Founded by the late Daniel Rogov, focusing primarily on wines that are either kosher or Israeli.
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Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Loweeel » Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:00 pm

I just came across a devastating article in SF Weekly (1-page version here) with more detail on biodynamic wines than I ever have encountered in one place.

Even somebody like me, who has refused to buy biodynamic wine on principle, was shocked at just how deep the pile of BS goes, and I've been opposed to this mumbo-jumbo since I first learned about it. Some highlights include: Rudolf Steiner's basis in germanic anti-rational neo-paganism (the same intellectual manure that helped Naziism germinate, if you'll pardon the pun) and blatant racism, animal sacrifice at Benziger, absurd stories of astrology and earth spirits, and the crystal fad revisited. For the more cynical among us, there are some nice tidbits about the marketing BS involved, which is also rather fragrant.

Please take a look. In my own opinion, the only way to put a stop to this garbage is to avoid biodynamic wines and criticize their BS at -- and more importantly, to tell the winemakers, winery sales reps, and retailers why you are doing so. Otherwise, we may end up at virgin fertility sacrifices, or real life reenactments of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Daniel Rogov » Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:29 pm

Lowell, Hi....

My personal tendency is to agree with you but I do have two major questions..,

1. Considering that biodynamics is more easily associated with religious/metaphysical beliefs, is there anything more mystical about biodynaics than there is within Judaism, Christianity or the Moselm faiths?

2. Regardless of metaphysics, is it possible that biodynamic wines might be "better"because of the intense relationship between the vintner and the winemaker with the earth and the respect and care this calls forth? One can easily name at least several of the best wines in the world that are today made by biodynamic methods. Whether those wines are "the best" because of literal bullshit and horns buried on the night of the full moon or because the people involved have tremendous respect for the earth in which they are planting remains an open argument, but among the best wines they remain.

In a similar context, I am reminded of a Tuscan vintner/winemaker who plays music in the fields to encourage his grapes. In the winery the music is different, selected by him to suit the pace of the fermentation and the style of the wine. Mystical in explanation, indeed. Pragmatics because the man cares deeply for his vines.

Agreed in full that a bull's horn filled with a mixture of manure and blood that is planted in the northwest corner of a vineyard six minutes before the appearance of the full moonis somewhat silly (I too am tempted to use the word bullshit). Of love, however, there is no measure, for even though love in itself can be "empty", its execution can indeed make plants (and people) blossom.

An intersting read to which you link Recommended.

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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Loweeel » Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:07 pm

Daniel Rogov wrote:Lowell, Hi....

My personal tendency is to agree with you but I do have two major questions..,

1. Considering that biodynamics is more easily associated with religious/metaphysical beliefs, is there anything more mystical about biodynaics than there is within Judaism, Christianity or the Moselm faiths?

2. Regardless of metaphysics, is it possible that biodynamic wines might be "better"because of the intense relationship between the vintner and the winemaker with the earth and the respect and care this calls forth? One can easily name at least several of the best wines in the world that are today made by biodynamic methods. Whether those wines are "the best" because of literal bullshit and horns buried on the night of the full moon or because the people involved have tremendous respect for the earth in which they are planting remains an open argument, but among the best wines they remain.

In a similar context, I am reminded of a Tuscan vintner/winemaker who plays music in the fields to encourage his grapes. In the winery the music is different, selected by him to suit the pace of the fermentation and the style of the wine. Mystical in explanation, indeed. Pragmatics because the man cares deeply for his vines.

Agreed in full that a bull's horn filled with a mixture of manure and blood that is planted in the northwest corner of a vineyard six minutes before the appearance of the full moonis somewhat silly (I too am tempted to use the word bullshit). Of love, however, there is no measure, for even though love in itself can be "empty", its execution can indeed make plants (and people) blossom.

An intersting read to which you link Recommended.

Best
Rogov


Hi Rogov,

1. Somebody on the wine.woot forums actually made a point similar to your first w/r/t kashrut. My response distinguished between non-scientific claims about wine qua wine, like BD, and about wine qua religion, like kashrut.

If anything, I think that biodynamics would be closest to Transubstantiation, in that it's a belief that makes objective, disprovable claims about the here-and-now (or some Saudi Clerics' claims that the sun revolves around the earth). But at least transubstantiaion, as part of the doctrine, holds that the change is wholly undetectable. BD, on the other hand, as the article notes, makes laughable claims about causal relationships in trying to put forth a "basis" for how it "works". Specifically, the homeopathic preparations violate Avogadro's law, and the gravitational force of moon phases is absurdly miniscule compared to local factors (though to be accurate, gravitational flux, as the article fails to note -- the gradient of force rather than its magnitude, is what drives the tides). All of these are provably false.

2. As for love, I agree entirely. But I think it's better to make sure that you love for what something or somebody is, not what you want them to be. True love requires understanding and appreciation, not obfuscation and mumbo-jumbo. E.g., contrary to the claims of those in the article, biodynamic preparations have *nothing* to do with the alleged lack of hurricanes hitting New Orleans after Katrina -- in fact, there was one this past year, if I recall correctly.

As for the tuscan vintner, there have been some studies about music and plants. But there's a difference between showing you care, on one hand, and asserting that the specific methods of demonstrating this love make better wine.

I even submit that there are certain processes (e.g., consciousness) that we don't fully understand and may not. Nor why some seeds germinate and others don't. But that lack of understanding does not require accepting demonstrably false explanations.


What worries me most is that this will increase in popularity, and more people will adopt it. I think that at least partially, it really is "the new organic," at least in the sense that "organic" was an incredibly successful marketing gimmick.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:13 pm

Loweel - why does it worry you that more folks might adopt biodynamics? While it's a bit bizarre, the results for both the soil and the wines are good. So some folks look a little foolish burying a cow horn in the vineyard. Why does that matter?
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Daniel Rogov » Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:23 pm

Lowell, Hi......

I smile with you remembering that my inaugural address at the College de France, based on a paper I presented some years ealiir at the University de Genev was entitled "Vers Une Metaphysique Rationelle" ("Towards a rational metaphysics") in which I hypothesize that it is not metaphysics per se that impact on the world of reality but our various metaphysical beliefs.

Simply stated, I don't give a good flying fig for metaphysics but I do care greatly how our belief systems and our personal metaphysics impact both on us and our environment.

In other words, we are not that far apart in our interpretations. As to Rudoph Steiner and his beliefs qua sales-spiel, better left for a detailed discussion on a quasi-philosophical internet site.


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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Loweeel » Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:34 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Loweel - why does it worry you that more folks might adopt biodynamics? While it's a bit bizarre, the results for both the soil and the wines are good. So some folks look a little foolish burying a cow horn in the vineyard. Why does that matter?


David,
1. There isn't an iota of evidence (the plural of "anecdote" is not "data") that BD is better for wines or soil than *organic*.

2. Broadly, the problem is that promotes an intellectual climate that tolerates mystical bullshit as a valid method of decisionmaking, with the implications that it is more "natural" and better than the scientific method. This same climate was how FDR produced his inflation targets (21 was 3 times lucky number seven -- see Amity Schlaes' The Forgotten Man). I am among those who find it ridiculous that Nancy Reagan consulted astrologers and Hillary Clinton held seances to try to commune with Eleanor Roosevelt's spirit. Why is BD good and these bad? Why not pick harvest dates by drawing straws, or throwing darts at a board?

If bull's blood works well, why not try slaughtering more animals? or sacrificing virgins to ensure a good harvest?

The whole point of the science is that the METHOD matters as much as the result -- you must have a reason for what you do and a hypothesis. That "it works" without any testable explanation of causation is woefully insufficient, if not a blatant insult to our collective faculties of reason.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:41 pm

Loweeel wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Loweel - why does it worry you that more folks might adopt biodynamics? While it's a bit bizarre, the results for both the soil and the wines are good. So some folks look a little foolish burying a cow horn in the vineyard. Why does that matter?


David,
1. There isn't an iota of evidence (the plural of "anecdote" is not "data") that BD is better for wines or soil than *organic*.

2. Broadly, the problem is that promotes an intellectual climate that tolerates mystical bullshit as a valid method of decisionmaking, with the implications that it is more "natural" and better than the scientific method. This same climate was how FDR produced his inflation targets (21 was 3 times lucky number seven -- see Amity Schlaes' The Forgotten Man). I am among those who find it ridiculous that Nancy Reagan consulted astrologers and Hillary Clinton held seances to try to commune with Eleanor Roosevelt's spirit. Why is BD good and these bad? Why not pick harvest dates by drawing straws, or throwing darts at a board?



You are shooting at the wrong target. One of the big problems with winemaking is that we don't really udnerstand the science behind it. We still debate about mineral uptake & breathability of corks (to name just two things), with no end to the debates.

As I mentioend elsewhere, your philosophical issues are not allowing you to evaluate the resutls that the winemakers are getting from biodynamics. I really do not give a crap about whether a producer is organic or biodynamic (though I admit I prefer either one over conventional, chemical-based farming), but rather the end product. Again, who cares if the winemaker jumps around on one foot all day as long as they make good wine.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Daniel Rogov » Fri Nov 21, 2008 2:01 pm

David, Hi...

Perhaps the issue here is not so much "good wine" as what "makes" it good? I'm sore tempted (in fact quite certain) in agreeing with the idea that planting the horn of a bull at the right time of the right tidal signs has as much effect on the quality of a wine as swinging a chicken over one's head and afterwards cutting it's throat has on the ability to "shed one's sins". As might be said, confession may be good for the id but it doesn't go a heck of a long way in compenating the or those against one has sinned.

Think if we will of those thousands, especially in various states of the USA who eagerly await the coming of the space ships to take them "to a better place". Me doubts that those people will find either a spacechip or a better place.

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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:27 pm

Rogov,

Understood, but why does it even matter?

In a way I find this about the equivalent of the objection to gay marriage on the basis that it weakens "real marriage." It smacks of a lack of self-confidence/belief causing a need to lash out at those that are different.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Daniel Rogov » Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:58 pm

David, Hi....

Not so much a question of "lashing out" or even of absolute "rights or wrongs" but perhaps of questioning the value of metaphysics. Indeed if questions involving gay marriage or abortion are based primarily on metaphysical beliefs (e.g. God told us so) those too are open to question. Such issues "matter" far more than the question of biodynamics in the vineyard because they impact on the rights and privileges of other people.

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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 21, 2008 4:01 pm

Daniel Rogov wrote:David, Hi....

Not so much a question of "lashing out" or even of absolute "rights or wrongs" but perhaps of questioning the value of metaphysics. Indeed if questions involving gay marriage or abortion are based primarily on metaphysical beliefs (e.g. God told us so) those too are open to question. Such issues "matter" far more than the question of biodynamics in the vineyard because they impact on the rights and privileges of other people.

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I will buy your comments regarding abortion, but not gay marriage. :)
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Daniel Rogov » Fri Nov 21, 2008 4:04 pm

Fair enough. One day we will meet in the park and have our duel. If you're there first, start without me. Ain't worth waking up at dawn (the traditional hour for duels at twenty paces). I'd much rather invite you to a cup of good coffee.

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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Ian Sutton » Fri Nov 21, 2008 4:13 pm

Of course there's mystic crap in BD (you'll guess from that I'm also cynical about the more obscure elements), but then there is (from what I understand) plenty about soil health.

Personally I'm more inclined to drink wine produced by a BD exponent, than one that continues to make heavy use of manfactured fertilisers, weedkillers and insecticides.

Caring about what goes into the soil is surely a good thing?
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:02 pm

Daniel Rogov wrote:Best and Smiling Although We Disagree
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Indeed!
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Loweeel » Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:17 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:Of course there's mystic crap in BD (you'll guess from that I'm also cynical about the more obscure elements), but then there is (from what I understand) plenty about soil health.

Personally I'm more inclined to drink wine produced by a BD exponent, than one that continues to make heavy use of manfactured fertilisers, weedkillers and insecticides.

Caring about what goes into the soil is surely a good thing?


But this is confusing the issue. What makes BD distinctive *ARE* those mystical elements, not anything about soil health or natural ingredients. To paraphrase an old Rogov post, BD is 1 part organic, 1 part "sound farming practices" -- neither of which is objectionable or novel -- and one part voodoo.

The comparison, as I'm getting sick of writing, is not between BD and "Factory Farming". It's not only a false dichotomy, but it's a straw man -- I'm not arguing, nor is anybody else, that Factory Farming yields superior results. Rather, the relevant comparison is between BD on one hand, and on the other, sound farming practices that incorporate a lot of organic techniques and insights, even if it may not be technically organic in every sense of the word. In essence, to isolate the "mystical bullshit" and see if that has any effect over the *probable* alternative rather than a straw man alternative.

Nor does "caring about what goes into the soil" necessarily immunize all actions from that motivation. E.g., caring about alleviating poverty does not make a $50/hr minimum wage a good idea, or one that is likely to help the poor. I similarly fail to see the efficacy (or even the logic) behind moon phases, stag's bladders, or homeopathic field remedies.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Loweeel » Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:20 pm

Daniel Rogov wrote:David, Hi...

Perhaps the issue here is not so much "good wine" as what "makes" it good? I'm sore tempted (in fact quite certain) in agreeing with the idea that planting the horn of a bull at the right time of the right tidal signs has as much effect on the quality of a wine as swinging a chicken over one's head and afterwards cutting it's throat has on the ability to "shed one's sins". As might be said, confession may be good for the id but it doesn't go a heck of a long way in compenating the or those against one has sinned.

Think if we will of those thousands, especially in various states of the USA who eagerly await the coming of the space ships to take them "to a better place". Me doubts that those people will find either a spacechip or a better place.

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Rogov, I think it has even less effect. One is a ritual claim, an expiation with G-d; the other purports to make better wine. I agree with your logic, but the latter is falsifiable at least in theory, whereas the former is not no matter how outlandish it sounds.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Ian Sutton » Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:59 pm

Loweeel wrote:
Ian Sutton wrote:Of course there's mystic crap in BD (you'll guess from that I'm also cynical about the more obscure elements), but then there is (from what I understand) plenty about soil health.

Personally I'm more inclined to drink wine produced by a BD exponent, than one that continues to make heavy use of manfactured fertilisers, weedkillers and insecticides.

Caring about what goes into the soil is surely a good thing?


But this is confusing the issue.

Or your issue with the proponents.

It seems you agree with an educated organic approach - even favour it. Yet with the vast majority (all?) of BD producers adopting such methods, you're shunning them because of elements of their regime that in your opinion have no effect. I'm scratching my head on this.

It's almost as if you are upset and antagonised by these elements. Why not, as others have suggested, judge on the quality of the wine and not the beliefs of the owners?

Time perhaps for some reflection on whether getting wound up by it is beneficial.

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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Loweeel » Fri Nov 21, 2008 6:13 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:
Loweeel wrote:Or your issue with the proponents.

It seems you agree with an educated organic approach - even favour it. Yet with the vast majority (all?) of BD producers adopting such methods, you're shunning them because of elements of their regime that in your opinion have no effect. I'm scratching my head on this.

It's almost as if you are upset and antagonised by these elements. Why not, as others have suggested, judge on the quality of the wine and not the beliefs of the owners?

Time perhaps for some reflection on whether getting wound up by it is beneficial.

regards

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I wouldn't say that I agree with an "educated organic approach" per se -- in fact, it's worse for plants, much less efficient, and if adopted world wide, would result in both massive deforestation and the starvation of hundreds of millions, if not billions. But just as with marginal terroir, that struggle makes for tastier fruit.

Yes, exactly. Because merely organic isn't catchy enough. I don't want to reward bullshit. I don't like being told that a product is good because a bull's head was buried at the vernal equinox, which makes it perfectly in tune with nature and therefore superior to the product of somebody who's not BSing me. It's insulting and infantilizing, and I'm not going to pay somebody to sell me snake oil, even if it makes wonderful french fries.

Many of these people are not trained in hard science and make facially absurd claims -- like about racking or harvesting during certain moon cycles because of the additional pull of gravity -- that could not be further from the truth. I don't like watching science get raped, I don't like my intelligence being insulted, and I certainly don't like seeing neo-pagan mystical rituals dressed up in inapplicable scientific language and treated as the wisdom of ages rather than an absurd superstition like tarot cards, crystal balls, or tea leaves.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 21, 2008 8:18 pm

Ian is correct though. You need to ask yourself why this is such a big deal to you. Why does it threaten you?
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Jacques Levy » Fri Nov 21, 2008 11:00 pm

In Sergio Esposito's book "Passion on the Vine" one winemaker discusses biodynamics in detail and frankly he makes more sense than any mumbo-jumbo treatise I've ever read including the cow horn and the filtration according to the moon cycles. I can't copy and paste the chapter but best I can do is point to Amazon's book and look inside on pages 146-155:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0767926 ... =0&go=Go!#

As to my opinion, I've had some excellent biodynamic wines and sparkling wines, and don't recall ever having tasted a bad biodynamic wine but I'm still young :D
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Loweeel » Sat Nov 22, 2008 1:08 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Ian is correct though. You need to ask yourself why this is such a big deal to you. Why does it threaten you?

For the same reason that teaching young-earth creationism as scientific fact in public schools does. Accepting the Bullshit of BD's mysticism fertilizes the intellectual soil of society to accept other metaphysical claims without any sound basis in reality or the scientific method.

I won't drink BD wine for the same reason that I won't trust paleontological claims by a young-earth creationist.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Loweeel » Sat Nov 22, 2008 1:19 am

Jacques Levy wrote:In Sergio Esposito's book "Passion on the Vine" one winemaker discusses biodynamics in detail and frankly he makes more sense than any mumbo-jumbo treatise I've ever read including the cow horn and the filtration according to the moon cycles. I can't copy and paste the chapter but best I can do is point to Amazon's book and look inside on pages 146-155:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0767926 ... =0&go=Go!#

As to my opinion, I've had some excellent biodynamic wines and sparkling wines, and don't recall ever having tasted a bad biodynamic wine but I'm still young :D


The claim that cows use their horns as electrical antennae and so burying a cow horn full of manure will help grow better wine grapes "makes sense?" Nor did I see anything on the moon cycles that was the least bit persuasive. If that's the best BD's got, then I'm shooting fish in a barrel.

BTW, it's hard not to laugh at a winemaker who claims that "wine is a family of bacteria". Sure, but so is everything else in the world.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Tim York » Sat Nov 22, 2008 5:09 am

Loweeel wrote:For the same reason that teaching young-earth creationism as scientific fact in public schools does. Accepting the Bullshit of BD's mysticism fertilizes the intellectual soil of society to accept other metaphysical claims without any sound basis in reality or the scientific method.

I won't drink BD wine for the same reason that I won't trust paleontological claims by a young-earth creationist.


I thought that this analogy would crop up sooner or later.

The teaching of young-earth creationism as scientific fact is toxic misinformation about the fundamentals of life.

By contrast a bit of bullshit and mumbo-jumbo in viticultural techniques is entirely harmless in my eyes and may indeed help the commitment of the growers who believe in it to make great wines.

You are entitled to put the two things on the same moral plane but I suspect that most others won't go along with you.
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Re: Biodynamics is Bullshit (both literally and figuratively)

by Daniel Rogov » Sat Nov 22, 2008 6:21 am

Methinks we have begun to go in ever decreasing concentric circles in our arguments. It is apparent that all belief systems are open to question and that at least the philosophical basis for biodynamics is no less a belief system than those that proclaim the possibilities of virgin birth, the parting of the Red Sea, or the ascencion to heaven on a white steed.

Those who "believe" do so on the basis of faith and not on necessarily measurable realities. I see little difference between such systems and the one that would have us believe that Cronus swallowed five of his children (he missed Zeus) and later vomited them up again so that Hera could be both the sister and wife of Zeus.

The important difference between belief systems that become major religions and those that lead to various agricultural practices is quite simple - the first impacts on the life and well being of the planet and its inhabitants and the second gives us mostly cause for a scratching-of-the-head kind of speculation and causes no possible harm or damage to anyone.

Unless we want to attack all religions and all belief systems, I see no reason to single out those who are involved with biodynamics.

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