“Groundless” (Earthing)


One day, cable TV executive Clinton Ober was sitting on a park bench when, in the great tradition of scientific discovery, he observed that all people were wearing shoes. He further realized there were many illnesses and disease in the world, and that almost 100 percent of the sufferers wear also wearing shoes. He hypothesized there must be a connection.

Earthing, or grounding, is the idea that achieving and maintaining health requires humans to be literally in touch with Earth. Shoes, as well as floors, tents, tights, red carpets, and stilts, all prevent Earthing and deprive people of crucial health benefits. Ober co-authored the book, “Earthing,” whose subtitle declares grounding to be most important health discovery ever. Take that, Jonas Salk. Up yours, antibiotics.

Of the many logical fallacies this field entails, the most glaring is Special Pleading, as it’s just fine for products sold by “Earthing” authors to come between Earth and your feet.

The book’s description reads, “For most of our evolutionary history, humans have had continuous contact with the Earth. Throughout time, we humans have sat, stood, strolled, and slept on the ground, with the skin of our bodies touching the skin of the Earth. This contact served as a conduit for transferring the Earth’s natural, gentle negative charge underfoot into the body. Reconnecting with the Earth upholds the electrical stability of our bodies and serves as a foundation for vitality, health, and healing.” If there were any Neanderthals left, we could ask them about the results of receiving this constant influx of health benefits.

As to modern day homo sapiens, let’s see what Earthing can do for chronic footwear victims. According to the book, shoes block the constant supply of the free electrons that shield and nourish Earth.

But while electrons are everywhere, the suggestion that the human body alone can manipulate them for our benefit is unfounded. As physicist blogger Clint Orzel explained, “Ordinary interactions with many materials will strip electrons off your body. But that never lasts long, as the doorknob spark illustrates. In the process of shuffling across a carpeted floor, you lose…several billion electrons, but as soon as you touch a metal object, you get them all back. It’s impossible to build up and maintain a significant charge imbalance between your body and the rest of the world because everything we interact with contains electrons, and they move back and forth between objects all the time.”

The book contains the usual alt-med nods to balance, tradition, energy, and anecdotes, but “Earthing” authors do get creative with lines such as this: “Our connection with the earth carries information, helping align us with the greater network of intelligence of our planet.”

“Earthing” is also unusually literal with its appeal to nature fallacy, getting that word in thrice in its description of the technique’s panacea power: “Earthing connects us to Nature and Nature is the ultimate source of health and healing. Earthing is a return to the healing power of Nature and a simple but powerful way to restore your health.” Cheap, easy, painless, natural, buy our product. This thing crosses off all the items on the alt-med checklist.

It also appeals to tradition, specifically the Native Americans and Greeks, besides throwing in the standard Qi reference. Another line lets us know that “Wild animals never get sick,” and indeed, I have yet to see a warthog at the doctor.

Let’s move onto the website earthing.com. In a typical evidence-free assertion, the website’s authors write that, “Earth’s natural energy is foundational for vibrant health. Disconnected from the Earth, we feel fatigued. When we re-connect with the Earth, balance is restored!” In a more specific claim, it asserts, “We know that inflammation is caused by free radicals and that free radicals are neutralized with electrons from any source. Electrons are the source of the neutralizing power of antioxidants.” But skeptic author, Dr. Harriet Hall, notes that, “It’s more accurate to say inflammation causes free radicals. And to neutralize free radicals you need antioxidant molecules, not free electrons.”

Then we have the blog, “The Most Dangerous Invention,” which boasts that, “Standing barefoot on the earth has a wide variety of effects on the human body.” The effects for me are scars, burns, blisters, and insect bites. And as you probably know by now, the most dangerous invention referenced in this blog’s title is shoes. Your enemy may have nuclear weapons, but you can respond with Hush Puppies.


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