Seattle resident, Navenna Shine may very well be dying. Dying slowly of a self-imposed starvation. But Navenna is not on a hunger strike; she’s not protesting anything. Rather, she is doing a “controlled experiment” by which she hopes to demonstrate that food is unnecessary. She believes that human life can be sustained by “a nutritional source already embedded within our body/mind/Spiritual systems that can give us exactly what we need to be healthy and well”.
According to Navenna’s Living on Light website:
“The experiment is designed to bring into our Universe a whole different paradigm of living. In this paradigm of living, human beings do not have to eat or ingest any kind of food into their stomachs in order to thrive in this world.”
Well, now that is certainly an extraordinary claim. But as Carl Sagan famously noted, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” (For the original context, watch the first two minutes of episode 12 of Cosmos: Encyclopedia Galactica.)
Navenna proposes to provide such evidence through her Living on Light experiment:
“One subject, that’s me, is going to be in a controlled environment for a period of four to six months. Eight cameras will be set to view every corner of that controlled environment. I will not go outside of those cameras…By the end of at least 4 months, if you know there has been no possibility that I have eaten any food, you will be sure that at least one person has indeed thrived without food.
But Navenna is not a scientist, and her experiment is not science. The Living on Light “experiment” is just another pseudoscientific stunt. In the end, this stunt:
- will prove nothing to scientists;
- will be cited in support of Breatharianism by true believers;
- may drive a few donations at the Living on Light website; and
- may leave Navenna Shine dead.
Living on Light: A Dangerous Pseudoscience
How is Living on Light pseudoscience?
The obvious problem is that the “controlled experiment” is anything but controlled. The experiment is not, in any way, blinded. Both experimenter and experimental subject are one and the same—Navenna Shine, whose clear objective is to prove the central tenet of Breatharianism. Hardly a disinterested third party.
Navenna proposes to “live-stream the event so that you, from anywhere in the world, will be able to see me every moment of every day and night.” This, she claims, provides the conclusive answer to “the only question that matters, ‘Is she eating or is she not?’” But in the very next breath, she adds:
“We are having many issues with live-streaming and it might take a while to get it operational. In the meantime, each moment is being recorded and the files are being archived for future verification.”
Regardless of whether or not the video feeds are streamed live or posted to YouTube, they are not evidence. Since the experiment is self-administered, any results—video or otherwise—must be considered self-reported, anecdotal evidence, which is never conclusive. (To those who would dispute this, I have proof that Forrest Gump told President Kennedy he had to pee.)
How is Living on Light dangerous?
For starters, if Navenna Shine believes what she is saying—if she’s drinking her own Kool-Aid—then she may starve herself to death.
But even if she is nothing more than a simple charlatan, trying to bilk a few donations from credulous believers, there remains the danger that some people will actually believe her. There have already been deaths associated with Breatharianism, so this is not a purely hypothetical risk.
On one point Nevenna and I agree: “If this capacity is real, it will change everything we know about ourselves, everything we do in our lives and everything we do on our planet.” But, I’m pretty sure it’s not real.