Skepticism

Breatharians Claim to Live Without Food

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Sorta transcript:

Can humans live without eating any food and only absorbing sunlight for energy? No. Case closed, let’s all go home. Next video.

Okay, let’s talk a bit more about it. “Breatharians” are people who say they can convert sunshine into energy and so they don’t need to eat. They say this either because they believe it or because they want other people to believe it for fun or for profit (or both). These jerks have been around for decades now, and they’ve even been tested by James Randi, who offers a million dollar prize to anyone who can prove they have paranormal abilities. Randi told me once that while surveilling a Breatharian, they caught him sneaking out of his motel room at night after he thought everyone had left him alone, sneaking over to a Burger King and coming back with a bag of greasy food. When confronted, he claimed he was only planning to inhale the vapors from the food. Sure.

Now Breatharians are in the news again because The Sun tabloid reported on a couple of Breatharians with absolutely no fact checking or even common sense, claiming that they couple have gone without food for nine years other than the occasional piece of fruit or cup of vegetable broth, including during the woman’s pregnancy.

That story was then passed around to other outlets, pretty much all of whom took it at face value, because everyone is stupid and facts don’t matter anymore.

The Sun said that the couple transitioned to Breatharianism by going vegetarian, then vegan, then undergoing a 21-day process described thusly:

“In this process, during the first seven days nothing is consumed, except air, the next seven days some water and diluted juice, and the last seven days diluted juice and water.”

Water and juice, and then juice and water. Brilliant. It makes as much sense as saying people can live off the universe’s “energy.”

So how did this excellent piece of journalism even come about? Well, the secret lies in this line from The Sun: “Akahi – who teaches courses about Breatharianism with his wife, Camila…”

Their classes cost more than $1,700 for a weeklong course in San Francisco, where I assume students are taught how to sneak handfuls of almonds when no one is looking and which fast food restaurants are open late at night when everyone else is in bed.

So, the couple has a lot to gain by getting a credulous news story about them to go viral. Reporters at CNN managed to track down the actual source, which was a paid content distributor called News Dog Media, who whipped up a fact-less press release and then sold it to news outlets who reprinted it with zero fact-checking.

All of this makes me wonder if there’s anything so ridiculous that news outlets won’t run it. I’m tempted to hire News Dog myself and see if we can sell The Sun the story of my dog who shits diamonds — actual, flawless diamonds. No, you can’t see them. I donate them to charity. No, there are no receipts. Send me $100 and I’ll send you a bag of my dog’s poop, that has a chance of including an actual diamond in it. News Dog! Call me!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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2 Comments

  1. July 8, 2017 at 8:18 pm —

    But…but…food is bad! *Everyone* who has ever eaten food has died! (end snark)

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