When I decided to write this, I had to do quite a fair share of digging to learn more about David Wolfe myself. Any information about him is curiously ambiguous.
David seems like a nice enough guy, with cool hair, and an even cooler/delicious nickname.
David Wolfe is also the guy who believes that chocolate is an octave of male sun energy, and this masculine octave of chocolate energy will come down from the sun and penetrate your heart.
… More on that later.
A Little About David
The majority of background information we have to go off of is based on his own website.
Mr. Wolfe is a self-described “health, eco, nutrition, and natural beauty expert.” He says he is “the rock star and Indiana Jones of the superfoods and longevity universe” (which one can only assume means he supports the multiverse theory). His website also goes on to say that he ” has circumnavigated the Earth for decades seeking out the world’s purest foods and waters” (when he could have just found a reverse osmosis filter system instead- saved you some time and solved that mystery for you there, pal), and in his free time he’s an organic farmer and an author. Our “Indiana Jones of the superfoods and longevity universe” (so he’s an archaeologist, good with whips, and is irrationally afraid of snakes?) is also a “gourmet chocolatier” (of course, dealing in “sacred” and “raw” chocolate only).
David is not on Wikipedia. It would make sense for him to be on Wikipedia, if for no other reason than the free advertisement. David Wolfe had a page on Wikipedia, however it was deleted. The reason? “Unambiguous advertising or promotion.”
Our Indiana Jones has over a million “likes” on his Facebook page as well.
David also has a myriad of websites (I’m using DoNotLink.com for links to these pages )
(Many of the websites look more like storefronts, less like resources for health and wellness.)
So what’s the big deal about this guy?
David is a con artist. He preys on anti-sciencers by using pseudo-intelligent word salad. He is fantastic at combining a string of words together that sounds intelligible, however when you actually examine them, they’re nonsensical.
Here’s a perfect example of David talking about chocolate. Brace yourself (no, seriously, hold onto your butts).
While David’s website touts that he’s spoken at over 1000 conferences since the mid-1990s, a look into his “presentations” quickly reveals that he’s more of a salesman than he is any sort of expert. David recently did an infomercial a presentation at the Longevity Now Conference, where he (quite enthusiastically) describes some fruit, but more importantly, how to use the NutriBullet (an expensive blender). While it technically does meet the definition of a presentation, it’s a commercial, not an actual informative talk.
David has created his following by being quite clever. In fact, I don’t think he’s dumb at all- I actually think he’s pretty smart. Most con artists are extremely intelligent after all, as they have to manipulate their victims into believing and buying into their schemes.
For the most part, David will create a rather innocuous meme that is either cute or motivational in nature, so the casual Facebook user will be naturally inclined to share them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with following a page that makes/disseminates good motivational quotes. However, David has a method to his madness, and does this in what I call “The David Avocado Wolfe Effect.”
Here, we’ll analyze how he does this, and what makes him such a dangerous con artist:
Don’t you feel all motivated now?
The memes I’m using as examples here are just a sampling of what David has on his site. I’m not here to pick apart every single post he has. Rather, I’m going to paint broad strokes to point out his methodology and what makes him, as well as other anti-sciencers, so dangerous.
Exhibit A (as of this post) has about 41,000 likes and 75,000 shares. And I’ll admit, it’s cute. It hits you in that one spot right in your feels and gets those brain juices churning if you take a second to think about it.
So as it gets shared and more people enjoy the content, they’ll toss the page a “like.” Over time, this adds up. As he gets more followers, he gets more shares, which get him even more followers and more shares. He’s averaging about 55,000-60,000 new “likes” a week based on this model (or maybe he’s buying likes? Who knows?). Which in and of itself is nuts.
David is also a known plagiarist. David’s first book is Nature’s First Law, which was published in October 1998. It is actually a copy (slightly reworded, and it’s a stretch to call it “slightly”) of Raw Eating, written in the 1960s by Arshavir Ter Hovannessian.
So what’s the harm? The guy is a goofy gardener farmer that makes chocolate, sells some plagiarized books, and makes some cute memes for his Facebook page. What’s the big deal?
The Big Deal
The issue becomes when David decides to deviate from this model and dabble in some good, old-fashioned pseudoscience. I think of it as a “bait and switch” model. He sucks the casual Facebooker in with the cute meme, then blindsides them with bullshit.
(Deleted by David)
In Exhibit B, David shows a picture of fourteen McDonald’s cheeseburgers from 1989 to 2003 (I guess someone ate the one from 1999?) paired with a Bill Maher quote, putatively taking a stab at either GM food, processed food, or both. We’ll ignore the fact that Bill Maher’s own opinions are inconsistent (a topic of another post). We’ll also ignore the #bionicburger hashtag, given how nonsensical it is since there’s nothing bionic about it.
The issue here is that instead of looking for the mechanism that is preventing the burgers from rotting, Maher (and by extension, David) immediately jumps to the conclusion that the “processed” nature of the food prohibits it from rotting. And, if you have the critical thinking ability of a seven year old, the logic checks out!
What’s really happening is that given the right conditions, food won’t rot. Mold needs moisture and warmth to grow. If you store the food in a cold and dry area, it won’t rot (especially if much of the moisture is cooked out of the food during the cooking process). Where do we store food before and after we stuff if into our faces? The fridge for perishables and the pantry (both cool, dark, moisture-free places).
Anecdotally, I had a bag of tortillas that fell behind my fridge for nearly a year. When I discovered them, they were completely dry, as well as completely mold-free (and I even posted a picture of it to Facebook at the time, because pics or it didn’t happen). Does that mean that we should stop eating Mission-brand tortillas too?
But instead of thinking about the “why” behind the lack of rotting, Maher and David chose to focus on the “what.” The “what” gives us easy answers and can confirm our own biases. I’ve always said that the “why” behind things should always be of greater concern than the “what,” as the “why” is often indicative of future behavior.
But David has built up a level of “trust” with his followers, largely based on him seeming like a “nice guy” because of posts like Exhibit A. He builds on this trust with posts like Exhibit B, using the appeal to nature fallacy. So as he gains a further level of trust with memes like this, more people will like and share his material.
I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that veal is really easy to pronounce.
Now we’re in some Food Babe-esque territory with a dash of Orthorexia. David has his own website, but he also is “faculty” at the “BodyMind Institute.” For just $54 a month (or a lump sum of just $600, a 25% savings!), you too can earn your “David Wolfe Nutrition Certification” and start “changing people’s lives.”
Video lesson 1 (“Lesson 16b”) is of David going on a walk in the woods to a random pipe someone put into a natural spring (because, why wouldn’t you drink from a pipe in the middle of the woods?). Video lesson 2 (“Lesson 25 – 2nd Elixir Pt 1”) is David making a smoothie in his kitchen (pseudoscience 101 is to use the word “elixir”). Video lesson 3 (“Lesson 26”) is David visiting his garden (I couldn’t watch more than just a couple minutes of it). One can only assume that he would want to put some of the “best” material out there to promote his course as positively as possible. Yikes.
The BodyMind Institute’s website lists a total of thirteen other con artists faculty as well, all with their own individual donation pages online courses in case you’re encountering fat wallet syndrome wanting to learn more about natural living.
From the Lesson 16b:
Having traveled to every continent except Antarctica… I’m still mystified by it” -David Wolfe, referring to how cold springs work
I guess while $600 can get you “certified” by David, David won’t teach you the elementary school-level science of how cold springs work. What’s more, is David outright lies about how the water isn’t “permeated” by rock, as the rock actually works to filter the water and make it clean/drinkable in the first place.
The David Avocado Wolfe Effect, Realized
(Deleted by David)
Here is a blog post about vaccines by David.
In this (verbose) post, the David Avocado Wolfe Effect has come to fruition. David has lured followers in and gained their trust by usage of cute memes (Exhibit A), made his followers think they’re being skeptical by blinding them with some pseudoscience (Exhibit B), scared his followers into not trusting their own linguistic skills (Exhibit C), and in Exhibit D, has enacted his pro-disease (formerly known as anti-vaxx) agenda.
David’s ultimate goal with this, aside from swindling people out of money, is to create his own argumentum ad populum fallacy. This is essentially passive peer pressure. David has gained a lot of followers because of his innocuous memes. David has a multitude of fans that are following him for different reasons, so when he posts these dangerous/harmful ideas, has a sort of false legitimacy factor. Each “like” that he has adds to this false sense of legitimacy.
When you share David’s meme’s, you’re giving him free advertising. That’s how the David Avocado Wolfe Effect works. The layperson who does not know who David is may confuse David as a moral entrepreneur. He’s not. He makes claims completely devoid of facts, however by promoting him, you’re suggesting that David should be respected and his opinions should be valued. They shouldn’t be.
All he wants from you is your money.
It’s curious that David posted this to his page (note: the actual blog post has been deleted, yet the post itself remains), however there’s also this video where he gloats about how much money he’s made, and how he’s “the wealthiest hippie on Earth.”
Here’s the original video this clip was taken from.
Remember: Celebrities don’t have fans because they’re celebrities; celebrities are celebrities because they have fans.
I also think that part of the reason David Wolfe’s page has grown so much is that posts like Exhibit A/B/C are allowed to spread without anyone challenging them, out of fear of being labelled a “jerk” by the friend that shared the post.
If we want things to change, as a society we need to think (as well as politely encourage others to think!) more independently and demand evidence instead of succumbing to the David Avocado Wolfe Effect or “what feels right.” As pro-sciencers, we should all feel the responsibility to speak up and challenge people like David… Otherwise we are tacitly approving of his methods.