Stick a Fork in It

If you hadn’t heard of the movie Forks Over Knives (FOK) you probably aren’t vegan. It’s a movie based upon the work of a couple guru doctors who espouse a plant-based (read: vegan) diet for combating a plethora of human ailments. Released in 2011 it’s a little bit over a year-old now and injects a renewed interest in the waning popularity of the China Study book by T. Colin Campbell. A new fervor has been whipped up on the celluloid tip and a slew of new adherents have been spawned with many vegans soaking up this new batch of pseudoscience slop. These FOKers (heh) are a particularly rabid bunch and even started an onslaught os Forks Over Knives Meetups (albeit the membership numbers tend to be shallow)!

Now I must disclose that I haven’t seen the movie myself but I’m not repentant. I’m already quite familiar with all the guru doctors featured and the China Study as I was myself a China Study true believer back in the day. The benefit of the doubt isn’t well warranted especially after reading the following reports1:

Movie Review: Forks Over Knives | Let Them Eat Meat
Ex-vegan Rhys Southan sits in with true believers on a screening. DERP ensues.

“Forks Over Knives”: Is the Science Legit? (A Review and Critique) | Raw Food SOS
Denise Minger continues her T. Colin Campbell hate parade and gets way TL;DR yet again.

Fork over that Knife | SkepticRD
A paleo-ish RD reviews. Those paleos sure are gunning for this movie.

A review of Forks Over Knives | Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
Skeptics take a critical view.

Dietary Pet Views (Greg Linster guest post) | Rationally Speaking
…and another.

Roger Ebert’s review though was completely positive. The difference here is that he’s a movie critic being swayed by craft and not science.

There’s a bigger question here though. Should we be getting our science from movies? I mean, movies can maybe make science topics more palatable or entertaining for the masses but should the fringes be so flaunted? Whether or not the science is solid this is a bad precedent. If people are so swayed by this pseudoscientific display will they just as likely be swayed away by a paleo diet movie? Should we make our science decisions based upon the latest blockbuster movie utilizing emotion-tugging screenwriting and the latest in 3D CGI surround-sound technology?

Science is science and a plant-based diet panacea needs to go through the same rigors any other science–informed topic should. Until then it’s relegated to the realm of pseudoscience until it validates itself through peer-review and garners acceptance by the consensus of experts, not vegans. Anything less and vegans may have to eat crow and that’s just as NOT VEGAN as baloney.

Let’s just hope Skinny Bitch never becomes a movie. *shudder*

For further perusal regarding the China Study:
The China Study: A Formal Analysis and Response | Raw Food SOS

The China Study | Science-Based Medicine

The China Study Revisited: New Analysis of Raw Data Doesn’t Support Vegetarian Ideology | Science-Based Medicine

  1. Naturally, consider the source when reading. If anybody has some other decent reviews please comment and let me know.Thanks!

9 comments to Stick a Fork in It

  • Sarah S.

    Hmm… yes, I believe I agree. If I am reading your point correctly, it is dubious that we should get any scientific advice from a movie (how many movies have creationists made?). That said, it is a much more effective way to get the word out than a book because there is quite the anti-intellectual movement in the U.S. these days (“President Obama wants everyone to go to college… what a snob”). Like anything read on the internet, can’t we just encourage people to take it all with a grain of salt? I haven’t seen FOK, either, though I still call myself a vegan. I’m really just not remotely an activist.

    • Sarah,

      Yes, we shouldn’t suppress free speech necessarily but we can try to inoculate people against it and cultivate a culture where pseudoscience cannot so easily propagate.

      I’m not sure about a strong anti-intellectual movement but I do feel your exasperation when such sentiments are expressed.

  • PhysicsVeganBrian

    I’m thrilled that someone finally provided a supporting link when claiming that The China Study is wrong. Why all the people I’ve argued with think it’s my responsibility to prove myself wrong is beyond me. I’ve only read the second link so far (as the first is likely to take a while), but it’s not looking good for my viewpoint.

    And I also have yet to see FoK. Whoops?

  • James

    I have not read the China Study but I have seen the movie. It is a well crafted movie that gets their point across effectively. Unfortunately, no matter how entertaining the movie was when I finished it I was left a little empty and frustrated by their one-diet-cure-all/selective-science approach. Like Sarah S. I’m vegan but I don’t go around selectively misusing scientific information to push an animal-free diet. Unfortunately, I expressed my views to my partner. Lets just say she doesn’t have as critical eye as I do toward medical claims and got angry at me for being too critical.

    • James,

      In my true believer days I was a sucker for all these types of movies, you name it! A local “veg” meetup group, in fact, has a sister group that focuses on screenings of such propaganda pieces. That should tell us something.

  • Mikeb

    Thank you for this! I will be bookmarking it for my students to read.

    I recently took over a freshman college course called “Eating Animals” that the original professor can no longer teach. She supplied me with this movie as one of her materials–I’m not sure how she presented it, but it’s going to get a huge debunking in my class (along with Food, Inc.)


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