You Can’t Live on Rainbows Either


I’m kind of torn on this one. On the one hand, there’s a sense in which it’s just natural selection at work. But it’s also a great example of why irrationality and false beliefs about the nature of reality actually do matter.

Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reports that a woman starved to death after embarking on a spiritual diet that required her to stop eating or drinking and live off sunlight alone.

The Zurich newspaper reported Wednesday that the unnamed Swiss woman in her fifties decided to follow the radical fast in 2010 after viewing an Austrian documentary about an Indian guru who claims to have lived this way for 70 years.

That woman is a moron.

Comments

  1. D. C. Sessions says

    Being postmenopausal, I’m afraid she hasn’t contributed much to the quality of the gene pool.

  2. matthewgreenberg says

    i’ve heard of being hungry for God, but geez!

    is a spiritual diet where you forgot devil’s food cake but eat angel’s food cake?

    at least she wasn’t eating babies like us.

    Rush Limbaugh should try this diet.

    man cannot live on communion wafers alone.

  3. danielkim says

    Somehow, you have to marvel at her level of commitment. Even if I were to try out something as strange and stupid as this, I would quickly give it up, once it became clear that I was starving.

    OK, maybe it’s ‘level of insanity’.

  4. says

    Clearly we are not dealing with a rational actor here…she should have committed to an institution by friends and family…she was bat-shit crazy.

  5. D. C. Sessions says

    Somehow, you have to marvel at her level of commitment. Even if I were to try out something as strange and stupid as this, I would quickly give it up, once it became clear that I was starving.

    Interestingly, once you get past the initial stages of undernutrition the sensation of hunger wanes. Considering how many people today have never been really hungry, it’s not all that surprising that some would just go ahead with the plan. I mean, consider anorexics.

  6. schism says

    Resolved: diets involving the phrase “Indian guru” are sub-optimal for continued existence.

  7. matty1 says

    I don’t know if it’s the same movement but I saw a documentary a while back about breatharians who claim they live without food. One of them claimed she had not eaten for ten years then admitted “I do not eat for sustenance, I sometimes take food just to enjoy the taste”.

    She had apparently persuaded herself she wasn’t really eating and worse persuading other people to follow her example (without the ‘just for taste’ bit).

  8. chakeith says

    I just got done arguing with someone about this very article. They were trying to tell me they thought they could ‘feel’ the energy when they stared at the sun and were thinking of trying it. I couldn’t resist; I got called ‘narrow minded’ and told that science is about to undergo another paradigm shift… Go figure.

  9. dingojack says

    “Rush Limbaugh should try this diet”.

    Yes but it would take several uears for Rush to even near die of starvation.
    ;) Dingo

  10. noastronomer says

    “…an Indian guru who claims to have lived this way for 70 years.”

    Would that be the same guru that James Randi filmed nipping out for burgers while the guru was supposedly fasting?

    Mike.

  11. eric says

    I just got done arguing with someone about this very article. They were trying to tell me they thought they could ‘feel’ the energy when they stared at the sun.

    Hey, I feel it too! Silly me, I’ve been calling it “warmth” my whole life.

  12. Loqi says

    Matty1 – it’s the same people. They pop up every once in a while when another person dies of malnourishment from trying it.

  13. says

    Whether she was crazy or not, the newage/altie culture has a lot of fallacious rationalizations set in place to encourage gullible people to continue doing harmful things, despite warning signs. If critical thinking had a stronger influence in culture, she might have stopped to question the practice.

  14. frog says

    If she starved to death, clearly she didn’t leave off drinking.

    Some idiot is going to assert that she died because she wasn’t committed enough.

  15. says

    It’s easy to shake our heads at such extreme examples, but as someone who prides himself as a rational person, but who once believed they had to be dying of ALS (until I didn’t) I’m leery to be too quick to judge people harshly for their irrational beliefs. I suspect we all have them, it’s just that most of them aren’t as self-destructive as starving oneself to death.

    Around the same time I thought I was dying (contrary to what my neurologist was telling me), a friend of mine was desperately trying to persuade someone else that they were not dying from cancer. He believed it had been brought about from a massive dose of X-rays supposedly given to him by a negligent doctor some months before. Even a trip to the Mayo clinic could not shake him of this belief since he had decided that all the doctors he saw were conspiring to cover up the initial mistake.

    I eventually snapped out of my delusion and got on with my life, he just snapped, killing his wife and then committing suicide leaving their young kids orphaned.

    The difference? Maybe I retained more of my rational thought processes even in the darkest moments (I never once considered suicide), but it wasn’t as though he was a conspiracy-theory type either.

    Either way, the whole experience was quite an eyeopener for me as to just how easy it is for even the most rational person to jump to the wrong conclusions and then stick by them even as everyone else is telling them that not to be so dumb. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.

  16. ambassadorfromverdammt says

    Resolved: diets involving the phrase “Indian guru” are sub-optimal for continued existence.

    . . . unless the phrase is followed by ‘is a valuable source of protein’.

  17. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Some idiot is going to assert that she died because she wasn’t committed enough.

    And if you drop the last word it’s true. :/

  18. says

    What tacitus said at 19. It’s tragic for this woman and anyone who cared about her, but at a distance I find it fascinating. My first reaction was to run possibilities about her mental life through my mind and I wondered what else is known about her.

    People do self-destructive things all the time, including some things that kill quickly and some that kill slowly. The reasons usually run deeper than irrationality and having false beliefs. Christopher Hitchens drank like a fish and smoked like a chimney and he ridiculed the unreasonableness of religion. Imagining oneself as inoculated by reason is itself a kind of denial of reality.

  19. says

    I remember a show that interviewed a breatharian once (Unscrewed on TechTV), I think his ‘not eating’ food was doritos.

    And yeah, you can’t live on rainbows, they’re way too spicy.

    These Breatharians remind me of the Observers from MST3k, who’ve evolved beyond bodies…except for their bodies, and whove evolved beyond food, except for the food they eat, etc.

  20. Anri says

    And now for Honest Journalism Theater:

    “Woman Stops Eating, Starves to Death.”

    Dateline – AP.
    She didn’t eat.
    So… she starved.

    Film at 11.

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