Michael Pollan is popular because he is an engaging speaker who spins a narrative about food that dovetails with the political inclinations of his audience. He has a degree in English, and, as far as I know, no scientific training whatsoever, but yet, he commands an enourmous amount of space in the New York Times and other liberal media to pontificate about nutritional science. Why does anyone take him seriously?
I don’t see any reason why I should care what Pollan thinks I should be eating. Science reporting should consist of a reporter explaining the consensus opinion (or otherwise) of scientists, not a dilettante peddling an Alice Waters based cult dressed up as homespun wisdom. Let me be clear that I am not claiming anything he says in particular is wrong, I’m just feel that most of his conclusions are not arrived at in any scientific way, and the reason he has such a following is that his voice resonates with the intuition of self-indulgent (relatively) highly paid and well educated liberal elites (a class which I include myself). I avoid processed food, I seek out organic produce [for certain foods when it makes an appreciable difference in taste] (well, to be honest, it’s not usually me who does the food shopping because when I’m in charge I usually forget half the ingredients), and I almost always eat home-cooked meals with relatively little meat and plenty of fresh vegetables; and I do this for reasons of culture, taste, socioeconomic status, and because I want to be healthy. I pretty much agree with a lot of Pollan says (in the brief interviews I’ve seen him give), but what’s to stop him deciding (if he hasn’t already) that genetically modified foods are rubbish based on his own oversimplified philosophy rather than what science has to say? Or that vaccines are dangerous because his grandmother didn’t get them?