Thursday, October 20, 2022

#2579: Joan Borysenko

Well, DNA isn’t a “fractal antenna” that is being physically changed by NFL broadcaststo create violence and wars, but we have still decided to give former quarterback Mike Boryla a pass. We don’t know precisely what he’s up to these days, and we are not completely convinced he does either. Joan Borysenko, on the other hand, should definitely know better.


Borysenko has managed to establish herself as something of an authority in the New Age “mind/body” wellness segment of the population, and she’s nothing if not market savvy. Borysenko is, apparently, a “Harvard Medical School trained cell biologist” and “licensed psychologist”, credentials she effectively uses to promote a range of fluffy pseudoscience – often peppered with vaguely sciency-sounding terms and turns of the phrase and references to other pseudoscience practitioners like Raymond Moody. She is mostly a “distinguished pioneer in integrative medicine is a world-renowned expert in themind/body connection”. Admittedly, much of her advice (summed up in her books Pocketful of Miracles and Pocketful of Blessings and a slew of other pastel-color-covered books) is harmless, but that doesn’t make it less nonsensical – she promotes the Hoffman process, for instance. In general, Borysenko offers “practical information ranging from mindfulness to neuroscience; from epigenetics to nutrition; and from ancient wisdom to modern psychology”. Yes, epigenetics. Needless to say, Borysenko offers no insights or practical advice on epigenetics. Her website has a prominently displayed Store section.


Borysenko was one of the practitioners featured in the pseudoscientific “infomercial” Heal, directed by Kelly Noonan Gores (there is a balanced review here), together with people like Joe Dispenza, Bruce Lipton, Kelly Brogan, Deepak Chopra, Gregg Braden and Marianne Williamson. And the thing is: although Borysenko’s pink fluff and positive thinking can sound harmless, even good, the main theme of that movie is the claim that modern pharmaceuticals and the doctors who rely on them are ineffective at best, harmful at worst, and that diseases can be managed and even cured by positive thinking and the magnificently vague advice of “taking control” of your disease. And those beliefs are harmful. (In fairness, Borysenko has elsewhere e.g. criticized Bernie Siegel as an “extremist”; but she also claims that “80-90% of illness is caused or worsened by stress. You might recall that I’m a medical scientist, with a doctorate from Harvard Medical School”; given that “worsened by stress” is not defined, the claim is not actionable.)


Diagnosis: Ultimately, Borysenko seems to be rather careful to avoid the most egregious and harmful pseudoscientific claims – indeed, we are sure that some of her messages might indeed help people in difficult situations. But pointing that out is kind of like pointing to individual Nazis who didn’t personally express any insidious belief or do any harm – they’re still part of a movement that does, and Borysenko, e.g. through her movie appearances, does help promote the genuinely harmful and evil stuff of people like Kelly Brogan and Bruce Lipton.

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