institution did he do his research?” Since he is not backed by any legitimate institution; therefore, he is not a “researcher” any more than a person sitting behind the “google” search bar is a researcher.
Any claim made by any expert will always be backed up by research conducted at a legitimate institution and reported in a peer-reviewed journal. If you can not find the original research, and read the study yourself, that calls any evidence given into question. It is most likely made up, spun or twisted to fit the intent of the website. Real experts will substantiate the claims they make with evidence.
3. The quality of the research
When Dr Joe Dispenza quotes this ‘factoid’ about nutrition, he has not provided any studies to back up the claim, so it’s easy to see that his claims are unreliable.
However much of his other work relies on “junk science” or spins evidence from preliminary studies to produce misinformation.
Evaluate the study type, the methods used, the discussion and potential contradictions, and reproducibility of the findings. Not easy to do, which is why experts in nutrition like registered dietitians, take many courses specifically on how to read and interpret scientific studies to translate and help clients understand nutrition.
4. Conflicts of interest
I am also interested in whether the study has any conflicts of interest, that is, will an organization that funded the study be expected to see increased profits because of the findings of the study?
Dr Joe Dispenza is positioned to benefit from the research he does because he is selling books and workshops which is attracting a large following. As a rule, trust information from an independently funded organization like an institution, government or health organization.
Step 3: Reverse Search Your “Expert” with the Words “Scam, Hoax, Quack”
See what other people are saying about the author or guru. I recommend the website Quackwatch.com. You may find that the guru has legal proceedings or judgements against him or her.
If you see a post or quote that doesn’t make sense, I recommend that you do this reverse search. People who felt scammed will share their experiences publicly.
When you do this search type in your keyword but add words like “scam” or “quack” and see what turns up. Remember that the person creating misinformation may have thought ahead and created a spin or has pages that will show up in the search, so ensure that you are not reading pages that are written by the misinformation creator or his followers.
My Conclusion: Dr Joe Dispenza quotes are pseudo-science
I randomly chose Dr Joe Dispenza quotes on nutrition, but this can apply to buckets of information on the internet, not specific to this particular guru. With these three deliberate steps, you can determine whether you are reading legit information or psuedo-science.
Dr Joe Dispenza quotes “When we are less dependant on conditions of our outer world, we have more power and control in our lives”
What does this actually mean? Go with your instinct… when something sounds or feels “profound”, it may just be because it has no concrete meaning at all.
If you want to sharpen your skills to skim fact from fiction, I recommend learning how to detect bullshit. Frankfurt (the expert on bullshit) explains that “the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic are more excessive than his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic.” The difference between bullshit and lying is that a lie is patently false and said with a deliberate goal to evade the truth and avoid consequences, whereas the bullshitter produces information with no regard to truth, with a goal to elevate himself or his cause.
If you have any questions about a nutrition concept, contact a registered dietitian. You can set up a free 15 minute call with Rachel to learn how a dietitian can help you interpret nutrition knowledge from the internet.
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Homeostasis, Oxford’s English dictionaries
Institute For Ethics And Emerging Technologies (IEET) (2017) ‘Harry Frankfurt on Bullshit And Lying’. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edssbi&AN=edssbi.15a13537058000185dc0cae&site=eds-live (Accessed: 13 January 2021).
A neuropsychological study of fact memory and source amnesia. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1987 Jul;13(3):464-73. doi: 10.1037//0278-7322.214.171.1244 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2956356/