Science update. From the Times Online I learn Prince Charles is experimenting with planting crops according to the phases of the Moon and astrological signs:
He has adopted some of the principles of biodynamics, a form of farming in which livestock are treated with homeopathic remedies rather than antibiotics, and astronomical calendars and signs of the zodiac play a role in determining when to sow and harvest crops.
Wow, that makes sense! Biodynamic.org states that biodynamic agriculture “is founded on a holistic and spiritual understanding of nature and the human being”. Holistic and spiritual.
And get a load of this:
Under the Steiner system each crop type is linked to one of the four traditional elements: earth, water, wind and fire. Root crops such as carrots are seen as earth plants while fruits such as apples are linked with fire. Leaf crops, including lettuce, are associated with water.
Each crop type must then be planted on a day when the moon is in a sign of the zodiac associated with that element. Fruit, for example, might be planted when the moon is associated with Leo, a fire sign.
Now I suppose it could be possible that the phase of the Moon might influence crop growth. I’m skeptical, but it wouldn’t be totally ridiculous. I would, of course, need some evidence that it does actually make a measurable difference in the way claimed. However, planting crops when the Moon is in the zodiac sign associated with the crop’s traditional “element”? This really seems doubtful, although they do claim to have some studies to back it up. Perhaps someone with a better knowledge of statistics that I have could give an opinion. Although as the subject is farming perhaps it’s unsurprising that I can smell…
Funny thing, Skeptico was recently offered a bottle of biodynamics wine at a San Francisco restaurant. This was the first time I had heard of anything like this, although I turned it down as the waiter was unable to offer any explanation except that it was something to do with planting vines according to the phase of the Moon, and that the bottle was more expensive than the other stuff. (She had no idea if it would taste better.) I guess some people must go for this (especially in San Francisco): remember the Penn & Teller Bullshit program on fancy bottled waters? (They were all filled from the same garden hose!) Perhaps I have found the real reason for promoting this method – they can charge more! Hey, perhaps Prince Charles is smarter than he looks. (Don’t – it’s too easy.)
Anyway the biodynamics system was apparently developed by Rudolf Steiner – whose knowledge of biology was hampered by, among other things, a lack of belief in evolution. Still, perhaps the scientific benefits will soon be proven. After all, with Brian on the job now, we’ll soon be assured of hard science to back up this revolutionary farming method. I wonder which he will demonstrate first: proof homeopathic antibiotics work, or that traditional element sign astrology does? Watch this space.